[David Laws] has criticised George Osborne’s post-election deficit reduction plans are a “suicide note” for the Tories…
He said the scale of proposed austerity was a “huge policy and strategic blunder”…
“It is easy to talk about balancing the books by cutting spending and not raising people’s taxes and of course that sounds popular,” Mr Laws told the Sunday Times.
“But when you look at what the consequences are for the armed forces, police and education you realise it is a very extreme, right-wing strategy that may appeal to marginal, Tory-Ukip swing voters but will not appeal to the majority of people who vote Conservative in my constituency … In order to deliver this scale of savings you are talking about having to find cuts in the unprotected budget of around a quarter in the next parliament,” Mr Laws said.
That would require welfare cuts on a scale that “would hugely increase the levels of poverty in the country”.
Despite his right-wing reputation in many circles, David Laws was one of the first senior Liberal Democrats to start pushing for the party to find extra money to spend on the NHS in the next Parliament, arguing that simply continuing ring-fencing of NHS spending was not sufficient. Moreover, the manifesto process that he has been chairing is pointing towards wanting to see public spending start to grow again in real terms once the deficit is cleared.
Hence the criticisms of the Tory plans to carry on cutting spending all through the next Parliament highlight a genuine policy difference between the parties for the post-2015 world: a Tory emphasis on a shrinking state with welfare cuts to fund further tax cuts whilst the Lib Dems look to modestly raise taxes and start putting extra money into public services again.