Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
21 March 2014

How a large deficit benefits the Tories

The greater the challenge of borrowing appears, the more likely voters are to stick with the Tories.

By George Eaton

Today’s borrowing figures are a reminder of how poor the state of the public finances remains. The deficit for February stood at £9.3bn, £100m higher than in the same month last year. Borrowing for the year to date is £99.3bn and is forecast by the OBR to reach £108bn, £48bn higher than the figure planned by George Osborne in 2010. The man who promised to eliminate the structural deficit this year will now not do so until at least 2018.

Given all of this, one might expect the Conservatives to be suffering from Osborne’s failure, but the reverse is likely be the case. The larger the deficit is, the easier it is for the Tories to continue to present it as the defining economic issue and to argue that it’s not safe to hand the keys back to Labour. Despite Osborne repeatedly missing his borrowing targets (with the government forecast to borrow £190bn more than planned in 2010), the polls show that the Tories still enjoy a large lead in this area. The continuing black hole also means that Osborne and Cameron can run a classic 1992-style Conservative election campaign challenging Labour to say what taxes they would raise to plug the gap. Had the deficit already been eliminated, debate would likely have turned to how to spend the proceeds of growth, territory where Labour is traditionally strongest.

For Ed Miliband, the priority is to ensure that the cost of living (an area where Labour leads the Tories) remains the defining issue. But as Osborne desperately tries to overturn the opposition’s stubborn poll lead, the deficit remains one of his most valuable weapons.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
The green transition can unlock 40,000 new businesses and £175bn
Building the business case for growth
“On supporting farmers, McDonald’s sets a high standard”
Topics in this article :