Sometimes humility does not go amiss. Britain’s politicians once understood the worth of self-deprecation. This thought came to mind the other day when David Cameron tipped up in Davos to tell Angela Merkel how to run her economy. Did Mr Cameron really imagine that the German chancellor was ready to be lectured by a British prime minister? A smidgen of self-awareness might have suggested otherwise. Britain’s politicians – Tory and Labour alike – are fond of reminding the world how clever they were to stay out of the single currency. The implication is that Britain boasts an economic performance to put the eurozone to shame.
Well, not quite. Mr Cameron presides over a budget deficit to rival that of Greece, a fast-rising debt burden and an inflation rate double the European average. Living standards are falling, growth has stalled and unemployment is rising. There is no one old enough in Whitehall to recall the last time Britain ran a current account surplus.