28 April 2010

The fantasy election campaign comes to an end

Forget all the talk of a hung parliament for the next couple of days.  With exquisite timing, the IFS sprinkles a dose of reality all over the election campaign:
The IFS, which is independent of political influence, says that the as-yet unspecified cuts in spending amount to some £52.5bn in the case of the Conservatives, £44.1bn for Labour and £34.4bn for the Liberal Democrats – which are the sums each party will have to find if they are to meet their stated aims for deficit reduction.

They imply deep cuts in almost every public service. The Conservative Party figure is larger than those for the other two parties because it has said it wants to cut public borrowing sooner and faster, and that it would put less emphasis on tax rises.

The IFS indicated that even now, a week before polling, the public is not being prepared for the age of austerity that will follow the election, which will involve the largest spending cuts since the Second World War if the Tories win, or since the 1970s in the case of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. 

The patient, of course, must be keep happy until election day.  But in this anti-politics mood, a touch of honesty is required.  The party that has the most plausible and convincing plan to manage the deficit will win the the trust and confidence of the electorate.  At the end of the day, a mandate is essential for the pain that will follow after 6 May.

We can't yet predict who will march into Downing Street, but how the parties play the trump card that has VAT written all over it could yet determine who will win this election.

The only certainty is the size of the bitter pills to come.

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