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For years, the Tories said austerity was over. But look around: it’s getting worse, and there’s more to come | John Harris

For years, the Tories said austerity was over. But look around: it’s getting worse, and there’s more to come | John Harris

For years, the Tories said austerity was over. But look around: it’s getting worse, and there’s more to come | John Harris
Mar 03, 2024 1 min, 21 secs

Nonetheless, cuts and their human consequences will surely hover over the proceedings, in terms of the political present, the UK’s immediate future, and a set of dashed Conservative promises that go back into the recent(ish) past.

He is sticking to the fiscal rules centred on national debt falling as a percentage of GDP by the fifth year of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s latest forecast, which the Labour party also insists it will obey.

Because of – among other things – anaemic economic growth, just about all credible projections show that, unless something fundamental changes over the next five years, we face dwindling public investment andannual real-terms cuts of about £20bn to “unprotected” government departments.

These are the ones that see to the police (so much, it seems, for the prime minister’s bloviating about “a new robust framework” for keeping the public safe from extremists), prisons, transport, further education, jobcentres and, most obviously, funding for the local councils that deliver so many basic services.

Others insist that cuts on this scale would be politically impossible, and speculate about a drop in the cost of borrowing opening the way to increased public spending, or some other tax change that Reeves will keep secret until after the election doing the same.

After all those promises that austerity was over being followed by more of the same, maybe this is where the elusive “British way of life” is now to be found: in the shared experience of constantly living in pinched circumstances, which often gives rise to a stoicism – “mustn’t grumble”, and all that – that the people responsible really do not deserve.

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