2012: MORE CUTS. 2014: FEWER CUTS. Will the real David Laws please stand up?

Liberal Democrats MPs really will say anything to get elected.

Liberal Democrats MPs really will say anything to get elected

With the General Election looming, many Liberal Democrat MPs are understandably trying to distance themselves from the toxic coalition in the hope that it may help them hold on to their parliamentary seat next May.

In fact, it looks like some may be willing to say anything to disassociate themselves from Cameron and Osborne, including flatly contradicting things they’ve said in the very recent past.

Cue David Laws, Liberal Democrat MP for Yeovil and former deputy to chancellor George Osborne.

According to David Laws, speaking today, the chancellor’s spending plans are a ‘political suicide note’. As Laws put it:

“This will be seen to be a very extreme and very right-wing suicide note because all those people who care about the education service, about the police, about the armed forces … will see that the plans they have put forward are hugely damaging and dangerous.”

David Laws

We couldn’t agree more.

Yet this flatly contradicts words which came out of the mouth of the very same David Laws a mere two years ago.

In a 2012 interview with the Telegraph, Laws boldly outflanked the Tories on the right by arguing that the share of the economy accounted for by the public sector ought to be cut back to 35 per cent.

Public sector spending has hovered at around 40 per cent for decades, but jumped to 49 per cent in 2010-11 on the back of a rise in welfare outgoings triggered by the global financial crisis.

But for Laws, speaking in 2012, this was unacceptable; he wanted further swingeing cuts more drastic even than those planned by George Osborne. As Laws mused:

“The implication of the state spending 40 per cent of national income is that there is likely to be too much resource misallocation and too much waste and inefficiency.”

David Laws 2

So why the sudden change of heart?

We would certainly never dream of suggesting that Liberal Democrats MPs will say anything to get elected.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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42 Responses to “2012: MORE CUTS. 2014: FEWER CUTS. Will the real David Laws please stand up?”

  1. AlanGiles

    Because they all know there is everything to play for, members of all three main parties will do or say anything in the run-up to the election, however contradictory and hypocritical they make themselves: The Two Ed’s constantly repeated “too far too fast” but at the time of the Autumn statement they seemed to be suggesting it wasnt far or fast enough. They all look fools and indeed they are fools

  2. David Lindsay

    The man belongs in prison. If you stole a lot less than that in Housing Benefit, then you would be banged up.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Sure, if you want to end democracy.

  4. swat

    Oh come on! We’re talking Lib Dems here! Say one thing and do another. Two faced gits; completely out of Focus. Lets hope Labour doesn’t turn into a LibDem-lite Party under the weak leadership of Milliband.

  5. ForeignRedTory

    ‘We would certainly never dream of suggesting that Liberal Democrats MPs will say anything to get elected.’

    Why not? That is simply the normal business of the political game. The only quibble we can make is that it is a bit trollish to implicate that this is some kind of exclusive LibDem sin. The only politicians who don’t have to stoop like this are the ones who are not going to be elected anyway.

  6. robertcp

    I agree but a Lib Dem MP will always be better than a Tory MP.

  7. JoeDM

    Whoever wins in May will not be able to increase Government spending due to the deficit and the need to manage the debt without paying extortionate interest.

    This is just electioneering bullsh!t.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep denying our fiat currency, as you demand the economy and wages keep shrinking.

    Meanwhile, Britain is looking down the barrel of deflation, inflation of course being the relevant measure. You don’t care as long as you get your pound of flesh, of course.

  9. littleoddsandpieces

    The Lib Dems can say anything they like, they will not get the 28 MPs predicted in 2015 general election, showed by not even getting 400 votes in the last by-election.

    Welfare reform has cost massive extra billions in benefits admin which is rising, whilst the money going to the poor continues to decrease by the millions and billions and is causing starvation equally to pregnant women, young mothers with new baby and 60 years of age and above even if disabled, by the 1 million benefit sanctions and other lost benefits.

