Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fabians Attack LibDem Plans for “Lower Taxes for the Low Paid”

The Fabian’s Tim Horton and IPPR’s Howard Reed have jointly authored a paper for Left Foot Forward designed to undermine the case for raising tax thresholds for low income earners.  Clearly they are trying to undermine Clegg’s claim to support a fairer tax system, which by all accounts is playing very well on the doorsteps.

Horton and Reed make a number of charges that need rebutting:

  • Three million of the poorest households gain nothing from the change

That is only because they simply just don’t pay tax. No tax cut will ever help that group, only an increase in welfare transfer payments can benefit them. That however would further increase dependency and disincentivise them from coming off welfare support.

  • Households in the second richest decile gain, on average, four times the amount of those in the poorest decile.

Once again, this is because the lowest decile don’t pay much if any tax – we are really talking about part-time workers and those on welfare. Nevertheless everybody, including the lowest decile, will be better off whatever their income.

  • Only around £1 billion of the £17 billion cost actually goes toward the stated aim of lifting low-income households out of tax, the policy would increase socially damaging inequalities between the bottom and middle.

Here we get to the real reason they object, it cuts taxes for the middle classes. According to their numbers, those on low incomes will only benefit by £5 a week and those on middle incomes will benefit by £20 a week. Low income households also qualify for welfare transfers from middle income earners, from free school meals to welfare credits.  Is it really unfair against a background of progressively higher marginal tax rates on middle income earners?  Middle earners pay disproportionately more tax after all.

Horton and Reed don’t really dispute that the lowest earners will be better off, they just don’t like the distribution of benefits from the policy. They do conclude with a bit of hyperbole: “It could actually harm the welfare of low-income households by increasing inequality and relative poverty.” Nobody is harmed by a “relative increase in inequality”. That is a left-wing myth. If your neighbour wins the lottery you are relatively poorer in comparison but not objectively, similarly those on lower incomes are not made poorer by those on middle incomes paying a little less tax. Nice try, but the moral case for taking those on the minimum wage out of tax is still stronger than the case for taxing them to pay them welfare.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dave Promises See-Through Government Contracts

On Wednesday David Cameron gave a speech to a TED audience described by host Matthew Freud as “movers and shakers”. That is Mathew Freud the lobbyist and son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch. Dave made a new pledge to publish not just details of spending over £25,000 but details of all government contracts worth over £25,000 for goods and services in full, including all performance indicators, break clauses and penalty measures. This will enable voters and taxpayers to “Google their government”, searching out wasteful spending and poorly negotiated contracts, opening up government procurement system to small businesses.

That is a non-trivial change in policy and will have far reaching ramifications, not least of which will be increased competition and downward pressure on public spending. Ending “commercial confidentiality” and publishing all government contracts  was a proposal floated last September in an article (“A See-Through Government) in the journal of the Reform think-tank and at their New Government Agenda conference last November.  Guido was wearing his wonk hat…

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Finking is Not Enough

Speccie editor Fraser Nelson is giving the Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture to a Centre for Policy Studies audience tonight.  The CPS was of course founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher.  His speech is titled “Winning Is Not Enough“.

Fraser is willing to tell it straight:

“The political fallacies of the 1970s are leaping out from their graves: the notion that you squeeze more out of the rich by increasing their marginal tax rate. The idea that one improves the health service by pouring money into it. The ideological demons that Keith Joseph had thought slain have come back again. And, just like last time, some of these demons are wearing a blue rosette.”

The critique he offers of the Tory willingness to accept Brown’s parameters of debate is not just the Tory right calling for the old Thatcherite tunes. He is squarely taking on what can be described as the Fink approach to politics:

… the Conservative Party is, to an extent, still in therapy; shell-shocked not just by three election defeats, but by the trauma of its own internal warfare. The temptation is to get rid of anything that anyone might criticise, and become politically neutral: provoking neither hatred nor enthusiasm. Here, the Conservatives are in danger of forgetting Keith Joseph’s most enduring lesson: the difference between the Middle Ground and the Common Ground.

