Terribly intrusive reportage by the Mail. They should show John “Shagger” Whittingdale a bit of respect. The fact that this unlikely knobmeister is managing to score at a rate which should at least put him on the England subs bench at Euro 2016 is obviously causing the po-faced ones at the Mail some discomfort. Power to his elbow….and all other parts of his soon-to-be ex-Cabinet anatomy.
Cameron’s crap Spreadsheet
Has ANYONE noticed that David Cameron has NOT yet produced his Tax Return?
In their excitement, the media appear to have accepted a very dodgy-looking and simplistic spreadsheet – the sort we could all knock-out on our PCs. The sort of spreadsheet which would be totally unacceptable to HMRC or even to an unqualified book-keeper.
We should see Cameron’s and his wife’s Tax Returns plus any non-PAYE accounts.
Cameron & Gideon….don’t forget the wives!
In order to see number which give a true reflection of Cameron’s and Osborne’s incomes, their spouses tax returns should also be made public. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget having bestowed large amounts of cash on a loved one.
I am not suggesting for one moment that there may have been deliberate movement of assets or cash designed to defraud HMRC but these things can happen for totally innocent reasons…..so while we’re at it, perhaps it would be best to get it all over with in one go!
In addition, I would suspect that at least one of them is part-Schedule E and part Schedule D. That means that apart from PAYE deductions, there may be accounts!
Cameron deploying his “We’ll do everything we can to help” mantra. This time it is aimed at the British steel industry. Certain commentators have suggested that Dave is probably thinking about re-nationalising steel! He’d rather be rogered by a pig wearing a red rosette….It won’t be long before we’re importing steel from China. Remember, this government does NOT have a long-term plan – only fine words. Time to say ‘tata’ to our steel industry.
#Cameron – a first assessment.
Every government is remembered by its Prime Minister and just a couple of headline achievements and policies. So far, David Cameron has built quite an arsenal of happy memories to be remembered by. Here are 20……..and they’re beginning to look very worrying.
- Very dodgy Statistics with the Ministry of Statistics (ONS) admitting its over-reliance on surveys.
- A Prime Minister incapable of completing a negotiation. (EU)…..Don’t believe me? Wait and see….
- All issues requiring an executive decision being farmed out to Planet Inquiry.
- Food Banks.
- Giving a totally believable impression of being comprehensively out of touch with the ordinary man.
- Nepotism and Cronyism…..referred to as “patronage”.
- The most appalling political speeches.
- Watching the Steel Industry’s final death throes.
- A flat economy with 95% of everything expressed in percentages.
- Too many incomplete undelivered promises and confusion between decree and action.
- The Gatwick v Heathrow saga.
- The inability to motivate Chilcot to complete his Iraq Inquiry.
- A pointless involvement in Syria.
- 2-Nation Politics and the return of toffery.
- Meetings – especially the pointless COBRA ritual.
- Fictional Economic claims.
- Fictional National Security claims – reminiscent of #Blair.
- 2015 Election win by default…Because the alternative (Miliband) was TOO ghastly to contemplate.
- Watching the entire NHS fail.
During the last four years or so, there has been a lot of political talk about “the mess THEY left behind”. Here it is:
Chancellor Gideon – Fact or Fiction?
One of the greatest pleasures in life used to be for someone to read a great work of fiction to you out loud. You would sink back, close your eyes and let it wash over you ……and all that you had to do is to compose the pictures! Unfortunately, reading out-loud is a dying art and now a pleasure only enjoyed by young children and the infirm.
So imagine the frisson of anticipation ahead of listening to Chancellor Gideon reading The Autumn Statement – (I have always been a great fan of realistic fiction!) I closed my eyes, kicked back…but…the pictures just wouldn’t come. All I could visualise was a smug fat boy with a Caligula haircut and eyes with all the charm of two bullet holes, reading with all the conviction of a posh grocer reading a Fortnum’s shopping list.
GDP..blah blah….Growth…blah blah….Deficit…blah….and so on.
Then, after the “de rigeur” and customary: “Hard-working people” , “Mess they left behind” and “Tough decisions” plus the recently conceived “It will be less that it WOULD have been”….all from the Coalition Book of Platitudes, came something about the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) moving ever closer to life expectancy!
I felt myself slowly emerging from the Treasury-induced coma.
Whether the NRA is 69, 70 or 102, it will never affect those on a private pension or those with enough money to be able to make choices.
The ability to make choices is what individual freedom is all about. One of the overriding features of this government is that too many people perceive that their choices have been compromised. Control has been wrested away from those who are relying on the State to feed and provide their shelter in old age.
Meanwhile, the “well-off” will continue to be able to stop working whenever they want to.
It is only those clapped out individuals who see retirement age as The Finishing Line who will be affected. They are the ones who used to retire at 65 and die at 67.
Soon, they will retire at 70… not quite dead but maybe wishing they were, knowing that some of their better-off acquaintances will have already been retired for 20 years.
(BTW, unemployment at the time of the 2010 General Election was 2.47 million. It is STILL 2.47 million. ……NO statistical sleight-of-hand will ever change that fact!)
The Conservatives have hired Obama’s very slick election guru, Jim Messina to help them to an overall majority in the 2015 General Election. Labour, on the other hand, has recently LOST its own election strategist, Tom Watson. His recent media performances suggest that his strategy would have been to bore people into voting Labour.
Lynton Crosby – the DEFINITIVE answer from DC…or is it?
Below is the transcript of Andrew Marr’s conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron, on the subject of Lynton Crosby, the Conservative Party’s “campaign consultant” and his input or influence on the question of cigarette packaging.
I do so without comment (it would be superfluous) – apart from reminding DC that a “question” is merely a request for information.
“So can I ask you again whether you have actually talked to him (Crosby) about this issue?”
“Well I think it is important this issue of lobbying because, well look, let me be clear he has not intervened in any way, on this or indeed on other issues and the decision, it’s very important people know this, we haven’t actually changed our policy, I mean, I think there are merits to plain paper packaging for cigarettes, we need more evidence, we need greater legal certainty, we’re not going ahead with it right now, but I certainly don’t rule it out for the future.
“So the whole thing actually, from start to finish has been something of a media invention. So, he hasn’t intervened, it would be wrong for him to intervene in any way, the decision was actually taken by me, sitting up there (points towards building in No. 10) at my kitchen table, let’s not move ahead with this now, we don’t have enough evidence, there’s too much legal uncertainty.”
“But let’s be clear, this government has been very tough on tobacco, you know we have said we’ve got to cut down on these vending machines, we’ve got to stop big shops doing big promotions, we’ve carried on with the smoking ban, we’ve put up the price of cigarettes, and if we’re too much in hock to the lobbyists as it were, why have we just published a lobbying Bill?”
“You have told me absolutely everything except the question that I was asking, which is have you talked to Lynton Crosby about this?”
“I have answered the question; he has not intervened in any single way.”
“You haven’t actually prime minister, but you won’t tell me whether you have talked to him about it?”
“I think as I’ve said, he hasn’t intervened in any single way, I think you’ll find that is an answer.”
“Yes, but its not quite an answer to the question I asked.”
“But its all you’re getting (laughs).”
“There we go.”
A few months ago, David Cameron led a trade delegation to China. Then he cleverly followed up by having a meeting with the Dalai Lama – which really pissed off the Chinese and screwed up any goodwill he may have accidentally created in Beijing. Today, he is in Washington, meeting President Barack Obama. Does anyone know when DC is meeting Al Quaeda or does he have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad popping into No 10 for prayers and afternoon tea?
“The Mess we were left……..” Yawn!
Several months ago, I wrote about the strange new exhortary but meaningless style of oratory designed in the 1960s by the Soviets for use by their shiny-suited Party apparatchiks. It expresses no commitment or intent but cleverly disguises non-commital nonsense as both achievement and the promise of future achievement. SEE HERE.
Eventually, this hortatory nonsense was seized-upon by Eurowonks and has now been in European Union use by Brussels Commissars for a few years.
It has now been adopted by our own David Cameron!
