Of course a lot can happen in two years, but the Eastleigh by-election suggests we might be heading for a Labour or Lib/Lab administration at the next general election as the centre-right vote is split by UKIP. Both would ruin the country with their prescriptions for higher income taxes, wealth taxes and more borrowing. The stakes could not be higher and this month’s budget is George Osborne’s last chance to change course and tell the British people the truth about the scale of the problems facing our country.
The Chancellor should stop talking about austerity and start explaining how we restore prosperity. He should focus the Nation’s attention on our escalating debt rather than the deficit which is just the amount by which that debt is increasing. Boasting about cutting the deficit by a quarter is just misleading as the public think the debt and the deficit are the same thing.
A poll carried out by Comres for the Centre for Policy Studies last summer asked people whether the coalition were planning to reduce the national debt by around £600 billion, increase it by £600 billion, or neither reduce or increase it during the course of this Parliament. Only 10% got the answer right. A similar poll for ITN carried out at the time of the Autumn statement found only 6% knew the answer. Our National debt is forecast to rise by £605 billion from 52.5% of GDP in 2009/10 to 76.3% in 2014/15. Those intending to vote Conservative were found to be the most misinformed about this with two thirds believing the Coalition Government were planning to reduce the national debt. Interestingly UKIP voters were the best informed.
This is a major problem. How can we expect the public to accept that public spending is too high, that tough decisions are needed to protect the future of our public services, or that the size of the State is hampering growth if they believe we are paying down debt and the differences between the parties is just about pace? And what will the voters think at the general election when they discover that debt and the costs of servicing it have soared?