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26 November 2009

How long can the Tory line on “cuts“ hold?

The IMF, and the public, are sceptical

By Mehdi Hasan

Here is the IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, speaking at the CBI’s annual conference on Monday, where he talked of the world’s “debt of gratitude” to Gordon Brown and seemed sceptical of Tory plans to cut spending as soon as possible:

We recommend erring on the side of caution, as exiting [from the fiscal stimulus] too early is costlier than exiting too late.

And here is the Financial Times on a new poll guaging the public’s attitude towards spending cuts:

That is the latest finding from the regular Ipsos/MORI public spending index which shows that the public remains split on the issue. Forty-three per cent agree spending needs to be cut but 44 per cent still disagree — a net balance of 1 percentage point who disagree against a gap of 11 points in June.

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Just over half — 53 per cent — want spending maintained even if that means higher taxes.

Music to my ears!

The bad news is that the government is in no real position to capitalise on the IMF’s verdict, or on public opinion, having fallen for what Seumas Milne calls the Tories’ “brilliant political manoeuvre”. Writing in the Guardian in September, Milne pointed out:

Twelve months on, the Conservatives have succeeded in turning the entire focus of political debate on its head. Instead of an argument about how to beat the slump triggered by the banking crash, all three main political parties are now competing over how to cut public spending and services. Cheered on by the bulk of the media, Cameron and Osborne have executed a startling sleight of hand, persuading a large section of the public that the real crisis facing the country isn’t the havoc wreaked on jobs and living standards by the breakdown of the free-market model — but the increase in government debt incurred to pay for it.

Yep, Brown and Darling have opted for a crazy and counterproductive plan to cut the deficit in half over the next four years as part of a pointless and perhaps dangerous “fiscal responsibility” bill. Own-goal, or what?

 

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