Book Launch: A Fate Worse Than Debt

The TaxPayers’ Alliance launched a new book this week, titled A Fate Worse Than Debt: A Beginner’s Guide to Britain’s National Debt from Boadicea to Jeremy Corbyn. The book was written by Dr Lee Rotherham, a Research Fellow at the TPA. 



Commenting on the book release, TaxPayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:

“Too many politicians have forgotten about the colossal size of the UK’s national debt, which is now approaching £2 trillion. This is why this book is so timely; it puts the current scale of our debt into historical context and highlights the chronic overspending and overborrowing the UK is addicted to.”

The scale of the UK’s debt:
  • In the financial year ending March 2017, the UK’s national debt increased by £68 billion. Therefore, it increases by £5.6 billion each month, £186 million each day, £7.8 million each hour, £129,566 each minute, and £2,159 every second.
  • The British government currently spends more than £48 billion each year on debt interest payments, more than is spent on defence. This is money which could be spent on essential services such as healthcare, education, or providing for the elderly. 
  • If the government and its successors continue with their current level of spending and borrowing, then public sector debt is set to continue to rise at an alarming rate, reaching 234 per cent of GDP in 2066-67.
A short summary of A Fate Worse Than Debt:
  • National debt is not just a modern phenomenon. It was one of the factors which led to the people of England revolting against the Romans in the time of Boadicea, and contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, as well as numerous crises through the Middle Ages and the Tudor period.
  • When William Pitt became prime minister at the end of the 18th century, the level of debt was at an eye-watering level. Pitt introduced reforms which generated a huge surplus for the government. However, the Napoleonic Wars led to another increase in debt, and led to the introduction of income tax.
  • The two World Wars in the 20th century dramatically increased the UK’s national debt, but for the first time in British history, spending didn’t slow with the end of the wars.
  • Instead, the creation of the welfare state has led to consistently higher spending and higher borrowing, leading to the current levels of debt.
  • The global financial crisis, and the subsequent ‘Great Recession’ led to the Labour government embarking upon a Keynesian fiscal stimulus scheme which involved the introduction of quantitative easing and the historically-low interest rates we have today.

About the author:

Dr Lee Rotherham is a Research Fellow at the TaxPayers' Alliance. He was Head of Special Projects at Vote Leave, founder of ‘Veterans for Britain’ and is Director of ‘The Red Cell’, a research organisation focused on Brexit. His new book highlights the failure of both Labour and Conservative governments to address the UK’s national debt. Lee is a reservist in the British Army, and has served on three overseas deployments.