Sorry Nick. Sorry Vince, I can’t find the figures that back you up
Both Nick and Vince have claimed that there was no option but to reverse their pledges on tuition fees. The public sector finances were in a far worse state than they expected and they had no option.
That would be a justification that would be just about sellable to people. A promise made in good faith which became unsustainable due to information not known about at the time could be legitimately broken.
The problem is, I can’t really find much that backs that claim up.
My starting point is that at some point, both Nick and Vince must have been happy that our policy was sustainable and affordable. I think its reasonable to take a starting date of the party’s manifesto launch (April 14th 2010) for that point. Then Nick said:
I believe this is the first time a political party has spelt out its figures, line by line, right there in its manifesto.
Turn to page 100.
The figures are there for everyone to see.
We know how every policy will be paid for.
We know how to make that huge £10bn dent in the deficit.
And we know how to invest in your schools and create jobs even in these difficult times.
These are promises you can trust.
My memory is that Vince was on the stage when he said this so presumably he was happy with that claim.
That manifesto was launched a few weeks after Alistair Darling had given his final budget setting out the state of the country’s finances. Our spending proposals were drawn up in full knowledge of this situation.
Then a few weeks after the election, George Osborne set out his emergency budget along with an immediate package of spending cuts, none of which included anything to do with tuition fees.
In both cases a set of economic forecasts were provided (obviously in Osborne’s case taking account of the more recent changes. What do we see if we compare those figures:
|Darling (March 2010)||Osbourne (June 2010)|
|Public Sector Net Borrowing|
|£167bn in 2009-10
£163bn in 2010-11
£131bn in 2011-12
Falling to £74bn 2014-151
|£154.7bn in 2009-10
£149bn in 2010-11
£116bn in 2012-13
£89bn in 2013-14
£37bn in 2015-152
|Public sector net debt|
|To reach 54% of GDP in 2009-10, increasing to 75% in 2014-153||public sector net debt (PSND) to increase from 53.5 per cent of GDP in 2009-10 to a peak of 70.3 per cent in 2013-14, falling to 69.4 per cent in 2014-15 and 67.4 per cent in 2015-16; and4|
|1-1.5% in 2010
3-3.5% in 2011
3.25-3.75% in 20125
|1.2 in 2010
2.3 in 2011
2.8 in 2012
|Eliminated by 2014-15 two years ahead of projections in March budget6|
So, Nick, where is the financial situation that couldn’t have been anticipated? Vince, I don’t dispute that we inheirited a massive financial mess, but it was one we knew about in March of 2010.
Maybe I’m not being fair. I’m not an economist. But the economics editor of the Telegraph seems to think along similar lines.
There is a lot of stuff in the budget reports that goes way over my head. But Nick, Vince, if you are going to say that things have changed, in a way and at a scale we couldn’t have foreseen, then show me the figures.
1Budget report pg 211 and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8584608.stm
2Budget report pg 72
3Budget report pg 4 and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8584608.stm
4Budget report pg 77
5Budget report pg 2
6Budget report pg 22