Tag Archives: balance

Tories have frittered away half a trillion pounds. Is this good financial management?

This looks like another result of Brexit.

It is balance of payments data – the difference between the amount we pay to foreign countries for goods and services and the amount we receive – that shows the loss.

Also, direct investment in the UK by foreign firms has nose-dived.

It is exactly as This Writer warned, only a few days ago.

The really galling aspect of this is that the minority Conservative government will still claim to be the party of sensible financial management, even though it is its own division over Brexit that has created the uncertainty in which the money has disappeared.

Remember: Brexit is happening because David Cameron thought a referendum on EU membership would unify the Tories. It didn’t.

Remember: The vote to leave the European Union was based very strongly on lies and wild speculation by people who knew better but were trying to trick the public. There was never any chance of the NHS seeing £350 million of investment per week, for example.

Remember: The Conservatives have botched negotiations on the terms of our departure so badly that businesses are fleeing the UK. They can’t get away fast enough.

The longer this farce continues, the worse it will be for the UK as a whole.

And it will be the poor who bear the brunt of the harm.

Global banks and international bond strategists have been left stunned by revised ONS figures showing that Britain is £490bn poorer than had been ­assumed and no longer has any reserve of net foreign assets, depriving the country of its safety margin as Brexit talks reach a crucial juncture.

A massive write-down in the UK balance of payments data shows that Britain’s stock of wealth – the net international investment position – has collapsed from a surplus of £469bn to a net deficit of £22bn. This transforms the outlook for sterling and the gilts markets.

“Half a trillion pounds has gone missing. This is equivalent to 25pc of GDP,” said Mark Capleton, UK rates strategist at Bank of America.

Making matters worse, foreign ­direct investment (FDI) by companies is plummeting. It fell from a £120bn surplus in the first half 2016 to a £25bn deficit over the same period of this year.

Source: Britain’s missing billions: Revised figures reveal UK is £490bn poorer than previously thought


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Trade deficit confirms greed of British exporters

There had been hopes that the major fall in the pound in the wake of the Brexit vote in 2016 would boost manufacturing exports [Image: Reuters].

This Site said it last month – now the figures seem to have confirmed it: Greedy British business bosses has sunk a chance to improve our trade balance by selling more abroad.

Instead, it seems they have simply put up prices on the exports they already make.

I stated last month that the fall in sterling, after the EU referendum result in favour of Brexit, created an opportunity for UK exporters. It meant they could sell their products abroad more cheaply.

This would have made our exports more desirable, meaning (hopefully) that more foreign clients would buy them.

But exporters decided to push their prices up instead, making our products less desirable (although extorting more money from clients who were already contracted to buy from them).

Meanwhile, the depreciation in the value of the Pound meant imports became more expensive, squeezing UK citizens’ ability to buy and fuelling the recent rises in inflation.

The UK racked up a record trade in goods deficit in August, confirming the failure for the slump in sterling to help improve the UK’s trade balance.

The Office for National Statistics reported that the UK exported £28.1bn of goods in the month and imported £42.4bn, leaving a deficit of £14.2, the highest on record.

Over the three months to August exports fell 2.7 per cent while imports rose 3.9 per cent.

There had been hopes that the major fall in the pound in the wake of the Brexit vote in 2016 would boost manufacturing exports, helping to bring down the UK’s chronic trade in goods deficit.

But, so far, such hopes have been disappointed, as import values have risen in line with exports and UK firms seem not to have seized the opportunity of the more competitive exchange rate to increase their market share abroad.

Source: UK trade deficit at record high after pound slump fails to help export performance


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Labour groups rally to support Vox Political writer’s bid to restore party democracy

[Image: Getty Images.]

[Image: Getty Images.]

Labour branches and constituency parties across the UK are being asked to support a series of moves intended to restore democracy in the party – and This Writer couldn’t be happier because they are based on a motion that I drafted.

The summer of 2016 was a long and difficult one for Labour Party democracy. There was the rebellion and attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn that ended with him being re-elected as party leader with a larger mandate. And there was the election of six new Constituency Labour Party representatives to the ruling National Executive Committee.

All six places went to members of the Corbyn-supporting Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (although one of the candidates, Ann Black, has since proved to be less loyal than some of us might have hoped) – giving Mr Corbyn a narrow majority.

