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What they're not telling you

Nick Robinson | 12:07 UK time, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Spending cuts are coming, whoever wins the next election, however deep this recession is, whenever it comes to end. It does not suit politicians, however, to tell that stark truth.

George OsborneThe Tories have come the closest - George Osborne has warned that the cupboard is bare. However he and the Conservatives don't want to fall into a trap which they can see Gordon Brown setting.

The prime minister always says that he wants the election to be a choice and not merely a referendum on his government. The Tories sense that what he really wants is a referendum on them and their spending plans. In other words, another election campaign could be dominated by debate about Tory cuts. Thus team Cameron is determined not to give them the ammunition by spelling out which cuts to public spending might be necessary.

Labour, in the meantime, behave as if cuts are avoidable but their own public spending figures make clear that they are not. The Treasury's plans for the next three years show spending rises at a third of the rate since they came to power and less than the average in the Thatcher years. "Ah, but," you may say, "they are still planning rises albeit small ones." However, the figures were produced before the depth of the current crisis became clear.

What's more, if schools and hospitals are to be shielded, other departments will have to suffer. The Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates the total departmental expenditure will be frozen for the next three years in real terms. Since costs and demands in those departments will not be cut, they will have to be cut elsewhere.

Just one example: the Treasury has already announced that the capital budget of the English NHS will be reduced by £1.4bn next year.

All this is not to deny that there is, and will be, an important debate between the parties about when to cut spending and by how much. The government will no doubt unveil another stimulus in its next budget. The Tories will no doubt oppose it. There will also have to be a debate on how and when to increase taxes. In other words, voters will still have to choose. It is, however, important for everyone to be clear just what we're choosing between.

Tonight on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm, you can hear a program called Decision Time that I've chaired in which senior civil servants, former ministers and experts in public finances discuss just how this tricky decision will actually be taken. Or you can listen again on BBC iPlayer.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Choice indeed?

    Like sheep being able to choose between two shearers in the same shed?

    Amazing really that we are the ones that get fleeced, but that any cuts are made in services that affect the lot of the ordinary taxpayer.

    I've just posted on Paul Mason's very good but largely overlooked blog, that we are currently suffering the greatest stealth tax from the former "stealth chancellor".

    We need to look beyond what the parties are telling us and look to the reality of what is being imposed upon us and where it is going.

    Who benefits? It certainly ain't us!

  • Comment number 2.

    So the PM wants the next election to be a choice.

    I think already is - a choice between change or more of the same.

    Give us the opportunity to make this choice as soon as you can.

  • Comment number 3.

    Spending cuts? But I can guarantee they'll cut whatever doesn't need cutting.
    For example, ID cards and the associated database will cost billions if not tens of billions. Will they avoid spending that money, or come up with more excuses?

    The PFI/ PPP? Will they stop using this expensive and debt ridden way of financing things and save money that way?
    How about Iraq, getting out of there would save a billion or more, and at least they are moving in the right direction. Same with Afghanistan, they never did it right in the first place, so why waste more money and lives?

    Hmmm, what else is there?

  • Comment number 4.

    Slightly off topic I'm afraid,and apologies for that.

    Can someone please explain how Brown can relentlessly claim that the typical family,including Pensioners,are better off to the tune of £20 per month because of the VAT reduction.Does he really believe that ,in effect,every family buys the equivalent of 2 plasma TV's every month (i.e. VAT applicable goods)? And why does nobody challenge him? On the plus side he seems to have retreated from his previous claim that we all save £25 per month (if I remember correctly).

    ..and as for Liam Byrne on DP today...what's so funny about pensioners losing income due to low interest rates,and being unable to raise more through property sale because of the housing crash?

    Pathetic bunch.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    What is wrong with a referendum on the government anyway ? The only idea we can have regarding how it will perform in the future is how it has performed up to now - and that has been abysmal.

    As the UK is near "balance sheet insolvent" there are going to have to spending cuts and tax rises for the next government.

    The problem is that when making cuts, New Labour usually employ an army of consultants to sort out the chaff from the wheat, and then throw away the wheat. Time for change.

  • Comment number 7.

    When you are broke you cannot keep spending.

    Why doesn't this government admit to spending cuts? Because this is the hole that they have dug for themselves. All very well saying it is a trap for the Tories but actually I think they have trapped themselves. Everyone knows that the UK cannot keep shelling out left right and centre, or printing money. Therefore cuts will come. This then leaves Labour showing once again that they will say anything to get votes. How can you trust them?

  • Comment number 8.

    Unfortunately Nick this shower can get 2 more budgets in before they go and hence can irrepairably damage our country before Brown gives us the choice.

    What the country needs is a referendum on that choice now, and the only way to do that is for Brown to dissolve parliamnet and call an election because, although she has the constitutional right to, the queen wont do it for us.

  • Comment number 9.

    If I were an opposition party I would focus my attention on telling the public why key facts are denied to the public and their representatives; Help the public pose the question to this most secretive and deceitful government, "why is it in the national interest that the facts that can hold government (and governance, civil service, quangos etc) are suppressed or withheld?"

    Publish accounts (where available) and estimates (where not) of where public money goes and what value is obtained in return. Include the increasing cost of civil service, local government and off the books and unaccountable activities such as PFI and quangos.

    Explain how under a new government public information would be available equally to all elected politicians to facilitate transparent and accountable governance. Describe how public institutions would be reformed to serve the public first and foremost not Parliament. An independent civil service and judiciary should be part of the guarantee of honest government.

    Instead of putting off what can only be guessed at because of civil service connivance with the Government to hide mistakes, start fixing that which is so obviously broken, and for which no further evidence of failure is required, namely or bankrupt system of democracy. If ours is the 'Mother of all parliaments" then she is suffereing from dimentia for she does not recognise her children. She is pushed this way and that by those that would control her for their own ends. We need a new constitution and a whole new framework of government, founded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness for the many instead of the grasping for wealth and power of the few.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't think the metaphor 'bare cupboard' does justice to the horror story that is our finances, Nick.

    Yes we need cuts. But the cuts are completely valid because the spending in some areas should never have been authorised. Billions could probably be saved without any impact on front line services.

