Tag Archives: unsustainable

Don’t believe the Tories. THEIR spending plans are ‘reckless’ and ‘unaffordable’ – because of their Brexit

Sajid Javid: Would you trust him with your money? Really?

The Tories are spinning so hard on their spending plans, it must be making them dizzy.

The reason?

They are lying to you again. Labour’s proposals are sustainable but theirs are not.

That’s the verdict from Oxford University economist Simon Wren-Lewis, quoting the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Resolution Foundation (amongst others) in support.

Both parties are proposing extra spending, and the Tories are trying to scare you with the scale of Labour’s plan:

But they have miscalculated, basing their figures on false assumptions.

Let’s do the facts first:

The Tories’ spending increases are unsustainable because they are saying they will not increase tax.

Labour’s increases – large though they may be – are more sustainable than those of the Tories because Labour has said it will increase taxes – we know from the 2017 manifesto that Corporation Tax will go up, and taxes on high earners. This means Labour will stay within the rules it has set for itself; the Tories will not.

More damningly, though, the Tories cannot sustain their spending plans within the Brexit framework that they have negotiated.

The hard Tory Brexit that takes us out of the Single Market and the Customs Union means greater damage to the economy, along with lower earnings and therefore a lower tax take.

Labour will either negotiate a softer Brexit or cancel it altogether – depending on what the people decide. That means less economic damage, higher incomes, higher taxation… and therefore higher spending.

That is the conclusion of Professor Wren-Lewis, using evidence from those other organisations in support.

He also suggests that the economy – and public spending – is one area in which the Tories will most definitely not want to say this is a “Brexit” election.

They won’t want to mention Brexit at all. Because “once you factor in Brexit, the Tories extra spending is unlikely to be sustainable. They willl be forced to raise taxes or cut spending to keep to their current balance target. It will be even worse if Johnson throws in some last minute tax cuts in a desparate attempt to ensure he gets a majority. The OBR might have shown all this in its budget forecast, but the budget was conveniently postponed.”

(Isn’t it interesting how anything that might reflect badly on the Tories gets postponed? The budget, the report on Russian interference in UK democracy, the inquiry into Tory Islamophobia, the investigation into whether Boris Johnson gave undue support to Jennifer Arcuri – all are on hold, so the Tories don’t look completely corrupt and incompetent, it seems to This Writer.)

And this is what we have seen on the Sunday politics TV shows.

Sajid Javid appeared on the Marr show, spouting a load of unsupported nonsense – and when Andrew Marr called him out on it, he threw his toys out of his pram:

“These are eye-watering levels of spending,” says the Chancellor representing the party that has saddled the UK with a much larger amount of debt.

Then he whines, “It will leave this country with an economic crises within months. Not years – within months.” What a big baby. Professor Wren-Lewis’s figures show it is his spending that will cause any crisis.

And I hope the fact check websites are already investigating this “costofcorbyn.com” website. It’s clearly a Tory site and it seems clear that it is fake news.

Meanwhile, Kwasi Kwarteng appeared on Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday where he admitted that his own party couldn’t provide any numbers to justify its own spending plans.

“I’m not going to bandy around figures,” said clueless Mr Kwarteng. But that was exactly what he was doing. He doesn’t have Labour’s figures because his party’s claims are based on unfounded assumptions – and he didn’t have his own party’s figures because… well, why didn’t he have them?

Because they show that the Tories are the party of financial irresponsibility? And they are afraid to admit it?

Let’s face it – that’s the only conclusion to draw.

One last thought:

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.


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Voting with the Tories on ‘welfare’ will end any credibility Labour has left

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars - one only has to consider the UK's secret bombing of Syria - after Parliament voted against it - to see the truth in that.

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars – one only has to consider the UK’s secret bombing of Syria – after Parliament voted against it – to see the truth in that.

What an amazing piece in The Guardian about George Osborne’s call for “progressive” Labour MPs to support his entirely regressive changes to social security (the only people who call it “welfare” are Tories)!

Will people believe this pack of lies?

The article starts by saying he has urged “progressive” MPs in the Labour party to back his cuts in a major Commons vote today (Monday) on the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

He wants Labour MPs – but more importantly, the electorate, to think that the plan to cut child tax credits (among other measures) is what the public wants, and also builds on “mainstream Labour thinking”.

