Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

It’s always the economy stupid. Time for Project Fear to turn up the volume

15/06/2016, 12:42:39 PM

by Samuel Dale

What has Remain been doing? The campaign to keep Britain in the EU has been spinning around like a Catherine Wheel in the last few days.

Some of this is down to effective campaigning from Vote Leave. After months of focusing on nonsense like sovereignty and weak economic arguments, they have started to focus on the only topic they can: immigration.

They are running advert after advert on Turkey becoming a member of the EU by 2020 and millions of Turks (or, nudge, nudge, hint, hint: Muslims) coming to the UK.  Total lies and nasty smears but effective campaigning and the only message that resonates for them.

But Remain’s initial response to this aggressive shift and a few worrying polls has been bonkers.

Instead of ramming home it’s winning economic arguments it left the floor to Gordon Brown to waffle on about global peace and influence.

And instead of simply ignoring immigration – which it absolutely must at this late stage – it has left Labour to talk about a future deal or renegotiation. Or even a Scotland-style Vow on controls.

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John McDonnell and George Osborne: Two faces of Gordon Brown

19/04/2016, 10:56:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

John McDonnell is bringing to mind the Gordon Brown of the 1992 parliament, while George Osborne is coming to appear the Brown of the 2005 parliament. Where Brown had neo-endogenous growth theory, McDonnell has an entrepreneurial state; both have public investment at their core. Where the later Brown had 10p tax, Osborne has tax credits; too clever by half missteps by Stalins transfiguring into Mr Beans.

“Business investment is falling,” McDonnell noted in a speech last month. “Exports are falling. The productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation. Without productivity growth, we cannot hope, over the long term, to improve living standards for most people.”

It is a powerful critique, grounded not in the overthrow of capitalism but in making it work more efficiently. Notwithstanding their divergent accents, you can close your eyes and imagine Brown, as shadow chancellor, castigating the Major government. Or more recently, Ed Balls attacking the Cameron administration.

The fiscal rule that McDonnell espoused in his speech might be interpreted as a crisper version of that which Balls took Labour into the last election with. The practical consequences of the McDonnell and Balls fiscal rules may be little different but McDonnell more explicitly backs capital spending.

“We believe,” McDonnell declared, “that governments should not need to borrow to fund their day-to-day spending.” This hawkish position on current spending contrasts with a more dovish approach to capital spending. “Alongside this, we recognise the need for investment which raises the growth rate of our economy by increasing productivity as well as stimulating demand in the short term.”

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Forget Sajid Javid, the mess at Port Talbot is down to George Osborne

06/04/2016, 10:06:42 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu 

It was just a couple of months ago, in February this year, that it was reported the UK government was central to sinking the European Union’s initiative to increase tariffs on dumping by Chinese companies, such as with steel.

Then, as now, Sajid Javid justified it’s stance with the familiar neo-liberal economic line that increasing tariffs would hit UK businesses by making the steel they purchase more expensive and that it would be wrong to put tariffs in the way of the cleansing winds of the free trade.

It is a familiar argument that has held sway over British politics ever since it was used to bludgeon the coal industry out of existence in the 1980s.

The stance on trade in the Conservative manifesto of “pushing for freer global trade” gave ethical backing for the policy driven by the chancellor George Osborne on China, nicknamed “The Osborne Doctrine”

At core the policy was to push under the carpet human rights and other ethical differences, become China’s “best partner in the west” by, for example sinking any new European tariffs on Chinese companies, allow Chinese companies to invest in the UK’s critical infrastructure, then hope the Chinese reciprocate by allowing UK companies into the fiercely guarded internal market – everybody wins.

Except, Port Talbot shows they don’t.

Why this policy inevitably led to events like the potential closing down of Port Talbot is obvious when you look a bit deeper into the economics of steel production:  the largest Chinese “companies” that produce steel are Baosteel and Hebei Iron and Steel, both are completely state owned and run organisations.

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Corbyn’s incompetence almost makes you feel sorry for the hard left

01/04/2016, 06:29:15 PM

by Samuel Dale

Last month, George Osborne delivered one of the most shambolic budgets in years.

Just days before he announced it, he pulled a massive u-turn on his headline policy by scrapping long held plans to reform pensions tax relief.

He didn’t want to risk the ire of Tory MPs during the EU referendum campaign.