    All these multi-million quangos and state-executives on 6 figure salaries were set up deliberately by Labour and now they have the audacity to accuse the Conservatives of prospective cuts.

    According to the latest research from the independent TaxPayers’ Alliance, there are about 390 public executives
    earning more than £150,000 a year while 88 were paid at least £250,000.

    I mean why does the Olympic Delivery Authority pay the chief executive David Higgins £624,000??

    Bonkers. Roll on 2010.

  • Comment number 11.

    Lie spin lie spin lie spin lie spin lie spin blah blah blah fail fail fail etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum...

  • Comment number 12.

    Last night's Labour party political broadcast was an early indication of the deceit or ignorance of this Government only a couple of days after the Channel 4 Dispatches "squandered" programme.

    ZanuLabour is fiscally incontinent and arrogant in equal measures, taxpayers we cannot afford them and their "client" state.

  • Comment number 13.

    I caught a brief (5 minute) Labour TV programme on ITV last night.

    In which a variety of ministers kept stating that "we" are planning to spend "our - tax-payer's" money, but the wicked Tories would reduce the spend.

    I didn't hear a single one confess that, already, Brown and Darling have been obliged to reduce the level of spend on public services.

    It was announced a while back. Not high-lighted, as that doesn't do, does it? Don't want to frighten the horses...

    Don't these buffoons realise that people can read and write (or at least that part of the population that had some education, education, education... When you really did have to learn things.)?

    It's about time that Tories, Lib/Dems, media brought attention to the already known planned cuts in public service spend by Labour. Or maybe that's being delayed until the next budget is announced?

    Don't really care which bunch assume power. Just hope that someone will grasp the fact that many people don't like paying over-the-odds wages to a bunch of special advisors who seem incapable of giving any advice that a Minister doesn't want to hear.

    That's not an advisor - that's a lackey. And political parties should pay for lackeys - NOT tax-payers...

    Taxes WILL rise.

    Spend on public services WILL fall.

    That's been annonced by Brown/Darling.

    Is anyone surprised?

  • Comment number 14.

    Good fair comment Nicholas...

    let the games begin.....! :0)

  • Comment number 15.

    The pound tomorrow is simply not worth as much as the £ yesterday. It's a good time to have no assets and be in debt, so the government are laughing.

  • Comment number 16.

    By the way.

    I'm not really interested by the clamour for Brown to apologise for his management of the UK economy over the last decade...

    Was a time when a politician said "sorry" by resigning.

    That seems to have gone out of fashion...

    (Sorry - forgot Mandelson. He resigned wice. Reward - being appointed as UK commissioner at the EU. So, now he's back in the Whitehall, he picks up a Minister's salary plus "transition payments" to help the poor soul manage his way from such a cossetted environment back into an "austere" environment of being a UK minister.......)

    Bet there are lot's of constituents - oh, of course he doesn't have any - who would like that option!

  • Comment number 17.

    Doesn't it sometimes make you want to take to the hills, like Fidel Castro?

    Just to push the whole rotten mob into the sea and try to start again...

  • Comment number 18.

    Conservatives needn't worry. I can see through what Labour are doing. They'll be leaving the country in as much of a mess as it was when Maggie inherited the reins in 1979 - if not worse...

    I just hope the Conservatives are a little more sensitive in the way they go about sorting out the mess than Maggie was...

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes, the issue of how to repay government debt after this crisis is one of the defining political questions.

    Of course it's not being debated properly, or hardly debated at all.

    The short-term problem for the opposition parties is that Labour will not actually engage in debate (i.e. present arguments, deal with objections, refine the argument, etc.). They do have a number of soundbites that they trot out on message; when challenged on one they don't respond, but trot out another.

    To take an example from PMQs today:
    a) Gordon was asked for a Parliamentary debate on quantitative easing (QE). He said he was willing to debate the economy at any time, but in fact refused a debate (though of course he did not actually say this).
    b) He also praised the VAT cut for giving families an extra 20 pounds per week. Yet any fool can increase income temporarily by borrowing more.

    How can you debate an issue with a bunch of people, led by Gordon, who ignore any counter-arguments and just say the same thing over and over again?

  • Comment number 20.

    Labour's cynical ploy to buy votes by expanding the public sector was never sustainable. All those extra diversity officers and their gold plated pensions are a huge burden on the rest of us.

    It wouldn't be so unpalatable if we had first class education, police, armed, forces, etc, to show for it. The fact is that despite all the initiatives and huge amounts of extra money spent in the last 11 years, most would agree that public services have not improved by anything more than a negligable amount since 1997.

    Labour have overtaxed, overborrowed, overspent and undelivered. Fortunately Gordon knows he can probablay keep spinning the finances for a year before leaving the tories to make the inevitable cuts required to balance the nation's balance sheet.

  • Comment number 21.


    there is just so much that is available in the public arena but which little or no publicity.

    For example, the questions raised by David Cameron with respect to our involvement in torture.

    There must be an urgent public inquiry into what has been done in our name, with a full judicial inquiry into not only how we got into the Iraq war, but also our conduct in the aftermath, before it was realised by senior officers and politicians that our initial policy was a total and abject failure. This is what has led to the demonstrations against our soldiers during the ill advised provocative military parades.

    The problem is more with the Ministry of Defence and the officers who gave the orders rather than the soldiers who followed those orders. However, there are some orders which should not have been followed. I regard them as illegal, and I defend my right to be able to say so, even in a public space. That is not that I would agree with the placards carried by certain individuals in Luton, which were inflammatory and very emotive.

  • Comment number 22.

    Having just had a debt in excess of GBP30,000 and rising settled on me by the government, they can just forget tax increases.

    Haven't they forgotten that they have told us we are going into a period of deflation and so everything is going to get cheaper? Ha, ha! Food has gone up 7%, Council Tax up 3%, Business Rates up 6% and so on. The only thing that has gone down is the interest on my savings.