    Only 3 per cent of the benefits bill goes on unemployment, and a good portion of that is paid by the ring fenced and full National Insurance Fund, that has not needed a top up from tax for decades.

    The non-paid out state pension since 2013 has denied
    vital food and fuel money to the half of over 60s within the working poor,
    which is money to top up stagnant wages at levels a decade into the past and
    whilst the poor have suffered anything up to
    near 70 per cent more inflation in fuel and food prices than any other income level.

    This when the portion of the NI Fund ring fenced for the state pension is being
    wrongly called a surplus since 2013,
    and the flat rate pension being more about
    denying the poorest men and women ANY STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and
    the bulk of the rest LESS NOT MORE state pension,
    whilst millions will remain on lowest wages or lose jobs under the doubling now of austerity job cuts and so on average works pension not even 4 per cent lowest income.


    This was all made possible by the Lib Dems joining a Coalition with the Tories in 2010, instead of Labour, who also made possible pension, welfare and tax reforms that have caused what even the newspaper of the rich, The Times, calls entirely preventable impoverishment.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Good joke!

  11. robertcp

    Does that mean you agree or disagree?

  12. Peter Martin

    We all have our own opinions on the ideal size of government. David Laws has suggested a figure of 35%. I, and I suspect most Labour supporters, would favour a slightly higher figure, 40-45% maybe, but very few of us would favour 100%. We’d all be in slight disagreement and so 35% is a perfectly sensible figure to propose from someone who may have a political stance to the right of our own.

    The difficulty is separating this argument from arguments on the deficit. There is no reason to suppose that the deficit would be much different if Government were only 35% of the economy. Yes, spending would be less but taxes would also have to be less, to the penny, to allow citizens the extra spending power to make up the difference, to keep the economy moving and to prevent the economy falling into recession.

  13. Peter Martin

    “the need to manage the debt without paying extortionate interest.”

    The base interest rate is chosen by government. Its now close to zero because government, or its supposedly ‘independent’ central bank, wants it to be close to zero. If it wanted 10% it would have 10% or whatever figure it likes.

    Government controls the money supply.Unlike you or I it can never be refused a loan. It can never go bankrupt. It can never default. It can never run out of money. It has only two considerations. If it issues too much money (and/or taxes too little) it will create too much inflation. If it issues too little (and/or taxes too much) we’ll have recession and high levels of unemployment.

  14. Guest

    No, tax will need generally to be higher. Without being able to spend properly on collection mechanisms, and without the power to collect tax from the rich, the first things to ditch for your “lower spend” advocates…

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    I mean you told a joke. On second thoughts, a bad one.

  16. robertcp

    Incidentally, I am curious to know who you will be voting for in 2015.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    Almost certainly “Arnold J. Rimmer”

  18. robertcp

    That post makes even less sense than usual. Incidentally, I will not be responding to your posts unless you confirm that you will be voting in 2015. People who do not vote are a waste of space!

  19. swat

    You’ve just written of 40% of the population! many of them ‘working class’! But I think I tend to agree with you. You may not have two pennies to rub together, but at least you’ve got a vote, if you bother to register individually that is in the first place. If you can’t be bothered to vote, even if its for Mickey Mouse, then don’t whinge is my motto! And if you’re Party doesn’t win, then don’t whinge, is also my other motto.

  20. Tom

    At the Autumn statement, George Osborne proved that his Government has been unable to go faster than Labour’s 2010 plans. I don’t see how that makes them fools.

    Their further big criticism is that the Conservatives have been unable to meet their targets because they simply do not understand the root causes of the social security bill. By proposing some mildly social democratic policies, Government expenditure could be reduced much quicker as people move into more secure, better paid work, and have to pay lower housing costs.

    So where’s the foolishness?

  21. robertcp

    I agree. We should encourage all people to vote.

