Magazine article The Spectator

No Exceptions

Magazine article The Spectator

No Exceptions

Article excerpt

'You're going to feel some pressure, ' say dentists as they prepare to inflict pain.

The more honest they are, the more tolerable the experience tends to be. So it is with political actions that have foresee-able adverse consequences: as much as voters dislike those consequences, they dislike being lied to even more.

David Cameron's interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr last weekend was another minor milestone on the road to Number 10. Faced with a redundant economic policy - the promise to 'share the proceeds' of non-existent economic growth - the Tory leader and George Osborne correctly deduced that new battle-lines could be drawn: honesty about the austerity measures that lie ahead versus Gordon Brown's dishonest talk of continued 'investment'. But astute analysis is one thing; following through its logic quite another.

It is very much to Mr Cameron's credit that he acknowledges both the gravity of the task confronting him as Prime Minister in waiting and - harder still - the extent to which we shall all pay a price. 'It's incredibly daunting, the scale of the challenge, ' he told Mr Marr, adding: 'I can't remember an opposition leader who in opposition has looked the British public in the eye and said: "You know, we are going to cut public spending." We have to do that. We have to be clear about that.'

The first phase of his leadership, the so-called 'decontamination' strategy, was an exercise in prettification, a wrapping of Toryism in cuddly language and images, a husky-hugging promise that all would be well. The second phase is proving to be of an altogether different character.

When they promise savings, all politicians, of whatever stripe, pledge to cut 'waste', bureaucracy and quangos. Such promises are always depressingly vague. But they are made with such wearying predictability for one simple reason: 'waste', bureaucracy and pointless committees stuffed with placemen have no defenders, no champions who can embarrass or intimidate a government. …

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