This is moonshine.

Labour believes that the profits of all our work should be shared out to ensure a decent standard of living for everybody, including those who cannot work but contribute to society in other ways. For example, if you have children, then you get child tax credits because their contribution to society has yet to be made.

Removing the tax credits and lowering the standard of living – as the Conservative chancellor’s plans would do to many people – is therefore the opposite of “mainstream Labour thinking”.

Osborne also calls on Labour to “stop blaming the public for its defeat”. This is typical Tory gaslighting. As a party, Labour has not blamed the public. The prevailing mood in the party is that Labour needs to draw the correct conclusions from the election result and create policies that acknowledge what the public wants, while fitting Labour values.

That’s real Labour values – not George Osborne’s fantasy.

You can tell that Labour isn’t doing as Osborne claims. Nowhere in the Guardian article is any factual evidence provided to show Labour has blamed the electorate for its defeat. Harriet Harman is paraphrased as having said the party needed to recognise that the electorate had sent Labour a message – which is quite the opposite.

Osborne also fails to support his claim that the majority of the electorate support his cuts. The majority of the electorate voted against the Conservative Party on May 7, with the Tories managing to gain only a 24.3 per cent share of the possible vote and a tiny 12-seat advantage in Parliament. That does not indicate majority support for the cuts programme.

The article states: “Osborne sprung a surprise in the budget by proposing cuts to the level of tax credits, but balanced these in part by a rise in the minimum wage to more than £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25.” Notice that the tax credit cut is immediate, but the minimum wage will only rise to more than £9 per hour in five years’ time. How are people supposed to survive in the years between?

Also, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cut in tax credits, along with the other cuts that ‘Slasher’ Osborne wants to make, will remove £12 billion from the economy – but the minimum wage rise – when it finally happens – will only add £4 billion.

So the Conservatives want Labour to support an £8 billion cut in living standards for the people who can least accommodate it.

Osborne’s argument that the responsibility for ensuring decent living standards should be rebalanced, from the state handing out subsidies towards employers providing decent wages, falls because he has no intention of making employers pay decent wages.

Osborne also writes: “Three in four people – and a majority of Labour voters – think that Britain spends too much on welfare.”

Are these the same people who think 41 per cent of the entire social security budget goes on unemployment benefits, when the actual proportion is just three per cent?

Are these the same people who think 27 per cent of the entire social security budget is claimed fraudulently, when the actual proportion is just 0.7 per cent?

Are these the people who believe George Osborne’s lies, and the lies of the Conservative Government?

In case anybody is wondering, the figures quoted above are from a TUC poll that was carried out a couple of years ago. It seems that, with the help of compliant media (such as The Guardian?) the Conservatives have succeeded in continuing to mislead the general public.

Osborne continued: “For our social contract to work, we need to retain the consent of the taxpayer, not just the welfare recipient.”

People receiving social security payments are also taxpayers; indirect taxation accounts for around three-quarters of the taxes received by the UK Treasury from the 20 per cent of people in the lowest income group.

The lies keep coming: “For those that can work, I believe it is better to earn a higher income from your work than receive a higher income from welfare.” If this was true, then he would have forced the minimum wage up to a point at which people would no longer need to claim tax credits in order to receive the same amount. He didn’t; he lied.

Osborne goes on to praise interim Labour leader Harriet Harman for capitulating to the Conservatives over child tax credits. There is only one reason he would do this – to undermine support for the Labour Party by suggesting that it really is ‘Tory-Lite’. Shame on Ms Harman for allowing this to happen!

His claim, “She recognised that oppositions only advance when they … recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to,” would be reasonable if the argument for cutting tax credits was sound, but it isn’t – people will be worse-off in this instance. If people were to become better-off afterwards, he might have a point. As it is, it is drivel.

His very next point confirms this: “A previous Conservative opposition realised [this] 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.” The Conservative Party only accepted this case in 2008, under David Cameron – a Tory leader who, when campaigning unsuccessfully for the Stafford constituency seat in 1996, had said it would “send unemployment straight back up” (The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996). Even now, many Tory supporters despise the minimum wage.

Osborne ended with an appeal for “moderate” Labour MPs to vote with his party.

That would be the end of any credibility Labour has remaining, as a party of Opposition.

