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 has been a key part of the IEA’s recent renaissance, is said to be politically ambitious and PX is a natural feeder into the Tories. A source there chuckled this afternoon “she’s gone from the Premiership to the Champions League now”This story has legs.

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 European Court of Human Rights. Legal action in open courts in Britain was banned by the government, so rather than go through a secret spooks tribunal the case is going to Strasbourg. They are relying on donations to pay their legal bills

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”. Costing £600 million it is “not free at all. The money comes from somewhere. It comes from us.”
  • Taxpayers Alliance“This is a conference gimmick that is a misleading, but all too typical, attempt from politicians to wade in and pretend they are doing something about the pressure on the finances of struggling families by promising subsidies paid for with other people’s money.”
  • Institute of Economic Affairs – “This is an enormously bad use of public money. Not unreasonably, the government already ensures that those in need have access to free school meals, so it beggars belief that we are now going to see a policy instated which will subsidise the children of affluent families.
”
  • Adam Smith Institute – “Like so many of the Lib Dems’ policies (for instance, their supposed commitment to free university tuition) this is middle class welfare dressed up as help for the poor. It stinks about as much as the school dinners we’re all about to start paying for.”

Labour of course love it, despite even Ed Balls ditching their commitment to universal benefits. No prizes for guessing how the LibDems are framing this:

Conveniently forgetting that Maggie successfully fought the Treasury to keep free milk for under 7s and that the LibDems have now ensured minimum wage shelf stackers are paying for the lunches of millionaires’ kids. The deal is the Tories can now offer a £500 million tax break for married couples. That is over a billion a year of extra spending. The deficit is targeted at £120 billion this year. What austerity?

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 ability of charities, research and campaigning organisations to inform the public debate, fulfil their missions and raise awareness of important issues. The current drafting would capture a huge number of organisations who would not presently be considered as relevant to electoral law and who do not receive any state funding. It also threatens to dramatically expand the range of activity regulated far beyond any common sense understanding of commercial lobbying. 

We do not regard the Cabinet Office’s assurances as sufficient given the widespread legal doubts expressed from across the political spectrum. It cannot be a prudent approach to legislate on the basis of assurances that enforcement will not be to the full extent of the law. The exceptions offered are unclear and unconvincing.

The lack of clarity in the legislation further exacerbates its complexity, while granting a remarkably broad discretion to the Electoral Commission. The potential tidal wave of bureaucracy could cripple even well-established organisations, while forcing groups to reconsider activity if there is a perceived risk of falling foul of the law. This self-censorship is an inevitable consequence of the bill as it stands. 

We urge the Government to reconsider its approach and to urgently address the fundamental failings in this legislation.

Yours Sincerely,

Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute for Economic Affairs
Simon Richards, Director, The Freedom Association
Tim Knox, Director, Centre for Policy Studies
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive, Taxpayers’ Alliance
Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
Emma Carr, Deputy Director, Big Brother Watch
Eamonn Butler, Director, the Adam Smith Institute

Well that’s pretty comprehensive…

Wonk World Whacks Carney

The new Governor’s first big day at the office has gone down rather badly in wonk world: The IEA call it “the most dangerous development in UK monetary policy since the late 1980s.”:

“Monetary policy should be designed to ensure that we have stable prices.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

What the BBC Doesn't Tell You

Bad news for the Department for Education this morning, or so the BBC would have you believe. Apparently a “university think tank” says that “the system of planning teacher training in England has broken down and risks a future shortage of teachers”.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Wonk Watch: Mandarin to Head Social Market Foundation

Seasoned Cabinet Office mandarin Emran Mian is off to become the Director of the zero-impact Social Market Foundation wonk shop when Ian Mulheirn quits in August. In his spare time Mian writes novels about murder suspect bankers. Sounds about right…[…]

+ READ MORE +

Labour’s Favourite Think Tank Say Eds are Wrong

IPPR made a living out of producing pleasant reading for Labour, though even they couldn’t spin these figures in Ed’s favour. A YouGov poll commissioned by the Labour wonk-shop finds massive public opposition to the party’s position on welfare. 76% say the system is too soft on people who could work that don’t, with just 10% taking up Ed’s line backing those on benefits.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Show Us Your Laser, Ed

The line from Ed’s speech  that pushed the boundaries of credibility was his promise to “be laser-focused on how we spend every single pound.” Lasers equal precision. So where is the precise detail of how Ed intends to get the welfare bill down?[…]

+ READ MORE +

Guardian Uses Word “Scrounger” More Than Any Other Paper

Seemingly the entire left-wing twitterati have been up in arms this week over analysis carried via LexisNexis showing that use of the word “scrounger” has rocketed in the British media since 2010. You might, if you subscribe to the Owen Jones thesis that there is a right-wing agenda cooked up in CCHQ to demonise “scroungers”, have expected it to appear more in the likes of the Mail or the Express than the ‘progressive’ metropolitan liberal press.[…]

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Borrowing to Pay Public Sector Pensions is £1 in £7

cpsThe budget has yet to entirely unravel this year though there are some nasty figures buried in the small print. The Centre for Policy Studies has spotted that deep within the Budget Red Book is the admission that the cashflow shortfall between public sector pensions’ contributions and pensions in payment is now forecast to double within 5 years.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Tory Brain Drain as Labour Beef Up Attack

The cynics amongst you might think it’s an interesting time for CCHQ stalwart Nick Park to jump to the private sector.

The Tory head of research and attack crafter is off to energy giants Centrica.

The loss of the best part of decade’s experience is a blow for the Tories.[…]

+ READ MORE +



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