Running a national economy is no simple matter – I couldn’t do it. The 2010-2015 Coalition and new Tory governments have made great mileage out of ‘getting our finances in order’ (specifically trying to balance the books by a combination of reducing spending and encouraging economic growth) and, subject to the task of making further cuts and taking tough measures/decisions, are currently projecting a surplus by the end of this parliament in 2020.
One of the barbs thrown at the Coalition government by opposition parties was that, for all his brave talk (and the Tory party mantra “We’ve got an economic plan and it’s working”), chancellor George Osborne kept missing his stated and much-vaunted targets – not least the speed at which the deficit would be reduced.
Though he and the Tories sought refuge in a variant of the old military adage that “You can have all the best-laid plans in the world but none of them survive long after the first shot in a battle or war is fired” – i.e. that there were perfectly straightforward but unpredictable reasons and/or external factors and events that blew their original strategy and targets off course – to a degree the mud stuck.
People had just about accepted the concept that, after the global financial crash of 2008 and its aftermath, Britain might have to endure a temporary period of retrenchment and austerity in order to get things back on track. However, when even this ‘medicine’ failed to make much of an impression – for example, when it became clear that, despite all the collective pain, George was actually borrowing more money than ever to keep the country’s finances rolling – the general public began to lose faith.
That’s why, when the Tories admitted during the General Election campaign that, if elected, more and deeper austerity would be on the way, it was on a knife-edge as to whether this would be a voter-winner (“We mustn’t throw away the gains we’ve made, let’s stick to the plan that’s working”) or a vote-loser (“The Tories are simply offering more of the same, they seem almost to be enjoying inflicting pain on the weak and defenceless – and anyway, like last time, there’s no guarantee that what they’re promising will come to pass”).
And so we came to the situation in which the Tories admitted that they would be looking for another £30 billion’s worth of cuts and savings (£12 billion of them to come from benefits and welfare). This in circumstances where the NHS, education … and all sorts of other important governmental ‘spending’ departments … have been publicly ring-fenced (protected) from any cuts and the Queen’s Speech has confirmed the intention to pass legislation to ensure that National Insurance, VAT and other taxes will not be increased during the lifetime of the new Parliament.
So where are the other cuts coming from, then?
Well, Defence is a prime candidate. We’ve already seen rumours that George is looking for another £1 billions’ worth of cuts from the Ministry of Defence budget. That’s not going to come out of the vast Trident renewal budget, so it’s probably down to further reductions in servicemen and military capability.
In which context here’s a rather interesting article by Lewis Page, a former Royal Navy officer, today on the website of the – DAILY TELEGRAPH