Thursday 28 October 2010

Kosovarian ethnic cleansing....

Boris Johnson is quoted on the BBC as saying, in ref. to the Housing Benefits changes that George'n'Dave want to introduce, and which Labour claims will mean moving people out of their homes and even across the major cities like London,...
"What we will not see and we will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. "On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots."
Tory Ministers have been quick to jump on his Mayoral Bumblingness and a retraction of sorts has been issued by Boris...
"...taken out of context.. misquoted....didn't really mean it..."
Aye right. He meant it all right and Dave knows it's a shot across his bows. Boris means to get re-elected and the last thing he needs is homeless families being shuttled ftrom London borough to London burough looking for a home that is cheap enough to dump them in.

In any case other, less inhibited, Tories have accepted that the new policy will indeed mean evictions and misplaced internal refugees in our big cities. Mark Field, an inner London Tory MP said as much on Newsnight last night... see here  

Mr Field seems quite relaxed about forcing people out (what Boris calls "cleansing"). When asked if he expected a "migration out", he said "yes".

A lady called Theresa with 4 kids (2 in a very good local school) and a sick mother, who would have to move home and kids move school if her benefit was cut.
It's quite straightforward, quite open and quite disgusting.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

When the arse of Theory meets the Guard Dog of Reality....

One little commented effect of the CSR is that it will be local councils, not the Torydem Government, that will have to implement many of the service and financial cuts implied in George Osborne's savage budgets.

Barnett Council was supposed to be the vanguard council for the Tory approach to this... Based on the "Easyjet" approach the "Easycouncil" confidently predicted "Easycuts".

But, as in many cases when the arse of theory meets the guard dog of reality, reality bites back, leaving the theory and the theorist badly frayed and bitten...
View Details

Click on Barnet, the barking dog for details...

It's no surprise that Barnet Council has admitted that it is actually costing more to arrange the "easycuts" than they can save....

I have to say, "I could have told you so....". Anyone with any experience of cutting budgets, whether in the private or public sector, would know that it easy to plan and promise savings, but it's much more difficult to deliver...

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Growth..good for the coalition...?

Tonight's economic headlines report a higher-than-expected 0.8% rise in UK GDP in the 3rd Quarter. Up pops George Osborne on all the bulletins claiming credit: we done it and what's more we saved the UK from being Greece MK2.

Is that fair, or even true?

The coalition was elected in May and had its first budget in late June, so any effect on the economy will not yet have taken effect. That being the case, and insofar as economic outcomes are determined by politics, any economic growth this year has to be an outcome of policies enacted and implemented by the last Labour government.

The effects of the coalitions June budget and last week's CSR will only be felt in the 4Q 2010 or even early 2011, and the measurements of any success/failure will not become clear 'till much later than that.

Tax Research UK has a good (if frightening) analysis....

Sunday 24 October 2010

What to call them....

The coalition has been a puzzle to Labour and its other opponents in many ways, not least what to call them.

The coalition? Too bland.

The LibCons? The Condem coalition? Too contrived..

None seem to stick and none provide the sense that we have pinned them down to their essence.

I suggest the ToryDems or Torydems. It tells what they are: predominently Tory supported by the right wing of the Liberal Democrats. It is that Tory, Orange Book, wing of the Lib Dems that is propping up Dave'n'George, not the old "Liberal" wing, the people who thought that they were in a left-of-centre party....

Torydem. Think it'll stick....?

Saturday 23 October 2010

Who Remembers Selsdon Man?

The philosopher John Gray has an interesting angle on the Osborne cuts in the Guardian.

As well as pointing out that, for all her ferocious rhetoric, Margaret Thatcher did not achieve long-term cuts in public spending or, except temporarily,  reduce the Welfare State, he detects a more ruthess ambition in Dave'n'George.

In an interesting aside he compares their attitude to that of early the Edward Heath administration. Most people have forgotten that the early Heath was a cutter and slasher (at least in theory) and  a follower of the Selsdon Group. Heath's pre-Thatcher "Thatcherism" failed, his Premiership faltered on the first big miners strike and he is now no more than a footnote in recent history.

