Whenever you hear the Tories blame Labour for the cuts on the grounds that spending was too high before the recession, remember this, from 3 September 2007:
George Osborne today pledged to match Labour’s public spending plans for the next three years
In his Times article that day (which began by noting that “mortgage defaults in America have sent shock waves through financial markets in London”), Osborne proposed to “share the proceeds of economic growth between the funding our public services need and the competitive lower taxes our economy demands”. He mentioned the (then-smaller) deficit briefly, but didn’t mention anything about reducing it. He also smirked that Gordon Brown “has now been forced to adopt our approach to spending”.
If Labour is guilty of complacency about the economic good times, so are the Tories. If Brown is to blame for wanting higher public spending rather than ‘fixing the roof while the sun was shining’, so is Osborne. Like ERM membership, it was a misjudgement shared across the political mainstream. As he likes to say, they’re all in this together.