Everyone agrees that public spending is going to be squeezed and journalists want to hear the pols say what items they would cut. Politicians, understandably, are reluctant to give clear answers to these questions. Hence our poor old friend Mr Efficiency Saving is wheeled into service once more and Mr Government Waste gets it in the neck but that's about it (though there's the occasional nod to big ticket items such as replacing Trident. But since £25bn for Trident can be spread over 30 years it's not obvious that this sort of "saving" makes a big difference either.)
All this irritates people. The public professes to love plain-speaking and straight-talking while simultaneously deploring most of the actual, you know, concrete commitments the pols propose. No wonder they'd rather talk in generalities and make the election about "values" rather than "plans". And who can blame them. Consider this chart* from the Economist. Yes, it's an American poll but I'd be surprised if a comparable British survey** produced strikingly different results:
This being so, it's not a surprise that politicians prefer to be cautious. Why risk upsetting people?
*Via Jonathan Bernstein.
**I haven't found one but perhaps that's because I haven't looked hard enough.