It left a massive hole in the budget that was quickly filled with large cuts to disability benefits. A shocking cut that would have affected thousands of the most vulnerable people in Britain.

Just hours later he U-turned on the disability cuts too.

Then Iain Duncan Smith resigned as DWP secretary blasting government cuts and Osborne personally.

The disability cuts u-turn has left a giant hole in the budget. The Red Book does not add up for the first time in living memory.

Only Gordon Brown’s 10p income tax disaster comes close and that shambles scarred him forever.

Unbelievable budget incompetence comes as the Tories are involved in vicious splits over Europe with minister pitted against minister. Cameron v Boris. And every MP attacking everyone else.

In the midst of this chaos, Tata Steel announced they are planning to close their UK steel plants with as many as 40,000 jobs at risk.

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If Osborne still wants to be PM, he should get out of the Treasury

23/03/2016, 05:42:46 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Harold Wilson’s often tritely-invoked dictum that a week is a long time in politics certainly does seem to sum-up George Osborne’s terribilis autem sabbati (if my Latin for ‘terrible week’ is indeed accurate).

From all-conquering chancellor with a ‘long-term economic plan’ to yesterday’s man, forced into a screeching U-turn over disability payment cuts. Will he survive? It’s fashionable to write-off the Chancellor’s prospects of succeeding David Cameron as Prime Minister, but he is resilient, and come the Armageddon, its likely Osborne will ride out of the nuclear shelter atop a giant mutant cockroach, the last two species to survive.

More prosaically, it’s worth looking at the batting averages of previous post-war prime ministers who took over from their predecessors while in government. What did they do immediately beforehand?

Tellingly, each of them either served as foreign secretary or chancellor of the exchequer.

Foreign secretary Anthony Eden replaced Churchill in 1955. Chancellor Harold MacMillan succeeded Eden in 1957. While Alec Douglas-Home, another foreign secretary, followed on from MacMillan.

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Jeremy Corbyn is both an asset and a liability for George Osborne

21/03/2016, 03:36:03 PM

by Greig Baker

I have put my neck out before and predicted that Tory MPs won’t put George Osborne into the final two candidates for Conservatives to pick their leader. Jeremy Corbyn has no small part to play in this, as polls showing a Labour lead – even if rare and questionable – are enough to put the wind up Conservative MPs and make them look round for someone with more voter pull than the Chancellor.

Paradoxically, at the same time Corbyn is hurting Osborne’s medium term prospects, he is also giving him a short term boost. The suggestion that Corbyn, McDonnell, & Co could get near the levers of power is scary enough that most people would try to reduce risk wherever they can – to the advantage of the Remain side in the EU campaign.

In other words, while Labour’s polling spike last week could help bring down George Osborne in the end, it gives him a better chance of being on the winning side in June.

Greig Baker is Chief Executive of The GUIDE Consultancy

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The three choices facing moderate Labour MPs at tomorrow’s Budget

15/03/2016, 09:55:09 PM

by Greig Baker

Some people accuse Conservatives of wanting power at any cost. Having worked for the party during some of its darker days in Opposition, I can assure you that is not the case. However, most Tory MPs do understand you have to be in power to wield it.

When the Chancellor sits down after delivering tomorrow’s Budget, ambitious Labour MPs will have three choices if they want to wrestle the keys to Number 10 away from Cameron’s successor. First, they could drink the kool aid and hope against hope that Jeremy Corbyn has stumbled upon a new way of winning elections. More realistically, they will have to choose between options two and three – quietly rebelling or carefully splitting.

The rebellion option will be embodied by Rachel Reeves, Dan Jarvis, et al, who will set out their own response to the Budget, coming from a dramatically different position to Labour’s frontbench. In contrast, the splitting option has already been demonstrated by David Lammy and Andrew Adonis, who have been willing to give Corbyn a few more days’ bad headlines in return for the promise of actually getting stuff done.

Given that Andrew Adonis’s recommendations from National Infrastructure Commission will get great big lumps of real hard cash thrown behind them tomorrow, the understated rebels are going to have to do something special to persuade colleagues that they can offer a viable alternative.

Either way, the reaction to tomorrow’s statement will give us a clear sense of which Labour MPs know that you don’t have to be a Tory to want to be in Government.

Greig Baker is Chief Executive of The GUIDE Consultancy

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Maybe Bernie Sanders should go and join the Tories

16/02/2016, 05:39:43 PM

by Samuel Dale

The far left has a new champion: Bernie Sanders. The plucky outsider who identifies as a socialist and is taking on the establishment with huge crowds and a popular uprising.

