From the TUC

A bad day for George Osborne

16 Sep 2009, by in Economics, Politics

In his latest post, Adam makes some very worthwhile observations about the damage of spending cuts to the economy. And in spite of positioning himself as perhaps the most enthusiastic exponent of cuts among today’s crop of politicians, they don’t seem to be doing George Osborne’s fortunes much good either.

‘Tories set to wield axe on £30bn defence projects’ screams this morning’s Times newspaper. The paper reports that in a major speech yesterday, Osborne said he would hold a Budget within weeks of a Conservative victory next year. So far, so straightforward. Yet there is a growing clamour for the Tories to put some flesh on their ideas. For months, they have spoken in generalities and, with an election some way off, they have got away with it. Now, with an election due in the next eight months and the Tories consistently ahead in the polls, people are starting to ask what all this means in practical terms.

So when asked to identify some specifics, Osborne cited the £20bn Eurofighter/Typhoon project, the £4bn project to build two new aircraft carriers and the £2.7bn order for 25 A400 transport aircraft. According to the Times, he was later forced to admit that he didn’t know what penalties might have to be paid out under break clauses and a Tory frontbencher is quoted in the Times as describing Osborne’s comments as “amateurish”. On the inside pages of the same newspaper, my trade union colleague, Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB, points out that 10,000 jobs are secured on the carrier project and workers have already started to cut the steel.

Furthermore, the Financial Times reports (‘Osborne plans “cuts” Budget within weeks of election win’) that “he [Osborne] also plans to keep secret many of his planned cuts for electoral reasons”. What on earth does that mean? Does it mean he’ll cut spending but won’t tell the voters where until after the election? If he plans to cut spending on schools or hospitals, for example, don’t the electorate have a right to know that?

Cuts will be central to political debate between now and the General Election. You can expect the TUC to have much to say about this over the coming months. But whilst general talk of paying back the deficit may prove popular (indeed, polls tell us that voters like it), when we are talking about real cuts that affect real peoples jobs, or their homes, or the hospitals they use or the schools their children attend, the story is rather different.

We are in for interesting times!