Lib Dem Voice, 11th July:
"By asking the public for their ideas and recommendations for public sector cuts, the Coalition Government has intelligently put the Labour party in an uncomfortable place...what do Labour do? Join the coalition in developing a mature and non-partisan approach to the national crisis or side with the union paymasters? Either way, Labour is staring into the abyss."
Hmm. Spending public money on a website where people can suggest ideas for public sector cuts. What could possibly go wrong?
The Other Taxpayers' Alliance explains what happened next:
"The government's Spending Challenge website, launched on Friday, invites us to send our ideas for cuts. "A team has been put together right at the heart of government," claims the blurb on the homepage, "and their job is to make sure that your ideas and comments are taken seriously."
Which is deeply worrying, because for the most part the contributors to Spending Challenge give the impression that they have moved there directly from the Daily Express comments board. Many entries have little bearing on government doing "more for less" and instead reflect personal hobby-horses, like the ubiquitous "Bring Back Capital Punishment". Others are exercised by "benefit scroungers", such as the contributor who wants to sterilise young girls who "just breed at will".
One of the most popular tags is "immigration". Entries here tend to fall into one of two categories:
- racist ranting written entirely in lower case
- RACIST RANTING WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS
The former includes a post, "there is only one way to save money", which states:
"now i am not a racist person but this country has had problems since the early 60's we need to decrease the number of immergrants in the uk i walk dow the street only to see hundreds of illegal immergrants that cant even speak english and i mean polish and muslims mainly and most of themare working in our local shops and local call centres."
So it turns out that the Coalition government's idea of a "mature and non-partisan approach" to cutting public services is "wasting our money on providing another platform for racists on the internet".