Tory insider warns travel sector of 'biggest-ever squeeze'

Tory insider warns travel sector of 'biggest-ever squeeze'

A leading Conservative Party commentator has warned the industry to expect "the biggest squeeze on spending in UK history", but also forecast growing dissent within the government.

Tim Montgomerie, founder and editor of the influential Tory blogging site Conservative Home, told the Guild of Travel Management Companies' (GTMC) conference in Doha: "Be under no illusions.

"The government has only just begun the austerity package. It is going to be incredibly difficult  - the biggest squeeze on spending in UK history. Only 15% of the the cuts have been made, and just 20% of the welfare  cuts."

Montgomerie warned: "The public are not prepared for it. But we are nowhere near the end of the economic difficulties and they could get worse as easily as get better." He argued: "It will be incredibly difficult for the Conservative Party to win the next election."

Montgomerie reported "increasing dissent in the cabinet" over the lack of an economic growth strategy, with four ministers voicing disagreement with government policy.

He said this extended to dissatisfaction over the government attitude to airport capacity and the ban on runway building in the southeast. A handful of ministers have argued for a freeze on airline taxes and called for diverting money from high speed rail to anti-congestion measures, he said.

Montgomerie told the GTMC: "The likelihood of the Conservatives winning the next general election outright is small and that is the context in which the government operates.

"The right is getting much more organised. It is unhappy about tax and green policies and believes the govenment should be prioritising airport expansion." However, he said the Liberal Democrat attitude to new airport capacity was "over our dead bodies".

At the same time, Montgomerie said: "Boris Johnson will be a powerful advocate of a different kind of Conservatism now he has been re-elected London mayor."

Montgomerie suggested a break-up of the euro zone "when rather than if" Greece leaves the euro, would be destablising: "But a big event like that could change the balance of politics. Lots of things become possible in a moment of crisis."

Referring to Prime Minister David Cameron's appointment of Justine Greening as transport secretary last October, Montgomerie said: "I'm not sure Cameron was aware of Justine Greening's history of opposition to a third runway at Heathrow when he appointed her."


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