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Cameron seeks to shift debate from spending to growth

By Paul Goodman

OSBORNE behind CAMERON David Cameron's just spoken on a live podcast from Number 10, wrapping up the week that saw the Comprehensive Spending Review.

My sense has been that the IFS's criticisms (in effect) of the CSR in relation "fairness" have been more cautious than its response to the budget during the summer.  In order to push the Coalition's case to non-Conservative voters (not to mention his own Party members), Nick Clegg's led for the Government on the issue, and he's been quicker off the blocks than last time round.

None the less, the BBC's post-CSR coverage has concentrated on the fairness issue, which has helped set the media tone elsewhere.  The Government thus won't be surprised by early polling on the matter, which - broadly - paints the CSR as unfair.  Tim and Robert Halfton have posted strong cases for taking the opposite view here and here, as Matthew Parris did this morning in the Times.

The Prime Minister's podcast has three main purposes -

  • To keep making the case for early deficit reduction.  "We are doing what we are doing because it is the right thing to do– right by our economy, right for our country," he said.
  • To carry on arguing that the CSR was fair.  "We didn’t just do the right thing, we did it the right way. We’ve gone about these spending cuts in a way that is fair...Fair because if you look at the figures, you’ll see the highest earners aren’t just paying more in cash, they are paying more as a percentage of their income.  As we promised, those with broader shoulders are bearing a greater burden."
  • And last but not least, to move the debate on from "cuts" to growth.  "We’ve done these cuts in a way that promotes growth because you’ll see we’ve focused so much of the money we do have on boosting enterprise, getting our economy going again and creating more well-paid jobs."

He's right to want to shift the national conversation from present pain to future gain.  This effort should have been the focus of his recent Conference speechAnd the Government needs more of a clear-cut growth agenda.  But in any event, trying to bring about such a shift will entail a long, hard slog.  So best to start now.  The full text of this part of his remarks is below -

"And we’ve done these cuts in a way that should help promote growth because you’ll see we’ve focused so much of the money we do have on boosting enterprise, getting our economy going again and creating more well-paid jobs.

So we’re investing in our railways and roads and spreading broadband access across the country. We’re creating more adult apprenticeships so we have the skills for the future. We’re making sure the UK remains a world leader in research by protecting the science budget. And we’re investing in the new green industries, which will be worth billions of pounds and thousands of jobs in the future.

Over the next few weeks and months, you’re going to be hearing so much more about how we’re going to help get enterprise going again and help create the economic growth and the new jobs that we need.

Across a whole range of areas – from skills to our infrastructure, innovation to trade, and competition policy to bank lending - you’re going to see the most pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda ever unleashed by a government.

With your help, we’re going to help make the next decade the most entrepreneurial in Britain’s history that transforms the future of our country.

Already, I think business is responding. Just yesterday [Friday], I spent the day talking to firms who were thinking of investing in Britain.  One of them was one of the world’s largest hotel chains. Another was a big manufacturer. And both of them were saying the same thing. They looked at the UK and they see that its back on track and back open for business. They're looking at how we're dealing with their debts and felt confident about investing. They're looking at our plans for skills, education, tax and regulation and they're thinking: this is a country we need to do business in.

I know the road ahead will be hard. But we have a plan and we’re seeing it through. And believe me; the destination will be worth it. A Britain with a strong, positive and confident future."


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