As Starmer attempts to disclaim any responsibility for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile, this morning Guido asked whether he’d similarly refused to take credit for CPS victories in which he played no part as DPP. New footage unearthed this afternoon however shows Starmer boasting during the Labour leadership election about carrying the can when his team dropped the ball:
“Hear me out: I had 8,000 staff for five years as the director of public prosecutions. And I acted, I hope, in the right way with them, which is when they had victories I celebrated victories on their behalf, I picked up awards on their behalves. When they made mistakes, I carried the can. I never turn on my staff and you should never turn on your staff… I will carry the can for mistakes of any organisation I lead.”
Now it seems Starmer is not only passing the buck onto his former staff in the CPS for the failure to prosecute Savile, he’s accusing anyone of saying as Director of Public Prosecutions he carried the can for the mistakes of the organisation he led, of being “far right”. A claim the video shows he himself first made.
He didn’t just emphasise his total control and responsibility over the CPS during his leadership campaign. To this day his profile on the Doughty Street Chambers website reads:
“As DPP, Keir was responsible for all criminal prosecutions in England and Wales.”
Once again, we’re now supposed to pretend Sir Keir has no questions to answer, nor any responsibility to shoulder, over the Savile handling by the CPS. It seems to look bang to rights, m’lud…
Boris used a quiet moment on his big trip to Ukraine yesterday to double down on his claims about Sir Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile. Speaking to The Sun, the PM said “As far I’m aware, it’s fairly accurate”. Are the Tories now trialling a ‘dead nonce strategy’?
Is Boris’s attack, as he says, fairly accurate? Way back in 2018 Guido published a list detailing Starmer’s litany of failures as DPP, including failing to build a case against Jimmy Savile. In 2013 Starmer apologised to women abused by Savile after disclosing police had missed three chances to take the case to trial:
“I would like to take the opportunity to apologise for the shortcomings in the part played by the CPS in these cases.”
Hasn’t Labour been recently arguing the culture is set at the top of an institution…
As a Tory source points out to The Sun, if Sir Keir is really passing the buck on decisions taken by the CPS while he was head of the organisation, can he say what action he took at the time against those members of the CPS who were personally responsible? And did he similarly refuse to take any credit for achievements by the CPS that he had no personal involvement in? Guido suspects the answers to both is ‘no’…
Aside from partygate yesterday, the government celebrated the two year anniversary of Brexit, publishing a 100-page document of the victories so far and plans for future Brexit-enables successes. According to Steve Barclay and the Cabinet Office, the government’s achieved 76 policy changes so far that wouldn’t have been possible within the EU. Most are sound and should be shouted about, some were rather tenuous…
Wonks were quick to share their two cents on the paper and the government’s stated plans to use Brexit to improve the country’s regulations and legislation.
The CPS welcomed the white paper, particularly supporting the intention to make Britain the best regulated economy in the world; as well as ensuring regulators take into consideration competition, growth and innovation when assessing the impact of decisions; simplifying burdens for SMEs; and the freeports agenda. They did, however, criticise the abandoning of a ‘one in, two out’ pledge on new regulations…
“Fixing our regulatory system is one of the great opportunities of Brexit. But that needs to apply to all regulations, not just those inherited from Brussels.
The £1 billion target for cutting post-Brexit regulation is headline-grabbing but relatively unambitious. We need more detail on what will replace the current system of regulatory budgeting and business impact targets, which are due to expire. It is especially concerning to note that a one-in-two-out system was considered but rejected – apparently because it will be too difficult to implement alongside Net Zero.”
The IEA were more critical, saying the government “is talking a good talk on cutting red tape yet failing to walk the walk”:
“The Prime Minister is making the right noises about tackling the regulatory burden all the while introducing laws and regulations that go in the opposite direction.”
“Brexit was meant to provide us with greater freedom not even more burdensome rules derived from Whitehall rather than Brussels. From online safety to Net Zero, it’s hard to see how the government is sticking to its own principle of regulating only when “absolutely necessary”.”
UK In A Changing Europe’s Anand Menon accused the document of “missing the trade-offs”, and it appeared the report had been published “because of where the Prime Minister is”. Guido presumed it was more to do with the two year anniversary of Brexit…
Away from the glossy spin now expected from team Rishi, there is a distinctly nervous reaction from the right’s ideological bastions. Delving into the details of the Chancellor’s spending review announcement, think tank responses range from at best unease to at worst some disdain for the government’s decision to double down on further increasing record levels of public spending. Is this the start of a growing gulf between wonk world and Number 10?
The Centre for Policy Studies are the warmest, claiming credit for the two most obvious examples of fiscal restraint within the announcement: the cut to international aid and the so-called public sector pay freeze. It’s clear however that the organisation, which was heavily involved in constructing the Tories’ successful 2019 manifesto, wants the government to more clearly return to the traditional Tory ground of letting the private sector drive the post-Covid recovery:
“But ultimately it will be the private sector, not the public, which digs us out of this economic hole – so as the pandemic recedes we urge the Chancellor to embrace pro-growth, pro-enterprise stimulus measures, such as tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire and invest.”
The ASI doesn’t hold back, accusing the government of a “public sector splurge” in spite of the ‘pay freeze’; and singling out the rise in the minimum wage as an “unforgivable”:
“This public sector spending splurge fails to put the United Kingdom onto a strong fiscal footing for the recovery. Rishi Sunak cannot tax our way out of debt or spend our way out of a recession”
“Increasing departmental budgets as the economy shrinks is just spending money we don’t have.”
“For the party of business, the lack of thought about their needs and the increase in costs they’re facing coming from the government, this is a massive and unforgivable oversight.”
