‘Independent’ OBR Chairman’s Love-In with Left-Wing Torsten Bell

Now the Office for Budget Responsibility isn’t even trying. This morning, less than a day after the Autumn Statement, the OBR’s Chairman Richard Hughes held a fireside chat with none other than Torsten Bell at the latter’s left-of-centre think tank, the Resolution Foundation. The same Resolution Foundation that spends its days pushing for ever-higher welfare payments and attacking every Tory chancellor since George Osborne.

Why would Hughes appear at the Resolution Foundation, flanked by Resolution Foundation employees and effectively endorsing the Resolution Foundation, when he’s running an ‘independent’ body that blesses every policy coming out of the Treasury? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he used to work there, spending his days co-authoring reports on the horrors of Brexit and rubbing shoulders with the man who used to be Ed Miliband’s policy director. You can perhaps wonder if Kwasi Kwarteng had legitimate suspicions about the OBR/Resolution Foundation marking his homework. The Resolution Foundation has a left-leaning ideological position, plain as day. Even the BBC thinks so…

mdi-timer 18 November 2022 @ 12:20 18 Nov 2022 @ 12:20 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Economists Bet Their Reputations on Failure

One of the mini-budget’s maxi-consequences has been to boost the reputation of opposition economists. They said the Chancellor’s fiscal event would be a disaster and outcomes have proven them absolutely right.

At the Treasury select committee this morning, Angela Eagle invited Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation to remember how angry he was at his pre-announcement appearance before the committee and how much more angry he must be now.

True, Torsten was alight, he was blazing – but it looked more like delight than disgust.
“Maybe you could have got away with it in more benign times,” he said and then let slip his commanding belief: “It wouldn’t have been a good idea at any time.”

This peloton of economists are united. The growth targets are unachievable, and there is “no plausible route by which tax cuts lead to a 1% increase in GDP.”

They may be right, they may not. It’s worth remembering that economists have historically failed to pick any of the turning points in the economy, and that 364 of the blighters wrote to the Times warning against Geoffrey Howe’s disastrous 1981 budget.

The economy immediately took off.

If that happens again, if the animal spirits of the economy pick up in the unpredictable way that they do – the dismal scientists will look even more dismal.

mdi-timer 12 October 2022 @ 11:49 12 Oct 2022 @ 11:49 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Tax-Loving Think Tankers to Give “Evidence” on Kwasi’s Mini-Budget This Week

The Treasury Select Committee is set to hear ‘oral evidence’ on Kwasi’s mini-Budget this Wednesday from a panel that looks like it was dreamt up by an FBPE focus group. The Anti-Growth Coalition’s own cast of Avengers…

The Institute for (Big) Government, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation are all sending their star performers to the show. No prizes for what Torsten Bell or Paul Johnson will have to say about a plan that actually supports tax cuts…

mdi-timer 10 October 2022 @ 15:10 10 Oct 2022 @ 15:10 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Office for Budget Responsibility’s Not-So-Independent Leadership

There’s been plenty of media squawking in the last couple of weeks over the lack of an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast in the mini-Budget. Never mind the fact the OBR didn’t even exist until 2010, without its explicit blessing, how can any fiscal policy ever be trusted?

Even a cursory look at the OBR’s personnel gives you an idea of which school of thought its leaders belong: both the chair of its Budget Responsibility Committee and its Deputy Chief of Staff are former colleagues or protégés of Torsten Bell, chief executive of the left-of-centre* Resolution Foundation (RF). Torsten Bell will be a familiar face to co-conspirators. Before he spent his days pushing for ever-higher welfare payments at the RF, Bell was Labour’s Director of Policy under Ed Miliband. For years it seemed carving Labour’s manifesto into stone would be his crowning achievement. It turns out seeing his friends land top jobs overseeing government fiscal policy has won out…

 

Richard Hughes, now the chair of the OBR’s Budget Responsibility Committee, spent a year alongside Bell at the Resolution Foundation as its research associate, where he:

  • Co-authored new fiscal rule proposals which were “urgent” because the Government was promising “a flurry of spending commitments and promises to cut taxes” in 2019.
  • Warned of the “economic disruption associated with a no deal Brexit“, and claimed it would lead to “a smaller and slower-growing economy in the long run.”
  • Claimed the impact of Brexit on the economy would be “worse than Covid” which was responsible for over 100,000 deaths.

