Alastair Darling used a strange phrase when describing what he needs to do on public spending. Maybe he has a sharp sense of humour. He promises to tell us more about the lie of the land: more than the PM wishes to tell us, less than a full scale public spending review which would need the PM’s permission.
Perhaps he did have in mind that the “lie” of the land is the false choice between Labour investment and Tory spending cuts. Apparently the Chancellor does not use the crude language on this topic which emanates from next door, perhaps because he realises that it does not resonate with the public any more than it represents reality. The Chancellor seems to know they are running out of money fast, that they have to rein in public spending, and turn their attention to doing more with less.
We learn that £170 billion of public spending is beign examined around the proposition that it cannot increase so they had better find better ways to spend it. That’s a sensible start, but we are going to have to do that with most spending. We agree across the Parliament that we do not want cuts in schools and hospitals, certainly not in their front line services and professional staff, but no budget can be immune to the question can we do this better and for less? If we can save money on what we buy to run a school by better purchasing , or can adminster it more cheaply to a good standard, we should do so.
I invite readers to blog in with their view on what are the great lies in the land. For my part the great lies revolve around the refusal of some in the government to accept that some of the increased spending has been wasted, the stubborn wish to interpret anyone who wants better value for money as a health cutter, and the denial that we do have to take action now to control the massive deficit. Borrowing is just deferred taxation. Poeple will pay tax for worthwhile services, but they are fed up with paying tax to finance Labour’s bloated and inefficient public sector. Any public sector which can offer £9.7 m to a CEO of a loss making bank, and can press on with “voluntary” ID cards has not begun to understand the need to control spending.