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David Cameron’s moral mission on public spending

4 March 2014

David Cameron’s speech on the economy today is designed to hit Labour on its weak spot again: reminding voters that while this government is trying (with varying levels of success) to cut public spending and hack back the legacy of debt for our children, Labour wants to borrow more. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls will say they won’t borrow a penny more on day-to-day spending, a linguistic sleight of hand which leaves them with plenty of leeway to borrow tons more for capital spending. But still they try to criticise the Conservatives each time official figures appear showing government borrowing levels.

The Prime Minister wants to remind voters that no matter how critical Labour is of this government’s borrowing, Miliband and Balls want to borrow even more. He will say:

‘If we don’t get to grips with the deficit now we are passing a greater and greater burden of debt to our children. We are saying that more and more of their hard-earned future income should be wasted on paying off the bill we leave them. Do we really want to be the ones who responded to a crisis by putting off tomorrow what we had to do today? Can we really teach our children the importance of being responsible and at the same time shirk the most fundamental responsibility of all?

‘Some of our opponents seem to think we can. They think we can carry on spending and borrowing more and more, whatever the consequences for our children. But I say no: racking up more and more debts for our children is irresponsible. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And I’m not prepared to do it.’

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This is a continuation of that ‘moral mission’ theme that the Prime Minister has set out alongside Iain Duncan Smith on welfare. Cameron will argue that ‘it’s wrong for government to take a single penny more of your money than we absolutely need. There’s a bit of an attitude problem here that really makes me angry’.

This is all very fine and noble. But it is rather muddied by the actions of the government itself, which has decided (because of the Lib Dems, not the Tories) to splash out £600 million on free school meals for infant school children, including those with wealthy parents who are perfectly able to spend their own money on their child’s meal. And while Cameron says he wants to cut public spending for tax cuts and argues that the Conservatives think it is immoral to tax people more than they need, so much of the tax debate is about who is tougher: when Miliband raises the 50p rate at PMQs, the Prime Minister responds by saying that the top rate of tax is higher than in any year under Labour (which only introduced the 50p rate in the last few weeks of its tenure). Perhaps this just shows how difficult it is to talk about a smaller state when you have voters to please.

That said, the extracts released so far do show the Prime Minister making a lively case for a smaller state that makes it difficult for his opponents to argue that this is some secret evil Tory plan to line the pockets of fat cat donors. He will say:

‘Because every bit of government waste we can cut, every efficiency we can achieve is money we can give back to you. A bit of extra cash that can help a Dad afford those trainers for his son or help a Mum celebrate her daughter’s birthday with a meal out. Having more money in our pockets is what gives everyone that sense of financial security and peace of mind. It’s what enables us to provide for our families and feel more confident about the future.’

That word ‘security’ is there again: the Tories think it encourages voters to panic about the risks of voting Labour. And as well as setting out a moral mission for government spending, regardless of how easy that mission is to accomplish, that’s what this speech is about: spooking voters about the insecurity of electing a Labour government in 2015.

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  • Monkey_Bach

    And the man in charge of the moral crusade as far a social security spending is concerned is Iain Duncan Smith, who:

    * exaggerated benefit fraud figures, before having to make a semi-apology for misleading the public.

    * lied about the increase in DLA claimant numbers, claiming that they had increased by 30% over 8 years when the true figure was 13%..

    * lied about there being widespread support for the abolition of DLA from disabled people groups and charities. A subsequent FOI request showed overwhelming and almost total opposition from the 523 organisational responses to the consultation.

    * brought in arbitrary and savage DLA cuts that will lead to many thousands of disabled people being forced to give up work, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of genuine claimants who will lose vital support.

    * lied about people being able to claim DLA simply by filling in a form.

