“it all may prove as tough as anything Cameron has faced before”

Good piece from Danny Finklestein in the Times of London today, which gives you as good a view of what Cameron and Osborne have planned for the next two years:

In 2015 the Tories got their timing right. In 2012 George Osborne may have been booed at the Paralympics and criticised for his taxation of Cornish pasties. But in 2015 he was re-elected.

Informed by this experience, the Conservatives are deliberately making difficult decisions now. Yet the combination of this strategic choice with the general difficulties that incumbents face and the possibilities of accidental mishap is likely to make the next two years very difficult indeed.

In the coming months, many recipients of tax credits will be informed that large cuts are to come in the spring. This is likely to be deeply unpopular and might even cause serious political instability. The government could, possibly, have phased these cuts in. But doing so would mean that people were still experiencing losses in 2019.

At the same time, in order to reach surplus, there will be large cuts in a number of spending departments, including the police and local government. There will be ructions, leaks and protests as these are resisted from cabinet ministers down. Well before the next election these cuts will have been made. While they are being made things could be very bloody.

It makes the conversation in Northern Ireland on Spotlight last night seem oddly quaint and beside the point. Slugger’s understanding is that plan is blast the cash transfer culture for two years and then give some of the cash saved away to special cases for three.

Yet, it holds great dangers says Finklestein:

…the economy may slow a little, threatening the government’s central narrative that it has rescued the country. And also, of course, making people much less well disposed to it.
And on top of it all, there will be Europe. The period of negotiation, now about to start, is almost bound to undermine relationships between the prime minister and the right inside and outside parliament. The campaign itself will rock the party.
Taken together with other problems, such as the migrant crisis, and the normal unanticipated fiascos, it all may prove as tough as anything Cameron has faced before.


  • kensei

    The economy may slow more than a little if there are serious shocks elsewhere. Recent US job numbers remain disappointing, China is slowing and Europe could still blow up at any minute. Whether or not we’ll get through the next five years without even a moderate recession regardless of what the UK government does remains to be seen. Luck matters more than most are prepared to admit. if Reagan or Thatchers recessions of the early 80s had lasted maybe 6 month more or happened a little later, it’s likely we’d live in a different world. If the financial crisis had hit in 2010 rather than 2008 Labour might still be in power.

  • Ernekid

    Agreed. Economic crisis’s tend to be cyclical with one occurring at least once a decade within the UK economy. We are due one before the end of the 2010s and we still haven’t properly recovered from 2008 crash. The G7 economies are slowing down, and any growth the UK has experienced is illusory thanks to the housing price bubble which is totally unsustainable. When the UK economy goes tits up under the Tories watch. People won’t be celebrating their handling of the economy.

  • Korhomme

    The theory seems to be that the pain, unpleasantness and unpopular actions (like increasing MPs’ salaries) must come early in a parliament, so that when the election is due the people will have forgotten. Do we all really have such short memory spans?

  • Pasty2012

    And the only people Demanding that the money be taken off the people in the North are the Unionist politicians who’s families are well paid from their expenses. The DUP and UUP keep making all sorts of claims that the £100million being lost each year due to not introducing the Welfare Reforms will pay for everything, which added up would need a few £Billion more than the £100 million in fines.
    The total amount of money that people will lose will run well over £1Billion a year and the knock on affect will be people’s health being affected and a greater burden on the NHS and child and care services. Shops will close, jobs will go and rates will be lost while DUP and UUP well off families are ok Jack.
    The UUP and latterly the DUP have made claims that “those Nationalists know were they are better off” when it comes to the National Question. However with the British reducing the support to third World poverty levels for the North the Castle Catholics may not be relied upon to prop up the Union. All things going the way they are it is looking better, certainly no worse to be part of an All Ireland than to remain with Britain.
    Maybe this is part of the Tory’s plan to ditch the Unionists and free themselves of the costly North.

  • Reader

    Patsy2012: And the only people Demanding that the money be taken off the people in the North are the Unionist politicians…
    That doesn’t even make sense – not unless someone has found a new source of money and the unionists are refusing to accept it.
    If the money isn’t coming in, the politicians can’t spend it. All they can do is decide whether to spend any money that is available on the NHS or on guaranteed lifetime DLA for anyone who receives it right now. That’s where the DUP and SF differ.

  • Reader

    Remember “Omnishambles”? Oxford English Dictionary word of the year 2012 after Ed Milliband picked it up from a TV programme and used it on Osborne.
    And now, 2015, who did the electorate prefer to trust with the economy?
    Yes – the population’s memory span is that bad.