  22. AlanGiles

    Because of the constant double messages: too far, too fast, or not far and fast enough.

    Another example: Welfare. Duncan-Smith is incompetent, unfeeling, a spendthrift idiot. Yet the dreadful Rachel Reeves has said she will be “tougher than the Tories on welfare”

    You can’t – they can’t – have it both ways. So much of what they say is posturing, trying to point in two directions at once.

    Just coating every speech with a batter of “fairness” doesn’t wash.

  23. Tom

    Yes, and the point is that both of those criticisms are valid at the same time. IDS is incompetent, unfeeling, and has cut benefits to those who desperately need them with the stated aim of saving money.

    Yet it is precisely because of this incompetence that Rachel Reeves can also be ‘tougher on welfare’ [note, not tougher on welfare recipients]. She will reduce welfare expenditure much more effectively than IDS if Labour succeed in moving people into well-paid work, and in tackling rising rents, whereas IDS has failed due to rising numbers of people needing support, and increasing rents.

    The rhetoric is obviously posturing, but I can’t see that the underlying claims are incompatible.

  24. AlanGiles

    True Duncan-Smith wants to take us back to the 60s – the 1860s, however Reeves is in my opinion just trying to hold a Dutch auction on who will bully the weak more effectively to try to catch the eye of the Daily Mail and the Sun.

    You must let me know sometime where Reeves is going to find this “well paid work”

  25. Tom

    I’d certainly agree that she’s trying to catch the eye of the Daily Mail/Sun, and I’m not convinced that her rhetorical plan is particularly sound. But the idea of ‘predistribution’ (the Fabians are great with catchy names…) has been pretty well developed since Miliband was elected. So you keep the same jobs but, say, increase the minimum wage = lower in-work benefits without creating new jobs.

    It would work particularly well with rent controls, but sadly they don’t seem to be in the offing.

  26. AlanGiles

    I am afraid I have absolutely no confidence in Miliband’s Labour: he is a weak man who has to look over his shoulder constantly because he is in fear of the Blairite PLP, who must be emboldened by the recent election of Murphy in Scotland and the probable adoption of the remortgage queen Jowell as candidate for London Mayor. I suspect that IF there is a Labour government it will merely be New Labour Mark 2. I also suspect Miliband will be the prisoner of Balls, just as Blair was to Brown

  27. Tom

    Maybe so, but there’s no other viable PM apart from David Cameron. The only alternative is to have a Labour government, and be actively involved in strengthening the non-Blairite wing.

  28. Leon Wolfeson

    That you don’t understand the concept of write-in votes is not *my* problem.

    And I see, thanks for your contempt for much of the left, since many of us don’t vote because there’s nobody to vote for. My using a write-in vote is because I’m stubborn.

    Your contempt for the left will be returned in full, in future

  29. Leon Wolfeson

    Completely disagree.

    We should encourage voting reform to PR, which would naturally lead to much higher voting turnouts because people would have a party to vote for which represented them.

    But hey, no, you prefer contempt for the left.

  30. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah, don’t “whine” (i.e. take any action, politically) if a party who doesn’t represent you gets in, no matter if any people don’t have a party to vote for because no UK-wide party is standing up for the left..

  31. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s a gross insult to the politicians of the 1860’s. (For reference, I’m talking about Disraeli and Gladstone)

    The Reform Act 1867 (abolishing rotten boroughs and extending the franchise), Elementary Education Act 1870 (universal education to 13),Trade Union Act 1871 (legalising unions)….

    …a lot of progress was made in those days. On the other hand, the modern Neoliberals, not just the Tories, are regressives whose austerity is rolling back wages and they’re all highly moralistic against the poor to a degree which wasn’t found even in mid to late Victorian England, and advocates of spying on the people.

    1760, I’d give you. (George Grenville, with the Stamp Act, etc.)

