Last year Ed Balls wrote:
Today the IFS announce:
“Average household incomes have just about regained their pre-recession levels. They are finally rising and probably will be higher in 2015 than they were in 2010, and possibly higher than their 2009 peak.”
Are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes, probably.
The spat between George Osborne and Fraser Nelson over whether or not the deficit has been halved is very much a Westminster bubble affair of little consequence to anyone outside SW1. Interested voters who even understand the difference between the deficit and the debt know that the government’s target to balance the budget in 2015 has been missed by £100 billion or so. As Jonathan Portes over at the Keynesian redoubt of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research gleefully points out, George Osborne has succeeded in implementing the Darling plan, which his own Financial Secretary to the Treasury condemned, for being endorsed only by The Guardian. The Chancellor deserves a degree of Fraser’s ridicule for only managing to execute the very Plan B that Osborne himself once ridiculed as ruinous.
The Tories are arguing, whilst simultaneously carrying the goalposts, that they have managed to halve the deficit in relative terms, relative to GDP. Professional economists seem to think that is a fair method of measuring the deficit. So how are they doing, in relative terms, on other key indicators?
The national debt relative to GDP is up, from 78.4% under Gordon Brown in 2010 to 90.6% last year. It is still rising, which is in the government’s own self-defined terms a big economic failure.
The Tories like to boast that employment is higher now than ever before, as indeed it was every year under the last Labour government, because the population grows. The unemployment rate is relative to the population. That is down impressively from 8% to 6% thanks to IDS, better still the youth unemployment and long term unemployment rates are also down. A trump card in the economic argument.
Per capita GDP was, as Danny Blanchflower and Ed Balls kept pointing out sombrely with smirks on their faces, falling. We were getting, on average, poorer. According to World Bank figures, the answer to Reagan’s famous question for voters “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is a “yes”, just about. After inflation voters are on average 1.8% better off now than they were in 2010.*
Quantitative Easing on a scary scale has rigged other economic indicators like inflation and interest rates whilst pumping up asset prices. Great if you already owned financial assets or prime London property…
It seems a long-time since The Spectator was eulogising George Osborne as “the true Tory leader“, the enmity towards the Treasury from the Speccie is near constant nowadays. Guido notes that in a Tory leadership election it is almost certain that the magazine will back Boris, a former editor, against Osborne…
*Although for higher income earners – the income bracket usually well disposed towards voting Conservative – Osborne’s Guardianista pleasing fetishising of the Gini coefficient will mean they are probably worse off. Only a genius political strategist like Osborne would bash his core vote hardest.
Anyone who believes in free markets and free trade has to believe as a corollary in the free movement of people. Guido is the son of immigrants who came from Ireland and India to London in the 1950s and 1960s for economic and social reasons. They came, primarily, to better themselves. Now having lived and worked in some of the world’s greatest cities Guido still believes that London is the best of them all and is grateful that the city took in his parents.
Sure the roads are congested, they are in Tokyo and New York as well. Culturally New York is very self-centred and less internationalist, Tokyo is a bit of a mono-culture that just about tolerates foreigners. London is much more cosmopolitan than even New York with better French food than Paris, more bankers than Frankfurt and better nightlife than Berlin. Many people have come here without the right paperwork, they have come here to work and better themselves. They are not the problem and should be allowed to stay and given if necessary an amnesty to make them legally resident. They enrich us all. It is the people who come here to abuse the welfare state and commit crimes that are the problem.
Cameron disavows the policy and ConservativeHomies are up in arms about Boris supporting an amnesty for illegal immigrants. They should remember that one of their heroes, Ronald Reagan, supported and implemented an amnesty. London should be a beacon to those who want to be free to prosper for themselves and their families. Disqualifying newcomers from abusing the welfare state and deporting convicted foreign criminals might reduce the opposition to immigrants. Ronald Reagan did something like that when he had an amnesty for immigrants in 1986, because to him, the ultimate conservative optimist, immigration was a vital part of his vision of his country as “a shining city upon a Hill”.
Boris is an optimist in the Reagan mould who would like London to be a shining city for those seeking freedom and prosperity. An amnesty might not be a popular stance to take, illegal immigrants don’t have any votes, but it is the right stance.