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Should the Conservatives be taking a tougher line on public sector pay?

Picture 1 David Cameron was asked this morning if he would support a public sector pay freeze. He replied:

"I don't think that is the way we do pay in this country. The way we do pay in this country in the public sector, rightly, is we have independent pay review bodies... Those bodies do have to look at what is happening in the private sector, rightly, where pay levels are very restrained because those pay review bodies are looking at how do we recruit, retain and motivate public sector staff...  So, yes, you are obviously going to see much tighter public sector pay settlements.”

Yesterday Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke said that a pay freeze was "an option" but signalled scepticism about the idea, saying that in looking for constraint, "you have got to decide whether that is really the best and fairest way of going about it."

The press have written up Chancellor Alistair Darling's remarks on the issue over the weekend in far stronger terms, mostly stating that he is refusing to rule out a public sector pay freeze.

In seeking to show that it grasps the seriousness of the economic situation, can the Conservatives afford to be seen as less robust on this issue? Or is it all about positioning in order to avoid being painted as the "nasty party"?

Jonathan Isaby


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