A most revealing interview in the Daily Telegraph this morning with Chris Huhne. I am one of those who is willing to accept that the problem of national debt has got so far out of hand that the issue had to be convincingly addressed. It does not follow that reducing the role of the state-especially where it is intervening to protect the poor and the vulnerable-is of itself always a 'good thing' And so it is that we have been covering the Liberal Party's history looking at the the ideas of redistribution of wealth via Land taxation, through to the People's budget, the Yellow Book and We Can Conquer Unemployment. Those ideas were taken forward into the later half of C20th with policies to co-ownership of firms,common ownership co-ops etc. The remedies advocated are not wholly relevant to day, we live in very changed economic circumstances but the underlying principles hold firm as the introduction to the Yellow Book declares:
We believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of mechanism or organisation, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'
Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have suggested that an £83 billion cuts package will be set in stone, while Mr Clegg has called the agenda “the only choice”. Mr Huhne suggests that there may have to be a Plan B. Although he calls the emergency budget “absolutely right”, he warns that circumstances may alter.
Asked if the cuts might be scaled back if economic indicators worsen, he indicates that he is not “lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers”.
“I’ve never known one Treasury Red Book to be exactly like the last one.
“There is always a change. It is a bit like setting sail. If the wind changes, you have to tack about to get to [your destination]. Global growth could be either higher or lower. We just don’t know, and it’s not sensible, outside the Budget period, for governments to make speculations about what is going to happen.
“The right time to look at that Budget judgment is when we come up to the Budget in the spring. The key thing then is to look at things in the round and remember the overall objective is to stabilise and begin to reduce the public debt to GDP ratio.”
While Mr Huhne does not consider meltdown “likely”, he is the first Cabinet member to admit that the Chancellor may have to rethink his cuts agenda.