Iain Dale denies Cameron made a gaffe

Fascinating to see how “Cameron targets North East and Northern Ireland for spending cuts” is building as a political first for Northern Ireland featuring as a story in the main UK election.

I doubt if this is what they meant by a peace dividend. The Guardian joins the reporting of Cameron’s Paxman interview as ” Cameron cuts” story. But Conservative blogger Iain Dale puts up a different interpretation and attacks Newsnight’s Michael Crick’s take on it ( and mine).

The point Cameron was eloquently making was that it was the role of government to create the conditions whereby the private sector is encouraged to grow. And that needs to be done in regions like the North East….Crick interpreted it as Cameron wanting to take an axe to public spending in the North East. It’s clear why he’s not Newsnight’s Economics Correspondent. If you increase the size of the private sector, the proportionate size of the public sector is thereby reduced. It does not imply massive cuts. Having said that, Northern Ireland and the North East will have to share the burden of reductions in public spending along with the rest of the country. But they knew that anyway..

Nice try Iain, but it won’t wash.  You don’t casually drop it into the conversation that the  public sector is to big in answer to a question about the size of your spending cuts, without the natural inference being drawn. And if Cameron didn’t mean it to come out like that , then it was a gaffe, at a point in the interview when he was clearly under pressure.  It’s  quite a shock to realise that cuts are coming in earnest, whoever is in power – even if Cameron’s timing and lack of preparing the ground  harms his political cause.

  • Mick Fealty

    I was travelling back from London, so I missed it. Iain will be pleased, since this is the 1st time he’s made the headlines on Slugger in nearly eight years!

  • slug

    Ian’s interpretation is right. There is nothing controvertial here – just scaremongering as one often finds in elections!

  • Newsnight Viewer

    The scaremonger in chief in this case seems to be the Newsnight journalist (and economic illiterate) who was supposedly objectively reporting it.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Surely there is capital in this for the SDLP. Cuts are upon us, and whether the parties or electorate care or not, this is an important election.

    Its also sad that I have not seen a credible plan for dealing with the unsustainable percentage of employees in the public sector. There is no plan at alland the old ‘its all down to the troubles’ line doesn’t cut it anymore.

    There is a vacuum in N.I.politics just waiting to be filled. In every other country, the economoy comes first and jobs are the big issue. People say that our tribal nature means that this doesn’ matter as the constitutional issue comes first.

    The reason that this hasn’t been at the forefront of elections is not because of tribalism but because we have never had to deal with the problem before.

    We will soon though. The assembly is up and running and this is the first recession it has ever seen. People are going to start demanding results.

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s true. Though, I am not sure getting government out of the way is the best way to deal with a weak private sector. Beefing up the public service ethic of the Civil Service, might be a better way to reduce cost and waste.

    Transfering everything out to the private sector saw standards fall and gaming for profit rise. The bottom end of the US healthcare ‘market’ is a great example of this.

    But the truth is the Tories are only going to cut £6 billion more than Labour. It’s not as big or significant as either Labour or the Tories themselves make it out to be. The margin for error on this is minimal, given the current crisis.

    But it is intended to signal intent. This is ‘nudge’ politics, not the vast canvass of class conflict that defined the character of 1980s Britain. Cameron may have a horde of slashers and burners in his party, but I don’t believe he is one himself.

    Of course, time and experience may prove me wrong on that score.

  • There is little room for the growth of the private sector in Northern Ireland without the reduction in the size and scope of the public sector. Certainly hope that Cameron sees a reduction in the public sector as a prelude to opening the economy further and reducing the burden of the public sector on enterprise. That might happen anyway if the offer comes of harmonising corporation tax with the Republic, so long as it is a tax neutral change for the British Exchequer.

  • DC

    The stillbirth of UCUNF is now underway

    If you make comments on public sector cuts without the secondary idea – the more important idea – of how the practical application of private sector jobs will come about here, then it appears as nothing other than crude cuts.


    Thank you and good night.

  • DC

    Big Society = £65.45 every fortnight

  • John East Belfast

    I couldnt believe Eamon Mallie’s “Alan Whickeresque” spin on this on Cool FM – “lifelines to the DUP” and “hand grenades into Reg Empey’s campaign”
    – catch yourself on !

    NIs public sector is too big – no shit Sherlock

    If anything Cameron was showing he gives a damn which means he is looking for solutions.