    So, we enter the land of cuts in government spending. There is a lot to be cut back in the apparat and since so little ever gets to the front line it won't affect the public anyway.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nick - remember we are English - your "programme" tonight, not your "program"!!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    We can be assured that whatever this immoral government decides to do, the taxpayers will be the last people to know about it. Brown and Darling with their pet poodle Mervyn are flailing around trying to find some feasible excuse to explain their joint incompetence. Blaming the obvious painful taxation about to be visited on the country after the next election to pay for their poor husbandry of the economy, what better ploy than to blame the Tories, before the event. At least hopefully the cuts when the Tories have to make them will be from the monstrous benefits system that encourages and supports those who have no intention of working for a living or paying their way in this world. Hopefully also their will be cauterising of the running sore that is the increasing size of national and local government. This allied to a dramatic decrease in the number and size of the hundreds of quangos that blight the economy of this country will go a long way to repairing the damage Labour has caused .

  • Comment number 26.

    Spending cuts? Good! About time too!

    The Labour-peddled myth that spending cuts mean schools and hospitals closing is yet another example of their fraudulent attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.

    Abolishing QUANGO's, reducing civil servant numbers, sacking pointless middle-managers and diversity co-ordinators, scrapping stupid projects like the IT system, ID cards etc...

    The fact remains that public services were better before when they had less money spent on them.

    Labour's scorched-earth policy backed up by PR and spin is a disgrace to our nation, and the sooner we have the opportunity to demonstrate our distaste for them, the better.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 27.

    Was I hearing things this morning?

    Did someone actually say this government were advertising for PR people to explain government policies in the regions?

    Twentyone of them no less on £72000 per annum.

    Does this government live on another planet or do they have some friendly faces who've just lost their jobs in the private sector so they created a few excess jobs in the public sector to keep them on side.

    No wonder so many people have given up any hope on this barmy lot.

    But chin up they won't be around for much longer.

  • Comment number 28.

    Bring on the referendum Crash

  • Comment number 29.

    Liam Byrne may be laughing now as he did with Andrew Neill on The BBC Daily Politics Show today but the pensioner savers whose views he dismissed lightly will exact their revenge when they help to vote him out at the next General Election. Gordon Brown was also in jocular mood in PMQs. Perhaps it was the lack of frontal attacks by David Cameron giving him a false sense of security. Next Wednesday I fully expect to see normal hostilities renewed.

  • Comment number 30.

    Life is what happens whilst you're busy making other plans.

    Do you have close relatives or friends that you really love?

    Tell them now, today, because tomorrow may be too late.

    I wish I had.

    Government spending or non-spending plans?

    How trivial it all seems right now.

  • Comment number 31.

    And there is the rather obvious point that a significant percentage of Government spending will be on our newly increased debt. It looks very unlikely that our new debt will be less than 500bn. At 3% that will cost £15bn a year, roughly what we spend on transport. If overall central and local Government expenditure is frozen at approximately £600bn interest alone will require all other expenditure to be cut by 2.5%. We are going to be paying for this for a very long time.

  • Comment number 32.

    What is amazing about this post is that you appear to imply that Gordon Brown actually has a choice and can pretend to the public that there is a choice.

    Do you not think that even the most blinkered public servant has managed to spot that we have a record ever budget deficit; a record ever level of government debt; a record collapse in manufacturing production; rising private and public sector pension deficits and the fastest rise in unemployment on record?

    Is it not absurd to suggest that, however much pussy footing around any party tries, the very idea that the public sector can continue to bask in a flood of cash from hard pressed private sector tax payers is a total nonsense; whomsoever suggests it.

    Gordon Brown may choose to insult our intelligence by pretnding we can live in fantasy land of never ending public spending but the average punter out there is worried about his house, his pension and his job security.

    When are the public servants at the BBC going to wake up and take a reality pill?

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 33.


    Very eloquently put, I for one would wholeheartedly agree. Dunno what our chances of ever seeing it are, but very admirable sentiments.

    Maybe we should print that off, so that whenever the candidates come round canvassing, we should all shove that under their noses and say "Promise to do all of this... and we'll vote for you. Otherwise, scram and dont darken our doors again!"

  • Comment number 34.

    I strongly suspect that we are going to need both major spending cuts AND tax raises to get us out of this huge mess. But, those cuts need to come from cutting the civil service down to reduce waste, the ammount of needless jobs in it is rediculous.

    We need to cut spending back to things we need only, and thats it.

    Hopefully, the conservatives will realise this, as its very clear that Labour don't, although after the election, that fact hopefully won't matter. Do I think the conservatives will be better? Well, they couldn't be any worse could they?!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Why does Gordon Brown want to avoid a referendum on his government? According to him, he's doing a fantastic job...

  • Comment number 36.

    Alan Johnson is prone to boasting that the NHS budget has gone from £34 billion in 1997 to north of £110 billion today.

    Markets rise and fall.

    National incomes rise and fall.

    National budgets rise and fall.

    Let Johnson spell out where he thinks cuts can be made in the tough years which lie ahead.

    Let's put him on the spot.

    I'm guessing here, but I don't think that we will get much sense out of the man. He's not exactly the brightest firework in the sky at the best of times.

    But I admit that he would have been a very able traffic warden. And probably jolly good at totting up his bonus per ticket issued.

  • Comment number 37.

    I do not understand why when the public think about cuts in Government spending they immediately think of the NHS and education. It should be pointed out to them that if we just cut out the waste we would still be massively better off.

    I mean everyone goes on about how the private sector has failed in the banking crisis but what about those that have failed in the public sector. The FSA for instance I bet their wages and bonuses have not been cut. Or the MPs who were supposed to be guarding our economy. Think about MPs expenses for a start Jacqui Smiths £24,000 a year to run a second home when it turns out to be a box room at her sisters. The severance packages for people who have failed in the public sector. What about all the quangos that are taking over Government work who have freedom to set their own pay.

    Councils are no better. Chief executives at councils can earn more than £200,000 a year. The councils are racking up high wages and paying themselves bonuses which probably would not be allowed in most of the private sector. What is worse they are accountable to no one. Yet they still believe they would be better off in the private sector, despite evidence to the contary.

