Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

What has changed on the deficit since general election 2010?

07/01/2015, 08:31:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This is the first of a series of pieces from Uncut on what has changed in respect of key political issues since the last general election. Looking over this timescale, we hope to distinguish the signal from the noise; what really matters from the day-to-day froth.

Liverpool played Burnley away on Boxing Day. The last time that happened was just before the 2010 general election when Rafa Benitez managed Liverpool. Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish both did so between Benitez and the current reign of Brendan Rodgers. Hodgson’s tenure coincided with the near bankruptcy of one of the world’s great sporting institutions. Enter John Henry, deus ex machina. This American has invested in the club stadium and playing squad, including in Luis Suarez, who brought both disgrace and nearly a Premier League title. Life is easier off the pitch and harder on the pitch sans Suarez. Fans yearn to be made to dream again. And will soon have to hope to do so without talisman Steven Gerrard.

In summary, much has happened at Liverpool since the last general election. Soon after which, I wrote my first piece for Uncut on ‘the emerging politics of deficit reduction’. Since when, as much as politics feels like a rollercoaster, these politics have changed remarkably little. Around the time that piece was published, Peter Mandelson was fighting for airtime by launching his memoirs.

We would not convince the country, Mandelson conceded on the deficit, that the Tories were going too far unless we convinced them that we would go far enough. That reflection on the 2010 election exactly parallels the advice that both myself and Samuel Dale have recently given Labour’s current campaign. I called for ‘Don Miliband’ to show himself, Sam for a ‘carpe deficit’ moment. The terminology doesn’t matter, the point is the same. Mandelson returned to the debate before Christmas to make a similar point in a speech to a Progress and Policy Network conference. Labour, Mandelson advised, will only get a hearing on ‘what will the effect be on society and the economy?’ if we are clear on ‘how much must we cut public spending?’

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The Uncuts: 2014 political awards

31/12/2014, 10:01:09 AM

Politician of the year – Alex Salmond

The loss of the independence referendum was meant to be the end of the SNP. The Scottish public gave their verdict and the SNP’s raison d’etre was rejected. Cue internal ructions and a nationalist collapse.

That’s how it was meant to be.

But it wasn’t, largely because of Alex Salmond.

He made mistakes in the independence campaign – notably over nationalist plans for the currency – but Salmond’s easy charm and force of personality helped make the race much closer than many expected.

And following defeat, standing down as leader, his legacy to the SNP is to have taken them to the brink of holding the balance of power in next year’s Westminster election.

If the SNP register a general election result even vaguely in line with their current poll rating, then under Alex Salmond’s leadership, the Scottish nationalists will have fundamentally transformed British politics.

The SNP will have usurped the Liberal Democrats as the third party and Scottish independence will be a real prospect just a few months after it was meant to have been decisively rejected.

No other party leader or MP will have had such a profound impact and for these reasons, Alex Salmond is Uncut’s politician of the year for 2014.

Media misjudgement of the year – Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip

The common media narrative about Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip would not be out of place in a Mills and Boon novel. Charisma, personality and star quality are meant to be the Farage hallmarks.

He certainly generates good copy and has helped filled countless columns and reports with newsworthy content.

But away from the day to day photo-opps in pubs and quotable one-liners, Nigel Farage has made a catastrophic error. Through his words and actions he has helped confirm Ukip’s biggest negative, toxifying Ukip as the party for racists.

At the start of October, at the height of the largely positive publicity around the Clacton by-election, YouGov polling found that 55% of the public believed Ukip to be more likely to have candidates with racist or offensive views, while 41% believed the party to be racist (41% believed it not to be racist).

In a general election, Ukip’s vote will be squeezed as the choice is polarised between Labour and Conservative and being seen as extremists will amplify this effect.

In the biggest domestic election held this year, when millions voted in the local elections, Ukip’s national equivalent vote share actually fell compared to last year – from 23% to 17%.

Nigel Farage’s main task this year was to detoxify Ukip and make them a viable choice for all voters. By failing to redefine Ukip as an optimistic, unprejudiced party (along the lines that Douglas Carswell clearly wants to), Nigel Farage has ultimately doomed them.

