Posts Tagged ‘Michael Dugher’

16 government policies the Lib Dems didn’t stop

19/09/2013, 10:06:57 AM

by Michael Dugher

Nick Clegg looked awfully pleased with himself yesterday.  I think he very much enjoys being deputy prime minister.  His message to the party faithful yesterday was “I’ll be in government with anyone”, which roughly translates as “I don’t believe in anything”.  And though Clegg had a carefully choreographed pop at the Tories yesterday, the truth is the Lib Dems vote with the Tories day after day.

Despite the huge cost of living crisis engulfing most families, with people on average nearly £1,500 worse off a year under this Government, Clegg told the Lib Dems yesterday that they should “feel proud that country’s fortunes are turning”.  He also listed 16 policies that he had apparently blocked the Tories from introducing.

Well, just for the record Nick, here’s 16 things the Lib Dems didn’t block:

1.      A tax cut for millionaires – cutting the 50p top rate of tax, giving 13,000 millionaires a handout worth on average £100,000 each.

2.      Trebling tuition fees. Nick Clegg promised to vote against any rise in tuition fees. He didn’t.

3.      Increasing VAT to 20 per cent. The Lib Dems warned before the election of a “TORY VAT BOMBSHELL”.  Then he helped them introduce it.

4.      An economic policy that choked off the recovery – which is now the slowest for 100 years.  Vince Cable warned before the election that “the danger of drastic cuts in public spending right now is that it would make the recession worse and it would make the deficit worse” – but he signed up to them.

5.      A £3 billion top-down NHS reorganisation, while queues grow in A&E and over 5,000 nurses are cut.

6.      Cutting 15,000 police officers – even though the Lib Dem manifesto promised an extra 3,000 police officers.


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Transparency Mr Cameron? Not when it comes to Lynton Crosby

20/07/2013, 07:00:16 AM

by Michael Dugher

On Wednesday, David Cameron finally unveiled the long-awaited lobbying bill called “Transparency of Lobbying.” The irony of this title has not been lost given that the last week has been dominated by the continued refusal by the prime minister to shed any light on his discussions with the tobacco lobbyist and chief Tory strategist, Lynton Crosby.

David Cameron has now been asked at least twelve times whether he has ever had a conversation with Mr Crosby about cigarette packaging – and he has refused to give a straight answer every time.

In a car-crash interview with Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon on Thursday, which was reminiscent of the famous Jeremy Paxman/ Michael Howard interview when Howard refused to answer a straightforward question a total of twelve times in succession, Cameron repeatedly refused to answer the simple question: have you ever had a conversation or had discussions with Mr Crosby about tobacco and plain packaging?

Each time, Cameron responds with the carefully constructed, legalistic reply: “I have never been lobbied by Mr Crosby on anything”.  This clearly does not answer the question.

So why is David Cameron being so evasive?  It is instructive to look back at the timeline of events to see how the Prime Minister got to this embarrassing situation.  In November last year, Cameron appointed Mr Crosby as a strategy advisor.  Just a few weeks later, Mr Crosby reportedly met with the prime minister, the chancellor and the prime minister’s chief of staff at Chequers to discuss the contents of the forthcoming queen’s speech.  Then, in the queen’s speech in May, the government dropped its plans for standardised tobacco packaging.

Last week, it was also revealed that Mr Crosby even chaired a meeting late last year where members of the tobacco industry discussed how to block the government’s plan to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets

So what was discussed at the meeting at Chequers and other meetings Cameron had with Mr Crosby before the queen’s speech?  Reports have suggested that Mr Crosby told Cameron to “get the barnacles off the boat” by concentrating on core electoral battlegrounds and abandoning certain legislation.  If Cameron actually never had a conversation about tobacco policy with Mr Crosby, he should simply say so now.


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Results this week show middle England is moving away from David Cameron

17/11/2012, 03:23:52 PM

by Michael Dugher

Yesterday’s Corby by-election victory for Andy Sawford was a significant result for Labour. It went well beyond our expectations, with a swing of 12.7 per cent from the Tories, which if repeated across the county in a general election would see a Labour majority of well over 100.

Corby is important as it is a key middle England seat and the result shows that people in the heart of Britain are putting their trust in Labour once again.  The Corby constituency is a microcosm of the country – with Corby itself, alongside small market towns and chocolate box villages.  Since its creation in 1983, Corby has been held and won by the party that has formed the government.  Labour won it from the Tories in 1997 and the Tories gained it in 2010.

Andy Sawford fought a one nation campaign, reaching out right across the constituency, persuading those who did not vote for us in 2010 to put their trust in Labour once again. That is exactly what Ed Miliband and one nation Labour is about – standing up for working families who are having their budgets squeezed, for young people who are out of work, and for those who are being ignored by a Tory-led government that thinks the priority now is to cut taxes for millionaires.

The government has tried to spin away the result as just people venting their anger at Louise Mensch for quitting half way through her term.  But that’s not what people were saying on the doorstep.  When I was out campaigning during the by-election, most people I spoke to hadn’t even heard of Louise Mensch.  But they had heard of David Cameron.  And they were angry with a government that is cutting taxes for millionaires while families across the constituency are feeling their incomes squeezed.