    Thats before you get to their expenses and public sector final salary pensions, which are hugely subsidised by the taxpayer.

    Personally I cannot wait for someone to take the public sector in hand and make it more accountable to the taxpayer.

    Unfortunately I know it will not start any time soon under Labour, they will hope to win an election first. If they started upsetting public sector workers now this would lose them a lot of their core voters.

    It is of course a poison chalice for the Conservatives, because whatever they say about cuts, Brown will say they will be cutting education and the NHS.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think that in the long run, we're not going to be better off, no matter who is in office. The present government has in no uncertain terms, have made a complete hash of things and with their friends in the media, will peddle the excuse that somehow this is all the tories fault. We have Mrs Harman on the attack without once realizing the damage done to her party by the lack of clarity over the Home secretary's tax position, Jack Straw as the 'Justice' minister, withholding information that would show just how made up the evidence to go to war was, just to mention a few things. It simply is utterly irresponsible of this sorry bunch to start pointing fingers at the opposition, when it's not the opposition in charge. I think the tories are right not to start giving out detailed spending plans, because of the blatant theft of policies by Labour in the past. We shall see if the general public will take in all their obfuscations, but will those in the media( printed press take note), continue this adoration if their circulations start to fall dramatically?
    We shall see where this blame game ends

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    # 18

    She did sort it out though, painful as it was.

  • Comment number 41.

    #9 Thomasak001 - "We need a new constitution"

    You don't have an old constitution.

    Presumably, what you're calling for is constitutional change.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    Let's start with fully independent Parliaments for England and Scotland and see whether making these Parliaments accountable to the people via a more democratic (Compared to FPTP) PR voting system doesn't bring the new framework of government, founded in social justice that you're calling for.

  • Comment number 42.

    Anyone who knows anything about business realises that commercial enterprises have to go through regular cost cutting exercises to improve efficiency. If they didn't do that they would run the danger of pricing themselves out of the market because potential customers could no longer pay the price they would have to charge.

    Are Labour really trying to tell us that there is absolutely no room for efficiency savings in the public sector? And aren't we at the stage where the public services have priced themselves out of the market because we taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for them? The slight problem is that we cannot say "no thanks" and take our custom elsewhere.

    Someone ought to remind Labour of the old saying: you have to cut your clothes according to your cloth.

  • Comment number 43.


    Some of my personal favourates:

    1) "We might have done this now, but 12 years ago someone loosely affiliated with YOU did (something vaguely similar which had a mildly disagreeable outcome). Therefore I don't have to respond to your point."

    2) "This is what you would have done in my situation, therefore I do not have to respond to your point."

    3) "Its not my fault, therefore I do not have to respond to your point."

    4) "We have more experience than you, therefore I do not have to respond to your point."

    All very irritating. Basically whatever objection is raised, no actual response will be provided, just some blind rhetoric to disavow any blame, or ideally shift it onto someone someone else.

  • Comment number 44.

    If you want to know where the money is spent ( well misspent might be more accurate ) and what we don't get for it just go to the gov. web site and look at the reports of the Public Accounts Committee. OK they don't examine everything but you will find that eighteen of the fifty odd reports on various government projects for 2008 and at least three so far this year which catalogue the disasters of incompetence and overspent "budgets" ( does anyone in Government or the civil service have the vaguest notion of the concept behind this word?). Often years and years of late delivery (when anything at all has been delivered) and the often substandard quality of what has been achieved.

    Go further even back and start to add it all up and you begin to get budget overspending during the life of this administration which rivals the numbers in the recent banking fiasco and often there is little to show for having spent both the project budget and its overruns.

    And thats just the ones we know about!

    The bankers may have been inordinately incompetent with money but this government is even worse!

  • Comment number 45.

    Our politicians view us with utter contempt.

    They see us obstacles to be overcome in achieving their narcissistic goals.

    They lie to us and deliberately mislead us so we can continue to flatter their egos at election time. They care not for our lives, only their petty games.

    Our leaders do not try to lead us. They herd us like cattle to be slaughtered.

    We will not truly have democracy until all politicians are removed.


  • Comment number 46.

    Pickled on choice

    "I think it already is - a choice between change or more of the same."

    Actually I think the choice is between more of the same or..... more of the same .....but with cuts in Inheritance Tax

  • Comment number 47.

    I wish someone would stop GB from spouting rubbish and raising our hackles.

    He's just removed billions of pounds of interest on savings and then has the cheek to say he's saved us all 200 pounds a year on VAT

    The silly man. It was the interest on savings that gave us a bit extra to spend.

    No spend No VAT savings

    He says he's increased pensions.

    Of course pensions increased as they always do in April due to inflation. Wow!

    I think someone from YTS must be writing his speeches or are they called apprentices these days.

    What a disgrace to be treated like we're all ignorant morons. Is anyone capable of getting through to this man?

  • Comment number 48.


    The thing your not telling us is what mandleson and oleg got up to on that yacht.

    However I recommend that you make sure that Brown doesn't go on any yachts or other boats for the foreseable future - the last person to rip off the british public on a massive scale was capt'n bob (robert maxwell) - and I am sure we all remember how he avoided facing the music...

    When brown wakes up in the morning, his first thought it not how to help the british public, it is "how did it all go so wrong, when it would have been so easy to get it right".

  • Comment number 49.

    One comment was 'zanulabour was fiscally incontinent', I wondered how they would produce the money, instead of excreeting bricks it will be money, they'll call it Brown money.

    I've worked for the last 43 years to get my money now with retirement looming it looks as if I'will probably be broke, thanks nulabour this is how workers are rewarded in this fine country of ours, perhaps I should have been a layabout all my life and enjoyed myself and sponged off the state or
    work in the public sector, where you are looked after. How does it go?... Britains will never never be slaves. Sounds a bit hollow doesnt it?

  • Comment number 50.

    20. At 1:38pm on 11 Mar 2009,

    DukeJake wrote:

    Labour have overtaxed, overborrowed, overspent and undelivered. Fortunately Gordon knows he can probablay keep spinning the finances for a year before leaving the tories to make the inevitable cuts required to balance the nation's balance sheet.

