16 September 2009

Cuts: Cameron’s challenge

Leaving aside whether Brown will be around to fight the election, the debate on the public finances will dominate everything up until election day.  Andrew Grice is right up to a point when he says:

The differences between Labour and the Tories on when to start cutting is real but the debate over what to cut may remain murky. Both parties will want to avoid spelling out too many "hard choices" before the election, for fear of handing ammunition to their opponents. Both will promise to safeguard frontline services. Both will have a secret list of post-election cuts.

They will shy away from the other half of the equation. Senior figures in both parties admit privately that the next government will have to raise taxes as well as cut spending. They are reluctant to give the voters a "big choice" on that.

The issue here is that Cameron will say as little as possible on the precise nature of the cuts and/or tax rises as his main job is to “sell” the Tory brand, but will this be enough?

He will need a strong mandate to carry out the painful measures required, whist maintaining the voters trust after the election.  To do this he will have spell out at some stage what he intends to do, without wanting to frighten the horses.  Irwin Stelzer puts it rather well:

….because the next prime minister will have to make the tough choices needed to restore the nation’s fiscal condition to something closer to soundness. And without a clear mandate to do so he will lack the most valuable of political ammunition – a manifesto that enables him to say: “I warned you.”

Cameron is along way down the path of meeting that challenge as the Populus poll indicates.  He has also set the agenda on the public finances debate up to now.  However, he will come under greater pressure in the coming weeks, especially after the pre-budget report, to spell out exactly what he will do.

If Cameron can fully meet this challenge then, possibly, he will finally ‘seal the deal’ with the electorate.  Mandy's job will be to ensure that he trips up.  This may not that be that easy for his Lordship to achieve as the Populus poll shows that the Business Secretary is the least trusted of 12 leading politicians.

Labour is still behind the curve on this particular debate and it will stay that way unless Cameron slips and drops that Ming vase.

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1 comment:

  1. There will be cuts whether Labour or Conservative, and this has been the case since the astronomical borrowing commenced. All that has happened is that Brown has stopped telling such blatant lies.