For the moment, the Lib Dems are getting all the heat of criticism for the cuts, but soon it will be the Conservatives’ turn. Local government is the new frontline trench, soon to take heavy fire.
Draw a line from the Severn to the Wash and you will see that by far the majority of local councils south of it are Tory held. From my experience in councils (six of them in UK) most of the Conservative councillors on those councils will be what I call tribal Tories: middle class people who could never imagine themselves voting other than blue, rather than ideologues or conviction politicians. The only constituency they listen to are people like themselves: small local businessmen, accountants and retirees, defiantly defensive in the presence of multi-qualified senior council officers, and all too ready to believe that public servants are fat sheep grazing on common land.
Cutting public services is a traditional article of Conservative faith for such people, but stay! When the cuts begin to bite hard after Christmas, as they surely will, then we shall start to see treasured, taken-for-granted public services stumbling and falling. Libraries, for example, hanging by the thread of the old Public Libraries Act. When these start to go, and day carers start to vanish, then we shall hear the middle classes stir from their slumbers and be stunned that a Conservative-led administration is actually doing what it has always said it would. That’s when (in May) Conservative councillors – both the saloon bar know-nothings and the sharp young IT so-and-sos – will begin to hear bitter complaints on the doorsteps, and they won’t be able to do a damn thing about them, because this government is tightening control of local government and witholding funding from it at the same time. We are seeing local government in England by the light of battlefield flares, presaging bombardment. It’s not pretty.
Remember the old dictum, “Now they are ringing the bells, soon they will be wringing their hands”? We’ll be using it again.