A promise to drive the Commons gravy train "well and truly into the buffers" was a politically astute move by David Cameron, says the Daily Mail. True, his plan to cut the number of ministers by 10% and slash their pay and perks will save just £120m, a "pinprick" compared to the £175bn UK budget deficit. But in "leading by example", he has chosen the best possible way to prepare the country for the huge spending cuts to come.
The Tory leader refused to commit to any specifics in advance of the general election, says Jean Eaglesham in the FT. But he did stress that there were "whole swaths of state activity that can no longer be sacrosanct" in relation to cuts, citing public sector pay, gold-plated pensions and big procurement projects. Labour reacted by accusing the Tories of a "pathetic" attempt to deflect attention from serious issues about the public finances.
Cameron's commitments may have been vague, says the Daily Mail, but "he's been much more straight with us than the government". Chancellor Alistair Darling promised that he wouldn't flinch from "hard choices", but couldn't bring himself to utter the word "cuts". "Far from telling us where his axe might fall, he repeated his claim that reducing spending now would risk choking off the recovery 'even before it started'". In short, he cares more about the coming election than the national interest.
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Cameron's proposals may be "electorally appealing", says The Times. But they are also wrong. MPs should be paid more, not less. "If we want our elected representatives to be as capable and diverse as GPs or head teachers, we must be prepared to pay them as much as they would earn in those fields, let alone in business, banking or law." A smaller salary risks limiting the House of Commons to toffs, trustafarians and retired hedge-fund managers. Decent MPs will "cost decent money".
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