MANY will have woken up this morning with a profound sense of trepidation about what has become known as austerity day.
Anybody who works in the public sector, or whose business depends on it, will be fearful that it will be their funding that gets axed by today’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
However, the chances are that very few will be able to put their finger on a specific announcement and say that’s it for me. We are going to have to wait weeks and perhaps months yet before the details of where the cuts are going to fall become clear.
Come tea time today, there will still be a fair amount of uncertainty about the place. The only certain thing is that the spin doctors will be out in force obfuscating about the more unpalatable news.
An example of this muddying the waters is how we were told at the weekend that both of the planned new aircraft carriers will be built. Sounded like, and was reported as, unequivocally good news. What the Whitehall spin doctors didn’t tell us was that the second of the carriers may be mothballed and possibly no planes acquired for it either.
While the fact the second vessel is to be built is good news for Cammell Laird, where the flight decks are to be fabricated, the decision to mothball it must be a huge disappointment to the Royal Navy. Why raise hopes one day, only to dash them the next?
The cuts are highly divisive in two ways.
From the police to the military to university professors, special interest groups are actively fighting their corners and public sector unions have made dark mutterings about industrial action, which, should it happen, would hurt everybody.
But, worse still, today’s spending review has the potential to create social divisions that will last the lifetimes of at least a couple of generations.
Those coming out of school into either university education or the jobs market will find life tough.
Then there are the benefit cuts. While undoubtedly some fiddle the system, most claimants are genuine. There is nothing worse than white van man sounding off about scroungers, when what is being suggested amounts to an attack on the vulnerable.
As for the business leaders who wrote to The Telegraph, what have they got to do with it? While their views are legitimate, they are no more so than the views of 60m other citizens of this country. These people don’t possess any special insight that eludes the rest of us. Running a business is not the same as running a society.
Without doubt, Merseyside will be among the biggest losers. We have a high dependency on the public sector here, and so can expect that today’s announcements will ultimately lead to more job losses here than in many other parts of the country. We also have higher unemployment and more incapacity claimants, so the benefit cuts will also hurt this region.
In the end, something like what is being proposed today has to be done. Gordon Brown wasn’t prudent enough. He didn’t keep enough back for the rainy day that always, always comes around.
Britain can’t default on its loans. The sooner we get on with it, the sooner we get through it.
By the time that second aircraft carrier comes to be mothballed in 2019, we will have forgotten about austerity day and David Cameron, George Osborne and even Ed Miliband will probably be just names in history books.
Hopefully, some time long before then, we will all be able to get on with living our lives again.