Small is Beautiful

Guido really likes this video from the wonks at the Centre for Policy Studies, it animates a very clear message, around the world lower taxes lead to higher growth rates.

The data is pretty clearly presented, are you watching Mr Osborne?

Wonks Goes West

Tom Clougherty is leaving his post as Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute at the end of April. He will be taking up a new post as Managing Editor of the libertarian Reason Foundation think-tank in Washington DC.

Dr Madsen Pirie, president of the ASI tells Guido, “We are very sorry to be losing Tom because of the incredible work he did to build up the ASI, but this is a wonderful opportunity for him and we wish him well in his new venture.”  There are a lot of ladies in Westminster who will miss the charmer’s smile too..

We are on the eve of a round of musical chairs in Westminster’s wonk-land – expect announcements soon. Downing Street is looking likely to have a big re-organisation of personnel on the policy unit front – Steve Hilton is off to California and Clegg’s strategy wonk Richard Reeves is also leaving for America. They are not the only ones said to be leaving Downing Street.  Foreceful political direction of the civil service is much needed, the permanent bureaucracy has become far too dominant in Downing Street…

Think Tank Lets Sponsor Co-Author Research Report

The link between think-tank research and its “sponsors” has always been opaque. A cynical man would say companies bung a load of cash to shape supposedly independent research, but wonks wil always stress that their final recommendations are free from the influence of their paymasters. Not only did PA Consulting “kindly support” the New Local Government Network’s “Antcipating the Future Citizen Report” but the NLGN even let PA Consulting’s ‘Local Government Lead’, Graeme Walker, co-author the piece. The NLGN deny that any money changed hands for the research and stressed they have contractual commitments to independence. The “kind support” was apparently staffing, but it does look a little odd…

Confessions of a Young Think-Tanker

Westminster tube commuters are currently greeted with advertisements for Think Tank: The Story of the Adam Smith Institute“. The book is the story of how a handful of motivated individuals, without any backing or resources except their own conviction, managed to create a think-tank which played a key role in the transformation of the country. One anecdote that is missing from the book is the tale of an intern once employed in the mid-80s, before the interweb, to stuff envelopes. After a day of stuffing envelopes the book’s author Madsen Pirie decided to give the teenage intern a lesson in practical economics. “Here at the ASI kiddo we believe in applying free-market principles, so why don’t you name a fair price for your labour, if it is too high we won’t hire you again and if it is too low, well that will be your loss…”

The intern hesitated and thought for a moment before responding “£100 please”. Madsen was a bit taken aback, “£100 for an afternoon’s envelope stuffing?” Nevertheless he wrote the cheque paying way over the market price daily rate for an intern in the 80s. That intern never worked at the Adam Smith Institute again. Guido really didn’t like stuffing envelopes…

The EU is getting Value for Money From IPPR

Leaving aside IPPR’s massive shift to the left, that has culminated in quotes for Seamus Milne’s knocking copy, Guido had to chuckle at their latest email:

IPPR event series:
Where next for Europe?

The ‘democratic deficit’ and reform of the EU’s machinery

Tuesday 21st February 2012
12:30 – 14:00
IPPR Offices, 14 Buckingham Street, London WC2N 6DF

Nothing to do with the fact that IPPR stays afloat thanks to an €800,000 bung from the EU…

Balls Adopts Osborne’s ‘Plan A’ Tells Fabians “There Is No Alternative”

Today sees the evil Fabians holding their “The Economic Alternative” conference and Ed Balls is the keynote speaker.  To raise the curtain he has an interview with Mary Riddell in the conference edition of the Fabian Review. Print deadlines however mean the interview was given some weeks ago when the party line repeated ad nauseuam was different to what it is this morning. In the interview Balls says of the Tory deficit reduction strategy “Nobody in the Labour Party should get into the idea that it has to be this way”.

What a difference to his Guardian interview this morning in which he claims “My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts.”

Same line of questioning, very different answers. The reality of public scepticism regarding Labour’s credibility on the economy and pressure from Shadow Cabinet realists combined with the weakness of Ed Miliband’s authority has forced Ed Balls to switch to George Osborne’s ‘Plan A’. There is no alternative.

High Pay Commission Criticises Rusbridger’s Pay Rise

Guido had better things to do than attend Chuka Umunna’s speech yesterday at an event organised by the re-energised IPPR, but that’s not to say he didn’t have eyes and ears in the room. There was a panel discussion afterwards featuring, among others, Lord Myners and Deborah Hargreaves, the Chairman of the self-appointed High Pay Commission. The event was trailed with a suitably hand-wringing leader in the Guardian which, once again, left them open to accusations of rank hypocrisy. Editor Alan Rusbridger’s package was up 7% to £605,000 last year and when a hack in the audience asked the High Pay Commission panel if this reward for failure was acceptable, with his characteristic charm, Myners instead chose to play the man rather than the ball, describing the hack that had asked the question as “embittered”. Deborah Hargreaves was more forthright:

“The answer is no and maybe that is why they need an employee representative on the remuneration committee.” 

