Spending cuts: Cameron calls but is any one listening?

Posted on: 11 October 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

Child Benefit is to be scrapped for high earners. David Cameron set out his stall with a sweetener to low-income working families, but is this merely a precursor to more painful far reaching cuts to come?

David Cameron’s end of conference speech was far more restrained than I expected.  The speech was good for sound bites and the morning papers, but more than likely will offer little real benefit to us.

As we’ve seen through history, the great British public will respond if threatened and in time of national emergency. Otherwise it is pretty passive. Cameron’s clarion call was an attempt to rally the nation, to wake us to a ‘genuine threat’ that will have wide-ranging and profound effects on our way of life. We are up to our nostrils in debt and, unless it’s sorted, we will we be hit in the pocket for the next decade or more.

The problem is that many of us are not suffering yet. The people who lost their livelihoods when the economy dipped have no real voice to protest. Those in work see stable prices for staples and lower prices for luxuries. The retailers remain silent through fear of damaging consumer confidence. Home buyers – generally young first time buyers - accept scarcity of mortgages as the norm. They never experienced the halcyon days of ‘cash for anyone or anything’.

All in all, it appears all is quiet on the Western Front. Even the announcement that Child Benefit is to be scrapped for those earning more than £40,000 a year received 83 per cent acceptance from the public.

The Prime Minister must have been both relieved and disappointed. Here he was mustering his own ‘fight them on the beaches’ rallying cry, and no one stirred. This must have upset his speech writers. At the same time he hit his own middle class, middle aged family voters in the wallet and got away with it.

The telling time for the coalition and Cameron and Clegg will be the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review in two weeks time. Then we will see the true depth of support he enjoys from the nation. If the cuts seem genuinely unfair, the response he will draw from the media, the unions and the public is one he will not enjoy.

It takes a brave and resolute man to be PM in times of need. Cameron seems to be the right man at the right time, so long as he doesn’t lose his bottle. The rest of the world thinks he is steering the right course. Sterling now stands at $1.59 to the pound - a four cent gain over the past month.

When I was a little boy

I was about three years old and was sitting on the scrubbed pine topped table in our scullery watching my mother mangle the washing. Sitting there pondering the ways of the world is asked her, ‘Mum, if you could put all the stars in the sky in a jam jar, where would the jam jar be?’ Her response to the profundity of the question was ‘Don’t ask silly questions and stop kicking the table.’

Now, had her answer been more encouraging I might well have had a different life, maybe as a physicist or astronomer. I might even have kicked Stephen Hawking out of his wheelchair.

One can only muse on what might have been. I sat the other evening watching Hawking’s new TV series on understanding the nature of the universe and after two hours I still didn’t have the answer to my 62 year-old question. Maybe Mum was right: I must stop kicking the table!

If anyone has the answer, please share it. I really don’t want to wait until the moment of death to find out.

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