Chris Lancelot: Election smoke and mirrors cannot hide facts

I have a confession to make: I'm a data junkie. Normally I read the papers and listen to the news every day, but in the run-up to the election I've found myself ignoring them.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford:
The GP Record, by Fran Orford:

It's because the election has been about presentation, not facts. As I write (10 days before polling day), it has largely become a presidential contest, focusing on the telegenicity of each leader rather than the policies of their parties; and on how successfully each leader can blind voters to the facts, or frighten them with fantasies about the other parties' policies.

The elephant in the room has been the economy, with each leader desperate to convince voters they will be financially safe - but only by voting for them. It's been an election of smoke and mirrors: for the past six weeks we've been on a fact-free diet.

I'd like to make a prediction: immediately the results are known, the winning party or parties will start saying - disingenuously - that deep cuts and tax rises will follow '... as we always made clear during our election campaign' (yeah, right ...).

Whatever the spin, the truth remains the same. For the next decade the government will have to divert money, previously within the economy, into paying off the UK's debts instead of using it for goods and services.

It will be painful, affecting everyone. I don't think cuts of 10-20 per cent are enough: 30 per cent seems nearer the mark. Nor will the NHS remain unscathed: the potential savings are just too big.

Neither can we escape without sacrificing jobs. When politicians talk of 'cutting out waste', they actually mean 'stopping paying people for jobs that don't need doing'.

It makes no difference whether these functions are provided directly by the state, hived off to private industry or achieved by natural wastage: the money won't be there, and the jobs will go. Nor will frontline NHS services be preserved: managerial incompetence will see to that.

These truths are like the law of gravity: inevitable and inexorable. Reality will suddenly reappear on Friday 7 May as the spinning ceases, the truth dawns, and the facts are openly acknowledged.

And then I will revert to reading the papers, listening to the news and wondering just how deep the NHS cuts will actually be.


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