Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A phony line of attack

The budget may have been a tiresome non-event, but some of the figures that came out of it really ought to change the tenor of political discourse. The reason for the endless Tory havering about tax-cuts is that the last two elections were partly won on the premise that 'Tory cuts' would leave a sort of gaping black hole in the public finances and were therefore irresponsible. Michael White returns to this theme today.
By promising to stick to Labour's 2008-11 spending totals - including 2% real terms growth in public spending, half the recent rate - the Tories hoped to neutralise a fourth Brownite blitzkrieg about "black holes" and "Tory cuts" in public services.
But wait a cotton-picking minute here. Darling announced in that snooze-a-thon that public borrowing was now over £40bn a year. That's serious money - especially when one considers that neither PFI deals nor the Northern Rock liabilities are included. For the Government to call any projected Tory tax cuts reckless because they are 'unfunded' is hypocritical, and surely to warn about a 'black hole' of unfunded cuts is ludicrous. Borrowing is now so high that Labour should have lost the ability to play that card. They won't, of course.

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