Home Political science A Century of Fiscal Squeeze Politics : 100 Years of Austerity, Politics, and Bureaucracy in Britain
As we noted at the outset, any discussion of consequences of this squeeze episode must be provisional, because it is so recent and not clearly finished at the time of writing. But, as with the previous seven chapters, we conclude with observations about how three issues in fiscal squeeze politics that were highlighted in Chapter One played out in this episode at least to date.
Tax and Spending, Depth and Duration, Blame and Control
In this episode, questions of what the balance should be between tax increases and spending reductions figured large in party political debate around the 2010 election, and so did the question of whether to follow a 'surgery without anaesthetics' or 'boiling frogs' approach to fiscal squeeze. While the George Osborne 'surgery without anaesthetics' approach won the battle in 2010, the outcome in deficit reduction five years later looked much more like the longer- drawn-out Labour timetable ostensibly rejected by the Conservatives. But as we have also seen, the deviation from plan seems to have come more on the revenue side than the spending side.
As for blame politics, this episode involved a combination of a government heavily blaming its predecessor for making fiscal squeeze necessary (failing to 'fix the roof while the sun was shining', in a catchphrase much used by George Osborne), and a coalition of parties formally sharing the blame for fiscal squeeze (while sending signals to voters implying that the other party was behind tax or spending measures unpopular with their own core voters). The Liberal Democrats' manifesto proposal for handling blame for fiscal squeeze through an all-party Council on Financial Stability was abandoned, but the outsourcing of blame for economic forecasting errors by creating an independent public body for forecasting was added to the previous Labour
Government's step of delegating monetary policy to a committee of 'econo- crats'. And, as we have also seen, blame politics in this case involved some notable 'heresthetic' moves too, notably over welfare cuts designed to prevent claimants from receiving more in welfare benefits than those in work on (roughly) median incomes—pitting so-called 'strivers' against 'shirkers' and challenging Labour to oppose such changes.
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