Sunday, 23 January 2011

GP commissioning reforms were always at the heart of the Coalition

Huge criticism this week of the Coalition's plans for GP commissioning, principally on the grounds that there is no mandate for such reform because it was never mentioned during the election campaign. This is quite wrong.

Caroline Spelman told the BBC Question Time audience on Thursday that page 46 of the Conservative manifesto outlines the plans and I'm greatful to @sjbaker for his tweet this morning pointing out that the Conservative Draft Health Manifesto published just over a year ago on Jan 18 2010 also says the party will give GP's the power to hold patients' budgets and commission care on their behalf. Seems pretty straight forward to me. It adds incidentally, that they will also link GP's pay to the quality of the results they deliver something we have not yet heard much about...

Well I think it's a nice idea says Polly Toynbee in this weeks Politics Weekly podcast from the Guardian. Surprisingly, she really is talking about GP commissioning of healthcare as proposed by the Coalition and continues in some ways (it is) quite rational that GP's should control the budget because GP's - these are the ones who really spend it - if so in the end their decision to refer someone to X or Y , if someone really needs this treatment, decides what the NHS spends, so it does make some sense. So why so much opposition to the reform? Because its from the Coalition of course. Pure tribalism as usual. 

It is right at the heart of this Coalition government that the people's interest should be put before those of vested interests - the producers. In every area of policy and under various different titles - big society, free schools, bottom-up politics, voting reform, localism - the people are being put first.

Increasingly Labour are finding themselves on the wrong side of this argument defending the producer interest in each case. As Janet Daly points out in a well argued article for today's Telegraph entitled Reform must be rushed, or it won't happen at all, the argument we weren't given enough warning really means we need time to organise obstruction to anything that interferes with our habitual ways of doing things. How very Labour. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Riddell, delusion and hypocrisy

You really could not credibly make up the hypocrisy of it. Take a look at the comments below David Laws' article in the Guardian supporting the Coalition's economic policies. Six of the first twenty five comments have had to be removed by the moderator. This is visceral hatred driven by pure ideological malice. The type that
ends with the words 'ethnic cleansing' and 'final solution' being written by so-called serious commentators who really should know better. It is blind prejudice. Just the sort of language Democrats in America suggest engenders political violence.

Meanwhile over at the Telegraph Mary Riddell - long an apologist for Gordon Brown's disastrous government and after eight months of attacking the LibDems, week in week out, for forming a radical Coalition government - suggests Nick Clegg and his LibDem colleagues should now be cosying up to Ed Miliband as his natural ally to form a 'progressive alliance'. An alliance of hatred no doubt. She concludes any political courtship between Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband may prove, for the Prime Minister, to be a very dangerous liaison. I am just staggered by the sheer delusion of it; the deep hypocrisy.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Warsi, tactical voting & car crashes

Just listened to that interview with Baroness Warsi on the Today program being portrayed in some areas of the blogosphere as a car crash. Unless you were here, unless you were out delivering and unless you were out knocking on doors, you really don't have a right to complain we weren't vigorous enough she tells right wing critics.

Can't see where the words car crash come in, nor that such a call to action should in any way denigrate committed party campaigners. The truth is that this woman is probably the most combative and credible Conservative chairman for many years and deserves support.

What is needed is some refreshing honesty in the party's advice to their voters. Accepting that there is no electoral pact between the LibDem's and their Coalition partners, but as the third party in this by-election and therefore extremely unlikely to be in a position to win the constituency outright, the Tory chairman should have at least publicly discussed the possibility of Conservatives voting tactically for the LibDems as the only party able to defeat Labour.

There may come a time when the AV system provides just such a mechanism for valuing second and even third preferences in our voting system. Until then, such advice should be given.

Old & Sad in AV

Just a thought on how the Old & Sad result might look under AV.

Labour (14,718 votes) hoovers up second preferences from the BNP (1560) and Greens (530), to make 16,803 total (48.1%).

LibDems (11,160) take second preferences from Conservatives (4481) and (by inference) UKIP (2029) making total of 17,670. 51.3%.