Guido is off to hear the speech…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cabinet Office Calls in Tory Wonk for ‘Broken Society’ Advice

The civil service is getting into planning for the post-Labour period. Who better to get in to give a preview of the likely thinking of the next government than one of Steve Hilton’s favourite wonks, the ‘Red Tory’ Philip Blond?  This email has just been sent out by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit to senior civil servants:


Red Tory Cabinet Office

Title: ‘The decline of civil society and what it means for society’
Date: Wednesday, 25th November 2009
Time: 5:30- 6:30pm (refreshments available from 5pm)
Venue: Admiralty House, Whitehall
Chair: Gareth Davies, Director of the Strategy Unit
Respondent: David Rossington, Director of Strategy & Performance, DCLG

Dear Colleague

I am pleased to invite you to the above Strategy Unit – evening seminar at Admiralty House.

Phillip Blond’s talk on “The decline of civil society and what it means for society” will focus on the New Civic Settlement: outlining a new politics of civic association. The talk will outline how civic society has been eroded, and what we can do to rebuild it and how a reconstituted associative culture can help solve public policy problems which neither the state nor the market have the ability to solve.

We are also pleased to confirm that David Rossington, Director of Strategy & Performance, from the department of Communities and Local Government will join us to briefly to respond to Mr Blond’s presentation.

Philip Blond is known as the “Red Tory” and is centrist on economics and conservative on social matters. The civil service is obviously starting with the less scary centre-right wonks. Just wait until the bureaucrats hear from the other centre-right think tanks about what the ‘post-bureaucratic age means for them…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dan’s New Plan ‘B’

Dan Hannan isn’t doing interviews currently because he wants to take some of the heat out of the Lisbon issue and make sure that hostile media can’t spin things into a Dan versus Cam story.   He still maintains more cordial than you might expect relations with David Cameron.  As he says in his post-ratification blog post:

I shall continue to campaign for a referendum on the EU and, in the mean time, for the election of a Cameron-led government.

He will not be doing an Enoch and telling people to vote for any party other than the Conservative Party – tough luck UKIP.  Informed sources say that he is planning to set up an infrastructure to support a long-term campaign not just for a referendum, but for a decentralised style of government from local level to the supra-national level.

This isn’t a short-term campaign and he accepts that this may require him embarking on a Keith Joseph style long march politically. He aims to make the case for localist ideas that will separate the referendum issue from Little England thinking and frame it as a question of democratic legitimacy. His aim, he says, is to build a broad movement within the Conservative Party that will push for referendums, citizens’ initiatives and the rest of the paraphernalia of direct democracy.  In The Plan Hannan and Carswell outlined how technological advances, the internet in particular, makes direct democracy feasible.   Hannan and Carswell really do get it that the internet can change how we do politics...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wonk Watch : IPPR Gives Staff P45s for Christmas

Guido understands that IPPR, the think-tank that did most of the thinking for New Labour in the beginning, has given half-a-dozen staff redundancy notices terminating their contracts on Christmas Eve.  Guido pointed out that their 21st anniversary party held in June had the feel of a wake about it.  As New Labour dies the accoutrements go with it… ippr

In an attempt to flesh out the story* Guido has been calling the IPPR press office all morning trying to get confirmation.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anyone there to take the call…

*OK, Guido will admit, he was  just trying to find out if the tired and emotional PR hackette who gave him flack at the IPPR party had been sacked.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wonk Watch : IEA’s New Director General Mark Littlewood

Mark Littlewood is the former LibDem head-of-spin who has become the chief wonk at the venerable Institute of Economic Affairs, the directorship of which comes with a (big for wonkland) £100,000 pay package.  There will be organic champagne corks popping in Cowley Street, because as an educational charity the trustees of the IEA insist on staff severing party political links.  Littlewood until now led the Orange Book pressure group Liberal Vision, a classical liberal thorn in the side of social democrats within the LibDems.  Mark will also have to tear up his LibDem party membership card before he starts at the IEA in  December.

mark_littlewoodChain-smoking Littlewood’s CV includes time campaigning at Liberty and co-founding NO2ID.  He is an across the board libertarian on social and economic issues.  The board of the IEA clearly wanted someone who could raise the media profile of the original Westminster think-tank.  With a change of government coming, the call for dusty policy papers read only in academia to be replaced with agenda setting policy ideas became widespread amongst  IEA donors.  The centre-right think-tank sector is more widely enjoying a burst of increased funding and activity as the expectation that their ideas will be sympathetically received in government increases.  The IEA’s revival will make the market for ideas for the next government more exciting than at any time since the early 80s.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vote Reformer of the Year : Heather Brooke

