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Michael Portillo predicts that a Conservative Government elected next year would raise taxes and fail to cut public spending

PORTILLO Michael Portillo is usually to be found sitting alongside Andrew Neil on the This Week sofa, but this weekend the former Cabinet Minister-turned-broadcaster is interviewed by him for the BBC's HardStraight Talk programme.

He expresses surprise - "I'm absolutely astonished" - at how much policy detail has already been announced, by George Osborne in his conference speech, for example.

But drawing on his own experience, he goes on to say that he believes the reason why the party has not yet explained what cuts it would make is because there won't be any - and that instead taxes will have to be raised:

"I was with Margaret Thatcher when she came into Government in 1979, we faced a big public spending problem.  It was terrible.  It was a hard slog but she didn’t cut public spending.  I was Chief Secretary between ’92 and ’94 – big public spending problem – I was trying to cut public spending; I did not succeed in cutting public spending.  I don’t think the Tories will succeed in cutting public spending.  Now this is what they won’t want to tell you.  The reason they’re not telling you the cuts is that I think the cuts are almost impossible to make and what will happen, whoever wins the next election, is not so much that there’ll be public spending cuts, there will be restraint, but that there will be tax rises."

Now I'm no economist, but based on everything I've read and heard, the idea of trying to balance the books without finding the room for spending cuts seems utterly fanciful.

Jonathan Isaby


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