In last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor George Osborne set out a four-year plan to scale back the British public sector. This will mean cuts deeper than Thatcher’s across almost all areas of government. He and his colleagues in government argue that the cuts are necessary to bring Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy, but many fear that they will push the UK into back into recession, hitting the poor and vulnerable particularly hard in the process.

In replying to the Spending Review, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson raised an issue that’s upsetting a lot of people: there’s a feeling that the government, the Tory element in particular, might be enjoying themselves a little too much. If one really must unleash a scorched earth policy on the nation’s finances, then one ought to do so reluctantly and miserably. No matter what they say, there’s a feeling that some Tories aren’t reluctant or miserable enough. As Alan Johnson put it in his reply, with Ed Miliband echoing the words at his side, “For many of them, this is what they came into politics for”. [Spending review 2010: Alan Johnson says coalition cuts ‘ideological’, The Guardian]

Depending on what you think about the Conservatives, you may or may not think that this is a valid criticism. But even if you do accept the criticism, the one thing that you mustn’t do is infer from the Tories’ motives that the cuts are wrong. Perhaps the New Conservatives are as cuddly as they claim. Or perhaps they’re the ‘nasty party’ of old. Either way, what they want to do and what they ought to do are two different things, and nothing about the former implies anything about the latter.