    * brought in probably the most immoral and evil policy in my lifetime…the time-limiting for contribution based ESA WRAG which will lead to 280,000 people who are officially unfit for work being stripped of 100% of the ESA that they have contributed to, often over many years. Even Grayling admitted that people in the WRAG were “sicker and further from the workplace than we expected. So it will take far more time than we predicted for them to be ready to make a return to work. ”

    * whose answer to the spiralling number of successful ESA appeals is to make it impossible for many to appeal the huge number of incorrect decisions, even though legal aid for welfare appeals has been shown to save money in the long run.

    * lied about IB claimants being left to languish on benefits when claimants were re-checked regularly.

    * lied about Housing Benefit figures, claiming the figures he was using were from the ONS when they were actually from a Daily Mail owned property website.

    * misrepresented Housing Benefit claimants by going on about claimants receiving £100,000pa when such claimants are literally one in a million, while the average claim is less than £90pw.

    * ignorantly insulted Remploy workers before booting them out of a job.

    * lied about the increases in the welfare bill, when the evidence shows that the real terms average annual increase between 2001/2 and 2010/11 was the lowest in any decade since the creation of the welfare state.

    * lied about benefit claimants receiving twice the increase in money that workers had received when the truth is that the average wage increased by over 4 times as much as JSA over the last 5 years.

    * grossly exaggerated the number of new jobs being created.

    * made totally unsubstantiated claims that the benefits cap was already getting people back to work and that 4 out of 5 people who are looking for full time jobs are finding them.

    * lied about there being many families where 3 generations have never worked when the truth is that the figure for even 2 generations of such families is 0.09%.

    * made a big song and dance about the numbers claiming out of work benefits that his lot had inherited from Labour, while conveniently forgetting that this figure was 500,000+ fewer than Labour had inherited from the previous Tory government.

    * whose department were found to have “serious deficiencies” in their statistical arrangements by the UK Statistics Authority and of breaching the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    * is presiding over what is widely expected to be the disaster that is Universal Credit.

    * claimed that EU proposals re so-called benefit tourism could cost the UK £2bn, but eventually was forced to admit that the correct figure was 92% lower than his original claim.

    * On tax credits he claimed that tax credit spending rose by 58% before the 2005 election…the actual figure was 8%.

    * He claimed that tax credit spending rose by 20% in the 2 years before the 2010 election….the actual figure was 8.8%.

    * His figures for how much Labour spent on tax credits were grossly exaggerated as he included the amount spent in 2010/11.

    * He claimed that over £10bn of tax credits was lost to fraud and error but conveniently forgot to mention that just £1.27bn (or 0.7%) was actually down to fraud.

    * He claimed that fraudsters from around the globe targeted tax credits for personal gain, but HMRC confirmed that they do not record claimants’ nationalities.

    * is responsible for disproportionately targeting disabled people re the so-called “bedroom tax”.

    * threw a hissy fit because all 3 Appeal judges had embarrassed him and highlighted his department’s incompetence.

    And that isn’t but the smallest part of IDS’ distorted morality.

    What a laugh!

    (Although everything listed here is TRUE this comment WILL be deleted shortly.)

  • Gemima Clairmont

    I’m running a poll. Should Cameron’s government be protecting the bankers against EU legislation? I’d be glad if you’d take the time to vote:

    Please spread the word about this via Twitter, FB and in the real world. I’d really like to generate some interest and see what people really think about this. Thanks a lot!

  • Magnolia

    Isabel, the ‘wealthy parents’ have lost their child benefit so the free school meals are a substitute token gesture to make up for that and they will also help those who qualified for them in the past to feel no different to the children who are just below the preppies in family wealth terms.
    Mr Cameron is on a sticky wicket if he tries to say he is a tax cutter and making the state smaller because his Chancellor has presided over so many stealthy tax rises on the middle income groups that I shudder to think what this will do in electoral terms.
    Those middle aged men chose to tax instead of cut from the very beginning because they weren’t ‘nasty tories’.
    They remind me of old fashioned Labour.

