Yes, the talk is bold, but how much has public policy really altered since May?
Cutting the deficit? Ministers say so, but not the maths. Borrowing is up. Like pretty much every other post-war government, this one seems to be using higher taxes and inflation to solve its debt problems, rather than seriously curb state largesse.
Political reform? All those interesting ideas, mooted at the height of the expense scandal, including recall and open primaries, seem forgotten. Instead we’re to have a referendum on AV—which was in neither Coalition party’s manifesto.
Bonfire of the quangos? It’s gone out.
Localism? Maybe. But what about localising the money?
Great Repeal Bill? Try googling it.
Europe? This afternoon the government will announce we’re opting into yet another EU proposal on criminal justice. Plus ca change.
Welfare reform? Full marks. But is this a change of policy or an acceleration of the reforms Labour’s James Purnell piloted.
Defence? We carry on cutting what we need, while spending on ruinous contracts we can ill-afford.
New politics? Same sofa.
Indeed. What is, of course, most worrying is the Coalition's failure to get to grips with public spending. And I declare this a failure not primarily because the government is continuing to add to Britain's massive debt—although it is—but because the debt is apparently the raison d'etre for everything that the Coalition does.
For instance, do you think that the Coalition has not ripped up enough of NuLabour's draconian laws? Are you wondering where your Freedom Bill is? Or maybe you are concerned about the fact that, far from "repatriating powers from the EU", the ConDems seem to be conceding as many as possible (possibly to beat the deadline on their own referendum lock)?
Ah, well, you see, the Coalition would love to do all of these things but they simply don't have time: the public debt is a ticking bomb and if Nick and Dave don't spend the majority of their time trying to sort it, then we will all—quite literally—go "boom".
Of course, those of us who are interested in liberty thought that the colossal fuck-up that NuLabour made of the finances might be a blessing in disguise. After all, a cut in public spending means smaller government; and if things really are that bad, then the government is going to have to cut public spending, right?
As people like John Redwood MP have consistently pointed out, despite all this talk of "cuts" the government will be spending £92 billion per year more of our money by 2015.
And, as Redwood notes again, public spending (and borrowing) is up substantially (in November, the Coalition spent 10% more than Labour did in the previous November); he also summarises the Coalition's debt reduction strategy.
The figures remind us that the deficit reduction strategy relies on higher tax revenues, not on spending reductions overall. Whilst some individual areas have been cut in real terms and some even in cash terms, the overall trend of current spending growth this year has been one of strong growth in cash terms, with a real increase of around 3% depending on your choice of inflation index. Capital spending has been reduced, which takes a little of the pressure off the deficit. With the exception of October, the growth rate of spending has been accelerating over this financial year.
The main weapons to tackle the deficit will be the higher VAT rate, higher fuel duties, higher National Insurance, and the estimated increased taxes from growth and inflation. As the higher taxes come due, so the questions about value for money and the choices made over public spending will become more insistent from a public worried about the impact of the taxes on living standards.
And this is the absolute crux of the matter—the ConDems have absolutely no intention of reducing spending. Nor do they have any intention of reducing the size or scope of government. No, the Coalition's strategy is to avoid any meaningful cuts in public expenditure and, instead, to plug the gap in the public finances through tax rises.
It gets worse. For some time now, Cameron has been stressing that the Coalition wants to stimulate growth in the economy and that this will also help to bring down the deficit (and remember that the Coalition are only aiming to eliminate the yearly deficit: they have no strategy for reducing the actual debt itself).
In October, the massively-foreheaded wanker who now leads this country was banging on about a...
"forensic, relentless approach" to ensuring the UK's future economic growth."
We don't need forensics, Dave: we know what delivers growth—low taxes and less regulation.
Unfortunately, the Coalition are unable to undo large amounts of the regulation without leaving the EU—which they are not going to do—and, as we all know, they are increasing taxes like it's going out of fashion.
So, to summarise—the Coalition are doing very little about civil liberties, are spending more, raising taxes, and fucking economic growth.
What a triumph.
And I haven't even touched on the barking insanity of their energy policy yet...