In its simplest form it is the art of saying “We MUST” and never “We WILL”
As an example, here’s an extract from the last week’s Queens Speech Debate:
DAVID CAMERON: “That is what this Queen’s Speech is all about: rising to the challenge of preparing this country for the future. We are in a global race and the way we will win is by backing families who want to work hard and do the right thing. To do that, we must get the deficit down, not build up ever more debts for our children. We must restore our competitiveness so that British businesses can take on the world. We must reform welfare and pensions so it pays to work and pays to save, and we must reform our immigration system so we attract people who will benefit this country, and we clear up the mess we were left by the Labour party.”
Neither he nor Chancellor Gideon have ever said “We WILL get the deficit down”, “We WILL restore our competitiveness” etc…..and notice the standard government cliché which ends so many of the Coalition’s sentences these days! (underlined above).
Two minutes and three paragraphs later in the same speech, the Prime Minister delivers a variant:
DAVID CAMERON: “We need to get the deficit down, so we will complete a spending review by the end of June. We will legislate to abolish needless bureaucracy such as the Audit Commission. We will pass laws to raise revenue by stopping tax abuse. We need to restore our competitiveness…………”
The only times when definite intent is expressed is also demonstrated above: “We WILL complete a spending review,” and “We WILL legislate”.
Legislation is what a government DOES! Overused Reviews, Inquiries and Commissions are all substitutes for proper decision-making. They are this government’s 9ct hallmark and will be their legacy.
Must try harder.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has joined Micheal Gove in giving David Cameron a major EU-headache …..and this may only be the beginning. One wonders how many more of the Cabinet will “come out” in the next few weeks. The only other thing that Gove and Hammond have in common is that each sees himself as future Conservative leader…..so their perceived duplicity is not as straightforward as it seems. Mind you, there is a member of the Tory High Command who will definitely NOT share in any Cabinet “I am Spartacus!” moment. It is DC’s very own “Uncle Tom”, Grant Shapps. The Manchester Poly “old-boy” is playing the long game.
Wars of the Rosettes: UKIP
It used to be said that one of the biggest corporate lies was “I like a man who speaks his mind!” Nobody likes someone who tells it straight – especially if there’s an element of implied criticism.
When a company director says to an underling “Tell me what you really think about our latest initiative” what should the response be? You honestly believe that it is a crock of shit but you also know that it was the directors “baby”. If you’re wise and familiar with office politics, you tell the director exactly what you know that he wants to hear. On the other hand, if you’re a highly principled idiot, you are likely to tell the truth (your truth). That sort of response can come under the heading of “a novel way to resign”!! It is not worth the risk.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage is a straight-talking man and tells us what we want to hear – but he is obviously no idiot. He tells it straight and his disciples continue to multiply. He has two things which give him a great advantage over other party leaders. Firstly, he has what Boris Johnson has – Charisma….a carefully-cultivated roguish old-school, charm……. and he smiles a lot. Yes…it’s THAT simple!
Of course, he has the added advantage of an Establishment-led Coalition government which gives the perception of being utterly incompetent. The Labour Opposition has no discernible “bite” and is led by yet another charmless product of Planet Politics. The other bit of the Coalition (the small bit) is already in terminal decline – a full two years before the next general election. For our mate Nige, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Nigel Farage can do or say whatever he damn-well pleases and there’s no-one around with the balls to censure him. He is the enemy of all the other political parties, and coincidentally they are also the voters’ enemy. But more importantly, he is the sworn enemy of the self-serving bureaucratic edifice that is the European Parliament.
His election campaign started not a few weeks ago but leapt into life months ago in Brussels as Farage demanded of Van Rompuy: “Who [the f***] are you…..?” That was the moment when many of us , whether we agreed with his politics or not, fell in love with Uncle Nigel. [The parentheses above and their content are mine!]
There was none of the political correctness which constrains David Cameron. If pushed, you can imagine Nigel saying “Barroso! you’re a twat!”- not that he would….but he has imprinted his personality on the national psyche so powerfully….that we now believe that he WOULD say what many of us are thinking.
Farage’s other great plus-point is that although he is the son of a stockbroker and attended Dulwich College, he went to work(!) (as a City commodities broker) at the age of 18. He has exactly the sort of background that the Conservatives would dearly love their leader to have.
So, as Nigel and his disciples march out of the wilderness into the political sunlight and as UKIP party contributions and sponsorships accelerate, what’s the future for the other parties?
Make no mistake, the Tory Starchamber’s Illuminati are looking very closely at their own Party leadership, as are the Trade Union leaders who set the drumbeat for the Labour party.
In the first instance, we can expect a clumsy lurch to the Right from David Cameron in a desperate attempt to woo back former Conservative supporters and hopefully, the other Miliband bought a return ticket.
Whatever the mid-term future holds, we are in for a very interesting two years.
May 2015 will be upon us very quickly!
“Sorry” seems to be the easiest word.
The head of Barclays investment bank, Rich Ricci is about to retire after having received an £18 MILLION bung from the company. The payment was announced on the last Budget day – probably to ensure that the news was well-and-truly “buried”, with the Chancellor taking on the role of temporary Barclays shield.
Mr Ricci was at the helm when the LIBOR-rigging scandal broke but it would seem that a quiet gold-plated exit rather than recrimination, continues to be the favoured option for senior bankers.
No-one has suggested any “naughtiness” on Mr Ricci’s part – but at worst, the LIBOR stitch-up was a major breakdown in management – by him, by his boss (Bob Diamond) and the Barclays Board. That begs the inevitable questions:
What does a senior banker have to do to face sanction or prosecution? What exactly is the message which the Government and the Regulation Industry wish us all to hear?
It’s probably: “Screw the system, screw the clients, say sorry and piss off with a handful of wedge.”
Or are we missing something?
Here’s a Mirror assessment of Mr Ricci from two years ago: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/inside-the-life-of-barclays-banker-rich-115678
Gideon’s Last Stand?
Regrettably, I will not have the pleasure of hearing the hubris-fired reading of the Budget Speech by Chancellor Gideon…..and I do SO enjoy hearing fiction read out-loud!
Today’s press is full of advice for him but unfortunately, he will not be able to stray far from the path he has already chosen for us.
The components of today’s Budget will be cosmetic low-cost “initiatives” , largely fueled by Public Service casualties. Gideon WILL brazen it out by feeding the nation carefully chosen and spun statistics but since he painted himself into Austerity Corner, he cannot move. He will try to give the impression that he is able to somehow warm the economy……. but this one-trick pony Chancellor will do it to the accompaniment of: “Throw another Public Servant on the fire!”
Yes, there may be talk of “saving through efficiencies” but we know that efficiencies are a myth.
“Need a quick £2.5 billion? Sack a load of Public Servants and slash services.” The arithmetic is very simple!
By the way, don’t just blame Gideon. The Cabinet of “yes men” is fully supportive of his fiscal fumbling. They’re right behind him!
Incidentally, the OBR is publishing its latest growth and borrowing forecasts today. More ripping yarns!
The government’s target for the elimination of the structural deficit, in keeping with tradition, continues to slip further and further into the future – where it will remain for many years to come. At the moment, the projected target is 2017/18.
We can already predict that the next estimate may be headed towards 2018/19……and so on.
p.s. I wonder if he’ll mention the banks?
Cameron versus Major
At the time, John Major was not considered to be a very dynamic leader, certainly not one judged to be a GREAT Conservative leader. In fact, he was a bit of a joke and was mercilessly brutalised by the media, notably by those pesky Latex satirists, Spitting Image. Remember the Grey Major and his conversations with Norma about peas? Remember the Y-fronts and the safety-pin?
Yet he was a good man, an honest man, a straightforward man, a man from humble beginnings. After all, his father had been a circus performer!
At the time of his surprise 1992 election win – when he defeated the windbag Kinnock, he could have represented a new beginning for the Conservative Party.
Briefly, the Conservatives had been in an egalitarian frame of mind. Meritocracy was still on the menu. No more Alec Douglas-Homes, Macmillans or even Heaths. Had the grocer’s daughter from Grantham been the catalyst for a less aristocratic and more egalitarian Conservative Party? Had John Major, albeit reluctantly, picked up the baton on behalf of the lower orders?
