Alex Massie

The Third Most Important Man in Britain

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Well, in the government anyway. After David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the next most important chap is David Laws. So it's reassuring to see that the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury is prepared for the worst. I recommend this interview with the Financial Times which, frankly, offers just another reminder that the calibre of the cabinet has been improved by including the Orange Bookers:

[S]ome of the decisions that have got to be made, particularly in the spending review later on this year, are going to be a choice between the unpalatable and the disastrous.

[...]I’m mentally prepared for getting a lot of representations from angry people about reductions in budgets and I’m mentally prepared for having to go out and sell the decisions that we make to people in this country who are going to find some of the things we do very challenging and some of those things are going to be unpopular in my own constituency as well as across the rest of the country. But I do think that people, on the whole, will understand that the public finances are in a complete mess, that we can’t just go on building up debt, not only because it risks the economy but it lands on future generations. And I think people understand that there are no easy choices and while people won’t want to see big cuts in certain areas of public spending, they don’t want to see vast increases in taxation either so they understand that George and I and the Government have got a really difficult job to do, to reconcile these things. And I recognise that this job is not only going to be a matter of making the right choices but actually going out and selling those choices to the country and making them confront the fact that we have a range of choices, none of which are easy or popular over the short term.

whole thing

Someone said the other day that every time they see David Laws they assume he's off to climb Everest or something. True enough. He's really the political reincarnation of John Mills: calm, plucky, born to crisis and very British. If this were a movie then his appearance would suggest that everything is going to be fine. Shame real life ain't the movies then. Hold on boys, We Dive at Dawn...

David Laws, captain of HMS Austerity prepares to give the crew the bad news.

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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