During the general election campaign, I drew attention to the Conservatives’ position on cuts and the risks they ran in saying ‘we’re all in this together’. My post from May discussing that is HERE, and the longer argument about the risks involved is HERE. Looking again at David Cameron’s speech earlier in the week to the Conservative conference, it’s telling how much the Coalition continues to take the same line. Now it’s not so much ‘we’re all in this together’ as ‘your country needs you’, but the substantive line is very much the same.
This approach remains highly dangerous in territorial terms. It assumes that the ‘we’ can be taken for granted; that ‘the country’ means the UK, without question or caveat. That appears no longer to be the case. Devolution alone put that in question. That UK-wide solidarity is explicitly challenged by the nationalist parties, and the Conservatives’ vision is not shared by the other parties in government in Wales or Northern Ireland either – as vividly shown by this week’s joint declaration by the first ministers (already discussed HERE). The stakes involved are not just greater than the UK Government seems to think but also different to what they think. I’ve also noted in various posts (most recently HERE) the Coalition’s insensitivity to devolution concerns. In how it affects the UK’s territorial constitution, as well as many other respects, the Spending Review has ample scope to go very badly wrong.