Coalition Document (5) – Defence and Deficit Reduction

We feel like we are making progress as we hit the ‘D’s in our alphabetical march through ConDemNation. Two surprisingly short sections here, given the traditional importance of Defence to the Tories and the importance to, well, everyone of Deficit Reduction.

Section 8: Defence

Another one of those sections where the Tories and the Lib Dems have differing views – and one of the most commented on agreements to disagree, about replacing Trident, is in this section.

The Good:

Much to admire here regarding rebuilding the military covenant – hard to object to anything helping the mental health and employment prospects of veterans. Working for a full ban on cluster munitions is also to be praised.

The Bad:

Only refurbishment of military accommodation ‘from efficiencies’. Hardly stacks up with rebuilding the military covenant, does it? Otherwise, this is probably one of the strongest sections of the document – mostly because we believe that all parties agree that supporting the military is crucial.

The Woolly:

The Trident Fudge – maintaining the deterrant whilst making the case for alternatives. A little bit of policy schizophrenia there.

Missing Links:

No mention of Iraq – not in Defence, National Security nor Foreign Affairs. Nothing about defence funding, considering all the attacks on the previous government for not buying enough helicopters, etc.

Reviews:

The Trident Fudge isn’t really a review, but has all the certainty of one, other than that, just the inclusion of the Armed Forces in the fair pay review.

Threats:

Thanks to some vociferous generals and, probably, some bad policy calls in the past few years, Labour have been painted as happy to send our troops into battle without doing enough to back them up. If the Coalition push forward with the ‘rebuilding’ of the military covenant, you can rest assured that it will be Labour who are portrayed as having damaged it in the first place.

Opportunities:

This it not, as far as we are concerned, an area where there is any glory in political point scoring. Other than supporting nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan and supporting measures to help our troops, we should avoid (at all costs) looking like we are trying to make political capital out of the Armed Services. A policy re-think on Trident wouldn’t go amiss either – we can’t use it without American satellite systems, so it’s not really an independent deterrent, so a full and frank discussion about its necessity and value for money should be a priority.

Marks out of 10:

9/10 – Probably the best section so far. Asides from a fudge on Trident, silence on Iraq and the military accommodation point this is a pretty sensible and balanced set of policies.

Section 9: Deficit Reduction

On page 15 (are we only on page 15??!) we finally reach the meat of the election campaign. The jobs tax, ‘Labour’s financial crisis’ and the Gordon ruining your children’s future (ah, the memories) – nowhere were we attacked more in the campaign than on this topic. So – let’s take a look at the Coalition’s magic wand…

The Good:

Protecting those on low incomes from public sector and other pay constraints – exactly the kind of Lib Dem softening of Tory policy that we were hoping for from the Coalition. The creation of the Office of Budget Responsibility – as we said before, a good idea.

The Bad:

Lots. Immediate reduction of the deficit, and stating that it is the most important issue. It is not. Preventing another recession and keeping those in work in their jobs whilst helping the creation of more jobs for those who are not should be the priority. The extra tax revenues this would bring in would have the positive knock on effect of reducing the deficit. Quango bashing – partly because, God forbid, some of them actually do important jobs, but mostly because, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t cost that much so it’s just pointless populism. The 80:20 cuts to taxes ratio is too steep – and will, we believe, shrink the economy too rapidly. There is also something unjust about the public sector paying for a private sector downturn.

The Woolly:

‘We will create strong financial discipline at all levels of government and place an obligation on public servants to manage taxpayers’ money wisely’. Isn’t that, sort of, maybe, already what their job is?

Missing Links:

Taxation is covered in a separate section, just to show how it’s cuts not taxes that will be used on the deficit. Most things are here that you would expect. You didn’t expect details on where the cuts would be, surely?!?

Reviews:

‘A full Spending Review’. Other than that, a mostly review free zone.

Threats:

Once again, the ‘Labour’s financial crisis’ rhetoric is going to be shouted from every rooftop – and much of the good work done by the Labour government over the past 13 years will be slighted and rolled back. We must make sure to defend out achievements, whilst admitting our mistakes.

Opportunities:

Jobs not debt. We need to show that we care about the human cost of the financial crisis, as well as the economics. The Tories fail to learn their lessons from the past – clearing the deficit is important as is maintaining financial stability, but stability is not an end in itself. We want financial stability and economic growth so that hard-working people can get jobs and get on. We should never forget that.

Marks out of 10:

5/10 – Without getting into a technical economic debate about when and how to cut, the human costs of economic policy are completely absent from this document.

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