FRANKIE SAYS SACKEDCivil Service Reforms Could See Sir Humphrey Sacked for Failing

Francis Maude was much maligned by right-wing Tories during the opposition years as a wet moderniser, suspiciously tie-less and the éminence grise behind the Cameroon Policy Exchange think-tank.

In office he now wears a tie and has moved from policy wonkery to policy execution; bearing down on spending, battling the civil service bureaucracy, shining sunlight on government data to drive the transparency agenda. Maude is playing  hardball with the unions on unaffordable public sector pensions and full-time taxpayer-funded pilgrims. It is enough to gladden the heart of Margaret Thatcher herself – whom he once served as a Minister – it has also led to a grudging re-evaluation of him by many on the Conservative Party’s right-wing.

Now he is taking on the enemy within, the Civil Service permanent government, or in the case of Michael Gove’s Department for Education, the permanent opposition. The ability of the mandarinate to frustrate radical policies is legendary and their talent for generating inertia defies the laws of physics. In the ideological heart of many Thatcherites and Orange Bookers is a belief that the bureaucracy could be reduced, the government re-engineered and  improved. Quietly the Coalition will by 2015 have reduced the size of the Civil Service by 23% from the bloated days of Gordon Brown. The first step on the path to a post-bureaucratic government is making bureaucrats accountable and sackable when they fail to deliver.

Big Business has used the internet to strip out costs and whole layers of management, Big Government has barely started to do the same. Sir Humphrey and the rest of the mandarins have decades of experience in fighting Civil Service reform, they will fight these reforms every step of the way with cunning and subtlety rather than head on. They even have their own privately funded think-tank, the Institute for Government, possibly the most dangerous political force in Britain since the heyday of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The long-term gain from reforming and shrinking the Civil Service is immense, it was the area where the Blairite’s self-acknowledged failure was total. The prize is worth having at any cost.

Matthew Sinclair Is New TPA Boss

Matthew Elliott has stood down as Chief Executive of the perennially sound Taxpayers’ Alliance after eight years at the helm. He will be replaced by current TPA Director Matthew Sinclair.

A worthy successor…

Shriti Gives Think Tank Award to Chums

Guido couldn’t quite work out why the zero-impact wonks over at the Social Market Foundation managed to scoop Prospect magazine’s annual “Think Tank of the Year” award. After a bit of digging the mystery has been solved. It turns out the SMF was fortunate enough to have a chum sitting on the judging panel. Former FT editor Richard Lambert agreed that the SMF deserved the award due to it’s “memorable” analysis of the budget, “Osborne’s Choice“. Perhaps it stuck in Lambert’s mind because he contributed to the report himself…

And the suspicious chumminess didn’t stop there. Guido has learnt that another judge on the panel, Shriti Vadera of Barclays/Libor fame, used to be a director of the SMF back in 2007. If only George Osborne could find a smoking gun like that…

Boles: Revoke Rich Rivieria Retiree's Reliefs

Yesterday Guido pointed to Liz Truss advocating tax hikes for the working elderly, today another Tory MP, Nic Boles, is planning to hit the pockets of OAPs. He wants to take away welfare benefits from the wealthy – Brown’s £300 winter allowance for rich retirees on the Riviera is a target. This welfare payment is symbolic of all that that was wrong with Brown’s welfare universalism.

Guido has never understood why millionaires should get welfare benefits, Brown deliberately doled out welfare bribes to the affluent who didn’t really need them to gain political buy-in for the welfare state. Welfare universalism was an ideological policy designed to create middle class support for Brown’s Big Government tax and spend dependency culture. Unravelling welfare universalism is key to cutting the deficit.

The affluent old are a key Tory voting demographic group, Boles is being brave taking them on. As with removing Child Benefit from millionaire mothers there will be resistance and much shroud waving. Unlike raising taxes on the working old, this reform is worth doing…

"Free Enterprise" Group Wants to Tax the Old Even More

Guido bumped into Liz Truss last week and complained that her pamphleting “Free Enterprise” Group of Tory MPs wasn’t very right-wing. She looked at Guido arched-eyed and knocked back her drink before stumbling off. 

As if to prove the point this morning her “Free Enterprise” Group released a pamphlet arguing for an increase in taxes for the working over-65s:

Older workers who continue to work should pay National Insurance contributions on their earned income.  Extra NIC income could be banked or used to give NIC holidays (employee and employer) to young low paid workers.

No doubt they will argue this is revenue neutral and just shifting the tax burden onto the older generation which has had it pretty good. This begs the question; what kind of free enterprise group wants tax hikes and revenue neutrality? The status quo is disastrous, we’re over-taxed to finance Gordon’s Big Government welfare state. The New Labour era saw state spending as a percentage of GDP go up from 35% under Margaret Thatcher to 45% under Gordon Brown. If even a Tory free enterprise group is unwilling to push back on Gordon Brown’s settlement  the country is stuffed…

UPDATE: 

Happy ending…

IPPR, the Staggers and the €800,000 Bung

Guido was amused to read Will Straw’s Staggers piece today asking: “Europe, what have you done for me lately?“.

