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When the Party’s OverThe Politics of Fiscal Squeeze in Perspective$
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Christopher Hood, David Heald, and Rozana Himaz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265734

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265734.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

The UK Geddes Axe of the 1920s in Perspective

The UK Geddes Axe of the 1920s in Perspective

(p.73) 4 The UK Geddes Axe of the 1920s in Perspective
When the Party’s Over

Christopher Hood

Rozana Himaz

British Academy

The UK ‘Geddes Axe’ initiated under the Lloyd George coalition government in the 1920s became a byword for spending cuts in a slump. It comprised the largest expenditure squeeze in the UK between 1900 and 2013 except for demobilisation periods after the two World Wars. This chapter shows that the immediate trigger for the fiscal squeeze was a tax revolt by middle-class voters which panicked the government into cutting public spending and income tax rates. The cuts were made all at once rather than being phased, and the biggest falls came in social security spending, defence and education rather than ‘equal misery’ across all policy areas. The chapter argues that the most obvious long-term effect of the Geddes Axe was economic (exacerbating the sluggish economic performance and unemployment it was intended to mitigate), but that it also contributed to electoral realignment as between the Liberal and Labour parties after 1922.

Keywords:   UK, Geddes Axe, tax revolt, fiscal squeeze, spending cuts, Lloyd George coalition government, electoral realignment

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