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A BLITZ OF CUTS WOULD BE THE BEST

DICK TURPIN
MANAGING DIRECTOR, ARTEMIS

RATHER than a real war on debt, what has been going on until now has been more of a Sitzkrieg than a painful – but very necessary – Blitzkrieg. This is just as it was from September 1939 to April 1940 when the Second World War was a sitting war: a lot of talk and no action. Indeed, the League of Nations, confronted with major matters, greeted the outbreak of the war with a debate about the standardisation of level crossings. Even as the real war began at last, the League’s Permanent Central Opium Board puffed on.

The cuts announced in yesterday’s Budget haven’t hit home – yet. Chancellor George Osborne and the coalition need to start a proper blitz. We shall see whether the Office of Budget Responsibility proves itself to be as innately oxymoronic as military intelligence – or fulfills its potential as the Office of Brutal Reality. We will also see, in time, whether people are willing to have their belts tightened for them and whether the UK can mend its finances the way Canada did and the way Ireland is trying to do.

The more senior of my three readers may remember “zero-base budgeting”, an aspect of accounting long since fallen into disuse. In essence, one starts at the bottom, rather than at the top. Thus, looking at the vast maw of the UK state’s expenditure, one would say: “If we were starting again from scratch, what would we need?” That contrasts with the present: “Here’s the expenditure. What can we cut?”

When the cuts do come, even though they will be top-down rather than “zero-base”, growth will slow. Markets will respond with volatility at best. But in time this will be good for markets in that although growth may be lower, it will be higher quality and more bankable, ie not born of excess credit or government expenditure.

Well, the Range Rover celebrated its 40th birthday last week. Costing £1,198 in 1970, the first models were available as two-doors – or two-doors. Both models had vinyl seats and rubber mats. Investors, on balance, will benefit from the four-wheel drive as well.