    Spot on.

    And I'll bet the interest on my savings (not much nowadays I agree) that there will be a bunch of muppets on this blog whingeing about Tory cuts within a year of a new Government.

  • Comment number 51.

    Why have comments stopped at No.22? Are people telling the truth, albeit unpalatable, so their comments are censored?

    I have my views on the contents of some placards displayed at Luton. If the "boot had been on the other foot" I am sure that many locals would have been arrested, not just the two.

    Why were there not more arrests? The Police were obviously ready for trouble, as evidenced by the appearance of a riot squad.

  • Comment number 52.

    21. At 1:41pm on 11 Mar 2009, T A Griffin (TAG) wrote:
    "There must be an urgent public inquiry into what has been done in our name, with a full judicial inquiry into not only how we got into the Iraq war, but also our conduct in the aftermath, before it was realised by senior officers and politicians that our initial policy was a total and abject failure.
    This is what has led to the demonstrations against our soldiers during the ill advised provocative military parades."

    The demos against our soldiers were grotesque, offensive and borderline criminal. The extremists were the provocative ones. The 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment or any other unit should be able to parade with pride through any city or town in the country.

    If/when inquiries are done and wrongdoing uncovered, it can be dealt with then. But for now we should just give thanks to the boys who make less than a call center worker.

  • Comment number 53.

    The fact that the public finances are currently deteriorating very fast is far from merely due to the recession. Even before Northern Rock sank Brown was running a deficit of almost 3% and the IMF warned many times that the government's fiscal position was shaky.

    All the current grandstanding on stimuli is very convenient for Labour to try get away with the fact that they engrained a structural deficit into the public purse even before anyone started talking about subprime. But hey, it's certainly the fault of a tax haven, shadow bank or US citizen.

    PS Had any chance to ask Brown about his sublet constituency office?

    PS2 The IFS sometimes takes the government's estimates as starting point for its analysis with the consequence of producing too optimistic scenarios in case the government's estimates are too optimistic, which has been consistently the case. For example, the government forecasts a debt-to-GDP ratio of 57% by 2013 (excluding bank bailout costs), compared to NIESR 70% by 2012 (also excluding bailouts) and the European Commission 72% by 2010 (including bailouts). Please note that the European Commission's forecast, just as Brown's, was also produced prior to christmas.

  • Comment number 54.

    This is not a party political comment one way or the other.

    It seems strange to me that those that support a Free Market seem to be the ones who condemn this Government loudest for a Free Market doing exactly what Free Markets do from time to time which is fail. It is hardly a sustainable argument. A much more legitimate argument would be to criticise the government for its management of that Free Market, though always keeping in mind this is the first time markets have failed under a centre left government when they usally fail under centre right ones.

    It also to me seems an illogical argument to say we need people to spend more to support the economy and then say we intend to cut spending possibly throwing people out of work which will mean they have less money in their pockets to support the economy. What however is I would say is a more logical argument is to say we will cut spending in areas that do not affect employment wherever possible? Until at least such time as the economy begins to recover and then we will look at other kinds of cuts. This would seem a more sustainable position.

  • Comment number 55.

    Ownership is a lie!

    I say there is no such thing as money and no such activity as spending.

    Money doesn't exist.

    So I don't care who claims who is going to cut the most "spending". It simply doesn't mean anything!

    Soon we will see what "money" is really worth, man!


  • Comment number 56.

    Here's how to save GBP160 billion per year, without affecting frontline services,

    sorry Carrots!

  • Comment number 57.

    I find it hard to believe - well, I'm incredulous actually - that our political elite are still dancing around this handbag. How can anyone in their right mind not see the need for draconian cuts to state spending in the near future, given the truly breathtaking mess that Gordon Brown has made of the public finances?

    It's also both surprising and sad that the electorate appears to be hanging on to the idea that relentless, upward government spending (aka waste) is both a good thing and eminently sustainable. Que? Who and where are these people? What do they know/read about the future of the UK's public finances that I don't?

    The problem with having the politicos strenuously avoiding at all costs discussing or, still less, addressing the need to cut our coat according to our cloth is that, when insolvency looms, public sector cost-cutting will be carried out in panic.

    I hold to the view that only when we hit the gutter economically, and social unrest looms large, will be it a case of "cometh the hour, cometh the politician with some guts".

    Meantime, the Westminster idiots will continue to drift along in their own weird, wonderful and disingenuous world. Just like your blog implies, Nick.

  • Comment number 58.

    we need a smaller government MUCH MUCH smaller.

  • Comment number 59.

    Cuts are already taking place - money to councils is being cut - that will mean cuts in local services - but Labour will happily blame those on local government because so many are Tory controlled.

    Deceit and distraction, their first, last and only policy.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hohn Constable @ 30:

    So very true John. Politics is trivial compared to matters of life and death. Cameron must feel a little like that right now although he'll have been heartened by the gestures of support. Right now I'm waiting for the results of a blood test to establish whether an eye melanoma treated at the back end of 2007 has spread to my liver. Having pains in that area. If it has it's Jade Goody time for me and there's still so much I want to do mainly in the area of travel.

  • Comment number 61.

    As ever, the question ought to be "How will you fund your spending commitments?", not where will you cut spending. Putting the emphasis on where the cuts will hit assumes that government has money to spend. It doesn't. It has the ability to legislate to raise funds through taxation, and all parties should be pressured to make clear their tax raising intentions before the next election.

    The media has always hyped the cutting agenda and as a result New Labour has conned the electorate for three elections straight. This is clearly a consequence of being 'found out' in 1992, but in reality all that happened was they were honest and the UK electorate decided they didn't want Labour tax and spend.

    The difference next year will be that the national debt will be so enormous, a huge proportion of the tax take will be going towards simply paying interest on the debt, let alone reducing it. Add to that the reduction in tax receipts as a consequence of the recession and massively increased welfare costs through unemployment benefit and the question is not where will you cut, but what will you spend the remainder on?

    It's up to the media to make sure that all parties are forced to provide fully costed spending plans, so a bit more effort in that direction would be much appreciated.

  • Comment number 62.