We tolerated Major. His image, voice and mannerisms were, let’s face it…. grey and boring. Even the revelation that he had been shtupping Edwina Currie would not have made any difference to his image. But we liked him. He was a Man of the People. The Conservatives had turned the corner. No more Eton and Harrow toffs running the show!
Anyone could become a Conservative Prime Minister.
1992….sounds a long time ago, doesn’t it? Well…..that was the LAST TIME that the Conservative Party properly won a general election.
TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO!!
Our current Rulers are keen on numbers and statistics. Let’s have a look at some.
In 1992, under the lame John Major, the Conservatives won 41.9% of the Vote with 336 seats.
In 2010, under the new dynamic David Cameron, the Conservatives won 36.1% of the vote with 306 seats.
The last (2010) General Election election was less than two years after one of the worst financial crashes in history with the Labour Party under the stewardship of Gordon Brown. He is now widely acknowledged to be one of the worst Prime Ministers in History.
The Conservatives should have won an easy overall majority.
Had the Conservative Party Oberkommando made a fundamental error in relentlessly having pushed forward one of their gilded own towards the inevitability of the top job?
“Riding shotgun” was yet another “hooray”, in the shape of the simpering and credibility-free The Rt Hon George Gideon Oliver Osborne. His only business, industry or commercial experience had been as a Conservative Central Office speechwriter! Suddenly, “The Unemployable One” was running the world’s seventh largest (and counting) economy!
Dave and Gideon between them have rendered the Conservative Party unelectable. They are going to lose the 2015 General Election and they will take the Libdems down with them.
Since the political assassination of Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party has shown itself to be lacking int the “Let’s Choose a Leader” department. All you have to do is to look at the array of zombie Conservative Party leaders who have graced the top job since John Major’s severe and politically terminal bout of “Inter-scapular Neuralgia”.
….and now it seems that both David Cameron and Chancellor Gideon are beginning to feel the odd twinge between the shoulder blades. Neither really deserves it because they were both encouraged and promoted to well-above their level of incompetence far too early.
Let’s hope that the next time, The Party gets it right.
Eastleigh: a UKIP lesson
Last year, I predicted as follows: “David Cameron will realise that UKIP is a clear and present danger and will begin the fight-back by the only way possible. He will adopt their policies and reinforce that by continuing to spray copious volumes of testosterone in Brussels.” ( #17 HERE )
In spite of the Conservatives’ best efforts to smear the Liberal Democrats with the ridiculously-timed media Lord Rennard “Gropegate” campaign, the Party has been humiliated in the fifteenth by-election of this lame government. The majority of all the other by-elections since 2010 were straightforward and predictable “Labour Hold” results – this one was different. Very different.
If the insufferably smug UKIP leader Nigel Farage struts any more zingily, he’ll injure himself! But who can blame him? The incompetence, the 19th Century policies, the 18th Century verbal jousting and lack of cogent communication by the other parties has helped UKIP to begin their final climb to Westminster.
Both main parties will dismiss this colossal electoral success by UKIP as a mere mid-term blip…and they will suffer because of their total lack of either proper analysis or strategy. To both main parties but especially the Conservatives, UKIP has been allowed to become (ironically) like the Eurozone – it has flourished into a problem without solution. UKIP is here to say.
The way any government operates is very straightforward. The first half of its term in office is given over to imposing the necessary “bad bits” – the policies which are bound to be unpopular.
The second half of its tenure (especially in the final 12 months leading to a General Election) is usually distinguished by the giveaways – the “nice bits”. (Tax decreases, new thresholds, share handouts etc).
This time – it will NOT work. It will not work because , in the final analysis – forget policies and promises….we vote for people we like and trust. The present Coalition government (especially the Tories) have no-one particularly likeable to offer and they have certainly “blown” the last vestiges of any pre-election trust that the electorate had in them.
But the REALLY big tactical error that the Conservatives made in Eastleigh was their choice of candidate, Mrs Maria “I say what I think” Hutchings. She was the nearest that the Tories could find to their own ersatz UKIP candidate.
They thought that they might just fool the electorate…………. and failed.
We’ve already had the traditional “Yes, it’s disappointing but I’m sure that we can win the voters back at the next General Election” announcement from the Prime Minister.
Are you sure about that, Dave?
(BTW – well done Libdems………. and Nick, there’s a difference between “stunning ” and “stunned”!)
Chancellor Gideon’s Speech.
Still wondering why Chancellor Gideon was SO keen on maintaining the United Kingdom’s AAA-rating? Scroll down this speech, made just before the last General Election. I have highlighted the important bit in red. If you then care to read the next few paragraphs, you will see how the Chancellor’s original intentions and promises are developing.
George Osborne: Mais Lecture – A New Economic Model
Rt Hon George Osborne, Wednesday, February 24 2010
Thank you for inviting me to give this annual Mais lecture. Few Mais lectures have been given at a time when the challenges facing British economic policy makers were so difficult and complex as they are today.
Britain has emerged – just – from the longest and deepest recession in living memory, but growth is proving painfully slow to return.
The overhang of private debt in our banking system and our households weighs heavy on future prosperity.
And the public finances are the worst they have ever been in peacetime, with the largest budget deficit in the developed world.
This lecture is about these present problems and the urgent need to take us into a brighter future. But consider this one stark fact about our recent past.
We are coming to the end of the first full Parliament since the Second World War when national income per person has actually declined.
Even through the dark days of the 1970s and the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s, every full Parliament saw our GDP per capita grow.
But not this Parliament.
When people ask the famous question – “are you better off than you were five years ago?” – this will be the first election in modern British history when the answer from the government must be ‘no’.
My argument today is simple.
Britain has been failed by the economic policy framework of the last decade.
It promised stability, prudence and an end to the cycle – it delivered instability, imprudence and the biggest boom followed by the deepest bust.
We need to head in a completely new direction.
We have to move away from an economic model that was based on unsustainable private and public debt.
And we have to move to a new model of economic growth that is rooted in more investment, more savings and higher exports.
This will require new policies and new institutions.
I want to talk about three crucial components of this new model.
First, a new approach to macroeconomic and financial policy, where we seek to contain credit cycles as well as target price stability.
Second, a new fiscal policy framework, with an independent Office for Budget Responsibility to ensure that public debt is sustainable.
And third, a supply side revolution that releases the pent up enterprise and wealth creation of our country, encourages a nation of savers, and addresses the long term structural weaknesses that no government has ever properly tackled – like poor education and a welfare system that traps people in workless poverty.
In order to ensure that a Conservative Government is accountable, I have set out eight clear benchmarks for economic policy against which I expect to be judged, together with the concrete measures we will take to achieve them.
If they are met over a Parliament then we will have begun to build a new British economic model.
I also want to explain today why starting to build this new economic model is not something we can put off until next year.
We have to get on with it.
There is no choice between going for growth today and dealing with our debts tomorrow.
Indeed we will not have any meaningful growth unless we show we can deal with our debts.
For it is the lack of a credible plan to deal with the deficit that is already pushing up market interest rates, undermining the monetary stimulus that
is supporting the economy, and sapping the confidence of investors and consumers.
It is the lack of a credible plan that has the credit rating agencies threatening to downgrade us unless action is taken urgently.
This is the reality of the situation we are facing.
Those who say we should simply ignore the markets are siren voices, luring us onto the rocks.
For an economic policy maker to rail against the unpredictable nature of financial markets is like a farmer complaining about the weather.
A loss of market confidence could force dramatic tax rises and spending cuts that were indeed savage and swingeing.
That would represent a loss of economic sovereignty.
And those cuts would be far larger than the actions that are needed now in order to retain our economic freedom in the first place.
Far better to be prepared and protect ourselves against the storm.
THE DANGERS OF DEBT
Before I set out the shape of this new economic model, let us first understand the nature of that storm.
No one doubts that there were massive failures of financial regulation over the last decade.
No one seriously defends the fiscal rules, once spelt out in a Mais Lecture like this, which proved unable to prevent the Government running a budget deficit at the peak of the boom.