Gaffe of the year – George Osborne for the Autumn Statement

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement is the political equivalent of the loud celebrations of AC Milan when 3-0 up at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final, the fatal conceit that opens the door to wounded opponents transforming into glorious victors. 2010’s “emergency budget” was Paolo Maldini’s goal in the first few minutes of the final, establishing an early advantage grounded in Conservative credibility and Labour profligacy. Everything Osborne has done since then, akin to the brace of Hernán Crespo goals that drove home Milan’s first half advantage, has sought to reinforce these perceptions.

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Carpe deficit: Miliband must seize his moment on spending cuts

23/12/2014, 10:39:15 AM

by Samuel Dale

It’s working. On Sunday, Labour took a seven point lead in an Opinium and Observer poll with 36% to the Tories’ 29%.

Sure, it could be a rogue poll, a one-off that misleads us all. Or maybe it is an example of what Damian McBride has called the rope a dope economic strategy while Labour Uncut editor Atul Hatwal said is Miliband’s attempt at triangulation.

With less than six months to election day Miliband has finally awoken from his deficit slumber.

Cut spending every year until the deficit is gone. Prepare shadow ministers for big cuts. Get debt falling by 2020.

Miliband’s speech on the deficit after the autumn statement was substantive. He finally admitted the next parliament would once again be dominated by cuts; deeper, more difficult cuts than this parliament.

It’s a far cry from his conference nightmare when he didn’t even mention it as part of his 10 year vision for Britain.

It is a huge relief for those of us calling for Labour to present a clear deficit reduction plan instead of burying its head in the sands.

Why has Miliband seemingly changed his mind? Firstly, Labour has been forced to change. It lost the debate on whether to spend your way out of recession. Then living standards started to rise, only just but leaving the cost of living campaign with less potency.

Secondly, George Osborne messed up. He outlined huge spending cuts and tax cuts that would reduce the state to 1930s levels.

It is scaring people and Miliband took his chance. Osborne opened up the space for Labour to seem seriously tough on spending cuts without being deranged.

Labour MPs now have genuine answers when asked how they will close the deficit: we’ll scrap it in five years without taking us back an Orwellian Wigan Pier.

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Osborne’s new austerity will force local government beyond breaking point

09/12/2014, 08:02:33 PM

by Kieran Quinn

December the 12th is one of my favourite days of the year: I attend the pensioner Christmas party in my ward. It’s an opportunity to mark the contribution that many of our senior citizens have made to Tameside in Greater Manchester. It also gives people the chance to celebrate and socialise with other Tameside pensioners.

With further austerity measures being levelled on local government over the next few years, I fear for the future of events like these, and services that residents have taken for granted.

£142 million will have been taken from our budget by 2017, we are currently consulting on the £38 million of cuts imposed upon our borough over the next two years, and we are now at a tipping point. Put simply, with half of our budget taken away we simply cannot fund the same level of services, and our workforce has halved so far. We are beyond the approach of doing more for less, despite a hardworking, innovative and dedicated workforce.

As the 980 residents that have taken part in our budget consultation will know, nearly two thirds of our budget is spent on safeguarding the very young and the very old. These services are statutory, laid down in law by parliament. With no additional resources put into these services our ability to provide for our most vulnerable citizens will come into question.

While any funding ring-fenced for the NHS is welcome(a one-off figure of £2 billion , not year on year) a more holistic approach to public sector funding is needed. If you cut our budget by £142 million, high spend areas such as Adult Services are not immune from this and the pressure on NHS resources goes up. It is both morally and economically sensible to integrate these budgets, the emphasis must be on early help in the home and community.

Enough really is enough. If the Chancellor genuinely believed “we are all in these challenging financial times together”, he would have responded to the cross party call for a fair approach to local government finances and deliver an even bolder approach to devolution.

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Miliband only has himself to blame for Osborne’s reckless tax cuts

09/12/2014, 10:56:14 AM

by Samuel Dale

I laughed when I first heard yet slowly but surely the true horror of Ed Miliband’s gaffe has began to sink in.

When our leader forgot to mention the deficit during his 80 minute conference speech in Manchester he handed the Tories a free rein on the economy.

Tory minister has tripped over Tory MP to claim, fairly, that Miliband does not care about the UK’s debt mountain and deficit.

Of course, the gaffe could only gain traction because Labour has failed to rebuild its economic credibility in the last four years.

The lack of a credible alternative on reducing the deficit has allowed the Tories to develop a completely ridiculous and undeserved reputation for sound economic management.