His gushing tribute to the EU’s legislation on mobile charges was as sickly as it was suspicious – after all, his organisation IPPR is hardly renowned for its tech prowess.

Perhaps the real answer to Straw’s question lies in the fact that Brussels has bunged his wonk-shop €800,000

California Dreaming

Sipping rosé with media types last night Guido bumped into an academic co-conspirator from Stanford. Conversation soon turned to Steve Hilton, their visiting professor:

“I saw him the other day in flip flops. He appears to be on vacation.”

Sic semper…

"Transparent" Lefty Think Tank and their Anonymous Funding

Last week Guido brought you the report claiming that left-wing think tanks are more transparent than their right-wing counterparts. One of the think tanks awarded the top A-rating by Who Funds You was the New Economics Foundation, who state on their website: “the NEF believes that organisations advocating political change should be open about how they are funded.”

Funny then that a £200k per annum donor to the NEF, the Network for Social Policy, says on its own website that: “the Network for Social Change is a group of individuals providing anonymous funding for progressive social change“.

Guido isn’t sure how a think tank with donors seeking to remain anonymous can be described as transparent…

Private Sector Wonks Under Fire from Public Sector Wonks

A new report has claimed that left-wing think tanks are more transparent than their right-wing counterparts. New left-wing pressure group Who Funds You awards an A-rating to the likes of left-of-centre campaigns IPPR, Progress and Compass, while laying into the right-of-centre Adam Smith Institute and the Taxpayers’ Alliance for their supposed lack of openness. Ignoring of course that right-of-centre think tanks don’t usually take public money from the taxpayers. Left-wing think tanks benefit from a lot of taxpayers’ money, IPPR for example got £800,000 of taxpayers’ money via the EU…

UPDATE: The ASI have hit back:

Touché… 

Because He's Worth It

Earlier this month Guido broke the news that No.10 SpAd Dr Sean Worth had quit his job to take up a post at Policy Exchange. Putting his head above the parapet for the first time since, the good doctor appeared on Newsnight last night. If only Worth’s former colleagues could say these things like this while still in government… 

Video via LiarPoliticians

GDP Growth Was Higher in the 1930s

On the Today programme yesterday morning Ed Balls claimed Osborne has made a giant mistake and cuts in public spending are the same mistake made by Snowden in the 1930s. Balls is wrong, as a recent pamphlet from the Centre for Policy Studies by George Trefgarne shows. After the 1929-31 Wall Street Crash the British economy recovered rapidly in the 1930s:

If only we currently had a growth rate like they averaged in the thirties…

Time to Sack the Statist "Charity" Sock Puppets

Guido has always seen state-funded charities as a constant source of annoyance. Today the Institute of Economic Affairs calls on the government to bring an end to lobbying by charities that receive taxpayers’ money. They even quote Guido’s jibe about fake charities from last year:

“A charity that relies in the main part on taxes is no more a charity than a prostitute is your girlfriend”.

Guido couldn’t have put it better himself…

IPPR Advocate Crime Tracking App

Guido has often taken the left-wing iPPR think-tank to task for some of its craziest policy ideas, the never ending hyper-Keynesian fallacies it pumps out and for flogging access for cash in the past. So when they come out with a good idea it is a noteworthy shock.

They are advocating the nationwide adoption of a crime-tracking app to enable victims in to follow their case through the criminal justice system.

  • The courts, CPS and police should ensure that data is shared and that victims can follow their cases all the way from first report to sentencing.
  • Crime maps should be made interactive and display real-time information to change them from being purely a tool of transparency and accountability to one that could help prevent and reduce crime.
  • The courts should become more accessible and transparent by publishing details online of the progress of cases, transcripts, judgements and sentences.

The criminal justice system at times seems to be in near chaos, cases get lost, villains escape justice, victims get lost in the confusion. Transparency would increase the pressure on the “supply chain” management of the system. When things go wrong victims will become aware of where and when it went wrong and pressure can be applied to rectify the problem.

Guido understands that real-time crime mapping is already a Downing Street priority, this data sharing idea for the wider criminal justice system will chime with government thinking. No doubt the ludicrously inefficient Courts and cops will have objections…

Exclusive: No. 10 SpAd Sean Worth QuittingMoving to Policy Exchange Think Tank

Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Sean Worth is departing government to head up an investigation into better public services at Policy Exchange. It seems to be mid-term transfer season with lots of  SpAds looking to move on and out. Worth was on secondment to fire-fight at health and Guido hears, like another recently departed member of Team Dave, he wants to be able to speak out more than he currently can about how to radically reform the public sector.

This is the second prominent hire for Policy Exchange from government – with No.10 policy wonk James O’Shaughnessy also joining their teamTraditionally seen as a bit of a SpAd school, Policy Exchange seems to becoming a rehab centre for them on the way out of government too…

Pic via Political Pictures

UPDATE:

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.[…] Read the rest

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