The Right’s five most inaccurate predictions

A few of the Right's howlers from 2010


There’s a degree of smug triumphalism in right-wing quarters today on the back of chancellor George Osborne’s budget yesterday. This is especially true at Conservative Home, where executive editor Mark Wallace has a piece looking at ‘The Left’s five most inaccurate predictions‘.

And indeed, to some degree Mr Wallace is correct: the Left did make a number of inaccurate predictions back in 2010. However the mistake is to assume the Right didn’t also make its own share of howlers. Here are some of the picks:

The ceiling would fall in if we didn’t stick to George Osborne’s spending plans

George Osborne’s record on the public finances has been one of failure – at least if we take the things the chancellor said in 2010 seriously. Back then Osborne predicted that by 2015 the deficit would be down to around £37bn, with austerity all but over. Instead the deficit is forecast to be three times that this year, at £91.3bn. As well as being a failure on George Osborne’s own terms, this shows up the chancellor’s 2010 fearmongering for exactly what it was: hyperbole. George Osborne’s deficit reduction plans have progressed at a slower pace than those proposed by his 2010 counterpart Labour Alistair Darling – and yet amazingly the ceiling hasn’t fallen in, as many Conservatives were gloomily predicting back in 2010.

Economic stimulus would not work

And yet it did in America. George Osborne may boast that the UK’s economy is the fastest growing this year in the G7, but if we measure GDP from 2010 the US is way out ahead, largely due to the British economy flat-lining in the early years of this parliament.

GDP US versus UK

As the article from Business Insider which accompanies the above graph puts it, “The UK was recovering on a fine trajectory right up until early 2010, at which point UK growth hit a brick wall.”

A chaotic reorganisation would not damage the performance of the NHS

Of course, they didn’t actually make this prediction in May 2010 because right up until the election most Conservatives were denying that there would even be another top down reorganisation of the NHS. But once it began the Right clung with scary certainty to the argument that reorganisation would not hit NHS performance.

Yet under the coalition waiting times jumped to their worst level for six years. This month the government missed the A&E waiting time target for the twenty-second week in a row; and next year 50 million patients will be turned away from GP surgeries next year because of government underfunding, according to the Royal College OF General Practitioners.

Pay growth would follow the rise in GDP

This is a variation of the discredited ‘trickle down’ theory, which stipulates that wealth magically appears at the bottom as a result of riches growing at the top. Recent years ought to finally have laid this idea to rest: GDP growth returned in mid-2013 but wages are only just catching up with inflation, and even now it’s largely the result of inflation being at a record low. Analysis by the TUC recently revealed that in some parts of the UK less than half of jobs pay workers the Living Wage. Meanwhile workers are around £2,500 worse off in real terms than they were in 2010.

This is perhaps less of a partisan point than some of the others, but the Right were overly-confident in their assumption that wage growth would go hand-in-hand with a rise in GDP. It hasn’t.

Iain Duncan Smith would make a good secretary of state for work and pensions

In the words of former DWP staffer Jonathan Portes, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit policy has been flagship disaster. We’ve also seen the introduction of brutal policies such as the Bedroom Tax, which even UKIP opposes. And yet back in the halcyon days of 2010, Tories would wax lyrical about how much IDS cared for the poor and downtrodden.

Of Universal Credit, according to Margaret Hodge of the Public Accounts Committee, the DWP under IDS embarked on a £2.4bn project “with little idea how it was going to work”. And then there’s the Work programme, which as Nick Cohen reported last year, is “only helping one in 20 recipients of disability benefits find a job”.


To put it mildly, the Left doesn’t have a monopoly on getting things wrong.

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

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