The British state is not being shrunk beyond Thatcher’s dreams

In the Guardian recently, Polly Toynbee claimed that the current British government was “driving the state below the size of anything attempted by Margaret Thatcher”. The truth is that it isn’t.

Chart 1 shows British government total managed expenditure since Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979. It shows it in real prices, ie, corrected for inflation so the numbers across years are comparable.

Chart 1

Picture2

Source: Office for Budget Responsibility

What it shows is that in real terms, on official projections, British government spending in 2020-2021 will be 81% above even the highest figure of Margaret Thatcher’s time in office (1984-1985).

It is difficult to believe that Ms Toynbee is unaware of this. What we appear to have here, then, is another, particularly glaring example, of someone saying something that isn’t true in the hope that nobody will actually check whether it is or isn’t. Sadly, much of what passes for public discourse these days is made up of statements like this.

 

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