Category Archives: New Stateman

Is Anyone Out There Listening?


I do not wish to be parochial or small-minded. But the world, at least my world, is behaving in a most peculiar manner. Take Brexit,  or don’t take it, from my point of view, very large numbers of British people admitted that they might be  worse off if there was a  Brexit – but they voted Leave anyway. ‘What do people like us have to lose ‘ they said. Quite a lot actually: your job, higher shop prices, a collapse in annuity values and cancelling the annual holiday to the Costa Brava or some such place. Such warnings were greeted with a shrug. ‘So what’ and ‘they could hardly get worse’. Are you real don’t these things matter any more?

And take Corbyn – I wish you would -and the Labour leadership contest. Owen Smith has made himself as close to an identikit candidate as he could (excepting devising a way to stay in the EU and renewing Trident, that I admit from my point of view are extremely important). He is well educated, presentable. well-informed, has management experience and  the confidence of the Parliamentary Party .Shouldn’t we Labourites  give him a majority? The reply:’I agree he is very presentable and would make a good Prime Minister.but I intend to stay with Jeremy.’ Why doesn’t he agree with me?

Look at the Corbyn closely, listen to his speech, imagine him representing Britain at an international conference (no placards allowed) or mastering a complex document at No 10?You can imagine him doing these things??? Congratulations for it is quite an achievement.

‘Don’t worry. It will never happen.’ I hear you say. Are you really content with a Conservative Government as far as the eye can see. ‘What will be, will be.’ I hear you say.’I doubt if it will make much difference.’

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Alistair Campbell, Boris Johnson, Commons, Europe, Guardian, House of Commons, Jeremy Corbyn, John Martin, Labour leadership, Labour List, Larisa Martin, Liberal Voice, Momentum, New Stateman, Politics, Referendum, Uncategorized, Unemployment

Coalition: Arbeit macht frei and the Deserving Poor


It is sometimes necessary to shock to reveal an underlying truth. The title of this post is a well-known slogan above the entrance to the Auschwwitz concentration camp which in English means ‘labour makes you free’. In England next week the Coalition government is to give us, in the form of changes to the welfare system, an English version of an underlying truth. To draw the parallel closer I should really use the slogan about the Buchenwald concentration camp: Jadem das Seine( idomatically, everyone gets what they deserve).

Next week several hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable families in England are to be faced with reductions in their welfare benefits. The Labour Party (admittedly a partisan source) has calculated that these families will lose some £800 over a year. At the same time anumber of members of the Cioalition Government will receice tax cuts worth £100,OOO a year.I am reliably infromed that these unknown members of our government deserve every penny of their tax cut. No dodgers there then.

It is sometimes supposed that the use of the term ‘deserving poor’ was invented in Germany. Not so, it was invented here and brought into law by several Poor Laws in Elizabethan times. I have had the opportunity to study the implementation of these Acts in Colchester, Essex (now represented by a Lib Dem MP.) The poor laws were administered by the local parish churches. Abandoned children and the unemployed on the street corners were brought under the direction of the Parish. Here they were expected to work and at 14 aid ceased although some Parishes provided apprenticeships (ring any bells now?). In some of these parishes the beneficiaries were made to carry a large red letter P on their outer garments to denote that they were recipients of care. Naturally like the Jews in Berlin in the 1930’s with their yellow labels these children were fair game for any spare abuse going on at the time. A sort of badge of shame.

It is said to us by the Coalition that only the deserving poor are worth helping and that there are a lot of scroungers, the undeserving poor, who don’t deserve to receive any benefits whatsoever. For them it is Jadem das Seine or idiomatically, ‘get a job you lousy scrounger). I wonder does the Coalition have any ideas for the introduction of a badge. Let me know dear readers if you know something.

Now of course there are many recipients of welfare who are working but they too are thought undeserving. They will continue to suffer a cut in their wages in real terms because of high inflation and many millions of people are not being paid a living wage but in some mysterious way they remain undeserving. Tough luck, I hear you say plenty of good jobs in the City of London and anyway some of them are Romanian immigrants taking advantage of our low wages.

If you think I am exagerating? I suggest you direct your letter of protest to George Osborne or Nick Clegg. But if as I suspect you are a member of the undeserving poor be careful in the language you use. These public school boys know how to defend each other.