Britain might be splintering into a four or five party system but on the economy it is still a two horse race between potential prime ministers and chancellors. It’s a zero sum game; one party is up, the other is down.

Since 2010, George Osborne has drastically missed his deficit target, lost the UK’s AAA credit rating, increased public debt by trillions and made huge gambles on the tax revenues.

He has also overseen a collapse in living standards, years of stagnant growth and a shameful under-investment in infrastructure.

To give some under-reported examples of his recklessness: Raising the income tax allowance threshold to £10,000 combined with slow wage growth has seen income tax receipts plummet by billions.

In addition, the changes to stamp duty last week and pensions next year create huge tax uncertainties as well, recklessly populist tax cuts in the pursuit of votes.

Then, of course, there are £7.2bn of unfunded income tax cuts for lower and middle earners promised after the election.

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Scrapping RDAs has made Osborne’s task harder

06/12/2014, 07:27:27 PM

By Kevin Meagher

As the Tories’ main political strategist, George Osborne knows only too well that winning the next election means convincing people they’re getting better off, or soon will be. In the next six months, his task is to make sure the warm rays of economic prosperity are felt across all parts of the country.

Yet as the dust settles on the Autumn Statement, recovery remains stubbornly uneven and tackling Britain’s asymmetric economy, split between a galloping London and South East and, at best, a cantering North and Midlands, looks as forlorn a prospect as it has for the past three decades.

Yet the bodies set up by Labour in 1998 to narrow these deep economic disparities – the nine English regional development agencies – were in coalition ministers’ crosshairs from day one. To Conservative eyes, RDAs were quintessentially old Labour. The state getting involved in promoting economic growth.

While the concept of “regions” was an unwelcome affectation, dreamt up by John Prescott in all his pomp running the sprawling Department of Environment, Transport and Regions.

In fact, David Cameron used his first major speech as prime minister to herald a different approach to driving local growth. It mattered little that the boards of the RDAs were private sector-led. Or that there was strong business support for retaining the northern agencies in particular. Or, indeed, that they were actually succeeding in their task of boosting growth. (In 2009, PriceWaterhouse Coopers calculated that the economic value they generated was equivalent to £4.50 for every £1 of public money invested).

But the RDAs fate was sealed because the Lib Dems didn’t think much of them either. Business secretary Vince Cable suggested scrapping them himself in a paper for the Reform think tank before the 2010 election. So when the “bonfire of the quangos” was lit, the English RDAs were the Guy Fawkes effigy placed right at the top of the pyre.

Since then, ministers have created a total of 39 local enterprise partnerships – effectively mini-RDAs but without the budgets – or the experienced staff – to drive local growth. This disjointed, stop-start approach, just as the economy was going through the bumpy 2010-12 period, was one of the more politically indulgent things the government has done.

And, potentially, one of the more politically costly.

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George Osborne hasn’t set a trap for Labour. He’s launched a boomerang

01/12/2014, 09:38:06 AM

by Jonathan Todd

George Osborne thinks he is being clever, setting a trap for Labour. But Labour should vote against his proposal, expected to be contained in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, for a new law requiring that Britain’s structural deficit be eliminated by 2017-18. As it is not a trap, it is a boomerang.

“The duties imposed by the Bill are not accompanied by any corresponding sanctions,” he told MPs, when asked to vote by the then Labour government to put into law the halving of the deficit in two years. As declamatory legislation – an Act of Parliament which no one has any intention of enforcing – Osborne was right to dismiss it as “vacuous and irrelevant”.

Yet Osborne now advances his own declamatory legislation. What will follow as a result of his law from the deficit not being closed by 2017-18? Will the deficit be further extended by the government fining itself? Or will the government be required to learn their lesson in its prisons? It’s all funny money and silly politics.

Such tawdry legislation diminishes us. And if Osborne is going to pass laws making a deficit after 2017-18 illegal, doesn’t he anticipate people enquiring how he’ll make his government legal? Labour will make hay with speculation on what heartless plans he conceals. But his stated intentions are sufficient to damage him.

Under published Conservative plans, the Resolution Foundation “estimate that several government departments would face real-terms budget reductions of one-half or more between 2010-11 and 2018-19”. Budgets for DfID, the NHS and schools are nominally ring fenced, so other departments face a halving of their budgets.

