I have only seen the The Guardian and the FT today, but it is evidence of the effectiveness of the Government’s softening up process that the front page of the former carries not a single word on David Cameron’s cuts plan, whilst the FT has a single sentence proclaiming Alistair Darling’s rejection of the PM’s claims of Labour figure-fiddling.
To be fair to both papers, there is plenty of news, comment and analysis inside, but if it is the case that the cuts are going to change life as dramatically as Cameron claims, then we might have expected more dramatic coverage.
But then even as I look at the rival stories which squeezed out cuts, I give the papers the benefit of the doubt and imagine that they realised that when you actually looked at Cameron’s speech, there was less new in it than we might have gathered from the build up and the breathless broadcast coverage.
He was desperately trying to give the impression of a new context, new information, new facts and figures that allowed him to explain a shift from his election campaign position – the deficit is key, there will have to be cuts but we will cut fairly and sensitively and frontline services will be protected – to his government position – the situation is far worse than we anticipated (it’s not by the way) and the cuts will have to go much much deeper and it is all Labour’s fault.
What he does not articulate is the real position, namely that right-wing Conservatives (indeed quite a few left-wing Conservatives too) see the State as problem not solution, have an ideological commitment to shrinking the State whenever possible, and the combination of a post-recession deficit and the political convenience of a marriage of convenience with power-hungry Lib Dems gives them the perfect cover (or about as perfect as it gets from their perspective) to get on and do what they always wanted to do, but which would have been rejected even more comprehensively at the ballot box had they been open. Sorry for the length of the sentence but sometimes the unstated position is harder to explain than the glib clip for the 6 o’clock news.
What is intriguing, in this honeymood period for the Clamberons, is that the media know the figures he was quoting yesterday are not new, and there is no firm evidence to support his ‘things worse than expected’ claim (aka OTIB, oldest trick in book) and yet the broadcasters in particular, constantly desperate for new-ness, so readily accept the new context he seeks to construct.
‘Today we spend more on debt interest than we do on education,’ he ‘revealed’ in shock horror tones. Just as he revealed it virtually every day of the campaign.
Great too how Canada is becoming to the Tories’ economic plans what Sweden is to schools – a catch-all popular-sounding country that nobody finds too offensive, so if they did it well, why shouldn’t we?
But former finance minister Paul Martin, speaking to the FT, has some interesting observations on the differences as well as the similarities. ‘If you prepare them well, people will understand. They will not stay with you unless they feel that the sacrifice you’re asking of them is going to succeed.’
One of his advisers, speaking on Newsnight last night, said that Cameron was getting the pain message out there, but not the hope of a better future. There is an important reason for the difference in approach though.
The Canadians wanted to deal with the deficit but in a way that allowed for investment in public services to grow again. For Britain’s Tories, the cuts themselves are every bit as important as bringing the deficit down. Like I said yesterday, when right-wing parties get elected proclaiming themselves to be compassionate Conservatives, there is only one of those two words that counts.
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Does the leadership election make it so impossible to get our message across. I love Alistair Darling’s brusque ‘nonsense’ comments but he seems like a lone voice at the moment.
If we don’t shout it loud that the recession is ending, borrowing is £10 billion less than expected and unemployment is falling, the only story people will hear is the ‘it’s all awful and so much worse than we thought’ scam from the Condems, their excuse to cut and shrug off blame.
Truth matters less than media coverage.
Cameroom gave three reasons for cutting deficit (but none for his proposed pace). Two of the reasons were market confidence – one each for lenders and investors. The third was the prospect of increased interest rates. On the one hand he seemed to accept worldwide and Eurozone reasons for recent financial events but on the other hand he blamed the former Labour government for everything. So far he has said nothing new and given no real answers. He comes across as niaive and without substance. I can’t wait for him to actually do something and then to be held accountable!
On-the-button analyis Alastair. Agree with every word.
The Tories want to finish Thatcher’s mission of destroying the Welfare State and they will use the economic position as an excuse to do so.
I watched BBC news 24 on and off yesteday and every time they repeated Cameron’s claim that things were worse than he expected, without serious challenge. They reported it as a speech on the economy when it was quite clearly a political speech with no economic content whatsoever.
Point is: who in Labour’s leadership is hitting back with the necessary vigour? If we wait until the leadership election is over the argument, while maybe not lost in intelectual, will be irrelevant (at least until the Tories do there damage).
