Magazine article Public Finance

Talking the Talk

Magazine article Public Finance

Talking the Talk

Article excerpt

As former Swedish prime minister Goran Persson told the annual CIPFA conference in Harrogate this week, it's easy to get elected; what's difficult is to get re-elected.

That's the dilemma facing the UK's coalition government. David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat partners are enjoying a post-election honeymoon, but what happens when the cuts start to bite?

Cameron doesn't want to be a one-term wonder, and needs to build a consensus behind the coalition's agenda of tough love.

So there's logic behind his idea to ask members of the public to come up with their own plans for slashing state provision. Labour tried this consultative approach too. with its 'Big Conversation', but that was back in the days of plenty.

The more obvious comparison is with Canada, which introduced public spending cuts of 20% in the 1990s based on advice from experts and the general public.

Britain's version has already been labelled a 'PR ploy' by ex-Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson, who had his own problems with boom and bust. But good public relations is a pretty important skill for a government that wants to be around for more than five years.

Former PR man Cameron understands the necessity of public buy-in, but he also knows there's a long way to go. …

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