The echoes of the thud with which Edward Colston’s statue hit the slabs probably hadn’t even died away before a Downing Street spokesman was telling us Boris Johnson is convinced the UK is not racist.
The country doesn’t have to be; he alone is racist enough for all of us:
No 10 spokesman for a Boris Johnson who called Black people “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and Muslim women “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, says the PM doesn’t think the UK’s racist. I can think of one prominent member, Downing Street address, who spouts crude racism
— Virgoest Virgo of them all🇯🇲🇻🇨 (@SoulSmellsofAmi) June 8, 2020
(Incidentally, if anyone sees that hypocrite Finkelstein getting on his high horse about anti-Semitism about this, just remind him that he was happy to praise the racist Churchill.)
The fact that the UK state endorses racism is proved by a simple fact: even though we have laws to prevent racial antagonism from being stirred up, the police will not use them against the Prime Minister – he is literally above the law, despite all claims by the Establishment that nobody is:
This Writer has experienced the same frustrations when reporting other members, of previous governments, for law-breaking. The police either say it’s somebody else’s problem or flat-out refuse to consider it.
In the case of a government minister – or indeed the Prime Minister – displaying racism, this becomes an example of not just institutional, but structural racism:
“Multiple institutions” – in this case the police and Parliament – “collectively uphold racist policies and practices.”
So Johnson is completely wrong.
The United Kingdom is racist. Perhaps the prime minister can’t see it because he’s such a damned racist himself.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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.
I know I used this photo very recently, but it’s the only one I feel really gets across the CHARACTER of our vampiric Chancellor.
Oh look, Gideon George Osborne’s an idiot again. Or a genius, depending on whether you’re a fan of responsible government or of shrinking the State.
He’s going to cut government spending by £48 BILLION in the next government spending round (The Guardian says he could increase taxes by that amount but I think we all know that’s not going to happen. Not to the rich, anyway).
It turns out the economy is weaker now than when he started – no surprises there, that’s what his policies were intended to do – so he’ll have a bigger gap to bridge when he makes his next set of multi-year spending plans. Let’s bear in mind that there will be an election around this time; we can boot this bunch of economically-illiterate lunatics back out to rot in their country estates and get someone in who actually wants to do some good.
Assuming that doesn’t happen, according to The Grauniad, in addition to the deep cuts in government departmental spending for 2010-15, Mr 0 pencilled in £26 billion of additional cuts for the next spending round “to complete” – don’t laugh – “the repair work”. Obviously “repair” was a space-holding word and they were looking for an appropriate one. “Demolition” seems a likely contender to me.
It turns out the UK’s structural deficit – that’s the shortfall in the public finances that will remain when the economy has fully recovered from the recession, as they love to remind us – was 1.1 per cent of GDP higher than forecast in March. So that wipes out the one per cent growth we had in the last quarter, then. Harumph.
This means that the current spending round’s cuts of 2.3 per cent will be dwarfed by the 3.7 per cent further cuts required in the next one – so everything is going to plan, you see.
The paper quotes Ian Mulheirn, director of the Social Market Foundation thinktank, as saying: “The chancellor will have to lay out some eye-watering cuts at the next spending review and will prolong austerity deep into the next Parliament.” Eye-watering to you, sir – MOUTH-watering to him.
For those of us who know we’re going to have to pay for it (some of the poorest with their lives, I’m sure. It’s already happened in this Parliament; if the Conservatives continue into the next, it’ll only get worse) also know that it could be very different.
This government has overseen and facilitated some of the worst tax avoidance fiascos in the history of, well, taxation itself, I expect. Look at the article I posted yesterday about the water companies. Look at Starbucks, Google, and Amazon, that are all having to explain themselves because they are companies owned by Johnny Foreigner. It’s all right for British businesspeople to stash your cash in tax havens abroad, but we can’t let just anyone have it, can we?
Come to that, look at how gas prices are allegedly being manipulated for their own ends by the big power companies, which is the lead on The Guardian‘s website as I type this. That market is worth £300 billion, according to the paper. How much of that does the State get, and how much disappears?
