Party leaders limber up for third UK debate: but they won’t mention spending cuts because there won’t be any

No they won’t in any detail because the notion that the UK, under whichever government, is about to go in for swingeing spending cuts is complete nonsense.

Only one government since the end of World War Two has actually cut public expenditure in real terms and that was Attlee’s Labour government after the end of the war; for the very simple reason that about three million servicemen (on the public payroll) came back to Civvy Street and were given a tenner and a new suit and told to make their own way in the world.

Public expenditure began to rise again when Winston Churchill won the election for the Tories in 1950. It has risen thereafter, even under Margaret Thatcher.

So, if history means anything, and we have to assume it does, the best that will happen under whichever government is that public expenditure will be reined in to try to reduce the deficit and the private sector will be encouraged to grow to try to balance the nation’s books.

But you wouldn’t get any such reality dose from listening to Robert Chote at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, whose gloomy prognostications unsettled markets yesterday, or Bank of England governor Mervyn King’s musings or even chancellor Alistair Darling’s promise of savage cuts, which he rather foolishly made before the Budget.

Four years of growth and a bit of inflation will do the trick.

BP and Shell both made over £5bn profit in the last quarter. At 28 per cent corporation tax that’s a lot of quite unexpected money into the Treasury’s coffers.

As Michael Winner might put it, to the party leaders and, indeed, the financial markets: “Calm down dears…”

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.