Monday, 4 January 2010

Reasons to be (more or less) cheerful

Twenty Ten may be only four days old, but there are already so many reasons to be cheerful. The magic of the FA Cup endures, the DFS sale is still on and there are only 119 editions of The Joy Of Crochet before you can boast a complete collection.

There may be ice on the ground but there is optimism in the air. On Corrie, Gail Potter/Tilsley/Platt/Hillman is about to tie the knot for the fourth time, although perhaps her fiance is the optimistic one.

And there's an election campaign on. It's compulsory in political reporting circles to predict at a safe distance from the election that this will be the longest/dirtiest/closest* (*delete as appropriate) campaign in history.

The cliche might even be true this time, with David Cameron openly talking of campaign launches yesterday and unveiling the first chapter of the draft Tory manifesto today.

After months of talking of cuts and pay freezes, Mr Cameron is trying to convince voters there's more to the Tories than doom and gloom, by offering to protect the NHS budget.

The draft manifesto may apply only in England but the financial consequences of today's pledge will be felt UK-wide. Mr Cameron is effectively offering to protect around one third of the Welsh Assembly Government's budget (unless he suddenly decides to tear up the Barnett formula).

But protecting some budgets mean cuts elsewhere, and less to spend on other services such as local government, transport and housing.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has picked up on the theme after Kenneth Clarke's chat about VAT with the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Hain said: "Where will the cuts fall? They cannot deliver what they are promising without putting up VAT or slashing investment in Wales' schools and hospitals, in Sure Start, in large projects like Defence Training at St Athan or launch aid for new Airbus planes at Deeside."
If this is your first day back at work after Christmas, as it is mine, you probably feel as if you haven't been away. Never mind, there's only four more months of this to come. Happy New Year.

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