"An interesting reaction to the Government's 'Comprehensive Spending Review' on the 'Labour Uncut' weblog: Not just me then who though that the new Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson, shot the Party in both feet and then only narrowly avoided shooting himself in the process.
"We fell into a trap. The CSR saw us out-thought, out-spun and out-positioned. First casualty of Osborne's cuts: the Labour party…Wednesday was a slow motion car crash. For months people have been warning that our failure to articulate a coherent position on deficit reduction would cost us dear. Dismissed as siren voices, they were ignored. So we drove, unblinking, into the wall."
Regardless of political affiliation however, with interest payments on the national debt, reportedly equivalent to 100,000 teachers a year, times ahead will be tough and perhaps tougher than many of us would like to imagine. What we need to quickly establish is what services people value most over others because it's clear that the universal public sector safety-net of the past which carried the burden of a bloated welfare-state, is about to evaporate for many people. We can debate the fairness of it all until hell freezes over but with £160 billion of debt to clear, it's likely to be a very short argument. In several conversations I've had this week however, I don't think the message has yet reached many of the most vulnerable parts of our society, possibly because some people don't watch the news or read the papers in the way we might think they do. The cuts are something that will happen to other people.
When I speak to some of the traders in Westgate, they tell me money is shorter than ever before and last evening, shopping at our shiny new Co-op store in Station Road, I came across two girls of about ten to twelve, asking passers-by if they wanted to win a prize with a card-game. Fascinated, I asked them what this was for and they said they were trying to raise some money to buy their mum a birthday present. "How much have you raised so far", I asked. "Sixty-seven pence" was their answer. So I pulled out some loose change and joined the game to see what happened next.
If I drew an ace, they told me I would win a prize and so I picked a card and got lucky, a red ace of diamonds. One of the little girls searched in her backpack and withdrew a very battered quiz book. "Here's your prize", she said. I told her to keep it and just then another councillor appeared. I explained what was going on and said to the two girls that it was a little late to be running card games in the streets. "We'd better scarper", said one to the other and off they went into the dusk. I would love to have introduced them to Alan Sugar as potential 'Apprentice' material but in many ways my heart was warmed by the idea that they were both out trying to raise a few pennies to buy their mother a birthday gift rather than a six pack of Stella Artois which is only too often the case among the older teenagers these days.