Osborne’s plans get a cautious welcome

Osborne’s plans get a cautious welcome

But is the biggest lesson the fall of the Lisbon government?

George Osborne won’t be too unhappy when he flicks though the front pages this morning – though the reception to his plans from even friendly quarters is perhaps not as enthusiastic as might have hoped.

The challenge, of course, is the context in which the government is operating. It’s a lot easier to get good headlines when the economy is going well and there’s money to hand out.

James Forsyth in the Speccie’s Coffee House flags news from Lisbon that the government has just fallen following the rejection by opposition parties of a package of spending cuts and tax increases from PM José Sócrates. As the New York Timres reports “Because its financing in the bond markets has become so costly, Portugal is expected to become the third country in the euro zone to be forced to accept public funds, following Greece and Ireland. “

Since the coalition came to power the cuts programme has been underpinned by two core arguments – the need to address the situation they inherited and the warning from what’s happened elsewhere in Europe of what happens if spending is not curbed.

At times the “blame the last lot” rhetoric has sounded a bit tired but I’ve no doubt that last night’s Portuguese example will feature prominently in the budget debates.

The political gamble, of course, is based on the economy being in a much better state when, as expected, the next election takes place in 2015. But how do you balance the need to restrain spending to satisfy the bond markets with the desire to encourage growth?

Only time will tell whether Osborne has got this right.

Mike Smithson

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