Gordon Brown blundered when he said one thing to Gillian Duffy’s face and something else in private. She understandably felt betrayed. It’s nothing, however, compared to how betrayed she and millions of other pensioners will feel in the coming months by whichever leader wins.
All the main parties have been talking in public about investment and tax cuts or modest rises. In private, however, they’ve identified massive cuts and tax rises. The IFS reckons that Labour has publicly identified just 13 per cent of the cuts it needs to make, the Conservatives 17 per cent and the Lib Dems 26 per cent.
The result is that the public are not prepared for what is about to hit them. Only 25 per cent of people surveyed by the RSA 2020 Public Services Trust believe that there will be cuts to tackle the deficit. Millions of ordinary people who are financially dependent on the government, including pensioners like Mrs Duffy, will be in for a nasty shock.
It’s time for the politicians to engage directly with the public. Public spending cuts can only be achieved if politicians govern with the people. If they don’t, the public will feel that they have been mislead. And they may not be as prepared to forgive and forget this betrayal as Mrs Duffy was.