According to The Guardian, Osborne said: “The proposals are part of a common endeavour by Labour and the Conservatives to implement difficult welfare reforms.” Again, he is trying to make the public think Labour and the Tories are the same. Labour MPs would have to be complete idiots to help him.

Some of the complete idiots in Labour who have already helped him are, according to Osborne, “New Labour work and pensions secretaries such as John Hutton, David Blunkett and James Purnell [who] all tried to reform the welfare system… Alistair Darling [who] says tax credits are ‘subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended’ [and] Frank Field… [who] agrees the system as it stands is simply ‘not sustainable’ and the budget represents a ‘game-changer’.”

Wouldn’t social security be a little more sustainable if George Osborne spent less time obsessing about wringing more money from those who can least afford to lose it, and more time getting his extremely rich corporate friend to pay up more of the £120 billion a year they are believed to owe in unpaid taxes?

Why isn’t Labour making this point, whenever Tories like Osborne start bleating that anything is “unsustainable”?

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No justice for legal aid as Grayling ignores thousands of consultation responses

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it's also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as 'justice' at all?

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it’s also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as ‘justice’ at all?

A story has appeared on the BBC News website, stating that elite barristers have joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to cut legal aid for criminal cases by almost a quarter.

It states that the Treasury Counsel, a group appointed by the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious crimes, has followed the lead of the Bar Council and the Law Society in saying the plan to cut £220 million from the annual £1 billion legal aid budget is unsustainable.

This is accurate, but fails to address the most damning indictment against Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice in this matter.

According to the Treasury Counsel’s written response: “HM Government has indicated that it rejects or can ignore much of the content of the thousands of Consultation Responses, …particularly as to the future effect on the supply and quality of criminal advocacy services from the proposed changes to legal aid funding.”

It continues: “Criminal legal aid remuneration is identified as an appropriate target for ‘reduction’: this is based on a ‘belief’. The belief is that ‘further efficiency and cost savings in criminal legal aid remuneration” are both possible and sustainable’.”

This means that Chris Grayling and his cronies have decided to ignore evidence-based opposition to their plans because of an unfounded, unquantifiable “belief” that cutting funding will not affect the quality of the legal advice available in criminal cases.

If this matter were itself a court case, it could be settled with a simple question: When has this ever been proved in the past?

Can you think of any time when cutting budgets has not harmed a service – or actually improved it? Of course not.

The response – written by people who are appointed by the Coalition Government’s own Attorney General, let’s not forget, and who may therefore be taken as broadly sympathetic to its aims, continues: “The Minister of State said, ‘This is a comprehensive package of reform, based on extensive consultation. I believe it  offers value for the taxpayer, stability for the professions, and access to justice for all’… yet the Impact Assessment attached to the new Paper simply makes no attempt to evaluate or monetise the behavioural changes that will most certainly result from its proposals.

The entirely obvious and predictable outcomes are lost quality and reduced supply. These are airbrushed in the Impact Assessment by repeated “steady state” assumptions. The behavioural changes are not then, uncertain. Neither will any steady state remain. They are, though, unpalatable; they will not improve the public interest.

“In a telling acknowledgment of this, the Ministry in its new consultation paper wholly abdicates its responsibility for this assessment by first making neutral assumptions and then asking the consultees what the impact will be. The Minister of State has lifted his telescope to his bad eye.

The assessment of the Treasury Counsel is that cumulative changes since 1997, and a real terms cut of nearly half since 2007, mean Grayling’s proposals “will do significant harm to the operation of the criminal justice system… In particular, they will have both an adverse and disproportionate effect on the supply of such services by the acknowledged experts – the criminal Bar”.

Not only that, but the response says the cuts could be achieved in less harmful ways, such as “the proper working through of existing changes. Or, for example, in the proper letting and administration of government contracts for CJS services; court interpreters, custodians and other activities are telling examples of incompetent administration and wasting money – and these on services ancillary to the main process, that are provided by trading companies rather than professionally regulated people.”

In other words, allowing the market into the Criminal Justice Service (that’s the ‘CJS’ in the quotation) has lowered its quality and increased its cost.