It seems right-wingers in the Labour Party decided to dispense with the rule book – and party democracy – and introduced a plan to put two new members on the NEC to overthrow Mr Corbyn’s majority. The idea was that Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour would be given representatives on the NEC, who would be nominated by the leaders of those party groups, who are both anti-Corbyn, rather than elected by their memberships who support the party leader.

The resolution to add these new members to the NEC was passed as part of a package of 15 changes to party rules at the national conference in September. They were pushed through against the wishes of delegates who wanted to vote on each matter separately, and who demanded a card vote. Instead, then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis refused both demands – breaking conference procedural rules in the process. The full story is here.

This is where I became involved. I raised the matter with my local Labour Party branch, and wrote a motion pointing out that Mr Lillis broke conference rules, that the changes he imposed are therefore undemocratic and may not be enforced, and that the decision should be nullified.

That motion was supported by Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party and is to be considered by the NEC as soon as possible.

I publicised the matter on This Blog, and I know other CLPs have passed similar motions. I was also contacted by Steve Burgess, a Labour member based near Manchester, who raised issues with the wording of my motion and with my opinion of Ann Black, who was present as a speaker at the CLP meeting when it won members’ support, despite her comments in opposition to it (a dialogue with Ms Black followed in the comment columns of This Blog, ending with this article, after I finally lost patience with her).

Mr Burgess thought my motion needed to be modified in order to pinpoint exactly the faults in Mr Lillis’s behaviour and the breakdown in party democracy that followed. He has devised a series of five motions which he urges Labour Party branches to consider passing and taking to their CLPs, and from there to the CLP representatives on the NEC. He has gained the support of Corbyn-supporting group Momentum in this, and his motions can be found on an unofficial Momentum website, here.

The introduction to the page suggests, “These are the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party, since [they defeat] a constitutional amendment that undermines the will of conference to direct and veto changes to the supreme ruling executive body which controls everything from expulsions to shortlists and membership in the Labour Party.”

Some might think that I should be offended by what appears to be an attempt to seek credit based on work that I have done. Well, I’m not offended.

It is extremely flattering to have created the basis for “the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party”. It is unlikely that they would have appeared as the do – possibly at all – without my original work.

I think Mr Burgess has produced an interesting and exhaustive piece. It’s a little long-winded – I was told my own motion was extremely long, and it is much shorter than the series of five that he has produced.

My feeling is that other BLPs and CLPs may wish to render the actual motions down to the basic demands, with everything else tacked on as supporting information.

I know several CLPs have already submitted motions based on mine; hopefully more will submit motions based on his.

I’m pleased to have started this but I knew that it wasn’t something I could manage alone, so I am delighted that others are doing their own thing with it.

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Labour NEC member should reconsider her position if she continues to oppose democracy

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

By “reconsider her position”, I mean Ann Black should resign and make way for somebody who is willing to represent Labour Party members, if she is determined to deny the facts.

Readers of This Blog will know that Ms Black has taken issue with me for sending a motion to Labour’s National Executive Committee, calling for it to nullify rule changes that were wrongly imposed at the party’s conference.

Then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time, broke the conventions under which voting is carried out at the conference – its rules, if you like – in order to deny delegate a chance to vote on 15 rules changes separately, and by card (which gives an accurate number of votes ‘for’ and ‘against’) rather than by hand (which doesn’t).

The package of changes included one that would put members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour on the NEC who would not be elected by their respective membership, but nominated by the regional leaders. This would have changed the composition of the NEC in a material way, as the balance of power would have changed from a narrow majority in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to a narrow majority against him.

I have reported on these facts, and on the motion that was raised by my local Labour branch and passed at a Constituency Labour Party meeting which Ms Black attended. You can read my report on it here.

Ms Black, it seems, is not happy with the result of that meeting and has been trying to claim that the motion is based on errors ever since. She is either mistaken, or she is deliberately attempting to mislead Labour Party members. If the latter, then I think it is time she handed in her resignation.

It would indicate that she got onto the Welsh Labour Grassroots ‘Left Slate’ under false pretences and should make way for somebody who actually represents the views of that organisation, including respect for democracy.

Her latest comment to This Blog was received on Thursday, when This Writer was at a meeting of a local organisation, of which I am vice-chair of its board of trustees. The meeting was 30 miles away from my home and took all day. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything but put up a few articles and call it a day. I spent yesterday (Friday) working to get caught up on the blog, and also dealing with other matters (don’t forget that I am a carer and this site is a spare-time occupation).