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Filed under BBC, Benefits, Cabinet, Cameron, Child poverty, Coalition Government, Disabled, Germany, Ian Duncan Smith, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Social justice, Unemployment

Riding the IMF Horse


There used to be a day when the British economy was not run to please bankers or technocrats in international bodies. Alas, they are passed. However, it is worth asking when you read a forecast, in whose interest is it published? The IMF believes that it is important for its members to reduce public indebtedness and makes it a public objective regardless of the beggering of any nation’s citizens until this goal of public policy is realised. Naturally it is supportive of the budget deficit programme of the Coalition. The IMF  addressed  the issue of a Plan B. You will be pleased to know that if growth remains low the IMF would support monetary easing, keeping interest rates low and putting a brake on cuts (without anyone noticing it). In this way the deficit would not come down quickly in the first two years but would come down faster in subsequent years.

This revelation of the existence of Plan B is hopeful but not reassuring. If growth is slow, the main body of public expenditure cuts is realised , and assuming all other parameters are stable (other than unemployment) the deficit will not come down. The credibilty of the Government in the markets, which Boy George goes on about, will be lost. If then the Government persists it will be confronted with a mountain to climb in years 3 and 4 when credibility is lost and the deficit stubbornly high. If then Georgie  presses on growth will remain low throughout the five years, So what then Grannie do we do next?

Well, dear, says Grannie, it might not be as bad as that. That’s what they all say, says I. What is the use of saying that when the flood waters have reached the bedroom sill? Shouldn’t we have been alerted before this time to leave the house? Hindsight,  says Grannie, it is an easy art.

There are other dangers. The IMF talks bravely about global growth rates remaining high,  surviving high commodity prices and resuming stable growth and low inflation. But then he would, wouldn’t he? But  we know that all recessions and recoveries are unique. Perhaps this depression will last for ten years or more. And what shall we do then Granny, says I. Don’t worry dear, says she, I’ve put a little money aside to cope with the odd crisis. Well Granny, that’s the problem. We have been using it. Using it? No one told me that. The problem Grannie is that debts continue to rise. Good gracious, what did you say about the bedroom sill. Take me there. There’s time to jump. A splash is heard, off stage. Granny, you can’t swim! These words came too late. Poor Granny, poor me -oh, and by the way, poor you.

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Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, David Smith, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, George Osborne, IFS, IMF, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, OBR, Politics, Rising prices, Treasury

The Economy: Spotting the Runes (Ruins)


One of the mysteries of our lives is the constant confidence of the OBR in economic recovery. There is, it is said, no need for a Plan B because the independent OBR tells us that the economy will recover. Each OBR forecast downgrades its predecessor but there is no denying the cheerful tone of its forecasts. In its recent forecast the OBR expresses the thought that the slide in output in the last quarter of 2010 was a dud figure and suggests that the decline was 0.2 percent and not 0.6 percent. On the back of this assumption the OBR confidently expects a bounce of 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011. The OBR gives a reassuring drop in inflation in 2012 to a rate of 2.5 percent.

We shall have to wait for the inflation figures but the output figures are available in some four weeks time, that is before the May local and assembley elections.  If the OBR is right, or nearly right, the Coalition can heave a sigh of relief but if they are wrong or mostly wrong they are up to their fetlocks in the mire.

One forecasting way out of such a dire consequence is the use of fan charts. These charts show a range of outcome. You can rely on it that the Government will finish some way between higher and lower points. It does this time. What a relief. But supposing , just supposing,  in April it is towards the bottom and not the top of the range. Is there then a Plan B? And what does the Daily Mail say then, poor thing? And what is the answer?

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Filed under Assembly Elections, BBC, Budget 2011, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Daily Mail, David Smith, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Local elections, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Scottish Assembly, Treasury

Libya: Why us? Why him?


For all the talk of International Alliances to save lives in Libya it does become clear that the intervention is transatlantic: the USA and Canada and the old African colonisers Britain, France and Italy. As in all foregn adventures domestic electorates are told it is in the national interest and their citizens have a moral duty to save lives.  Britain has been almost continuously involved in foreign interventions in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan with  forays into Kossovo, Serbia and Sierra Leone for the past 20 years. It is apparently always in our interest to do so and there is always a moral imperative. A war-weary British electorate has become sceptical: not another one, could not someone else do this and why this constant cranking up of fears might be their questions?.

