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April's fools?

Government borrowing hits April record | Business |

David Cameron is still rebranding the Conservative Party by his odd technique of never doing anything that Labour might not also have done. This makes life hard for Milliband, who is reduced to attacking what everyone knows would have been his own economic policies (give or take a few basis points). Politics is a game and it's fun to watch your opponents struggle, but surely this tactic cannot last for long. It's pointless anyway. The moment Cameron implements a Conservative policy the cries of "nasty party!" from the BBC and the Guardian will simply be more triumphant.

Playing games is all very well, but there is a job of work to be done. The government's income is falling as the private sector continues to be squeezed. The coalition has made no meaningful cuts at all. Not implementing those new expenditures dishonestly promised by an outgoing government simply does not count. I might as well claim I am cutting my costs by not buying the Ferrari I have always promised myself. This government will only really be cutting costs when it does something that would be recognised as such by a business fighting for survival or a household struggling to make ends meet under the pressure of rising taxes.

Please note that the Guardian is quoting figures adjusted to exclude "support for banks and other 'financial interventions'", so you can ignore the reflex Labour cry of "blame the bailout." Indeed, the position is worsening despite one-off "special factors" that have increased tax receipts by £3.5bn this year. A better-informed reader may correct me, but aren't those "special factors" Alistair Darling's and Gideon Osborne's levies on the wicked banks?

I don't blame the public for not understanding the dark realities of the national finances. Cameron himself, in yesterday's speech in Milton Keynes, confused reducing the deficit (i.e. the rate at which government debt is mounting) with reducing the debt itself. Yet the facts are simple, stark and alarming. The government's income is in decline. The government's expenditure is still growing. The unproductive sector refuses to share the pain and Cameron is too weak to confront state employees who are now paid 43% more, on average, than their productive counterparts. In consequence the national debt is mounting at a terrifying rate and there is a serious risk of the UK's credit being exhausted.

It's time for Cameron to stop playing games. His country needs him to be a real Conservative now, even if it means some sneers from his champagne Socialist friends.


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