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Riddell is, as usual, bang on - I'm afraid this is possibly one of the least successful fiskings I've ever seen.

"cut the overall growth in spending to fund economy-boosting tax relief"

This is so important. Look to Reagan in 1980. Carter left some dreadfully wasteful public programmes, I won't call them public services because they didn't provide a service for anyone. The same applies today with so many of the government-by-gimmick programmes. Lets support the people who can make a difference, the people who create jobs, the people who really run our economy, British business, deregulation and considerable tax relief, must be the priority. Don't let Labour set the Conservative agenda.

"Riddell is, as usual, bang on - I'm afraid this is possibly one of the least successful fiskings I've ever seen."

Indeed, particularly as this

"Shackling ourselves to 2% annual growth in public spending may not be consistent with 'sharing the proceeds of growth'."

works both ways, i.e. we shouldn't shackle ourselves lower increases or decreases in spending either.

I should not get too excited about Riddell. There is a team of thoroughly Blairite-New Labour writers on the Times and Riddell is the least obvious but most insidious of all. His game is to frighten the party into not proposing a winning gambit.

Your rebuttal of him is like the curate's egg - good in parts but not robust enough.

It is high time that the party grasped the fact that the economy has been wrecked by Brown and any pledges to match the extravagance of the wrecker are totally out-of-order now. We are in a new situation which needs a new response.

This is an important debate which you are rightly stimulating. Just a few comments on your response to my piece in The Times.
First, the debate so far has underestimated the extent to which the growth of public spending is already due to slow down, from over 4 per cent annually in real terms to 2 per cent from this April, on the Brown Government's own plans. To reduce this slowing growth rate even further in the short-term will be very hard to achieve. Just look at the protests already being heard about public sector pay. I realise that conservativehome has focussed on not renewing the spending pledge beyond 2010-11, but some have argued for a change in the existing pledge.
Second, there is a need for clarity about new spending commitments on defence, law and order etc, and the scale of possible savings. There are a limited number of times you can use the savings from scrapping ID cards and RDAs.
Third, it is sensible to plan public spending on a two or three year basis, as the Conservative leaders of local authorities will fully testify.
Overall, my doubts are entirely about the timing of a change in public spending plans, and the need to think out a coherent stragegy for slowing the growth of spending, deciding what the state should or should not do, and how it should be financed. In the short-term, some proposals, such as extending choice in schools, may cost more before savings are obtained.
There are no short-cuts, just look back to the Thatcher/Howe/Lawson years which eventually saw a substantial change in the boundaries between the public and private sectors. But it took time. So contrary to Christina Speight's conspirary fantasies, I do not have a game to frighten the Conservative Party into not proposing a winning gambit. Based on my long experience, I am sceptical whether, in the short-term, an abandonment of the Cameron/Osborne approach would be such a winning electoral gambit.

I don't always agree with him but I thought Peter Riddell's analysis very coherent. I do agree though that the case for lower spending in certain areas needs to be made soon and a plan to obtain much better value across the board must be a key part of Osborne's strategy.But certainly if Osborne changes tack now it will be politically dangerous, economically extremely difficult as Riddell notes, and will indicate that Osborne can be pushed around by the prevailing wind as Darling is.

Malcolm is right - and not for the first time.

Riddell is a hideously boring writer. He always seems, to me, to suck the interest out of a story, downplay the differences between the parties (or any agents on different sides of a dispute), deny any form of speculation, and generally try to sound sober to the point of wrongheadedness.

We all know what the story is here; Cameron and Osborne have been under pressure to renege on their pledge, see the sense in reneging on it themselves, and will most likely get to the point where they will renege. End of.

He also characterises 77% of the party (which he underestimates as 2/3's) as being the 'Tory right'. A better name for them might just be 'Tories'.

Wrong to get hooked on this whole pledge thing .
A series of minor qualifications over time in little noted speeches
emphasis on "good housekeeping"
general tone of " we will do what is right for the economt as we judge it at the time"

should be enough to lose it .

(Lesson for the future - always keep your options open and NEVER pledge yourself to anything belonging to the opposition )

Riddell is always pushing the living dead in the form of the EU and the ghastly Heseltine Howe Hurd Patten etc.
He has always been a big advocate of the bogus benefits of immigration.
It is now becoming normal and indeed fashionable to say that the UK shoul;d exit the Eu and that mass immigration from the Third world was an economic and social madness-about to be proved to the hilt in thecoming recession-but the Riddells will still chunter alomg promoting the dead ideas of dont make me laugh'liberal conservatism'.