Which was rather honest considering Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger was until recently her boss, when she was his business editor and she still contributes occasional articles. Sadly nobody mentioned City tycoon and hedge fund boss Paul Myners’ multi-million pound modern art collection…

Exclusive: James O’Shaughnessy Returns to Policy Exchange

After leaving Downing Street a few months ago, in less than clear circumstances, policy-chief James O’Shaughnessy popped back onto the radar in this morning’s Times. Not only has he penned a passionate article about Gove’s education reforms, but he’s put his money where his mouth is:

“This is why I left Downing Street to start a new social business that aims to operate schools and to provide educational services based on a blend of traditional values and positive psychology: because after ten years as a policy wonk I believe that lasting change will only happen from the bottom up.”

However his blue sky days aren’t quite over yet. Having left Policy Exchange in 2007 to go to work for Cameron, Guido hears on the wonk-vine that he is on his way back to his ideological home. Policy Exchange are heading into their tenth year and are said to be lining up some big projects to celebrate. Guido understands that O’Shaughnessy will be coming back part-time to work, surprisingly enough, on the education side of things. You read it here first…

Social Justice and the Housing Benefit Cap

The Labour left and the Guardian are getting very worked up about the perfectly reasonable housing benefit cap proposal

“for example Louise Ryan, 41, who lives with her husband and two children in Islington, north London, will see the £438-a-week benefit, which covers the rent, reduced to £340 under the changes to housing benefit introduced this month.”

To just afford that £438 rent those of us who work would have to earn as below:

Yearly Monthly Weekly
Gross Income £30,000.00 £2,500.00 £576.92
Pension Deductions £0.00 £0.00 £0.00
Taxable Income £22,525.00 £1,877.08 £433.17
Tax £4,505.00 £375.42 £86.63
National Insurance £2,733.00 £227.75 £52.56
Student Loan £0.00 £0.00 £0.00
Take Home £22,762.00 £1,896.83 £437.73

That rent alone is higher than median wages.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Second Policy Salvo Against MilibandMandelson Backed Think-Tank Launches Another Broadside

For the second time in a month Peter Mandelson’s think-tank, Policy Network, has launched a policy salvo against the direction the Labour Party is taking under Miliband. Mandelson privately is contemptuous of young Ed, these high-minded wonkish policy exhortations are the respectable manifestation of that contempt.[…]

+ READ MORE +

£250,000 Prize Christmas Cryptic Challenge

It is a fact of life that they stop manufacturing news over Christmas, which is why the papers are filled with even more dross than normal. Double-page jumbo cryptic crosswords help you while away the time between Christmas lunch and the turkey sandwiches.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Labour-Centrists Laying Down Reality-Based Policy Ideas

Talking to Labour insiders, ambitious young PAds, think-tankers and old hands alike, the candid admission is that they are stuck with Ed Miliband because as with Gordon Brown, there is no-one else. Ed gets a regular mauling at PMQs despite a terrible economy, still looks and sounds like the kid who does the photocopying, has failed to impress the British public and is unable at this stage of the electoral cycle to push further ahead in the polls.[…]

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Quentin Letts on the Institute for Government…

“a silo of Guardianista gibberish” […]

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CBI Beats TUC at Football Now Fighting for Right to Hire and Fire

Yesterday saw the third CBI-TUC annual footy match; the pro-business lobby beat the anti-business lobby 4-3 to win the cup pictured above. There must be a metaphor there somewhere, especially given that Guido hears that things were quite heated with penalties awarded against both sides.[…]

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Downing Street Needs Ideological Wonks

Guido has been marking various comings and goings in Downing Street and at the Policy Unit – supposedly the key ideas engine of a reforming government. Now run by non-political, technocratic, civil servants not known for radicalism. Chris Brown, referred to yesterday, is the education adviser whilst Paul Kirby and Kris Murrin run the unit.[…]

+ READ MORE +

O'Shaughnessy Has Left the Building

The big Downing Street change around continues. There has been much speculation that policy head James O’Shaughnessy was on his way out. With the re-jigging of Ameet Gill to replace Tim Chatwin as Head of Strategy, plus the arrival of Julian Glover in the speech-writing team, Guido has been waiting for the expected announcement.[…]

+ READ MORE +



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