Friday, June 25, 2010

House Points: Defending the Budget

My House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

"You've written an editorial," Deirdre grumbled. "Can you be funny next week?"

"Funny?" I said. "After all these years you tell me I'm meant to be funny?"

Labour carping

A few months ago Gordon Brown was still refusing to allow the word “cuts” to pass his lips – a refusal whose explanation probably needed a psychologist rather than an economist. Today it is the whole Labour Party that needs its bumps felt, because to a man and a woman they are pretending that no radical action on the deficit necessary.

Alistair Darling’s last budget committed Labour to public spending cuts and tax rises of £73bn, but you will not hear a single shadow cabinet member admit this. Instead they oppose every cut and tax rise the new government makes, with the result that their position lacks all credibility.

Labour is not being helped by its leadership contest. None of the candidates wants to suffer by telling party members a few home truths – such as that we have an unsustainable public sector deficit because the last government had to bail out the banks after spending too freely for several years.

So instead they attribute the less attractive features of the emergency budget to the inexplicable wickedness of the Tories – and of the Liberal Democrats. We shall have to wait until a new leader is in place before it is worth listening to Labour again.

Here in the Liberal Democrats we should remember an old Russian proverb that Soviet grandmasters were fond of quoting in their chess annotations: “He who says A must say B.” The meaning, as I always took it, was that once you embarked on a course of action you had to go through with it wholeheartedly.

In other words, having signed up for this coalition at the special conference with hardly a voice against, we have to recognise that its economic policy will inevitably be a compromise. And do not forget that, with his characteristic lugubrious charm, Vince Cable ensured that we had the strictest fiscal policy of any of the three main parties.

Besides, governing is not just a matter of economics: the timing of the necessary spending cuts was a matter of politics too. If a government does not make brave decisions in its early months, it is unlikely to make them at all. So there was never a chance of the coalition waiting until next year to act on the deficit.


wolfi said...

"He who says A must say B."

This is an old German proverb often attributed to the Brothers Grimm. In the fairy tale "Hänsel and Gretel" the mother uses "Wer A sagt muss auch B sagen" to send the two chidren into the forest ...

The original meaning is more complicated: If someone took someone else to court and the accused countered with an accusation of his own, then the accuser who said something had to be-say (ie to answer the counteraccusation too) also in the court - a bit complicated ...

dougf said...

"He who says A must say B."

Are you SURE you are really a LibDem ?:-) That's all growey-uppey and all. And for good or bad as things transpire, it's completely true. For both Parties.

The Coalition is best viewed as a political burning of the boats. Now since retreat is practically impossible, it's March Or Die !!(Sorry I always liked those Legion flics.)

I think that maybe once the LibDems embrace the dark side (at least a 'little'), they might actually 'enjoy' the Coalition ride. I hope so, because the Coalition is all that the UK has at this point.

dreamingspire said...

Since you mention the Labour leadership, the recent utterances of Balls make Broon seem like a cuddly Teddy Bear. So I hope that he doesn't get it - we need an opposition of reasoning people.