Tag Archives: £30 billion

Sturgeon U-turns over £30bn cuts claim

150527sturgeoncharter

This is not a good week to be a supporter of the Scottish National Party or its two-faced leader.

She and her party, turned, turned and turned again over whether to vote on the Tories’ forthcoming vote on repealing the fox hunting ban. Does anybody know what the SNP’s current position is? Will MPs vote, despite it being an issue that doesn’t affect Scotland, or will they abstain – despite the fact that this makes them worse than the Labour Party the SNP pilloried for abstaining from votes that were much less important in comparison?

Last Friday we discovered that the Cabinet Office had ruled that a memo, suggesting she had lied about wanting to support a minority Labour government led by Ed Miliband – because he’s not “prime minister material” – and would prefer David Cameron to continue, was not a fake but was real, and the civil servant who wrote it believed the information in it to be correct (although he did express reservations as to whether his informant had correctly understood what she was saying).

Yesterday (Tuesday), she U-turned again – this time on her claim that the Charter for Budget Responsibility, which Labour supported, would require that party to support £30 billion of government spending cuts during the 2015-20 Parliament.

This blog made it perfectly clear that the Charter itself requires no such thing – and, now that Labour has been defeated, it seems Ms Sturgeon feels the coast is clear enough for her to admit the same.

The Times is saying she has reversed her opposition to the Charter, and the Financial Times states: “Nicola Sturgeon said the Conservatives’ own ‘charter for budget responsibility’ contained enough flexibility to allow higher-than-planned spending while still reducing the UK’s deficit.”

Here’s Patrick Wintour of The Guardian:

150527SNPcharterwintour

The difference is written clearly in the graphic at the top of this article. On April 7: “Cuts that are required… £30 billion”. On May 26: “Flexibility to increase spending.”

Two-faced.

Clearly, young Nicola owes the Labour Party – and former Shadow Chancellor (now ex-MP) Ed Balls – a rather hefty apology.

Of course, this doesn’t just show that Sturgeon was lying when she lambasted Labour for showing the same support for the same Charter that she’s showing now.

It shows that she was lying when she claimed the SNP would support a minority Labour government. She and her party did everything they could to ensure that such a government would never be elected – in this case, casting doubt on its financial reliability.

And that, of course, makes it all the more likely that she really did say she wanted Cameron to continue as Prime Minister, in that oh-so-hotly-disputed conversation with the French ambassador.

The SNP’s most ardent members and supporters will never admit this, of course. They hate any criticism (as has – again – been noted by this blog; read the article and the comments) and refuse to pay any attention to rational arguments.

But the evidence is clear for everybody else. It seems the Tories have another set of 56 new allies in the House of Commons.

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£30bn cuts – has anybody actually READ the Charter for Budget Responsibility?

z30billionausterity

Why do anti-Labour cultists keep ranting on about assumed crimes against the people that have never taken place?

Last night, This Writer had to endure the ravings of SNP cultists who were adamant that Labour signed up to £30 billion of Tory austerity cuts when the Party supported the Charter for Budget Responsibility. This simply isn’t true, as an examination of the Charter itself will prove. It’s only 20 pages long, and many of them are blank, so it isn’t exactly hard work.

The trouble is, the critics are as this blog has defined them – cultists. They’re not interested in the facts; they want to publicise the lines they’ve been fed by their leaders. Nicola Sturgeon said in last week’s televised leader debate that Labour supported £30 billion of austerity cuts, so to the cultists it must be true.

They are like the Catholic Church, when it imprisoned Galileo for claiming the Earth revolves around the sun. Fortunately for their sanity, the Catholics realised their mistake; it is doubtful the cultists ever will.

Last night, one of them claimed (wrongly) that in the Scottish leaders’ debate, Labour’s Jim Murphy had admitted that Labour has accepted the disputed amount of cuts: “OMG you obviously didn’t see tonight debate they admitted it ! Live on TV Jim Murphy had to admit it because LiBDEms And tory leaders made him… He got pulled up by all parties on his lies.”

This Writer hadn’t seen the debate (was at band practice instead), so had to check the news media for the facts – and found them in the Irish Times: “The Irish Times says he pulled Sturgeon up for lying about it: ‘You might get away with that in England but not here in Scotland.'”

Another cultist then took up the baton and tried quoting from the debate on the Charter for Budget Responsibility – the source of the claim that Labour supported £30 billion of austerity cuts (the claim is that, in supporting the Charter, Labour supported the Tory cuts). It is impossible to bring you a direct quote from this person as they have now blocked This Writer – a common tactic among those who can’t accept their mistakes.

This writer’s response was: “Try reading the charter instead… no mention of ‘£30 billion’ or ‘cuts’… The £30 billion does not exist outside of George Osborne’s own plans… If you read the Charter, you will see that is absolutely correct to say the charter could be supported with no problem.”

The Charter itself – in the version debated in Parliament on January 13 – is available on the web here. It states:

“The Treasury’s objectives for fiscal policy are to:

  • ensure sustainable public finances that support confidence in the economy, promote intergenerational fairness, and ensure the effectiveness of wider Government policy; and  
  • support and improve the effectiveness of monetary policy in stabilising economic fluctuations.

The Treasury’s mandate for fiscal policy for this Parliament, announced in the Budget on 22 June 2010, is:

  • a forward-looking target to achieve cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the rolling, five-year forecast period.

At this time of rapidly rising debt, the Treasury’s mandate for fiscal policy is supplemented by:

  • a target for public sector net debt as a percentage of GDP to be falling at a fixed date of 2015-16, ensuring the public finances are restored to a sustainable path.