But we will not draw all the right lessons for the future unless we understand the deep macroeconomic roots of the crisis.
Much has already been written about what went wrong. Much more is yet to be written.
Perhaps the most significant contribution to our understanding of the origins of the crisis has been made by Professor Ken Rogoff, former Chief Economist at the IMF, and his co-author Carmen Reinhart.
In a series of papers and now a book, they have demonstrated in exhaustive historical and statistical detail that while it always seems in the heat of the crisis that ‘this time is different’, the truth is that it almost never is.
As Rogoff and Reinhart demonstrate convincingly, all financial crises ultimately have their origins in one thing – rapid and unsustainable increases in debt.
As they write, “if there is one common theme… it is that excessive debt accumulation, whether it be by the government, banks, corporations, or consumers, often poses greater systemic risks that it seems during a boom.”
So while the specific financial innovations and failures of regulation that contributed to the credit crunch were new, the underlying macroeconomic warning signs were depressingly familiar from many dozens of crises in the past.
In this context, all the signals were flashing red for the UK economy: a rapid increase in household and bank balance sheets, soaring asset prices, a persistent current account deficit, and a structural budget deficit even at the peak of the boom.
Our banks became more leveraged than American banks, and our households became more indebted than any other major economy in history.
And in the aftermath of the crisis our public debt has risen more rapidly than any other major economy.
So while private sector debt was the cause of this crisis, public sector debt is likely to be the cause of the next one.
As Ken Rogoff himself puts it, “there’s no question that the most significant vulnerability as we emerge from recession is the soaring government debt. It’s very likely that will trigger the next crisis as governments have been stretched so wide.”
The latest research suggests that once debt reaches more than about 90% of GDP the risks of a large negative impact on long term growth become highly significant.
If off-balance sheet liabilities such as public sector pensions are included we are already well beyond that.
And even on official internationally comparable measures of debt, we are forecast to break through 90% of GDP in just two years time.
Indeed, baseline projections produced this month from the Bank for International Settlements show the scale of the adjustment that is needed to avoid that risk.
Once the costs of an ageing population are accounted for, they calculate that UK debt will rise to 200% of GDP in just 10 years without significant adjustments – that’s higher than any other country except Japan.
The interest payments on that debt would rise above 10% of GDP within ten years and to almost 30% in 30 years – the highest of all the countries they analyse including Greece and Ireland.
The BIS were amongst the few organizations who can credibly claim to have warned about the risks of a global financial crisis, and now they are highlighting the next source of risk.
As they argue, “persistently high levels of public debt will drive down capital accumulation, productivity growth and long-term potential growth potential.”
In the short term, governments should not be “lulled into complacency by the ease with which they have financed their deficits so far” – especially those with relatively weak fiscal frameworks and a high degree of dependence on foreign investors.
For an economy like the UK with such high levels of private debt, increases in market interest rates would be particularly devastating to the prospects of a private sector recovery.
We have been warned.
MONETARY AND FINANCIAL POLICY
The long term implications for our economic policy framework of the crucial role of rapid debt accumulation in causing economic instability are profound.
It forces a fundamental reassessment of the way we conduct both monetary and fiscal policy.
Let me begin with monetary policy.
In his famous Mais Lecture of 1984, Nigel Lawson argued that monetary policy should be the main tool of short term macroeconomic management while fiscal policy should be set for the medium term.
Over time that became the consensus, and it was later explicitly endorsed by the Labour Government.
The monetary policy framework developed too, from the adoption of inflation targeting by the Conservatives in 1992 to the granting of independence to the Bank of England five years later.
Nigel’s original insight remains valid today.
The next Conservative Government will keep the inflation targeting framework because the benefits of anchoring inflation expectations remain substantial.
I have said before that in office we will review, in cooperation with the independent Bank of England, what modifications are appropriate to ensure that housing costs are once again properly reflected in the target – this process is already underway at a European level but there may be a case for accelerating it.
But given the fragility and uncertainty in financial markets, let me make it absolutely clear that we have no plans to change the CPI inflation target, and we will maintain the current arrangements and protocols for making decisions around quantitative easing.
I don’t want there to be the slightest suspicion that the next Conservative Government might try to inflate its way out of the previous Government’s problems.
But it is now clear to everyone that narrow inflation targeting is not in itself sufficient for macroeconomic stability.
Given what we now know about the way that unsustainable increases in debt can cause devastating financial crises, we must be as concerned about credit cycles as we have been about business cycles.
Alan Greenspan and others made the case for ignoring credit bubbles and then ‘mopping up’ when they burst.
But even Alan now concedes that this approach has been shown to have unacceptable costs.
So as economists like Robert Shiller and others have argued, we need a more sophisticated understanding of how financial markets actually work, including the psychology that drives them away from stable equilibria.
And we need an approach that actively seeks to identify emerging imbalances and takes action to reduce them.
The question is what tools are needed to do that.
In the UK, inflation targeting succeeded in anchoring inflation expectations, but the very design of the policy framework meant that responding to an explosion in balance sheets, asset prices and macroeconomic imbalances was impossible.
Because the tools needed to deal with these imbalances had been taken away from it, the Bank of England became excessively focused on controlling consumer price inflation to the exclusion of other variables, as the Bank itself has acknowledged.
And the Financial Services Authority became a narrow financial regulator almost entirely focused on rules-based regulation.
They had neither the capacity nor the inclination to stand back and make difficult judgments about the macro context and the growth of systemic risks.
To be fair they too have also be commendably candid about those failures.
So, while much has been made of how the tripartite system led to a fatal lack of leadership when the crisis broke, the much greater failure was in the years leading up to the crisis as the imbalances built up.
Crucially, this failure was hardwired into the institutional design of the framework, and no amount of tinkering with new committees and new statutory obligations will fix it.
Indeed we are in danger of making similar mistakes in the aftermath of the crisis, with too little consideration of the impact of higher capital and liquidity requirements on overall financial conditions and the pace of recovery.
And despite everything we know about the aftermath of banking crises, there is still no single institution that is responsible for ensuring that the monetary transmission mechanism is functioning as it should, so that policy rates are properly passed through to businesses and consumers.
So we need a wholly new framework.
Some have questioned our decision to put the Bank of England in charge of macro and micro-prudential supervision.
I see it as absolutely fundamental to a new economic framework for monitoring and controlling the growth of private debt in our economy.
Only independent central banks have the broad macroeconomic understanding, the authority and the knowledge required to make the kind of macro-prudential judgments that are required now and in the future.
Of course they must operate with a mandate from, and accountability to, the elected Government, similar to the existing inflation targeting system.
But this new role will inevitably require a degree of judgment and discretion that goes beyond the narrow rules-based system that failed either to spot or prevent the crisis.
And, because central banks are the lender of last resort, the experience of the crisis has also shown that they need to be intimately familiar with every aspect of the institutions that they may have to support.
So they must also be responsible for day-to-day micro-prudential regulation as well.
That case is particularly strong where the banking system is highly concentrated as it is in the UK, where the boundary between micro and macro-prudential regulation is not easy to define.
For example, who could deny that the micro-prudential regulation of a large international bank like Barclays, RBS or HSBC has in and of itself significant macro-prudential implications for the UK economy?
Since we’ve been making this argument about a new model of financial regulation, the intellectual tide has turned decisively in our favour.
The arguments we have made are the same as those that lie behind the direction of reform at the Federal Reserve and in the Bundesbank, and they are argument now publicly supported by the likes of Jacques de Larosiere, Ben Bernanke, and Stanley Fischer – the eminent monetary economist and Governor of the Central Bank of Israel.
The precise tools of macro-prudential regulation must now be the subject of intensive debate, international coordination, and ultimately experimentation.
They may include variable risk weightings for different asset classes, adjustable capital and liquidity requirements, and even more direct interventions in lending behavior, but we should rule nothing out at this stage.
We should also recognize that no system of supervision and regulation will ever eliminate failures.
That’s why we must keep up the pressure for reform so that our banking system itself is more robust to failure and the damage that failure inflicts on the broader economy is minimised.
