Peter Hoskin

The Darling deception

The Darling deception
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Alistair Darling normally strikes us as an honest man dropped into an impossible situation. But whether he misspoke, or whether he set out to mislead, he told a lie on the Today Programme this morning which needs to be highlighted.

So what was it?  That non-ringfenced departmental budgets would remain "pretty much flat" rather than receiving significant, if not sufficient, cuts.  As Fraser demonstrated yesterday, there were spending cuts hidden in the Budget   and we'll see the full extent of those as soon as the IFS processes the numbers later today.  Last time around, after April's Budget, they calculated cuts of 7 percent across three years.  Thanks to a few more ringfenced budgets here and there, those cuts could even be deeper this time around.

Of course, these cuts aren't a bad thing in and of themselves.  They – and a lot more – will be necessary to deal with the fiscal crisis.  It's just dispiriting that our government would prefer we didn't know about them.