The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Yet Another Public Services Election

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 16, 2010 @ 09:34

On the other hand, things like this make me want to cut the public services by 100% with immediate effect...

I really rate Nick Clegg, especially his performance over the last year, but I worry that our mixed messages on spending cuts are going to come back to haunt us.

Remember back to the Lib Dem Conference last year, when there was much talk about the adjective “savage”? Yes, young Nick had decided we would frame the debate about spending cuts in such a way.

Of course, back then everyone was assuming the recession was ending, and cuts in 2010/11 would be sensible. Maybe even I was. I can’t remember now. The Tories certainly were. They were wetting their pants with delight over the amount of cuts they would now get away with all under the perfect excuse of recession. And then Labour joined in. It all got me pretty depressed about the state of the choice available at the next election.

Given the anaemic nature of the recovery so far, it is a cast iron certainty that serious cuts in 2010/11 will indeed cause the W shaped recession I have long warned about. Even without them, it’s going to be a tight affair. The Q1 2010 GDP figures are going to make very interesting reading indeed.

Fortunately, it seems the Lib Dems have realised this, and now are significantly far away from the “savage” rhetoric of a mere six months ago. Now Nick Clegg is warning that sudden cuts will cause major social unrest in the country, on the scale of what’s going on in Greece.

Maybe. Maybe not. The last real all British protest was on the poll tax; with the race riots of the last decade largely more local affairs. But the basis of the point is correct. Early, swingeing cuts by a new government, especially one with a poor mandate, will be deeply unsettling to the nation.

And why is this?

It seems people have come to understand exactly what the Tories are proposing. Their emergency budget, with emergency spending cuts, and maybe even a tax rise or two, is going to impact public services. Of that there can be no question. It is not possible to cut 10-20% from a department’s budget without reducing the breadth or the depth of services offered. To argue otherwise is fantasy.

And if there’s one thing Labour does well, it’s remind us all of why they were elected with landslides in 1997 in the first place.

Public services.

My main worry is that the previous talk of “savage” cuts is going to be repeated at every opportunity, that Nick Clegg’s new line is going to look like opportunism, and we may lose the public sector professionals that are beginning to form the core of the Lib Dem vote.

A year ago, the election didn’t look like it was going to be about public services. Not like the last three.

But now, it’s going to be just as important as ever.

And I think that goes some way to explaining the slight narrowing of the opinion polls…

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