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Showing posts from September, 2010

Blears calls Labour wicked and malicious - and then denies it

The interesting thing here is that there are recordings of her first saying one thing than saying another.

My transcript of what she says one day is "nobody knows what Ed Milliband stands for. Actually if you are a bit of a blank sheet of the paper to the public you have a chance of doing something new and for goodness sake. I feel this personally so much. Don't we need something new. After 13 years that sense of trying to put behind us the kind of wicked, malicious stuff that's gone on in our party."

The next day she claims it is a comment about the coalition. She says "I think I was talking about tory cuts."

Indeed bang to rights.

"A new generation for change"

It is hard to believe that the Labour Party would already start on the "change, change, change" bandwagon with the above slogan.

We know that they have already reversed position on the necessity of imposing a change to the civil service pension scheme.

It appears that they are moving away gradually from supporting cuts in public spending.

Otherwise from a policy perspective changes are substantially to policies set by the Labour Party themselves.

We also appear to have David Milliband saying that if he cannot be in charge he doesn't want to play.

In a sense this is a symptom of the obsession with the executive and the traditional weakness of parliament.

Personally I believe that there is a lot that can be done simply as a back bench MP and that parliament should be seen as more than a nursery for government. That is why I have been working to strengthen parliament (as the voice of the people).

Parliament is the fundamental democratic institution not the cabinet or shadow cabi…

Hemming backs Farron for President

John Hemming MP has publicly backed Tim Farron in his campaign to be the next president of the Liberal Democrats. He said

"Tim is an impressive communicator. Communicating is key to politics, particularly in government. We need to ensure that people are aware that the Coalition is cleaning up the mess that Labour left whilst protecting the weak. I think Tim will help in getting this message across to the party throughout the UK."

FII (MSbP) in the USA

The link is to a story in the USA where a child was improperly diagnosed and as a consequence taken into care and not treated appropriately for his condition whilst in care.

This sort of thing really concerns me. Medics are too willing to blame patients for their undiagnosed symptoms. This causes them to stop researching for the real causes.

Turnbull and Blair

The comments by Lord Turnbull and Tony Blair are key simply because the former was the top civil servant and the latter the Prime minister at the time when things started going particularly wrong for the country's finances.

I have extracted elements from Tony Blair's memoirs which basically talk about the economic problems we face now and how they were exacerbated by the government whilst he was Prime Minister and then when Gordon Brown took over.

They speak for themselves. However, basically he accepts that
a) The financial problems were exacerbated because Labour overspent.
b) That making serious cuts is inevitable and that Labour cannot challenge the overall envelope of public spending.
c) That Labour should have put up VAT.
d) That a Labour - Lib Dem coalition was a non-starter.
e) That the target public spending of 42% of GDP is actually not that low.

He argues that Labour should avoid going into opposition mode.
From p679 onwards

The economic crisis, strangely enough, was an o…

Now the Mandarins Speak Out (a bit late really)

The link is to this article on Civil Service Live. This refers to an interview here with Lord Turnbull the previous Cabinet Secretary.

He agrees with Tony Blair Turnbull said that that excessive borrowing started to be a problem from 2005. “It kind of crept up on us in 2005, 2006, 2007, and we were still expanding public spending at 4.5 percent a year,” he said, arguing that the Treasury should have been putting more money aside. “You might have thought that we should have been giving priority to getting borrowing under better control, putting money aside in the good years – and it didn’t happen,” he commented.

Turnbull said that “there were some other places that had begun to accumulate surpluses for a rainy day; places like Australia.”

While Turnbull argued that the primary reason Britain is “in the mess that we’re in” is because “public spending got too big relative to the productive resources of the economy, by error” he added that a loss of output caused by the financial crisis has…

PCS not willing to engage with the debate

I have linked to an article in the New Stateman in which Mark Serwotka says the following:

"Lots of political decisions are inefficient and wasteful, but none of those things is on anyone's radar. When people talk about reform, what they mean is cuts and job losses. We believe there should not be any reduction in public spending at all."

The problem with this approach is it basically does not engage with the debate. Labour accepted that £50,000,000,000 of cuts were necessary.

