Monday, 5 January 2009

Cameron's balancing act on the economy

There is no doubt that David Cameron has a difficult balancing act to perform in order to persuade the United Kingdom that his is the most efficacious economic policy for tackling the current crisis. On one hand he must maintain that Gordon Brown’s plan to expand exponentially the debt bubble which got Britain into the mess which it finds itself in is unsustainable. He is bound to contend that Britons must become a responsible nation of savers, rather than a populace addicted to debt. On the other hand he will argue that under his tenure the UK economy would begin to grow again, that Conservatives have policies which would free up credit for business and mitigate the worst excesses of correction which the market is likely to exact. It is a case which might appear to contradict itself, but it is also perhaps what the country needs to hear.

If Cameron’s solution to our financial problems seem paradoxical, that is because it is a paradox in the financial system which he is seeking to combat. On this morning’s Today programme the Conservative leader identified two countermanding but interrelated difficulties which the economy faces. Firstly there is a ‘debt crisis’,

“Britain is spending more as a percentage of our national income than when Denis Healey was Chancellor and Britain went bust. The answer to a debt crisis cannot be more borrowing and that is why the VAT cut was such a "criminal" waste of money.”

Secondly there exists a credit crunch, whereby businesses are having their lines of credit stopped by banks. To tackle these problems Conservatives wish to constrict government borrowing, encourage the nation to begin saving again, yet also persuade banks to begin to lend to viable businesses.

The package of measures which the Conservative party announced today meets the challenge systematically. David Cameron’s speech deserves to be read in full, but for readers in a hurry Iain Dale provides a brief synopsis. The policies which were unveiled would alleviate the punishment which low interest rates has inflicted on savers and pensioners. In addition the incentive to save money would be restored, or at least disincentive would be lessened.

Allied to existing Conservative policy, providing tax incentives for new jobs, cutting Corporation Tax and NIC and underwriting bank loans to business, today’s announcement offers action to tackle problems afflicting the UK economy. Far from ‘doing nothing’ the Tories have attempted to reach a balanced alternative to offer the British electorate as opposed to Labour‘s ‘spend now tax later‘ scheme. Whether the correct mix has been found remains to be seen, but even to aspire to balance is more than Gordon Brown's government has managed.

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