Michael Gove: Coyote ugly: G20 finally pushes Prudence into the abyss

The racking up of all this debt is a consequence of Brown's own folly

YOU could call it the coyote moment. After the cartoon character from all our childhoods. Wile E Coyote was the animated predator who was always on the trail of the road runner (beep, beep!) yet never succeeded in catching him. Instead, what usually happened was that in the coyote's zeal to get his elusive prey he would propel himself over some cliff or ravine. And then we would all watch in a mix of horror and delight as he carried on running into thin air, before suddenly realising there was nothing there to support him. And then he would plummet down to earth with an almighty crash.

Which is what has just happened to Gordon Brown. This was the week he went careering over the cliff edge. This was the week he found there was nothing there to support him. This was the week when his desire to pin down an enemy resulted in his own fate being sealed.

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The ravine into which Gordon has hurled himself, and the country, is the horrendously deep deficit he has run up while in charge of the nation's finances. This country is now on course for a national debt of 1 trillion. The cost of servicing that debt, never mind repaying it, means each child will be paying more in interest for Brown's borrowing than will ever be spent on their own education.

Which is why the Governor of the Bank of England had to step in this week in an effort to restore a measure of sanity to the nation's finances. Gordon, having run up levels of debt which are not just astronomical but galactically unprecedented, was actually determined to use the Budget on April 22 to borrow even more. Recognising that might have tipped the country into a situation of dangerous financial chaos, even more damaging than anything we have yet seen, the Governor issued a stern warning that another borrowing binge would not be tolerated. In effect, he cut up the Prime Minister's credit card in front of Parliament.

It was the sort of humiliation which most Prime Ministers would regard as a signal that the game was up. But not Gordon. He then proceeded to traipse around the world, to the European Parliament and the offices of the Wall Street Journal, telling others how to fix their economies. It's like Pete Doherty lecturing nuns on abstinence; the word hypocrisy doesn't even begin to do justice to the sheer brass neck required.

But after such chutzpah has come a reckoning. While Gordon was lecturing international audiences on the need for markets to have morals (you really couldn't make it up…), the markets themselves were telling Gordon where to get off. This was the week the Government finally found that it couldn't get enough people to lend it money any more. A sell-off of Government debt was under-subscribed, with people no longer prepared to take the risk of financing Gordon's existing overdraft. Then, to compound the humbling, Gordon was given a tongue-lashing by the Tory MEP Dan Hannan after he had addressed the European Parliament. Hannan's speech was superb and brilliantly anatomised all the PM's hypocrisies. But what was most significant about it was not the quality of the argument but the quantity of those who have responded to it.

Over one million people, and rising, have downloaded the YouTube clip of Hannan speaking, have shared it with friends and sent it to others. It's an unprecedented phenomenon in British or EU politics, ranking alongside the internet popularity of Barack Obama's campaign messages. And what it powerfully underlines is the deep, and wide, sense among the public that the PM has had it. People were delighted to find their exasperation with Gordon Brown so pithily expressed. A scunnered nation had found its anger given passionate, articulate, expression and wanted the message heard over, and over, again.

The tragedy of the PM's position is that the racking up of all this debt, and the humiliation visited on him as the Governor tells him he's bankrupt and the nation tells him they've foreclosed on him, is a consequence of his own, very personal, folly. It's not just that he was the Chancellor who spent and borrowed so recklessly, it's not just that he swept away all the rules and all the regulatory architecture which might have shielded us, it's not just that he took us into this recession with a debt level higher than any other country in the world apart from Hungary, Pakistan or Egypt. No, his real economic crime was that he did so much of this for political reasons.

Every election Gordon Brown has ever won has been built on drawing dividing lines between himself and his opponents. He has depicted himself on one side, prudently investing in public services while on the other side the enemy (and its as likely to be the SNP as the Tories) would put it all at risk with cuts.

In order to sharpen those dividing lines he has continually put spending up and up with scarcely a thought to making sure the money was actually spent on frontline services. All that was important was winning the electoral auction, buying voters' support with their own money. Well now this political Ponzi scheme has collapsed in terrible chaos.

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At the next election Gordon will try it on again, contrasting his spending plans with others. But the truth is that every pound he is spending now is going straight on to our children's tax bills, plus interest. Our economy, like those doomed cartoon characters, has been disappearing into thin air. And the long run during which Gordon Brown attempted to defy financial gravity has come to its, terrible, painful, end.

Michael Gove is Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.