Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Budget

Hmmm… so 64-64 it was, and on a vote of the Presiding officer, the budget bill falls.

There’s still time to get a bill through in time for the next financial year, but no-one should be in any doubt that it’ll be tight. Additionally, let no-one be in any doubt that if a budget isn’t passed in time, the resulting £1.8bn squeeze on budgets will be pinned squarely on Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. No council tax freeze, no more help for small businesses, fewer affordable homes, fewer police on the beat, a public sector pay freeze, no budget increases, no additional capital spending brought forward… I don't fancy being the politician who has to explain that.

You have to wonder why, if so much ground had been given on apprenticeships, hospital infections and town centre improvements, that Labour adopted such a dog in the manger attitude to the whole thing. Are they still so stung from the complete Horlicks they made of last year’s budget that they felt compelled to strike a tough pose this year? And the Lib Dems big huff continues, coming forward with a demand for a tax cut without offering the slightest hint where the axe should fall, with, as David Maddox pointing out over at the Steamie, Mike Rumbles selected as a negotiator only because he does theatrical, dudgeon-fuelled exits so much better than Jeremy Purvis.

Labour and the Lib Dems attitude may be disappointing, but no-one can say it's not in keeping with their post 2007 posture. However, it’s the Greens that really puzzle me. If £33m was their price, why did it take until half way through the debate for this to be made apparent? And why, when that was offered, did they still vote against what they had said they would favour? No doubt all will become clear over the next few hours as the ritual circus of self-justification begins.

I heard once about a bit of grafitto in the toilets at ACAS, which carried the sage advice that ‘everything except death is negotiable’. To that, tonight we can add ‘and Green Party irrationality’. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


Caron said...

I do wish your leader had adopted a more conciliatory and pragmatic approach. This sort of situation requires a bit of finesse and sensitivity, not qualities that Mr Salmond has hitherto displayed in any quantity at all.

I think there are obvious solutions and it could easily be sorted in time - but only if everybody adopts a purposeful attitude.

Richard Thomson said...

Perhaps you could explain 'finesse' to Mike Rumbles next time you see him, Caron :-)

The SNP approach was clearly conciliatory enough to bring the Tories and Margo Macdonald on board. The problem seems to be other parties either adopting positions they know have no chance of success, being hemmed in by previous mistakes, or of not being able to take 'yes' for an answer.

As you say, though, there are obvious solutions. Given the benefit of a weekend to think things over, I'm sure some order will emerge from the dustclouds.

Jeff said...

Yes, it's a strange one alright. I have to say, I don't think responsibility will be pinned squarely on Lab, LD and Greens. By the SNP yes but not necessarily by the public.

It is ultimately the SNP's responsibility to get a deal and if they are resorting to last minute arm-twistng then something has gone wrong.

It is interesting what you say about the Greens' shift of position, but who is to know out here in the real world what goes on behind closed doors.

One can only hope they sort it out in th next few weeks.

Atticus said...

Nice blog. Greetings from Spain

Richard Thomson said...

Hola... y muchas gracias!