“Don’t blame me, I voted for 10.9% spending cuts as opposed to 12%”
One of the most common arguments put forward by the Keep Spending Brigade is that there is no mandate for these cuts. This is as false as anything else they put forward.
Leave aside any consideration of how a representative democracy, such as ours, works. Leave aside also any worries about what is meant by a ‘mandate’, a deceptively elastic term on the left. Just look at the numbers.
Between them the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democratic parties got 88% of the vote at the last election. Few ever doubt that the average Conservative voter is behind the coalitions plan to regain control of our nations finances so that’s 36% of voters supporting the governments efforts to reign in the deficit. That’s a large way towards a mandate in anyone’s book.
Then there’s the rest of the 88%, the 23% who voted Liberal Democrat and the 29% who voted Labour. Surely the Lib Dems didn’t vote for this fiscal program?
Well if they read the Liberal Democrat manifesto then yes, they did. Once upon a time the Lib Dems were the party of public spending restraint, Nick Clegg, at the height of Cleggmania, warning “There is this big black hole in the public finances” and telling off other parties for “kidding people” and “failing to show candour” about the scale of the problem. Among other things the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledged to cut tax credits, winter fuel payments to pensioners and child trust funds. Vince Cable, at the time St Vince, warned that this wouldn’t be all, “There is more to be done. I fully appreciate this isn’t enough. We have to go beyond that”.
So yes, Liberal Democrats did vote for this fiscal program and we can add their 23% of the vote to the Conservatives 36% to get us 59%. That’s a pretty good mandate but we can do even better.
Labour’s economic policy is currently a total void. But, back in 2010, they had a Chancellor in Alistair Darling who wasn’t, in Labour terms, totally useless. He managed to reign in some of Brown’s scorched earth fiscal impulses and had a plan to cut the deficit.
Darling’s plan involved lots of spending cuts. When he was asked a few weeks before the election “The Treasury’s own figures suggest deeper, tougher than Thatcher’s – do you accept that?” Darling replied “They will be deeper and tougher”. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this plan, which Ed Balls rejected, then accepted, now, perhaps, is rejecting again, would have seen a Labour government cutting spending by a Snowden-esque 10.9% this fiscal year. The coalition cuts on the other hand, which Labour never cease to tell us are “too fast and too deep”, amount to 12% this fiscal year.
10.9% and 12%, there’s not much of a difference. I think we can put the people who voted Labour in 2010, voted, that is, for “deeper and tougher” cuts than Margaret Thatcher ever made, into our mandate for austerity group giving us the 88%. Now that’s what I call a mandate.