I’m waiting for a few people who know more about economics than I do, and whose views I trust, to post analyses of the Comprehensive Spending Review today. On many fronts, it’s a damn sight better than I (and most people) had worried – cuts to science funding are minor – and some things that have come out of it are actually good. A Universal Credit benefit system is a huge improvement, and not replacing Trident this Parliament is a *huge* victory for the Liberal Democrats. As George Osborne pointed out, there is actually *less* being cut than Labour had said they would cut pre-election.
Of the charities I follow on Twitter, Scope and Shelter hated it, the mental health charities seemed cautiously optimistic, and Oxfam were positively enthusiastic.
However, there are several things that have come up which are, to me, absolutely abhorrent:
The removal of full housing benefit from those between the ages of 25 and 35. This is just *wrong*.
Removing benefits from non-single people
who are too ill to work EDIT who are disabled and out of work but deemed ‘able to work take on work related activity’, but whose partner works, after a year of claiming benefit. This will destroy relationships, make sick people reliant on their partners, and push people into poverty who weren’t before.
The removal of mobility allowances for those in residential care.
And, hidden in the small print in the defence review yesterday, and possibly worst of all, every email, phone call and web visit in the UK is to be monitored by the government. Despite the coalition agreement saying this will not happen.
These things can be fought, and will be fought. But depending on how our (non-ministerial) MPs vote they will make the difference between me supporting the coalition with huge reservations and wanting us to pull out as soon as possible. I certainly won’t campaign for anyone who votes for these changes without at least trying to get them amended.
What absolutely *DISGUSTS* me is that Clegg is still following his ‘own the coalition’ line, claiming this Spending Review to be liberal and fair. The changes above are not ones that I – nor, I believe, any Lib Dem voter – voted for. I am becoming more and more convinced that Clegg – who I never voted for as leader, but who I thought did an amazing job at the election and immediately afterward – is everything his detractors claim.
Most of the cuts fall into the ‘harsh but fair’ category, and I could gladly support the cuts to Elizabeth Windsor’s household budget, or the cuts in ‘defence’ spending. And in general, a cut down to 2006 levels of spending as a percentage of GDP (or 2002 levels of staffing in the public sector, depending on how you want to look at it) is not an intrinsically bad thing – certainly not the ‘greatest attack on social democracy this century’ as someone (I thought Laurie Penny, but I can’t see it on either her personal or her New Statesman blogs, so it may have been someone else) said yesterday before the cuts had even been announced.
We also mustn’t let ourselves be fooled into thinking things are worse than they are – a couple of ‘cuts’ people seem most annoyed about are to a commitment to cut cancer waiting list times, and to provide free prescriptions for certain long-term conditions. Both those things were promises made in the dying days of the last government, that have never actually come into practise. Nothing’s been cut there because nothing’s being spent, the government are just not going to do something that Labour (who, remember, wanted to cut *MORE* than this review will) said they would have done had they stayed in power.
But those listed above are – unless I am mistaken about their impact and their consequences – disgusting, immoral, and something I cannot and will not support. I will be remaining a member of the Liberal Democrats – these changes are *NOT* Lib Dem policy, they are ‘coalition’ policy, and I’m not a member of the ‘coalition party’ – but examining *very closely* the voting records of any MPs before I decide which areas to campaign in next election. I don’t have a Lib Dem MP myself, but I wil be contacting Lib Dem MPs in local constituencies and letting them know of my views here.
The cuts I’ve listed are things we would expect from the Tories, and we might not be able to stop them, but the least we can do is not pretend they’re somehow fair or right. If my analysis of this is right (and I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t if I turn out to be overreacting), then Clegg has disgraced himself by supporting these moves.