Look, I'm not going to beat about the bush. The cuts are unfair and they will hit some of the most vulnerable in our society. It's not right that ordinary people are being made to suffer for the greed and incompetence of a few but there's no alternative.
Labour mismanaged the economy, failed to regulate the banks and spent all our budget surplus without heed for tomorrow. To be fair to them, when things went bad, they did do a passable job of stopping us from going into a new Great Depression but that's about it. Labour abandoned their principles and let the banks get away with murder, now we're all saddled with debt as a result. And when I say debt, I mean a bloody enormous debt. We are currently paying £120 million per day just on the interest payments. That's not paying down the debt, that's just keeping us standing still. And the debt is growing. Interest is being accrued on it and the payments we need to make will keep on going up and up.
So that leaves us with two options. One option is what the coalition is doing. Cutting now, cutting deeply, raising some taxes such as VAT and spending a little bit to try and mitigate the worst effects of the cuts and to help kickstart more economic growth. This means that many people are going to suffer a hard few years - people who don't deserve it. I think that some of the cuts are the wrong ones to make and that other things should be cut but, unfortunately, I'm not the chancellor.
The second option is what Labour is advocating. Cut differently, cut later and cut less. Well, that certainly sounds attractive - after all, who wants to see their local library close, or find themselves struggling to find an extra couple of hundred pounds a year? There's no doubt about it, Labour's plan would mean less hardship over the next five years, less pain for the most vulnerable and generally a less uncomfortable time overall - in the short term. In the long term, their lighter cuts would mean that the debt would keep on rising, the interest payments would keep on rising. After 2015 they would still be spending a huge chunk of the budget on trying to stand still with the national debt and would still be trying to find a way to pay it off whilst we all struggled with public services that were gradually losing more and more money to the burden of servicing the debt. This would mean more hardship in the long term. Less money for schools, for hospitals. Forget a raise in the minimum wage or the pension, the government would be spending every spare penny just trying not to go backwards. Taxes would rise, services would be starved of money over time, unemployment would take longer to fall and everyone would suffer for far longer.
Contrast this with the coalition. Yes, we will all suffer over the next four years, yes some of us will suffer more than we should. People in the public sector will lose their jobs, we'll all be trying to find ways to live on less. But, in 2015, the debt will be gone, unemployment will be down, the economy will be growing and the government will have £120 million more a day to spend on schools, hospitals, pensions, more social housing and much more. You and your family will no longer be paying off someone else's debt. You'll have had a tough few years but at least you'll have a secure future, you'll be able to be confident that your grandchildren won't still be paying off the banker's debt and that you yourself won't face an impoverished retirement.
It's not fair that we have to face hardship, it's not fair that public services have to be cut to pay off the debt. But that's the situation we're in thanks to Labour's economic mismanagement. If Gordon Brown had been sensible and listened to the calls of people like Vince Cable to regulate the banks then we wouldn't be in this mess. But he didn't and we are. The only choice we have now is whether to tighten our belts and suffer through the next few years to get rid of the problem or to listen to Labour, behave irresponsibly and suffer for decades to come. I don't find either option particularly palatable but we have no choice. We have Gordon Brown to thank for that.