I’m scared. Scared of the oncoming storm. Not Dr Who. He’s happy and nice to people. And, well, fictional at the end of the day. No, the oncoming storm that scares me is the whirlwind of cuts that will be unleashed in George Osborne’s “emergency” budget today. I’m scared of the jobs that are vanishing. I’m scared of the research that’s being cancelled. I’m scared of the hospitals that just won’t exist.
Ever since they formed the Coalition, we’ve heard about how bad the economy is, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The report from the Office of Budget Responsibility, set up by Osborne, has confirmed that things are better than they were expected to be. Despite this news, Osborne managed to tell the House of Commons that
It is indeed worse than we thought
I can only conclude that what he meant was that he wants it to be worse to justify ideological cuts, as opposed to necessary cuts. It seems to me that Osborne et al wrote today’s budget months ago, probably before the Conservatives even won power. Remember this memo leaked to the Daily Mirror during the election campaign? It’s the one where the Tories show their plan to increase VAT to 19.5% and blame Labour’s handling of the economy. People seem to have forgotten this existed.
That same OBR report estimates UK growth at 2.6% which would equate to an increase by £37 bn per year. If the government froze spending at the current levels, that would mean the deficit of £155 bn would be gone in 4 years. Of course, that’s a simplification. And I’m not saying all cuts should be opposed automatically. Some cuts are perfectly reasonable. But there will be plenty that aren’t reasonable at all. Sheffield Forgemasters is just the beginning. What these numbers do still show that there’s no economic case for massive cuts. Just a conservative ideological one.
And it’s that very fact, that the cuts Osborne will announce at the despatch box this afternoon are ideologically driven, which has me so scared. There are going to be cuts to services that people really need. This isn’t just waste-cutting as the Tories first claimed. There was never that much fat to trim in the first place. And because those cuts are to reduce the deficit, we have to expect tax increases elsewhere to pay for their commitments to other things like the marriage recognition incentives, and offsetting the employer’s contributions to National Insurance. All of this means that those who can least afford it, will be hit hardest. And that leaves me scared. Scared for the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the unqualified, the ill, the young, the homeless. Scared for myself. Scared of the oncoming storm.