    It also means he is preparing GB for differential taxes in NI should he come to power

  • Pickled Badger

    On any unbiased and level-headed reading of the situation what David Cameron said was perfectly reasonable. Northern Ireland is far too dependent on the public sector and I am saying this as a public sector worker. He certainly had a far clearer economic plan for Northern Ireland than others who just want to keep extending the begging bowl to England.

    DC Cameron said “the aim has got to be to get the private sector, get the commercial sector going” and that there needed to be a “faster growing private sector” and a “rebalancing of the economy” so I strongly disagree with you that he talked about ‘nothing other than crude cuts’ although obviously there will be those who will spin the story as such.

    As it is it is only the fact that English taxpayers are willing to prop up our economy that keeps many of us in employment as the taxes the private sector contributes from here would be grossly inadequate to maintain current public sector expenditure. We have to move people from the unproductive to the productive side of the economy for this place to have a viable future and that doesn’t matter if it is as part of the UK, an independent state or a united Ireland.

  • DC

    Trouble with that PBadger is that most of the private sector is linked to the public sector and the seed core to such private growth is sown that way.

    Take Eircom for example, it is doing back office stuff for the NICS and there are many others such as Northgate etc looking to innovate the staid public sector services.

    Claimant count is rising in NI already – before cuts, so he still hasn’t explained in detail how he hopes to plug the gap. Cue the anxiety.

  • DC


    Tory denies Tory did something remotely wrong shocka?

  • Henry94

    It’s a gaffe if you say something you don’t mean. This was no gaffe. This is simply the Tory plan for NI. Slash and burn to make room for private sector growth.

    Of course the fact that there will be very little growth anywhere in Europe for the next five years at least means the slash and burn will come will in advance.

    Where you don’t have general growth you need to look at winning market share and can anybody honestly claim that the Tories will give Northern Ireland or even the north-east of England the tools to do that.

    You wouldn’t even get the Tories Assembly allies to agree to it. I know some of the DUP get it but are yet afraid to say it out loud.

    Brian Cowen has said it.


  • Manfarang

    Tantric techniques on how to live on fresh air anyone?

  • glencoppagagh

    The best way to approach cuts in NI is to cut public sector pay and that must include the ‘front-line services’. When thousands are queueing up to join the police, you know they are being paid far too much and do we need to pay six-figure salaries to attract GPs. The private sector will never thrive until the risk-free rewards in the public sector become less attractive.

  • John East Belfast


    The island of Ireland is too small to support either the NI or the ROI economy.

    All this All Ireland stuff as a solution to NI economic problems is a red herring.

    Indeed the only people benefiting from the cross border trade at the minute is the ROI construction industry which is buying up British Govt publicly funded projects in NI.

    The immediate future for NI is exports – helped by the weakness of sterling.
    Then another major source is the City of London/South East England where any UK recovery will flame up first.

    The ROI will be thinking the same.

    All Ireland economy is largely an irrelevance

  • Cynic2


    Each time you start a thread on this about the big bad Tories you seem to find almost all the posters agreeing with Cameron and saying he’s right! I know that will come as a shock but get with the public mood. This has to change so why don’t you tackle our cowardly politicians who refuse to tell their electorates the truth and show a bit of leadership.

    At the moment it seems all they can do is promise illegal tax breaks that they don’t have the power to deliver and vow to fight for more cake. Mind you – with a few honourable exceptions – for over 30 years almost none of them have done a days work not paid for by the state

  • SammyMehaffey

    I am pleasently surprised and refreshed at the sensible responses to the Cameron Gaffe’. Reality is going to have to come to NI sooner or later. Harold Wilson read it right 40 years ago when he called us Spongers. The days of the never employed father of 8 have to change.

    [We suspect this is a sock puppet contribution, intended to mislead]

  • Alias

    There is no room to create new jobs (bar the 4.5% who are unemployed) but as the spiel is that the public sector is to large relative to the private sector, then the private sector in NI will have to create circa 410,000 new jobs to equalise with the rest of the UK where the average is 19.4%.

    Transferring jobs from the public to private sector is the only way to find the required workforce for the required equalisation (unless you want to immigrants) so that will mean job cuts as folks in the public sector tend not to trade secure jobs in the public sector for insecure jobs in the private sector.

