This is a chapter in 'The Coalition Effect, 2010–2015', edited by Anthony Seldon and Mike Finn, published by Cambridge University Press on 20 March 2015, made available here with permission.
The 2008 financial crisis, which developed into the deepest recession experienced in the UK since before the 1930s, formed the backdrop to the 2010 election and the formation of the coalition government. In 2010, the coalition stated that its first priority was to ‘reduce the deficit and restore economic growth’. The story of fiscal retrenchment will surely be one of the main things for which this government is remembered: cuts to public spending on a scale unprecedented in modern times have, in the main, been successfully delivered. However, the return to growth proved more elusive, making the path to deficit reduction much slower and rockier even than predicted in 2010.