An extraordinary comment by defence secretary Michael Fallon on the BBC this morning which, rather typically these days, went completely unchallenged. I was so taken aback, I made a point of writing it down, verbatim, so I could fully take in what he was actually saying. He said: “We’ll be spending less on welfare and more on things that really matter – like defence.” Things that really matter, he said.
The things that really matter, then, do not include old people, who take up well over 50% of the welfare budget, the severely disabled who take up something like 8% or the unemployed who take up something like 3%. It tells you everything about priorities, doesn’t it?
As ever, Fallon’s comments were heavily wrapped in political spin – the usual dig at the last government which, may I remind you, left office over five years ago, leaving “a mess” in terms of spending. He somehow forgot to mention that the MOD has dramatically increased spending since 2010 and has recruited many thousands of extra well paid bureaucrats, many from other government departments who have been forced to shed jobs, whilst at the same time presiding over massive cuts in the armed forces themselves.
But it’s the welfare comment that grates with me. Fallon states clearly that the well-being and social care of its citizens is not a major concern for the government, compared to buying more weapons. Moreoever, old people are a secondary consideration, at best.
You could say that this was a throwaway line from another politician but I am not sure about that. My take on what he said and how he said it was that he was trying to be the tough guy, he was almost showing off.
This week, government spending will be cut to the bone. Fallon’s friends will be making us safer by further slashing police numbers and putting the squeeze on all frontline spending, apart from defence. This will be the bonfire of the things that really matter on our country, the biggest attack ever on the very existence of public services.
The cat is out of the bag now. “We’ll be spending less on welfare and more on things that really matter – like defence.” So we will see, absolutely clearly, the things that really matter to George Osborne and David Cameron. Where there are cuts, they will be in areas that don’t matter. If they did matter, they’d spend more.
I have now heard Fallon’s words twice and there is no mistaking what he said. What a sad state of affairs it is when the BBC is too incompetent to perhaps too frightened to challenge him.