    At any rate it is pure fantasy to think that NI can increase its worforce by well over 50% in the next term of government just because Tory toffs intervene in the ecomony with enterprise zones and wotnot.

  • John East Belfast

    Personally I have never understood the obsession with balancing Northern Ireland’s books – I dont know why we beat ourselves up over it.

    I am not saying it cant be a target although a likely unobtainable one and indeed one that is not desirable to the UK as a whole.

    For starters Whitehall has calculated the overall UK rate of CT that will give the optimum UK tax take – at the minute it is 28% although that in my opinion is too high and needs to come down anyway.

    Howevr if it allows the UK regions to piss around with that rate then there is a real danger that although the NI Subsidy may fall they could very easily find that the overall UK Tax take falls with it – the sum of the individual parts being less than the original collective whole.
    ie effectively the Varney Report.

    Secondly there is no reason why NI should and could not be the UK civil service back office.
    It is a Win Win situation whereby the UK civil service could avail of cheaper wages and cheaper rents and people could find jobs in areas where the Private Sector does not want to locate because it prefers to be with the critical mass elsewehere.
    Therefore with NI being on the North West periphery of the United Kingdom then it could very easily have more people employed in the public sector to the benefit of the UK as a whole.

  • richiep

    Reg Empey’s P45 has been written out for him by Cameron.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    What is said in the run up to elections is generaly tailored to maximise your vote and politicians understandably tend to play it safe with under emphasizing those issues that damage their vote. So we can presume that Davey was adressing his comments to middle-Engleze-land and not to Ulster, in order to tap into the frustration felt by the Englezes that are subsidizing a bunch of intemperate and ungrateful Paddies even if that causes Wee Reggie and his diminishing crew some embarassment.

  • Alias

    It won’t be too good for the Shinners either since they practice the economics of the begging bowl. If the Tories manage to create an effective enterprise culture in that part of the United Kingdom then parties that thrive on a culture of state-dependency and so-called ‘big government’ will be left flopping around like fish out of water.

  • Re-engaged

    Being slightly flippant here first but why is it that when a serious point is raised on Slugger Harry Jay disappears and does not present his DUP (and surely even they must be embarassed by them) monologues… (or is he of a similar elk to Moderate Unionist)

    As stated on a previous thread on this topic – timing and political angle wrong – but entirely factual, how he really intends to move this forward and if he is a real ‘small government’ politician remains to be seen, if he does not get elected a form of the Tea Party in the US is likely to emerge.

    The only way to create an enterprise culture is a reduced tax burden and the incentive to work (take away the ability to rely on benefits) – lets be honest there are too many ‘spongers’ in NI today. However as stated Eammon Mallie has went OTT but this is NI and some voters not acquainted with the newness of real poltique will prob vote DUP as a result of the coverage this has got and how the DUPe’s will push it on the doorstep

  • Granni Trixie

    One wonders what other plans Cameron has in mind for NI? And is Sir Reg/UU in on the act?

    So if Cameron is disclosing his hand for a new economic approach for NI, ought we not to know if he intends to abandon one of the building blocks of the peace agreement:.
    of “no strategic or selfish interest”?

    Its all looking like voting for the UU/Tories would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • Cynic2

    Grannie Trixie

    And voting for Labour would be what exactly?

    I am glad too that the SDLP is so close to Labour and take their whip. I am sure that they will be delighted to support the FCOs draft proposals for events during the Pope’s visit


  • Vada

    Very well said…….I rarely comment here, but this is the first time I have heard someone speak on the matter, with a solid understanding of how the world works economically, let alone the UK…….Why should the English pay for us? Why should we beg and continue with a defeatist/claimist society? This is indeed true for whichever side of the constitutional question you sit. Although, in a United Ireland scenario the Irish definately cannot afford to subsidise NI, so cuts would be horrendous, Independent state (DUP?) would be laughable giving our current standing economically…….The only answer is stronger UK links…….and therefore I give my own leanings away!

  • Pickled Badger

    John I am afraid that balancing the books does matter. At present NI is a drain on the rest of the UK economy and a burden that the rest of the country is unlikely to put up with indefinitely while the Republic simply couldn’t cope with sustaining NI at present even if things were rosier over the border.

    Public sector jobs here and anywhere else have to be paid for by private sector taxes. A NI which remains dependent on the public sector will never be beneficial to whichever country owns it.

