Friday, 26 March 2010

Cuts Deeper than Thatcher..??

Much has been made of Alasdair Darling's statement that the cuts to come may have to be "deeper than the Thatcher cuts". Which sounds severe, except, as the graph below shows, public spending actually rose under Thatcher/Major, by about 1%/year on average, and only fell in three isolated years.

Good on Thatcher, some might say.

But on reflection there can hardly be a greater condemnation of the Thatcher /Major years. To have boasted, as Thatcher did constantly, about cutting the public spending "burden" and  then having failed to do so, is bad enough. But to have failed so badly to cut public spending while wasting the oil bonanza and igniting an unprecedented series of social catastrophes, is surely a condemnation of, not just Thatcher, but the whole Tory philosophy.

As well as the failed attempts to cut public spending, the Thatcher years were distinguished by rising crime, rising unemployment, rising poverty, violent industrial relations, rising social unrest, rising social division and recurring riots in our major towns and cities. Britain has never been so divided and so uneasy with itself as it was under Thatcher. She wasted the greatest natural boost that the UK GDP has ever been given, and yet she failed in her main aim of cutting Government spending.

What Thatcher's experience show is that unrestrained markets don't work in a modern democracy. Greed is not good. Me-first doesn't work. Individualism is no basis for a successful country or economy in the modern world. The core Conservative philosophy has failed, and Thatcher is the demonstration of that failure.

So when Darling says coming cuts may be deeper than Thatcher's, he is not saying much. But when he says he will do it while maintaining social cohesion and protecting essential public services, he says all there is to say about the difference between the Tory and Labour philosophies.

There is such a thing as society.

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