No one has announced it, but the general election campaign in 2015 has begun. It is hidden in debate on the spending review, but since this is to have impact in 2015-16 onwards it is hard to call it anything else. This is about election promises, but not about things that will necessarily happen.
So, we have Osborne planning to announce £11.5 billion of cuts now. But that's not the whole story: the Resolution Foundation thinks these cuts will have to be followed by £28 billion of cuts after the next election if the books are to be made to balance as Osborne says he wishes to do. That would leave BIS shrunk by then by 45.1% compared with 2010-11. The Home Office would be smaller by 45.8%, defence by 38.2%, the Foreign Office 64.3%, and Communities and Local Government 54.9%. This is cutting to the core of government, and society, when justice spending is also being cut by over a third.
In compensation the Tories are promising billions of investment on decidedly un-green projects to help big business on projects like upgrading the A14, a new Mersey Gateway bridge in the north-west and the first tranche of work on the HS2 high-speed railway.
Let's be quite clear about what all this means. As Osborne always planned, the capacity of government to act is being destroyed. You cannot slash the spending of ministries to the extent noted and maintain effectiveness. That's impossible. And whilst some change was of course necessary in what all ministries were doing - which is true of all organisations, always, these cuts can only have happened if what they were doing was completely wasteful - which I seriously doubt. The long term impacts could be very serious indeed.
In addition, it's obvious that these cuts will still not close the deficit, so yet more benefits cuts must be on their way.
And to compensate there is investment - but not in the things we need. HS2 is transport for an elite. Roads are the non-green investment that this country cannot justify if carbon limits are to be met. And these projects are all designed to boost business profits by way of the state bearing its costs for it at cost to the rest of us. If there was evidence of the capture of te state by business that is then usiung that capture to cut its own taxes (only big business is seeing cuts) whilst oppressing ordinary people to force them into low paid, insecure work and at the same time using the power of the state to bear its own investment costs then this is it.
This is, of course, the cowardly state I described in The Courageous State.
We need investment, of course. But it's in house building and repairs, in providing the classrooms we're going to need for the next 15 years to manage a baby boom, in flood defences, in local rail and transport systems, in green energy, in R & D to make tidal power possible in the UK, and so much more. But that's not what we're getting. Have no doubt, there is politics in investment decisions.
And much of this may not go on the balance sheet. So what? We still need it. And that's why it should be done. But dogma and the interests of bug business is ruling the day. What we have to hear now is opposition.