Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Poverty of Labour

Are we trying to keep people in poverty? asks Janet Daley in her column this week, amid the left's demands that the poor be 'protected' - like an endangered species from extinction - and by doing so, maintaining their dependency on welfare in a self-defeating cycle of poverty.

The Brown government had a catchphrase that still resonates as an embodiment of political nonsense: it would boast repeatedly of its supposed triumph in “lifting people out of poverty”. There is an unmistakeable vision here of the hand of God, with the grateful masses gently cradled in its palm, raising the humble from their destitution.

But being “lifted out of poverty” by government action meant that benefit payments were nudged up by marginal increments so as to push the poor just above the statistical level of relative poverty. The boundary that they crossed might make little difference to their actual quality of life, but, on paper, they were “out of poverty” – at least until the next jump in the general standard of living put them arithmetically back into relative poverty, thus necessitating another increase in benefits to pull them once more across the magic line.

Putting an end to poverty by raising benefits was a statistical conjuring trick.

Daley further explains the ' litigious absurdity' of the Equality and Human Rights Commission pronouncing the Budget to be in breach of the 2010 Equality Act if it showed no regard for the possible impact on “social equality”.

This is tantamount to saying that no government may interfere with the right of people to be dependent on state benefits – and furthermore, that those benefits must be maintained at a level that guarantees the “equality” of recipients will not be damaged. The logical conclusion of this is that it is illegal to alter the tax and benefit system in any way that reduces welfare dependency and creates incentives for people to leave poverty behind.

Absurd or what?


The girls are back. All Chanel'd and beautiful.
They visited the Chelsea & Meatpacking district (Frank's and Pastis of course), Highline Park, the top of the Rock, South St. Seaport & Pier 17, the Frick, MoMA (capitalisation very important), noho & soho.
All in one short week of tremendous energy. And because they lived as New Yorkers - looking after a friend's apartment (and feeding Freddie the hampster) - they are confident in saying that New Yorkers are much nicer than Londoners. Pleasant, engaging, polite and supportive.
Thank you Mr Bin Laden. Apparently post 9/11 New Yorkers live for today. There may be no tomorrow.
Alternatively, the evidence suggests they may be too busy shopping...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Great International Development Leader

Having supported Guido earlier, I now remember why I found it so surprising. Guido is now running a story that Gordon Brown is trying to return to the shadow cabinet as International Development Secretary.
I really can't think of a more stupid, irrational and unlikely move. Even for Gordon Brown.

Local jargon

Paul Goodman writes admiringly about Eric Pickles – the Tories’ action man - in today’s Telegraph.

In little more than three months, Pickles has announced an end to regional housebuilding targets, home insurance packs, the comprehensive area assessment system for local councils, the Standards Board, the proposed unitary local authority for Norwich, the local government office for London, bin taxes (provoking a simmering row with Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary) ...and abolished the Audit Commission.

He's also released details online of all department spending over £500, instructed local authorities to do the same, tightened rules about councils publishing newspapers, and attacked his Labour predecessors for squandering taxpayers' money on official photographs and fancy furniture, all the while trumpeting a new "golden age for local government".
Apart from knowing who the Environment Secretary is, I really haven't a clue what he's talking about.

Progression & the IFS

Can't believe I agree with Guido Fawkes, but this piece makes sense.

The left defines a “progressive budget” as one that benefits those on lowest incomes most. Since the population decile on the lowest incomes is overwhelmingly composed of those on welfare it means that no tax cutting budget, even if it disproportionately benefits the lowest paid by raising thresholds, can ever be “progressive”. The only way the budget could be progressive would be by raising welfare payments to those who spend their days sitting on the sofa watching daytime TV.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Living wages

Miliband's IFS document on the living wage makes interesting reading. Not only does it incentivise work over welfare, it directly helps the lowest paid, and does so in a way that attaches social responsibility to business practices. The key detail is:

An increase in wages for everyone in the private sector to the level of the
"living wage" (£7.85 in London and £7.60 in the rest of the UK) would lead to an increase in gross earnings of between £11.4 billion and £12.0 billion, of which about £4.5 to £4.9billion would accrue to the Government through higher income tax and employee national insurance payments and lower spending on benefits and tax credits. Employers would also pay about £1.4 to £1.5 billion more in Employers’ National Insurance. In total, the Treasury would gain between £5.9 billion to £6.3 billion.
Dizzy had an interesting take on it yesterday morning re welfare reform. Note the calculation involves 'everyone in the private sector' including SME's paying a lot less in corporation tax (21%) than larger enterprises (28%), with little consequent scope for tax reductions. But this is just the type of initiative the treasury needs to be looking at.

