For me tracking the Government's handling of the economic crisis over the past few months has been a bit like watching a sick gag in a sketch show where a child hops into the kitchen with one bloodied leg severed off to be told by his mother: "It'll be alright dear, now run along."
The message Government ministers have pumped out has been that the fundamentals of the British economy are strong and we will be sheltered from the storm, which (it wrong supposed) would be isolated to the US.
So it is reassuring to read of Chancellor Alistair Darling being so frank about the scale of the problems we now face. (That is adding the usual caveat that we assume Decca Aitkenhead's account of the interview for the Guardian is a fair reflection of his views. Personally I found it an excellent and insightful read.)
This hopefully will punctuate an irritating period when the Government was apparently deaf to arguments about the weakness of the UK economy and seemingly blind to the severity of the house building crash. Its words of comfort were both a distraction and an irritation.
Frankly, warning signs of fragility in the banking system and the US and UK economies, particularly their housing markets, have been around for many years for anyone who cared to read, say, let's just pick the Economist.
Here are some short clippings from a couple of articles I picked from the Economist archive. I recall reading more powerful warnings, but to save me trawling through, these will do to illustrate the point.
Economist: Aug 14th 2003
THE world's leading banks decided some years ago that lending is a mugs' game. They began to get rid of their loans, repackaging them and selling them off as securities, or getting others to re-insure their risk....Alan Greenspan, chairman of America's Federal Reserve, said in a speech in May that this spreading of the banks' risks has made the financial sector more resilient, and individual institutions within it less vulnerable to shocks...Others, though, are less sanguine. They fear that credit losses, buried today, will show up in new places later, causing unpredictable damage deep in the world economy...
Economist: May 29th 2003
STILL smarting from losses on equities and a shrivelling private pension? Wait until you see what happens to the value of your house. Far too many people have decided in recent years that, in these uncertain times, the safest investment is bricks and mortar. Real house prices in many places have been rising at their fastest-ever rate. Can this go on?
The answer, as our survey in this week's issue argues, is clearly no.
Now I accept that whenever there is a disaster it is easy to search out someone who warned of the impending doom. There are consistently thousands if not millions of people warning of millions of possible dooms we might face. So statistically it is highly likely when we hit a crisis that we can find someone who warned it might happen.
But the Economist, share its views or not, is not a crackpot outfit sending out scattershot messages. And it has, along with others, offered consistent caution ahead of the mess in which we now find ourselves.
Past failings to act we cannot undo, but thank you Mr Darling for now recognising that there are severe problem to be fixed and, lest you lose focus, these are with the economy. Hopefully this will clear the way for clear and direct action.
The fortunes of the Labour Party must take care of themselves, but long term they will be hindered by failure to act boldly in the face of this current crisis.