Saturday, October 23, 2010

What the Papers Say

The Independent, one of the newspapers usually closer to Labour, asked today "Where is the Labour alternative?"

The article will not have made good reading for Red Ed or Alan Johnson. It begins

"On Wednesday, George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review laid out the most drastic fiscal consolidation since the Second World War. It was, therefore, a golden opportunity for the Opposition to propose an alternative approach to Britain's economic predicament. But Labour's response fell flat."

The Independent leader article continued that "the party's new leader, Ed Miliband, said he would not oppose every cut announced by the Coalition. He was right to do so. The price of economic credibility is support for policies that, though unpopular, are necessary for the country's long-term economic health. Labour would have had to cut public spending too if the party had won May's election."

They concluded that Labour appeared to have delegated the job of opposing the government to the Institute for Fiscal Studies."

The Economist's front page headline said simply "Ouch!" They argued that "George Osborne’s austerity programme is justified, but the government should be bolder in redesigning the British state."

The Economist's detailed argument is that

"On balance, Mr Osborne is still right that the economic risks of not decisively tackling the deficit outweigh the risk of doing so."

and

"Many of the government’s specific decisions are sensible too."

Their main criticism is that the government has honoured the election promise to protect the NHS budget in money and real terms.

I don't agree with that criticism. We have an aging population in which the demand for Health services is rising steeply and it was not an unreasonable decision to make the NHS the top priority.

And even if it had not been the right decision on its merits, I don't think the Conservatives could have been elected without the promise to protect the NHS budget or would be forgiven by the voters if we broke that promise.

The comments on the spending review of The Economist and the press in general could be summarised in the words the magazine used of the defence review: that the coalition government has made a "reasonable fist" of a rotten situation.

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