Mrs Thatcher herself did not dismantle the welfare State but now her acolytes from the Bullingdon Club are set to make another serious attempt to threaten the social glue that holds the UK together.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Cuts "Regressive" - Official!

Here's a couple of quotes "
Nick Clegg Apr 2010 IFS... "concluded that the Lib Dems’ plan is the most credible." 
Nick Clegg Oct 2010 IFS..... "distorted and a complete nonsense"
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has been the Lib/Con coalition's think-tank of choice: Nick Clegg thinks (or thought, see above) that it was wonderful when it endorsed his plans. It is certainly one of the most respected organisations commenting on economic matters in the UK.  George Osborne was so impressed that he even poached Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the organisation, to take charge of his own creation, the Office for Budget Responsibility.

So when the IFS says George is lying, you have to sit up and listen. In the IFS presentations on the cuts, the IFS acting director, Carl Emmerson says that the claim by Osborne that the cuts are, at 19% of departmental budgets, less than the 20% Labour was committed to, is untrue. To quote;
"...But the new Government has already implemented cuts to spending in this
year, thereby reducing the base for Mr Osborne’s comparison. So, by 2014–15 departmental spending is forecast to be below the level implied by the plans set out in Labour’s last Budget. And because this is true, any like-for-like comparison of spending in “unprotected areas” would also be higher in 2014– 15 under the last Government’s plans than under the new Government’s plans.."
He also points out that the cuts are regressive
"....The Treasury’s modelling shows that the benefit measures announced yesterday will hit those in the bottom half of the income distribution more as a share of their income than those in the top half...."
and hit the poor hardest particularly poor children
"...benefits will be focussed more on pensioners and less on families with children....".
None of this is a surprise: I have no doubt that the cuts are as much idelogical as economically driven, they are too deep and too quick and the aim is to end the Welfare State as we know it. It appears more than two thirds of the population agree with me.

But there is one aspect I have found particularly hard to bear...and that is the unseemly gusto with which George Osborne announced the cuts and the cheers with which Tory/Lib Dem MPs greeted them. It is one thing to believe (wrongly IMO) that you have to make savage cuts: it’s quite another to do so with unbridled enthusiasm and little apparent thought for the practical result of your actions.

When hundreds of local authority social workers or care assistants are sacked and their clients suffer because of these cuts, and when benefits are denied the poorest and most deserving, we will remember those whoops of delight from the Lib/Tory coalition and understand the kind of people to whom we have given control of our society.

By then, unfortunately,  a lot of damage will have been done, damage that a future Labour Government will have to addresss and fix.....just as they had to salvage civil society after the savagery of Thatcher....... plus ca change...

Wednesday 13 October 2010

For what doth it profit a man......

Vince Cable has been heard singing in his bath, the old Bob Dylan song with added Lib Dem lyrics...

"Tell me, how many promises can one man break, before he's a Tory stooge..."

Monday 11 October 2010

In today's Guardian, Julian Glover ( who bills himself as a Lib Dem but spouts the Daily Mail line without any obvious restraint in his weekly Guardian column) has the proposition that equality is a bad thing, or as he puts it
.."a fair society may be one in which people have the right to strive for inequality"
The article is in response to a report by the Equalities and Human Right Commission which broadly champions more equality and less inequality.

Glovers response is to challange the definition and vagueness of "fairness" and to suggest that economic equality is not  a suitable goal for a fair society.

"Its definition of a fair society is one that champions the constant reduction of unequal outcomes..."
"I think the EHRC has a wrongheaded idea of fairness. It measures the extent to which people's lives are different, and then calculates the action needed to make them more the same. The assumption is that equality is what we all want."
I have to say that IMO Julian has got his philosphical positioning a bit wrong. I would say that  a.... "society in which people have the right to strive for inequality.." a free society.

