I'm pleased that the Conservatives have – at least in part – woken up to the fact that they are going to be forced to cut public spending if they win the next election. As Nigel blogged yesterday, the dire state of the public finances means that whichever party forms the next government is going to little choice in the matter.
What still annoys me – although I can well understand it from a political perspective – is that so many Tories keep referring to the 'painful decisions' and 'terrible choices' they are going to have to make. It's as if, regardless of Gordon Brown's astonishing fiscal incontinence, they still regard ever-higher public spending as, ipso facto, a good thing, which they'd love to stick to if only circumstances would allow it.
And that, of course, is complete rubbish. Why should the government spend more each year than it ever had before? Surely, at some point, enough is simply enough? This year the government will spend twice what it did in 2000. What useful things does it do now that it didn't do then?
OK, that was a rhetorical question. It's pretty clear that we don't really get any more for our money now than we did 9 years ago. All that extra cash – about £250 billion once you adjust for inflation – has achieved more or less nothing. So why keep throwing it away?
Cutting spending is not a 'terrible' thing, as so many politicians clearly believe. On the contrary, I'd say it was a moral imperative. Taxpayers' work hard for their money, and deserve to keep as much of it as possible. Public spending ought to be regarded as a necessary evil, and kept to the bare minimum required to fund essential services.