Monday 21 June 2010
Budget: One Chance To Get It Right
is for Budget, and for a Big Day in the life of the Coalition.
Machiavelli had it right: if the new Prince has anything he wants to achieve that may be unpopular, best that he take up his New Broom and do it straight away. This is exactly what the UK populace is braced for right now, and no better opportunity will ever occur.
Cameron and Osborne enjoy one other major advantage: Parliamentary conditions could scarcely be more favourable, with the LibDems formally onside, and Labour's response to come severally from an ineffectual stopgap leaderette, a peeved pussycat of a former chancellor, and five lacklustre leadership candidates, mewling and posturing as they try to differentiate their empty oppositionist brands. The Government benches hold vast stockpiles of ammunition with which to blow them away at each PMQ for five years, and Cameron is man to do it.
More dangerously entrenched are the legions of subsidy-wallahs, special interests and, yes, genuine interests, armed with arguments and heart-rending cases by clever lobbyists (who will encourage them to part with their last pennies to pay for professional pleading), fronted by more or less persuasive advocates (who will not all be as repellent as Bob Crow), gleefully hosted by the BBC and Channel 4 News. Hard-case atavistic big-staters and revivalist Trotskyite impossibilists dream of mass movements marching on London to bring down the walls with their charmless chant: "no ifs, no buts ..." Anti-CGT poujadists stamp their feet on the other side of the field.
So the battle-lines are forming up. And just as Old Nick counsels early action, so the great strategist von Moltke (the Elder) cautions that early dispositions, if badly-made, are exceptionally difficult to correct later on. Ring-fencing the NHS might be an example of just such a poor early call. Act quickly - and act cleverly as well ! No-one said it was going to be easy.
We've never been entirely convinced about Osborne in these parts, and now is his (only) chance to prove us wrong. We may be pretty sure he's read his Machiavelli. Let us hope his Big Budget meets the Moltke test as well.