In the meantime, I received a message on Facebook from a Labour member elsewhere in the country, who has been communicating with me because he is interested in submitting a motion to his own CLP, similar to mine. He told me he had been in communication with Ms Black and she had said she had submitted comments to my blog but I had not published them.

Is it paranoid of me to take this as an implication that I only publish comments that support my own opinions? That would be outrageously offensive.

You can see from the foregoing that I have been busy, and you can also see – from the comment columns attached to other articles – that I publish comments of all kinds, reserving the right to respond if I think it is necessary.

This is the first chance I have had to respond to Ms Black, so I think I’ll make her a special case. After all of the foregoing, I’m sure you’ll want to know what she had to say – and I certainly have a few things to offer in reply. She begins:

Life is too short to pick up all the errors online and elsewhere, but here goes:

Oh, I’m in error online and elsewhere, am I? How interesting that she frames her comment with such an assertion from the start.

1) Lifting the motion from a website. I said this because someone in Lewes submitted a motion with text identical to that on voxpoliticalonline, right down to mis-spelling Christine Shawcroft’s name as Shawcross. Clearly they had the same origin. I don’t believe Mike gave his surname at the Brecon meeting, but accept that he wrote the motion and Lewes lifted it, rather than both lifting from the voxpolitical original. Interestingly after I’d corresponded with Lewes they amended their motion to keep the sense but correct most of the inaccuracies in Mike’s version;

This refers to her claim, voiced at the CLP all-member meeting, that I lifted my motion from another website. I commented on this in an email to branch members, who knew that I had published the motion on Vox Political. As a result I received a rather incredulous reply from one member, asking: “She thinks you plagiarised yourself?” Yup.

She accepts now that I wrote the motion and the website where she read it was my own. She says she was confused by a motion that went to Lewes CLP(?) that was exactly the same, including the misspelling of Christine Shawcroft’s name (which is simply a typo. I try to ensure everything is right but sometimes errors creep in).

She says Lewes has since amended its motion to remove the inaccuracies in mine – presumably these are limited to the misspelling of Ms Shawcroft’s name and, possibly, an amendment of the claim that the CAC committee’s conditions are rules, even though they are de facto rules for the running of conference, as we have discussed already. If that’s what she wants to call an error, I think she’s in a minority.

2) I took no part in running the meeting, either to curtail or extend discussion – I’m not a member and would not dream of intervening;

Nor did I suggest that she did. She was a guest speaker whose speech was primarily a long attempt to justify the actions of the NEC over the summer – the moratorium on meetings, the ‘purge’ of party members in the run-up to the leadership vote, and so on.

3) Ditto the vote on the motion, where I gave my views, but as always it’s up to local members to decide;

Again, I did not suggest otherwise. Was it appropriate for her to comment as part of a discussion among CLP members, where she was not a member? I didn’t have the chance to call for her not to take part on the day – I tried but was not able to be heard. It seemed to me that her comments as an NEC member might carry more weight with members than they deserved. As it turned out, I need not have worried.

4) However where Mike says that there was “a huge amount of support”, the vote was recorded as 17 in favour, 11 against, two abstentions. I can understand why calls for a card vote at conference were seen as having “a huge amount of support” if that’s your definition;

Yes, the vote was recorded as 17 for the motion, 11 against, and two abstentions. In fact, one of the ‘against’ votes was intended to be for the motion but the lady doing the voting was 96 and was not able to get her hand up in time. I was only made aware of this fact at a branch meeting on Wednesday, otherwise I think the vote should have been run again to allow her vote to be recorded accurately. The motion had nearly twice as much support as opposition.

Even taking the vote as recorded, it’s 56.67 per cent in favour against 36.67 per cent against – almost as large a majority as Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” first Labour leadership election victory. I think support for my motion was big enough – don’t you?

5) Mike and other speakers for the motion said that it was nothing to do with Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC. Which raises the question of why he put them into his motion and why they are mentioned in most of the commentaries here and elsewhere about rule changes at conference.

This comment seems to be suggesting that the motion is about eliminating the nominated representatives to the NEC, and the illegitimacy of the way the vote was carried out is simply a means to that end.

It seems to me that this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack – Ms Black is suggesting that my motives are other than I have presented them – in an attempt to undermine support for me, as the person putting forward the motion, because she cannot defeat the logic of the motion itself.