To ensure that expenditure on welfare remains sustainable, the Treasury’s mandate for fiscal policy is further supplemented by:

  • the cap on welfare spending, at a level set out by the Treasury in the most recently published Budget report, over the rolling five-year forecast period, to ensure that expenditure on welfare is contained within a predetermined ceiling.”

No money figures are mentioned at all.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls capitalised on this in his speech during that day’s debate: “Let me explain what is going on here. It is a three-year rolling target, so in 2015the three-year target presumably refers to 2017-18, but in 2016 it is rolled forward to 2019 because that is three years later. In 2017, it rolls on to 2020 and in 2018 it rolls on to 2021.

“It is a three-year rolling target, so it rolls on, which means that the Chancellor could come back to the House in 2020 and say, ‘It is okay. Consistent with the charter, I am meeting the aim because I am balancing the current budget in 2023.’ That is what this says and it is utterly ridiculous. It does not even sign him and his party up to balancing the current budget by the end of the next Parliament.

“The fact is that for all the boasts, the rhetoric and the talk of traps, in this new charter before the House it is not targets but aims; it is not balancing the overall budget but the current budget; it is not an absolute commitment to deliver a surplus in the next Parliament, but an absolute commitment to a three-year rolling five-year target.

“The Chancellor has spent all of the past nine months telling everybody what a clever wheeze this is and, once again, it has totally backfired. It is less of a trap and more of a load of complete pony and trap.”

A “load of complete pony and trap” is exactly what all the talk of Labour supporting £30 billion of cuts is.

So what is Labour’s plan? This blog has already outlined it, but for clarity here’s the relevant information from the Vox Political article:

“The ‘Charter for Budget Responsibility’ is highly elastic: it’s not based on a firm commitment to reach balance in 2017-18,” states the Resolution Foundation… “Instead it represents a rolling ‘aim’ of planning to reach current balance three years down the road.” The article adds: “Most economists are sceptical about how much difference it (the charter) will make.

“So what if Labour targets a current balance in 2019-20 instead? Based on current OBR assumptions this could be achieved with as little as £7 billion of fiscal consolidation in the four years to 2019-20 (including the cost of extra debt interest).”

Labour has made it clear that it plans to make only £7 billion of cuts. As this coincides exactly with the Resolution Foundation’s figures for a 2019-20 budget balance, logic suggests that this is most likely to be what Ed Balls is planning.

So now you know. Anybody suggesting Labour is planning huge, Tory-size, austerity cuts should be sent to this article and told to get a clue.

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What lurks within the brain of the Bolsover Beast?

Dennis Skinner - Parliamentary straight-talker.

Dennis Skinner – Parliamentary straight-talker.

Here’s an interesting criticism that was made following VP‘s article on the Charter for Budget Responsibility.

According to its author, this blog’s observations – that Labour was perfectly able to support the Charter as it was presented to Parliament, because nothing in it was opposed to Labour’s plans – were inaccurate because Dennis Skinner voted against it.

It seems clear that this person was suggesting that Mr Skinner, paragon of Labour values that he is, was voting against the line taken by the party’s leaders because it disagreed with his own – traditional – Labour principles.

This writer would not wish to presume knowledge of the mind of the Bolsover Beast. However, a simpler explanation does present itself.

Labour supported the Charter for Budget Responsibility because it is worded in such a way as to seek a balanced budget by the third year of a five-year period, without suggesting when this period would start or end. The Charter does not attempt to restrict any UK government on its methods of achieving this, so Ed Balls made it perfectly clear that Labour was happy to support what was being suggested.

The Conservative Party would have won the vote, with or without Labour’s support, thanks to the slavish help of its Liberal Democrat thralls. It has been avid to put forward the impression that the goal can only be achieved by imposing £30 billion of spending cuts on the poorest people in the nation, with no other measures being used. That is what will happen if a Conservative government is elected in May – and it seems there are those on the social media who want you to think Labour has subscribed to this.

Those people clearly did not listen to the Parliamentary debate, haven’t read the record of it in Hansard, haven’t read the Charter itself or haven’t seen the Vox Political articles (this last is excusable as VP is a very modest blog).

As was explained at length in the debate (and also on this blog), Labour plans to reduce the national deficit by reversing the tax cuts conferred on our richest citizens by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and imposing a progressive taxation system to ensure that those best able to pay will do so; Labour does plan some spending cuts, but it also plans to do something that doesn’t seem to have occurred to the Conservatives: Stimulate economic growth.

There was, therefore, no reason for Labour not to support the Charter!

In fact, doing so was a way of mocking the Conservatives; rubbing Tory faces in the fact that they had tried to set a fiscal trap for Labour but had done so in such a poor way that it didn’t matter.

This is where, in this writer’s opinion, the Labour leadership and Mr Skinner diverged.

To a no-nonsense man like Dennis Skinner, this kind of game-playing is unnecessary – frivolous, perhaps. He may even see it as unduly making light of a situation that, for the electorate, is deadly serious. People are struggling because the Tories squeezed the economy; many have died.

He also knows that no Parliament can bind its successor; if Labour is elected in May, it can ignore the vote on the Charter for Budget Responsibility completely.

So it would be entirely reasonable for him to see this debate, and the vote that followed it, as nothing more than party political game-playing, and not for him.

It isn’t that most of the Labour Party supports continued economic austerity – that was disproved in the debate. It certainly isn’t that Labour will follow the Conservative plan of £30 billion in cuts – that was also disproved in the debate, and in the fact that a future Labour Parliament can ignore the decision in any case.

It seems far more likely that he simply didn’t want to play the Tories’ silly game.

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