The London Times yesterday, in a carefully worded and balanced editorial, came down in favour of the Coalition’s likely severe budget cuts in the Autumn. The brevity, and even terseness, of this piece, carry the hallmark of division: the Times reflects deep divisions in the country. In a previous post, Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t, I stated the dilemma: there is considerable risk to the stability of the economy and the future economic prospects of millions of families in either coourse of action. Cuts, yes, but how much; what cuts; what balance between taxation and reduced expenditure; what ringfencing if any? These are the real issues.
The Times has no more than a middling reputation for its decision making on the big issues. There is no space here for recalling its disastrous record. Gone are the days of the Thunderer when we knew not what to think until the Times declared itself. Are they right now to encourage and urge on the Coalition? Have they joined the turkeys in the rush for Christmas? To take refuge in a cliche, time alone will tell.
If life and political decision making are about probabilites the Coalition and The Times are wrong. The better course is to be very, very careful. The world has not moved on to co-ordinate a world recovery and the countries of the European Union are now busy, lemming like, cutting deficits, demand and trade. The world economy is weakening and the will has been lost to pump prime a little more and roar on to an economic recovery. One more nudge or two and the British economy reverses its growth and sinks into stagnation.
It is not for me, as an opponent of any Tory-led Coalition, to help it out but a word of advice: you cannot remove the risk of being wrong but you can find means of shedding risk – as any good businessman knows. George, here is a thought, you say something like this: economics is not the be-all and end-all of the Government’s approach. We are detemined to keep people in work, to invest in them, to continue to build the country’s infrastructure, to keep crime down, parents proud of their children’s schooling and make further advances in health and social care. The minimum level of cuts we need to make is X but we stand ready to do more if we have to do so. From April next we shall push through the measures needed to achieve the minimum goal and we stand ready to do Y in September if need be. We shall make the administrative changes to do so. Look George, enough of this Big Society nonsense with its cover for unnecessary cuts. You can’t deceive all of the people all of the time. Let us have another mantra. We shall do our duty but no more than is necessary. Trust us, we really are sane and responsible.