The bottom line: “We consider that the proposed reductions, in whichever iteration, are unnecessary, have an effect much larger than claimed and will produce unsustainable results.” In terms of quality of service, it seems that it is the government’s proposals that are unaffordable.

The Attorney General himself, Dominic Grieve, indicated his own lack of enthusiasm for the proposals in a letter to the Bar Council in June. This accepted that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.

“Many… took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse,” he wrote, adding that he would continue to draw Grayling’s attention to the concerns that had been expressed to him.

It seems, considering the latest developments, that the Ministry of Justice not only has a bad eye but also a deaf ear.

What a shame its members are not speechless as well. For the sake of balance, here’s what a Ministry spokesperson had to say: “At around £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system and that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.

“We have engaged constructively and consistently with lawyers – including revising our proposals in response to their comments – and to allege we have not is re-writing history.”

Is it constructive for a government department to ignore evidence that it has specifically requested?

Is it consistent to run a consultation process, and then throw away the results because they don’t agree with ministers’ “belief”?

Of course not.

Grayling’s plans are ideologically-based and entirely unsupportable and should be laughed out of court.

The summer is heating up – but are the Conservatives melting down?

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

The Conservative Party is eating itself from within. It is therefore an odd time for members to go into Labour marginal constituencies, trying to undermine support with a loaded questionnaire.

That, however, is exactly what we have seen this weekend. But then, what did you expect from the Party of Doubletalk? The Nasty Party? The Party that sows Divisive-ness wherever it can, while mouthing platitudes like “We’re all in it together”? The Party that claims it is responsible with the nation’s finances, while threatening to run up greater debts than any of its rivals ever did?

Let’s start on financial responsibility: Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Governor of the Bank of England next month, has warned that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for new mortgages must not be allowed to run indefinitely. The scheme has the state guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of a mortgage on homes worth up to £600,000, and is intended to run until 2017. Sir Mervyn’s fear is that the government will expose the taxpayer – that’s you and me – to billions of pounds of private mortgage debt. He said the UK must avoid what happened in the USA, where state-backed mortgage schemes had to be bailed out.

This particular scheme has already run into flak from those who claimed it was a “second-home subsidy” for the very rich. The new criticism raises fears that the Conservatives are actively engineering a situation that will create more unsustainable debt – and we all know what they do to resolve that kind of problem, don’t we?

They cut. Most particularly, they cut parts of the public services that help anyone who doesn’t earn at least £100,000 per year.

And no – before anyone pipes up with it – nobody receives that much on benefits.

For doubletalk, let’s look at Michael Gove. The Education Secretary was heckled and jeered when he appeared before the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference, where members passed a motion of no confidence in his policies.

The BBC quoted Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “What I think he’s failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they’re doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.”

Mr Gove said he had been “delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm” that had greeted some of the government’s education policies.

But he went on to say there would be no change of course: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive. Critical yes, but not constructive.”

Doubletalk. At first he was saying one thing when we know he means something else entirely; then he went on to ignore what he had been told – by the experts – because it did not support his policy.

Meanwhile, of course, the Conservative Party is eating itself alive over Europe. There are so many angles to this, it’s hard to know where to begin!

We know that Conservative backbenchers tried to amend their own government’s Queen’s speech with a motion regretting the lack of intention to legislate for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, and we know that 116 of them voted in favour of that motion. That wasn’t anything like enough for it to pass, so David Cameron didn’t have to worry about resigning (as suggested in previous articles on this blog).

Next thing we knew, the Telegraph‘s political editor, James Kirkup, told us a government figure close to the Prime Minister had said the backbenchers had to vote the way they did because they had been ordered to do so by grassroots Conservative association members, and they were all “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

Downing Street has denied that anybody said such a thing, but Kirkup has tweeted “I stand by my story” – and anyway, the damage has been done. Conservative association members were already at loggerheads with the Parliamentary party and the government, we’re told, because they believe their views are being ignored.

(One wonders what those views might, in fact, be. This could be one case in which ignoring the will of the people is actually the more sensible thing to do!)

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said the Conservatives are “united” in their view of Europe – but then, Jeremy Hunt – as Health Secretary – told Parliament that spending on the NHS has risen in real terms since the Coalition came into office, and we know from Andrew Dilnot, head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, that this is not true.

