Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rachel Reeves Surrenders the Benefits Battle

Have Labour taken Dan Hodges’ advice and given up on fighting on welfare? This morning IDS took a sawn off shotgun to the opposition for their welfare record and a legacy that ‘let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country. Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street.’  The speech was packed with ideas for reform and the moral case for it, yet the increasingly underwhelming Rachel Reeves is trying to suggest that it showed IDS has ‘no answers’. Which is rich coming from someone whose contribution to the benefits debate so far could fit on the back of small Post It note.

As Trigger’s speech on Monday proved, it is Labour who are devoid of any real contribution to the welfare reform debate. As Hodges said:

“It’s time for Labour to just shut up about welfare. It’s clear that Miliband does not feel comfortable advocating genuine cuts in the social security budget, and has no real intention of making the case for them.”

IDS sums up the problem rather well:

“Met with the problem of social breakdown, the Left would have it that a sympathetic approach is to sustain these people on slightly better incomes – the accepted wisdom of the last Government being that poverty is about money, and more state money should solve it. As a result, Labour ratcheted up welfare bills by an enormous 60%. Yet rarely did they stop to ask what impact that money was having, no matter if it kept individuals from the labour market, if it labelled them ‘incapable’, if it placed them in housing that they could never have afforded if they took a job. Where for most people, their life’s direction of travel is dictated by the informed decisions they make: can they afford a large family? Should they move in order to take up a better-paid job? Can they risk a mortgage to get a bigger home? Yet, too often for those locked in the benefits system, that process of making responsible and positive choices has been skewed – money paid out to pacify them regardless, with no incentive to aspire for a better life.”

Labour have no answers because they want to ignore the question.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Benefits Bad Blood Blows Up, Again

Osborne’s hypothetical £12 billion in future welfare cuts has had the desired effect in roughing up Balls and irritating Clegg, but it’s also re-opened old cabinet wounds. Sources closes to IDS have been very chatty, telling the Guardian that he is “alarmed” and the Times that: “You can’t keep hacking at the same people.” The speed at which this row has hit the front page two national papers would suggest to Guido that DWP were not completely in the loop in regard to yesterday’s announcement. They’ll be pleased though with news that the minimum wage is set to go up in yet another stunt designed to unsettle the opposition. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

IDS Responds to Balls Jibe

The Work and Pensions secretary’s reaction to Balls’ “IDS – In Deep Shambles” line today.

Universal Cre-doubt

The warning signs were there when IDS said on 14 October: “Universal credit will roll out very well and it will be on time and within budget”. Or four days later, when he said : “Universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would”. Well today the inevitable has happened, IDS says the roll out “may take a little longer” and the project might still be 700,000 shy of the target by 2017. If only there were some other major political event on today to deflect attention away. Still, at least Osborne will be chipper…

Monday, October 14, 2013

SKETCH: Reverse Ferrets Running Labour Welfare Policy

More than one debutante appeared in the Commons at question time for the glamour department that Work and Pensions has become.

Tory TV star Esther McVey moved into a new spotlight. Confident, fluent, blonde. Did I say blonde? I meant attra- I meant professional.

Mike Penning, the person more responsible than anyone for IDS’ disastrous election as Tory leader is now his disability minister. That needs no comment, at least.

For Labour, Chris Bryant, something of a cult, has been reprogrammed and is promoting the opposite of devoutly-held pieties he previously professed. He is steadily on course to be one of the Commons’ Nearly Men.

And then Rachel Reeves, cruelly characterised by the BBC-left as “boring-snoring”, set out to put new life into her career.

She is often “tipped to be the next leader of the Labour party”. But the tipsters are Tory optimists looking for someone less inspirational, engaging, in-touch, life-enhancing than the toothsome incumbent. She is a rare candidate.

Hair and makeup – a success. The voice – yet to succeed. Personality – platform announcement.

“We apologise for the delayed arrival of the policy on platform 1. This was due to delays. The policy is in reverse formation. Tory coaches are at the back of the train. We apologise for any inconvenience to your voting intentions.”

IDS suggests that Labour’s new approach to welfare is a horlicks of false intentions and bad faith. Reeves and Bryant say they will out-tough the Tories but have voted against every measure to save a cent.

Frank Field asked how many permanent secretaries IDS would get through before his insane computer program finally crashes/burns/turns into a black hole and sucks the universe in. “It will be on time and within budget,” IDS claimed, heroically. And then demanded an apology for £26bn of failed Labour IT projects.

There is a lesson in there, truth to tell.

It is absolutely inconceivable that he or anyone else can deliver a real-time computer system to track Britain’s beneficiaries. Luckily it’s due in 2017, beyond the political event horizon.

Dangerous statistic: “600,000 unemployed eastern Europeans”. IDS refused to endorse the figure saying it included non-working-age migrants.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

EU Funds Work For the Dole

The Tories have released the first details of what Work for the Dole will entail. Claimants will have their benefits stripped if they fail to turn up to intensive “support and supervision” sessions for 35 hours a week over 6 months. Special centres will be set up where two pilots will be held, one for the long-term unemployed and one for people yet to go through the Work Programme. IDS sums up the policy as “No attendance. No benefit. That is only fair.”

In the small print, the pilot will be funded by £30 million from the EU. To be fair, if we are going to steal this money from the European taxpayers, we might as well spend it righteously.