    Your assumption moreover that NI could be as you propose the ‘UK civil service back office’ is just not practical for various reasons. The Irish Sea alone makes here a poor destination for services that all people on the mainland would need to access. The political instability and demographic changes that threaten NI’s long term position in the UK make the prospect of moving major offices risky while most of the departments would no doubt prefer to stay in London near the centre of power. Frankly though the greatest reason is could never happen is that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the English, Scots and Welsh would agree to see their jobs coming here for nothing in return but the privilege of bankrolling a province that could not support itself just because it no aspirations to the contrary.

    At present the whole economy is struggling , we have a massive deficit and government borrowing is increasing. Public sector spending across the UK is going to be cut after this election, no matter who gets in. Whether it will come immediately, next year or when the country goes bankrupt and has to go to the IMF like Greece is really just a matter of timing. Public sector spending will have to be cut as the country just cannot sustain the current level. If you don’t believe me just dig out Alistair Darling’s talk of cuts far deeper than Maggie’s.

    Even if the UK economy wasn’t in a dire state though we still would need to increase the size of our private sector and we need to stop deluding ourselves that the current state of affairs can continue.

    Already in England there are (perfectly correct) rumblings that England is getting a raw deal out of the Union. An English Democrat was elected mayor in one town (and if PR gets introduced they will likely get representation in Parliament). The West Lothian question has yet to be answered and it could be exacerbated if Labour cling to power through Scottish MPs. The calls have yet to be a cacophony yet and thankfully NI funding is still somewhat off the radar. If prosperity drops in the south of England though politicians are likely to come under pressure as to question why they are giving so much money away to the north of England and especially to Scotland and us and if they do our politicians need to be able to answer them with something better than demanding that the NI block grant remains untouched for ‘peace dividends’ or other such nonsense.

    David Cameron’s plan of rebalancing the economy may be unpalatable for some and cause anxiety in certain quarters but the stark truth is that it is necessary for NI’s future, no matter where it lies.

  • John East Belfast

    Pickled Badger

    You didnt quite read through what I wrote.

    ie the UK has worked out the optmum tax take and associated financial bungs to the regions where a lower CT rate would be required but if they were then the overall UK tax take would fall.

    They could redraw the English border south of Birmingham of course and scrap the whole idea of a UK at all but I stll think they (and Cameron in particular) value Great Britain and what is left of Ireland being British – ie its isnt all about money.

    Thats not to say the regions should not play tio their strengths but there being winners and losers wherever you draw boundaries within the UK will arise.

    Infact if we ever adopted Greenflag’s repartition solution then I think you would find the ROI would take the lions share of the NI economic basket cases and North Eastern NI would be move up the UK league tables.

    In terms of taxes we should be altering those that do no impact the UK Exchequer – ie Indirect Taxes, fuel duites etc.

    NI should be made a cheap place to visit, shop and do business in. People arent going to dive over the Irish Sea to fill up their car so drammatically dropping fuel duties is a no brainer.

    Making NI’s VAT rate the lowest allowable under EU Legislation is another must for encouraging our tourism industry.

    ie have the regions play to their strengths and have the CT rate collect the UK maximum.

  • Reader

    Granni Trixie: ought we not to know if he intends to abandon one of the building blocks of the peace agreement:.
    of “no strategic or selfish interest”?

    Irrelevant. That remark was built into the GFA, which is what you have “in writing” – that agreement contained all the guarantees of equal treatment and neutrality that Alliance required to endorse the GFA and move forward. Any demand that the Conservative party should not actually *be* unionist is just ridiculous.

  • John East Belfast


    Indeed just as ridiculous as the Alliance Party trying to win the Westminstre seat in East Belfast and saying it doesnt have an opinion on the Union.

    East Belfast is a unionist seat and Alliance are cuckoos in the nest

  • Granni Trixie

    Reader: Ofcourse the Tories or anyone is entitied to be “unionist” (Nationalist, Republican – see my comments to JEB below)) but to me “no strategic or selfrish interests” were and are important. They are related to the agreement that NI will remain part of the union until the majority want a change and created the conditions for the GFA.
    Remember also that this was in the context of the Republic making some compromises – agreeing to do away with Articles 2 &3. It would be unfair to talk of these sacrifices as just something in writing,they have much more significance.

