I have oftened wondered. When the cavalry were ordered to charge Turkish positions at Balaclava in 1855, an event immortalised byTennyson, did anyone query it? Did someone say, ‘Hold on Colonel, we cannot possibly achieve any strategic objective and we shall be riding to certain death. Get back to Headquarters and explain the circumstances.’ It was not the moment for that: a blinding and overwheming passion had gripped the Squadron. Do and die were the echoing voices.
I am reminded of it by the news that the Coalition cabinet met yesterday to discuss the Spending Revew and to start the process of determining draconian cuts in public expenditure. I imagine that the discussion was general. You know the sort of thing. Here is the scale of cuts proposed so far. It is not good enough, big enough. Go back to your Departments and do better. There were cheers. How refreshing to be reminded of the missionary task confronting them all. We are all in this together. Soon we shall reassemble and all that we have hoped for will be seen to be possible, and as we all know it is inevitable, it is our mission to save the country from financial ruin. I do not know how they do things in the Cabinet. Did someone put up their hand and say, It is too much. No one round this table should be asked to do more. It would be better to do less. Did someone say, the public would understand and support us if we said we have had secondthoughts. We must cut to reduce the Budget deficit but more slowly and we shall do nothing that hits the poor and disadvantaged. It is impossible to shield the deseving poor from cuts on this scale and I for one do not wish to be a party to it. And another voice said, my objection is practical. By slowing the economic recovery at this point of the recession will be counter productive and the pace of deficit reduction slowed. A third might have chimed in to say the public would understand and support us if we started the process of reduction now but held some of it back. We could tell people that we are not irresponsible fools with a blind faith in some discredited economic theory. We should say we have identified further savings but we are not so reckless as to make them unless economic circumstances considered in the round permit us to do so.
But other eyes are glinting. This is a challenge they have waited for all their lives. Like the Cavalry assembled 155 years ago the task is afoot, the blood surges, you can hear the hurrahs in Surrey and the more salubrious watering holes of the Southern Counties. This is their moment. They have waited a long time for it. Impatience , conviction, faith in the impossible is their’s. Off with their heads. Charge.