Martin Horwood gives cuts the thumbs up

In a chirpy interview with Leckhampton online, Martin Horwood has rated the coalition at 8.5 out of 10.  To be clear, that’s a ringing endorsement of the following:

  • Colossal cuts to council spending (that’s your libraries, youth centres, rubbish collection, paving, street-lighting, social care and housing etc.), trading standards, education, benefits, environmental spending, justice (police), etc. etc. – basically all the services that folk depend upon.
  • The unleashing of the market across swathes of the public sector, including virtual privatisation of the NHS.
  • The destruction of upwards of half a million public sector jobs (with knock on job losses in the private sector).
  • The deliberate leaving open of tax loop holes, plus the letting off of the hook of the banks and major tax evaders and avoiders, like Vodafone.
  • The irresponsible transfer of vital public services into the voluntary sector a-la The Big Society.

Put another way, that’s 8.5 out of 10 for a government transparently committed to the evisceration of the welfare state.  Way to go, Martin!

Horwood also repeats the lie (at 8 mins 10) that this smashing of the welfare state is “necessary” due to “staggering overspending” on the part of Labour.  In fact, as the chart below makes crystal clear, there was no “overspending”.  Average spending under New Labour was 38.24%, which was significantly lower than under the Tory government that preceded it, with the spike in spending precisely corresponding with the banking crash.

And yet, it’s worth noting that even if Labour HAD “overspent”, cuts to public expenditure would make no sense in any case, since the one thing you don’t do in a recession – at least not if you happen to care about ordinary working people – is implement policies calculated to raise the unemployment rate (the logical consequence of cuts), which lowers the tax-take, raises benefit spending, and ultimately exacerbates the problem you’re (purportedly) trying to solve!

Un-phased by this monumental whopper, Martin goes on to argue that there is no inconsistency between his facilitating of the cuts agenda at national level and his subsequent championing of popular anti-cuts campaigns at local level – most notably, the excellent campaign orchestrated by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  One of the libraries slated for closure is Hester’s Way, which Martin claims to be deeply concerned about.  He claims also to be concerned about the county council’s planned closure (or possibly the transfer to the voluntary sector) of the Hester’s Way’s youth centre.  And yet, neither closure would be happening if Martin and his peers hadn’t hopped into bed with the Tories.  What a breathtaking display of political opportunism.  If Martin thinks he can play this game and emerge unscathed, he’d better think again.

Finally, since Martin seems to be having difficulty diagnosing the reasons for his increased majority at the last General Election, perhaps he won’t mind if I spell it out for him: PEOPLE VOTED LIB DEM AS THEY THOUGHT IT WOULD HELP KEEP THE TORIES OUT!  Thus, in practice, Martin attracted scores of tactical votes, in particular from, but not limited to, Labour (whose percentage of the vote declined significantly), while Green voters also turned temporarily yellow, assuming – erroneously as it turned out – that the Lib Dems represented the relative left-of-centre vote.  Martin knows there’s every chance that these voters will desert him at the next General Election, and hence his efforts to accrue as much political capital as he thinks he can get away with by backing local campaigns against the cuts.  It’s part of our job to ensure he doesn’t get away with it.


One comment

  1. Just for the record, people:

    1. Yes, cuts are necessary because we’ve been spending £150 billion more than we’re raising as a government; no I don’t like them either and I particularly don’t like the way the Tories have done them locally (not inconsistent as you suggest: not one library has been closed by a LibDem council anywhere in the UK. There is some local choice here).

    2. You may have noticed that after the LibDem conference stood up for the NHS, the so-called privatisation elements of Lansley’s plans have gone into reverse. I didn’t vote for it first time round anyway.

    3. Unemployment is falling. Public sector job cuts – which are very painful – haven’t stopped new jobs in the private sector

    4. We’re projecting far more extra public revenue from a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion than under Labour

    5. I just don’t agree that ‘vital public services’ are always best run by the state. Is palliative care in Cheltenham bad because it’s run by Sue Ryder Care? Or cancer screening by the Cobalt charity? Will post office and royal mail employees having a real say in how their businesses are run for the first time make those better or worse? (I’d doubt if you could get worse than Royal Mail’s current management). That doesn’t mean it’s always right – I’ve criticised the south-west NHS for rushing community healthcare into a version of ‘social enterprise’ – but just to oppose it on ideological grounds is silly. Liberals and many socialists have supported more democratic co-operative and mutual ownership for more than a century.

    6. Your chart shows spending as a % of GDP not whether or not there was overspending. I agree you should spend more during a recession when you need to stimulate the economy – we supported that, remember – but you can’t keep on doing it for decades. Labour had been spending more than it raised since 2002, long before the financial crisis – and apparently believes you could carry on way after 2015 by which time the coalition is aiming to have balanced the books. That’s why we’re spending £40 billion a year on debt interest, more than we spend on transport. Keep on overspending and you put that bill up and up and up and eventually wreck our credit rating, putting household interest rates up and up and up too. And that means far more savage cuts in public spending, as Ireland and Greece and Portugal have now discovered

    7. People who voted for me did keep the Tory out. Mark Coote would have voted for the original NHS plan, early renewal of Trident, the superannuation bill that attacked civil servants’ terms and conditions, and nuclear power. He might well have opposed Lords reform, the pupil premium that’s shifting school spending to the least well-off kids in the least well-off schools, taking the lowest earners out of income tax and a fully fledged Green Investment Bank – none of which you’df have seen if we’d let them go into government on their own – the only mathematical alternative given the election result. And you could have added attacks on the human rights act and (like Labour) unlimited increases in student tuition fees without any of the safeguards that Vince Cable managed to negotiate.

    And unfortunately, since we have chosen to reject electoral reform for now, that’s going to be the choice in Cheltenham at the next election too. I’ll stand on my record.

    All the best

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