What happens with too many wringing hands
Today's scary report from the IFS spells out in forensic detail what we should already know - the spending cuts currently identified by all three main parties fall way short of what will be needed.
In aggregate, the IFS reckons there's not that much difference in the cuts suggested by any of them. Nobody has actually spelled out the future totals for cash limited departmental spending, but the IFS has derived some numbers based on HMT's most recent budget projections and what each party has suggested about required cuts in borrowing. And here's the comparison:
In summary, the IFS calculates the following cumulative spending cuts between what Labour are planning for this year, and 2014-15:
- Conservatives: £59.4bn (15% cut)
- Labour: £47.0bn (12% cut)
- Liberal Democrats: £42.7bn (11% cut)
Worse, each party has committed itself to protecting certain favoured spending areas - such as the NHS and overseas aid - which means that the cuts falling on the other unprotected areas will be so big nobody wants to even think about them.
So what we're being shown instead is a huge blank. The vast bulk of the aggregate spending cuts implied by each party is simply unspecified. The Conservatives have a £52.5bn blank, Labour around £45bn, and the LDs £34bn (although note that the smaller LD blank largely reflects the fact that they're being less ambitious on the total cuts).
And remember this: even if they could fill in the blanks post-election (ie assuming there really is a secret plan ready to roll), their aggregate cuts are still not going to be enough. As the invaluable Jeff Randall keeps reminding his interviewees, merely reducing our rate of borrowing does nothing to address our now wobbling mountain of government debt. To do that you actually have to start repaying it - not simply go on borrow at a slower rate.
Meanwhile, Tyler is busy on the campaign trail. He's spent the last couple of days resuscitating the local blue (party blue, that is) website, and posting some much needed photo coverage of the campaign.
Last evening, he and Mrs T attended a local hustings debate, where our candidate fronted up to his LD, Labour, and UKIP opponents. Very interesting - even if the village hall seats were designed more for stackability than two-and-a-half hour sitdowns.
Our man put in a good performance, enlivened by a favourable reference to Maggie T, which provoked a satisfyingly outraged reaction from the many LD activists in attendance. And on the night, the Labour candidate, 24 year old Tom Miller, was excellent*.
But the LD candidate.... oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Tyler had already heard she wasn't up to the job, but this was his first opportunity to actually see her in action.
And it left him not only worried for the local constituency should she get elected, but also, quite frankly, for her.
She's simply not up to it. Sure, she's very concerned about the plight of children, refugees, the mentally ill, the atomic bomb, airmiles fruit, and a host of other worthy causes. In fact, she's very good at hand-wringing. Literally.
But what she completely fails to display is any grasp of the real policy issues involved. Added to which, she's embarrassingly inarticulate and ineffective.
In truth, soft-hearted Tyler ended up feeling rather sorry for her. But God knows how she'd cope in the Westminster bear pit - she'd be eaten alive. And God knows how we local residents would fare with her as our MP.
The fact is that hand-wringing can only take you so far. It's perfectly fine for a vicarage tea party, or a council debate on recycling bins. But right now, neither of those are our principal concern.
Our principal concern is HTF do we repair the damage wrought by 13 years of Labour misrule? And HTF do we get this country back onto a sustainable economic footing?
And on those issues, we need a deal less handwringing, and a deal more honesty.
*Update 28.4.10 - Well, I guess you should never trust a pretty face, especially when it's coupled with a highly persuasive and amusing presentational style. Having now Googled Tom Miller more thouroughly, we discovered this post by Tory Bear. TB recounts how Miller was closely involved with the appalling Derek Drooper, and was forced out of his previous Labour blogging role over his participation in Drooper's gutter politics smear campaigns. Not many people know that. At least, not many voters round here know it.