If I hear one more overprivileged bozo telling me it’s what the law allows I shall retch in my – in HIS – hat. The law allows it because the laws are being MADE by an overprivileged bozo – Gideon George Osborne!
There’s trouble at the top of both the UK’s main political parties, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has become slightly more popular than the Labour leader Ed Miliband, allowing the newspaper to stoke fears of a new power battle at the top, mirroring the problems of the Blair/Brown rivalry.
But the Conservatives are no better off, after George Osborne was singled out as the weakest member of the Coalition cabinet and the one most people wanted moved in the much-anticipated autumn reshuffle.
The Guardian article asks you to believe that Balls and his shadow treasury team have become hard work, demanding that no commitments can be made on anything that has spending implications without clearing it with them first. He is said to be demanding that shadow ministers should just keep repeating his five pledges for growth.
I think this is media-manufactured mischief.
My instinct tells me it is an attempt to continue a narrative that has been created around Ed Balls, that he was a key supporter of Gordon Brown against Tony Blair, while Brown was preparing to take over as Labour leader and Prime Minister, a few years ago – by suggesting that he remains a disruptive influence today.
This would be invaluable to supporters of the Conservative Party, which is losing support rapidly for reasons I will tackle shortly.
But I think it is a false assumption. We’ve all moved on a long way from the time when Mr Miliband parroted the same answer, no less than six times, to a series of questions from a television interviewer. That made him – and Labour – look silly and Mr Balls would be a fool to encourage any repeat of that situation now. And he’s nobody’s fool.
The Blair/Brown rivalry was played out while Labour was in power; today that party is in opposition and the greater priority by far must be the removal of the Conservatives from government. All other considerations should be secondary to the people at the top of the party. If Ed Balls is guilty of the kind of posturing suggested by the newspaper, he needs to suck it in, get behind his leader, and show – by example – that Labour is united.
The problems within the Conservative leadership are far more serious.
I think, as a nation, we are more or less agreed that George Osborne’s tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a disaster.
His spending review in late 2010 stalled the economy. Growth flatlined for a period, then the UK fell into double-dip recession, with GDP now less than it was when Labour left office.
His budget in March this year is now generally considered the most ridiculous travesty in living memory, featuring plans to give a tax break to the richest in society – the now infamous cut in the top rate of tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent – which would be supported by a range of hare-brained schemes including taxing static caravans and heated pasties.
And it is now accepted that the Coalition is unlikely to reach its two main economic goals – the reason the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came together to form a government in the first place – before the next election in 2015, according to the Tories’ own Centre for Policy Studies thinktank. This is due to the failure of Mr Osborne’s fiscal policy.
The coalition had already given up hope of getting rid of the structural deficit by 2015 and the chance of ensuring that public-sector debt is falling by the time of the next election is now slim, the organisation has stated.
The Guardian/ICM poll says 39 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 want Osborne moved to a different cabinet role, if not sacked outright. Asked if Osborne is doing a bad job, agreement goes up to 44 per cent.
But it seems Mr Cameron might keep Osborne, firstly because the chancellor is his closest cabinet ally – his own position is stronger if Osborne remains in place; and secondly, because he believes changing chancellor midway through a Parliament indicates weakness to the country – and, in particular, the markets.
Mr Osborne might be the most prominent problem for the Tories, but he isn’t the only one. There have been calls for the sacking of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary who brought privatisation into the NHS despite Mr Cameron’s claim – on Tory election posters – that he would not harm the health service. Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt are also in the firing line.
Transport secretary Justine Greening has threatened to resign over plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport, and internecine squabbles have broken out, with Nadine Dorries attacking fellow Conservative Louise Mensch, who is quitting as an MP, for being “void of principle”.
So which party is in the most disarray?
Call me a loony leftie Labourite if you want, but on the evidence above, I don’t think there can be any doubt. Despite attempts to manufacture disunity in Her Majesty’s Opposition, it is the Conservative Party – and therefore the government – that is falling apart.
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