Britain is not weary of austerity, it craves opportunity

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Britain is not weary of austerity, it craves opportunity

The idea that the UK is tired of austerity is a falsehood peddled by the left – and the Chancellor. What we really want is opportunity, writes Rory Broomfield.

Ever since the General Election, the Labour Party and its supporters have claimed that “Tory austerity” is to blame for the ills of British society. This has seemingly been conceded by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, as he said Britain is supposedly “weary of austerity”. Both are wrong.

In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. The UK has not lived within its means – ie had a balanced budget – for the past 15 years. With the election result and the initial reaction, you would be forgiven for believing that “the Tories have cut public services to the bone”. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Government spending of taxpayer funds since 2010 has decreased as a proportion of GDP, however, the economy has also grown. This has allowed borrowing to decrease (in percentage terms) but for tax receipts and spending to go up (in cash terms) due to greater economic activity. It has meant more money for public services as total government spending has increased from £691.67bn in 2010 to an expected expenditure of around £772 billion in 2016-17.

What people should really be unhappy about is how this money is being spent as well as the lack of hope and opportunity that was shown to them by the parties and their manifestos during the last General Election.

In 2014, the Taxpayers’ Alliance exposed £120 billion of wasteful spending by the UK government. There isn’t to my knowledge a more or as in depth report to compare to, however, the fact that both the Conservative Party and Labour were / are still looking to increase spending on certain areas (whether it be scrapping tuition fees or spending on transport), means they’ve either managed to save that amount or, more likely, both political parties are quite happy to keep on spending taxpayers’ money regardless.

What was lacking though in the General Election and the manifestos was a real sense of ambition and the creating economic opportunities for people. For the Conservatives, the election marked their abject failure to communicate their economic record over the past seven years to the electorate, and for their economic plans going forward. For Labour, the core assumption was that the state could do it (whatever “it” is) for you.

This sets up the next five or so years to be a testing time, irrespective of parliamentary arithmetic. The Conservatives are failing to communicate the benefits of their economic approach, and seemingly ignoring key voter issues like housing. The Labour Party only want the state to do more – at more cost to all of us.

Both parties are ignoring the the fact that many people (myself included) are worried that we have a £1.8 trillion debt that is increasing every year. Further, the Government has dropped plans that would see more educational opportunity (grammar schools) and aren’t even mentioning the incredibly popular policies such as tax cuts.

I have written elsewhere on how the Brexit bills can – and should – give people new opportunities and freedoms to the people, however, there are also other areas that neither party has successfully addressed or communicated their records over.

Compared to seven years ago, we live in a UK with higher debt and increased spending. What we want to see (and hear about) is a Britain that is giving people more economic and social opportunities to thrive in a safe and stable country with a bright future. Why isn’t any party communicating this?

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  • Rory Broomfield
    Rory Broomfield
    Rory Broomfield is Director of The Freedom Association and the Better Off Out campaign. He is an authority on the EU and has written a number of books including his latest, co-authored with Iain Murray, Cutting the Gordian Knot: A Roadmap for British Exit from the European Union. He has previously worked in the City of London and in Westminster for a number of Members of Parliament, including the current Prime Minister, Theresa May; the current Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady; and Sir Richard Shepherd.
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