The left has gone a little bit mad over the IFS briefing note that claims Osborne’s June was regressive, rather than progressive as he claimed. To be fair, so has the right. They’re both engaging in the traditional political game of yelling ‘But!’ when the other says ‘Ha!’. Impartial commentators (which, as a Lib Dem, I am clearly not) might like to point out that any budget involving reducing state expenditure isn’t ‘progressive’, in the debased ethical sense of the term rather than the fiscal one. This is a simple consequence of the math of power: the relative ability of a poor person to influence society is significantly less than the rich. The impact of one’s vote on society is directly proportional to the power of the state, so reducing the influence of the state reduces the influence of the less well off on society relative to the rich. As a consequence, I have never claimed that the Coalition’s acts have been progressive, although I have claimed that they were necessary.

The missing factor in this discussion is, of course, the alternative to Osborne’s budget, which one can clearly infer would be a Labour one – the ‘cuts deeper than Thatcher’ line uttered by Darling rather implies that Labour budget wouldn’t be progressive either. Indeed, if we look at this statement on Labour’s deficit reduction plans we find that they too planned to cut benefit spending, alongside other cuts. We don’t know which part of the benefit system they’d take the knife to – but given they’d already looked at cutting housing benefit, it seems likely Labour would’ve cut that too.

We’re back in a situation in which the left is mindlessly jumping up and down without presenting any real alternatives, and the Conservatives are probably wondering why they bother. This is mindless oppositional politics without any constructive engagement, as I’ve said before.