Peter Hoskin

Getting down to business

Getting down to business
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The problem with speeches on matters fiscal is that they can often be quite dull - full of dreary statistics and technical lingo. The oratory efforts of Brown and Darling are full testament to that. But today - in his speech to business figures – David Cameron makes a good fist of it. It's fairly engaging stuff.

It helps, of course, that he talks a lot of sense, even if it’s still in quite general terms. Here, for instance, is what he had to say on responding to the banking crisis: 

“We need to avoid a rush to judgement and an instant rewriting of all the regulatory rules. Indeed, the worst response to the current crisis would be a knee-jerk response and proscriptive over-regulation. The UK has a long history of benefiting from over-regulation elsewhere from the emergence of the Eurodollar market in the 1960s thanks to US tax policy to the effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation in recent years.” 

And he lands some effective punches on Brown and his borrowing binge: 

“According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 19 out of 21 comparable OECD countries did more than Britain to improve their fiscal position over the last decade. Ireland and Australia, for example, both now have a "future fund" of assets, providing security against future liabilities and unknown shocks coming down the line. Instead, Britain has the worst budget deficit in the developed world. The result, as was painfully clear from the Budget, is that we have no room for manoeuvre when we need it no other major economy is responding to economic difficulties by putting up taxes in a downturn.” 

But there’s still the adhesive subject of tax cuts lurking in the background. And, again, Cameron skips around it. He’s quite certain about the benefits of lower taxation (“Yes, government needs to do less taxing and regulating - we learnt that from the success of the 1980s”).  But the economic policy agenda he outlines is ambiguous on the matter: 

“[The Conservative agenda] means sharing the proceeds of growth so that the government grows more slowly than the economy as a whole. It means simplifying taxation - especially corporate taxation - and it means regulatory reform.” 

At least – as the latest polling data shows – this message seems to be chiming with the voters. Do CoffeeHousers think that’s enough (for now)?