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George Osborne: "It's ridiculous to pretend there won't be cuts"

Up until now we've had powerful rhetoric from the Tory frontbench on the recession. I'm thinking of George Osborne's "the cupboard is bare" from last October's Party Conference and David Cameron's "age of austerity" from the Cheltenham Spring Forum.  Now we have a concrete admission from the Shadow Chancellor that "real spending will have to be cut".

George Osborne says the real divide is not Labour's chosen template of Tory cuts versus Labour investment but of Tory honesty versus Labour dishonesty.  He writes:

"We should have the confidence to tell the public the truth that Britain faces a debt crisis; that existing plans show that real spending will have to be cut, whoever is elected; and that the bills of rising unemployment and the huge interest costs of a soaring national debt mean that many government departments will face budget cuts. These are statements of fact and to deny them invites ridicule."

Mr Osborne's words appear in The Times.  They appear in the same newspaper that, 21 months ago, carried an article from George Osborne that matched Labour's spending splurge.  There are still disappointing leftovers from that thinking in the new piece - notably on continuing to spend, spend, spend on the NHS and international development but, overall, the new position is very, very welcome.

ThreeChoices Achieving economies won't be easy and Team Cameron is right to prepare for some unpopularity in government but mainstream British voters will welcome Tory honesty.  Seven home truths - all known by the British people - should guide the Conservative way forward:

  1. Britain is facing a debt crisis.
  2. Labour is responsible for this mess.
  3. Labour's spend, spend, spend has been very wasteful.
  4. Today's scale of social breakdown is unaffordable.
  5. A government that does too many things doesn't do anything well.
  6. Public sector remuneration has overtaken private sector remuneration.
  7. The complexity and scale of Britain's tax burden is endangering our economic competitiveness.

Now that the Tory Treasury team is talking of cuts the debate must move on to their nature and scale.

Tim Montgomerie


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