The economic consequences of Mr Brown will be with us for a long time to come, but the moral and political consequences may last even longer. While the Prime Minister was fiddling the figures, Rome was indeed burning. As Frank Field remarks in his Dialogue with Jeremy Jennings, Margaret Thatcher believed that a more prosperous society would also be a more generous one. Mr Brown has ensured that this could not happen, by depriving the middle classes of the wealth or time that they would normally have invested in good works. "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions," Mrs Thatcher once said. "He had money as well." Not any more. Under Mr Brown, the state, not the individual, has spent society's surplus, and in doing so has demoralised both rich and poor.
The baleful consequences of Mr Brown are audible in Lionel Shriver's cri de coeur. An admired but impoverished writer for 30 years, she finally hit the big time and now earns a decent income. But Lionel's life is made a misery by the increasingly onerous tax regimes of her native America and her adoptive Britain. Confiscatory tax rates of 50 per cent and more lay waste to all our noblest and most creative impulses.
If the Tories are wise, they will heed voices such as those of Tim Congdon, Frank Field, Lionel Shriver and other Standpoint writers. Mr Brown's intellectual chutzpah, which once struck awe into his Tory counterparts, has now been exposed as mere bluff. But there is still no persuasive Conservative diagnosis, let alone prescription, for a Britain that is once again in danger of becoming the sick man of Europe.