Posts Tagged ‘cuts’

Ten hard truths for Labour

05/08/2015, 03:07:15 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. Here’s Samuel Dale with his top ten.

1. We need to match Tory spending plans in 2020. Ed Balls ran the tightest and impressive spending controls of any major party in modern political history at the last election. No shadow minister made a single unfunded commitment. But it didn’t matter because you don’t build economic credibility through micro-policies. You build it through a strong macro-economic plan. Labour was promising to spend and borrow more than the Tories. It meant the Tories were free to make billions of pounds worth of unfunded tax cuts, NHS spending and rail fare freezes all while being able to claim they are more responsible than Labour. General elections are a zero sum game. You choose one party over the other. Labour will not gain economic credibility unless it matches Tory spending plans.

2. We need our own cuts. Labour needs to be creative about how it would cut spending to pay off the deficit and reduce debt in this parliament too. We can’t wait until 2020 to rebuild our economic credibility. John McTernan has suggested a possible fire and police service merger to modernise the emergency services. Do we need a whole department for culture, media and sport? Can we divide up contents of the business department? How can we join up pension policy across the Treasury and DWP? Labour has to provide a fairer alternative and show that the Tories are making the wrong political choices even within a tough economic environment. It must start as soon as possible.

3. A collection of popular policies is not a platform for government. The far left are fond of the old trope that renationalising the railways is very popular with the public. But a collection of popular policies is not a platform for Government. Ed Miliband had popular policies on non-doms, freezing energy prices, ending the bedroom tax and cutting tuition fees. In 2005 the Tories banged on about popular welfare and immigration policies. But put it all together and the manifestos were less than the sum of their parts. Voters choose Governments from the mood music rather than specifics.

4. Attracting non-voters will not win elections. No matter how many pilgrimages Labour leaders make to Russell Brand or how many voter registration drives we do, it will not change. The old will turn out to vote in far greater numbers than the young and the middle classes far more than the poor. You can not change the electorate over five years by attracting non-voters to vote Labour. It is a pipe dream.
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On welfare, Cameron has a point – but we have to hold him to it

25/06/2015, 10:48:01 PM

by David Ward

Napoleon once told Le Comte de Molé the value of being both a fox and a lion, “the whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be one or the other”. For Labour on the prime minister’s speech on welfare and “opportunity” on 22 June, the tempting response will be to roar at injustice as Andy Burnham indicated he would do in the recent Newsnight debate. But there are reasons to be wary of that approach.

We saw in the last parliament how effective Tory attacks on perceived injustices on those who work to provide a living for others can be. No matter how much howling is heard from the left about Benefits Street or reductions in the benefit cap it all falls straight into Osborne’s electoral trap.

Instead we can take a far more interesting approach. To say Cameron has a point on welfare and hold him to account for it.

The prime minister suggests there is a problem with government “topping up low pay…We need to move from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society.” And of course, he’s right. It’s what Ed Miliband used to call predistribution. For some reason it didn’t catch on.

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The right attack on Cameron’s handling of the floods isn’t about cuts or climate change, but competence

18/02/2014, 09:22:27 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Number 10 has long wished to minimise media coverage of backbench rebellions to maximise airtime on economic recovery. Hence, Cameron’s concessions to his backbenches. But members of the government have needlessly distracted media focus from economic recovery. For example, Michael Gove picking another fight with Ofsted and the failure of government whips to have any women on the frontbench for PMQs.

These own goals confirm that Labour is not up against a crack operation. The floods, in contrast, are a crisis that Cameron’s government would have had to confront even if he’d run a tighter ship. They are, obviously, a crisis for the people whose homes are underwater. The nature of the political crisis that they represent for Cameron and what they reveal about his government is more contested.

By announcing that ‘money is no object’, according to Jonathan Freedland, the prime minister has performed the last rites on the notion of inevitable austerity. The prime minister’s words constitute an incredible hostage to fortune and a risk that he didn’t need to take. The careless political slips of his government begin at the top.

