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. The level of unemployment is mainly determined by a range of factors such a labour market regulation, the benefits system, tax rates and so on. To try to use monetary policy to reduce unemployment when inflation is already above target is playing with fire and could lead us down the road that we followed in the 1970s. This move also calls into question the independence of the Monetary Policy Committee and the Bank of England’s ability to fulfil its statutory duties.” 

The Adam Smith Institute accused him of “fumbling in the dark”:

“Mark Carney had the leeway to make radical change here but he’s bottled it with baby steps… unemployment and inflation come from both aggregate demand (which the bank can control) and aggregate supply (which it has essentially no control over). Since neither of these numbers distinguish between changes in supply or demand, the Bank is still fumbling in the dark with its guesses over whether a change in inflation comes from demand (which means it should react) or supply (which means it shouldn’t). This means firms are still left guessing, and it means that uncertainty still reigns.”

Well that went well then.

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”. Doesn’t sound good, eh?

What the BBC doesn’t tell its readers is that the think tank in question, Million+, is quite obviously a Labour front. No mention that Pam Tatlow, quoted a length in the Beeb piece, ran as a Labour parliamentary candidate at the last election. No mention that their chairman, Michael Gunn, is a Labour luvvie who spoke at their conference last year. Nor that interim Head of Public Affairs is pally with the Fabian Society. And certainly not that the woman he is covering for, Victoria Mills, is a Labour councillor in Southwark and a National Officer for Unison. This is the top story on the education section of the BBC website. It is a classic sockpuppet…

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…

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. Who is the type of person the public is most sympathetic to protecting? Pensioners, the very group that Balls has targeted for pension cuts if Labour win in 2015. With friends like these…

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? So far we have only had vague pledges to spend more by building houses and somehow guarantee jobs (presumably in the public-sector) which doesn’t bode well for the debt. Hardly laser like…

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has shot down Ed’s vague policy ideas to deal with welfare problems:

Housing Benefit
The main cause of Britain’s ever-increasing housing benefit bill is a lack of housing supply due to planning restrictions, not poorly negotiated deals by local authorities. Freeing up private investment in housing will bring down housing costs for everyone, including the Housing Benefit bill. Trying to cut Housing Benefit by increasing direct spending on housing won’t help taxpayers.
 
Grants for living wage
Offering taxpayers’ money to companies in return for paying a living wage would do little more than link two bad polices into one. Incentives for companies to switch from low-paid jobs to capital investment could lead to fewer jobs, not more.
 
Tax Credits and low pay
Heavy business taxes and onerous regulations mean companies have to pay lower wages. The Government should stop making it so expensive to hire low-paid workers by cutting business taxes like employer’s National Insurance and let workers keep more of the money they earn.  
 
The contributory principle
Benefits and taxes are already too complicated. Reform should focus on expecting people to work for their benefits and preparing job-seekers for the job market while simplifying the system. 

Guido was told that while discussing another much trailed big speech in January, the late Maggie told a friend that the problem with modern politicians is that “they think that once they’ve given a speech, something has happened.” That anecdote came to mind this morning…

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Policy Wonk Burns Misleading Plain Packaging Consultation

Setting up a policy consultation that doesn’t actually do any proper consulting seems to be a growing theme under Dave. A report by Rupert Darwall, the policy wonk who helped expose the Civil Service foul up over the Virgin West […]

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Quote of the Day

Andy Burnham finally repents on the deficit…

“If we are to win back trust we have to start by admitting that we should not have been running a significant deficit in the years before the crash.”

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