Peter Riddell - didn't expect to find him here or would have really laid into him :-) - with his sidekick Webster and the other one whose name escapes me has been peddling Blairite ideas over the 12 years I've been publicly analysing his pieces. I have found his arguments over this time persuasive but dangerous.

What he is doing now is sensing that the wind is changing and he's trying to steer the Tories into the nearest approach he can get away with to the pollcies which have got us into the dreadful mess we're in now . He doesn't acknowledge that the policies he has espoused have led us in a time of easy growth into a massive deficit and no leeway to use our reserves now that harder times are here.

We've devalued the pound by 9.5% against the euro, thus massively increasing inflation. Our taxation as a percentage of GDP has risen against our European competitors. The credibility of the City has been put at risk and what is worse the government has now been caught in cooking the immigration figures and the inflation rates.

The idea that an incoming Tory government should be saddled with promising to indulge in the same crazy economics as have got us us into near disaster is patently absurd.

There’s no getting away from it, our whole future is in the hands of lunatics. Whether they are just the normal products of our dumbed down education, or snorting too much cocaine, or merely had their brains addled in their youth with cannabis, is useless now to speculate.

But something must explain the way that financiers have taken leave of reality, how government departments are “not fit for purpose” (we used to be proud of the best civil service in the world!), and crazy theories of man-made Global Warming have panicked half the world and are costing us billions.

Heaven help us - because nobody else can - certainly not Mr Riddell's recipe of masterly inaction. That would be right up the arch-ditherer's street but I expect better from the Conservatives.

I don`t know about Osborne`s spending plans, but have little faith in a man who apparently needs more than £500,000 to run his office. and that`s just when in opposition.

As Treasury spokesman Philip Hammond has said that talk of tax cuts is "barmy, seems to me that if elected, the Tories will be little better than Labour.

"But what if growth doesn't equal 2%? Will we support higher taxes or even higher borrowing to maintain 2% growth in public spending?"

So is Conservatove Home's position that the percentage increase in total Government spending must be smaller than actual GDP growth in each and every year (rather than merely being smaller than the economy's trend rate of growth)? Does this mean you think the Party should commit itself to cutting departmental spending mid-year if growth forecasts are reduced and cyclical spending rises?

Good job Mr Editor.

To 'Are you thinking... at all?': No it isn't. Over a cycle I could see years in which spending growth might be larger than actual GDP growth but I hope that that would be exceptional. The point is decisions should be taken on an annual basis. I don't want to make commitments years in advance. All I say at the moment is that committing to 2pc growth for three years gives the Conservative Chancellor inadequate freedom and is an inadequate response to the growth in the size of the state. Boosting the economy through targeted tax relief should be a bigger priority in the immediate future than matching Labour and the biggest peacetime increase in the size of the British state.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, Tim -appreciated.

Just to be clear: You say decisions should be taken on an annual basis. Does this mean you would be happy to go into an election where Labour have specific spending plans stretching two or three years into the future and the Shadow Chancellor can't say whether he would spend more than this (which might be consistent with sharing the proceeds of growth, depending on what Labour announce), less than this or the same amount?

As well as thanking the Editor (per the post @ 11:18 today), I would like to thank Peter Riddell for (a) taking views expressed on this site seriously enough to make them a subject of an article and (b) coming on here to respond to comments.

Whilst I tend towards the more robust approach in these matters, at least in inclination if not necessarily tactically, I think some of the ad hominem attacks on Riddell are unnecessarily discourteous. I have not read enough of him over the last 10 years to know how supportive he may have been of New Labour's unsuccessful policies, but it's not really that relevant to considering what he is saying now. To imply that a senior journalist who has been good enough to engage in debate with this site is some sort of party political stooge is unworthy.

Recently I took the Times Mon-Fri for a few weeks to try it out (dissatisfied with the Telegraph). I thought it had become a very poor newspaper generally, and have now moved onto the Guardian for the time being, which is much better despite its politics. But the one regular political column that was consistently high quality and interesting in the Times was Peter Riddell's - the only issue being that they seem to tuck him away in obscure places (not tabloidesque enough in style I guess).

So if he comes back to read further comments - thank you. And why don't you move to a more serious newspaper like the Telegraph, Guardian or FT?

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