Mark Steel: Cut this nonsense about whose cuts are most 'savage'

Suddenly, no party thinks it can be serious unless it pledges to cut

Share
Related Topics

How have we got to a point where all the major parties try to win votes by boasting who's going to take most things away? Nick Clegg brags that the Liberals' cuts will be "savage", as if he's taken lessons from Ray Winstone on coming over hard, and his conference speech went: "Now watch my boat race and listen. If I see anyfing that can be cut – I'm 'aving it. Know what this is? It's a dialysis machine. I've gone down the hospice, seen this ol' geyser, bop bop bop bop, done 'im, out with the ol' plug and wallop. Now it's out the national debt, 'cos I'm Savage Clegg."

After that Labour will announce that the blind should fund their care by making their guide dogs fight each other to the death so a far-East betting company can post the contests on the internet.

Then Cameron will reply: "I am prepared, if elected Prime Minister, to go up to someone suffering from Alzheimer's and personally charge them for their care, and then go back the next day and charge them again, knowing they'll have forgotten they've already paid. THAT is the type of measure required to fill the gaping hole in Britain's finances."

Gordon Brown will tell us that the real reason for the barring and vetting scheme is that anyone who fails the check will be invited to bid for running after-schools clubs, providing much-needed private revenue for public services. The army will be told they'll no longer be provided with armoured vehicles in Afghanistan, but this won't curtail the movement of troops as they will be entitled to a free Oyster card covering zones 1 to 4 of Helmand Province.

All of a sudden, no party thinks it can be taken seriously unless it pledges these cuts. Tomorrow, there'll probably be an announcement from al-Qa'ida: "We can reveal that our updated spending plans will save £18bn to the prison service, by creating a series of centralised stoning centres for maximum efficiency. In addition, the long-term unemployed will be required to find work or explode, and in place of the current benefits will receive a Paradise Seeker's Allowance."

The cost of a midwife could be passed to the baby in the form of a long-term loan, inhalers could carry adverts, nothing, they all say, can be "ring-fenced".

Now the Liberals have joined in with this, presumably their party political broadcast will go: "We're sick and tired of this country being run by two squabbling parties that are basically exactly the same. What Britain needs is THREE squabbling parties that are basically exactly the same."

Some Liberals, to be fair, seem slightly uneasy with this new message. So Menzies Campbell said that while they would no longer propose to abolish tuition fees, the main thing is they still ASPIRED to promise to abolish them. It must be marvellous to live in that world. You could support Hamilton Academical and celebrate all night, telling people: "I never believed it would actually happen, but today we aspired to beat Barcelona."

And their health spokesman sheepishly offered to find the proposed cuts in the health service by "eliminating waste". But they all say this, as if there's a "waste" department in the health service, where the manager will proudly explain: "This is Jimmy, his job is to spend all day buying rowing machines and onion-chopping devices from infomercials, then put them in the lift without ever getting them out of the box. Amanda here spends hours down the arcades putting the budget in the machine with a claw that can't possibly pick up the teddy. Phil here replies excitedly to random emails from Nigeria, we're getting through ten million a day."

But they are all afraid to make the obvious point, that in the period in which this vast debt was created, while some layers of society got a bit worse off and some got a bit better off, it was the richest one per cent whose wealth grew to an unprecedentedly colossal scale. But, somehow, the rest of us will have to pay for that.

These politicians would make the worst detectives in the world. They could see film of a bank robbery, with the robbers announcing on television: "We did it, because we're bloody well entitled to it," and they'd yell: "I know who did this crime – firefighters. Let's get down there and nab them for it."

Or maybe Ed Balls assumes that it was people working in the public sector who caused the problems. Perhaps he heard of schools in which the kids would be told: "Er, hello, I'm Mister Armthorpe, your supply teacher. Your normal teacher Miss Williams can't be here today as she's had to nip to the city to lend 300 million quid to an insecure Kuwaiti investor so I'll be taking you instead. Now, have we got as far as Anne of Cleves?"

m.steel@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?