What a nasty, underhanded way to behave! Is that the behaviour we would expect from a member of Labour’s highest authority? I don’t think so.

I could argue, in opposition, that Paddy Lillis intended to gerrymander those undemocratic, nominated-rather-than-elected, members onto the NEC and denied delegates their right to a card vote, taking each of the 15 rule changes separately, in order to achieve that. Such a suggestion would have more validity than Ms Black’s, because the facts strongly support it.

We have seen evidence, since I wrote my motion, that the 15 rule changes were not sent to the NEC as a package, but as separate measures; that the CAC members were misled into believing they were to be taken as a package; and that there is no precedent at all for new rules to be forced through as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ package at an annual conference, meaning the claim from the platform that it was standard practice is a lie.

None of the above changes the facts as laid out in my motion – that Mr Lillis broke the rules (or conventions, if you like) under which votes are taken at conference, meaning the result of that particular vote is therefore his will and not the will of the conference, and should be disregarded.

I mentioned Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour representation on the NEC in the motion in order to make absolutely sure that there could be no doubt about the package of measures to which I was referring. If I had not, it seems possible (if not downright likely) that attempts would have been made to confuse those measures with some other conference vote, or otherwise render my motion invalid or void.

I have no wish to deny Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour an opportunity to have representatives on the NEC – but I do believe those representatives must be democratically elected by the memberships of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour, not unelected nominees of the regional parties’ leaders (or, in the case of Scottish Labour, the leader herself, having taken it upon herself to seize the seat on the NEC that was offered to her).

There are serious and legitimate concerns here, but it’s helpful to get the facts straight first.

It is indeed – but Ms Black was trying to distort them.

I think she needs to reconsider her position, as a matter of urgency – not just regarding this matter, but also her position on the National Executive Committee.

Looking at the recent controversy over the NEC’s support for a report attacking members of Wallasey CLP, that contains accusations of criminal behaviour without solid evidence to support it, I wonder how Ms Black voted on that matter?

This behaviour should not be tolerated. We need representatives who will actually represent us, rather than peddling lies and distortions.

Am I right?

Send me your opinion using the comment box below. Please indicate whether you are  a Labour member or not.

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Setting the record straight on Sturgeon’s fiscal policy

The Resolution Foundation's predictions for government spending, based on the different parties' declared plans.

The Resolution Foundation’s predictions for government spending, based on the different parties’ declared plans.

Vox Political’s article on Nicola Sturgeon’s London speech provoked a disgruntled response from Jonathan Portes. The NIESR boss sent a message stating that the article’s fiscal arguments were out of whack.

He didn’t ask for this blog to straighten them out, but the information he sent, coupled with some other pieces he suggested – by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis and the Resolution Foundation – make it inevitable that another stab is required. If you support the SNP, you’re still not going to like it.

The first comment from Mr Portes is as follows: “1. SNP plan is slower deficit reduction than Lab/LDs, which in turn slower than Cons. All consistent with falling debt/GDP ratio. So all are sustainable.  Haven’t looked at detail, but Simon WL & I both think Lab too cautious – so SNP not obviously crazy.”

Simon Wren-Lewis’s article states:  “In reality what Sturgeon was proposing was still deficit and debt reduction, but just not at the pace currently proposed by Labour.”

And the Resolution Foundation adds: “The SNP would commit to delivering existing 2015-16 plans, as each of the Westminster parties have, before changing course.”

There’s a major point to make here, which all three of the sources above have missed. It’s that the SNP and its adherents have been cursing Labour from High Heaven to Low Hell for committing to Tory austerity policies because Ed Balls promised a Labour government would stick to Coalition spending – note that word, spending – limits for the first year after the general election.

Why have SNP adherents been slating Labour when the SNP has committed itself to the exact same Conservative spending limits, for the exact same period of time? Doesn’t this also make the SNP a party of austerity?

This leads us neatly to a point made by the Resolution Foundation. Ms Sturgeon wants to put a lot of space between SNP plans and those of Labour by claiming that Labour is committed to eliminating the UK’s structural deficit by 2017-18. They say Labour signed up to that when it voted to support the Charter for Budget Responsibility. You may recall there was another big fuss about Labour supporting Tory austerity, being just the same as the Tories, and there being only 17 MPs who oppose austerity (the number who voted against the CBR). Bunkum, according to the Resolution Foundation.

