Bright Blue Director’s SpAd Blocking Temper Tantrum

Over Christmas dripping wet Tory pressure group Bright Blue launched a blistering attack on the Conservative Party’s messaging. The group’s director Ryan Shorthouse slammed the Dave for “pandering to prejudice, uncertainty and anger”. Though now it appears it was Shorthouse who was the angry one – he was blocked by Downing Street in December from becoming a SpAd to David Willets at BIS. Revenge is a dish best served on a slow news day.

Top Wonks Slam Osborne’s Minimum Wage Rise

Osborne ruining Ed’s big day by calling for a rise in the minimum wage is politically cunning, though it remains a fundamentally unsound economic idea. Here is a round up of how some of the more sensible think tanks responded to the idea of an increase to £7-an-hour:

Adam Smith Institute – “A minimum wage increase will hurt the poor, particularly young people and vulnerable groups like migrant workers. Most of the empirical economic evidence has found that increases in the minimum wage cause increases in unemployment. Even if the immediate impact is not large, this increase will lead to a long-run decline in job creation and standards for Britain’s poorest workers. It will hurt the very people it is supposed to help.”

Institute of Economic Affairs“This move would not only jeopardise the jobs of some of the most vulnerable workers in the country, it will make it even harder for the young and out of work to get a foot on the employment ladder. If an employer cannot afford to hire someone because the minimum wage is too high, then someone who otherwise could have found work remains unemployed. The minimum wage is a blunt instrument. Increasing it will damage both business growth and society’s most vulnerable.”

Centre for Policy Studies – “Those who suffer most from a rise are the unskilled and young, who have low productivity and get priced out of the market – denying them the chance to accumulate “on the job” human capital. Higher minimum wages make it less profitable for firms to take on untested employees. This may be one reason why youth unemployment and unpaid internships became more common, even in a healthy pre-crisis jobs market.”

Still, you’d need a heart of stone not to enjoy Labour’s squirming this morning…

Wonk Movements: All Change at TPA

Big wonk movements last night, with Matt Sinclair leaving his position as chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance to jump ship to Europe Economics. He is replaced by the TPA’s current political director, Jonathan Isaby who has gone from hack, to wonk, to boss in under five years. Research director John O’Connell is promoted to Director. Fact: Isaby owns every single Now That’s What I Call Music album ever released.

Labour Rehab Wonk Shop’s Unpaid Intern Mystery

Centre for London is an “independent” think tank run by Ben Rogers, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and fellow at Labour wonk shop IPPR. This morning they are launching a “ground-breaking” report criticising low pay, authored by Brown treasury minister and expenses trougher Kitty Ussher, calling for a higher minimum wage in London than for the rest of the country. Indeed, they say this is a policy they employ themselves. According to their website, “internships at Centre for London are paid at the London Living Wage”. 

That is not what one former employee says. An ex-staffer at Centre for London, who wishes to remain unnamed, tells Guido that the think tank has itself regularly used unpaid staff and that many members of its current team started out there in jobs without pay. He says “my jaw dropped” when he saw today’s report attacking low pay, claiming that when he was there a “we will pay you if you raise the money” policy was in place. A spokesperson for Centre of London insists that they have always paid their staff. Surely a wonk shop doubling as a rehab clinic for failed Brown era apparatchiks would never say one thing then do the other…

Wonk Allegiances

Interesting to note the political influence and orientation of some of the lefty wonk shops most willing to take money from the taxpayer compared to their counterparts to the soft right. Economist Andrew Whitby has calculated that the supposedly “non-political” IFS is more biased to Labour than almost any right-wing think tank is to the Tories. IPPR, Compass and the Fabian Society are almost off the chart. No surprise there.

Via @EconAndrew and @GoodwinMJ.

Labour’s Manifesto Must Pass Twitter Test

Just when Labour appeared to be making an interesting intervention into the debate about how we reduce the welfare bill, Rachel Reeves shoots down the proposal. IPPR, Labour’s favourite think-tank, are displaying a rare flash of common sense with their idea to restrict benefits to under 25s. Despite Labour appearing to brief the Telegraph that they were looking at the policy, they’re now claiming they are not. The left flipped out at the idea; Owen Jones got on his high horse and Reeves quickly distanced herself. Guido can’t wait to read the Labour manifesto if every policy must have the blessing of some moany, hand-wringing Twitter users.

So Reeves’ pledge to out-tough the Tories on welfare is going well then. Guido is all for the plan – they just need to raise the age threshold to 65.

The Un-Free, Anti-Enterprise Group

The “Free Enterprise Group” is made up Tory MPs who are usually relatively sensible and allegedly right-wing, so Guido cannot understand why they keep coming up with such bonkers ideas. First they wanted to tax the old even more, now they want to put VAT on food and kids’ clothes. The idea is that the 20% rate is lowered to 15% but exemptions are abolished, so it would apply to all purchases. The Mirror has rightly given them a deserved two page kicking, calculating that: “A weekly grocery bill of £54.80 would go up by £8.22, an outing for £251.10 worth of under 14s clothes would jump £37.66 and a fuel bill of £1,267 would rise £127.” 

Guido cannot help but wonder what kind of supposed free enterprise group wants to extend the reach of VAT, introducing a blanket tax on every transaction. Cutting the rate is all well and good, but how can these self-proclaimed right-wingers possibly sell to voters the idea that their grocery bills, energy and kids’ clothes costs should all go up? As group member crazy Kwasi Kwarteng admits: “This is controversial.”

“The Personal is Political”
Gender Inequality at the Patriarchal CLASS Think Tank

class-gender-inequality

The union funded Class think-tank Owen Jones helped found is, despite being very left-wing, not very right-on it seems when it comes to ‘fair’ representation of woman. Their insanely large ‘advisory panel‘ has 48 members, only a third of whom are women. Inexplicable for an organisation devoted to furthering equal rights…

All three of their ‘officers’ are men and only 2 out of 11 of their management committee are women. Of course, their two junior staff are both women – typical the men have all the power and the women do all the work. Disgraceful. Surely Owen Jones, Unite’s Len McCluskey and the Guardian’s Seumas Milne will resign in protest from this blatantly unfair patriarchal organisation…

Wonk Watch: Ruth Porter Jumps IEA for PX

Big transfer news in Wonk Land this afternoon as Ruth Porter jumps from Director of Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs to take on the Head of Economics and Social Policy brief at deadly rivals Policy Exchange.

Porter, who […]

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Wonks Take Spooks to Court

gchq

Big Brother BankingGCHQ are facing court action after three campaign groups filed papers accusing them of breaching the privacy of British citizens. Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN have brought the action against the government at the […]

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Wonks Take Axe to Clegg’s Magic Money Tree

Nick Clegg’s big conference giveaway managed to last a few hours before it was comprehensively taken apart by policy wonks.

  • Centre for Policy Studies – free school meals for under 8s is yet another “universal benefit… a middle-class welfare gimmick”

[…]

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Wonks Demolish Lobbying Bill
IEA, TFA, CPS, TPA, BBW and ASI Slam Proposals

We wish to highlight our grave concern about the Government’s Lobbying Bill, a piece of legislation that poses a significant threat to legitimate campaigning freedom of speech, political activism and informed public debate.

Part II of the bill threatens the

[…]

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