No, it’s not about dodgy mortgages. It’s about cuts that may turn out to be rather less chunky than the adverts suggest, or not as painless.
Tory survivor Ken Clarke was the party’s offering on today’s Andy Marr Show: Fat Ken was in characteristically combative form, giving as good as he got and generally batting away attempts to show differences in approach between him and the rest of the Shadow Cabinet. But what he wasn’t going to commit to was cuts, at least not on any kind of numbers, which gave me that 1979 feeling once more – the election aftermath which I previously touched upon here.
What he would say, though, was that after a Tory General Election victory would come a spending review. Ah, now we have something to go on: Tory Governments have done these before. In fact, the one that comes to mind happened on the watch of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who Margaret Thatcher called “unassailable” (thus demonstrating not so much a sense of humour failure, but more like no sense of humour in the first place).
Nigel Lawson did indeed order a spending review, and with the objective of finding savings, as I assume the one that Fat Ken has outlined will also be intended to do. Thus the Civil Service was absorbed with lots of sums about sums.
The result of that review? Out of all the billions of annual Government expenditure, a whopping 500 million was found. That’s enough for, er, not even a fraction of a penny off income tax, but perhaps enough to pay for the review.
So the lesson from reviews past is there: it’s a pretty pointless exercise, unless there really are painful spending reductions, involving dumping tens of thousands onto the dole, to come soon after a Tory General Election victory.
How about levelling with us, Young Dave?