  • Alex_Cheshire

    Is Dodgy Dave preparing the way for another round of cuts which hit the poorest in our society hardest?

    • Tim

      hope so !

  • GraveDave

    Free school meal for infants and free unlimited family allowance, while driving people (usually the most innocent and vulnerable) onto the streets and into food banks, through the ridiculous unworkable, benefits bill reform, which has so far not saved a bean of any use. And has in fact reaffirmed the Tories as The Toxic Party.
    A label they keep claiming they’re working to get away from.

  • ohforheavensake

    Borrowing money for capital spending is economically very, very sensible (it can also be claimed as investment in assets- which offsets the debt incurred).

    Makes far more sense than pumping money into the housing market: & it’s less exconomically harmful.

    • Tim

      nonsense. Who are you borrowing from? Our children (theft), taxes (theft), overseas? Banks? Why not print the money. Oh wait a minute. We’ve tried that too. How did that work out.

      Government should just back off, sort our their debts and let the citizens worry about spending (or saving) money…

  • Frank

    Takes some nerve for this government to talk about a “moral” mission.

  • dmitri the impostor

    Demosthenes Dave: maker of speeches.

  • Mr Creosote

    You could halve the size of the state, and on a functional level, nobody would notice the difference.
    Unfortunately, this could never happen in reality because you would immediately be hit by an avalanche of union-backed cases for constructive dismissal and “bullying in the workplace”, except where those involved had taken 3 months off suffering from “stress”.

    • Colonel Mustard

      And by the Labour-infested NGO’s and Third Sector which relies on a huge wodge of public cash for the lucrative salaries to be ‘earned’ telling us what to do and not to do in unelected, unaccountable ways.

  • Alexsandr

    waffle from dave like this would have meaning if the government had really tried to cut spending since 2010.

  • Noa

    If we can read this meaningless drone in a press release why would we waste time watching a puppet move it’s lips in time to the spin doctor’s rhythm?
    Politicians blithely assume that because their strings can be pulled to order, they can do so in turn to an increasingly disaffected electorate.

  • LadyDingDong

    I don’t want government to give money back to me – the idea that it is their money to disperse at will is what got us into this mess – I want government to take much less of my money in the first place and stop giving it to people who contribute nothing to this society.

    • Colonel Mustard

      There is a good article by Robin Harris in this month’s Standpoint magazine about the Cameroon ‘lurch to the left’ and capitulation to the socialist narrative in order to garner the so-called ‘moderate’ votes. Strategic folly according to Mr Harris.

      All the politicians of the main parties now think they are there to ‘manage’ us for our own good rather than provide and run the infrastructure then keep out of the way. Cameron in particular confuses the role of Prime Minister with that of family patriarch and appears to presume the public are like his pre-school children.

      • AnotherDave

        I think Mr Harris is bang on the money. The Cameroons haven’t just failed to make the case for small government, they’ve actively demonised the financial services industry. Which presents voters with a choice between Cameroon-Labour, and the Labour Party.

        • Frank

          If they had shot a few bankers, there would have been no need to demonise the banking industry. Think about it, shoot a few MPs for fiddling expenses and suddenly we might all have a degree of trust in the remaining MPs!!
          What we need is clarity. Allowing Gordon Brown and Ed Balls to remain out of jail simply confuses everyone about what minimum standards of competency should be expected of public servants.

          • AnotherDave

            There’s a lot to be said for reviving the tradition of publicly executing unpopular civil servants. :-)

  • AnotherDave

    “…rather muddied by the actions of the government itself”

    Absolutely. Increasing borrowing to fund an expansion of the foreign aid budget. Raising taxes rather than cutting government spending.

    There is no difference between a Cameroon government, and a Labour government.

    • Andy

      If you abolish the Foreign Aid Budget you can get the deficit by 10%. I don’t see the logic in borrowing money merely to give it away.

  • southerner

    Nobody’s listening anymore Dave.

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