There is now a Lib Dem mantra designed to show how Government has been materially improved becaus of its involvement in the Coalition. What we have, it might be supposed, is really a Lib Dem administration. The party can come up with a long list of its achievements. One by one Lib Dem policy dreams have been put into place. It is necessary side for the purpose of this argument to recognise that there are policies that those of us on the left can support: higher personal tax allowances, improvement of tax credits for the very poor. the triple lock on increases in the state pension, the Pupil Premium to help some disadvantaged poor children. Good on you, say I.
Do these policy changes make people less poor? Yes, they do in a way. However, alas and alack, the imposition of VAT dwarfs these advantages and the poor will get poorer. I will not dwell on the LiB Dem opposition to any VAT increase in the General Election campaign except to comment the they were against it. We all remember the poster. They were against increases in tuition fees too and then suddenly they were not.
But what is the heart of the matter. Remember, the Lib Dems were against cuts in public expenditure on the scale propsed by the Tories. Now they are not. What they tell us now is that these cuts are necessary and like Pilgrims Progress to the promised land they bring us all closer to full employment, rising living standards and sunshine. Trust us, you will see how wise we are it is said.
The Lib Dems no longer command trust. But are they right? Certainly the OBR has consistently produced economic forecasts that suggest they might be. We are days away now from a reckoning. The first quarter GDP figures for the for 2011 is soon to be announced. It may be that over the last six months the British economy may not have grown at all, or if it has it will be at some miserable annualised rate. Unemployment may be rising not falling, inflation will continue to work its way up and not down and real incomes will be squeezed further. I do not know whether the OBR will be asked for a revised forecast but even if they are not asked, it is highly likely that some other respected forecasting institute will make a good fist of doing it. And what will be observed? I anticipate it: a rising budget deficit and no chance of the Coalition’s economic objective of eliminating the deficit by 2015 being achieved.
Is this not the real charge against the Lib Dems? Not the cavilling daily objections to their nonsense BUT one overriding error. On the essential and over-reaching issue of how to keep the economy growing and the public deficit falling THEY ARE PLAIN WRONG. The Lib Dems have sold their soul for a mess of potage to find it uneatable. The electorate will not forget it and a day of reckoning is close.
Filed under BBC, Budget 2011, Cabinet, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Financial Times, George Osborne, IFS, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem Conference, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Public Services, Rising prices, Spending Review, Treasury, University fees
Look old chap this interview is off the record. I trust you to keep it under your hat because you look a trustworthy sort of cove. OK? Good. Of course I’m worried about the student reaction to we Lib Dems breaking our pledge on the raising of student fees. When it came to the cruch we did not think that this was an issue on which we should have called a halt to Dave and abstained on the Commons vote. I know it and you know it and I suspect that students know it too. On reflection we should not have signed the pledge. I agree that we made too much of it for short term electoral advantage in a number of university towns. Have a heart, we are only human you know. We didn’t think for one moment that we would finish up in a Coalition with the Tories. At least I didn’t, did you? It was so very tempting. After all who but a fantasist takes note of the daft election promises of a party that has never shared power with any other party ( a short, dry laugh). Am I upset about it? Of course, I am. Broken promises on issues like this do come back to haunt you. I accept that. What I really think that if after five years all turns out for the best, electors will have either forgotten about it or will forgive us for doing the necessary dirty stuff. They do have short memories you know, I can quote you some examples. No? All right it’s your loss. If the Coalition fails no one will dwell on our mistake with the pledge and I shall go down with the ship. What if we go down and not the Tories? Of course that is possible. I have bad dreams about this and wake up sweating. The Tories win an election and we are reduced to seven members. God I hope not. Clegg the man of vice who ruined his party and went down with the ship! When I have had a shower and some coffee and toast, I usually recover. Look at it from my point of view. Leader of a tin pot party and then to everyone’s astonishment – including my own – Deputy Prime Minister and a heartbeat away from being number one. More than I could have dreamt about a year back. And for five years! When I look back on all this I shall wonder at what I achieved and make a fortune from my memoirs. Well, if Tony could do it why not me? And the party? Well, it will be a shame but a lot of people will praise me for giving them all a ride. Am I a hypocrite. In some ways, perhaps. Name me a man who isn’t if you care too. I thought not. Difficult isn’t it? Could it be that I am a plotting man of vice as some of my members dub me. Yes, they do. A volatile lot these Lib Dems. Let me give you a quote. Oscar Wilde, Hypocrisy, he said is a tribute vice pays to virtue. Abolition of student fees? Desirable. One day, perhaps but I doubt if I will be around at the time. Tempus fugit and all that, dont you think? Bottoms up.
