It can be argued that George Osborne should have reduced the rise in public spending faster, or that he should have gone for bigger cuts in its growth, but it can’t be claimed that he hasn’t delivered the reductions he promised. He has – as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed. As Peter Hoskin has pointed out on this site, departmental spending is down by about 14 per cent.
What has been voter reaction to this spending squeeze? Do people believe that the quality of public services has declined?
David Cameron is reported to have punched the air when a survey found that public satisfaction with them had not fallen nor even plateaued, but had actually risen – including happiness with schools, hospitals, policing, and services for the elderly. (Also have a look at hese findings from Ipsos MORI.)
That was in 2013. Has anything changed since?
It doesn’t seem to have done so. As the Guardian reported in January, public satisfaction with the NHS reached its second-highest level on record last year (rising fastest among Labour voters, by the way). Elsewhere, student satisfaction with courses has hit a ten-year high.
In short, contentment with public services seems to have risen at the same time as some of the biggest reductions in the rate of public spending in modern times.
There has been no general strike; no mass insurrection. Instead, the Grown-Up Government delivered by reforming Ministers is winning through. Michael Gove, Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith, Francis Maude, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Hunt – all have delivered lots of change. And all against, apparently, a backdrop of public satisfaction.
That the Conservatives haven’t gained nearly enough credit for this story is a matter for another day. For today, it is sufficient to point it out as yet another Reason to be Tory.