Can we spend our way out of our economic woes? The Bank of England’s deputy governor, Charlie Bean, thinks so, and told Channel 4 News a few weeks ago that the Bank wanted to “encourage more spending”, telling viewers that “in the short term we want to see households not saving more but spending more.”
Mr Bean (yes, really) suggests the Bank is holding down interest rates to encourage us to spend. I have two far more sensible suggestions to make to the UK’s coalition government about how to get the population to open their wallets.
1. Get Michael Bublé to tour the UK more often. Twelve months ago, I had never heard of this Bublé, but I met him quite recently. So when I saw he was performing at Wembley Arena, I had to buy a ticket. I went on the third of the four nights that he was playing there, to a sell-out audience of 12,500 each show.
I spent the evening wondering at his level of economic activity, as much as his voice. All those people had bought tickets (mine was £55 and I dragged along Mr M and Cost Centre #1), but that was just the start of it. The people who staff the arena, the ones in charge of the car parks, the burger-sellers outside, even the people flogging dodgy MB merchandise, all owe some of their living to a fresh-faced Canadian who the first time I met him tricked me into believing that he could do the Rubik’s Cube faster than anyone in the world.
Scratch a little deeper and you realise just how important Michael Bublé’s tour is to Britain’s economy alone. The engineer in charge of making sure that Michael Bublé sounds like Michael Bublé is a gentleman called Craig Brittain, who uses something called a DiGiCo SD7. I haven’t got a clue what this is, but I do know that it is made in the UK by a British company. No fewer than nine articulated lorries were parked outside to ferry around kit for the tour. The lorries belonged to Est, a specialist event-haulage company based in London. Finally, I would bet that many of the lighting rigs used at the tour venues are made by Vitec. Ever wondered who lights the Oscars? Or Madonna’s shows? We might be a small, windswept group of islands off the coast of France, but we do have the company from which the world’s biggest acts buy their lights.
You get the point. Bublé isn’t just a 35-year-old Canadian with a great voice and designer stubble; he is a one-man national economic stimulant. Get him back!
2. Have party conferences more than once a year. My team and I have been touring the party conference hotspots of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. The party conference season forces us all – far more effectively than any interest-rate stimulus – to go to cities that we would otherwise not be visiting, and to get out our wallets.
As the Tories flocked to Birmingham, the city did a passable impersonation of Bethlehem – hotel rooms were not to be had for love nor money. I had been assured by my office that I had a room booked, but my reservation turned out to be entirely fictitious. I called Mr M and told him that I would be returning at 3am and bringing my female colleague with me, so could he please clean the bathroom and change the sheets in the spare room.
So there you have my two key economic ideas, applicable to any country. Watching Bublé give what was his 85th performance of that tour, as fresh as though it were his first, I wondered how he did it. I did 31 in Edinburgh and it nearly killed me. Next month I am taking the Mrs Moneypenny show to New York, and we open the night after Michael Bublé plays Madison Square Gardens. Our prime minister has called on us to pull together to beat the recession, although he meant Britain’s, rather than the US’s. I’m guessing that Bublé’s show will stimulate the New York economy rather more than mine, but I’ll be giving it my best shot.