I’m astonished with the weak media coverage of this in the past couple of days. Blaming the past Govt, things are far worse than expected therefore election pledges are unnecessary. Now we can do what we want – shrink the public sector, create higher unemployment with less welfare support which then creates a cheaper labour force to increase profit for the private sector.
Either Cameron/Osborne are cleverer than they seem or are making it up as they go along and the media haven’t yet worked out how to comment on their confusing & contradictory messages
Labour must share some blame for allowing the hoodwinking of the wider populace.
David Cameron,the PM is at best dishonest to suggest the deficit is much worse than expected. I occurs to me that after the elections it was revealed the deficit was about 20 billion better than projected. We should expect nothing from this ‘CONDEM’ government but more pains, tears and cuts.
I am certain, however, that with constructive and a determined opposition they will reap the whirlwind.
The Times has pretty extensive coverage, though I can’t for the life of me think why.
Less content in Young Dave’s speech? Why am I not surprised?
Cameron’s work experience extends, roughly, to one area only, and that is PR. So it is no surprise that he is all PR: his speech was a fog of PR, stopping all bar the most determined observers from seeing what is really intended.
With a little effort, your pal Armando Iannucci could subject this approach to considerable ridicule and earn himself another Bafta or two. The series could be called, oh, I dunno, how about “Absolutely Fatuous”.
Young Dave would, of course, be played by Jennifer Saunders.
Surely the title of this blog should be
“Cameron and Lib Dems working together to sort out unsustainable £1.5 trillion debt left behind by Labour” ?
I sincerely believe that this publlc consulation exercise as to where cuts should be made will backfire on the government and both parties. We held a general election. We voted. Unless we voted tactically we voted for the party we found the most credible. If we ignore the rhetoric around new politics and concensus government, we expected that the coalition government would do what they said they were going to do – that is bring strong and stable government which would take the difficult decisions. Now they are asking us to take them for them in an attempt not to appear unpopular. In the process it will pit community against community, and worker against worker in the same room. So the Unions, business representatives and members of the public will be invited to take part. But who will represent effectively and honestly the views of those who are not in unions of part of business and who do not have the words to say what they think or feel.
It seems that the government will come not through those elected and then appointed in very important and high profile jobs, who can be held to account by the opposition and their own back bench colleagues, but by a popular vote along the lines of Big Brother.
Meanwhile, the traditional Conservative ideology of “if you can’t afford it don’t have it”, which extends to education and health/welfare, will be given free reign under the smoke screen created by the idea that we are all in this together. That may be partly true, and on the face of it fair, if everyone was equal at the start.
By the way – my first choice of where cuts should hit would be the department of budgetary responsibility. I want to know how some one who worked for the Conservative party last year, and in previous governments can be tranferred into a new “quango” which is supposed to be independent at tax payers cost, with no scrutiny in the press. Of course he will downgrade the growth forecasts, it suits the Conservative message. But forecasts are just that – best guesstimates. And lets face it – the last government did get them wrong – but by under guesstimating not over as has been alleged by the new “honest” government.
Britain´s total public sector debt is £772bn, 53.8% of GDP. Debt figure does not include the cost of rescuing banks. Shares can be sold in future at a profit, I hope.
Government borrowed money to save the economy from total collapse. The alternative to borrowing was depression.
The fiscal deficit is £156bn. Deficit was caused by recession. Part of the deficit is cyclical; the structural part needs to be eliminated. The truth is that deficit was below the forecast.
David Cameron is misrepresenting economic reality because of political difficulties and fears of unpopularity. Mr Cameron and the Conservatives believed in the same financial sector boom as Labour.
It is wrong to use Canada and Sweden as examples. They started cutting from a secure base. And Canada was aided by global economy. There is no favourable economic environment now.
As the Con-Lib government has said, it will not be like 1980s this time – it will be much worse! 750,000 jobs might go in public services. There are two different philosophies of the state in Britain. The Tories, of course, want smaller state.
But cuts will depress growth. They will hit confidence and risk recovery. After Spain´s austerity package its credit rating was downgraded because of fears about growth.
Best way to cut public expenditure is to create employment.
Banks and financial sector are behind public debt. We have been promised fair cuts. What if the rich would pay more in income and wealth taxes? A lot more! Would that be fair?