Elwyn Watkins elected MP?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Charlotte Gore on Arizona shootings

...but the Republicans, the Tea Party lot? They’re kind of backwards. Stupid. Possibly inbred. Poor hicks with nothing but guns and hate. You can’t trust them to understand it’s just words, that they’re not meant to literally put Democrats to death writes Charlotte Gore in a great post.

She concludes, the fact that people can actually believe that Palin and Beck’s rhetoric could have turned an ordinary GOP voter into a killer is a sign that the dehumanisation of rival tribes is not limited exclusively to Republicans. The hate, the fear, the distrust – the feeling, it seems, is mutual.

Mehdi Hasan on Pakistan

Interesting piece fom Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman blog that I have only just seen and is worth reading.

Miliband, deceit & Labour's legacy

Denying all responsibility for the deficit is a serious political error says Philip Collins replying to Ed Miliband's assertion that the Coalition is deceiving people when they suggest the deficit was caused by chronic overspending rather than a global financial crisis that resulted in recession and a calamitous collapse in tax revenues. Don't blame us for the financial disaster Mr Miliband protests, it happened to everyone else as well, making it perfectly acceptable. I doubt the electorate will see it that way.

The 1997 Labour government were bequeathed a national debt of around £300bn and left it thirteen years later at £900bn. And thats without including PFI deals which have kept a further £267bn of additional government spending, Enron-style, 'off balance sheet'.

Even with the Coalition halving the deficit within this parliament - which Labour is fighting at every opportunity to stop - that debt will actually rise to more than £1.5 trillion.

This staggering level of debt left by Labour will take a generation to repay. A generation who were not responsible for spending it and whose use of the word 'fairness', might legitimately be very different to Mr Miliband and his Labour cabinet ministers who signed off the spending.

By any measure an apology would be appropriate.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

VAT is unavoidable

Happy New Year everyone and best wishes to you and your family for the coming twelve months. Unfortunately, I cannot remember a greater sense of foreboding about the coming year. It seems the Coalition have badly managed expectations at this point - so much so that I am fearful of at least a psychological double-dip - if not the real thing. It certainly seems to me that a rise in tax thresholds to £10,000 - already promised within the lifetime of the Coalition - should not only be brought forward in an attempt to stimulate growth, but the government's intentions actually increased to the level of the minimum wage - £11,400 - by the time of the next election. We small people live in hope.

VAT rises to 20% today as part of the Coalition's drive to reduce the deficit. I have not read his book - The Third Man - but I am told Peter Mandelson records that Alistair Darling twice proposed to Cabinet a rise in VAT to 19% to facilitate just such a reduction. Twice the measure was vetoed by Gordon Brown - the most indecisive and risk-averse Prime Minister in our history. Precisely why he took the easy way out and bailed out the bankers, socialising their losses and creating zombie banks. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the bills in thirty years time - not the bankers and investors who made the profits. Zombie banks have a long half-life.

The significance here though, is that if Labour were still in power, I have no doubt that VAT would indeed be lower than today. One percent lower. That's a saving of around £78 per household per year. Or £1.50 per week according to the Nick Clegg VAT election calculation. Pretty pathetic really, when you start to read Labour's over-hyped reaction.

The reason VAT has been chosen is that it is the simplest, cheapest and most immediate tax to collect. Businesses up and down the country submit their quarterly VAT returns and payments without HMRC lifting a finger. Its exemptions - food, children's clothing, books, newspapers etc - bring a dose of progression to an otherwise uniform tax, whilst its nature - taxing consumption rather than income - means the consumer has at least some measure of choice about how much and on what they spend their money.

But there is one more reason, not often discussed, as to why VAT is a cleverly targeted choice of tax. For as long as I can remember, many of my neighbours and even several members of my extended family have regularly employed a whole range of professional domestic services - electricians, plumbers, cleaners, gardeners and so forth - every one of which has been paid in cash and usually without a receipt. They are all known by their first names and a mobile phone number. Never a surname or address in sight. They work diligently, at short notice and often engender good relationships with their customers. They are the black economy. Those who pay no taxes or contributions to a society on whom they depend for their livelihood. And VAT is one tax that even they cannot avoid.