“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 article. “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 SNP (and Green) adherents who crowed about Labour austerity being as bad as that of the Tories need to apologise – sharpish.

Now that these points are cleared up, let’s look at the substantive issue. Here’s the Resolution Foundation again: “The first minister’s headline was that she favours £180 billion of extra spending in the next parliament relative to current coalition plans… an increase in ‘departmental spending’ of 0.5 per cent a year in real terms over four years [we’ve established that the first year’s spending would adhere to Coalition-planned spending levels]. Our estimates suggest that raising departmental spending by 0.5 per cent in each of the four years after 2015-16 would indeed yield a cumulative increase in spending of around £180 billion (in 2019-20 prices, £160bn in today’s) compared to existing coalition plans. So that seems to fit.

“Another, more conventional, way of putting this is that in the final year of the next parliament, departmental spending would be around £60 billion higher in the SNP scenario than it would be under the coalition’s outline plans. This means that departmental spending would end up in roughly the same place in 2019-20 (in real terms) as it is now. We’d see £8 billion or so of departmental cuts in 2015-16 broadly cancelled out by a rise of around £7 billion across the following four years. It also means that, all else equal, there would still be a (small) UK-wide current deficit come the 2020 election.”

As you can see from the graph, the scenario that suggests a Labour balance in 2017-18 would imply a big difference with the SNP, particularly in the first half of the next Parliament – but, come 2019-20, “there would still be a £48 billion gap between Labour and the coalition plans; not that far short of the £60 billion gap that would exist between the SNP and the coalition”.

The scenario in which Labour balances its budget by 2019-20 “would in theory be consistent with spending roughly £140 billion more than coalition plans.

“The SNP proposal implies increases in total departmental spending of £1-2 billion per year over four years whereas Labour’s 2019-20 scenario implies cuts of £1-2 billion per year over the same period. This is against total departmental spending of around £350 billion. By 2019-20 this difference adds up to roughly a £14 billion gap between the two parties. Now, that’s a real difference but given the scale of the numbers involved, (and the fact that some of Labour’s consolidation may come from tax increases rather than spending cuts), it’s also a relatively modest one.”

It’s more or less the same amount the Coalition Government borrows every month, in fact.

Now let’s throw a spanner in the SNP’s works. The Resolution Foundation points out: “Fiscal discussions of this type tend to suffer from a severe case of false precision. None of the party leaders knows any better than you or I what will happen to productivity next year, never mind in 2020… Any difference between, say, the Labour and SNP spending plans would be dwarfed by the fiscal implications of even modest boosts (or dips) in productivity. Indeed, even the very large difference between the SNP (or Labour) and the coalition’s plans could be overshadowed by a significant shift in productivity trends. And, to Sturgeon’s credit, her remarks this week emphasised productivity.”

Yes – productivity. Does anybody remember that, prior to the referendum, the SNP wanted Scottish voters to believe that any borrowing that might be necessary in an independent Scotland would be offset by increased productivity? What did Simon Wren-Lewis have to say about that? Oh yes: “Governments that try to borrow today in the hope of a more optimistic future are not behaving very responsibly.”

But that is exactly what Ms Sturgeon was proposing for the whole of the UK; borrowing on the assumption of increased productivity.

Here’s a chance to put another SNP myth to bed, from the same writer. In his article about Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Professor Wren-Lewis states: “Of course this is the same person who, with Alex Salmond, was only six months ago proposing a policy that would have put the people of Scotland in a far worse fiscal position than they currently are, an argument that has been reinforced so dramatically by the falling oil price. You could say that it is a little hypocritical to argue against UK austerity on the one hand, and be prepared to impose much greater austerity on your own people with the other.”

The argument he mentions ran as follows: “Scotland’s fiscal position would be worse as a result of leaving the UK for two main reasons. First, demographic trends are less favourable. Second, revenues from the North Sea are expected to decline. This tells us that under current policies Scotland would be getting an increasingly good deal out of being part of the UK [and therefore independence would be detrimental].”

He added that the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which had independently analysed the SNP figures, had made a mistake on interest rates. The IFS analysis, he wrote, “assumes that Scotland would have to pay the same rate of interest on its debt as the rUK. This has to be wrong. Even under the most favourable assumption of a new Scottish currency, Scotland could easily have to pay around one per cent more to borrow than rUK. In their original analysis the IFS look at the implications of that (p35), and the numbers are large.”