I hope the people writing here are correct and things aren’t worse than we thought. However, The previous government did so much juggling with figures to make things seem better that it is not hard for people who have an open mind to believe DC. As for Unemployment coming down, I do not believe this for one moment. The figures are twisted so all the unemployed do not show up on them. I know this for a fact as in the past year four members of my family became redundant for the second time and were unable to claim any benefits even Job Seekers. If you have a partner in work you can claim contribution based Job Seekers but after six months you get nothing. Hence you are no longer on the list of unemployed and there must be thousands more like that. People in the Building Trade are mostly Self Employed and again cannot claim benefits when out of work. So the actual official figures are only a fraction of the truth. This government needs to plough money into the Building Trade as when things get bad there it has a domino effect on the rest of the economy. Encourage manufacturing and small businesses to create jobs. The Public Sector has become huge and does not generate wealth so there must be some streamlining there regardless of Union objections. Whoever is right about how bad things are, we are definitely in a mess. Labour probably aren’t to blame for all of it but must accept they made a lot of mistakes and are responsible for a good chunk of it. Alistair Darling said before the election that cuts worse than the 80s were ahead so why are Labour Supporters now trying make out that these are Conservative cuts and would be less harsh under Labour? A bit of honesty on all sides would not go amiss.
Hope this doesn’t come up twice. Was typing my comment when it disappeared into thin air, so will briefly repeat …
The Canada comparison looks pretty flawed. In today’s Guardian, Larry Elliot points out that Canada’s cuts took place at a time of strong US expansion, in contrast to ours happening amidst a eurozone crisis. “Unless Britain can export into a strong global recovery”, he warns, “the risk is that cuts in public spending depress growth, thereby adding to pressure on the public finances.” If this is true, Cameron and Osborne are taking a huge gamble.
But, looking at the background, Elliott reminds us that the crisis in 2007 arrived when the UK budget was ALREADY in relatively poor shape and the deficit stood at close to £40bn.
Whether through unforeseen circumstances, poor planning, bad lack, inefficiency or profligacy (or any combination), it still happened and any Labour leadership contender needs to both acknowledge it and commit to doing more to prevent such vulnerability again.
While not wishing to sound Daily Mailish, my own experience in dealing with the public sector was that there was an overwhelming growth in bureaucracy and an inefficient attitude towards spending. I don’t agree with Cameron’s shrinking state, and I don’t want to see it increasingly privatised. On the other hand, I do believe the public sector can learn more lessons from the private sector. Who knows? Maybe Lord Browne’s appointment will do some good.
Surely the national debt also includes the debt of 0.85trillion left behind by the previous Tory government in 1997 even after selling all the family silver!
“‘Today we spend more on debt interest than we do on education,’ he ‘revealed’ in shock horror tones.”
… as indeed did Mrs Thatcher. It’s not a new phenomenon by any means. Most successful Western economies run with a debt most of the time. The UK’s debt as a proportion of GDP at the start of the recession was roughly the same as when Labour took power in 1997 – and lower than any other country in the G7, even Canada. Today it remains lower than Italy, Japan, France, Germany and, yes, Canada.
We are being softened up for some really nasty ideological thatcherite therapy.
Cameron is playing a dangerous game with the recovery. The forecast 170bn defecit is actually 148bn (nothing to be pleased about its still too high, however 18bn less than the election was fought on)
The 70bn interest figure was known and commented on in the media nd press 3 weeks before the election.
The total debt projection of 1.4 trl also predicated on the notion no action will be taken to attack it..(which is nonsense)
As for this all being the fault of Labour (Gordon Brown) is to forget about what is happening and has happened in the rest of the world.
Andrew Neil in the daily Politics today had his finger on the issue giving the Tory bod a very sharp poke in the eye. Whis he had been so enlightned before the election.
Nick Smegg is hilarious. He looks so pleased with himself just to be in power, and it is clear he will do virtually nothing with it. His lack of government department and his inability to speak at Prime Minister’s questions render him pointless.
DOn’t you ever despair when the political education of so many comes from the media? I do, frankly they are idiots. As is any working person who voted Tory. As I always say, I understand why millionaires, racists and homophobes do. THat is who the Conservatives are without their PR, that is the core ideology but then you see ethnic minorities standing for the Tories…really you couldnt make it up. People are so so stupid.
