When my wife was very young she shared a room with her younger sister. Not unnaturally, she loathed it and, in order that there might be clarity as to possession, she carefully marked out a dividing line separating the room into two roughly equal sovereign halves. Unfortunately she left the door in her sister’s half the room.
Gordon Brown’s increasingly demented efforts to fight the next election on ‘Tory cuts vs. Labour investment’ has the air of just such a dividing line. Much like Berlusconi, albeit in a different sense, Brown has devoted his political career to the manipulation of figures. He is still pushing his weary "£603 to £629 to £633 to £638 to £642" routine. Squid-like, he is releasing a cloud of ink in the hope of covering his escape.
However, his problem in trying to do it this time is that the truth isn’t very complicated. Both Labour and the Tories have pledged to cut departmental budgets after the next election, the Tories directly and Labour implicitly. The pledge to “raise current spending in real terms” that Brown is desperately pushing is meaningless. Overall Government spending is, under Labour budgeting, set to fall as capital expenditure is cut in half. The current spending portion of the budget will indeed rise by a small amount, but all of that rise and more (much more) will be taken up by the increased costs of servicing the national debt and social security payments – the costs of the recession. As a result departmental budgets will be cut.
All of which means that Brown’s trumpeting of increased spending under Labour versus Tory cuts is desperately disingenuous or, more simply, a lie. Worse, it is a lie that everyone can see. It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.