Why is it in the national interest of Italy, France and Germany to intervene in Libya? Ghaddafi is no longer a threat to his neighbours. A brave Labour administration did a deal with him which seems to have tamed him. He does not threaten his neighbours in the Middle East and Africa. They do not like or trust him but that falls short of a reason for removing him. David Cameron tells us the Libya is a Pariah State, a social outsider,  on the southern fringe of Europe and therefore undesirable. Well , lets not invite Ghaddafi for tea. There is the argument that demcoratic states do not threaten anybody and are beter for trade and business. Maybe, but do we not have to live in the world as it is? So there is nothing to the argument of national interest.

What about our moral responsibility for saving lives? Yes, we should help if we can but Britain does not have a unique moral responsibility. Cannot someone else pick up the baton for a change? If they do not wish to do so does this make them immoral? What about Arab states, Libya’s immediate neighbours? Does not moral reponsibilty start here? The bewildered British elector might think, these Libyan people should sort out their own affairs. If they wish to be nasty and brutish to each other they can’t be worth much in the final analysis. We have problems of our own. Here the propaganda hots up. We are it seems our brother’s keeper.

 The fear factor hits in. Ghaddafi is about to commit genocide. I doubt it. There would be a terrible retaliation in Benghazi no doubt but the Libyan’s are very mobile. Those at greatest risk might beat it into Egypt where they would lead a better life.

Unfortunately the world is full of dictators and autocracies. Steadfastly the West refuses to step in. Anyone can prepare a list but how about Ruanda, Zimbabwe, Bahrein. Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few. I detect a streak of vindictiveness in Cameron. He has it in for Gadaafi and  is determined to see him punished.

Putin descibed the intervention  by the West as a medaeval crusade. He has a point. Isn’t it time we learnt a few lessons from recent history? Of course if it were Michael Gove’s version of British history. it wouldn’t deter Cameron  in the least.

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How Long for the Coalition?


It is now taken for granted by politicians and the general public alike that the Coalition will serve a full term of five years. You will recall that it was not always the position. In the Coalition’s earliest days it was commonly assumed that its days would be few and that it would be brought down by the policy contradictions of the Coalition parties. I assumed it myself. Several factors have kept  the show on the road. The first and most apparent is the hunger of politicians for power and influence. Oh how pleased are the Lib Dems to be in office with the chance to implement what I have long regarded as their platform of idiocies. Now one by one these policues can be put into practice and the various boxes  ticked. There is still a long way to go in that process. And then for the Lib Dems to precipitate a Coalition split would be to commit electoral suicide. Their poll ratings are so low that the Parliamentary party would barely survive an early election – perhaps not any election! Similarly for the Tories the future still beckons. They are convinced that they will be proved right on the deficit reduction programme. Economic growth will resume, the budget deficit will disappear and the nation will be grateful. The world is a nasty and unpredictable place for doctrinaire optimists. Who can forecast what shocks the world economy will be ere to over the coming years?  But the Coalition optimists believe that the ship of state will sail through all the stormy waters to a safe harbour.

Labour has no appetite for power. It is deep in self doubt and humility. Forgive us for our trespasses as we shall forgive those of the Coalition sing the voices. The tumbrils are not ready, no blood will flow (figuratively speaking). Learn to trust us. Every dog must have his day. we would not do these things but what we would do is yet to be revealed. Yawn, yawn, blah, blah.

But will the Coalition last? The determining issue is not the wishes of the political parties but the state of the economy. If real incomes continue to fall and unemployment continues to rise people will in their various ways and in their various times will reject the Coalition. A certain amount of this will not render the Coalition asunder but a lot of it will. A start can be made in May’s Assembly and Local Government elections. It is not the loss of seats alone which will be humbling but who gains them. UKIP only needs a nudge up for its current electoral rating of 5-6 percent to gain representation in Scotland and Wales. What then Britain’s membership of the EU? Watch this space.

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Big Society: Slash, Burn and Replace


I am rather excited. I have gained an exclusive interview (imagined) with our Dave and he has kindly offered to answer  my questions, no matter how critical, about the Big Society. There speaks the bravery of  a man with the courage of his own (almost exclusively his own) opinions.