Filed under BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem MPs, Lib Dems, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Students, Tony Blair, Treasury, University fees
I used to deliver a lecture with the title, ‘Can Governments Arrest Economic Growth.’ My considered answer was, yes, if they tried hard enough. The gist of the argument was that, ‘all things considered’ (the usual cop out) entrepreneurs and the rest of us were determined to improve our lot by hard work, skill and imagination, and that hampered as we were by government meddling and poor policy making, we usually succeeded. That is where we are now. We should expect the UK economy to bounce back from a depression given the fiscal and monetary stimulous it has been given. Left alone, so to speak, we would come out of it and resume our normal growth.
What is different this time is twofold: we have a huge budget deficit which the Coalition is determined to eliminate in four years and a concious decision to run back public service for ideological reasons. What we all need is economic growth and ‘full employment’ and an end to deficit reduction delusions. The Labour stimulous has given us an inflation rate which will not come down and there can be no more fiscal encouragement or quantity easing. Zilch and minus zilch for incomes per head for price increases will outscore the growth in wages, unemployment will rise as the VAT increase comes in January, and Boy George will be in trouble. He will not admit it. He dare not.
I had hoped, delusionist that I am, that we would then have a change of Government. I do not believe this now. I do not expect the Coalition will change course, the Lib Dems will not rebel in sufficient numbers, and the Tories will maintain most of their support amomg eectors as the the country endures bleak times (there is something masochistic in the British psyche). And so we shall muddle on hoping for the best. It will be said that the British lose every battle but the last. So Boy George will cling to the mast, violently sick, together with the rest of the crew, but buoyed to the last with the conviction that the storm will blow itself out and the ship will find a harbour.
Well it might. It is possible but I plead unlikely. No one in their last mind would want George to fail for we would all go down with the ship. What do we do then as the crew is washed overboard? Best to do whatever there is to be done sooner rather than later you might conclude. Mutinies sometimes succeed but not often. As our Dave might say, if you want to have a mutiny, have a plan. Can someone help me. What, please is the Plan?
Filed under Alan Budd, BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, David Smith, Deficit, Economics, George Osborne, IFS, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem MPs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Obama, OBR, Politics, Spending Review, Treasury, University fees
This is not a an indulgent fantasy of a lost musical past. My subject is universality that magic solution that binds us one to another in a decent society: not a Big Society nor a Little Britain but one which believes in the solidarity of its citizens, brother to brother, neighbour to neighbour. A decent universal state pension fairly earned by those who have worked and those of us who have stayed at home to care for children is just such a universal benefit so too in a National Health Service and Care for the Elderly. Speaking personally I have always believed that a free at the point of use education system came into the same category. I benefitted from such a free education system. No one in my family had enjoyed the benefits of a university education until my sister broke the mould and became one of the first women to be accepted by Barts for a medical degree. On her application form she had to list the occupation of her father: she wrote ‘Labourer’ Imagine this same wonderful individual today. She comes home from her clerical work and anounces to her astonished parent that she intends to become a doctor. ‘Oh, that’s good dear and how much will it cost.’ ‘Well if you help me with day to day expenses and we are talking of the medical fees alone, I shall run up a debt of over £100,000 pounds but I will not have to repay it at once. I can take a very long time to pay it off – maybe 20 years by which time it may well be twice the original debt perhaps £200,000.’ A long silence. ‘Look dear, my heart is with you, really it is. I would like to help you with this. I shall think very carefully about it because, of course, I have the duty to do so. But I can’t encourage you. All my life I have avoided debt. It is a dreadful thing I can assure you. (Ask David Cameron if you don’t believe me!) I think the answer will be no. What you might do is to approach charitable organisations. I’m sure there are some who would wish to help you. But darling think on it how could you do such a thing?’
What is a human life worth to us? Everything or nothing? Why stop at university education? There is more money to be made for loans to get children through school. Why should this be free? Why should we citizens pay for courses on needlework, cooking and carpentry to name but a few unnecessary courses. And why five days a week? Why not a shift system which would enable children to limit school to three days a week? Why not distance learning using standardised subject modules? After all most children spend more time at their computers playing silly games than they spend in a classroom. Just imagine the savings in public expenditure?
‘Don’t be silly’, I hear you saying, ‘there must be some service that are universally provided. ‘But not many AND not provided at my expense.’ ‘Well dear, you do not have children. This issue of education does not concern you, does it? Why should you pay for the education of those do-nothing children from the Council estate?’ Why indeed?
‘You should pay madam because you gain from the universal pink. We are one of you and, like it or not, we are one of you.’
Filed under Big society, Cameron, Conservative Home, Ed Milliband, Education, Free Schools, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, Pink Floyd, Politics, Schools, State schools, Treasury, University fees, Vince Cable