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The government’s top 30 “real achievements”

18/10/2012, 11:12:18 AM

by Michael Dugher

Back in July, after a torrid few months for the government following their budget for millionaires and with Britain in a double-dip recession, David Cameron and Nick Clegg responded the way they always do: they organised another press re-launch.  At the event held at a railway depot at Smethwick in the West Midlands, they announced that the Government would publish a mid-term review in the autumn outlining what they had “achieved” and identifying future goals and objectives.

So following the party conference season, and with the imminent publication of this review, it seems a good time to look back over the last two years to assess what the government has really achieved and to outline what its real half-term report should look like.  Here are the government’s top 30 real achievements:

On the economy:

1. When the Tories took office the economy was growing, but the government’s policies choked off the recovery and have delivered the longest double-dip recession since the second world war;

2. The IMF has cut its UK growth forecast for 2012 to minus 0.4 per cent;

3. Borrowing is up.  Compared to last year, borrowing is up by 22 per cent so far this year;

4. Tax cuts for the rich – the government is cutting 5p from the 50p top rate tax, giving 8,000 people earning over £1 million a tax cut of over £40,000 a year;

5. And at the same time as helping millionaires, the government is introducing a “granny tax”, which will see 4.4 million pensioners who pay income tax losing an average of £83 per year.

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What’s the government got against children?

29/02/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Michael Dugher

Today Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem minister for children and families, will be questioned by a cross-party group of MPs following a damning report by the all-party parliamentary group on Sure Start that said that, the UK is facing a “childcare crisis”.

The report highlights that fewer than half of all councils are able to provide adequate help for working parents.   Last week, I appeared on the BBC’s Any Questions? alongside Sarah Teather.  When asked what the government should do in the forthcoming budget she said: “One of the most important things is to put money back into families’ pockets”.  I nearly choked on my BBC mineral water.

The truth is that life getting more difficult for many families with children.  This was highlighted again on Monday by the national childcare charity Daycare Trust, which revealed that 44,000 fewer families have received help with childcare costs since cuts to tax credits took effect last April.  Furthermore, by cutting the maximum level of support available through the childcare element of the working tax credit, the government is taking an additional £500 per year away from many low-income working families.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Just two weeks ago, the shadow treasury minister, Cathy Jamieson, revealed that 200,000 households, including 470,000 children, will lose tax credits worth almost £4,000 a year unless they significantly increase their working hours.

Due to changes that will come into effect in April, couples with children will have to work a total of 24 hours a week, rather than 16 hours, to qualify for the working tax credit.  In Barnsley alone, this could affect over 750 households and 1,400 children.  At a time when many employers are reducing, not increasing, the hours for part-time employees.  The government seems, perversely, to have a ‘work to welfare’ policy.

Government policies are also forcing many Sure Start children’s centres to close; centres which have been so successful in helping families and communities in poorer areas.  The government claims it is still committed to Sure Start, but figures revealed by Labour show that Sure Start budgets have been slashed in 83% of England’s local authorities.  The average decrease in real-term budgets was 11%last year and will be at least 21%this year.  Children’s charities, such as 4Children, have rightly voiced their concerns about the potential impact this will have on child poverty.


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PR summits can’t mask a return to 1980s scale unemployment

16/11/2011, 10:54:07 AM

by Michael Dugher

As expected, figures released today show that unemployment has risen again. It now stands at over 2.6 million – up 129,000 on the quarter and a 17 year high. Aware that more bad figures were on the way, David Cameron has arranged a “business breakfast” to “discuss youth unemployment” at Downing Street. And over at the department for business, innovation and skills, Vince Cable is to hold an “apprenticeship summit” for the TV cameras. But with the economy continuing to flat-line, for the now over 1 million young people out of work, gimmicky breakfasts and PR summits for the media are not enough.

Rising unemployment is an inevitable consequence of the lack of growth in the economy. And as yesterday’s OECD report highlighted, the UK slowdown happened well before the latest crisis in the Euro zone. Today’s jobless numbers mean that more than ever we need a real plan for jobs and growth.

As the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, has set out, there are five clear steps the government can take immediately. First, a £2 billion tax on bank bonuses would fund 100,000 jobs for young people. Second, bringing forward long-term investment projects would help get people back to work and strengthen our economy. Third, reversing January’s damaging VAT rise would help high streets as well as struggling families. Fourth, a one year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements would help homeowners and small businesses. And finally, a one year national insurance tax break, for every small firm which takes on extra workers, would help small businesses grow and create jobs. (more…)

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These days the attack dogs are too nice. Where’s the modern Peter Mandelson?

09/11/2011, 07:30:56 AM

by Dan Hodges

Michael Dugher is not the new Peter Mandelson. We know this because last week Dugher told us so.

He didn’t just come out and issue a bald statement to that effect, obviously. That would just have been plain odd:

“Which senior former Labour politician aren’t you going to be tonight Michael”?

“Well, tonight Matthew I’m not going to be Peter Mandelson”.

