Thursday News Review

Balls warns Osborne of “permanent dent”

George Osborne will create a “permanent dent” in the British economy by pressing ahead with a damaging fiscal deficit reduction plan that will do little to promote economic growth, Ed Balls will warn on Thursday. Britain’s slow economic recovery risks leaving Britain £58bn worse off by 2015 at a cost of £3,300 to every family, the shadow chancellor will say as he points out that Britain is struggling behind the US, France and Germany. This will happen if the economy continues to grow at its current rate of 0.5 percentage points below trend in every year for the rest of this parliament. In a speech at the London School of Economics, Balls will say that Osborne’s plan to eliminate the structural deficit over the course of this parliament poses a major risk to Britain’s economic recovery by failing to encourage growth. – the Guardian

Milburn: health reforms are car crash

The Government’s health reforms are the biggest car crash in NHS history. From the outset they were devoid of advocacy and advocates. The screech of skidding tyres has been audible for months. This week, with the publication of the NHS Future Forum report and the Government’s response, the stench of a sharp U-turn has become overpowering. It leaves both health policy and British politics in a very different place. The temptation to elevate short-term politics above long-term policy proved too much for both David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Cameron has returned to his original strategy of playing safe on the NHS in order to decontaminate the Tory brand. A combination of his own neglect and his Health Secretary’s foolish bout of policy-wonking had put that at risk. It had managed to conflate in the public mind precisely the four words Cameron was desperate to avoid – cuts, privatisation, health and Tory. Clegg has had a different motive: to differentiate his Liberal Democrats from their Conservative Coalition partners by saving the NHS from “Tory privatisers”. Many in both camps inside the Coalition consider the U-turn a triumph. But it has the makings of a policy disaster for the health service and, maybe in time, a political disaster for the Government. – the Telegraph

Northern Rock to be sold?

George Osborne announced his intention to sell Northern Rock to a single bidder tonight, calling it “a sign of confidence in the industry”. But former Chancellor and architect of the bank’s public takeover Alistair Darling said he was “surprised” at the timing of the sale. “I’m slightly surprised at the Government putting northern rock on the market now. They’ve got to justify whatever price they can get for it. I was always clear that at the end of the day the taxpayer would get its money back. We need to make sure that happens.”- Politics Home

The nasty party strike again

No one believes you can raise a child decently on £3 a day, and yet the House of Commons today passed a law that will impose that hardship on youngsters across much of the south of England. This prospect flows from a crude £26,000 cap being applied to all of a family’s annual benefits, which will bite hard wherever households are large and rents are high. Designed to win George Osborne Tory conference cheers and tabloid plaudits, it achieved both these things before anyone had bothered to think it through. The rhetorical logic is ensuring that benefits should never exceed typical pay, and this line has been parroted in the Sun. But there is no real logic, since the whole argument rests on wilful misunderstanding. For one thing, the policy deliberately confuses average individual pay with family income. Only a truly nasty party would want to visit the sins of the fathers and mothers it deems to have too many children on the children themselves. Yet, by ignoring the number of mouths that a family has to feed, the cap does precisely that. – the Guardian

Tony’s Tories

For David Cameron there is a much more significant alliance than the one with Nick Clegg, a coming together that has defined his leadership from the beginning and will do so until the end. The alliance is not formal and never will be, but it is at the heart of his project as leader in a way the Liberal Democrats are not. I am referring to the informal alliance between Cameron and Tony Blair, one that extends to some of those who worked closely on policy with the former Labour prime minister. The partnership started when Cameron as the new Conservative leader supported Blair’s school reforms in 2006. Cameron went on to make the mischievous yet sincere observation that the Labour leader evidently wanted to go further and would do so if it were not for his wretched party and chancellor. The heir to Blair assured him that he would carry on with the reforms when he won a general election. He has done so. The rapport goes well beyond two leaders. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a close ally of Cameron’s, describes himself without irony as a Blairite. Famously he and others at the top of the Conservative Party regard Blair’s memoirs as the equivalent of the Bible. Blair reciprocates – the Independent

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