 Prime Minister, can I call you Dave, good. Would it be true that the present economic circumstamces when public expenditure cuts are limiting the size of the public sector, is a prime opportunity for you. If I understand it you wish to replace the provision of public services with the unpaid efforts of voluntary organisations and their members and supporters. Is this true? Charlie, there is a need in Britain to fix the broken society. There are unsolved social problems that are best met by the private sector, by individuals who really care. But Dave that isn’t true. Over the past fifteen years there has been a vast expansion of charitable and voluntary services. The activities of government in meeting social needs has created new opportunities for voluntary services to fill in the gaps and to supplement the efforts of government. And it follows that to cut one is to cut the other.

Well Charlie,  there is something in what you say, but all this activity has not solved the problems of a broken society. There, Dave, your analysis is sadly lacking. If you are talking about crime, and despite all your efforts to inflate the figures, there is universal acceptance that crime has fallen some 40 percent over the last ten years. And by any reasonable set of criteria there is more caring and volunteering in our society than at any time in our history.

Well don’t you think Charlie that encouraging citizens to voluntarily provide their services is a good thing in itself. No Dave, I don’t. It may be  and on the other hand it may not. A great deal depends on the professionalism of those individuals volunteering to replace professional trained staff. What ordinary citizens should do is to get on with their lives, look after their families and pay their taxes. Caring and participating should, in the main,  be the task of paid professionals who know what they are doing, not volunteers with more enthusiasm than skill. This is not how I was brought up Charlie. We were taught to care for our fellow citizens, to contribute to charitable endeavours, to join the scouts and the women’s institutes. And a jolly good thing it was too. More of that and the world would be a good and better place. For you Dave, it has always been a good place. Other people, other lives, other needs. Grow up Dave, you’re a big boy now.

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The Safety of the Public (Let’s live dangerously) Bill


I am here, as I promised,  to tell you of the main features of our bill to make Britain a more liberal society. This issue of liberty has always been the driving force of the Lib Dem party. In a way it is our raison d’etre. Let us take the troublesome issue of the sexual abuse of young children by those who take every opportunity to be near them for their evil purposes. Do we really need 9 million people on a register with hundreds of others involved in processing data to achieve a reasonable level of vigilance? Of course not. Under our proposals there would be only 4.5 million on the register and thus millions of people who are in touch with children on a day to day basis will be excluded and we can all breath more easily. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to be vigilant. The State should not seek to be an ever present guardian of behaviour. Similarly with our DNA database. It is wrong, as a matter of principle, that peope never found guilty of serious crime should have their genetic information on a large and ever growing database. Here the obsession  of our predecessors in seeking to extend, hold and grow a centralised database is unnecessary, and damaging to the peace of mind of millions of citizens. We are going to bring this practice to an end in line with the conduct of liberal societies throughout Europe and the free world.   

I am going to answer questions. You sir, with the red tie at the back. You say what price should be paid for the abuse of a child. I don’t understand. I assume you are suggesting that if 4 million people in regular contact with children were excluded from the sexual offences register, more children would  be abused? I know of no evidence to suggest that this would be the case. My own opinion? Not more than 100 children. But, sir, it is not the way to look at it. You are suggesting that I am willing to accept that the price of a saving  public expenditure of several million is the  abuse of more than 100 children a year. Well sir, I suggest that this issue of protection is best left to the governance of parents and teachers. You are wrong to look at it this way.

Another gentleman with a red tie to the left. Your question, sir, is how many previously unsolved serious crimes have been solved by the DNA evidence now available to the police over the last 12 months?  An interesting question without a precise answer. sir. The short answer is I do not know. My guess? Well I flatter myself that I am an evidence based politician. If you push me on the issue I would say not more than 30-40. A price worth paying for justice? Look I understamd your point of view but it is not my own. I do not believe in an intrusive nanny  State. Full stop. We should be grown up about this. In my opinion we should all be prepared to live dangerously. After all I joined in a Coalition with the Tories. Ha, hah!

