Snow exposes contradictions on the state….
Writing on Next Left, Sunder Katwala makes the point that;
‘Big government’ is often attacked as political rhetoric. In the abstract, we all like to be agin it. Yet, on every specific issue, from child protection to the collapse of the banks, most of the public calls are very often for government to do more.
How true this is and how more starkly could the hypocrisy of the ‘anti-state’ right be than a walk through the pages of Conservative Home. Caroline Spelman MP criticises the government for being unprepared for the weather-induced crisis while meanwhile it reports on the comments of Greg Hands who criticised Gordon Brown’s attitude to public spending being like that of a ‘binge drinker’.
What, if anything the Conservatives would have done when faced with the banking crisis is not explained. Neither is the fact that governments are always in debt. Instead of reasoned debate what we have is a moral panic created by the right-wing media and the Conservative Party saying that the debt must be cleared now or at least the day-after-tomorrow.
Note how this is regardless of economic circumstances; something that marks it out as a purely ideological committment, not one grounded in economics. Conservative attacks on Labour for making public spending commitments ring hollow when they are busy making spending commitments of their own.
The Liberal Democrat position is vague and unhelpful; we are not sure whether we want the state actively pursuing social ends (The Green Road out of Recession, breaking-up the banks etc, etc) or we want it shrunk. It is this kind of muddle that leads to saying things like this on health;
We will scrap central targets and guarantee that you get your treatment on time.
So, how can you scrap central targets but make sure that people get their ‘treatment on time’? If there is no central standard then people will simply not know what measure to use. All political parties are reluctant to articulate the fundamental truth that the state is needed if they want their roads gritted and society to work and basic provision of things like welfare.