Peter Hoskin

Brown urged to make “difficult choices” on spending

Brown urged to make "difficult choices" on spending
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Over at the Progress website, a bunch of Labour MPs - including Peter Hain - have set out their "visions" ahead of the Budget.  Broadly speaking, they're all more or less in favour of further "fiscal stimlus" for one sector of the economy or another, but there are some alternative viewpoints too.  By far the most interesting is Mark Todd's article, entitled: "Some radical thinking and difficult choices are needed to nurse the public finances back to health".  His language is strident, and could even be taken as a direct attack on the Dear Leader's management of the public finances:

"There are already signs that the scale of future deficits, unbacked as yet by clear strategies on how they may be corrected, are having an impact on the effectiveness of our short-term measures – seen in the dissonance between the Bank of England and government messages and bond market reactions."

And he highlights the kind of forecasts which I imagine Brown would prefer to ignore:

"To make serious inroads into the deficit will require far more than annualised savings or economic recovery (especially bearing in mind the large tax takes from banking and the City on which we have relied and which may not return). One estimate suggests that merely to stop the total public debt increasing further will require around a 5 per cent real terms cut in public spending every year from 2011 to 2014."

Todd does water all this down for a leftist audience, warning against "broad-brush top-down spending cuts".  But the message is unmistakeably in favour of wider cuts than Brown 'n' Darling have currently accounted for.  And it's worth noting that this comes on the back of suggestions, last week, that certain "Blairites" are also calling for spending cuts.

Sure, given Brown's continuing obsession with the investment-vs-cuts dividing line, it's doubtful whether Todd and his ilk will get anything like their way.  But the growing  attention to spending cuts, from within Labour, does suggest that the PM may face some internal opposition come Budget time.  And with Frank Field making noises about 10p tax (see Dizzy here), the next few weeks promise to be trickier than our world-saving leader would have wished.