    This article I feel sums up the blog title depressingly well:

  • Comment number 63.


    You OK, JC???

  • Comment number 64.

    The Browbama mantra is to revert to slogans and fear mongering that worked in 2005. However the fear and the nighmare that is now Brown's legacy of shameful profligacy and incompetence will take some hushing up. As for The Labour Manifesto, their reneging on an EU referendum will haunt their defeat.
    If Browbama's economics are to be covered up as investment, where's the return?

  • Comment number 65.

    Well as spending is cut atleast we can count on Boris!

    Boris is giving away free rent to overseas companies.

  • Comment number 66.


    I can quite see why Gordon Brown doesn't want the election to be "a referendum on his government" because his record in power is beyond abysmal. On the basis of his performance alone, labour should be left with a handful of MPs at the next election.

    I don't quite see why you should put a photograph of George Osborne at the side of your article about spending cuts.

    Is this an attempt at subliminal messaging.

    Surely if all parties are to inflict spending cuts (and labour have already cut 1.4bn from the health budget), a picture of our inglorious leader or his darling lackey would be more appropriate.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    A common thread running through just about every Minister's reply to 'Why havent you ...........................................? is 'We will have to ............................................... as opposed to 'We should have ....................................Sorry.'

  • Comment number 69.

    Just answer me this - GB and the Labour party have more support amongst public sector workers than the Tories. So he cannot announce spending cuts before the election (well, not overt ones anyway ...) and so are you suggesting that with all this eveidence to the contary we will have to accept a U turn after the election when he has secured another 5 years - I don;t think so ! and there really might be blood on the streets at that point. We may not like it but just for once I would appreciate a little honesty from our politicians - otherwise I really fear for the consequences

  • Comment number 70.

    Brown revealed more than he meant to this morning...

    PMQs: Subdued But Significant

  • Comment number 71.

    re: 60, sicilian29

    Good luck! But if it should be bad news... get out of cesspool Britain and enjoy what time you can in a warm, sunny properly-governed country where incompetence isn't rewarded!

  • Comment number 72.

    #41 Bandages_For_Konjic

    "#9 Thomasak001 -
    "We need a new constitution"

    You don't have an old constitution.

    Because I am a nice person....
    ......Bandages, they do have a Constitution, but uncodified.

    The majority of the British constitution does exist in the written form of statutes, court judgments and Treaties. The constitution has other unwritten sources, including parliamentary constitutional conventions and the royal prerogatives!! Clear? Yep, as mud.

    The bedrock of the British constitution has traditionally been the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty, according to which the statutes passed by Parliament are the UK's supreme and final source of law. It follows that Parliament can change the constitution simply by passing new Acts of Parliament.......And scary.

    "Presumably, what you're calling for is constitutional change.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    Let's start with fully independent Parliaments for England and Scotland and see whether making these Parliaments accountable to the people via a more democratic (Compared to FPTP) PR voting system doesn't bring the new framework of government, founded in social justice that you're calling for.

    Absolutely, but first the English need to declare their own Claim of Rights, like ours, which echoes the sentiments of The Claim of Right Act as passed by the Parliament of Scotland in April 1689. It is one of the key documents of Scottish constitutional law.

    We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.

    We further declare and pledge that our actions and deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:

    To agree a scheme for an Assembly or Parliament for Scotland;

    To mobilise Scottish opinion and ensure the approval of the Scottish people for that scheme; and

    To assert the right of the Scottish people to secure implementation of that scheme.

    Then sort out their dire FPTP. Totally with you on that!

    They can't get their act together if they don't get their Act together, in my opinion.


  • Comment number 73.


    I was sat next to you on the tube this morning and saw you scribbling away in your note book so didn't disturb you, but i really wanted to ask you, if you and Jon Snow had an arm wrestle who would win?

  • Comment number 74.

    Let us cut spending on the wasters and workshy who sponge off the state.

    Increase spending on the more vulnerable in society who really do need state help. Let them have the care etc they deserve.

    Let the entrepreneurs and the workers keep their hard earned cash and spend it as they like.

    No one begrudges govt spending but our taxes must be used prudently, in good and bad times.

    Every penny spent on our behalf must count. Cuts in spending is not always a bad thing if the cuts are from wasteful projects etc.

  • Comment number 75.

    This is going to be off-topic and therefore runs the risk of being moderated into oblivion. But I will give it a go anyhow...

    Do the BBC have any photos of George Osborne that don't make him look like he's just undergone a blood donation session that went on for just a bit too long?

    Look at the photo of GO in this blog and then check out the one of him set against GB in Nick's entry of 06/03/09 entitled "Sorry for what?" That one has a ruddy / healthy looking PM (if that's possible) set against another shot of GO where he looks like he's never set foot outside his house.

    I'm increasingly becoming aware of how subtle, subliminal influences are employed by the media, advertising and so on so as to influence us. I appreciate that that's obviously been going on for years, but I'm starting to buy into the idea that certain elements in the Beeb know that New Labour is well on the back-foot and is therefore trying to subtly disseminate messages / images that are detrimental to the Opposition. Be that articles on hung parliaments or pictures of key Opposition players that make them look like they have just stepped out of the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

    Of late, for example, it was a case of how the Lib Dems might wish strike a deal with the Tories because of a potential hung parliament at the next GE. And yet the Tories have a consistent lead of between 12% to 20% in recent polls.

    Why that debate?

    Who exactly set that agenda?

    Now I'm not for a moment about to launch into an attack on lizard shape-shifters that rule the world from a secret EU HQ buried underneath the German Alps. However, after a while, you start to get the feeling that some of the major influences in our lives, that supposedly are impartial / neutral, have a hidden agenda that, using the tools at their disposal, chip away at our collective subconscious.

    Anyhow, so as to try and save this post in a last gasp fashion from being removed for being off-topic, I would say that spending cuts are long over-due in any event. The Government's obsession with "more is always better" is, quite simply, wrong.

    So cut away at all those non-jobs, QUANGO's and other New Labour government endorsed positons that do nowt else than spend yet more public money, generate none of their own, and are protected by layer upon layer of legislation and bureaucracy to protect their sorry hides, all to our detriment.

