Saturday, March 27, 2010


UK Public Spending by PM Well, it's everywhere: Darling, "Cuts tougher than 1980's" [Link]; "Labour cuts would be tougher than Thatcher's" [NR's Newslog] Liam Byrne admits "cuts will be deeper tougher than Thatcher era" (prompted by Dimbleby); "We will cut deeper than Margaret Thatcher" [Link] etc...Now, my point isn't that this contradicts Gordon Brown on spending etc (incidently, he's caught out spinning lying AGAIN!...AND they've had another ad banned for breaching the Advertising Standards Authority's "legal, decent, honest, truthful" code!), nor that AT LAST the BBC seem to have admitted Labour's spin, but more...what Thatcher cuts? As I was often telling the contributors to Radio 5 Live's message boards (now closed), under Margaret Thatcher public spending rose almost every year: in absolute and real terms.

According to the IFS (see graph, taken from the Institute for Fiscal studies 2005 election briefing publication [PDF] there was a real terms cut in - at most - two years towards the end of that decade. In fact core public spending has not been cut in real terms since the mid '70s under Labour.

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Paul said...

An alternative take from the very same Fiscal Studies.

What is generally accepted is that the period 1979-1987 saw cuts in defence and education - remember Mrs Thatcher having some honour withdrawn from Oxford as their idea of a snub. The Thatcher Governments were helped by conning people into buying shares in Gas and BT - something they already owned!

Paul said...

I think the clue is in the name of the graph as well 'annual increase in total public spending.'

Cast your mind back to the election campaign of 1979, what was the poster campaign about? I've posted about it on your blog before. The 1979 incoming Government inherited a long dole queue and a lot of Thatcher's spending was on the Social Security budget - nothing to do with spending on public services. She made cuts in actual public spending - not the budget itself. The pizza only has so many slices, unless your Jason Macateer

Span Ows said...

From that link...unless I'm reading wrong: defence spending as a percent of total spending (fig 3.5) was fairly level rising slightly (and so also in cash terms) from 1977 to 1988, when it started down again as a percent. The big drop had been from 1956 to 1976.

Education 1977 to 1986 dropped as a percent (but presumably not as a cash sum).

Interesting re health (the one people usually go on about) saw a step-rise as a percent under her tenure.(but presumably not as a cash sum).

Oh I know it's not all rosy, especially when you take North Sea oil into account. That's what paid for that leap in welfare.

Span Ows said...

I do remember the Oxford thing, though it more of a badge of honour that trendy lefty prof twits wanted to snub her



Paul said...

Symbolic with the emphasis on the second and third syllables.

What's really interesting about the Fiscal Studies reports is that no matter how we move the figures around nothing really changes over a long period of time which proves what a lot of people think about politics, whoever you vote for the next lot in will change everything back for a few years.