The Resolution Foundation notes that “the flipside of higher spending, all else equal, would be higher debt and higher debt interest payments”.

So the SNP plan, as this blog pointed out, could create an interest-payment problem for the next government that bites into the extra money said to be for services.

Mr Portes made two other minor points, as follows: “2. Your stuff about Lab could spend more if economy does better wrong way round. If economy worse, we need higher deficit. Over time, as income goes up, so does/should spending. But short-term macro should be countercyclical.”

When I wrote the material about Labour spending more in a better-performing economy, I was thinking of the Labour government immediately after World War II. The current Labour Party has mentioned this period in recent speeches and releases, and it seems clear that Messrs Miliband, Balls et al consider their task, if elected in May, to be similar to that faced by Mr Attlee and his party – the reconstruction of the UK after a long period of destruction.

Are we to believe the economy is likely to worsen, in which case more borrowing will be needed? It’s certainly possible that major shocks are on the horizon. This writer is in no position to speculate.

“3. Finally, stuff about credit rating agencies/bond markets/Greece is absurd propaganda. I’ve written on this many times.” He’s right; it wouldn’t have been included it if Yr Obdt Srvt had stopped to think about it, but the article was up against a deadline and this writer was throwing in all the cautionary words he could find.

So let us forget about them. Here are a few more. Simon Wren-Lewis, at the end of his article, notes: “I read a blog post recently that suggested this was an election Labour would be better off losing… A Labour government dependent on SNP support would be abandoned by the SNP at the moment of greatest political advantage to the SNP and disadvantage to Labour. However if we assume that the oil price stays low there is no way a rational SNP would want to go for independence again within the next five years. It might be much more to its long term advantage to appear to be representing Scotland in a responsible way as part of a pact with Labour.”

Is the SNP rational? All the evidence available so far suggests it isn’t.

It put forward arguments that were deceptive about an independent Scotland’s economic future.

Its representatives and followers spread lies about Labour economic policy.

All indications suggest the SNP will try to create the conditions required for Scottish independence at the earliest opportunity, and then leave the rest of the UK hanging.

The original article on Ms Sturgeon’s speech ended by saying the SNP would be hard to trust.

After the findings of this one, it is nigh-on impossible to do so.

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Is anyone stupid enough to fall for this Tory tax bribe?

131001cameronspeech

So David Cameron wants us to believe further public spending cuts will be used to ease the tax burden on the proles, does he?

He must think you’re stupid. Are you?

Exactly one month ago (February 5), the Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that Cameron’s Coalition government will be less than halfway through its planned spending cuts by the end of the current financial year, as Vox Political reported at the time.

These are the cuts that the government considers vital in order to bring the nation’s bank account back into some kind of balance in the near future.

If Cameron abandons the “long-term economic plan” his Tories have been touting for the last few months, in a bid to bring voters back on-side, it means he will want to make even more cuts if he is returned to office in 2015.

We can therefore draw only two possibilities from his claim:

There will be no tax cuts; he is lying, in the same way he lied about keeping the NHS safe from private companies – the same way Jeremy Hunt has lied about your medical records being kept away from companies who will use them to raise your health insurance premiums, and the same way that Iain Duncan Smith has been hiding the true extent of the deaths caused by the Atos- (sorry, OH Assist-) run work capability assessments.

He will make a few tax cuts (probably in the March budget) but any benefit will be clawed back as soon as the Tories have secured your votes and won another term; the only people they want to help are rich – and you don’t qualify.

According to yesterday’s (March 4) BBC report, “every efficiency” found could help provide a “bit of extra cash” for households.

But we already know from the BBC’s article about the IFS that “additional spending, population growth and extra demands on the NHS meant more cuts were needed”.

Cameron even contradicted himself in his speech! At one point he said, “Every bit of government waste we can cut… is money we can give back to you.” Then he went on to add: “If we don’t get to grips with the deficit now, we are passing a greater and greater burden of debt to our children.”

Which are you going to do, David? Give money back to the people in tax cuts or tackle the deficit? If you want to achieve your goals within the time limit you have set yourself, you can’t do both!

Not that deadlines mean anything to him, of course. As noted in the earlier Vox Political article, it is more likely that the Conservatives have been working to give themselves an excuse for more cuts, rather than to restore the economy and balance the books.

