Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh come on!

I was just about to write a post yesterday about the moonlighting waitress who so thoroughly misunderstood David Cameron's speech at the Lord Mayor's dinner the other night when I thought better of it. She's an unpaid intern who works in the evenings - it's not really fair to castigate her for misinterpreting a speech she probably only half heard. But now, God help us, Martin Kettle has doubled down on this idiocy in an article arguing that Cameron's speech lost him the 2015 election.

So, what was this epic political miscalculation that demonstrates the Tories' swivel-eyed advocacy of minarchism and permanent austerity?
It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.
A good rule of thumb when determining how epoch-shakingly radical a speech or policy is, is to reverse the adjectives and see if it looks like a speech an opponent might make. In this case that gives us:
It means building a flabbier, less efficient state. We need to do less with more. Not permanently, but just for now.


Admittedly, in my more cynical moments I can imagine Ed Miliband thinking this, but even he wouldn't say it. It's as unremarkable a re-iteration of "we will cut waste and run a more efficient government" as I can think of, off-hand. And the examples he then produced to illustrate this drive for leaner government go to show that:
There are 40 per cent fewer people working in the Department for Education - but over 3,000 more free schools and academies, with more children doing tougher subjects than ever before. There are 23,000 fewer administrative roles in the NHS - but 5,000 more doctors, with shorter waiting times. So you can have a leaner, more efficient, more affordable state that actually delivers better results for the taxpayer.
This wasn't about welfare cuts, or cuts to the NHS, or education - it was about making the process of government more efficient. You'd have to be an idiot or a shill to interpret it any other way. Sadly, political life is apparently full to bursting with both.

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