Fraser Nelson

The cuts consensus

The cuts consensus
Text settings

John Rentoul today puts Trevor Kavanagh and myself in the dock for demanding "massive spending cuts" and concludes that if we "had any power" we would be "about as helpful to Cameron as Sarah Palin was to John McCain" but believes Cameron "will hold to his strategic course". I mean: massive cuts. How crazy is that? Surely only swivel-eyed maniacs would be planning cuts - real, hard-core ideologues - would plan that when the deficit is a mere 13 percent of GDP. Surely?

It struck me, reading this, that John is unaware of the massive cuts which Labour is planning (understandable, as they were in the small print and have still not been picked up by Fleet St). Darling is planning 10 percent cuts over three years, the greatest spending cut that will have been attempted in British postwar history. I reprint the table below. Trevor and myself - and, for that matter, Osborne and Cameron and Darling and Mandelson - are all on the same page here. Massive cuts are inevitable. Where Osborne, Cameron, Kavanagh and myself differ from Darling is believing that even harsher cuts are necessary. The question is: does anyone seriously advocate that there should not be cuts? I don't think a single Westminster party does right now. Perhaps John should set one up.


UPDATE: As Jennifer Aniston would say: here's the science bit (I think Murray Knight needs some help). All figures are nominal (ie, not adjusted for inflation) with the exception of the final column, which is shown in 2009-10 prices. It shows a decline of £38bn which is 10% of £386bn. Hence 10% cuts. The total spending  includes soaring debt interest: this (plus dole costs) will squeeze what's left for government departments (aka public spending). Brown could claim that spending is rising, but that's only because the debt interest is on a one-way journey upwards: the bill being his one and only legacy. I'm grateful to Gemma Tetlow of the IFS for these figures.

UPDATE2: News just in: John Rentoul has joined the cuts consensus. His response to this blog says he directed his ire at those who demand ""bigger cuts than planned by either main party leadership". Like who?  I hate to disappoint him (especially as he's having so much fun with the Sarah Palin meme) but I have no quarrel with the Tories on this. Osborne says we will have to cut deeper than Labour outlines. I agree. How much deeper? Osborne is careful not to say. Neither would I, in his position. All this is a shame as I enjoy sparring with John (he's a well-informed and authentic leftie who hates Brown more than any man or woman I know save for Guido). But he has misunderstood my position on cuts. My problem is on where the axe will fall. That the axe will fall I have no doubt: because it will be the bond market, not Osborne, who decides.