Cuts, cuts, cuts … everywhere you look, you can hear the squealing of the herd awaiting the cull of taxpayer largesse. Trades unions are fulminating and their leaders are vying for the spiritual mantle of Arthur Scargill. The police are threatening a breakdown in society. Labour politicians are squealing about how poor people will be dying in the street and how the evil heartless Tories are sacrificing people on the altar of corporate profits.
Or something. It all became a sort of blur after a couple of weeks.
The Tories, on the other hand, are claiming that these brutal cuts are necessary.
Both sides are claiming that this is going to be nothing less than a complete re-definition of the relationship between the state and the individual.
But there’s one small problem with all these perspectives on the situation: none of it is true.
Given the scale of opposition to the Chancellor’s surgery, even though he has not yet released the full details, a curious bystander might be forgiven for thinking that many billions are going to disappear from the bottom line of state expenditure. Like one of Todd’s victims, the final bill for taxpayers is about to be dismembered in a grisly fashion.
This is what happens when the state is shrunk, right? Er, not quite. In fact, not at all. In terms of cash flowing out of the Treasury’s coffers, there is no evidence of cutting back. Total government outlay is set to go up this year, next year and every year thereafter to 2014-15.
According to estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the figures will be £696 billion in 2010-11 (up from £669 billion in 2009-10), then £699 billion, £711 billion, £722 billion and £737 billion. These sums are not inflation-adjusted, but even so, they belie the idea that a demon barber is about to “polish off” the Budget and stuff its remains into one of Mrs Lovett’s delicious meat pies.
Every single year, the tight-fisted Tories are going to be more profligate than the Scottish madman was.
So how are we going to be better off under this new government? How is this continuation of ludicrous profligacy going to improve the economy? How does this in any way re-define the relationship between the state and the individual?
And why is everyone lying to us about this? Politics has truly moved out of the realms of soap opera into the realms of pantomime. Or perhaps it’s just a farce.
I just wish the tickets to this show weren’t quite as expensive as they are.