  • Comment number 76.


    Your posts become more and more pathetic, a sort of Alamo where Custer might be invited for a guest appearance.

    If GB had had the courage to call a General Election early on in his assumption of leadership, he would have taken the knife to the public finances already, including dare I say it, to your organisation as well.

    However, his bottled decision now means that he does not have this luxury and therefore will have to rely on deceit to give the impression that it's spend, spend, spend all the way. If he is elected as PM (for the first time) God forbid, this is exactly what he will do.

    New Labour are positioning this as 'reform' and reform means cuts.

    Nick, you old weasel, you yourself know that spending needs to be reined in. Just tell it as it is rather than try and label one party or the other as 'the hatchet'.

    It's the only sensible option as any objective, non partisan and impartial reporter will tell you as will your average person in the street.

  • Comment number 77.

    Having just watched the clip of Mr Canned Laughter aka Liam Byrne on the Daily Politics Show, Nick should be ashamed about bringing up public sector reform as a topic for discussion.

    The Giggling Minister is insensitive, uncaring, inaccurate with his figures and frankly gives the impression he doesn't give a sh*t! Sorry, impression is the wrong word!

    If he is representative of the government, he should be fired immediately; the man is a disgrace to himself and his profession, and even that's not saying much.

    He must go now!

  • Comment number 78.

    60 Sicilian
    I was saddened to read this post , despite our frequent differences I do wish you well and I hope you get the chance to visit all those places, from the bottom of my heart. Good luck old fellow.
    Now back to the trenches.

  • Comment number 79.

    Come on Mods. You're now 4 hours behind!

  • Comment number 80.

    Round the Laugh family dinner table, my teenage son (Child A) claimed that the credit crunch was a good thing as it forced governments to spend money on green technology as a way of stimulating growth. Mrs Laugh agreed saying it encouraged families to revert to a simpler life with less consumerism.
    I tried to point out that those recently made redundant might not see it that way but my daughter (child B) interrupted, horrified at the thought of less spending on clothes, and no-one heard.. this is why I come on here as no-one can interrupt.

    Anyway, hasn't stopped Mrs L booking a shopping trip on Saturday.

    Hope you're OK Sic and JC

  • Comment number 81.

    I think I mentioned something earlier about paying peanuts and getting monkeys.

    Sorry, I didnt mean to say "you get monkeys...."

    I meant to say "you get BBC blog moderators"

    Four and a half hours???

    Dear God, what is going on at Wood Lane???

  • Comment number 82.

    Nick, just before your appearance on todays Daily Politics we were treated to a little gem from a happy, smiley, CHUCKLING Liam Byrne. (No gloom, doom or recession/depression in this Minister's sights)
    He was trying to justify the hiring of 21 NEW press staff for Regional Communication Hubs (some on £72k per annum. He said laughingly "I happen to think taxpayers have a right to know about the help that's being made available to them"
    Previously, this sort of thing would be called propaganda!
    Mr. Byrne looked and sounded so very jolly it was quite hard to believe he is a Minister in a Government drowning in debt.

  • Comment number 83.

    laugh @ 46

    Actually I think the choice is between more of the same or..... more of the same .....but with cuts in Inheritance Tax

    oh yes, a nice big cut in Death Duties - more unearned dosh for little Johnny - that will surely to goodness turn things right around

  • Comment number 84.

    Actually I think the choice is between more of the same or..... more of the same .....but with cuts in Inheritance Tax

    ..and a return to fox hunting.

  • Comment number 85.

    75 Attersee

    true we are off-topic, but who cares

    I have noticed the selective use of images also - however I think they're pretty balanced - take a look at the usual jaqui smith image - it's terrifying, just her scowling against a black background - there aren't many flattering images of politicians doing the rounds on here, that said it may be to do with a) their looks or b) my pre-conceptions

    anyway, spending cuts for all! - less government advertising, ID cards, quangos et all

    my one issue is that we will have to wait til the economy picks up, any removal of capital will put more pressure on all sorts of people and increase unemployment

    my god, I've actually found one reason for keeping labour in power for the next politically frustrating year

  • Comment number 86.

    susan-croft 37
    Saleries in the public sector are determined by your favourite meassure, market forces. Ask your local council why they pay their cheif exec. 200k and you will be told what would believe already. If you want the best, you have to pay them what they want.

  • Comment number 87.

    power-to-the-ppl 71

    Could you tell us which one(s) you have in mind?

  • Comment number 88.

    sicilian29 60

    I am so sorry sicilian, I wish you so much luck, please let us know how you get on. Nothing can be more important than this. I will be thinking of you.

  • Comment number 89.

    grandantidote @78:

    Your well wishing thoughts are sincerely appreciated. Still no news on my test but they do say that no news is good news. It's something I have to endure every 6 months but this one was brought forward because of worrying symptoms. Every 12 months I have to travel from Surrey up to The Royal Liverpool to have my proton beam treated eye melanoma checked. Words are not enough to describe the dedication of all the people who have helped to treat me and so prolong my life. Politics pales into insignificance when you have possible terminal conditions hanging over you. misswaldorf keeps pestering me to ring for my results but as happens each time I haven't plucked up the courage to do it yet.
    I hope you realise that it's not you personally that I take issue with when I occasionally rant on here. It's just your politics but I suppose you could say the same for everyone on here who takes a different stance on things. I have tried to moderate my language but I still have a tendency to go off on one if I feel that something unjustified is being said. Life would be boring if we agreed with each other all of the time. Even married couples have their moments.

  • Comment number 90.

    Thank you for the good thoughts laugh and Susan. This blog keeps my literacy capabilities ticking over and despite the occasional spats is actually quite enjoyable.

  • Comment number 91.

    Re Susan_Croft #37
    I do not understand why when the public think about cuts in Government spending they immediately think of the NHS and education. It should be pointed out to them that if we just cut out the waste we would still be massively better off.

    This is was basically the gist of what BO said after his election in Nov.
    Yes there needs to be spending and yes there needs to be cuts in those wasteful areas of which there are many in the UK.
    DC needs to be wary of pathetic Gordons jibes on spending cuts tho'

  • Comment number 92.

