The Thick of It


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cameron = New Labour?

I haven't got the time for a more detailed post now, but my initial thoughts about Cameron's speech today are that:

  • Poverty:  "Don't you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party, to fight for the poorest who you have let down" - is this a joke? What about tax credits, the minimum wage, Sure Start and investment in education?
  • A more comprehensive account is taken by Left Foot Forward, whoI defer to. They say: "According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (i) “between 1998–99 and 2004–05, Labour oversaw the longest decline in poverty since the start of our consistent time series in 1961"
More on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Honesty on cuts or honesty on Tory motives?

I don't expect to but it would be good to hear something from the Tories this week admitting that Gordon Brown's fiscal stimulus was necessary to keep the economy going. They are more interested in highlighting the size of Britain's budget deficit. Cameron and Osbourne claim this is because honesty is needed about dealing with the deficit. I'd like to hear a little more honesty from the Tories about cutting public services. 

Osbourne didn't mention what he would do with increasing tax receipts as the economy begins to grow again. Alistair Darling intends to use these to reduce the budget deficit while protecting public services. The Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to make cuts to public spending. In both the 2001 and 2005 elections this was the predominant theme of their manifesto. 

What will George and Dave do when the economy picks up? Osbourne yesterday left the door open for make cuts to inheritance tax for the rich and mentioned that he wouldn't scrap the 50% top tax rate at the moment, leaving open the possibility of scrapping that in future. Cameron's Tories have been accused of being light on detail - they are now, at last, telling the public what they intend to do with government. Rather ominous gaps are still there and it will take a strong response from Labour to show the country why the Tories are wrong. Rachel Reeves at Progress agrees: "The banking crisis and recession will be used by the Tories to do what they always wanted to do. Cutting back the size of the state and then cutting taxes for the few."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

George Osborne: necessary evil or nasty party incarnate?

George Osborne today made much play of telling the truth about the country's finances, while claiming that Labour are telling "lies" about it. All sides of the political spectrum agree that the government needs to start balancing the books as we head back into growth after global recession. Does Osborne's speech today set out the answers the country needs?

Public sector pay restraint is going to mean that again those working in the private sector will be able to benefit from a growing economy, while teachers and ordinary civil servants have to wait. Osborne has set the bar too low, with those earning more than £18k subjected to a pay freeze for one year. I doubt these workers will get much in year two from a Tory government. The economy needs public sector workers spending their money just like everyone else. I agree that high earners from the public purse should be subject to restraint, probably for longer than one year.

Tax credit and benefit cuts should be carefully targeted. Labour wants less people claiming incapacity benefit and more working. This needs to be balanced with jobs for the unemployed to go to. I'm unconvinced that Osborne's plan will deliver this part of the deal.

There is little in his speech about what to do with rising tax revenues as the economy recovers. Will these be used to pay for tax cuts or to keep public services running instead of cutting them?

There was plenty of detail from Osborne today. The Tories are setting out their agenda for government. I'm going to cast a very interested eye over the next set of opinion polls to see whether the public accept the Tories somewhat austere plans. My suspicion is that Cameron and Osborne would prefer cuts to taxes and services. This means we may be looking at the start of a very unpopular government.

House of Twits

As an avid social media user I've been a keen reader of political social media aggregator House of Twits for some time. I'm delighted to say that I am now a member of the site's Labour "Front Bench" of bloggers. I'll be blogging from there too from now on.

The site is a great way of keeping in touch with the best political Tweets - somewhere that gives me content from across the spectrum without having to look for it! Anything that saves time and puts everything in one place is a winner for me.

Monday, October 05, 2009

London at the Tory vanguard

Boris Johnson's mayoralty always looked like acting as a prototype for a future Tory government.
His proposed £5bn of cuts to London's budget through "efficiencies" looks impressive. How will it be delivered, if it actually can be?

What will he cut if the flagship projects remain? Delaying pollution curbs by implementing the low emission zone late? What about cutting London's income by scrapping the western extension of the congestion charge? That might not be legal or advisable. What about wasting money by getting rid of bendy buses - adding 12% to costs? That won't help,

He might take the headlines by freezing the mayor's portion of Londoners' council tax - but putting up fares on the tube and buses will impact Londoners pockets on a daily basis.

The cuts sound impressive, yet there is little in actual detail from Johnson. Much like David Cameron, he is able to make bold statements, yet founders on the detail. Londoners will want to know what BJ actually wants to do.