It would be a tragedy if we ended up with a banking system that is even more concentrated, riskier and more prone to moral hazard than the one we had before the crisis.
More and better quality capital, credible resolution procedures, living wills and more competition are all important parts of the solution.
But I also believe we should pursue international agreement for a levy on the banking system, similar to the levy on wholesale funding proposed by President Obama or the levy already implemented in Sweden, as well as for structural reforms to prevent retail banks with implicit taxpayer guarantees from engaging in the riskiest activities such as large scale proprietary trading.
These would not have prevented the crisis on their own, and they cannot be a substitute for a better underlying macroeconomic and regulatory policy framework.
But together they would help to create a system that is more robust to failure.
These are the new tools and institutions that we need to control the growth of private debt in the future.
They are a key component of moving to that new model of economic growth.
But the bigger risk to our economy now stems from an explosion in public debt.
To entrench economic stability for the long term, we need fundamental reform of our fiscal policy framework.
There is wide agreement among economists on the need for more independent scrutiny of fiscal policy to replace the discredited fiscal rules.
Conservatives first proposed that independent scrutiny more than five years ago. We have now set out in detail how that scrutiny will be performed by an Office for Budget Responsibility.
Let me say a little bit more about this Office, because I don’t think people have fully appreciated what a radical departure this represents from the way Chancellors have put together Budgets in the past.
Everyone can see how the fiscal rules created in 1997 failed catastrophically.
They did nothing to prevent the Government from running a current budget deficit at the peak of the boom.
To coin a phrase, we didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining.
The flaws in the fiscal rules are now well known – they were backwards looking, so that past surpluses could be used to justify present deficits, and they were adjudicated by the Treasury with no independent oversight, undermining their credibility.
But there is also an emerging recognition in the academic literature that any system of rules is likely to be unsatisfactory – either so general as to be ineffective, or so complex as to be inflexible and impossible to enforce.
Instead there is growing support for the concept of fiscal councils that can bring independent and forward-looking scrutiny to bear on governments.
Institutions of this kind now exist in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
I believe that just as we need to move away from narrowly defined rules towards greater judgment in financial regulation, the same is true in fiscal policy.
The benefits of fiscal councils for sustainable fiscal policy could be as profound as those of independent central banks for monetary policy.
Evidence suggests that many of the same time-consistency problems that lead to inflation bias when politicians are in direct control of monetary policy can lead to deficit bias in fiscal policy.
Of course the analogy is not exact – unelected bodies should not be given independent executive power over the levers of fiscal policy because of the fundamentally political distributive consequences of decisions over spending and tax.
But the power of a fiscal council to hold politicians to account for the fiscal implications of their tax and spending plans should not be underestimated.
These powerful arguments, and the steady erosion of public trust in official forecasts, lie behind our proposals for an independent Office for Budget Responsibility.
The OBR will be made up of a three person committee, accountable to Parliament, and a small secretariat of economists and public finance experts.
It will be responsible for publishing independent fiscal forecasts at least twice a year around the time of the Budget and PBR, based on existing government policy at the time.
And the committee will publish a recommendation for the amount of net fiscal tightening or loosening it judges necessary for the Treasury to have a better than 50% chance of achieving a forward looking mandate set by the Chancellor.
If the Chancellor choses not to abide by that recommendation he or she will have to explain their reasoning to Parliament, but it would be a brave Chancellor who chose to do so.
At least once a year, the OBR will also publish a comprehensive assessment of the true long term sustainability of the public finances, including off balance sheet liabilities such as public sector pensions, PFI and the likely costs of an ageing population.
For the first time we will have a transparent national balance sheet.
The Office for Budget Responsibility will be up and running on a temporary basis for the first Budget of a Conservative Government, much as the Monetary Policy Committee initially functioned for a year without underpinning legislation.
Sir Alan Budd has agreed to chair the Office for Budget Responsibility during this period. No one can doubt his independence, and I want to thank him for taking this important task on.
Whether I thank him in a couple of years’ time is another matter – but that is the whole point.
So this is how we will entrench fiscal responsibility for the long term, but we also face an immediate fiscal challenge.
In the last two weeks, disagreements within the economics profession over how quickly to tackle the record budget deficit have been thrust into the spotlight.
Before I address those disagreements, it’s worth remembering that there are broad areas of agreement that didn’t exist even six months ago.
There is a recognition that the scale of the deficit and the rapid increase in the national debt cannot safely be ignored, and that public expenditure will have to be cut.
That is something we Conservatives have been saying since the start, and we had to face down those who said that cuts were never going to be necessary.
There is also general agreement now that Britain needs a more credible medium term plan to deal with the deficit, as both the IMF and the OECD have argued.
The Governor of the Bank made this point yet again yesterday, as did the signatories of one of those letters to the Financial Times last week.
So when it comes to identifying the problem, the need to set out a more credible plan, and the case for having that plan independently monitored, there is broad agreement.
Where disagreements remain is on the details of the timing and pace of deficit reduction.
The economists who signed those two letters cautioning against early action are reasonable people who care deeply about the future of the British economy.
But while I respect their position, I take a different view – a view shared by the equally eminent economists who wrote to the Sunday Times, many leading business figures and crucially by international investors.
And that view is simple.
A credible plan is not really credible unless you’re prepared to make a start on it this year.
Otherwise we are trying to persuade people that we will be virtuous, just not yet – and when you’ve been as irresponsible as Britain has been, that isn’t easy.
That is my hard-headed assessment.
And it is driven by three things:
The nature of confidence; the realities of financial markets; and the practicalities of government.
Let me take each in turn.
Those who recommend delay argue that when private demand is weak, cutting government spending too quickly risks undermining the recovery.
In its most simplistic form this argument fails to ask why it is that private demand is weak.
Modern economics understands the importance of expectations and confidence.
Businesses and individuals look to the future, and while they are not the perfectly rational creatures assumed by the theory of Ricardian equivalence, uncertainty over the future paths of tax rates and government spending does play an important role in their behaviour.
This is particularly true when it comes to consumer spending and business investment, and as the Governor has made clear, the Bank of
England tries to take these effects into account when making its forecasts.
So a credible fiscal consolidation plan will have a positive impact through greater certainty and confidence about the future.
Businesses can expand safer in the knowledge that an out of control budget is not going to lead to ever higher taxes.
Consumers can spend safer in the knowledge that mortgage rates will remain lower for longer.
To be fair, a more sophisticated version of the argument for delay also takes into account the complex interaction between fiscal policy and monetary conditions.
It says that at the moment, and for as long as policy and market interest rates remain low, fiscal tightening should be as gradual as possible because there is little scope for more accommodating monetary conditions to accompany it, either through lower market interest rates or through the reaction function of the Bank of England.
And only as and when monetary conditions begin to tighten can the pace of fiscal consolidation be accelerated.
But even this, more nuanced, version of the case for delay is too complacent.
For it brings me to the second consideration: the realities of financial markets.
Experience shows that market adjustments tend to be neither smooth nor gradual – instead reassessments are more likely to be sudden and brutal.
The luxury of waiting for monetary conditions to tighten before embarking on fiscal tightening may not be one that we are afforded.
That is why the experiences of other countries right now, not just Greece but also Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Poland and others, as well as examples like Sweden and Canada in the past, are so important.
If markets start to lose confidence in a country and interest rates are driven up, recovery is undermined and the inevitable cuts to spending end up being deeper and more savage than would have been necessary to maintain market confidence in the first place.
Take a look at the measures the government was forced to implement across the Irish sea.
That is not a risk that I am prepared to take.
Already the yield spread between 10 year gilts and 10 year German bunds is more than 90 basis points, compared to 70 basis points for Spain and 110 basis points for Portugal.
In the most extreme cases, countries that lose the confidence of markets effectively lose their sovereignty.
As Goran Persson, the Social Democrat Prime Minister of Sweden who eliminated a huge budget deficit following a financial crisis and a deep recession in the early 1990s, used to say, “a country in debt is not free”.
This is why credibility is so vital.