Heather BrookeThe Reform think tank is inviting nominations for the “reformer of the year”.  Looking down the list there is one candidate who deserves to win.  Heather Brooke, the Freedom of Information campaigner who fought the Speaker and parliament to reveal the true venality of the political class deserves your voteIf it was not for her the troughing would still be going on unseen by the public today…

See also : Expenses Freedom of Information : Villains and Heroes

Monday, September 21, 2009

IEA Chief Search Down to Last Ten

The search for a new £100,000-a-year Director-General of the Institute for Economic Affairs has whittled down the sixty or so applicants to a short-list of ten.  The final decision will be made by the trustees before the end of next month.  Word is the Trustees are looking for someone who can take the fight for free markets to the media more aggressively.  The IEA has failed to have much of a media profile since the 80s…

101

Meanwhile elsewhere in wonkland Guido asked Madsen Pirie, the Adam Smith Institute’s doyen of Westminster wonks, if his new book 101 Great Philosophers: Makers of Modern Thought was aimed at politicians. “No”, he said. It was aimed at aspirational people seeking self-improvement. “Most politicians are not like that,” he told Guido, “They think they are already perfect.”

Quite.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Think Tank Pushes Drugs Policy of Decriminalisation

zero_baseOf all the right-of-centre think tanks the libertarian-leaning Adam Smith Institute has always been a bit more spikey and willing to push the envelope than rival think tanks in Westminster wonk-land.

In economics the ASI was the mid-wife of Thatcher’s privatisation strategies which were exported around the world (the separate consulting arm spun-off from the institute advises foreign governments worldwide to this day). In the last decade it has (to little  avail) been putting the case for not just lower taxes, but flatter and simpler taxes.  Until now the wider libertarian social agenda was seemingly off limits and left to the various pressure groups and single-issue campaigns.

Madsen Pirie has never dodged the drugs liberalisation question in the past but the ASI has never pushed the policy until now.  Madsen Pirie told Guido he felt that the “war on drugs” approach had now been tested to destruction and that the political environment was more “convivial” to drug liberalisation.  Guido asked him “Do you mean that because we have a former self-confessed coke-head in the White House and a former stoner heading for Downing Street we might see change?” Diplomatically he replied “Well, it is fair to say, this generation of ministers will be more familiar with the issues.”

Zero Base Policy has 32 other manifesto recommendations…

UPDATE : Claudia Rubin from the Release campaign says

the last significant drug policy measure in the UK was implemented by Margaret Thatcher with the introduction of the needle exchange programme and it is fitting therefore that the ASI should be taking this view. Were he to become Prime Minister next year, David Cameron could mark 40 years of the failure of prohibition by doing something really necessary and sensible.

Phillip Oppenheim, a former Conservative Treasury minister in charge of Customs says in an interview out today that in office he tried to push government policy in a progressive direction.  There is nothing progressive about locking people up for smoking weed…


Seen Elsewhere

Mirror’s ‘UKIP Goggles’ App Backfires | Press Gazette
Woolas Agent Standing for UKIP | MEN
Compassionate Left in Action | Mark Wallace
Sainsbury’s Distance Themselves From Sick Cam Tweeter | Speccie
Elites Pay Price for Killing Grammar Schools | Jago Pearson
Thornberry Makes Burnham Leadership Favourite | Matthew Norman
Guido’s Column | Sun
BBC Still Ignoring Savile Evidence | Telegraph
Politicians Brought Down by Twitter | CityAm
Ed the Biggest Loser in Rochester | Trevor Kavanagh
A Just Way to Manage Migration | Mats Persson


Find out more about PLMR AD-MS


Boris on his fellow Islingtonista Emily Thornberry:

“It was an entirely run-of-the-mill English townscape, with some straightforward words to go with it. There was no obvious insult, no abuse, no overt sneering. She might have got away with it entirely, had some alert blogger not spotted it. He instantly detected the coded message that Emily Thornberry was sending to all her right-on, bien-pensant, Labour-luvvie friends in Islington, or wherever else it is that they follow her on Twitter.”



Left on Left says:

The lefties are attacking because the panellist is a millionaire and lives in a London home worth upwards of two million. Someone had best tell them he’s called Ed Miliband.


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