Last week I published this post, showing that an IPSOS/Mori poll revealed that the SNP had caught up with and passed Labour in voting intentions for Holyrood.
Barnier and the Tantalus game
12 hours ago
"David Cameron has promised to....end the state's monopoly over the public sector......the prime minister described his vision of "open public services"....and promised to release public services from the "grip of state control.....Mr Cameron added the initiative was was an important part of his Big Society agenda....The prime minister said he wanted an automatic right for private sector bodies to bid for public work, decision-making power to be given back to professionals, and people to have more control over the budget for the service they receive.... public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.... there are some areas - like national security services or the judiciary - where this wouldn't make sense. But everywhere else should be open to real diversity....Cameron....insisted the state still had a crucial role to play in ensuring fair funding and access.The government hopes the plan will reduce bureaucracy, improve quality and save money....."Let's interpret the PM's words.....
"We can't go on like this, I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS"
"With the Holyrood election now under three months away, the latest poll from Ipsos MORI reveals a significant reversal in fortunes for the two main parties, with the SNP now holding a slight advantage, having been 10 points behind Labour in November 2010. Among those certain to vote on May 5th, the SNP’s share of the vote now stands at 37%, up by 6 percentage points since November 2010. In the same period, Labour’s share of the vote has fallen by 5 percentage points and is currently at 36%, while the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats are largely unchanged at 13% and 10% respectively. This is first time since February 2010 that an Ipsos MORI poll has shown a lead for the governing SNP."The figures quoted are from those who say they are certain to vote. But if you take all respondents, Labour is on 38% and the SNP 36%.
...to those who have, more shall be given; and from those who have not, what little they have will be taken away.....
"Cathy Newman's Verdict
David Cameron slipped up today by confusing the Sure Start budget with the broader early intervention grant. On that, FactCheck believes he misled the Commons.
But he was also less clear than he should have been by omitting to mention that this year’s early intervention grant has been cut by 11 per cent – choosing to focus instead on the very small increase in next year’s figures.
And that’s even before we get into the fact that none of the money in the early intervention grant has to be spent on Sure Start.
Councils have been given a free hand to close as many centres as they wish. The Prime Minister may find himself having to clarify all this before too long."
There is a lot of public disquiet about alleged enormous sweetheart deals done with major public companies-Vodafone and others-in the last five years. Three or four months ago, I tabled a question asking how many of these deals had been done, costing more than £100 million at a time. The answer I received was that the information requested was "not readily available" and could be provided "only at disproportionate cost". I received a similar blocking answer this morning. When is the Minister going to tell the House what HMRC has been up to?To which the Minister replied;
So. There are no sweetheart deals and anyway it's all secret and confidential so even if there were, I wouldn't tell you. Very open government...."The National Audit Office has investigated and examined that as a matter of course. There is no question of sweetheart deals. The reality is that HMRC is seeking to recover as much tax as is due. That is what it has done in a number of cases. I am not going to comment on individual cases. That is a matter of confidentiality; I do not get to see the details. None the less, I think wild allegations have been made against HMRC, for which there is little or no evidence."
"The second action local authorities can take is to have a serious look at their core costs – not just the salaries of middle management and their CEOs but also what hours they do. One of the major surprises of the recession in the private sector has been how low unemployment has been given the severity of the downturn. One reason is because many firms invited staff to go part time."
"...There’s this disastrous policy that even in the countries that don’t need to have austerity...such as the U.K., ....are going for much more excessive austerity than they need ......We are already seeing around Europe the consequences of this austerity. The clear implication is that growth will be slower...."Pointing out the effects of austerity in Ireland and Greece he says....
"While both those nations had “no choice” but to tighten fiscal policy, measures adopted by some other countries such as the U.K. aren’t justified...... Britain, where the economy contracted in the fourth quarter, is already seeing the fallout....".Stiglitz, who is a highly respected and influential practicing economist and comentator, contrasts the position in Europe and the USA, where austerity is less fashionable and growth seems to be more established.