The wind that shakes the barley

Michael White in Politics Weekly, Gaby Hinsliff in yesterday's Observer and now Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian. So where were you guys exactly when we were getting high? Defending the indefensible, that's where. Yes I'm talking to you Polly Toynbee.

The party of anger, hatred and deceit lost. Miserably. And the forces of terror that knew better than us how we should live left without contrition. A 'dumb waiter' deserving of extinction eh? Sounds about right Mr Milli-balls. Just be careful what you wish for...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Grade F Mr Balls

Telling interview with Ed Balls on Newsnight following yesterday's A level results. When asked why the attainment gap between State and private schools is still increasing after 13 years of New Labour educational spending, he could only offer the excuse 'because they're selective'.

No Mr Balls, they have always been selective. The only variable to change over that period has been the vast increase in spending on state education under your government.

Definitely an F grade for Mr Balls then. Not to mention the fact that the wonderful schools building program that achieved so little, was financed not out of current (New Labour) spending but by PFI.

So my children and grandchildren will still be paying for it in thirty years time. Double F Mr Balls.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The People want Fairness

Extraordinarily honest view from former New Statesman Editor John Kampfner in today's Daily Mail. He suggests the electorate are a lot more intelligent than the Labour leadership candidates currently believe.

Kampfner uses several examples of diverse and often contradictory policy solutions to prove his point - privatisation of BT (good) versus Network Rail (bad); PFI(bad) v public funding (good); Banking excesses (bad) v taxpayer bailouts (good).

His point? Its not about ideology. Its about fairness. And what works.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Happy 100 days

Good news if Iain Martin is to be believed - a tapered incentive back into work for millions of welfare dependents. No doubt the Sunday's will be full of it. All we need now is a realistic and effective welfare to work program - just like Cameron promised at last year's conference. Remember that? Seems like an age now...

It coincides with the first 100 days of the coalition government with articles all over the media. A more radical opening is hard to imagine. And there's plenty more promised - a patient-led NHS (albeit through GP's), decentralisation of local government, a comprehensive defence review and voting reform of both houses, to mention just a few.
But amongst such progress, I still have doubts over a flatlining economy - and bank lending, not government spending, remains at the heart of my doubts.

Instead of whining over bonuses, Vince Cable should be introducing new legislation offering 'narrow' banking licences to new entrants to the retail banking market. And reforming a swathe of (largely EU inspired) business regulations and centralised bureaucracy to free up and stimulate new business generation.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Trolls and tantrums...

Today I learnt the word Troll - Internet slang for someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community. I am currently looking at ways in which they - just like an annoying fly - can be controlled.

Apparently Trolls are all around. And especially within. They need to be guarded against fiercely and excluded immediately.

Poor Trolls.

Not sure why, but just thinking about that reminded me of an amusing incident in a previous existence. Back when I was 16, I had a holiday job at Air Products in Bracknell, Berks. One of my duties - during a two week cold snap - was to keep a busy loading bay (where cryogenic tankers would re-load) free of ice.

On the first morning the Manager stood next to me explaining what needed to be done. He showed me where the bags of road salt were kept, and in one huge sweep of the shovel, how to cover a swathe of iced tarmac, keeping the precious tankers firmly grounded.

And as he demonstrated, he told me about a 'stupid namby-pamby little boy' they had employed the previous winter, who had 'pranced around' delicately sprinkling little handfuls of salt here and there as if he were some 'poncey ice skater'.

Naturally I agreed with the Manager, laughing animatedly at his amusing characterisation. All the while realising that the boy he was talking about, was me.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

100 days Post Terror

100 days of Dave does not sound an inspiring title. But is an excellent piece from Tim Montgomery in the New Statesman.

He points out a growing number of reform programs the coalition has surprised us with, confirming their revolutionary fervour - shelving the prison building program, welfare dependency reform and the NHS re-organisation of strategic and area health authorities. Reforms to schools, policing and local government were well anticipated.