And if he does cut taxes, what public services will we lose forever as a result?

Think about it.

Don’t let this liar make a fool out of you.

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The ‘Big Benefits Row’ row

'To see ourselves as others see us': It is hard to stand on a platform when you can't even stand - but the social media are giving disabled people a stronger voice and a chance to take the spotlight, rather than the sidelines.

‘To see ourselves as others see us’: It is hard to stand on a platform when you can’t even stand – but the social media are giving disabled people a stronger voice and a chance to take the spotlight, rather than the sidelines.

I can’t directly reblog this but I think you should all read Sue Marsh’s article on her experience with Channel 5’s recent entry into the world of benefit porn.

Originally set to be a member of the panel on The Big Benefits Row (was that really what it was called?), Sue was ‘bumped’ at short notice and ended up being just an invited member of the audience, having to endure the rented opinions of people like the motormouth Alan Sugar had the good sense not to hire and the former Tory minister who was unlucky with eggs when they turned out not to be responsible for food poisoning and lucky with them when hers weren’t fertilised by then-PM John Major.

The most interesting parts of the piece are those relating to the attitude of the government to the benefits debate, as revealed by various TV producers: “They were shocked that invariably the DWP refused to take part unless the stories were edited their way. Iain Duncan-Smith has written repeatedly and furiously to the BBC about their lack of balance in reporting welfare issues. Anyone who follows the debate with even a flutter of fleeting interest will know just how ironic that is. If ever there has been an issue so poorly reported, with so much ignorance and so many lies, the current ‘welfare’ debate must be it.”

For myself, as someone who has to look after a disabled person every day, the way the production company treated Sue was simply unacceptable – and symptomatic of our society’s poor understanding of the misery suffered by people with chronic conditions.

Not only was she bumped from the panel at a moment’s notice, but she and other people with disabilities were treated poorly by studio managers (who’s “them”, for goodness sake?).

The article relates how she had been in London for an appointment and was physically drained afterwards, but had made the effort to stay active and alert for the recording – feeding on adrenaline. To be passed over in that circumstance – and have to watch while opportunities to state the problems faced by the disabled were themselves passed over by programme makers and panellists – was a metaphorical kick in the teeth.

Leaving the studio, Sue tweeted that she’d been given the bum’s rush by the show’s producers, and it is a credit to her online friends that she was trending very highly on Twitter soon afterwards.

But it is always as she states: “Yet again my friends, we shall have to make our own news… show producers of shows like the Big Benefits Row that we do have a voice, we do matter.”

So please visit Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, read the article and share it – along with your own opinion, if you take a strong enough view.

The social media give disabled people a voice that can’t be silenced or sidelined.

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Soundbite Britain: This is a game we can ALL play!

Here's a good anti-Coalition soundbite: It's based on a well-known saying and it tackles the falsehoods put out by Iain 'Returned To Unit' Smith.

Here’s a good anti-Coalition soundbite: It’s based on a well-known saying and it tackles the falsehoods put out by Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith.

Sitting in the cafe yesterday, I was discussing the situation in Egypt with a couple of friends. One was getting quite heated because he considered the problem to have been created by the “fundamentalist Islamic government they elected”.

He said something like, “These fundamentalists promised everyone the world. They said they would make everything better, did whatever they could to secure the vote – and then once they were in power they forgot all those promises and did whatever they wanted instead. They got what they wanted from the people and then the people could go hang.”

I couldn’t resist. “So you’re saying they’re exactly like the Conservative Party over here, then,” I replied.

Laughter all around. We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true. And because the only alternative is tears.

Let’s not dwell on the Egyptian situation beyond what I said afterwards – that the ‘Arab Spring’ countries seem to need help in establishing the basics of real democracy but there is nobody around who can provide it. They would (rightly) distrust any foreign power that claimed to offer help, but there’s no independent organisation that offers such a service either.

The UK would be one of the last places I would advise Egypt to look. Consider the last general election here. People with a lot of money to spend on it funded a hugely expensive election campaign to get the Conservative Party into power, in order to serve their interests which are to accumulate an even larger share of the available wealth, along with the power that goes with it, while removing and restricting the freedoms of the people from whom that wealth was to be drained.

Those people got involved in politics and worked very hard to make sure they got a government that genuinely serves their interests – selfish and cruel as those interests are. They ended up having to put up with a Conservative-led government, rather than a fully Conservative one, but are now working very hard to finish the job with a propaganda campaign – based on lies – that appears to be swaying public opinion.