I think of all the people who voted Tory/Lib Dem recenlty and wished somehow it was just their job and homes would go, but I know that so many good people who voted for Labour are going to suffer from the ideology of the Tory cuts, but Im looking forward to meeting the first who loses their job/home and voted either Tory/Lib Dem then I can say, and yes it will be smugly, serves you right. Politics is personal becuase it affects each of us. I know one woman who voted Tory for Tax reasons but hates them at the same, as I said to her, you are just selsfish and self centerted, thats Tory voters for you.
Same old Tories, cut, cut, cut.
Im sure Dave and Nick’s fortunes wont be effected.
Asocial democratic viewpoint
The Condem government have just been voted into power and should therefore get on with governing the country in accordance with their manifesto.
Instead they are now going to consult the electorate on which services should be cut!! What a cop-out!!
People vote in a government in order to undertake these difficult decisions on their behalf.
It now sounds to me that they are not too sure how to go about it and are consulting us to cover their arses,just in case things go pear shape in the future and then they can blame us!!
The whole situation terrifies me!
Surely, it is right for a PM to prepare us all for hard times ahead without providing the next budget’s detail? What is wrong with this?
I am astonished at some of the comment on this blog. Similarly, I am perturbed at many labour MPs too in their questioning of the government in Parliament. The country is facing serious difficulties and I feel somehow that those representing the last government are shirking responsibility for any errors made. And yes there were errors which are of course to be expected. One has only to look at some of the figures disclosed by the treasury to see wasteful spending.
Further, Fitch has published a report today which indicates that the scale of the challenge facing the UK is dire. We need to reduce our deficit by 9.6%. Further, the UK is falling behind the rest of the EU in its deficit reduction plans. It is all quite depressing.
I am not an economist, but know that if we do not reduce our debt, we risk losing our credit rating (this is a possibility), investors will leave us, our debt repayments will become exorbitant, interest rates will soar, taxes will soar and unemployment will soar. Imagine the UK becoming another Greece. Fitch places us just above Ireland and in a worse position than Spain etc. We all know that we have the highest debt in the G20. Yet many comments above ignore the consequences of not tackling the debt. The PM is right to say that cuts will change our lives dramatically. After all we have had a buoyant 13 years with regular pay awards, benefits etc etc. Lots of goodies to – free bus pass for me, winter fuel allowance etc. I did not need them either!!!
I have no doubt that welfare benefits, public sector pay, VAT etc will be hit. I do not think cuts will be as great as those imposed by Ireland and those proposed by Spain – ie 5% reduction in welfare benefits etc…..
I recognise that consulting the public is a PR exercise. However, the labour party has done the same over policy issues in the past. I contributed to them and will contribute further in any way available to me from either the party or government. I do believe that the country should face up to the difficulties and deplore petty party political points at such a time.
I can’t recall a new government losing public confidence so quickly, with the exception of George W Bush, of course. They simply have no idea how to govern. Never has serendipity been so in vogue at Whitehall.
When you intend to govern, you write a manifesto, laying out a programme of governance, that states how you intend to achieve aims and goals over a 5 year term. Yes, some things may change due to circumstances, but to write a manifesto of deception is lowest of the low.
Tomorrow at IPMQ’s (Illegitimate Prime Minister’s Questions), Harriet has to force Cameron against the ropes, and pin him there. There must be no quarter given, considering the amount of lies we’ve heard from government this week.
It is time Robert Peston stopped prancing around like a smug git and started examining this government’s actions. Oh, I forgot, he is so far up their anal tract that his compass doesn’t work anymore.
Wouldn’t it be better if the government saved money, by cutting the salary of his army of spin-doctors. Better stil, how about cutting the number of spin-doctors altogether.
There should be some form of public protests arranged, that makes sure the coalition get the message. If not, then they will trample all over us.
Remember what happened when we stood up to the poll-tax?
Thanks for this Alastair. I have spent the last couple of days furious at the way the tories are trying to blame Labour for what has happened and not the dodgy financial structures that they and their mates in the banks supported. This is simply a way of them doing what they always wanted to do – limit the public sector and create a do-it-yourself approach to services.
You people are funny. The deficit, ie the exccess of expenditure over income is £160 odd billion, most of which is structural, ie nothing to do with the recession. Bad Al is right that the right are inclined to shrink the state but no government could go on with a strutural deficit in the order of £100 billion or so. A Labour government would have to be doing exactly the same thing right now and to argue differently is just fantasy.