Far from accepting “as binding the views of the same financial markets whose mistakes precipitated the crisis in the first place”, as one of last weeks letters to the FT put it, establishing credibility does exactly the reverse – it buys you more freedom from the very real constraints of financial markets.
How much better to make difficult decisions about spending on your own terms and at your own speed than to have them forced upon you on somebody else’s terms?
So undermining credibility by giving the impression that cuts can be avoided, or by suggesting that unexpected improvements in the public finances will lead to more spending, only makes deeper cuts more likely.
But the decisive case for making an early start on reducing our record deficit is not only based on confidence and the need to establish credibility.
It also draws on an understanding of the realities of government – in particular institutional inertia and the difficulty of real reform.
These considerations don’t appear in most economists’ models.
Economists usually talk about fiscal tightening in billions of pounds or percentages of GDP, but cutting spending is not simply a matter of numbers in a Budget Red Book.
It is a myth, perpetrated by politicians, that all Ministers have to do is sit in their Whitehall offices pulling levers, and things change on the ground.
More often than not, the levers aren’t connected to anything.
Real change that drives up productivity is a difficult process.
If unstable financial markets do force emergency cuts, then those are precisely the conditions in which their impact on the poorest in society and the quality of public services is likely to be greatest.
As Gordon Brown told his party conference when he was Shadow Chancellor: “Losing control of public spending doesn’t help the poor.”
Making an early start, on your own terms, creates the space for better targeted cuts.
It will give more time for public sector reforms to take effect so that lower spending is delivered through greater efficiency not cuts to the front line.
And it makes it easier to preserve public support for difficult decisions by protecting the poorest and most vulnerable.
A key lesson from the successful examples from around the world of fiscal consolidation is that you must be able to demonstrate that ‘we are all in this together’ in order to maintain a coalition for action.
So that is why we will make an early start – in order to bring confidence to the economy, establish the credibility with markets that buys you time,
and to ensure that spending cuts are well targeted.
Let me explain how a new government will do that.
There will be three clear phases to our plan of action.
Phase One involves finding out the truth.
Within days of taking office we will establish our new independent Office for Budget Responsibility.
We have put in place the plans and the people to be ready to do that on a non-statutory basis, until the legislation is in place to make it permanent.
The Office will help us publish a truly independent audit of the public finances before the first Budget.
So everyone will know the true state of the nation’s balance sheet.
And everyone will be able to see independent forecasts for growth.
Only then will anyone know the true scale of the fiscal challenge that faces whoever forms the next government.
Phase Two is the Budget.
This will take place within 50 days.
It will set out the overall fiscal path and spending totals that we will stick to over the years ahead.
As I have made clear, our aim will be to eliminate the bulk of the structural current budget deficit over a Parliament.
That is what the Governor of the Bank of England has called for and I agree with him.
The Budget will set out some of the cross-cutting measures on pay, the cost of Whitehall, the review of the pension age, and the largest public sector pensions, that will help to put our public finances on a sustainable footing.
Crucially, the first Budget will also contain measures to boost enterprise, encourage new jobs and show that Britain is open for business.
We will take targeted steps to reduce some budgets in-year – and we have set out some specific examples – in order to build credibility and make a start on reducing the deficit.
The scale of these steps will be informed by that proper audit of the nation’s finances, that independent assessment of growth and discussions with the independent Bank of England about the scope for monetary policy to remain supportive.
At the same time the rest of government will be embarking on the major structural reforms to the public services that will, over time, deliver the lasting productivity gains that drive real value for money.
Phase Three is the Spending Review
Over the Summer we will work flat out to conduct the detailed departmental Spending Review for the years after 2011 that the current government has simply refused to carry out, and publish that results of that review in the Autumn.
The only possible reason why the Treasury has not already produced a Spending Review is that the Government do not want to spell out the difficult decisions that even their own spending plans imply.
We will not hesitate to take the difficult decisions to get Britain working.
A NEW ECONOMIC MODEL
So this is the new economic framework for monetary and fiscal policy that we need to ensure that private and public debt are sustainable in the future.
But given that we cannot go back to the last decade’s debt-fuelled model of growth, the question I am asked most often at the moment, is “where is the growth going to come from?”
The answer is the final part of this new economic model.
The economics profession is in broad agreement that the recovery will only be sustainable if it is accompanied by an internal and external rebalancing of our economy: in other words a higher savings rate, more business investment, and rising net exports.
Economic theory and evidence both suggest that the macroeconomic policy combination most likely to encourage that adjustment is tight fiscal policy, supportive monetary policy and countercyclical financial regulation.
But that on its own will not be enough.
We need a program of supply side reform that is no less urgent or radical than the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s.
When our households, our banks and our government are so indebted, raising the real rate of return on investment is the only sustainable route to prosperity.
All the evidence suggests that Britain’s trend rate of growth has declined over the last decade.
And as we saw in the 1980s and 1990s, supply side reforms can take some years before their full effect is felt.
But a new government presents a golden opportunity to set out a new direction and harvest some of the long term benefits up front.
By embarking upon a series of reforms that will raise the real return on investment, we can raise the rate of investment right now.
That’s why I have pledged that a Conservative Government will use the opportunity of a change of government to send the signal that Britain is once again open for business.
And in order to bring some accountability to economic policy, I have set out eight benchmarks for the next Parliament against which you will be able to judge whether a Conservative Government is delivering on this new economic model.
So we will maintain Britain’s AAA credit rating.
We will increase saving, business investment and exports as a share of GDP.
The plans I announced at the weekend to sell in due course the government’s stakes in RBS and Lloyds will help to encourage millions of people to start saving and investing for the future, often for the first time.
We will improve Britain’s international rankings for tax competitiveness and business regulation with specific measures on corporation tax and regulatory budgets.
We will reduce youth unemployment and reduce the number of children in workless households as part of our strategy for tackling poverty and inequality.
We will raise the private sector’s share of the economy in all regions of the country, especially outside London and the South East.
And we will reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions and increase our share of global markets for low carbon technologies.
But perhaps the greatest challenge is reforming the public sector itself.
The part of our economy that is responsible for delivering this framework for economic success is the one that has performed the worst of any sector over the last decade.
Public sector productivity has actually fallen since 1997.
Indeed if productivity in the public sector had grown at the same rate as in private sector services we could now have the same quality of public services for £60 billion less each year.
A radical program of public sector reform is not just a fiscal necessity, it is vital if we are to deliver the world class education and welfare services that support a competitive economy.
So we will raise productivity growth in the public sector by increasing diversity of provision, extending payment by results, giving more power to consumers and improving financial controls.
We will expect productivity improvements to match the best of the private sector.
And crucially, the Treasury will return to its core role of ensuring value for money for the only interest group it should represent – taxpayers.
There will be no more empire building or attempts to interfere in every area of government policy.
How can I put it in a topical way?
You will have a Chancellor and a Prime Minister united with the common goal of unleashing the forces of enterprise.
Delivering the new economic model that I have set out today will not be easy.
Britain cannot run away from its problems. And if we fail to learn the lessons of the last decade we are doomed to repeat them.
We have to deal with our debts to get our economy back on its feet.
The core values that we need to apply are responsibility and accountability.
Over the five years that I have been in this job I have put fiscal and financial responsibility at the heart of my approach.
I resisted the calls to offer up front unfunded tax cuts. I said that an economy built on debt was living on borrowed time – and so it was.
I have also been straight with the British people about the challenges ahead.
I said that whoever won the election would have to cut spending.
And I have set out the benchmarks against which we can be held accountable.
Our ambition is nothing less than a new economic model for Britain.
Let us move from an economy built on debt to an economy that saves and invests for the future.
The Labour-Liberal Coalition is just about managing to cope with the constant rioting but at least immigration has been halted. No-one wants to move here anymore.
Head Minister Yvette wishes that she hadn’t defeated David Miliband because her life with the 30-stone Ed Balls ended as soon as he had been defeated in the Leadership election by the elder Miliband. She had felt honour-bound to avenge her former husband’s humiliation and to everyone’s surprise, she had won!
