After this election, whoever wins those coveted keys to No 10, the UK is in all probability going into its own extended period of austerity. Not for us the riots of Greece but a grumbling and quiet gnashing of teeth, letters to MPs all interspersed by the odd strike or protest march.
What we will witness under the next government is a slow decline in standards of public services as the money runs out and anything left is redistributed to more important areas. Conversely taxes will have to rise in order to fill the yawning debt hole.
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, knows the position as well as anyone. He gave us a peek into the future when he recently said that the government that gets voted in would be forced to make decisions that would make them unelectable for a generation.
We will see NHS waiting lists start to increase together with closures of certain units and cobbled together centralisation of services under the banner of efficiency.
Local government will find its central government funding gradually squeezed with the obvious effects on services.
The MoD will undergo a totally emasculating defence review.
The mantra will be that front line services will not be touched. But with the normal broadsword and mallet approach cuts will be imposed across the board. Every department will be equally hit and jobs purposefully gapped or scrapped as they become vacant.
Already the doctors and teachers have come out to say that they are a special case, expect many more to come forward.
And all this without the pain the private sector will have to go through.
In the Times Camilla Cavendish makes a strong case for the next government to call in the IMF to review our economic position. The argument goes that the findings and recommendations of an impartial, international organisation such as this would lend weight and credence to the government’s subsequent actions so the people would more readily accept the medicine. But one wonders what the reaction of the markets and rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor would be should this be done? Calling in the IMF to check the books may be a step too far.
As already pointed out there will be certain groups lining up ready to argue vehemently that theirs are the funds that should be ring-fenced. The threat of industrial action “for the good of the nation” will also be a tactic many use. We must also remember that we are still a relatively rich nation and will be expected to shoulder our share of the international aid and IMF burdens. But it will not be the calling on the public purse (our taxes) that will diminish, it will be the government's ability to acquiesce to the demands.
The next government are going to have to be strong and learn very quickly how to say no firmly, mean it and back it up. They must then bear the opprobrium and realise that they are sacrificing themselves on the altar of the country’s future. They are going to have to learn the politics of disappointment both for the people and for themselves.