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 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. The demonising is in reality coming from Owen Jones, who is relentless in trying to describe any reasonable attempt to reform welfare as an attack on the poor – he is desperate for a Cabinet Minister to use the term “scrounger” so that he can say to the 53% of the population that receives a welfare payment of some kind – including pensioners, war widows and the chronically disabled – that the government thinks you are scroungers. Not so. Guido has been crunching the numbers, and it turns out it is none other than the Guardian that uses the word most, followed by the Indy, where Owen has a column.

After carrying out a simple search of the word “scrounger” on each newspaper website for the period 2010 to date, the figures show that the Guardian used the word in 736 articles over the last three years. In second place is Owen Jones’ Indy, who – as he might say – “demonised the poor” 185 times over the period. Much further down come the right-wing tabloids: 76 for the Mail and 20 for the Express. Owen knows there is no public sympathy for people who abuse the welfare state, he also knows that the majority of the population, thanks to Gordon Brown, receives a welfare payment of some kind. Owen dogmatically refuses to countenance any welfare cut of any kind, that is why he is trying to encourage the likes of mothers who receive child benefit and deserving pensioners to align with those who are rightly losing benefits – fit people of working age who turn down jobs for example – he wants them to believe that welfare reformers think they are “scroungers”That is why Owen and the unpopular progressive sections of the media use the emotive term more than anyone on the welfare-reforming right…

Methodology: Because neither Google or LexisNexis include all paywalled sites in their analysis, Guido used each newspaper website’s own internal search engine to determine in how many articles the word “scrounger” appeared between 2010 and today. The respective Sunday editions of the titles were included with the daily for the purposes of this research.

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. The pensions gap is growing to such an extent that it will soon represent a significant driver of the deficit. The 2013 Budget now forecasts a Public Sector New Borrowing Requirement of £96 billion for 2015 – the year the Coalition optimistically intended to close the deficit. At £13.6 billion, the pension cashflow shortfall will then be equivalent to 14% of the deficit. Unaffordable.

To put it plainly the government will by 2015 be borrowing £1 in every £7 it borrows to cover the gap in public sector pensions, at a cost of £1,500 to every household every year. So much for the post-bureaucratic age…

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.

Meanwhile Labour are beefing up their attack team for the coming digital battle. Obama’s rapid rebuttal unit “backroom Brit” Matt McGregor:

“McGregor was responsible for the digital rapid response unit that attacked Mitt Romney relentlessly, ensuring that any statement by the Republican was picked over and rebutted, often within minutes or hours.”

Could get bloody…

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 Coast train franchise, has laid into the Department of Health’s consultation on plain packaging. Darwall’s report finds:

  • The consultation was deliberately framed to garner support for plain packaging, presenting policy-makers with a loaded question.
  • Questionable evidence: no causal link between packaging and smoking.
  • Department of Health admitted the consultation was biased but has done nothing about it.
  • Consultation does not consider negative impacts such as reducing barriers to illegal tobacco.
  • Overall the consultation creates a misleading impression that plain packaging will cut smoking.

That went well then. You can read Darwall’s report in full here

WATCH: US Obama Critics Attack Falklands Policy

The US hasn’t always been staunch in standing with Britain over the Falklands. Even Reagan had to be handbagged by Thatcher to do the right thing.

Our friends in Washington have produced this history lesson for Obama…

Via Heritage Foundation.

Wonk Watch: Adonis to Chair IPPR

With James Purnell off to the Beeb, Labour wonkshop IPPR have signed up another party thinker as his replacement. Andrew Adonis is their new chair of trustees.

A big name…

Wonk Watch: LibDem Think Tank Backs Business Tax Breaks

LibDem wonk shop CentreForum is a breeding ground for SpAds and bag-carriers. It’s not all mansion taxes and jewellery duty for these yellow sages, believe it or not they are now actually calling for tax breaks for small and medium sized enterprises.

Proposals include ditching stamp duty on all share transactions, allowing ISAs to include shares traded on SME equity markets and reducing capital gains tax on shares. Cable dryly describes the report as “interesting”. What’s the betting we never hear of it again…

Two Left Feet Hires Blunder Blogger

A big welcome to Left Foot Forward’s new associate editor James Bloodworth. Rather awkwardly for the new boy at the bankrupt blogging slave workhouse, just a few days in, he’s already had a nightmare. Here is what Bloodworth […]

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Labour Policy Wars

jon

When Ed fell into Dave’s trap and refused to back the PM’s EU referendum pledge, one senior party bigwig will have been particularly disheartened. Judging by his speech at the Resolution Foundation last night it isn’t just Europe that has […]

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BBC Forget Wonk-Shop Vested Interests…Again

Just what is it with the BBC and forgetting to mention lefty vested interests? They’ve gone big this morning on a report claiming that millions of low-income households face a council tax rise. Just a few things they forgot […]

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Paul Kirby’s Permanent Secretary Promotion Tantrum

Ben Brogan, who has an excellent civil service source, broke the news this morning that Paul Kirby, the apparently “respected” civil servant head of the No.10 policy unit, was leaving his post. Downing Street has now confirmed it: “The […]

+ READ MORE +



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William Hague on Tony Blair…

“To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.”

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