Reflecting on his time near the top of the last government, Patrick Diamond recently noted: “Policy is increasingly about resolving trade-offs accentuated by financial constraints and fiscal austerity”. Cameron, though, leaves no room for trade-offs. No matter how bad the floods get, irrespective of whatever ill-considered building decisions may have been made, in spite of whomever may be at fault, public money is still supposedly no object.

In a world of scarcity, as this world inevitably is, the prime minister’s remark is vulgarly illogical. It’s not – pace Freedland – that there is money when Cameron previously said there isn’t. It’s that this money has limits. Resources are finite. Governments must, consequently, decide how to allocate these resources to best effect. In this sense, trade-offs are even more fundamental than Diamond argues.

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What next for the Tories after the cuts agenda?

16/07/2013, 04:10:20 PM

by Dan McCurry

You can tell what the Tory focus groups are saying by watching the way the Tories behave. Right now, they are trying to close down the perception that the government has no ideas or purpose, other than the cuts. They know they have no agenda, once the cuts agenda is done.

This explains the flurry of rather pointless ideas announced in the last few weeks. Each one of them is half-baked and each one is accompanied with same the line, “Labour did nothing about this in 13 years”.

An example is Theresa May’s call for a consultation of stop and search, arguing that the policy tends to target young black males. This was widely reported and became a talking point on the media, even though it was completely shallow. This is not serious policy, just a suggestion that people have a chat about something. Yet every Tory politician took to the air to attack Labour for doing nothing for 13 years.

On health they talk of a £200 deposit for foreigners entering the country. Again, MPs took to the airwaves to claim that Labour did nothing for 13 years of government.  There has been little response from Labour to this proposal, but Andy Burnham tells me that he can’t respond as he still doesn’t know the details. He doesn’t object to stopping abuse, but he does object to the idea that Labour had done nothing about the issue previously.

On prisons they seem to think they can ship convicts off to St Helena to serve their ten year sentence, then bring them back for the last six months to serve their sentence close to their family. Presumably convicts can send CDs home so that their children can grow up hearing daddies’ voice, then after several years of absence the children can get to know daddy on 6 prison visits. If they hadn’t cancelled Labour’s prison building program, then the whole sentence could have been served within travel distance of the family. Yet they say, “Labour did nothing in 13 years”.

The Tories don’t fear being called “nasty”, they fear being called “pointless”. Once the cuts agenda is finished, what is the point of them?

As usual, rather than addressing the problem, they address the presentation. They believe that if they can repeat often enough that Labour didn’t do this or that, they hope that people will perceive that the Conservatives are busy bees, while Labour are a waste of time, even though the opposite is true.

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We need to be bolder in pushing back against UKIP

19/06/2013, 04:05:48 PM

by Helen Mirfin-Boukouris

As a Labour candidate currently campaigning in the OMOV process, the matter of UKIP and how we confront their performance in the polls and recent by-elections frequently comes up.  I expect all Labour candidates now wonder what magic bullet there might be to confront their current upsurge beyond simply hoping that they will burn themselves out as they grow, diverge and crumble under the weight of their own vanity and incoherence.

But that is not good enough is it?  How can I, who have been in a Labour family all my life not stand up especially now and challenge offensive politics?

On the door step campaigning, I know of people who will tell you they are voting UKIP.  They are cross and are protesting in the familiar tradition of giving established parties a poke in the eye for letting them down be it because of losing a job, losing weekly wheelie bin services, waiting longer in hospital. Watching people who look different to them taking advantage of the same services and feeling somehow that they are being taken for a ride. Nothing the parties say helps them see a better future while paying more again and again.

UKIP come along and say “enough! we shall speak for you.” And it does not really matter what the detail is that they espouse because it is working.  It is frustrating to admit too.  However, I did not spend the last twenty years in the Labour Party to let people get away with this and do nothing.

The UKIP message works because it is a personal message.  It is simple, there is blame and it is easy to remember. If you are outraged by politicians, and those seen as outsiders, getting the better of people who are losing their livelihoods and their futures, it works.

So, we need to make politics personal and show that Labour values matter, using language and facts that resonate with peoples’ daily lives.

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Labour is headed for trouble in next week’s spending review

18/06/2013, 04:30:24 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Next week, George Osborne will finally spring his long prepared spending review trap.

