Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

Lord Adonis is typical of the technocrat class that serves any master

12/10/2015, 10:40:30 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The move by Andrew Adonis in resigning the Labour whip to take up a post working for George Osborne’s Tory project was a significant political moment. For Labour, it removed a key element of New Labour’s drive to turn Labour into a faux-Thatcherite party. But Adonis’s career has a wider significance in the development of what Colin Crouch has called Post Democracy*.

Crouch’s thesis revolves around the emergence of a one dimensional political class, preserving the forms of political democracy and rival parties but removing significant political differences. Politics become behind closed doors decision-making, patronage and back stage intrigue. This is, de facto, what has emerged in the post-Thatcher period and Andrew Adonis is prime example of the phenomenon.

Adonis is best known as a Labour politician, rising without trace under Blair, who promoted him from his backroom staff to be Schools minister. Adonis has never troubled the electorate for their votes, but was so essential to the New Labour project that Gordon Brown ennobled him and appointed him transport minister. In both posts Adonis projected grandiose mega spending initiatives with little debate and limited or non-existent proof of value. For HS2, the super-fast train, no value has ever been demonstrated. His other major project, academisation of state schools, is even more curious.

Academisation has been seen as a miracle cure for the alleged failings of comprehensive schools, ie secondaries, though the failure was patchy and non-systemic. The cure has been worse and report after report on the key indicators, GCSE results, has failed to find consistent evidence that academies do better. With over half secondaries academised, when the Education select committee investigated at the end of 2014 they were loath to draw the conclusion that academisation of secondary schools had failed, but warned against the rapid academisation of primary schools, which remain largely under Local Authority control and are mostly successful The MPs concluded,


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Pragmatists vs ideologues. Realists vs fantasists. These are the new Tory-Labour dividing lines

05/10/2015, 08:30:53 PM

by Samuel Dale

As Labour continues its march into wilderness, the Tories are free to do whatever they choose. They can march rightwards and fulfill their Thatcherite dreams for the next ten years, or they can hold the centre or move leftwards and dominate for 20 more years.

It’s an incredible choice. And after today’s speech by George Osborne it is crystal clear the Tories are going to hold the centre.

While Labour shows breath-taking arrogance after a stunning defeat, the Tories are showing incredible humility after an epic victory.

Osborne said he would listen to new ideas and pledged to win over many who voted Labour at the 2010 election. Trying to win over voters from the other side instead of insulting them. Now there’s a novel idea.

Here is the key passage talking about the 10 million Labour voters in 2010.

“We’ve got to understand their reservations. So to these working people who have been completely abandoned by a party heading off to the fringes of the left let us all here today extend our hand.

“Do you know what the supporters of the new Labour leadership now call anyone who believes in strong national defence, a market economy, and the country living within its means?

“They call them Tories. Well, it’s our job to make sure they’re absolutely right.”


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The warning lights are flashing for Labour

05/10/2015, 06:39:38 PM

by David Ward

The contrast with last week’s conference could not have been clearer. George Osborne may or may not fulfil the ambition his speech betrayed and find himself as PM. But there was a clear message. And Labour should be worried. The Conservatives will use Labour’s soul-searching to dominate the centre ground.

John McDonnell released a statement straight after Osborne’s speech telling us that “This is a Tory chancellor who doesn’t live in the real world.”

In fact there were two things missing from almost every shadow cabinet member’s speech last week which have pulsated through every Minister’s so far at Conservative conference. An understanding of what happened in May, and a vision for how the party will approach 2020.

From Jon Cruddas and Margaret Beckett to James Morris the evidence based analysis of Labour’s defeat has been the same. People thought Labour’s heart was in the right place, but worried they would spend too much and focus on the wrong priorities.

The job for any party is to negate its weaknesses and draw attention to its strengths. Just take a look at the slogans in the background as Osborne spoke.





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Corbyn, Cooper and Burnham are being outflanked by Osborne on devolution

09/09/2015, 09:20:18 AM

by Nick Small

As the next Labour leader takes office, a number of big northern English city regions will sign-off devolution deals with central government.  These deals will see new powers and funding devolved from Whitehall to elected city region on transport, skills, business support, funding, inward investment, welfare to work and potentially policing, fire services and health.

The deals won’t be perfect and, yes, some cuts will undoubtedly be devolved.  But it will be the biggest transfer of power away from the centre since the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were set up in 1998 with up to £60bn of funding being devolved from Whitehall.   And it will start a process that could fundamentally change our great northern cities’ dependency on London for good.

Devolution and austerity are in some ways two sides of the same coin.  For cities like Liverpool there are only two ways out of austerity.