Unfortunately for Rishi, the IEA goes in even harder, arguing that while the chancellor’s diagnosis of doom was correct, his pledges to boost departmental funding are “vague” and his support for apprentices, and extra work coaches are “retro policies drawn from dusty files last seen in the 1980s.”:
“Recovery from the recessions of the 1980s and 90s was not the result of extra government spending, but was rather associated with deregulation and freeing up markets. There was no sign of this in today’s announcement. Government intervention, however justified by health concerns, has created the current economic situation; the answer is not yet more intervention, but rather to allow businesses maximum freedom to reorient and rebuild.”
The Taxpayers’ Alliance adds to the voiced concerns about Rishi’s fiscal splurge:
“The lack of focus on value for money in today’s spending review will no doubt disappoint taxpayers.
“Coronavirus has undeniably left a large hole in the nation’s finances. But instead of forever dipping back into taxpayers’ pockets, the government should prioritise policies to get the economy going.”
The Centre for Social Justice welcomed the focus on jobs but wants “warm words” on families and communities to be followed by action.
“as the Chancellor said, a job is the best route to personal prosperity – an identity, purpose, and reason to get up each morning. Various investments in housing, city growth deals, and a very welcome community levelling-up fund will all help to enable this.
“support for the most vulnerable such as rough sleepers, and our prisons was welcome, but warm words on families and communities, where many find their greatest support, must be followed by action.”
It’s clear a great many Tories – whether sitting quietly on the back benches or orbiting in wonk world – want a private sector-led recovery, and a definitive end to the endless splurge of taxpayer cash with little thought to the consequences. The question is whether Boris or Rishi will be brave enough to lead their new voters from the front, or surrender the battle of ideas entirely…
The Centre for Policy Studies has a paper out arguing for low deposit, fixed-rate, long-term mortgages. The “no deposit” aspect of the headline reports triggered a bit of concern among those of us old enough to remember that the 2008 global financial crisis was triggered by defaulting sub-prime mortgages in the US housing market. Prima facie it sounded insane to go down this path…
The CPS’s chief wonk, Robert Colvile, has put out a lengthy rebuttal this morning which he summarises as
“This policy is designed to make mortgages accessible to those who can afford mortgages but not deposits – or at least not the current sky-high deposits.”
Mortgages are usually for terms of 25 years to pay off the borrowing over the borrower’s working life. A hangover from when working lives were only 25 years or so. 25 year fixed-rate mortgages in an era of ultra low rates sound like a great idea, giving certainty to borrowers over the lifetime of the mortgage. Guido and the CPS are at one on this, they could be welcome innovation in the mortgage market.
There are a few snags, a quick Google search has not turned up any 25 year fixed-rate mortgages being offered by mainstream high street lenders, yet. What will it take to encourage them? Well judging by the 15 year fixed-rate mortgage offered by Virgin – fat profits. With base rates at 0.1%, Virgin want 3.0% for their 15 year fixed-rate mortgage.* What does this cost borrowers?
Over the term of their loan, assuming not unreasonably that lenders like Virgin would look to maintain a 200 basis point spread on their financing costs, the borrower of £250,000 would risk having to repay £125,000 more than a floating rate borrower, if rates were to remain static for the term. There is no such thing as a free lunch, the fixed rate certainty generally comes at a higher cost to borrowers. If you can’t raise a deposit, the total cost of borrowing inevitably will be higher, a lot higher.
The fat interest rate margin Virgin are demanding might be driven down by more competition, though wholesale lenders might in turn be wary of backing loans to institutions lending on thin margins to consumers who can’t raise a deposit. A property downturn, say because rates rise precisely as feared, might see borrowers in negative equity sending their keys back to lenders. Paradoxically making fixed rate mortgages with little deposit cushion much more risky for lenders.
Rates could rise quite dramatically over the next 25 years, given that central bankers are thinking about inflation more kindly of late. That is why deposits give banks a margin of safety, given politicians will support banks with bailouts, those deposits also give wider society protection. Making mortgages deposit free for a few could be quite expensive for the rest of us in a housing downturn.
The irony of our situation is that quantitative easing and the ultra low interest rate policies that fixed the banking crisis caused by the housing loan crisis, have subsequently caused a housing price inflation crisis. The Bank of England now believes that the increase in house prices is now almost entirely due to low interest rates. Be careful of clever financial fixes…
Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has teamed up with the wonks at the Centre for Policy Studies for a new report released today setting out proposals with two aims – to bounce back from the economic devastation wrought by the Coronavirus, and additionally to not just reconstitute the post-pandemic economy in the same way it existed before, rather to build a better one. In total there are 63 recommendations to implement…
One major shift endorsed by the former Chancellor in the paper is a shift in focus for the Bank of England, from being tasked with targeting inflation, to targeting nominal GDP instead – shifting the bank’s focus to total spending in the economy, creating the best possible conditions for sustained growth. This is a currently fashionable idea which has it merits. Guido suspects it will be tricky to do… the Bank of England has not had many quarters where it has hit the inflation target,
Another proposal is for establishing a British Infrastructure Bank based outside the South East – an idea that was popular with John McDonnell. Guido can explain why private sector investment is not more evenly spread across the nation – investors are not convinced of the returns. Why not drop capital gains taxes for private investors in areas where infrastructure is wanted? Let the private sector take the risks and increase the rewards by relieving them of capital gains taxes. That reduces the probability of politically directed malinvestments.
Cutting employer’s National Insurance to get firms hiring again, reforms to planning rules (including fast-tracking reclassification of Green Belt), and a new generation of development corporations. Variations on policy proposals that always seem to be proposed and somehow never happen. Let’s see if an 80 seat majority overcomes the obstacles…