Friday 20 August 2010

"Piss Off And We'll Find Someone Bigger": Machiavelli, Moltke and the Dialectic of Cuts

The meeja must do as they will, of course, but we can safely ignore all the hyper-ventilating over how Osborne is at daggers drawn with Fox, or is toe-to-toe with IDS. (Though Mr Newmania is right to wonder what it says about the internal discipline of the coalition.)

Because this was never meant to be easy, and they are wrestling with the issues of the age. How the hell is the 'iron triangle' of taxation / spending / the perma-NEET class to be resolved ? Is the UK's weight in the world only truly measured by the number of its nuclear warheads ? Massive issues, historical moments, and a privilege for these gentlemen to be entrusted with getting it right.

For what it is worth I'd say Osborne is exactly right to force departmental ministers to confront the full dialectical rigours of their responsibilities in a ring- fenced manner, without the let-out clause of 'central' funding for something that is 'too big for my budget'.
If it's too big for you, little man, then piss off and we'll find someone bigger.

And I trust no-one sets any store by "Osborne being the most popular Chancellor in history", or whatever. If this means he has acquired a bit of political capital, all well and good. But he sh
ould spend it right away: I'd be troubled if this honeymoon effect was still in evidence by Xmas. We have noted before Old Nick's sage dictum, that the nasty stuff should be executed as early as possible - check; and we could add he also counseled that being feared is, on the whole, better than being loved - check.

Which brings us once more to von Moltke: early dispositions, if badly-made, are exceptionally difficult to correct later on. I have in mind some of Cameron's ad hoc policy commitments made in the heat of the election battle. The Coalition has handled the VAT issue deftly and (in political terms if not economic) successfully - check. Having hoped that the NHS ring-fencing could be 're-positioned' as part of the Spending Review, we must also hope that any infelicitous campaign utterances can also be dealt with adroitly at the same time.

Because it really is the last decent chance.


photo (c) N.Drew 2010


Anonymous said...

yes it is the last decent chance.

But, given international movements, they are moving too slow.

Their moves are also of too small a magnitude.

Both the time window, and the degree of movement window are rapidly closing.

Having said that, certain movements/positionings do not look great for the future.

Budgie said...

They could of course leave the EU and save upwards of £100 billion annually.

James Higham said...

But he should spend it right away: I'd be troubled if this honeymoon effect was still in evidence by Xmas.

Right on the money.