So they say (and here I’m quoting Owen Jones in his recent analysis): “We’re clearing up Labour’s mess. Labour overspent and now we’re balancing the books. A national deficit is like a household budget. Welfare is out of control and lining the pockets of the skivers. The unemployed person or immigrant down the road is living off your hard-earned taxes. Labour is in the pocket of union barons.”

All of these are falsehoods. They’re lies. But they’re also very effective soundbites that stay in people’s minds and colour their perceptions of the way things are.

And those responsible get away with it, I’m sorry to say, because the people who stand to lose the most are lazy. They can’t be bothered to get involved and make sure the government they get is one that genuinely serves their interests.

Why do you think Her Majesty’s Opposition is filled with neoliberals who agree with the government that our public services should be carved up and handed to private companies, to run them for profit and not in the interests of the people? Why do you think the Labour Party has agreed to stick to Coalition spending plans for the first year of the next Parliament, if it gets elected? Why do you think Labour has stopped opposing social security policies that have been killing an average of 73 people a week (according to figures that are now well out of date, so the average today is probably much higher)?

Labour doesn’t stand up for you any more. That’s why it has had no effective answer to the Tory lies. The masses can’t be bothered to find out the truth – and certainly won’t lift a finger to get involved and stop the corruption that is eating our institutions away. But that is the only way it can be stopped. You stay away and they get what they want.

At this rate, we’ll all be slaves by 2020.

It doesn’t have to be so hard, though. We could all turn the corner, just by devising a few soundbites of our own.

I was thinking this last night, while I was writing a response to Margaret Johnson. Ms Johnson was commenting on a previous article as follows (apologies to anyone who’s offended; they’re her words, not mine): “It was Labour who signed up Atos, engineered so many civil service jobs that were not needed, opened the borders for the rest of the world’s trash to enter our country, brought in more taxes, actively encouraged the demise of manufacturing and the rise of the banks, signed up to allow Europe to rule us, doubled the rate for income tax for the lowest paid, gave GP’s 100K a year to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, got the most revenue in and still left this country in the worse mess ever.”

So we could say something like (and feel free to include ‘Liberal Democrats’ wherever I have mentioned Conservatives):

“It is the Conservatives who employed a private firm, paying £1 billion to ‘A-toss’ disabled people off the benefits they need to survive.” If Labour was doing its job properly it would add: “A Labour government would save that money by throwing Atos out”.

“No wonder the government can’t make anything work properly – they have been sacking all the professionals. More than 600,000 government employees will have lost their jobs by 2015, replaced by amateurs working for the Conservatives.”

“It’s strange that the Conservatives complain so much about immigration from Europe – they signed the treaties that allow it! The Conservative governments of Edward Heath and John Major allowed the free movement of European immigrants into the UK. Now they see it is unpopular, they want to shift the blame.”

“Simplified tax under the Tories mean the rich pay less and the poor pay more.”

“Conservatives destroyed Britain’s manufacturing base in the 1980s – at the same time they created the conditions that led to the banking crisis.”

“Conservatives want to blame Europe for your problems. Who will they blame when Britain is out of the EU and your problems have multiplied?”

Going back to Owen’s examples:

“Conservatives: The only people who think they can clear up a mess by making a bigger one.”

“Conservatives say Labour overspent – but they have always spent more than Labour. You can’t trust them to balance the books.”

“If the Tories handled their household budgets like they’re handling the deficit, they would all have been evicted by now.”

“Privatisation is out of control; the Tories are using taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of greedy bosses.”

“You paid for Iain Duncan Smith’s £39 breakfast. How much do you spend on your own?”

“The Conservative Party is in the pocket of big business and the bankers.”

Of course, the above are just essays in the craft of soundbiting; I’m just a beginner.

So let’s have a competition to see who can invent the best soundbite, challenging the government’s lies with facts!

Please send your ideas in to this blog – but also put them out to the national media as well, any way you can. Try to get anyone opposing the government to use them, because this may lead to them being picked up by the newspapers and TV news reporters as well.

Above all, please try to make this fun. A soundbite is many times more effective if it makes people laugh, and the Tories and Liberal Democrats are silly, silly people. Let’s bring that out.

Or is it too much like hard work after all?