Monday 25 January 2010

Tory warns about his own party's cuts agenda

This story in yesterday's Sunday Times was interesting not so much for the suggestion that the Tories might not be totally united over cutting public expenditure as for the way in which it hinted at the real underlying agenda which many of them support.

The sentence in the report that caught my eye was this one: "Clarke’s blunt remarks will be seen as a warning to right-wing Tories who regard the budget squeeze as a chance to slash the size of the state".

This highlights a concern that I have expressed previously, which is that the public deficit is in danger of being used as an excuse for pursuing a much wider agenda, and that much of the Tory impetus for spending cuts has more to do with a desire to reduce taxes for the better-off than with the budget deficit per se.

I would not argue that there is not a public deficit which needs to be reduced, but the extent to which it needs to be reduced, and the nature and timing of reductions are questions which are not getting the serious consideration which they deserve. The agenda has been set on the basis of the headline figure for the deficit, and the Tories and their allies in the press have managed to create a climate in which serious debate about alternatives has become difficult if not impossible.

The situation is far from being as black and white as many suggest, but if we are not careful, the result will be one in which deeper and more rapid cuts are made than are necessary to deal with the budget deficit. The losers will be those who depend on public services, and the winners will be those who benefit a year or two later from tax cuts.

1 comment:

Illtyd Luke said...

I agree. Those that advocate a smaller state and lower public spending do so even when there is an economic boom. Labour's privatisation agenda for example, continued unabated during the growth years. Essentially the British parties are seeing the deficit as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.