Alex Massie

How Cameron can turn “Tory cuts” to his advantage...

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An interesting exchange between Danny Finkelstein and Andrew Cooper, director of Populus in which Mr Cooper addresses public attitudes towards cuts in public spending:

In principle, then, there seems to be an acceptance of the need for (inevitability of) some spending cuts.  But three quarters of voters think that some areas of spending should be protected from cuts – with the NHS and schools most prominently mentioned.

Focus groups constantly find a deep-seated conviction that great amounts of public spending are wasted – but when pressed people don’t know what exactly these are (and they are, archetypally, other people’s areas of spending rather than one’s own).

Aye, that seems about right. The Tories, then, could do more to highlight how the extraordinary splurge in public spending under this government has brought fewer rewards than were promised. The public may not be keen on cuts in NHS and education spending, but, for example, the Tory message should be to talk about the massive growth in NHS bureaucracy and contrast those numbers with the day to day experience of ordinary patients. The same might be said of schools. All this money, all that promise, to so very little purpose...

And, yup, the Tory alternative must surely focus on services at the point of delivery, not the whims of the bureacratic machinery. Changing that will be difficult and take time, but "putting people before management" should be an easy sell. Tie that to a genuine, if also tricky, localist agenda (complete with overhauling local government finance) and there's the possibility  - only the possibility! - of making something concrete from the talk of a post-bureaucratic age and an end to centralisation...

At least that might be the theory...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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