Posts Tagged ‘Callum Anderson’

Cameron’s diplomatic vandalism weakens Britain’s position in future negotiations

14/07/2014, 11:00:20 AM

by Callum Anderson

As the dust settles on the prime minister’s failure to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next President of the European Commission, we can now be clear on one thing: David Cameron is unfit to lead Britain’s renegotiation of its relationship with the European Union.

It is hard to comprehend how this could have gone much worse for Mr Cameron. Indeed, Britain has never had a prime minister who is so unable to build alliances with their European allies.

Even in the early days of his leadership of the Conservative Party (before Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010), he showed signs of, at best, naivety and, at worst, dangerous incompetence on European issues.

The mistake that is undoubtedly at the root of David Cameron’s problems with our EU partners was his decision in 2009 to take Conservative MEPs out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament. One only needs an ounce of common sense to conclude that isolating the Conservative Party from a political grouping that included Angela Merkel’s CDU and France’s UMP, was extremely unwise.

As Eunice Goes correctly points out, not only did this decision upset Mrs Merkel, and the then-President Sarkozy, but also effectively voted out of influencing European politics. Had the Conservative Party been a member of that group, Mr Cameron could have used backroom diplomacy to prevent Juncker from becoming the EPP’s “Spitzenkandidaten” at their March meeting.

However, Mr Cameron missed the boat. He chose to reorient the Conservative Party’s political allegiances within the European Parliament towards the fringe European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, who, as well as know, included partners who held highly distasteful views on race and sexuality (to mention just a few).

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Labour must take the lead on extending competition in the banking sector

02/07/2014, 07:23:59 PM

by Callum Anderson

With a little under a year until the 2015 general election, Labour is marginally ahead of the Conservatives in most polls, yet Ed Miliband continues to trail the prime minister on the issue of leadership and the two Eds still lag behind the prime minister and the chancellor on who people trust to run the economy and, in particular, who will best secure the public finances.

Indeed, as is agreed by most people, it is the economy, and how the two main parties intend on developing it over the next five years, that will dominate the political discourse over the next twelve months.

Now, whilst the public finances are quite reasonably the fundamental dividing lines between Labour and the coalition government, it is essential that other issues surrounding the cost of living crisis are also not ignored: rising energy prices, the shortage of affordable housing, to name just a few examples.

But there is another strand of this debate that is sometimes overlooked: the provision of basic financial products –a bank account, access to fair and affordable credit –that are, quite simply vital to everyone across the country if they are to participate fully in the UK economy.

The Community Investment Coalition (CIC) this month launched its Community Banking Charter states these basic financial products that every adult, household and business in the UK should have access to the following:

  • A basic transactional bank account;
  • A savings scheme;
  • Credit;
  • Physical access to branch banking facilities;
  • Insurance; and
  • Independent money management advice.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, will agree that these six elements are not excessive. Without access to these basic products, millions are been prevented them from participating fully in the economy. Add this grim reality to the coalition government’s calamitous rolling out of Universal Credit, and you have a situation where it is extremely difficult for people to escape poverty.

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Shunning the EU will damage the prospects for foreign investment in Britain

29/05/2014, 06:39:48 PM

by Callum Anderson

With the dust just beginning to settle on the European election, it has become clear that only Labour can effectively present the case for the UKs EU membership in the run up to the 2015 General Election and beyond.

For those of us, who believe that Britain can only be prosperous by engaging with our EU partners and not isolating ourselves, this only highlights what we have known for months. That is, those of us who are in the incamp – regardless of party affiliation, must begin to illustrate the benefits of Britains EU  membership.

As you may have noticed, I have tried to do my part, and, this time round, lets look at foreign investment.

In 2011, the UK had the second largest stock of inward foreign direct investment (FDI) – attracting $1.2 trillion of investment – in the world, behind only the United States, was recognised the most attractive location for investment in the EU in the 2013 Ernst and Young European Attractiveness Survey. For example, the UK has been successful in attracting Chinese investment; from the EU27, only France attracted more Chinese FDI between 2003 and 2011.

Whats more, over 1,500 investment projects were set up by foreign businesses in Britain during 2012, creating and protecting 170,000 jobs. Investors from America, France, Germany and India saw Britain as a stable and exciting place to invest. For instance, the Tata Group, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, created thousands of jobs in Britain last year, whilst a Malaysia-led consortium led the £8 billion redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, which is expected to provide 20,000 construction jobs and 13,000 permanent jobs.

Similarly, the UKhas been the second most attractive place in the world (behind the United States for FDI in the aerospace sector, with EADS, Bombardier and General Electric heavily investing in Britain, as well as Europes top location for investment in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research and development (R&D), which is the largest contributor to R&D in both the UK1000 and the G1000 in 2008.

