Jeremy Browne: George Osborne has given up making the case for a smaller state

Guy Bentley
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Has Osborne given the case for small government (Source: Getty)

George Osborne has given up making the case for a smaller state and conceded ground to the Labour party, according to a former government minister.

Speaking at a post-Budget briefing hosted by the Taxpayers' Alliance and the Institute of Economic Affairs, ex-home and foreign office minister Jeremy Browne said Osborne was failing to make the case for limited government.

"In rhetorical terms he (Osborne) made a concession yesterday and seemed to shy away from making the case for a lean state," Browne said. The ex-Lib Dem minister argued Osborne used the yesterday's Budget to stamp down on austerity rhetoric to head off Labour attack lines.

"He thought that was a concession worth making to the Labour party so he couldn't be accused of being unpleasantly right wing and hostile to the public sector."

In the wake of the Autumn Statement, Labour launched a withering series of attacks on the Conservatives' plans for public spending. Labour have accused the Conservatives of wanting to reduce public spending to levels not seen since the 1930s.

This line of attack was largely neutralised in yesterday's Budget although there remain significant differences between the tax and spend plans of the two main parties.

Browne, who is standing down from parliament, warned those who want to see a significant cut in the size of the state that looking at government spending as a proportion of GDP is not necessarily the correct approach.

"There is a danger in measuring the size of the state by GDP, because if GDP doubled, I wouldn't necessarily want double the size state we have now," said Browne.

He added:

My preferred sized state would be between 35 and 38 per cent of GDP.

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