Peter Hoskin

Byrne comes across as complacent

Byrne comes across as complacent
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With all the subtlety of a bludgeon, Liam Byrne goes on the attack against those warning about the hole in our public finances.  His primary target is Iain Martin's column last week, but he also takes aim at Malcolm Offord's recent report claiming that £100 billion of public spending cuts may be needed by 2020 to get the public finances in an acceptable state.  This kind of thinking, Byrne suggests, represents an "underground movement" behind David Cameron; proof that "The marketing is all progressive; but the product is all conservative."

So far as the spin cycle's concerned, Byrne's remarks are striking for two reasons.  First, they show just how determined Labour are to stick with a "Tory cuts" attack.  And, second, they represent a return to the charge that behind the "Cameron veneer" lies a bunch of unreconstructed, "nasty" right-wing nutjobs. 

Problem is, the political tides are set against Byrne.  Labour themselves pencilled in £35 billion worth of "cuts" in the PBR.  And, given how dramatically the public finances have sunk since then - with borrowing set to top £2 trillion - they'll need to cut back even more in subsequent Budgets.  In the meantime, articles like Byrne's come across as dangerously complacent about the scale of the problem.