But it is the personal that for me features so prominently in Tim's assessment. The courage so evident in constructing a 'change alliance'. The deep and seamless bonding of two distinct political traditions, expressed through the prism of David Laws resignation. And the sheer delight that appears to accompany every decision the coalition makes. In one word, trust.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

One more heave, Mr Heffer

I may have enjoyed one expression from Simon Heffer, but I can't think of a writer who's made me more angry over the past four years.

For me, Heffer represents everything that is wrong and unacceptable with the Conservative party. He and his followers are the reason why - until Cameron became leader in 2005 - I had been unable to vote in a general election since John Major in 1997. The last honest and decent politician who handed over a golden legacy for the incoming Labour administration to destroy.

Heffer it seemed to me, delighted in attacking Cameron - and particularly shadow Chancellor George Osborne - for daring to question the old orthodoxy of Thatcherite shibboleths that the electorate had so convincingly rejected many years before.

Even in today's paper, Heffer claims Cameron "...believes in nothing except remaining Prime Minister" despite initiating the most fundamental reforms to education, health, voting, policing, prisons and welfare for a generation. All within the first 11 weeks of a coalition government which is additionally committed to more than halving the deficit during its lifetime, left by Labour for future generations to pay.

He suggests the only people with anything important to say "...are to be found on the Right of the Conservative Party and the Left of the Liberal Democrats." Well, they may form an audience for Mr Heffer - though I doubt Simon Hughes would agree - but they hardly seem a willing coalition with which to win elections.

It just seems to me that Mr Heffer's attitude - like that of the European Union - is that the electorate seems to have got it wrong. And they need to be made to vote again and again and again. Until they get it right. Or should that be Right.

The Brown Terror

I love the expression 'The Brown Terror' used by Simon Heffer in today's Telegraph. It perfectly sums up the years of anger, hatred and deceit under the butcher of Kirkcaldy and his acolytes.

Even now - and without so much as an apology - some of them are standing for the Labour leadership. The remainder of course, were unable to find the courage to put the British people before personal gain and ideology and stop the terror.

Its not a great choice. And the one man who stood up to the bully and put his moral convictions first is missing. James Purnell was oppointed Chairman of the ippr thinktank on 20th July. I shall read their output with a great deal more enthusiasm from September.

Be careful what you wish for...

I keep reading that Ed Miliband is now expected to beat his more high profile older brother for the Labour leadership by virtue of the fact that he has fewer enemies and presents himself as a nicer person - not to mention the workings of the AV electoral system which the party so principally rejects.

Often such characteristics in a politician suggest little or no thoughts of their own; a lack of strength in moral conviction or being vacuously described as 'all things to all men'.

In fact, exactly what they accused Cameron of being during his recent travels to Obamaland, Turkey and India - telling each what they wanted to hear.

Strange then that the very same party should be looking to elect exactly the characteristics they find so objectionable in the Prime Minister as their new leader.

Packing the electorate

Looks like we're nearly at save the LibDem's time. 55% of Conservative voters now accept the need for an electoral pact. Certainly the Conservative Whigs owe a great deal to the Liberals - if not the Democrats.

Personally I'm amazed at the plummeting electoral fortunes of a junior partner which has managed to introduce quite so many manifesto commitments within weeks of coming to power - far more than Blair's 1997 steroidally obsessed regime. An electoral pact may well become necessary.

But probably only once a referendum on AV has been lost...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Welfare reform

Don't often see a piece of this length - nor importance - in the Spectator blogs. Well worth a read. It starts with Labour's view from former spad Jo Moore -

'Sorting welfare comes at a political cost – and for what? Helping a bunch of people who tend not to vote. Far easier to shovel money at the poor, and leave them in decaying council estates.'

And that's exactly what they did. But as we all know, it's how you look after those you do not need that defines you. The piece ends 'how serious is he (Cameron) about fixing this broken society? In the next few months, we’ll see.'

Iain Duncan Smith and welfare reform is fast becoming the totemic issue for this coalition. And not before time.

Pakistan (and David Miliband) doth protest too much, methinks

So 'loudmouth' Cameron is making it up as he goes along is he? Not very likely Mr Miliband. Nor very polite. And being a victim of terrorism hardly makes Pakistan innocent. The connections and coincidences are now too great to ignore. The complacency of the ISI too freightening. The louder they protest, the more we wonder what they're trying to hide. Speak loud Mr Cameron. The world is listening.