If the union position is that there should be no reduction in public spending at all then they are unable to engage with the debate.

PCS used their veto to stop the Labour Government's plan to (rightly) remove the scheme that gives 6 years pay to some Civil Servants who are made redundant. It is simply not possible to run the government and pay such massive redundancy payments.

Hence the coalition has legislated to remove that Veto.

I wonder if the democratic accountability of Mark Serwotka will ens…

Afghanistan

The House voted on the issue of Afghanistan on Thursday. This was the first time there has been a substantive vote on the issue. What it demonstrates is the merit of having a mechanism for the back benches to identify substantive issues to debate. (I speak as a member of the committee that does this).

There are some real difficulties for the government in dealing with this issue. Apart from the fact that it arises as a legacy from the previous government it is also something that has to be resolved through NATO. Although some governments have unilaterally withdrawn I would expect the UK and the US to work jointly on this.

Hence it is not surprising that the government whipped in support of the underlying resolution:"That this House supports the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan."

I was a teller against this resolution. My concerns fit quite closely with those of Conservative MP and ex-soldier John Baron.

Conservative Home have looked at some of the is…

Phone Hacking and Andy Coulson

I think people have been missing the point when looking at the Phone Hacking issue.

There is quite an important constitutional issue about MPs being bugged by someone privately and information collected. In a sense this has been swallowed up by the fact that the senior manager of the newspaper who was
a) In place when this happened, but
b) Who resigned because he took responsiblity for it happening on his watch

is now working for the government. He has accepted a sanction for what happened and his "fingerprints" have not been found on the details. Hence, unless more evidence is found he has no further questions to answer.

I think Teresa May is right to leave the operational questions to the police. They are, however, subject both to judicial review and to any actions that parliament may wish to take.

Much that I don't think this is an issue for the government. I do think it is an issue both for the police and parliament.

I have supported the calls for there to be a refere…

The Emergency Budget was Progressive

I spent some time looking at the IFS analysis published about a week and a half ago about the budget.

Their analysis is now on their website via the news release which is here. The report itself is available via this page.

I wrote an article for the Guardian's Comment is free section which is here

I think a lot of the coverage of the IFS report was additionally misleading. I think the IFS could have been a lot clearer about their analysis when interviewed. For example there was this today interview.

I transcribed part of this interview which follows:

Presenter: "If you had to focus on one measure that was if you like impacting the poor more than the rich I think your analysis shows it is the rather subtle one that sounds very innocuous that we are going to update benefits by the CPI rather than the RPI.

IFS: "yes that's the largest welfare cut that's coming in over the next few years. That's forecast to save the government about 5.8 bn pounds by 2014 But it will ke…

Blair admits overspending from 2005

The link is to the BBC story which includes the text:
The UK should have addressed its public deficit back in 2005, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the BBC.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, Mr Blair said: "We should probably have taken a tougher fiscal position than we did."

He said that this was also about the time when disagreement between himself and Gordon Brown "started to spill over into macro-economic policy".


This is the key point that I have been making which is that we would not have had as big a problem as we do now had we not over spent from 2005. I am slightly surprised that Tony Blair has actually agreed with this because it is the defining issue of this parliament where he accepts that the coalition are right and the Labour leadership candidates (except perhaps David Milliband) are wrong.

Letter from Chief Executive NHS Direct

Dear Colleague,

I expect that you will have read or seen the media coverage over the Bank holiday weekend about NHS Direct. I wanted to write promptly to you to correct any misleading impression that this may have created that NHS Direct as an organisation is being closed down. This is not what the Government has said, nor is it their intention.

The Government has confirmed that the 0845 46 47 telephone service we are commissioned to provide will be phased out as the new NHS 111 service is developed and rolled out nationally. This is no surprise as it was included in the White Paper in June. We are fully supportive of the new 111 telephone number, and the plan for the 111 service to be thoroughly integrated into local health communities with a more integrated urgent and out of hours response. We have been working with the Department of Health on the 111 programme since 2009, and we are working with the Department and local health communities involved in all three of the “Pathfinder” …