So, how would a so-called Brexitaffect investment from our European neighbours. Would it, as many Eurosceptics claim, change nothing? After all, Britain has so many other advantages, both economic and social, that it wouldnt be in the interest of no one to cease investing in the UK. Its difficult
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If the UK is serious about the digital economy, we need to stay in the EU

23/04/2014, 09:02:19 AM

by Callum Anderson

Just in my life time, the way we communicate both with our friends and family, as well as, perhaps more significantly, in the work place, has changed dramatically. Out has gone the fax machine, and at times the telephone, and in has come the internet, alongside email, Skype and numerous other applications.

Similarly, the way we hold data has changed. According to the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, 90 per cent of our existing data has been produced during the last two years. In two days in 2013 the world produced as much data as in the year 2003.

The greatest challenge for governments in the twenty-first century will be how to utilise technology to the advantage of their citizens. Those who succeed will enable their countries to prosper, whereas those who restrict this digital revolution, or at least fail to position themselves so that they can take advantage of technological progress, will be left behind. Indeed, the governments who succeed will be successful because of their willingness to co-operate with other nations.

If the UK is to be among these successful nations, then there is no doubt that it must continue to work closely with its partners in the EU.

According to the European Commission, the digital economy is growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy. By implementing its Digital Agenda, the EU would raise its GDP by 5 per cent, equal to £1,200 for each EU citizen, and create 4 million jobs by 2020. This provides a compelling reason why Britain must retain its position at the heart of the EU, so that it can enjoy its share of the potential benefits this sector will bring.

A study by the Vlerick Business School in Belgium found that the internet sector provides 3.4 million jobs in the EU, with the UK representing 292,000 of this, the highest of any individual EU country. The result is that this comparatively new sector contributes €119.8 billion to the EU economy, about 1 per cent of EU GDP.

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When it comes to Britain’s EU membership, it really is the economy, stupid

04/04/2014, 08:50:40 AM

by Callum Anderson

In less than a couple of months, UK voters will go to the polls to elect their representatives in Brussels. In the event of a strong UKIP performance, it is likely to put yet more emphasis on the potential referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

And that’s in addition to the exposure the issue has received as a result of the debates between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

As I have already argued, it is my strong belief that the UK needs to play at the heart of a reformed EU and resist the temptation to ‘pull up the draw bridge’.  As was teed up by the Budget a couple of weeks ago, the economy is the issue that concerns the vast majority of voters: jobs, real terms wages and taxes will be the particular battlegrounds. Like it or not, Britain’s ability to build a strong and resilient economy lies in its ability to form and maintain relationships with other nations. None of this is more evident than the relationship with the EU.

Now, I know Nigel Farage and his fellow Eurosceptics can sometimes be a little short on facts, but let me shed some light.

Let me start off with trade.

Business for New Europe recently found that the growth in free trade within the EU has generated as much as 6 per cent for every British household, equivalent to £3,500 every year. A not too insignificant figure. This is clearly because UK businesses have access to the richest and biggest single market in the world. And it’s not just that. The UK benefits from the EU conducting free trade deals on its behalf, and undoubtedly obtaining deals on better terms than if it negotiated alone.

For instance, the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement has benefitted UK businesses to the tune of £500 million a year. The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has also found that a EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could boost UK national income by up to £10 billion a year, with our automotive industry benefiting most, thus creating the manufacturing jobs that Britain has needed for a generation.

So, what effect does this have on jobs?

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Lifting the stamp duty threshold would help Labour to be the party of aspiration

04/03/2014, 02:32:35 PM

by Callum Anderson

A couple of weeks ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its latest data on UK property prices. For anyone, particularly young people, who aspire to getting themselves onto the property ladder, the data did not make good reading. It showed that house prices in December were 5.7 per cent higher across the UK compared with a year earlier, predominately driven by a 12.3 per cent increase in London.

Indeed, the average property in the UK will now set you back a cool £250,000. For people looking to settle in London or South East England (which as a result of the unbalanced UK economy and jobs market is a substantial proportion), this rises to £450,000 and £306,000 respectively.

But what would that even buy you these days?

Save for the rare gem that quite probably requires a lot of work, a £300,000 property (be it a house or a flat) in London or South East England is likely to be only a fairly modest 3-bedroom semi of the type to which many young families will aspire. Yet, the stamp duty bill on this purchase will be £9000, equal to several months’ entire after-tax pay for average earners.

This has resulted in the government pocketing £16.6 billion in stamp duty tax since 2010.

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TTIP. Four letters that will make a big difference to all our lives

25/02/2014, 02:21:45 PM

by Callum Anderson

Last week Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, threw the gauntlet down to Nigel Farage, the leader of the eurosceptic UKIP, by challenging him to a televised debate regarding the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. As far as I am concerned, this should be welcomed by all, regardless of one’s place on the political spectrum. Any opportunity for our senior politicians to debate this subject should be seen as a positive.

Of course, Mr Farage has accepted this challenge, but with the caveat that he would also like the prime minister and the leader of the opposition also participate.

