Alex Hilton: Cameron's 'riots' jibe is misjudged

David Cameron has warned of 'riots on the streets' if the Government does not hold a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) this year.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

This was followed by Ed Balls on the Today programme, who suggested there would be riots should a Conservative government start ten per cent public service cuts. Both propositions suggest an irretrievable gulf between politicians and members of the public, who are more likely to be planning their summer holidays than Iranian-style civil action.

The Conservatives are trying to turn the CSR into a vehicle by which all government plans are judged, when it is simply a financial forward-planning device. It is not binding and it operates in broad terms. The real bible of government spending is the annual Budget, through which cash is dished out to grateful departments. In fact, the last CSR was delayed by a year and no-one complained - not one peep from the Conservatives and no riots on the streets.

It makes perfect sense to delay the three-year CSR, primarily because a possible Conservative government would rip it up - and so it would be a waste of civil service time. The Government is doing Cameron a courtesy by delaying the CSR until after the election, but it cannot say so because that implies defeatism. Instead of accepting the courtesy, Conservatives are turning it into a 'trust' issue: suggesting the PM will lie to the public on spending now and change his mind after the election.

This is Cameron's mistake. In the wake of the expenses scandal, people don't trust him any more than they trust Labour. But Labour isn't calling into question the Tories' honesty, just challenging the fairness of the Conservative cuts programme. This offers a glimpse of a summer when Labour could take back the political initiative, if it sticks to positions that don't require a leap of faith to accept, when there is little enough faith in politics to go around. That means suppressing hyperbole about the possible Conservative government.

And if Cameron's prediction of a long, hot summer of Comprehensive Spending Review riots comes true, I'll join the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey

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