John Woodock: Time to admit Plan A is broken

A prudent maxim for life - and certainly for politics - is never to declare victory before you have won.

John Woodcock: Will the Government admit it is wrong and change course?
John Woodcock: Will the Government admit it is wrong and change course?

A chastened David Cameron has probably now hardwired that into his brain. But his rash boast last year that Britain was ‘out of the danger zone’ will serve as a lasting reminder of the Government’s complacency and misjudgement as the economic outlook continues to worsen.

As Ed Balls put it this week, it was the statement of a new Prime Minister who has not yet realised that saying something does not necessarily make it true.

Cameron’s speech to the CBI this week, in which he paved the way for gloomy figures in the pre-Budget report next week, struck a very different tone. The sheer scale of the bad news represented by rising unemployment, sluggish growth and soaring borrowing has forced the PM to admit that he is off course on reducing debt and eliminating the deficit.

The primary question for those suffering at the moment is whether the Government will have the humility to admit it is wrong and change course to get the economy back on track.

But a secondary matter, upon which minds at Number 10 and the Treasury will be obsessing, is how to salvage the reputation of a government that is failing to deliver its own deficit reduction plan – the defining test it set for itself on taking office.

It would be profoundly unwise for those at the helm to cling to polls that show more people continue to hold the last government responsible for the position of the public finances than the current one. The message that politicians of all colours are receiving from the public is that they are tired of the blame game and want to see credible action to tackle the crisis.

Repeatedly telling people you are ‘going for growth’ does not cut it when the measures you produce are palpably inadequate to address the problem. And moving the goalposts is not a winning strategy either.

When people start briefing that the ‘Plan A’ deficit reduction strategy is about a state of mind rather than a timetable, you know things are going seriously awry.


John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow in Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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