Within two days had been texted by the Leader and asked to either form a government or go into exile to Melton Mowbray in the Mid-Shires.
No-one knows where the younger Miliband is at the moment. Rumour is that he is teaching English somewhere near Beijing – but these days – who knows.
Anyway, it was no joke having to go everywhere totally surrounded by large sweaty Security Guards in too-tight suits. Yvette hated that nearly as much as the Kevlar jacket which she seemed to take off only at bedtime . Even that wasn’t much fun any more.
She was soon to meet the rather wizened President of France. She briefly thought of President Lagarde in those good old days when she had been Head of the now defunct International Monetary Fund. The whereabouts of the money continues to be a mystery – but there are still lingering suspicions as to how well Germany (which used to be known as Europe) is doing.
As she climbed into the human-drawn bullet-proof rickshaw (the Ministerial Jags had been scrapped soon after the Petrol Wars) , out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of what appeared to be a familiar face. The features were still smooth – even after THAT prison sentence – but the Buller Boy confidence now looked a little deflated and the sandwich board was not sitting comfortably on the 30 year-old hand-made suit. Sometimes, she thought that the post-incarceration humiliation phase of a prison sentence was a bit unnecessary but it did seem to teach some humility to those who were believed to need it.
The House of Parliament used to be called Phoenix House and she was once again reminded of the historical episode thirty years ago when someone called Rupert Murdoch had a custard pie thrown in his face within these very walls! The incident had led to the destruction of the entire newspaper industry – Pre-Digi – and was commemorated by a sculpture fixed to the pavement outside.
She looked at the trio of figures. Maxwell, his wife Wendy Deng and pie-thrower Jonathan May-Bowles were depicted in life-sized splendour. Well….that wasn’t strictly true. The “sculpture” was by the Gunther von Hagens studios and rumoured to be no more than the plastinated remains of the three participants. However the bomb-proof glass case in which the sculpture was sealed made analysis impossible – plus there had been rumours that two of the figures depicted had been spotted in various locations – just like Arkle, Lord Lucan and Gordon Brown. Mind you, she mused, without any reliable news….who knows?
When she was awakened by the scream of a knocked-over tourist just outside the main entrance to the Virgin Westminster Palace of Fun, she shouted to the rickshaw pulling-team to stop. She noticed quite a few people wandering about amongst the potholes. They were all wearing those ill-fitting but mandatory jackets with “TOURIST” emblazoned on the back – although many of them were English and from only 30 or 40 miles away.
She decided to take a risk and see whether the person her team had knocked over was OK and stepped rather gingerly onto the pavement. She reached into her gun-case for a handheld pot-pourri, as the stench of the open street was something to which she was no longer acclimatised.
A few years ago, this would have been what used to be called “an iOpportunity”. A digital image would have been taken of the Head Minister cradling an injured citizen to her Spanx-Kevlar bodice and the image would have been transmitted to everyone who still had an iDevice.
Unfortunately. Electronic signals were a thing of the past and citizens only wore “ the iBox” around their neck or waist for decoration.
However, it was soon apparent that the Tourist had a broken leg. Yvette turned and re-entered the Ministerial Carry-pod. “Deal with it, “ she snapped to one of her guards.
As the door hissed shut and she felt the shudder of the rickshaw slowly gathering speed, she fancied that she heard a single gunshot….. in fact, as she proceeded, she noticed that there were lots of gunshots……
To be continued/
Budget 2012 – so you don’t have to….
- The 50p tax rate will be reduced to 45p in April 2013
- The point at which people start paying income tax will be raised to £9,205 from April 2013; it is currently £7,475 and will go up to £8,105 in April 2012
- Only those with income over £60,000 to lose all child benefits
- Will be phased out when someone in a household has an income of more than £50,000. It will fall by 1% for every £100 earned over £50,000
FUEL, CIGARETTE AND ALCOHOL DUTIES
- Extra 37p on packet of cigarettes from 6pm tonight
- No change to existing plans on alcohol duty
- No change to existing plans on fuel duty
- A single tier pension, at a minimum of £140, to be introduced
- Automatic review of state pension age to be introduced
- UK economy is forecast to grow 0.8% in 2012
- The forecast for 2013 is 2%, for 2014 is 2.7%, and for both 2015 and 2016 is 3%
- Inflation is forecast to fall to 2.8% in 2012, and to 1.9% in 2013
- Stamp duty on properties worth over £2 million to increase to 7% from midnight
- Any such homes bought through companies will pay 15%
JOBS AND EMPLOYMENT
- Sunday trading laws to be relaxed for eight weekends beginning 22 July
- Independent Pay Review bodies to look at introducing regional pay for public sector
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
- Corporation tax will be cut to 24% from April 2012, falling to 22% by 2014
- Tax relief for the video games, animation and high-end television production sectors
- Government to consider enterprise loans for young people to start their own business
- Extra funding for ultra-fast broadband and wifi in 10 of UK’s largest cities
- Investment in railways in north-west England to be increased
- Airport expansion options to be outlined later this summer, including review of south-east airport capacity
- Government borrowing this year to be £126bn – £1bn less than forecast
- Forecast to fall to £21bn by 2016-17
Home Secretary Theresa May HAS to resign. Never mind that she is female and that David Cameron appears to be very limited in his choice of talented Conservative ladies. She has failed to manage her staff and as a result, Head of the UK Border Force, Brodie Clark has resigned. He has been a civil servant for over 40 years and his salary is £130,000. That means that he will be receiving a tax-free six-figure pay-off and will probably move straight to a pension of about £90,000 per annum. After the Metropolitan Police debacle, this is one hell of an expensive Home Secretary.
Closet or Cabinet?
Dr Liam Fox and now Oliver Letwin have given David Cameron the sort of distractions which he does not really need. There has been speculation about each man’s political future and the doom-mongers reckon that “it’s all unravelling”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A few years ago, I had a meeting at Conservative Central Office (when the Party could still afford Smith Square) with Lord Freeman who, at the time, was in charge of Candidates. We discussed the possibility of me testing prospective members of Parliament so that the Party did not have to rely on patronage and the depressingly amateurish local interviews which continue to be a feature of candidate selection.
Had we gone ahead with the plans, the present Cabinet would have contained some candidates who would have been pre-vetted by me. In the event, it was decided not to go ahead with something which may have caused certain future Ministers embarrassment. Mind you, this parliament has produced those who are managing maximum embarrassment without any external help.
However, in the main, DC has assembled a surprisingly able bunch of characters.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Cameron is a good, solid Prime Minister and, given the time, he could become a great one. There is just one thing holding him back – the lack of depth in his “one-downers”. The Cabinet.
Here’s the list:
Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Vince Cable, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Philip Hammond, Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Alexander, Lord Strathclyde, Baroness Warsi, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, David Willets, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Dominic Grieve.
No problems at all with the first five:
Nick Clegg has the most difficult job, both as a politician and nanny to his confused Liberals who, in spite of (mostly) enjoying the aphrodisiac nature of power, are still a bit uncertain as to whether they are really participating or merely ballast. His sometimes diffident manner disguises a will of steel.
William Hague has grown into his job, in spite of the shaky start with Libya. He has credibility abroad which is probably one of the most important attributes of any Foreign Secretary.
George Osborne, unsurprisingly has been the recipient of more “stick” than any other politician but , love him or hate him, he has shown courage and tenacity and sometimes, downright stubbornness. Whether those attributes are born of economic understanding or just downright bloody-mindedness, remains to be seen. What is in his favour is that, unlike many others – he takes decisions and stands by them.
Ken Clarke has made the legal system accessible. I know that sounds a bit fanciful but in spite of his occasional too-straight talking , he is a great antidote to a legal system which makes bankers and their bonuses look like paupers. Currently, both the economy and David Cameron need a Lord Chancellor who at least “appears” non-elitist because sooner or later, we are going to scrutinise the multi-billion pound cash machine that is THE LAW.
Theresa May is annoying. However, she is good at her job and so far, does not appear to have put a a faux leopard skin kitten-heel-clad foot wrong. She too is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Her handling of both the News International scandal and the inner city rioting was impeccable.
