Someone once called a Labour election manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history”. Unsurprisingly, the Labour Party lost that particular election.
I daresay that particular suicide note makes the Coalition’s October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) look more like a book in comparison. The Coalition’s proposed public spending cuts and reforms will adversely affect all sections of our society. There will be hundreds of thousands of job losses and at the moment, there are grave concerns that the private sector will not expand fast enough to create new and more jobs. History shows that it is possible but unlikely.
Many people, myself included, predicted that the Coalition’s “popularity” would wane once they announced the CSR. But the next election is in May 2015 and I see no reason why the Conservatives or LibDems would want to break the Coalition since the only winner from such a move would be Labour.
There is no point in me arguing whether the individual components of the proposed public spending cuts are “progressive” or “regressive” in relation to each individual because people will be worse off in many different ways financially. It is safe to say almost everyone, in his or her heart, is against the cuts because that is human nature: NIMBY-ism. People are rightly very worried about the future for themselves and their children. Some resign themselves to lowering living standards, some offer alternative strategies, some look for new opportunities in the job market, some make personal attacks, some riot and others scream and shout. We all react differently but to say the Coalition has set out with the aim of “screwing” the poor and needy is frankly wide of the mark.
The banks have rightly come under attack, it is right to regulate and tax banks more heavily but a careful balance has to be struck. Higher taxes depress bank profits which will impact upon the many UK institutions and pension funds which invest in our banks, and bank employees will pay less taxes on lower salaries/bonuses. Taxing the banks (and big corporations) punitively and restricting tax avoidance schemes may ultimately harm the economy and deter external investments, especially because the UK economy is so heavily reliant upon the service industry. And while this is not an excuse for the banks, let’s not forget the financial services industry in the City accounted for a whopping 14% of the government annual tax take  and employed over 1 million people before the financial crisis.
Tax evasion is another issue the Coalition has to address, unidentified and uncollected taxes helps no one.
The purpose of this post is not about the rights and wrongs of the proposed cuts, millions of words have been written about them and people with numerous letters behind their names have written reams about what they think might happen to the economy. To be honest, NO ONE knows whether the cuts would work. The health of the economy depends on many things, many of which are not under the Coalition’s control. I am not going to argue about how UK Plc got to where it is today or what problems were inherited from the last government. We are here now.
So what is my point? Well, the Coalition could just sit back and enjoy the trappings of power, spend a little time tinkering with the edges of reform without rocking the boat too much. Yes, by all means make spending cuts but do no more than what the previous government had proposed, and if the polls don’t look good, pull back on the throttle, keep as many people happy as possible and may be they would vote for you again. That would have been the easy way for the Coalition and its members. But is it the best way for the country? I submit not.
Instead the Coalition has decided to have a hard time for 5 years, to deal with relentless criticisms and attacks from the public sector, the unions, the media, benefit claimants, single parents, students, working people, the travelling public, legal aid lawyers, banks and the Labour Party, the list goes on…. That is an awful lot of enemies to make in one fell swoop. Even Margaret Thatcher in her hey day did not take on so many vested interests. It also has to watch its popularity plummet and its members (particularly LibDem ones) endure media & other attacks daily.
The Coalition is doing what it genuinely thinks is best for the country as a whole. It is aware that if the spending cuts plans don’t work, both constituent parties could be out of power for a generation, just as the Governor of the Bank of England predicted before the May election. This CSR has the potential of being the longest ever political suicide note and the Coalition knows it.
Many of the reforms will not take effect for a few years and a week in politics is a long time. There will be appropriate fiscal and monetary adjustments along the way as world economic circumstances change, nothing is, or can be set in stone. The only constant in life is change.
The British are famous for their sense of “Fair Play”, give the Coalition time, the last government had 13 years, the Coalition only had 6 months to date. You may strenuously oppose the proposed spending cuts or the Coalition’s policies, you may passionately disagree with its goals and ideologies, but the Coalition is in power now and it deserves a little more time and patience. Make your points, join protests, write to your MPs, it does work.
If the country is in no better or worse shape in 2015, those in the Coalition will pay the ultimate price and be cast off into the political wilderness for a generation.
So let’s not talk the country or its prospects down at every opportunity. Let’s not create a self-fulfilling prophecy of utter doom and abject misery. Let’s not oppose for the sake of it, unless you simply want the Coalition to fail for political reasons regardless of what happens to the country. Let us hope, and pray for all our sakes that the 1983 Labour Manifesto does not get knocked off its perch as “the longest suicide note in history”.
 Gerald Kaufman describing Michael Foot’s 1983 Labour Election Manifesto
 CIPD – Does Britain Face a Prolonged Job Deficit – July 2010 (http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/604232F1-B858-46F7-9B43-A90C83CB4498/0/5298_Work_Audit.pdf)
 See Institute of Fiscal Studies’ Report into CSR October 2010
 PriceWaterhouse Cooper 2009 report on City of London – (http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/media_centre/files2009/FS_tax.htm)
 IMF Report and Nobel Prize winning economists et al
 National Union of Students call for campaign to recall LibDem MPs for U-turn on university fees
 PM’s personal photographer going back onto Tory party payroll after public criticism