The first thing we can do is to break down silos between different parts of government and move to place based funding and delivery of public services.  This lets us do more with less.

The second is to boost our local economy to strengthen our tax base in a progressive way.

This is what we’ve been doing in Liverpool over the last five years.  A devolution deal would allow us to build on that work and to keep more tax receipts raised locally to spend locally.  It’s not an option to go back to the 1980s and the grotesque chaos of illegal budgets.  Let’s not forget that those tactics failed then, they hit working people the hardest and did untold reputational damage to cities like Liverpool that lasted many, many years.

But the man most likely to be the next Labour leader doesn’t seem to get it, calling city devolution “a cruel deception” and “southern hot air.”  To be fair, neither Andy Burnham nor Yvette Cooper, based on past action, are instinctive decentralisers.


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Labour can be a movement again under Jeremy Corbyn

18/08/2015, 10:50:40 PM

by Jon Bounds

Despite derision from all corners of the media, and anger from the only corner of the Labour party that the media listens to, Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting crowds most politicians and even most pop stars can only dream about.

We live in a small town in Oxfordshire — Cameron country — where Labour are a distant third in all elections, and the Conservative social club is a signposted landmark and a social hub. My wife Libby is never one to shy away from a political discussion, despite being the daughter of a sometime Liberal Democrat councillor. At least once she has stopped to engage those having a fag outside ‘the Con club’ as it’s known and asked them their opinions on matters of the day.

Most of the time it happens with more respect and decorum than PMQs, even though, leaving aside the Chancellor, participants in these impromptu street exchanges are likely to be more intoxicated.

But do you know what? These proud Tories haven’t got a clue what is going on: they have no inkling that there has even been a Health and Social Care Act, let alone what  its impacts are. But these are the people, working class in the true economic sense and ‘aspirational’ — if that means that they are happy to work hard, desire have nice things and want look after their families and friends — and most of all they are the people that we have been told that the Labour party needs to win over in 2020.


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Chairman Mao lives in the 48 PLP members that rebelled

21/07/2015, 05:32:53 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Chairman Mao lives in 48 PLP members, including 19 elected under Ed Miliband: “We should support whatever the enemy oppose and oppose whatever the enemy supports”.

When the Conservatives cut tax credits in a way that is unnecessary, will increase poverty and reduce work incentives, it is sorely tempting to oppose them.

But George Osborne prefers Sun Tzu to Mao. The Art of War stresses the importance of positioning in military strategy. By delivering his summer budget, setting a trap for Labour and watching much of the opposition walk into it, Osborne will feel that he has secured his desired positioning.

There is a third way. Between Chairman Mao and Sun Tzu. Labour should seek whatever positioning does most harm to the Conservatives and vacate whatever positioning does most harm to ourselves.

Osborne follows the inverse path. He seeks whatever positioning does most harm to Labour and vacates whatever positioning does most harm to the Conservatives – or, at least, him and his prime ministerial ambitions, which become ever more naked.

Janan Ganesh, Osborne’s biographer, recently summarised the core ideas behind the chancellor’s politics in the Financial Times. Ganesh then conceded to John Rentoul, biographer of Tony Blair, that the “Tao of George is also the Tao of Tony”.

In the decade since the last of his three general election victories, Blair has become ever more toxic within Labour, while Osborne has prospered by applying the tenants that Labour discarded in our abandonment of all things Tony. This doesn’t make Osborne a Blairite. The core precepts that they both follow are neither Blairite nor Osbornomics, not left or right. They are more essential than that. Whether we lean left or right, the political world is flat.


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Labour should have vaulted the welfare trap

21/07/2015, 02:29:22 PM

by Kevin Meagher 

Conventional wisdom has it that you either fall headlong into a political trap or you carefully inch around it. This is said to have been the choice presented to Labour MPs at the Second Reading vote of the government’s welfare bill last night.

The measures contained in it represent a Daily Mail leader writer’s bingo card of populist welfare-bashing themes. £12 billion worth of cuts. A four-year benefits freeze. A reduced benefits cap. Scrapping child tax credits for working families. And restrictions on some benefits for families with more than two children.

The choice presented to Labour MPs was to vote against the bill and look flaky about welfare reform. Or to vote for it and risk the ire of the party’s core voters.

But there was a third option in overcoming this particular political trap: the party could have tried to vault over it. Labour’s frontbench should have focused on countering the callow game-playing of a government misusing the parliamentary process for its own ends by changing the conversation.

Instead of arriving at the position of either backing the government’s welfare bill or forever being depicted as the friend of the scrounger, shadow ministers should have been making a big argument about the regressive nature of the Budget, the lamentable symbolism of effectively scrapping child poverty targets and the removal of in-work benefits to those eponymous hard-working families.

