Peter Hoskin

More blows against Brown’s spending narrative

More blows against Brown's spending narrative
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It's public spending time again, dear CoffeeHousers, with a couple of eye-catching articles in  today's papers.  The first is a comment piece by Steve Bundred, chief exec of the Audit Commission, on the necessity for extensive spending cuts.  If you recall, Bundred claimed a few days ago that health and education shouldn't be ring-fenced from cuts, and here he repeats the point, adding a snappy conclusion:

"So don't believe the shroud wavers who tell you grannies will die and children starve if spending is cut. They won't. Cuts are inevitable, and perfectly manageable. We should insist on a frank and intelligent debate about how and where they will fall, which will then enable everyone to make more sensible plans."

And the second is the Sunday Times scoop that civil servants are already drawing up "doomsday" plans for 20 percent cuts in public spending, fearful that "politicians are failing to confront the scale of the budget black hole".  The article also claims that Downing Street advisers are threatening to quit unless Brown sacks the man "they blame for encouraging him to make misleading claims about budget figures": one Shaun Woodward.  And there was me thinking that Brown wouldn't need any encouragment to spin misleading yarns about his "investment vs cuts" dividing line...

Both articles highlight just how much the political tides are shifting against Brown's crude divisions on spending.  His government - especially Alistair Darling - have been trying to fix things over the past week, with a slightly subtler message about good cuts and bad cuts.  But you do wonder whether the Dear Leader has already fatally undermined Labour's credibility on the issue, and whether he'll be able to resist slipping back to his traditional dividing line.

P.S. As I've mentioned Shaun Woodward, it's worth pointing out that the MoS has a story that Peter Mandelson refused to speak to Gordon Brown while Woodward was in the same room.  Fun and games.