Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the Labour leadership contest is hearing the candidates acquiescing in the myth that Labour in office overspent – and, by implication, accepting the Tory framing that Labour crashed the economy. Of course it is more nuanced than that, but the outcome of the recent election shows that this is not a debate in which nuance plays much part.
The simple fact is that Labour did not overspend. In fact, as a percentage of GDP, New Labour spent less than Margaret Thatcher – an average of 41.5% of GDP against 44.2%. And in fact that figure hides the fact that after the 2007/8 crash, with the economy contracting viciously and rapidly, public spending as a proportion of GDP inevitably rose.
Moreover, spending is only one aspect of a deficit – you also need to consider taxation. And, again, Labour taxed less than Thatcher as a proportion of GDP – an average of 37.5% of GDP as against 42% under Thatcher. And, by 2007, public debt as a percentage of GDP was falling.
The high court has ordered an urgent judicial review into the benefit cap and its impact on disabled people and their carers, it has been announced today.
A claim by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to have the case dismissed was unsuccessful and the High Court ruled that the case should proceed to a full hearing, no later than October this year (2015).
The judgement comes soon after the Supreme Court ruled that the benefit cap breached children’s rights, meaning it could result in them not receiving “adequate food, clothing, warmth and housing, the basic necessities of life”.
Jason Horton on Google+ writes: “What happened to free education for all? Where did it change from a tax payer funded system that benefits everyone by providing educated and trained workers that contribute to the economy to one where students are charged a fortune and the emphasis is on them paying back loans?”
The answers are, of course: Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair happened. The change began in the late 1980s/early 1990s and has continued to this day – most notably with the addition of tuition fees under Blair and their tripling under Cameron and Clegg.
Education is now a profit-making project, and the current government is rolling this out ever-further with its plan to expand Free Schools and Academies, both of which are strands of education run by private concerns for profit.
World renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has spoken of his fears that a gifted academic with a condition as serious as his own would not be able to flourish in today’s tough economic times.
He said: “I wonder whether a young ambitious academic, with my kind of severe condition now, would find the same generosity and support in much of higher education. Even with the best goodwill, would the money still be there? I fear not.”
The word aspiration does not do it for me. I have already explained that I do, of course, aspire to many thing, but in current political debate the word aspiration appears far too often to mean the gratification of the desire to consume for it to have any acceptable political connotation that I would wish to share. That has not, however, stopped it becoming part of the current centre ground debate in British politics. That is because, I have no doubt, this debate is playing to the personal consumption agenda.
That then leaves a question. What is the word around which those who do not put personal consumption as their highest goal wish to coalesce in debate? I have given some thought to this issue, and the need for that one chosen word to convey a sufficient message within itself to communicate both what people feel and what an organisation that might use it, even as its organisational title, might stand for. The word I have so far settled on is ‘care’.
Perhaps she reads Vox Political.
This blog criticised Alex Salmond after he said he would campaign alongside anyone except “fascists and non-democrats”.
Or is she making a covert claim about Cameron’s true political persuasion?
SNP leader says she does not plan to campaign alongside David Cameron for a ‘yes’ vote in the EU referendum.
This is precisely what is wrong with the Labour Party today.
Nick Robinson is a well-known Conservative; there would be no point in hiring him unless Labour wanted to model itself more on the Conservative Party – and that would be a certain way to haemorrhage votes.
Until Labour’s top table members learn that people want a choice – not two parties that are the same – Labour will continue to lose.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson has revealed that he had to stop himself from roaring out loud with laughter when a senior Labour figure asked if the party could employ him as a spin doctor for Ed Miliband ahead of the general election.
He describes the moment when, alone in his office in Millbank in July last year, he was told down the phone that Labour “knows it has a problem and is determined to fix it,” that “the leader needs advice, and it has to come from someone with sufficient stature to ensure he’ll listen to it”.
“For the rest of the conversation I had to resist the urge to roar with laughter an inquire whether the caller had got the wrong number,” he wrote, and told the senior Labour figure that he was thankful for being considered but that he remained committed to journalism.
The broadcaster claims he still has “no idea” whether the approach was made with Miliband’s knowledge or “as is more likely, by someone freelancing to try to be helpful”.
Quite right too.
At least one Labour party member who expressed support for Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP on social media before the general election has been thrown out of the party, it has emerged.
The party took the extraordinary decision just two weeks after the election via a letter, informing a “Mr McLean” of Labour’s membership rules and his consequent exclusion from the party until 2020.
More worrying is this tweet by Jamie Ross, who publicised the letter but who clearly does not understand his own address:
For clarity, Jamie should know that he lives in the UK and Labour is a UK political party. All cleared up now? Good.
It seems somebody, at least, has been listening to what Labour’s grassroots supporters are saying.
But is Yvette Cooper just paying lip-service to concerns over statements by Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall, or does she mean what she’s saying?
We need to see far more commitment to Labour Party values – from all of them.
Speaking on the BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Cooper attempted to draw a distinction between her approach and those of the two other main hopefuls, Andy Burnham and Kendall, who have been quicker to ditch former leader Ed Miliband’s election policies.
Although Burnham has been seen as the favoured candidate of Labour’s left, Cooper appeared to be making a pitch to some of his potential supporters by making it clear that she would keep Labour’s policy of bringing back a 50p top rate of income tax.
“I think it is the right thing to do right now, yes, because the deficit is still coming down, it’s still too high, it’s got to come down and as part of bringing it down we should have a fair system to do so,” she said.
Cooper also warned against those using stigmatising language about benefit claimants, just days after Burnham talked about the need to address the perception that Labour gives an “easy ride” to those who want something for nothing.
She said she supported the principle of a benefit cap but had reservations about the effect of a £23,000 limit on people living in London in particular. “What I won’t do though is fall into what I think is a Tory trap of using language that stigmatises those who are not working. I don’t think that is about Labour values,” she said.
Benefits and Work has a rather pessimistic appraisal of the DWP’s appeal against my FOI victory on benefit deaths:
Unfortunately, this is far from the final stage in the proceedings if the DWP are determined to avoid publication. If they lose at the tribunal they can then go on to the high court, the court of appeal and the supreme court.
In addition, the government are now considering changing the law to give ministers an unchallengeable power to veto any freedom of information disclosure they choose.
Given that there unlikely to be anyone with pockets deep enough to take the DWP all the way to the supreme court to get these figures released, it seems certain the DWP can prevent their publication if they choose.
While the information is accurate, there are certain points that may be used against the Department:
Since all its arguments are rehashed versions of what it has already said, it may be possible to claim that the appeal is an abuse of process and have it thrown out. There needs to be at least a 50/50 chance of success and simply making the same claims again won’t cut any ice.
Also, the amount of money the DWP is throwing into this may cut against it. The Department’s claim is that the information is exempt from disclosure because it will be published in due course (a false claim as there is a one-year limit on that exemption and that time is up). But the Department has employed a £49,000-a-year Treasury barrister, no less, to fight this case, showing that it is prepared to spend far more public money on preventing this information from coming out than the £600 to which the FOI Act limits public authority expenditure in publishing the information.
Logic therefore forces one to consider: Why does the DWP want to spend so much money preventing this information from being published – especially if its defence is that it will be published in the near future anyway?
If the tribunal’s answer to that question doesn’t mitigate against the DWP, you can be sure that the UN’s will.
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