  32. Leon Wolfeson

    “[note, not tougher on welfare recipients]”

    Oh rot. It’s an attempt to differentiate without difference. She’s been very moralistic on the poor, pushing magic-jobs-tree rhetoric, when the reality is we won’t have anything like full employment while her party embraces austerity.

    Labour has committed itself to the benefits cap, which means large drops in benefits. That’s the only way Labour will manage to “cut” benefits, they’re not using rent caps, promising to allow council borrowing for council housing or other effective means of cutting rents, etc.

    (Sure, they’ll outlaw some kinds of fees, but that means those fees will be rolled into rents)

  33. Leon Wolfeson

    “strengthening the non-Blairite wing”

    You can’t hold up what effectively does not exist as a political force. As long as we have FPTP, and the Coalitions of which the main “parties” are…

  34. Tom

    The distinction is pretty clear. One cuts the money available to people, the other doesn’t. The cap doesn’t say anything about the level of individual benefit entitlements (they could even go up), but rather about total expenditure, which would go down if people no longer needed to claim (i.e. were being paid properly).

  35. Leon Wolfeson

    Get real – Labour have committed to the benefit cap. The Tories spending on welfare would have breached the cap, if it had already been in place, as a LFF article discussed a little while back.

    The reality is that Labour are committed to austerity, which means the need for welfare is going to climb as wages inevitably fall (that’s what austerity DOES), but they will be imposing a hard cap which means massive cuts to levels of welfare which have already been ruled to be illegally low.

    There’s absolutely no evidence that Labour are interested in cutting away the massive workfare and other schemes which consume billions, and even if they cut *all* that way the trend in wages means that benefits will still need to be lowered under the cap.

    Labour have refused to even consider basic measures like allowing local councils to borrow for council house building, refused to consider rent caps…put a CAP on what they’ll raise the minimum wage to to a very unambitious level for the next Parliament…

    A leftist government would be considering things like restructuring the energy markets to break up the vertical monopolies (Ireland did it, although I dislike their specific solution), a compulsory living wage (if not a Basic Income), the aforesaid rent caps and council house building…etc.

    Labour’s still wedded to neoliberalism, and has talked about cracking down on the poor, moved right on immigration issues, etc. – and the benefits which have already been limited to well under inflation are going to be slashed massively again because of the caps, cutting spending still further, which will cause further knock-on effects, and….it’s a downward spiral.

  36. robertcp

    I agree with PR.

  37. robertcp

    Spoiling your ballot paper is a form of voting I guess.

  38. AlanGiles

    Exactly. For all the “fairness” claptrap, on welfare, as on so much else, Labour and Conservative are really two cheeks of the same arse

  39. swat

    I agree with PR, but not the List System, and, the more Parties the better. I like parties.

  40. Tom

    Labour believe that austerity can be combined with a growing economy as in 1945, which is why they’ve drawn their distinction between investment and current spending. As I’ve said, they plan to reduce spending on benefits by forcing/encouraging businesses to pay more. This shifts the burden of pay, but not the total amount – and so can’t reduce demand (but does reduce current spending).

    Spending on tax credits will clearly fall if the minimum wage increases, and if more firms move to the living wage. If you think that falling wages more generally will overcome this decrease, then please share your calculations.

    (Also, Labour are planning to restructure the energy market, so not sure what you’re on about there.)

  41. Leon Wolfeson

    So you’re saying Labour deny the basics of modern economics, and every scrap of evidence in recent years.

    Again, you’re being utterly naive, and refusing to admit that benefits WILL be slashed radically under your plans. The tax credit spending is falling far more because they’re frozen than under the minor minimum wage rises, and you admit wages are falling!

    And Labour plan to freeze prices, not restructure it.

  42. sarntcrip

    lije clegg lawsno liberal but a tory with dubious expenses dealings,the iliberal undemocrats like ukip are just anothertory tenticle another calamity coalition millionaire who has forgotten what life in the real world is like, if he ever knew!

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