    John East Belfast: The attitude you express reminds me of one of the reasons why people like me join Alliance – our identities are more than 2 tribes language conveys and:
    1. EB “owned” by unionists:how ridiculously simplisitc

    2.There is every reason in the world to say that Naomi is the closest challenge to PB yet. In the last Assembly Election she was 52 FP votes behind PR and over 2000 behind Sir Reg. She is also a local women who has come through the ranks to be Lord Mayor and Depty Leader of her Party. Canvassing, I have evidence that people remember her for helping them resolve issues. Also, any fair person who heard her interviewed on Talkback on Friday and by Mark Davenport today could not fail to be impressed by an intelligent analsyis which would make her a first class rep in Westminhster.

    3. Alliance has no opinion on the Union? where do you get that from?
    Let me say yet again: Alliance is supported by people of all shades of opinion – unionists and nationalists and shades in between. Some say they have a NI identiy some fill in forms as having a “British-Irish” or “Irish-British” identity. We are comfortable with this diversity even though in practice it means you have to work at it to get consensus on issues and policies. I believe that, in effect, parking
    a position on the border issue is right for now. Inevitably if it becomes a more pressing issue we would discuss to come to a consensus. I can honestly say that at regular Alliance Council meetings, the issue simply does not arise. So we stick with the status quo,giving priority to working through our agenda for change in NI.
    Sounds sensisble to me.

  • Re-engaged

    NL disappointed today on Radio Ulster with Mark Davenport and really missed the point of the whole DC debate – not awful but missed out – anyhow just watched some Yes PM and have noticed a striking similarity in Nick Cleggs econominc policy to that of Jim Hacker!!!

  • John East Belfast


    No where did I say that East Belfast was “owned” by unionists.

    Secondly unionists and nationalists taike offence at being described as “tribes” as Alliance are regularly describing them as.

    Both unionism amd nationalism are equally competing political idealogies in 20th/ 21st Century UK – no different than Scottish or Welsh nationalism/Unionism or maybe even English nationalism.
    They are noble political standpoints and not in themsleves sectarian.

    As far as East Belfast is concerned the majority of the electorate is unionist.
    Both SF and SDLP have declared their objective of ending Northern Ireland’s position within the UK in their recent Westminster election manifestos.
    What is Alliance going to do about that – Absolutely Nothing.

    I think you should be honest with the NI electorate -especially in East Belfast – otherwise you are being dishonest.

    It is completely nonsensical to be in NI 21st Century politics and not have a policy on the UNION – Wise Up – it uis going to define the debate in the next 30 years.

    What is Alliance going to do at the first Border Poll debate ?

    Get Real – it defines politics where you live – and has done so for hundreds of years – it is you duty to take sides

  • Granni Trixie

    JEB:Let me clarify. As long as physical force is not invoked, there is indeed nothing wrong with defining oneself as a Nationalist,Unionist,Republican etc. But I would also argue that an effect of the Troubles has been to overemphasise this aspect of identity.
    I suppose I want to uphold the right of people like myself not to prioritise them. I find it interesting in itself that you genuinely seem to have a problem in understanding the position of a political party like Alliance.

  • slug

    I would argue that much that moved from state to private control – BA, BT, Water, Rail, Ferries, etc – was just as well run after privatisation and with fewer people doing low productivity work. There is scope for NI Assembly to privatise bus, rail, the ports, the water company. All these were sold in England and could be sold here, with the proceeds being used to invest in infrastructure. Meantime the figures for employment in the publci sector would be much lower.

  • It’s quite a shock to realise that cuts are coming in earnest, whoever is in power

    er, Earth to Walker?

  • dundonald voter

    Being slightly flippant here first but why is it that when a serious point is raised on Slugger Harry Jay disappears and does not present his DUP (and surely even they must be embarassed by them) monologues… (or is he of a similar elk to Moderate Unionist)

    re engaged i know we have had differences in the past but what you asked here is spot on. ive said for a while now that the dup really dont know what they are doing. they have become a reactionary party. they have policies like in 2007 to grow the private sector (though there private sector was sweeney frazer and campbell!!) then when the recession kicks in they want to make sure theres no cuts. they have no long term policies that will actually help the people of northern ireland but they still play on the fears of the people which got them into power in the first place.