Lord Howe, on the other hand, has accused Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron of “running scared” of Eurosceptics and losing control of the party. This is the man whose resignation speech, which memorably included a comment that being sent to deal with the EU was like being in a cricket team whose captain had broken his bat, signalled the end of Margaret – later Baroness – Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister.

Who do we believe, the silly youngster or the boring old guy? That’s right – we believe the old guy who already brought down one Prime Minister. Perhaps he can do the same to another.

Meanwhile, we were told on Sunday that members of Parliament are all set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000, starting in 2015, the year of the next general election. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been considering an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000, with the lower figure most likely – despite a consultation revealing that some MPs (all Conservative) thought they were worth more than £100,000 per year.

Backbencher pay is around £65,000 per year at the moment. This means the pay rise they are likely to get is 15 per cent, while those Conservatives who wanted £100 grand expected a rise of 54 per cent.

Average pay rises for working people over the last year were less than one per cent.

Do you think this is appropriate remuneration for the political organisation that said “We’re all in it together?” Because I don’t.

And this is the time the Conservative Party decides to float a proposal for a two-tier benefit system, in a survey sent to residents of marginal seats held by Labour.

One question asked whether benefit payments should be the same, regardless of how many years a person has paid National Insurance or income tax. If people answered ‘no’, the next question asked what proportion of benefits should be dependent on a record of contribution.

This is insidious. If benefits become dependent on contribution, that means young people without a job will not qualify for benefits – they won’t have paid anything in, so won’t be able to take anything out. Also, what about the long-term sick and disabled (don’t start about fraud – eliminating the 0.4 per cent of fraudulent claims does not justify what the Conservative-led Coalition is already doing to 87/88 per cent of ESA claimants, or what it has started doing to PIP claimants)? Their claims are likely to continue long after their contributions run out.

This is, I think, a trick to allow rich people to get out of paying higher tax rates. Think about it – rich people pay more, therefore they subsidise public services, including social security benefits, for the poor. Get people to support benefit payments based on the amount of money people pay in and the rich get a nice fat tax cut while the poor get their benefits cut off.

Fair? All in it together?

There’s a lot of doubletalk, so sections are headed “helping with the cost of living” (they tend to make it impossible for people to meet that cost) or “making our welfare and benefits system fair”Tories have never tried to do this in the entire history of that political party.

And respondents were asked to agree with one of two statements, which were: “If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background” and “In Britain today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work”. The correct answer is to agree with the second statement, of course. And this government of public schoolboys have every intention of pushing that situation to its utmost extreme, so if you are a middle-class social climber and you think there are opportunities for you under a Tory government, forget it.

The whole nightmarish rag is prefaced by a letter from David Cameron. It’s very funny if you accept that it’s full of doubletalk and nonsense. Let’s go through it together:

“I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours,” he begins. He means: I’d like to know what we can say in order to get you to vote for us in 2015. We’ll have no intention of carrying out any promise that does not advantage ourselves and our extremely rich friends. The correct response is: Your policies are ideologically-motivated twaddle that are causing critical damage to this country and its institutions. Your best action in the future will be to resign.

“I think helping people through tough economic times means making sure our welfare and benefits is [sic] fair. That means ensuring the system helps those who do the right thing and want to get on. That’s helping rich people through tough economic times. We’ll make welfare and benefits as unfair to the poor as we can. That means ensuring the system helps those who support us and are rich enough for us to want to help them. Your changes to welfare and benefits have led to thousands of deaths. That is not fair. You are breaking the system.

“That’s why we’ve capped the amount an out-of-work household can receive in benefits, so this can’t be more than an average working family earns. Again I’d like to know what you think about the actions we’ve taken so far, and your ideas to the future.” It’s nothing near what an average working family earns, because they would be on benefits that top up their earnings to more than £31,000 – but you couldn’t cap at that level because almost nobody would have been knocked off the benefit books (all your talk about people taking more than £100,000 in benefits was nonsense). Resign, join a monastery and vow never to enter public life again.

There is no doubt about it – the cracks are beginning to show. Last summer, the Olympic Games gave us spectacular firework displays. As public unrest mounts, it seems likely that we’ll see even more spectacular fireworks this year – unplanned.

But then, that is why the Conservatives bought the water cannons that are being tested at Petersfield. When they go into use, we’ll all know what they really think of the general public.