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Playing the Immigration Card


Today David Cameron will play the immigration card. He will tell a distinguised European audience that multi culturalism in Britain has failed and that Britain must advance a stronger sense of national identity. A literate national audience will reach for references to the most famous poem ever written on the subject: Daniel Foe’s scathing poem The True Born Englishman, published in 1701,  that halted the notion that there was someone who be called a True Born Englishman and that we were all, if you dug deep enough, foreigners. He wrote: ‘From this Amphibious Ill-born Mob began, That Vain ill-natur’d thing, an Englishman. The Customs, Sirnames, Languages and Manners, Of all these Nations are their own Explainers. Whose Relicks are so lasting and so strong. That ha’lefta Shiboleth upon our tongue, By which with easy search you may distinguish Your Roman-Saxon-Danish- Norman English. Or more briefly as I would write, ‘Scratch an Englishman and you will find a foreigner’. ‘I am one and so are you, your neighbour is a little dark, his children of a lighter hue, And in the market place you hear the laughter of a thousand tongues, Of me, and them and you.’ If multiculturism in Britain has failed it has taken two thousand years to do so.

I find David Cameron beguiling. Whatever Nick Clegg might think or say he is in union with A True Born Tory. What do you get if you scratch a True Born Tory? You get a person absolutely convinced of certain social and political values which he regards as inalienable and true. It is a narrow vision of the world. Being an intelligent sort of chap Our Dave  develops evidence to support theses values and naturally he can gather it in. He has certain powers to communicate these values to us. He does so with clarity, energy and certitude. He is heading for the rocks and his crew will watch and cheer as he heads there. They know too that they stand for something vital to our national well-being and survival. They are willing, and even enthusiastic to accompany him.

The truth is that David Cameron is playing the national identity card. Eventually all Tory leaders do this in one form or another. I remember sitting next to Enoch Powell on a plane to Belfast. I studied him carefully and even dared to speak to him. This is a man who advanced the notion that the streets of some of our cities would soon be awash with blood (metaphorically speaking of course). Where is this blood now other than in David Cameron’s imagination. Relationships between people of differet ethnicity have, in my humble opinion, never been better. I like my neighbours I enjoy a rich selection of foods and recipes, I enjoy playing cricket with people from Barbados, and how about a curry this evening.

I have always believed this sort of creature, A True Born Tory,  to be dangerous. David Cameron has embarked on a difficult and potentially disastrous path. Of course he will sound reasonable. Ideas will be advanced which 30 percent of the population readily agree with. Recruitment to the English Defence League and the BNP will rise. The Tory vote will strenghten in the Tory shires. However, someone should tell our Dave that speaking your own mind is a dangerous activity.

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Words, Words and the Economy


Nick Clegg has emerged as the Coalition champion of the economy since Vince Cable’s well- publicised setbacks. Nick uses a great many words all spoken at a great rate of knots with an intonation that defies interruption. To be fair to him, I understand from my children that this is the way children speak in the playing fields these days. The words he uses are very fine and well-meaning and will convince some people – but not me – that he and his Tory colleagues have fine plans for the future of the British economy. It seems churlish of me to express the opinion that his words are either misleading or disingenuous. My main objection to them is that they do not rest on any firm and defensible theory of what works and doesn’t work in the British economy. Take the jargon on re-balancing the British economy. You know the sort of thing:  shift the British economy away from services, in particular financial services, to manufacturing, and shift economic activity away from London and the South East with a resulting shift in population and jobs. This is pie in the sky.  It is not a new narrative for it has been a constant theme of the last fifty years. I have no no wish to be boring but to be prief capitalism does not work like this in a capitalist economy.  Industry location, population and investment follows the laws of comparative costs. It will be located in London and the South East so long as these comparisons favour these locations. There are advantages in mass. London has become the leading financial services centre in Europe accounting fot 9 percent of British GDP compared with 12 percent for manufacturing. Why is it so obvious that you should constrain financial services growth in London when it is a world leader?  

Successive Governments have recognised the problems of the North by shifting public services to  there with incentives for industry to follow. Their pump priming has been partially successful Now the Coalition is busy destroying these jobs. No wonder they need to mollify electors with meaningless promises of other jobs being created.

It used to be the case that these arguments were encapsulated in the simple division betwees monetarists and advocates of supply side reforms and Keynesians with their concentration on the demand side of the debate. At present those on the supply side of the argument are having a hard time of it. Money aggregates are weak with all that flows from it. The demand side is precarious and faltering. Those of us who observe these matters from the sidelines might well despair. It is a long way to Rotherham from Central London, Cleggie boy. Is your journey strictly necessary for a display of groping in the dark?

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