A fair society is a free society in which that freedom is balanced by others striving for (and being free to strive for) a more equal distribution of the economic wealth. And, it seems obvious to me, if a society is too unequal, then it will become much less fair and, eventually, much less free.

Last month I blogged about The Spirit Level, a book that...
"....has a simple, but politically explosive, theme: that greater inequality is the cause of many modern problems and, by logicical implication, that greater equality can be the solution to many of the problems of western societies..."
Of course, if Julian reall was a "liberal", he would know, or at least instinctively feel, the truth of that already....

Friday 8 October 2010

Red Faced - Red Top

George Pascoe Watson is cock of the walk. As the Political Editor of the Sun newspaper, he is the biggest beast in the corral. His support and opinion can make or break politicians and their parties.

So when he comments here that Alan Johnson will definitely not be Shadow Chancellor, it carries weight.

Except... two minutes after reading his tweet, BBC TV confidently announced that Allan Johnson is the new Shadow Chancellor, quickly followed by this non-apology from the bold George...

This may seem a trivial matter, but people like Pascoe Watson survive and prosper on their contacts and the reliability of the information they can get from those contacts. There has been much discussion recently about the "red top" tabloids, especially the Sun, losing their dominant influence over public and political opinion.

Getting it so wrong so publicly in this type of issue won't help restore that dominance.... and a good thing too.

The Return of the Undeserving Poor.....

Two days ago I posted this, about the Tory Child Benefit fiasco. I ended the post like this;
"All the Conservative cries of "fairness" are just a diversion from their long term ideoligical nirvana: less tax for the rich, more wealth for the few, keep the middle classes in a balance of comfort and fear, add a few crumbs of conscience money to make it look as if you "care", and let the poor manage how they can."
I almost added a flourish about the "return of the undeserving poor", but I thought that it would be too ridiculous: even the Tories wouldn't be so crass as to talk like that...
Imagine my surprise when watching Newsnight that very night and I saw a senior LibCon Minister, Jeremy Hunt, use exactly that language. Mr Hunt said: "If you are on benefits you shouldn't have children, or any more children. Us posh folk are giving you charity and you better be grateful and well behaved. Just watch it."
I paraphrase of course, but that's the sense of his opinions. Cold charity and like it, the Tory gruel throughout the ages.
In the twenties my dad and his brothers, being too proud to wear the boots they got from the  parish, went to school barefoot. In the interim we have (should that be had?) made some progress and distributed benefits according to need, not by judgement against some middle class moral strictures about the deserving and undeserving poor. Now the finger-wagging parish, in the shape of our ConDem coalition, rears its head again. Dare I mention the workhouse?

Thursday 7 October 2010

Stormy Weather....

Left Foot Forward had this assessment of Cameron's speech within minutes of its completion. Devastating. Maybe the Tories should be glad that, in the words of a Tory minister quoted in the Guardian, it'll be forgotten in a week....

Anyway, to substance: a criticism from many economists of the speed and depth of the Tory cuts has been that they risk a "double dip" recession, i.e., having been coaxed out of a short recession by an expansion of the money supply, the economy reacts to the sudden austerity by sinking back into negative growth. Recession returns.

The magazine Public Finance reveals figures released today by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research show that growth has slowed dramatically.
"Latest economic figures have shown a marked decline growth in the third quarter of 2010, with the onset of government austerity measures cited as a factor in slowing the economic recovery.

"Data released this afternoon by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research showed that growth for the three months up to September stood at 0.5% – less than half of the unexpectedly high figure of 1.2% for quarter two." 
Under Doctors Brown and Darling, the ailing economy struggles to a frail recovery...but now the there's a new team of doctors. They're cocky and confident, but much less experience, and their Patent Coalition Medicine seems to be choking the patient. Pulse down, circulation sluggish, a double dip beckons the patient...having rallied briefly, it's eyes flutter....

