Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cuts Without Pain

Watch out for pain receptors

According to Adam Shriver of Washington University, "there is a moral case for altering the DNA make-up of cows, chickens and other animals bred for their meat". Apparently, all his colleague Prof Frankenstein has to do is switch off a few animal pain receptors, and then we can crack on with intensive factory farming with a clear conscience:

"I'm offering a solution where you could still eat meat but avoid animal suffering."

Which is interesting, because Shriver's plan pretty well captures the latest line Darling and Brown are peddling on public spending cuts.

Having abandoned Broon's ludicrous Tory cuts vs Labour investment lie, they're now moved on to painless cuts. According to Darling:

"Some seem in a hurry to cut services. We are focussing on cutting costs."

The same services, only cheaper - how brilliant is that? All those "tough choices" they keep talking about won't actually involve any pain:

"Since 2004 we have already made £26.5bn of savings – yet over the past year we’ve stepped up those efforts.

...this means making choices and setting priorities – shifting resources to the front line. It means more efficiency, continuing to reform, cutting costs, public and private sectors working together."

Well, that's not so bad, is it?

Except, of course, it bears absolutely no relation to the real world.

For a start, that £26.5bn of "savings" he mentions comprises the Gershon cuts, of which the National Audit Office discovered only a quarter actually exist (eg see this blog).

And as for "continuing to reform" the public services, under Labour productivity across all the services has plummeted. The Office for National Statistics has estimated it has plunged by around 10% since 1997 (ex-"quality adjustments" - see this blog).

When it comes to reining in public spending, Darling/Broon have nothing to offer but waste, spin, and lies.

So what of Mr Cam? He was also out and about today on the spending cuts trail. And he has a real edge in terms of credibility, since as he puts it:

"...unlike any previous politicians in opposition, including the Conservatives in the 1970s, we have taken the bold step of telling the British people very clearly: with a Conservative Government public spending will be cut.

Not reduced in growth, not frozen - but cut.

That candour is a world away from the current Labour Government."

He's not wrong there. While Darling/Broon are still tip-toeing around the semantics, Cam long ago braved the c word.

So does that mean he's admitting there will be pain?

Well... mmm... sort of. He does mention "the burden".

But he too offers us:
"A new culture of delivering more for less; of turning problems on their head and finding new, more cost-effective, solutions; and of making every taxpayer pound go as far as possible."

Which sounds awfully like the painless Darling/Broon solution - costs will be cut but services needn't be.

Where Cam really scored today was in promising to "cut the cost of politics", with a 10% reduction in the number of MPs, and a pledge to make them pay full price for their booze. No matter that Michael Howard fought the last election on a pledge to axe 20% of our MPs, attacking our hated politicos is a surefire winner - even for a politico - and Cam has reaped some great headlines.

Yes, we know - it's entirely unrealistic to expect our politicos to promise pain if we elect them.

But the problem for Cam is a big one: he wants a second term. And to get it, he needs to make sure his first term doesn't come as a painful surprise.

We can already hear my Lord Mandy saying "well, we did warn you".

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