Such a policy should have been in place for years, though at least this seems to be the beginning of welfare reform for the long-term unemployed. Worth noting the glowing praise Osborne had for IDS in his speech yesterday following Matthew d’Ancona’s revelations about their relationship. IDS’ face was a picture.

Guido understands that post-d’Ancona revelations, efforts have been made to stress it is all water under the bridge for IDS and the Chancellor. Yet when they came face to face late last night by accident in a restaurant, according to the chatter at the Telegraph party, the roof still needs some attention and the sun is still behind the clouds…

Friday, September 6, 2013

Knives Sharpen For DWP Permanent Secretary

On Wednesday night Guido revealed that IDS himself had to launch his own investigation into Universal Credit after he suspected the civil service were not giving him the whole picture. Yesterday, little was left to the imagination over who DWP blames for the NAO’s description of a ‘fortress mentality’ and ‘good news culture’ – the civil service. Fingers are being pointed all over the place at DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux, particularly in the Telegraph with Isabel Hardman quoting a Cabinet source putting the boot in:

“You have a permanent secretary who seemed not to know what he was doing and was not willing to admit it, appallingly badly negotiated contracts with suppliers, which you would not expect, and if ministers want to crawl all over that, then there would be a lot of criticism that they should leave it to the civil servants.”

Another ‘observer’ points out “If he had an ounce of shame he should have departed some time ago.” With both Mark Thompson and Devereux up next week, the Public Accounts Committee could be a bloodbath…

Thursday, September 5, 2013

WATCH: Universal Credit UQ Cat Fight

Two bald men fighting over Liam Byrne’s reshuffle hopes.

War of Words on Universal Credit

The National Audit Office has given IDS’s flagship Universal Credit policy two barrels this morning. It concludes that £34 million has been wasted so far due to ‘weak management and poor governance’. Liam Byrne managed to get his embargoed two cents out before the rumours spread of an imminent Labour reshuffle:

“The truth is finally out. Universal Credit is a titanic-sized IT disaster which Iain Duncan Smith has tried to hide with cover up after cover up. Mr Duncan Smith swore blind this benefit shake-up was fine. Now we learn he has completely lost control of his department at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.  It is now mission critical that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith swallow their pride and agree to the cross party talks we proposed in the summer. We cannot risk another day.”

A DWP source hits back, telling Guido:

“Byrne’s offer of cross party talks is laughable. After Labour’s tax credits fiasco £2.8bn of taxpayers money was written off and £13bn for their NHS IT system. I really don’t think we need Labour’s help or advice. The point is Iain has actually learnt from Labour’s mistakes and he is prepared to be flexible and change timetables along the way - even though that means Labour will go to the papers to carp about ‘delays’. Surely doggedly sticking to the exact same path you set out on 3 years ago in a bid to avoid tough decisions and negative headlines is the wrong thing to do and he should be applauded for doing the right thing?”

Sources claim that though there have been problems with Universal Credit, especially given its scale, the report is historic and does not suggest that these are problems happening any more. ‘Nowhere in the report does it say we’ll not meet our 2017 end point. That is what we’re working to and we’re still very much within budget.’ As Byrne and IDS square up the blame game shifts elsewhere. Guido understands that IDS himself had to launch his own investigation into Universal Credit after he suspected the civil service were not giving him the whole picture. It’s going to be a very rocky ride for DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux when he faces the Public Accounts Committee next week…

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Judge: You Elect Politicians For This Crap
High Court Rules “Bedroom Tax” is Not a Tax

The High Court judgment on housing benefit is pretty sound stuff. Leaving aside that the bit where the judge claims the case “looks very like a list objections to the policy under the guise of a litany of matters”, Lord Justice Laws’ most important paragraph will be used again and again:

“…it is not generally for the courts to resolve the controversies which this insistence involves. That is for elected government. The cause of constitutional rights is not best served by an ambitious expansion of judicial territory, for the courts are not the proper arbiters of political controversy.”

He’s right. The only thing more dangerous than the rabble in SW1 are unelected and unaccountable judges siding with an angry mob. Taxpayers money is wasted on such spurious legal challenges.

Meanwhile, guess which phrase does not appear once in the entire ruling? Nowhere will you find the ridiculous term “Bedroom Tax”. Quite the opposite in fact.

Lord Justice Laws has ruled that these are changes to “a means-tested benefit”.

Amusingly he points out that this “is well known”.

Try telling that to the BBC…


Seen Elsewhere

Ex-Sun Hack Cleared After 582 Days on Bail | MediaGuido
11 Times Boris Denied He Would Stand for Parliament | Buzzfeed
Attacking UKIP’s Posters is Counter-Productive | Guardian
Sarkozy Tried it on With Hollande’s Ex | Times
Another Spare Room Subsidy Cut Success | Harry Phibbs
Rich Now Have Less Leisure Than Poor | Economist
UKIP’s Immigration Policy Promotes Migrant Entrepreneurs | Breitbart
Another Feminist Lecture | Laura Perrins
UKIP Posters Bad Economics But Good Politics | James Delingpole
Tories Losing to UKIP in Scotland | ConHome
UKIPers Will Come Home in 2015 | Sun


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A confused Nick Griffin says Nigel Farage is a shill for the City, forgetting that City banks want to stay in the EU:

“Farage is a snake oil salesman, but a very good one. His supposed anti-immigration stance is all smoke and mirrors, as is his carefully cultivated image as a ‘man of the people’. The truth is that UKIP is a pro-immigration party that exists to lobby for the interests of the City of London.”



Alexrod says:

It’s money innit.


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