However, Ed Miliband should embrace this opportunity to establish Labour as another party of ‘in’.  As I have argued elsewhere, the UK already benefits hugely in economic terms from EU membership, yet there is still scope to further increase these benefits. And one of the (many) things that Ed Miliband, and indeed any progressive must shout loudly about in the coming years, is the opportunities that will be available to Britain through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States.

For those of you who don’t know, the TTIP is the trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States, with its aims of removing trade barriers, so that it becomes easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US. Furthermore, it will tackle non-trade barriers (NTBs) such as technical regulations, standards and approval procedures.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Leadership on Europe

03/02/2014, 07:00:51 AM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces on what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Callum Anderson looks at the need for leadership on Europe.

In just a few months, UK voters, along with their fellow EU citizens, will be given the opportunity to vote in a new cohort of MEPs, who will represent them in the European Parliament for the next five years. Current polling does not read well for the three main parties – UKIP are regularly polling numbers in the high 20s, and could ultimately ‘win’ the election. Regardless of whether the party leaders like it or not, Europe, and Britain’s place in it, remains an issue for many.

With all this is mind, Labour Uncut’s joint event with the Fabian Society next Monday is extremely timely. Uncut’s very own Atul Hatwal will discuss, alongside Peter Kellner of the pollster YouGov, the Fabian’s Marcus Roberts and the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, how Labour can secure a majority government in 2015. Whilst the issue of Europe, and Britain’s membership of the European Union, is not as striking as the economy, it has, and continues to cast, a dark shadow over successive governments. It is one that must be tackled head-on. And soon.

Where does Labour stand on all of this?

Naturally, Ed Miliband and the shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander have voiced their broad support for Britain’s membership of the EU. But, at the time of writing, only the Conservatives advocate an EU in/out referendum in 2017, with both Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbenches highly reluctant to acquiesce. This has led to their respective leaderships of both parties being forced onto the defensive by the Conservatives and the media alike: ‘don’t you believe that Britons should be given a chance to decide?’ they ask.

So, how should Labour go forward?

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If Labour wants to tackle inequality, it’s a land value tax, not the 50p rate that’s needed

29/01/2014, 08:48:37 PM

by Callum Anderson

Anyone who read Oxfam’s report this week, which revealed that the 85 richest people in the world possess the same level of wealth as the poorest half of the global population, would have been  shocked at the magnitude of global inequality. Things aren’t much better here in Britain. Just 189,000 families (roughly 0.6 per cent of the UK population) own two-thirds of the UK’s 60 million acres.

The what-who-how much elements of taxation are ones which have always been fiercely contested by Labour, Conservatives (oh, and Lib Dems) alike. However, as wages stagnate, the gap between rich and poor grow larger by the year, Labour should grab the initiative in this debate. However, instead of pursuing a somewhat one-dimensional tax policy in calling for the return of the 50p tax rate post-2015, the two Eds could, and must, be bolder in laying out a plan that not only yields the most revenue, but also begins to adequately address the inequality that stains our society. But one thing is clear – heavily taxing income is likely not an efficient way of doing this; instead, it is wealth that any future government must concentrate on.

As that great redistributionist, Winston Churchill, put it speaking in the House of Commons in 1909:

“Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived … the unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done.”

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Want a fairer tax system? Merge national insurance with income tax

09/01/2014, 08:30:44 AM

by Callum Anderson

One of Ed Miliband’s biggest successes of 2013 was shifting the political argument towards the cost of living crisis. Whilst this will not be sufficient to win the economic debate against the coalition government, it is still likely to be a significant battleground in the run-up to the next general election, as wages continue to stagnate and the cost of living rises, despite signs that unemployment is falling and that economic growth is (finally) beginning to be restored.

Indeed, by May 2015, Ed Miliband could be well set to ask the voters: “Are you better off than you were five years ago?”

Naturally, an aim of a government (and certainly that of a Labour government) should be to increase the money that low and middle income earners have in their pockets. They are more likely to spend more, which will subsequently lead to positive benefits for the economy. Much progress has already been made in increasing wages through the minimum wage (although, of course, a living wage must soon be implemented), as well as increasing the tax-free personal allowances (for which credit deserves to go to the coalition government). One way of improving the living standards of low and middle income households is through the tax system. Tax cuts aimed at the poor are good because they encourage work, reduce the welfare bill, and helps poorer people to be better off.

And the clearest (not to mention the simplest) way of achieving this? Merging National Insurance contributions (NICs) with income tax. I believe that not only would we be able to help millions of the country’s lowest earners, we would also be able to create a fairer tax system that ensured that everyone pays their fair share, as well as making tax avoidance more difficult.

Currently, employees pay income tax on earnings over £9,440 per annum (increasing to £10,000 in April), yet begin to pay NICs when they earn more just £7,748 per annum. Clearly, this is significantly lower than the personal allowance for income tax, despite both being deducted from the same pay packet: NICs are essentially income tax 2.0.

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