Reflecting on the post-election period, Guido was trying to put his finger on what has really changed. The direction of travel has changed of course, we are reversing direction from a big government, top-down society to a smaller government, bigger society culture again.
Progress is incremental rather than revolutionary. A lot of the policies are in flux – does anyone know what shape defence strategy will take?
Gove, politically wounded, is pressing on with the big policy priority – reforming education. If the Tories are successful in education the middle classes will reward them with their votes in 2015.
IDS has the Herculean task of clearing out the Augean welfare stables and tackling the Hydra that is the poverty trap. Eric Pickles is wining plaudits for his surgical amputations on behalf of the taxpayer. Elsewhere the defunding of the left and quangos is progressing nicely. The now modernised unions can forget their taxpayer funded government subsidies in future, luvvies can kiss goodbye to millions being doled out to millionaire film producers, the whole network of tax funded lobbying for more taxation is being pulled apart in the sunlight. Tens of thousands of low paid and minimum wage earners no longer pay income tax.
Some policies seem to be travelling entirely in the wrong direction, hiking VAT when inflation is above target and consumer confidence is dropping seems questionable, it might be the VAT tax hike which tips the economy back into recession as consumer demand drops at the same time as public sector demand. The double-dip might be made in No. 11, it is not too late to shelve it if the economy looks too weak to take it.
The “massive cuts” we’re told are necessary don’t seem to be very massive when you look at them closely. In fact they will probably cut the public sector payroll down to the size it was in 2006, we’re not exactly in “rolling back the frontiers of the state” territory here. The runaway train of the government deficit is having the brakes applied, it hasn’t stopped, but it is slowing.
Maybe the best thing about the coalition is it is less boring than the Brown government. He seemed to drag on, with everyone wishing he’d just go. What do the co-conspirators think?