David Blackburn

Will the coalition rue ring-fencing health?

Will the coalition rue ring-fencing health?
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George Osborne has unveiled his plans for a comprehensive spending review. In addition to the pledge to broaden the base of consultation, the most significant announcement was that health spending “will increase in real terms in every year of this parliament”.

The oft repeated objection to this pledge is that of the IFS. Spending in other departments will have to be cut by a savage 25 percent to pay for it. In view of Britain’s current commitments, could the defence budget sustain such a cut?

David Cameron defines his politics with three letters: NHS. But think of the political damage caused by mass resignations over, say, the relationship between swingeing cuts and problems with defence procurement. And, as Ben Brogan noted this morning, mass public sector redundancies would be inevitable in the context of 25 percent cuts, which poses the coalition a further political problem. The chance of u-turn is therefore very high. Is it worth taking the risk?