In response to Rob, what a load of nonsense. Tory Voters Bad! Labour Voters Good! Grow up! and why are diehard Labour supporters so agressive in their comments? The country is broke. all the money is gone and Labour would have had to do exactly the same with their cuts. People are entitled to their opinions, people are entitled to vote how they like, that is called Democracy. I know may Labour Supporters who have lost their jobs and their homes in this recession. Everyone is affected by the problems we have. Are they then idiots too! Stop name calling and accept we all have to bear the cuts.
Your comments on debt are incorrect UK public spending as percentage of GDP peaked in 1950 at 250% then gradually dropped until below 50% in the mid 70’s then the average was approx 45% until the financial crisis of 2008 when it started to rise and is now at 80% of GDP. As for defaulting which the media keep talking about experts say that when interest payments reach 12% of GDP a government is likely to default. The UK interest payments are presently at 3% (and from 1940 to 1979 averaged 4% only peaking at 5% under Mrs Thatcher in the mid 80’s) So you see the drive to cut public spending in such a short time is politically motivated and may cause more harm than good by throwing the UK into a more deeper and longstanding recession just like the 80’s.
Thank god you’re saying it. Can you say it louder?! Only Alistair Darling seemed to be able to point all that out today. Have the rest of the shadow cabinet got their heads so firmly up the arse of the leadership election that they can’t act as an effective opposition?! Eyes on the ball please!
The State is too big.Fact.
The biggest con of all time is what you and New Labour did which was to “hire” an extra 1million labour voters and expand the public sector out of all control.
You thought you had an automatic electorate up your sleeve by hiring these 1million people.Well,its over, bit by bit this huge chain round our neck will be broken down by commonsense and logic and good luck to the Tories in doing it.
The majority of your bloggers here are public sector sycophants with no brains and whatever OUR country’s problems believe their salaries and ring-fenced pensions are some god given right forever.
It IS New Labour’s fault – they grew the State out of control they MUST take the blame,AND YOU!
Your very very sad tribalism knows no bounds and like,for example,Ken Livingstone,you personally have had your day,like him,and should move on and get a life.TB has done it so why don’t you….I’m assuming your a one trick pony so you cling to spin…sad…very sad.
Worrying thing is George W Bush got a second term.
Your comment has some errors in it – was public spending really 2.5 bigger than GDP in 1950? I doubt it. Maybe post-war public debt was.
Putting that to one side what you are really saying is put off taking the medicine. It would be nice to forget all of our problems for a couple of years but that would be irresponsible. Ex-Labour City minister Lord Myners pretty much repeated my point in the House of Lords yesterday. He said: “There is nothing progressive about a government that consistently spends more than it can raise in taxation.”
Labour spent all the money as Liam Byrne said in his parting shot and the years of plenty were quite simply paid for by the years of famine to come. There is no magic to Labour, only lies and a lot of interest payments.
“Cameron using Libs to do what he wanted to do all along.”
Shock, horror, Al. “Man does what he said he would”. “Cameron delivers on pledge despite being in coalition”.
Your speciality with Blair was to turn your back on manifesto after election.
to S Chapman
A public sector sycophant??
I actually prefer to be called a teacher. I work for everybodies elses kids and take great joy in doing so. Am I not worth a decent salary and pension???
I’m sick to death (already) of Cameron implying that people like me are the problem. And if “public sector” pay is the problem can someone tell me where the reduction in the civil list is in this and last weeks round of finger pointing??
I am just surprised that anyone is surprised that the media is ‘soft’ on the ConDems.
Almost to a man the media aligned itself (shamefully) with the Conservatives so why now be surprised that it sees its own self interest wrapped up in being as positive as possible about what was effectively a non speach.
My mum always told me that if I don’t have anything positive to say then say nothing at all – I suspect the mums of many of the media editors may have bestowed them with the same advice!
Politics is an arena for attrition.
It is to be expected for a new government (i.e. ConDems) to blame the old one (Labour)for the economic woes of the present. Woe betide that new government that refuses to or is unable to use this gift to extend its honeymoon.
I cannot blame Cameron for doing this. But I blame Labour for not putting the records straight. I agree Labour need not confront headons for now, but there is an urgent need to explain and bring the positives to light.
It is the only way for Labour not lag too far behind in the race to win hearts and minds.