It seems to me that George Osborne is increasingly at risk of boxing himself into a dead end. He’s been a very smart and cunning politician so far but he’s making the mistake of sticking to what worked in the past while the situation around him changes.
The cuts tactic worked well when Labour was still in recent memory and key members of the previous government were in key positions in the shadow cabinet. But people’s memories fade and now the inherent negativity of cutting spending is harder to deflect onto Labour.
Ultimately, balancing a budget by cuts becomes extremely difficult if not impossible past a certain point, because you end up cutting the things that indirectly bring in more money than they cost you.
While some cuts are almost certainly necessary, they become harder to make as time goes on because you’re left with fewer options. At that point, the focus should shift away from “how do I lose less money?” to “how do I earn more?”, which is an inherently more positive message. There are three or four fairly obvious policies that would help with that. All it will take is for a more charismatic opposition leader to emerge and Osborne’s going to be easily framed as a pessimistic miser who lacks the imagination to grow the country’s economy.