25-5 is the prediction of one Lib Dem Cabinet minister of the respective poll positions of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats this time next year with the theory that fear will hold the Coalition together. It may hold the Westminster parties together but anything like such a performance in the local government elections will have a devastating impact upon the Liberal Democrats in particular with an internal war or loss of activists or both highly likely. The Rawnsley piece argues that the 1920's are the historical precedent:
"There has not been a spending squeeze like it, remarks this minister with a sense of history, since "the Geddes Axe". Then, too, Britain was ruled by a Tory-Liberal coalition. Then, too, its policy was driven by alarm about the national finances, in that case the debt run up during the First World War. Sir Eric Geddes, a businessman, was put in charge of a committee to recommend cuts. By the time his blade had stopped swinging, the defence budget had been slashed by more than 40% and the number of civil servants had been reduced by over a third."
In terms of media and message the cuts programme is essentially a crisis period with the standard advice to have a strong media presence with a consistent message. Yet it seems to ensure the latter the Coalition is foregoing the former. Neither will it be helped if the sense that Osborne is enjoying is role takes hold.
On a local level those who think we can keep simply get immunity from what is coming down the line should heed these warnings:
"The cabinet minister leant back into his chair and took a fortifying swig of his drink. Then, in a voice that blended bravado with fatalism, he said: "It's going to be absolutely horrendous. We're doomed to be extremely unpopular. Doooomed." He was anticipating the public reaction to the ferocity of the spending squeeze that George Osborne will unveil in just five weeks' time. Put aside everything else that has occurred in the life of the coalition to date. None of it amounts to anything more than foreplay compared with the comprehensive spending review, the results of which are scheduled to be announced on 20 October."