Here is the chancellor’s basic choreography: the Tories announce an eye-wateringly tight spending round, Labour opposes and the Tories attack Labour for being unreformed spendaholics.

Alternately, Labour back the government’s spending plans, in which case, the Tories attack Labour for being reluctant converts to fiscal responsibility and, as a happy sidebar, Labour’s Keynesian prescription for boosting spending to revive the economy is effectively de-funded.

Either Labour play to the stereotype of profligacy that lost the last election or become me-too Tories.

Ed Balls’ big speech a few weeks ago was intended to unpick this problem and re-position the party. The commitment to aggregate Tory spending plans covered the party’s fiscal flank while Ball’s retained the Keynesian differentiation with his £10bn capital spending boost, funded through increased borrowing.

On paper, it went some way to neutralising the chancellor’s likely attacks.

But there’s a problem.

Now Labour has shifted to a more politically realistic position on spending, it needs to robustly assert this new line.

It needs to use every opportunity to publicise the  new approach. To make the progressive case for adhering to overall Tory spending totals (while having different individual priorities) and ensure the public knows that a major change has just taken place.

Otherwise, next week, the Tories will hammer the party for running scared of its own policy. They will paint Labour as insincere and irresolute on spending. The taunts about whether Labour believes what it says will turn the party’s economic drama into a political crisis of leadership.

For the public, the net result will be little different to if Labour hadn’t changed its fiscal stance. Perhaps worse, when taking into account the collateral damage to Ed Miliband’s personal ratings from any squirming on policy.

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The polling that shows why Labour’s lead is soft

22/05/2013, 03:32:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The terms of the debate are shifting within the Labour party. Since the underwhelming local elections, the question is no longer whether the poll lead is soft but why. Just this morning, one of Ed Miliband’s more doughty supporters in the media, Mary Riddell, penned her most pessimistic piece to date on Labour’s position.

This change has been partially obscured by the recent writhing of the Tory right over Europe and gay marriage but as the spending review approaches, it will come into sharp focus.

As ever, the answer to the question is to be found in voters’ views on the economy and specifically spending.

Labour’s case against the government has been clear: excessive Tory cuts killed off the flickering recovery of 2010 with the deficit rising as growth flatlines.

It is hard to disagree with the economics. But there’s a political problem.

More and more of the public back the cuts.

YouGov have asked a detailed series of questions on deficit reduction over the past three years and the shift in responses shines a light on why Labour’s poll lead isn’t so much soft as aqueous.

The public’s support for action on the deficit has been constant: at the start of March 2011, 57% felt that “the way the government is cutting spending” was necessary versus 32% who thought it unnecessary. Last week the figures were 57% and 29%, virtually no change over the past two years.

This should have been a warning that something wasn’t quite right with the poll lead: how could the public support Labour while also agreeing with the government’s approach to cuts.

But the YouGov surveys also had seemingly contradictory responses. The key question is on whether the public believe the depth of the cuts to be “too shallow,” “about right,” or “too deep.” The answers to this question initially suggested a consensus that the cuts were too deep. But that is changing.

Source: YouGov

Since April 2012 when 13% more felt the cuts to be “too deep” than either “about right” or “too shallow”, the position has shifted radically. This week, the poll had the pro-cuts camp 2% ahead.

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Labour must be careful: Osborne wasn’t downgraded for cutting, but cutting the wrong way

25/02/2013, 07:00:53 AM

by Jonathan Todd

John Moody first offered credit rating services in the US in 1909. By this time, Dutch investors had been buying bonds for three centuries, English investors for two, and American investors for one century. Investors have, therefore, prospered for long periods without credit rating agencies.

Many would argue that they could again. The agencies did not facilitate wise investment by giving triple A ratings to the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that were at the heart of the financial crisis. CDOs are, however, complex financial instruments. While the ratings were misplaced, it is understandable that financiers would place value on independent assessment of credit worthiness in the face of such complexity.

The UK is less complicated. We are, obviously, struggling. National wealth has not increased since George Osborne became Chancellor. But national debt has increased by over 30 per cent, taking it over one trillion pounds for the first time in history.