How will the Home Office keep us safe on a shrunken budget? Are we to win ‘the global race’ with an FCO so puny? Will local government be recognisable after ‘the jaws of doom’ close?

Osborne is asking MPs to vote to make the continuation of government as we have known it illegal. While by 2010 there was fat to trim in the public sector, there is now less, so his plans entail a more dramatic state curtailment.

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Yes, it’s a reshuffle cliché, but George Osborne’s fingerprints are all over the new Tory line-up

18/07/2014, 11:40:36 AM

by Renie Anjeh

The reshuffle is over.  William Hague dramatically resigned as foreign secretary and has announced that he will retire from politics in 2015 after 26 years as an MP. Ken Clarke’s ministerial career – which began under Ted Heath in 1972 – has come to a close.  Teachers and pupils (and probably Theresa May) rejoiced when Michael Gove was demoted to the humble role of chief whip.  The reshuffle was not just the equivalent of football transfer day for political anoraks, it was the most important reshuffle in David Cameron’s premiership.

The reaction to the reshuffle has been varied. Dan Hodges (the prime minister’s favourite columnist) called it a ‘strange’ reshuffle whilst Charles Moore labelled it as ‘the worst reshuffle in 25 years’.  The official line from the Labour party was that the reshuffle was the ‘massacre of the moderates’ and almost every single tweeting Labour MP repeated that message religiously as the reshuffle unfolded (probably with encouragement from the whips). However, the party’s claim was demonstrably untrue and actually highlighted a failure on our side to truly understand our political enemies.

The departure of one nation Tories such as Clarke, Young and Damian Green is down to the political longevity rather than their politics.  Dominic Grieve may be a supporter the Human Rights Act but he is also an opponent of HS2 which may have also counted against him.  Although, David Willetts and Alan Duncan are the godfathers of Tory modernisation (‘Tory Taliban’ was coined by Duncan), it is wrong to suggest that they are One Nation Tories.

They are Thatcherites who in spite of their Eurosceptism and economic liberalism, hold very socially liberal views.  If the reshuffle was a cull of the moderates, as Labour yesterday, then since when did Owen Paterson and David Jones become moderates?

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Class-based jibes are not an effective attack on Osborne’s feel-good budget pitch

24/03/2014, 03:52:00 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Tories neck and neck with Labour,” reported The Sunday Times. Revisiting the questions that Uncut posed for George Osborne prior to the Autumn Statement allows us to assess how the landscape is evolving.

1.) Has the relationship between economic and Tory recovery broken?

Last October Uncut ran a regression to analyse the relationship between economic sentiment and Labour’s poll lead. This indicated that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well, the Tories would close on Labour by 0.6% – ‘the Todd thesis’, as Lewis Baston christened it. The table below, which uses figures from YouGov, shows how these variables have evolved since then.

Picture5

The upward trend in economic sentiment is clear. Labour’s lead over the Tories, though, remains much the same now (5.6%) as last October (5.7%). This is the stuff of the ‘voteless recovery‘ that Tories fear.

Digging deeper into these numbers, however, raises some challenges for Labour. The table shows that Labour’s lead was largest during November and December. This might be explained by the popularity of Labour’s price freeze commitment made at party conference. As this commitment has featured less prominently in political debate, Labour’s lead has withered.

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Budget 2014 preview: Labour must change the language it uses to talk about business and economics

19/03/2014, 07:00:50 AM

by Rob Marchant

Today Britain’s political focus turns, as it always does sooner or later, to the economy. It is the last Budget which will come in time to make much of a difference for the election, an election for which all parties now start to gradually gather together their support from various quarters and interest groups.

Osborne will set out his pre-election stall and Miliband will respond. We have yet to see just how he will respond, but it seems pretty likely that it will be along the lines of his op-ed in yesterday’s Guardian.

Reading it, thankfully, Miliband seems to have learned his lesson from the awful “predators and producers” speech of the party’s 2012 conference and is now more careful with his wording. But if you want to really understand what a politician is thinking on a particular subject, you should look to their advisers on that subject; those who may unguardedly say what their bosses cannot. More of that later.

Now, one notable absence – or, more unkindly, gaping hole – in the 2010 election campaign was any noticeable support from the business community. A stony silence replaced the modest set of endorsers for the party’s business policies who had previously spoken in support of the party. And that was in the days of Prime Minister Brown, whose administration certainly had a more business-friendly character than the party’s current leadership.

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