No, the new shadow minister without portfolio was responding to a tweet from  “eyespymp”, the voyeuristic web site that tracks and broadcasts the movement of our Parliamentary representatives as the go about their daily lives.

According to our eyespy eavesdropper, Dugher was overheard “telling someone he’s going to be ‘Ed’s Mandelson’”. To which the member for Barnsley East responded with a characteristically blunt: “Load of bollocks. I’m currently at home with my kids”.

The kids’ gain is Labour’s loss. A new Peter Mandelson is exactly what we need. A Prince of darkness. Master of the dark arts.

Ed’s got lots of masters of the pastel-coloured arts. Tom Baldwin is an accomplished spinner. But he’s not a real attack dog. He tries. He affects a kick ass, access denied, off the guest list, card marked, co-operation withdrawn, lead-lined boots demeanor. But his heart’s really not in it. He’d hate anyone to know it, but he’s actually quite nice.

Then there is Stewart Wood, another shadow minister without portfolio, who is Ed’s “political mastermind”. Wood has a sharp mind, and a few tricks up his sleeve. He’s got a reputation in Westminster for being a straight shooter. Though if he has to, he knows how to bend the odd bullet round the wall. But he’s also got a serious flaw. Again, he’s quite nice. In an interview he gave to Suzie Mackenzie, Gordon Brown’s biographer, Mackenzie recounts:

“Wood acknowledged that the routine rudeness – the ‘just Gordon’ behaviour – had begun to trouble him. It became ‘more important’ after Brown became prime minister. He suggested that the ‘apologies’ they made for Brown had gone on too long. ‘How you deal as an individual with human beings is a core part of the job’, he said”.

How you deal with human beings? That’s all very good. But it’s hardly Prince of Darkness material is it?


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Cameron is far more interested in Fox’s job than your job

17/10/2011, 11:09:04 AM

by Michael Dugher

According to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, one Downing Street aide described the events of last week as “very weird”. Certainly the fall-out from Liam Fox’s resignation will continue to dominate events at Westminster this week, not least with the report of the inquiry into Dr Fox by the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, expected tomorrow.

Andrew Rawnsley correctly observed in his column that “in the grand scheme of things, most resignations from the cabinet don’t have a discernibly lasting impact. They only do so if the voters and media draw from them larger conclusions about the government”.  But the events of the last week were not just weird, but telling. And we have learnt a lot about both the character and conduct of David Cameron’s out of touch government.
Ed Miliband spent last week out and about. He visited businesses in Worcester, Southend and London, talking to apprentices and company directors about the big challenges facing our economy. Together with Ed Balls, he has launched a five point plan for jobs and growth which would help get Britain’s economy moving again.  In Parliament and outside, Labour has been challenging the Tory led-government to do more to help businesses and help get people back into work, so that we can reduce government borrowing and help build a better economy for the future. (more…)

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Forget the Tories: take the time to read Ed Miliband’s speech for yourself

03/10/2011, 03:30:14 PM

by Michael Dugher

As Ed Miliband made his way out of the conference hall after his speech in Liverpool last week, for some of the assembled political journalists, glumly “kettled” in a far corner of the conference centre, the story had already been written: Ed Miliband had “lurched to the left” with an address that was “anti-business”. Neither the conference nor the speech remotely warranted such a depressingly predictable narrative. But for some of the (Conservative-supporting) press, the facts must not get in the way of a good (or lazy) story.

By contrast, and by coincidence, as I made my way out of the hall in Liverpool, I bumped into two very senior business figures. One is a longstanding Labour supporter, who has made millions in private industry. The other has only recently joined the party, having retired from business after decades of running multi-million pound commercial enterprises. Both thought the speech was very good. They enthused about not only its thoughtfulness, but in particular its emphasis on the importance of business as a “wealth creator”, a line used repeatedly in Ed Miliband’s speech.

I too was struck by what I regarded as a firmly “pro-business” message the speech (the words “pro-business” were used no less than five times).  He rightly held out the example of Rolls Royce as a great British company and he contrasted the behaviour of its chief executive, Sir John Rose, with that of former bank chief, Sir Fred Goodwin. Also, as Labour continues to berate the government for its lack of any industrial strategy, I was pleased that Ed mentioned UK train manufacturer, Bombardier, as well as the defence giant, BAE Systems, with workers from both companies still reeling from recent announcements of large scale redundancies. He recognised the importance of financial services to Britain, but praised those companies that “train, invest, invent and sell”. Indeed, he said: “The vast majority of our businesses have the right values and do the right thing”.


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The week Uncut

06/08/2011, 02:00:43 PM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Michael Dugher reports on the governments attempts to sneak out the trash

Dan Hodges reveals his guilty crush: Ed Miliband

Atul Hatwal reports on the shadow cabinet’s secret makeovers

Peter Watt casts an expert eye over Labour party finances

Uncut asks: Louise Mensch a future Tory PM or a car crash waiting to happen?

Kevin Meagher feels sorry for Rupert Murdoch. No, really.

… and John Prescott asks #wheresthegovernment?

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