A pure-breed, straight-talking full-throated leftie. He’s going to trounce Hillary Clinton and take the presidency.

But I’ve looked through his economic policies and – I don’t want to upset you – but Sanders has more in common with George Osborne than Jeremy Corbyn.

Here’s 12 worrying policy similarities:

1.Wall Street tax. Let’s look at Sanders’ central campaign theme – the greed of Wall Street. He wants a so-called “tax on Wall Street speculators”. While Osborne opposes a financial transaction tax, he introduced a bank levy on balance sheets in 2010, raising nearly £3bn a year.

2. Break-up banks. Sanders also wants to break up banks that are too big to fail, going further than the current Volker rule in the US and ring-fencing rules in the UK that merely separate investment and retail arms within one company. Sounds radical but it is also the policy solution favoured by former Conservative Chancellor and Osborne mentor Nigel Lawson. Osborne has also introduced a rule that means banks can be broken up if the Treasury believes they are undermining the ring-fence.

3. Interest rate caps. Sanders backs a cap on credit card interest rates of 15%. Osborne has already capped payday loan rates.

4. The minimum wage. Sanders wants to increase the rate from just over ($7.25) £5 to just over £10 ($15). George Osborne I increasing the minimum wage from £7 to £9 an hour. And he is making it a rule that the minimum wage can never be below 60% of the average wage.

5. Sanders wants to invest $1 trillion over five years towards rebuilding infrastructure. Osborne is building HS2, a new south-east airport (eventually), the Northern Powerhouse (hopefully) as well as boosting councils to spend more on such projects too. (more…)

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Corbyn could surprise the Tories. I should know – I am one

01/02/2016, 08:00:00 AM

by Greig Baker

As a junior Parliamentary staffer working for the Tories in 2005, I drafted a Bill to raise the income tax threshold for low earners. I wanted my party to make a pitch to Labour’s traditional working class voters without compromising our principles on lower taxes. Cutting taxes for poor people seemed like a good way to do both – it was counter-intuitive and principled at the same time. Years later, a very similar measure was adopted by George Osborne and it went down pretty well.

Labour should use the same approach now. To be clear, I have no love for the Labour party and I don’t want to see it win in 2020. However, I do want there to be a realistic prospect of it winning. The Conservatives need to be kept honest and the government must be kept on its toes. To do that, Labour has to be an effective opposition and, to do that, it needs to come up with some surprising and eye-catching policies to appeal beyond the converted, without selling its soul – in other words, to be counter-intuitive and principled. Here’s what I suggest…

For starters, John McDonnell should stop thinking about what he wishes tax and spend was like, or even what it is like right now, and instead start thinking about what the Government’s approach to tax and spend will be by 2019-20. That’s when voters will be looking at his policies in detail and seeing how they match up to reality.

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Who’d want to be “the next Labour leader”?

25/01/2016, 12:26:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“You have to be ready for anything,” Dan Jarvis told the BBC when they recently asked about his Labour leadership ambitions. “Owen Smith: I am interested in being Labour leader,” reads a New Statesman headline from earlier this month. This appeared not long after Jess Phillips had been the subject of similar in the Spectator. Stephen Kinnock and Michael Dugher have also been touted as future leaders.

That foraging in the undergrowth is the cut and thrust of competition to be trademarked “the next leader of the Labour party”. Andy Burnham was sufficiently deemed so to enter the 2010 leadership election as favourite, while Chuka Umunna once had the strongest claim on this title among the 2010 intake. Those comprehensively beaten by Jeremy Corbyn (Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, as well as Burnham) may struggle to again accumulate the political capital necessary to mount viable leadership campaigns, while Umunna has slipped behind the likes of Jarvis et al in “the next leader” stakes.

The experiences of Burnham and Umunna ought to be salutatory to those now seeking to be “the next leader”. “The next leader” is rarely the next leader. Gordon Brown in 1994, for example, was “the next leader”; Tony Blair was then the next leader. Given that Labour is unlikely to recover in 2020 the 59 parliamentary seats lost in Scotland in 2015, and the boundary review will probably cost Labour a further 20 seats, a new leader before 2020 seems a much worse bet than Blair in 1994 to be the next Labour prime minister.

All the more reason to not want to now be “the next Labour leader,” right?

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