The party could have welcomed measures in the bill to boost apprenticeships but laid the ground for opposing the egregious parts, which will do little to meet the bill’s stated intentions of promoting social mobility and tackling joblessness and will simply increase poverty among working families.


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The leadership contest is a total disaster for Labour

13/07/2015, 06:01:30 PM

by Samuel Dale

The leadership election has been a disaster for Labour. It is painfully clear that we are not learning the right lessons from defeat.

The spectacle of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, charging headlong into the tax credit trap set by George Osborne, giving him the opportunity to keep hammering Labour as the welfare party, shows how deep a hole we are in.

Let’s be clear.

We lost in 2015 because we had a desperately unpopular leader who was not trusted to manage the nation’s finances. That’s it.

To win in 2020 we need a more popular leader than the Tories have with our economic credibility rebuilt. If we do that then we have a chance.

We don’t need a big debate. We don’t need to talk to Jeremy Corbyn about his views on Greek debt and Hezbollah. It doesn’t matter whether Liz Kendall has no children. I am not bothered if Andy Burnham is a member of the metropolitan elite. Or whatever platitudes Yvette Cooper is pitching this week.

Instead of debating fringe issues we should be straining every sinew to prove we can be trusted in the Treasury again. We should be comparing the candidates against their potential Tory opponent in 2020.

Once you have the fundamentals right then you can try and win the election with a string of policies to attract key voter groups. But that is for another day because the only thing that matters in this leadership election is the fundamentals.

We should have had a new leader in place by June 1 after asking ourselves the simple, questions about how to win. The long drawn-out affair has proven just as damaging as it was in 2010 when Labour’s reputation was trashed by the coalition.

That’s our lesson from defeat and we are not learning it.


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Osborne has laid the most obvious trap for Labour on tax credits. Will the party blunder in?

13/07/2015, 12:21:26 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Ten years since 7/7. Ten years since London won the Olympics. Ten years since Robin Cook was telling Labour party events that he was meeting people whose fortunes have been transformed by tax credits, but who don’t realise that they have the (then Labour) government to thank rather than some obscure administrative change at the Inland Revenue.

While the Labour government did good, Cook argued, it was not credited with having done it, as it was done by stealth. The tax credits architecture that Gordon Brown quietly built, and which helped the UK to an impressively robust employment performance, even after the financial crisis, was loudly dismantled in George Osborne’s Budget.

Where New Labour reassured business, while using state levers to redistribute with minimal fanfare, Ed Miliband was a Labour leader eager to have business do more. Whether Osborne would have found it harder to take an axe to tax credits if Labour had trumpeted them as bullishly as Cook preferred, as well as whether Osborne would have been in the position to do so had Miliband more assiduously courted business, are imponderables.

As Osborne warmly embraced Iain Duncan-Smith’s welfare reforms to declare himself the bringer of social justice and adopted a form of the predistribution beloved of Miliband by accompanying his dilution of tax credits with legislation for a claimed living wage, Labour’s attempt to come to terms with these unknowns is complicated by Tory cross-dressing.

In spite of events in Greece, the Budget, unlike in 2010, was pitched less as a bulwark against calamity and more as a staging post to better future. In which we are all invited to share. Reality may struggle to keep pace with the one nation rhetoric. Particularly when a tool for creating an income floor (the statutory minimum wage, which is what Osborne has raised through his supposed living wage) is deployed as a replacement for incentives to additional work (working tax credits).


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It’s the budget next week. Does Labour even have a policy on tax?

03/07/2015, 05:45:29 PM

by Samuel Dale

George Osborne is putting the finishing touches to a Budget that will define our national politics for the next five years.

I have previously written how Osborne is both shifting the centre on areas such as fiscal responsibility and tax cuts while moving to the centre on areas where the public opinion will not follow. In other words, political pragmatism – remember that?

The 8 July Budget will do both. It will cut taxes over the parliament, entrench a smaller state as well as moving on to traditionally Labour areas such as boosting low pay.

On moving the centre, Osborne could create a roadmap to merging national insurance and income tax over the next few years in the biggest simplification of tax this country has seen since the 1980s.

As already hinted by the prime minister, he could set in train moving Britain away from a system of tax credits towards a living wage. A lower welfare, lower tax society.

Or he could build on his outlandishly popular pension reforms from last year with a long overdue reform of savings taxation.

He could do all three and more. In the last parliament major reforms to stamp duty and pensions alongside corporation tax cuts shows a bold Chancellor wanting to get out.

He’s also revolutionised how the self-employed file tax returns and he’s simplifying income tax bands on lower and middle earners.


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