Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Cameron and the truth about debt

In Tampa, the Republican conference has heard a line of powerful speakers talk about government debt in compelling and urgent way. There’s a contingent of eight Tories out there, led by party chairman Sayeeda Warsi, but I doubt they’ll be taking many notes. The finely-honed attack lines that the Republicans are coming out are more use to Labour than to the Tories. Take the below, from Paul Ryan’s speech on Wednesday.

‘They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. They were elected in the middle of a crisis, as they constantly remind us, but they’re now making it worse. They have added £11,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in the country. Thousands have graduated from university, ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can’t find the work they studied for, or any work at all. Without a change in leadership, why would the next five years be any different from the last five years?’

I changed a couple of numbers, but the rest is pure Ryan. The overall analysis is very powerful: they said they’d fix the economy, they have increased the debt, so why give them another term? They promised something they didn’t deliver. I look at all this in my Daily Telegraph column today.

Cameron is vulnerable to this because in 2015, after seven years of the Tories banging on about the deficit, Britain will still have the largest deficit in the Western world. And also they have been engaging in what I call a ‘word game’ by saying they will cut the deficit. Politics, as David Frum says, is not about what you say but what other people hear. And most Brits hear ‘cut the debt’. A dangerous gap has opened up between what the government is doing with debt, and what the public think is happening.

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