    The UN is predicting that in 2050 due to immigration that the UK population will be around 72 million. As per this link:

    I have issues about population numbers, in that the official Census papers are useless. Recently the big supermarket chains calculated on the basis of increased food consumption, and allowing for inflation some instances of higher obesity rates that the UK population is between 75 and 77 million. But according to the last census only 60 million live in the UK.

    I am not against immigration, but the authorities need to have a rough idea of numbers so there are adequate housing, social and economic facilities to sustain communities. We also need to spread out throughout the UK, instead of living in each others pockets with large rural areas uninhabited.

    With a large multicultural population it is hard to know what language official letters sent to individual recipients should be written in. A glib statement in English inferring that the communique is available in other languages is stupid. Even if the immigrant is here legally an official letter is seen as a threat to deportation so a future Census will not elicit a response from most immigrants. And we all know how this regime loves to threaten or tax the populace.

    Spending has to be targetted and decentralised, the one size fits all coupled with Whitehall mentality is resulting in poor delivery. A conundrum: if International Aid spending is increasing (it is, total GBP 8 billion last year) and is effective as Brown waxes lyrical again and again, why are so many natives of the recipient countries desperate to come to the UK, Europe or North America?

    Maybe I am too cynical, but the International Aid spending is not markedly different from the days of the British Empire and the religious missionaries were dispatched up country to help the poor people in that colony. This is not working out for the intended recipients is it? It really is just "jobs for the boys" isn't it?

  • Comment number 93.

    wasowenright 86

    Alright I will fall for it.

    Its all very well the local council believing they should pay their chief executive £200,000, plus expenses and bonuses, but what do the public think. I fear they may have a different view. Plus this is much more than they would be paid in the private sector, so I am afraid it is not down to market forces. Their ring fenced pensions are worth 12% more than a private sector salary of the same nominal amount.

    I doubt also that the public would agree that they are the best at what they do. Most would struggle to get a job in the private sector.

  • Comment number 94.

    The Department of Justice's flagship IT system unsurprisingly has over run on cost and under-delivered on product/service. Or that should read no-delivered.

    Why has the IT contractor not been sued? This is bog standard in the private sector. Or perhaps the nuances of the law is beyond the grasp and comprehension of the Department of Justice?

  • Comment number 95.


    Thoughts are with you Sicilian.

    Live it to the full.

  • Comment number 96.

    Of course services will have to be cut and they'll be cut from those most vunerable.... the sick, the impoverished, those in dire need.

    For the benefit of grandantidote....

    New Labour, without doubt, improved some areas of life - from my own experience, the NHS, apart from the ridiculous targets that strip the relaitonship out of consultant care, has dramatically improved under their governance (it's an indication of what ruin it lay in before).

    However, due to their strict adherence to Friedmanesc economic policies and their blind, unquestioning support for the US and it's corporation politics (aswell as obviously war, torture, proxy wars etc) any good that they've done will disappear.

    What an awful way to run a country! I personally do not feel positive about the future - I depend upon the NHS and it's hard enough now.

    Shame on the champagne socialists - they should be punished and punished harshly.

  • Comment number 97.


    I thought that the 'performance' of the cabinet minister that was on the Daily Politics programme was an absolute disgrace. Laughing at the problems which are now face a rising majority of the population of the UK.

    There are millions now approaching retirement, the old age democratic time bomb resulting from the immediate post war birth rate rise. Those born in the period 1944-49 are retiring. They are going to find a huge reduction in their spending power, not immediately, but over the next five years they are really going to hurt. And they, sorry, I won't like it at all.

    I think that Gordon Brown and his advisers are conducting nothing other than a scorched earth policy, there will be nothing left. I do love it when the benefits, if any will hit on or around May of next year, just as the election has to be held. In the meantime the bills will come in just after. In March or April there will be a give away budget, then an emergency budget as soon as the election is over.

    There must be an election now. It will soon be too late.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    Not everyone thinks that Gordon Brown has all the right answers. But then he is right isn't he because he is always right isn't he?

  • Comment number 100.

    Best of luck to sicilian. He/will are fortunate to have a reasonably easy to access health service that doesn't cost individuals at the point-of-use... There are some great folk working in the NHS - and plenty of dead-wood in place to manage unwanted "government targets". Hope everything turns out well.

    Back to my bete-noire of "delivery".

    Interesting that the National Audit Office produced a searing report on the lack of proper management of the National Offenders Management Information System.

    Project start date: 2004 with an estimate of GBP234MIL.
    By 2007 the estimated cost-to-delivery soared to GBP690MIL.
    So the original central national database was scrapped in favour of 5 separate systems - not interconnected - with a current estimated cost-to-deliver of GBP513MIL.

    So we will have a system that's 2 years late, doesn't do what was originally intended, at double the projected price...
    And the Minister says that they "preserved the value of the original 2/3 years' work..." so that's all right then!

    This bunch have no idea how to manage major IT projects and ensure they will be fit for purpose and have "buy-in" from end-users.

    If sagamix were on the blog, I'd agree with him that the Political decision was a "value judgement" of whether this NOMIS system was of societal value.

    But, as the result of incompetent project organisation, WE spend twice as much as expected for a system that doesn't do what it should and is already 2 years late...

    BUT Brown/Smith and Co still insist they will deliver a National ID system that will be of use...

    Yet they say that any nasty opposition party would slash the resources of public services if they dislodged New Labour from power....

    Guess what? Corporations have plenty of problems bringing in major IT systems. The bigger the ambition, in most cases the larger the cost overrun and the longer the delay.

    The trickle down effect is that prices of goods or services they sell may rise (if we're prepared to buy them!). BUT we as tax-payers don't pay directly for the problems and costs.

    We pay for every wasted penny of tax spend.

    It's frightening to contemplate just how much overrun costs have accumulated across IT and capital projects over the last decade. We know it runs into Billions.

    Yet Brown believes that you can't reduce the total cost of government without destroying public services?

    Man's a fool.


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