Now more data about a faltering housing market from the Halifax via Left Foot Forward (again). Of course constantly rising house prices is not necessarilly a "good thing". But as a harbinger of the dreaded double dip they are part of a growing body of evidence that those who think that too much austerity is dangerous could be right. And Georgey Boy could be wrong....

The real cuts are still to come by the way....

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Whaur's yer Arc o' Prosperity noo?

In past years Alex Salmond was fond of pointing to our Irish cousins across the water and crowing..."Look how bonnie they look, well fed and everything... Scotland could be just like Ireland, y'know, if only the English would get off our backs..."

Today Fitch, the credit ratings agency, relegated Ireland's rating to A+, meaning even more pain and trouble for the Irish economy and its prospects of recovery..... 

In 2007, Eck also favoured less banking regulation.......from The Times, 7th April, 2007;
"....We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a Scottish financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity...."
What can you say? The man's a comic genius.....

At least as funny as Spike Milligan and the Pakistani dalek..... if not quite so grounded in mundane reality...

Why not just raise income tax?

A YouGov poll in the Sun newspaper finds that 83% of respondants think that cutting Child Benefit for the better-off is fair, which is a puzzle given all the negative publicity and violent reaction to the policy since it was sprung on the Tory Party conference on Monday morning.

Can the policy really be so popular among the public and yet cause so much panic among its progenitors? TBH, I don't know: maybe the question was posed in a particular way that elicited a particular answer, maybe it was asked before the objections to the policy became common currency in the debate. Maybe it is a true reflection of public opinion. Who knows?

Meanwhile the reaction of the  Tory Party leadership is to flip-flop over the very same subject, believing the announcement to have been a mistake or at least mismanaged. After taking flack from its biggest supporters in the Daily Mail and The Telegraph, the Conservatives have panicked. In the face of a barrage of criticism of the impact of the cuts on single earning families where one parent doesn't work and looks after the kids, they are now promising to introduce a married couples tax allowance, a policy which is not in the coalition agreement and which the Consrvatives only ever envisaged being applied to standard rate taxpayers in any case. They seem to have forgotten the best political advice in the circumstances: if you are in a hole, stop digging!

Anyway, why did the Tories choose to design this particular policy in this particular way? Why go to all the bother of making some families eligible for the benefit and not others, introducing even more anomolies into the system and alienating those parents, many of them middle class Tory voters, who chose to stay at home and look after their children?  If you want to bring in the extra £1billion that the change will generate, and you want the better off to pay, why not just tax the higher rate taxpayer at 0.5 p or 1p more, whichever amount will get you the money you need? 

The answer is of course and as always with the Tories, ideological. The cuts are being sold as "fair", taking from the rich not the poor, which is unremarkable and inoffensive. But the real signficance is that they undermine the principle of universality... the belief that "we're all in this together", that comes from all groups in society receiving the same entitlement to benefits.

Create a benefits system that applies only to the poor divides the rich from the poor even more. It emphasises the differences in wealth that already exist and makes another separation between "us" and "them". The Conservatives believe that a system that applies only to the poor will, over time, become a poorer system. And such a system will be less regarded, easier to neglect and underfund, more like the poor law systems of late Victorian and Edwardian times.

Ironically, for all the selling of this policy as "fair", the Tories real aim is to creat a more unequal society and a less fair society. That's the Tories' prize. Fairness doesn't come into it. And that's why they will not raise taxes for higher earners, even although that is the obvious way to get the money they need. They are against it precicely because it would be fairer and more equitable. All the Conservative cries of "fairness" are just a diversion from their long term ideoligical nirvana: less tax for the rich, more wealth for the few, keep the middle classes in a balance of comfort and fear, add a few crumbs of conscience money to make it look as if you "care", and let the poor manage how they can.

Tory Heaven. And welcome to it.....

BTW, a funny Paxman interview... when did Theresa May, Minister for Women and Families, learn of Georgey Boy's cuts to Child Bernefit...? Priceless. Poor Terry, she looks even more blankly stupid than usual...