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Ryan Robson: We need a cold turkey cure for Labour's reckless spending plans

Rrobson Ryan Robson is a managing partner of the private equity firm Sovereign Capital and chaired recent reports by the Centre for Social Justice on educational failure and children in care.

After Wednesday's worldwide emergency cut in interest rates, 'what next?' is the question on everyone's lips as they open the newspapers, turn on the radio or log on.

The internet has turbocharged the speed with which bad news travels and there is a lot of it around. Boston bankers are throwing share certificates into the harbour, the Vikings' long boats are flooded and China's bonds are junk.

In this world 'analysis paralysis' quickly sets in.  It is difficult for savers, investors and those that lend to them to make a decision when it could be proved wrong within a few seconds of the next car crash on Wall Street.

But the Government should be made of sterner stuff. Unlike an electorate fearing for their jobs and their families. It has security of tenure until 2010.  Yet  the last few weeks has shown it to be a follower rather than a leader, doing too little too late and failing to set its individual actions in a strategic context, giving hope to the many who need it now.

So we have seen the shameful spectacle of British savers scrabbling around to read the small print of their accounts because the Government would not act boldly and opening Post Office accounts because they are backed by an Irish bank whose country's Government has been clearer than our own.

The direction of travel is clear - the economy, the whole economy, every high street and every home is going to experience a dramatic downturn in fortunes.

No one, and that includes Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, knows bad it will be and how long it will last.

But the Government shows every sign of making it worse for us all.

Having blamed the US banks for their profligate lending and ignored its own borrowing binge, the Government seems more concerned with taking over the finances of other organisations than getting a grip of its own.

It has embarked upon a 'harm reduction' policy; doing a little bit here or there to solve the problem. But this tinkering ignores the underlying problem - spending addiction fuelled by debt.

We all know the feeling of having bought something on a credit card which we can't quite afford but makes us feel good. Well Labour have taken the Bank of England Gold Card to every store and their trolley is full of the things which give them a thrill - complicated quangos, sharp-suited consultants and shiny new offices.

The Government has put the nation in hock to fund policies which have not mended our broken society and have left us in an enfeebled position to help struggling consumers and businesses in a global financial maelstrom.

Whatever measures it announces over the next few days, ministers must answer the central question of how are we going to pay for these rescues. It was the failure to be open and honest which led US voters to view the Paulson plan as a blank cheque for bankers.

There are only two ways in which bail-outs can be funded - higher taxes and lower spending. An economic downturn lowers tax receipts and exerts savage pressures on public spending.The Government needs to send out the clear message that it is going to cut its cloth to meet its reduced means.

This will be a severe shock to the body politic of Labour because it has been on a spending high for a decade. Cold turkey economics could kill the Labour Party but unless the Government acts now then the national finances could be jeopardised for a generation.

Both David Cameron and George Osbourne recognised this stark situation in speeches at the Tory Party conference.

It takes political courage to say the unpalatable and Conservatives are fearful of being labeled as service cutters. Yet the public will respond positively to this message because it mirrors the tough decisions they are having to take in their lives.

Every household and every business is looking at ways to reduce unnecessary spending. The holiday abroad, the new employee were this year's quandries. Next year selling your house or laying off staff could be questions of survival. 

Conservatives should lead the way by explaining how Labour's bloated bureaucracy has failed to deliver social justice and weakened the economic security on which all our lives depend.

Moreover, we need to show how we will manage the nation's finances in a downturn by doing what every housewife and small business knows makes sense - plan for the worst and hope to be pleasantly surprised.


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