The Lib Dems have proposed rules mandating a 1% surplus on current spending – meaning the day-to-day costs of public services would have to be lower than the amount raised in taxes.
This is quite something. It is not done even by “fiscally conservative” governments elsewhere. It is more draconian than the approach taken by George Osborne when he was chancellor, suggesting Lib Dem support for even deeper austerity.
And in fact when he announced the budget surplus policy, Lib Dem deputy leader Ed Davey condemned not only Labour’s but the Tories’ plans public spending plans as making “Santa Claus seem like Scrooge”.
In the same week, Jo Swinson made a similar argument to the conference of the bosses’ federation the CBI, pitching the Lib Dems as the real “party of business”.
The Lib Dems’ let-out argument is that staying in the EU will shore up public finances and allow them to avoid cuts. Their response to every Labour policy is a spokesperson popping up to say the real issue is Brexit.
Yes, Brexit may well be an economic disaster. But staying in the EU will not automatically prevent austerity or make society fairer or more equal, certainly not with right-wing neo-liberal policies like the Lib Dems’.