Yesterday we saw 120,000 largely public sector workers marching through Dublin in protest at the Irish government's cuts in state spending.
How long until our own government faces up to the bankrupt nature of our fiscal position? How long until we see Dublin-style protests at necessary restraint in British state spending? 120,000 people marched in a nation of four million. How many will march in sixty million citizens Britain?
In today's News of the World, Fraser Nelson predicts that the Tories will inherit the unrest that will be needed to put right Labour's mess:
"The first to feel the pinch may be Boris Johnson, London Mayor. He’s up for re-election in 2012. “But by then,” a senior Tory told me, “Cameron’s cuts will be in full flow. It’ll be war with unions. “Imagine it – teachers on strike. Nurses protesting in the streets. Litter uncollected. No Tory could be elected then.” This augurs ill for Cameron’s re-election. Especially if tax rises mean the economy double-dips BACK into recession. Cuts are vital – and inevitable. It’s also immoral to keep loading future generations with debt because ministers won’t cut now."
At least four things seem necessary for the Tories to limit the risks of this scenario:
- Levelling with the people before the election. Telling the British people that spending can continue to rise and that there'll be tax cuts for married couples and savers can hardly be the full truth. Voters won't like the truth but they're not fools. As long as the pain is shared across the private, public and (importantly) political sectors they are more likely to swallow the medicine.
- Pinning the blame on Labour for the mess. That's why the Domesday Book idea is so important; "The Book would be one of the first acts of an incoming Conservative government. New Cabinet ministers would be ordered to prepare an audit of their portfolios. Four to six weeks later a Domesday statement of the extent of public borrowing, the weakness of the nation's energy infrastructure, the weakness of family structure and so on would be published. As well as serving as a statement of challenges it would then be hung around the neck of the Labour Party."
- Preparing well for government. Today's news that Lord Turnbull will be helping with preparations is good news indeed.
- There's going to be no time for learning on the job. MPs like John Redwood, Michael Howard, Peter Lilley, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Stephen Dorrell should be recalled.