Last September George Osborne pledged to match Labour’s spending plans for the three years until 2010/11. The party almost certainly will not repeat the pledge. At most there’ll be a pledge to match spending for one extra year if the election is called in 2010. ConservativeHome has campaigned against the renewal of the pledge and the overwhelming majority of Tory members oppose it.
The decision has been taken for a number of reasons:
- The deterioration of the economy and the public finances;
- A need to create room for economy-boosting tax relief (David Cameron hints at the changed attitude to tax in The Sunday Telegraph);
- A deep change in the public mood which now does not believe in the value of extra public spending.
One aide to the Tory leader told ConservativeHome: "An incoming Conservative Government will inherit a desperately weak economy. Most voters realise that the economic situation is dire and will respect the first political party that levels with them. Restraint in public spending is the most important manifestation of the needed honesty."
One shadow cabinet minister gave a similar message: "Last year’s pledge was made in very different political times. We were on the back foot and George’s decision to match Labour on spending was to avoid an election dominated by ‘Tory cuts’ attacks. Everything is now different. When so many families now making cuts to make ends meet the public spending pledge looks extravagant."