Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yes you really can sell austerity

Yesterday I posted a little bit of a ranty piece about the plans by Labour and the Tories to ringfence the International Development budget. I've had quite a few emails since saying how people wish politicians would be so blunt and honest about it.

I've also had a few emails saying I'm evil as well for not wanting to help other countries poorer than us. To those people I simply say, how can we say other countries are poorer than us? What you actually mean is that these other countries have less debt than us.

We're in the red and so are they, and you're living in a dream world if you think that because we're not quite so much in the red as others we should give the others some money we don't actually have.

I mention this again though because Tim Montgomerie over at his Tory Diary noted last night the audience reaction to Vince Cable on Radio 4's Any Questions. Tim notes,
Vince Cable was its star.

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman said that he had outlined five times as many cuts as George Osborne and Darling. Lots of applause.

He said that it was wrong to ring-fence any departmental budgets because it would require even deeper cuts elsewhere. Lots of clapping.

He said that the cuts would need to be deeper than the Thatcher years. Voters deserved honesty about correcting the deficit, he said. Again, applause.

Austerity can be sold.
I don't always agree with Tim but he is, 100%, on the money on this one. The electorate is not stupid. When we hear about debt, we frame it in the terms I described yesterday. That is you pay your bills first and you cut back on unnecessary things. In the case of international development that is akin to giving money to charity.

On Monday night on Channel 4, there is going to be a debate called "Ask the Chancellors" which will have Darlig, Osborne and Cable on it. I've said more than one this week privately that I think Cable is going to storm it hands down. Don't get me wrong on this, I'm not having a conversion to the Lib Dems, I just think he will.

Cable is not the economic soothsayer that so many Lib Dems argue he is, he is, however, genuine. He also has, unlike Darling and Osborne, real life, real world experience of being one of those at the helm of a multinational business driven by profit.

He has the added advantage of representing the third party which is not going to win an overall majority at the General Election, which means he can tell it like it is and exploit the other two party's politiking with each other.

Throw into the mix the fact that we're all looking at the money in our pockets and cutting back on x,y and z, and what you're going to see on Monday, depending on how Channel 4 do the audience, is going to be manufactured party hack clapping for the main two parties, and genuine audience approval of what Cable says.

Tim is right, you can sell austerity. I'd be surprised if the Lib Dems do not see their polling run up a notch or two after the debate because of Cable.

No comments: