Tuesday 31 July 2012 7:27 pm

A champagne prize for the worst Treasury team in modern British history

AN ENJOYABLE way of spending a few relaxing holiday hours on the beach is to think about the best team that ever played a particular sport. It can be the team as a whole – for example, is the 2012 British Olympic gymnastic team better than its Russian equivalent in 1980? Or you can construct a dream team of the top individuals in any sport. Sir Chris Hoy will be everyone’s favourite for the cycling team sprint. To enhance the pleasure of this activity, I am organising a competition, with the prize of a bottle of champagne to the winner. But there is a twist. Instead of the best, I want entries for the worst team ever. And the team is not a sporting one, but from political economy. In short, I want to know the composition of the worst Treasury team in British history. There are five slots to fill. Working up from the bottom, they are economic secretary, exchequer secretary, financial secretary, chief secretary and, of course, chancellor. The Treasury website details their responsibilities. There are some strong candidates in the current team. Chloe Smith was completely clueless in her notorious interview with Jeremy Paxman. David Gauke worked for a law firm connected with tax planning before entering Parliament. All perfectly above board, but it didn’t stop him lecturing the rest of us on the morality of using legal tender to pay a plumber. An even bigger hypocrite is the current chief secretary, Danny Alexander. He made good use of the regulations to avoid paying capital gains tax on the profit he made from his taxpayer-funded home. It was perfectly legal, yet he too now preaches from the pulpit on the topic. But it is on its economic record that any Treasury team should ultimately be judged. And this is where the competition gets difficult. There seems an endless litany of pure incompetent acts. Labour’s failure to devalue in 1964, Anthony Barber’s inflationary boom of the early 1970s, the economic chaos of the late 1970s, the massive bubble of the late 1980s, the ERM disaster in the 1990s, and everything Gordon Brown ever did. Devotees of economic history can go even further back in time. One choice could be Philip Snowden, the hapless Labour chancellor of 1929-31, who lamented, after the 1929 crash, that no one had told him Britain could go off the gold standard. Here are the rules. Entries should go to the email address below, headed City A.M.. The closing date is 31 August. Name names, but a bit of supporting text will help. The maximum length of each entry is 300 words. But don’t imagine, like the Greeks and Spanish, that you are living in a democracy. My decision, like that of the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, is completely final. Paul Ormerod is the author of Positive Linking: How Networks Can Revolutionise the World (Faber and Faber, 2012). Please email competition entries to: pormerod@volterra.co.uk

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