  • Zig70

    Never mind the fact that piggate is now history.

  • barnshee

    Why don`t you raise more tax locally?

  • Zeno

    Did you ever consider that you might have a completely one sided view of the whole thing?
    By the way they are so keen to ditch the North they won’t even allow a referendum. How keen is that?

  • Zeno

    Well thank god they didn’t abolish boom and bust.

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps ….but it will be in better shape than it would have been under Labour and that overhang of debt will take years to overcome

  • chrisjones2

    No…the population judged that Milliband was useless and not fit for Government

  • Mike the First

    “Economic crisis’s tend to be cyclical with one occurring at least once a decade within the UK economy”

    The recession previous to the crisis of 2008 onwards was 1992-93, surely?

    Blair was in power for 10 years and didn’t face a recession (indeed the economy by 1997 had recovered very strongly when he came to power).

  • Sergiogiorgio

    And the population was right!

  • Sergiogiorgio

    There’s a huge amount of its, buts and maybes in Finkelstein’s piece. Of course you cannot legislate for circumstance, so the Tories can only work with what they know / what’s in front of them. I don’t think they need worry about the next election as Labour have just chosen to make themselves unelectable. Who would have thought Labour could choose someone less prime ministerial than Ed Miliband (remember him). Give the Tories their due, they aren’t afraid of making difficult, unpopular decisions and they are right to try and address the burgeoning welfare bill. The huge issue is Europe and again the Tories are facing it, rather than taking the usual “bury your head in the sand” approach favoured by the other parties. “May you live in interesting times”, as the English proverb goes, translated from the Chinese curse, so let’s see.

  • terence patrick hewett

    As far as Cameron’s problem with the EU is concerned an interesting analysis by Andrew Duff, honorary president of the Union of European Federalists, sets out the issues in his article:

    Brexit: David Cameron’s renegotiation strategy ‘conflicting’ and ‘mystifying’


    Mr Duff really does not understand what is going on. Nor do I. Nor it seems does anybody else!

    As far as I can see he, Cameron, can only have 3 strategies

    The Undergraduate strategy

    He has calculated that there are enough Tory loyalists+gullible
    voters+the timid he can frighten and bully, to give him a narrow “In” victory

    A short-term solution which will solve nothing but get him off the hook: PR gaming, fudge and a piece of all-round b*llsh*t. This could go disastrously wrong, since the demos are and have been in a very ugly mood since the expenses scandal.

    The Professor Moriarty strategy

    Present the EU with an impossible set of demands and when they refuse, swap sides, wrap yourself in the flag, and campaign for the “out” camp. Shoots the UKIP political fox by giving them what they want. Confrontation with the SNP is neutralised by giving the SNP what they want and declaring a constitutional conference with the object of creating an Anglo-Celtic Federation of independent nations trading with the world with the Rep. of Ireland as an observer. Plenty of circles to square there and needs the application of extreme cynicism, duplicity, betrayal, courage, leadership and imagination.

    The likely Cameron strategy

    Make it all up on the hoof and hope it goes all-right on the night.

  • Greenflag 2

    37% of the electorate trusted the Tories which was on this occasion enough to win a working majority. Given a turnout of 66% that Tory vote was 25% of the total electorate . 75% did’nt vote or voted Labour or LIberal or UKIP. Can Jeremy Corbyn win a majority with 25% of the vote ? Why not . Cameron was lucky . The Liberal Democrats took the fall .

  • Greenflag 2

    Stormont has no tax raising powers and its just as well .

  • Reader

    Duff’s article seems nonsensical and confused – especially “Cameron cannot expect the ‘pro-European’ opposition forces of Labour,
    the Liberal Democrats, SNP or Greens to weigh in cosily behind a
    partisan Tory renegotiation.”. Never mind cosy – on the day of the referendum there will be one question – In or Out.
    And you have left out one of Cameron’s options – the delegation strategy: let Duff and friends do all the work. Let’s hope Duff can get his act together.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Well yes I agree, but it is notable that so many of the best laid plans end up as number 3. Whichever way Cameron faces: there be dragons.

    But one thing I am sure of: Cameron has no intention of ending up on the losing side. So expect smoke, mirrors, b*llsh*t and Perfidious Albion until he senses which way the flatulence is blowing and then he will jump.

    I personally am looking forward to an orgy of Gillray, Cruikshank and Rowlandson grotesques of Hogarthian proportions.