Osborne likes household analogies. His UK is a household with no more wealth than it had almost three years ago and little likelihood that this wealth will significantly increase in the near term. But ballooning credit card debts. This is the kind of household that finds it very difficult to get a mortgage in Osborne’s Britain.

Osborne has not practised the “arithmetic” that Bill Clinton beautifully described and praised in his speech to the Democratic National Convention last year. And we hardly need credit rating agencies to tell us this. Those trading in UK debt certainly don’t. This is why – like France and the US before us – a downgrade may have little impact upon the cost of UK debt. The factors that have led to the downgrade have already been factored into the price.

While the downgrade told us what we already knew, Osborne might privately lament: “The agencies told me to cut or be downgraded, so I cut. Then we didn’t grow and they downgraded me, anyway.” Not only are agencies discredited after their poor assessments of instruments like CDOs, they also urged cuts upon Osborne and welcomed his willingness to go further and faster than Alistair Darling had proposed. Osborne may be frustrated for being punished for following this path.

Up to a point, Chancellor, more balanced counsel would insist. What matters is not only that cuts are made but what is cut. The composition of public spending matters, as well as its level. Net public investment for 2015-16 was cut to just 1.1 per cent of GDP from 3.5 per cent in 2009-10 in Osborne’s 2010 budget.

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Our political parties need to be honest about NHS rationing

21/02/2013, 07:00:40 AM

by Peter Watt

Yesterday saw the publication by NICE of their latest guidance on the use of IVF by the NHS.  It said that women should be able to access IVF quicker (ie younger) and also that the upper range of women able to access the treatment rises from 39-42 in England and Wales.  This has to be seen as a good thing, a reflection of the continued advances in medical treatment.  What was in the past impossible becomes possible.

Except read the small print.  What NICE are doing is providing advice to NHS Trusts as to what they can do if they choose to.  As Dr Sue Avery from the British Fertility Society told the BBC:

“It’s good that there’s the possibility there, but the funding does not match. I can’t see any prospect of it happening immediately. Our biggest concern is hanging on to the funding we’ve got.”

Now quick declaration of interest here; my wife Vilma and I underwent IVF.  Initially we had treatment on the NHS and then went privately.  We were successful and have a beautiful daughter as a result.  But at the time we were incredibly lucky that where we lived was still offering treatment on the NHS.  Plenty of others no longer did or offered a much more limited service.  Because the reality of the NHS is that on a whole variety of fronts it rations treatment.

On Tuesday there was a story about a man who had had a gastric band on the NHS but who was left with large amounts of excessive abdominal skin.  His local health service had refused to pay for his apronectomy and he was facing a bill of some £15-20,000.

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Sunday Review on Thursday: Progress Political Weekend 2012

22/03/2012, 01:22:41 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson was there but, pace Michael Meacher, the Progress Political Weekend 2012 was not a meeting of the Bilderberg group. For one thing, I imagine, the Bilderberg Group comes to conclusions.

This was not the only difference. There was no secret agenda. It was advertised online. This was less an elite stitch-up and more the imbibing, both of learning and alcohol, by bright young things.

The discussion was perceptive, but the themes covered were not unexpected: fiscal credibility, public service reform, southern discomfort. So much was everyone on pretty much the same page that Douglas Alexander arrived, having followed earlier proceedings on twitter, worried that Liam Byrne had already delivered his speech.

I’m not sure what Meacher would expect but I got what I anticipated, which was some education (Phil Collins’ session on speech writing was particularly illuminating) and some reflection on the hard questions that face Labour.

But I’m not sure how far we got with answers.

At the same conference a year ago Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy in separate sessions said that Labour needs “a draw on the deficit, a win on growth”. How is that working out?

This year Patrick Diamond warned against Labour being hawkish in principle and dovish in practice on the deficit. Talking tough on the deficit but not providing support for cuts to match this tough talk.

But Meacher can be assured that no plans were hatched to carve up the state in the country house, now owned by the NUT, just a taxi ride away from the grocers in which Margaret Thatcher grew up.

Not one suggestion for a cut was proffered, as far as I recall, though, sadly, I needed to be in London on Sunday, so missed the second day of the conference and perhaps some proposals for cuts.

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