In 1973-4, the last year of a Conservative government, public spending was £33.4bn or 42.1% of GDP.
The Labour government that followed put it up to 48.9% of GDP, only to be forced into cuts by the IMF. By the time they left office annual spending was ££79.7bn, or 44.1% of GDP.
Mrs Thatcher’s government left office in 1990. Total spending was then £216.8bn or 37.5% of GDP.
Mr Major left office in 1997, with spending at £324 bn or 38.2% of GDP.
Mr Blair and Mr Brown boosted spending to £686.5bn, or 45.7% of GDP by 2009-10.
The Coalition increased spending to £ 735.5bn, or 40.7% of GDP.
So taking percentage of GDP as many people’s preferred measure of public spending, one Labour government boosted it by 2% and one by 7.5%. The Conservative government of 1979-97 reduced it by 5.9% (Mrs Thatcher actually reduced it by 6.6%)and the Coalition cut it by 5% of GDP.
The fact that the high levels of public spending as a proportion of GDP led directly to an IMF crisis and forced cuts in the 1970s, and was part of a wider banking crash in the late 2000s should be a warning to all those who think the easy answer to economic success is to boost public spending. These periods of very high spending coincided with poor economic performance- part cause and part effect. Each Conservative period in office has had to include getting public spending and borrowing back under control to avoid further interest rate and banking problems.
No Conservative government has cut cash spending. Over all the years of alleged cuts public spending has risen substantially in cash terms and has usually gone up in real terms as well.