 

Laura Gardiner, OBR Deputy Chief of Staff responsible for policy costings, expenditure, receipts and “fiscal risks“, worked for Bell for six years. In that time she:

  • Claimed it “makes sense” to bribe 25-year olds with £10,000 handoutsan £8 billion-a-year policy which was soon swept under the rug, presumably once everyone realised how bonkers it was.
  • Attacked the government for “the era of austerity“, and proposed reforming Universal Credit. Learned plenty from her days alongside Bell, obviously.
  • Served as a “Lambeth Equality Commissioner“.

It baffles Guido that Richard Hughes was recruited to head the OBR from an organisation, the Resolution Foundation, which has been unremittingly critical of every Tory chancellor since George Osborne. Is it any wonder that Kwasi didn’t fancy having his plans benchmarked by known ideological opponents who favoured staying in the EU and egalitarian redistribution on a gargantuan scale. It doesn’t take a great insight to guess what the OBR will say when a budget that doesn’t align with their values and objectives lands on their desks…

*David Willets, the foundation’s president, is used as a token Tory shield against accusations it is a left-wing campaigning organisation. Guido would not go as far as to say Two Brains is a useful idiot, he is however an ideological fig-leaf…

mdi-timer 3 October 2022 @ 16:35 3 Oct 2022 @ 16:35 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Resolution Foundation Flouts Charity Commission’s New Political Ruling

The Resolution Foundation, the welfare reform focused think tank which has charitable status, hosted an event this morning at its Westminster offices  on the subject of “British politics beyond Brexit: Where are Labour heading?”

According to their website

“Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett will set out his vision for tackling Britain’s big political economy challenges. He will be joined by leading Labour thinkers, including Bridget Phillipson MP, Ayesha Hazarika and Stephen Bush, to discuss what the priorities should be as they prepare for the next general election, whenever that may be.”

Speakers for the event were all Labour supporters, MPs or former staffers; Jon Trickett, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Ayesha Hazarika, former Labour Party special adviser, Stephen Bush, the Labour supporting New Statesman’s political editor, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation and former Ed Miliband adviser when he was leader of the Labour Party. Torsten came up with the “Ed Stone”.

They all obviously advocate voting for the Labour Party. Which is fair enough and Guido has no issue with a think tank examining the Labour Party’s policy options. However given the regulatory warning recently issued to the Institute of Economic Affairs, which said it had breached regulations stipulating that it is unacceptable if “at events, the audience is only addressed by people with the same views on a topic”. Guido put this point to Torsten this morning…

Torsten’s response was that balance can be “judged across sections of things, not in one given event.” That’s not what the Charity Commission’s guidance says…

The official guidance says that charities “must ensure that the charity’s outputs (research reports, articles, seminars and so on) are balanced and neutral” and that “activity would not be permissible if… its purpose is (in essence) political, party political or propagandist.”

Today’s Resolution Foundation event was clearly political and not clearly related to to their charitable objectives “to improve outcomes for people on low and modest incomes. We do this by undertaking original research and economic analysis to understand the challenges they face.” Guido has contacted the Charity Commission to see if they will be warning Torsten likewise in an even-handed* way…

*The Charity Commission’s duty to act consistently and fairly is one of their principles.

“People should be treated fairly and consistently, so that those in similar circumstances are dealt with in a similar way. Any difference in treatment should be justified by the individual circumstances of the case.”

mdi-timer 11 February 2019 @ 12:10 11 Feb 2019 @ 12:10 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Small Victory for Guido’s Think Tank Transparency Campaign

Followers of Guido on Twitter will be aware of his long-running campaign against the BBC prefixing introductions that frame the think tank guest for the listener or viewer. It always seems to Guido that centrist think tanks are described as “respected” as in “the respected IFS”, right-of-centre think tanks are described as “right-wing” [boo, hiss], left-wing think tanks tend to get no framing.

So it was this morning as the news presenter on Radio 4 reported on a press release from the think tank run by Ed Miliband’s former policy adviser:

Then as if by magic in the next news bulletin;

 

Victory! They suffixed the Resolution Foundation as “left-leaning”.

The serious point is that this framing by the BBC is uneven. The BBC clearly thinks that viewers and listeners are too stupid to know where guests are coming from politically. Guido thinks they should let the audience judge for themselves and so long as there are guests from across the spectrum, balance will be maintained. If they won’t do that perhaps they should let guests self-identify…

mdi-timer 30 October 2018 @ 09:02 30 Oct 2018 @ 09:02 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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