I would also add Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to the A-team. IDS has proved that there is life after political death and has been delivering spectacular results with his pensions initiatives. He is both a great theorist as well as having a rare quality among politicians – he is a “doer”.
Michael Gove has been quietly ploughing the Education furrow and shaking-up an over-bureaucratic education system and has not been afraid to take some very unpopular decisions. He too is a “doer”. His thinking on education harks back to the 60s when children were educated and not used as test and statistics fodder. 10/10
Philip Hammond at Transport also belongs in the A-team and is without doubt a star of the future. He is lucky though to have both Norman Baker and Mike Penning as Parliamernary Under Secretaries. Norman the Idealist and Mike the “no shit” British Bulldog. Philip Hammond is seen on TV as a government spokesman much more than you might expect from a Secretary for Transport.
Dr Liam Fox has been delivering what, on the surface has been a solid job – if not a bit over-influenced by the balance sheet. He has always looked like the Conservatives’ “nearly man”. Soon, he may be the “never really was” man – as his political career begins to unravel. He, in common with all politicians should remember that Perception is King. The current perception of him is now tending towards the seedy.
Vince Cable was always going to be a problem and continues to be a bit of a thorn. He is a natural backroom boy and looks terribly uncomfortable in the back of a Ministerial limo. However, by far his biggest handicap is the fact that he is having increasing difficulty in disguising his Socialist views. He seems to be in permanent pain. Very soon, his political career will describe the downward arc of the parabola. He is the Statler and Waldorf of the Cabinet and compared to some of the other youngsters is from the wrong generation. His obssession with the bankers is hurting his credibility because he has not managed to do anything about them and never will.
Chris Huhne is even more annoying than Theresa May (!) but his personal life and the alleged driving licence naughtiness has totally blown his credibility. He is lucky that he is a Liberal – otherwise he may have already participated in an exit interview with DC.
Andrew Lansley is running the NHS in the way that you would expect from a career Civil Servant. He is doubtless very able – as a Civil Servant – but the NHS currently needs a large dose of commercial thinking. Everything that he has put forward so far has been through the wringer. Wrong man in the wrong job.
Eric Pickles is a great man in every sense. He provides the Cabinet with some Northern credibility. From a Labour family, this ex-Communist has travelled the entire political spectrum and is one of the shrewdest operators in Government. He is one of the few in Cabinet who is 100% suited to his brief with the advantage of being a working-class Conservative.
One Cabinet member who one could have been forgiven for thinking would, by now be running one of the great Departments of State is Francis Maude. He is a rock-solid operator and should, without doubt be on the real A-team. As Minister at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General , he has been handed a temporary consolation prize. He has not peaked yet. As a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, he knows things. Street-wise.
Oliver Letwin is Minister of State at the Cabinet office is DC’s Policy Adviser. Like many intellectuals, he appears to be constantly stressed and “away with the fairies”. He is the archetypal analytical-amiable who cannot manage himself – or others – and has been given the “Special Projects” brief. He is currently the recipient of a press-roasting but, like a good luck charm, will always be retained in some capacity. It is a pity that other Cabinet members cannot spot “burn-out” when they see it.
David Willets, like Letwin is a white-hot intellectual who is good to have around. He is articulate and fiercely bright. He would have done much better , had he not looked like a spud. His great disadvantage is a lack of any “street-cred” because he has always been a political “wonk”. Having said all that, he is the ideal person to be looking after Universities and Science with the advantage of being so clever that there isn’t a single other member anywhere NEAR as suitable for this job.
Danny Alexander is another (young) career politician and his appointment has always smacked of tokenism with the added suspicion that David Laws is hanging about whilst DC waits for a respectable passage of time before he invites him back.
Sir George Young SHOULD have been Speaker of the House and his present post as Leader of the House is his consolation prize. He is marking time because he will probably be the next Speaker. In spite of a comparatively undistinguished Parliamentary career so far, he gives the Cabinet gravitas.
Next we have the Cabinet “solid citizens”. All are capable but not stars: Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Dominic Grieve are all OK but will never set the world on fire.
Finally we have the youthful, Lord Strathclyde, or should I say Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde. As Leader in the Lords, he is a very safe pair of hands and is a Conservative straight from Tory Central Casting. A great asset to the Cabinet.
Baroness Warsi is Chairman of the Conservative Party and although a competent TV performer, she always sounds as if she’s reading from a Tory pamphlet. She is very likely to be reshuffled out soon. Bearing in mind that Perception is King, her appointment smacked of tokenism.
So, you see that , in spite of the elitist-millionaire tags, the Cabinet is largely populated by a very cabable and solid bunch of operators – although the real depth of talent within the Coalition parties is still a bit of a mystery – even, one suspects, to David Cameron himself.
This Cabinet has a good mix of experience, intellect and toughness.
Whether or not you share their views or politics – they are (by far) the ones who have the very best chance of extricating us from where we have landed.
Cameron’s Speech – the Tevez Way!
Yesterday, during David Cameron’s Speech to the Conservative conference, I took off my microphone and left it in front of the radio . Unfortunately, I forgot to switch-off the mic.
The mic was still connected to my voice-recognition software which as some of you may know, is tuned just for my voice.
Below is the result. The scary thing is that it makes perfect sense – with a twist of Tevez (and Stanley Unwin).
I have not included the whole speech ( for health reasons!)
This week’s Liz Barclay at show discipline the unity and that is that is a lot of classy. I’m proud of my team and I are members and gradually the art but most of all I’m proud to you made this week the success that I believe it. Then run on it and run people have very clear instructions. The site of this economic is a way that is fair and right as you don’t please build something worth while for us and our children. Clear instructions clear objectives and really a clear understanding that any times is leadership and to get are probably get our society works at Hay.
Pitiable while the options to show everyone what would really is the first. I’ll say something to everyone in this will add despite predictions in one elections are wrapped treatments may to S a great campaign or one Hassan (of the something in the AEE). Get you a certain is that you keep that institutional banking system up the political agenda. Bred generations about the benefit of the next letters make sure with the gay week by Boris and wiki London observance of all is this is all inserted.
It went when the schedule is so much that the spirit of what some in Bristol which reporting all your books well below is very carefully at. But my colleagues chose George knew exactly what you want a widespread that the matter would begin so either over or is is that instead he chose the joy site. Are the one I chose person I said Ken this little crime and punishment I’ll read it twice.
Yesterday we should all be reading what it is likely they were children and that you remember what it helps the police to catch the blood that will keep in touch. And hours that never were and earlier this year some people said it here that is not our concern the business don’t let anyone say that it wasn’t in our national interest will remember what exactly did you know it’s sent text the IRA immobilisation. And the police officer in a square and is not what they may disguise a weblog so I say let us be right what we did doubt if it will take back that much of it in the remaining within writing is greatly any little rock of it.
Wales will benefit baby and we are on target to bring the low end of 2040 days in a incredible origins and I know that everyone is all want to send a message in to our Armed Forces in our beliefs. And to those of you who keep a safe terrorism on streets we are proud of what you write leadership will that will bring as much.
A right of the month ago I was in Nigeria on a trade mission while I was there I visited acceleration and experience I will never again. It was very hot bring basic allowance. Go on but in the 80s is that was once one of the nurses told that it was made many of the babies and employers time this country will help vaccinate all the world’s poorest children are now able to do what they will make sure you’re on a post-it note will do it where it is an account but I elegantly in spite of all out of this the right thing to do it in our country and our people never turn our backs on the world’s poorest and I believe.
I will never pretend there are shortcuts to success. Success will come with the right idea right to write leadership. Leadership job to set the direction was taken and the choices you must make but you should also do for the end that will read another success of our politicians. Or double if the people and the spirit of some people say that to succeed in this world we need an eye on the approach I will still I say to you by us the real us hard-working high end and yet optimistic carried out as a spirited and I’m thinking it’s a small country that does read it while boasting a successful history.
Of one of… I believe is alive and well today. I set to Sydney Roberts headteacher I note in Norwich who started a response from scratch at South Alterman oversubscribed what her ambition to do it all over again and leadership. I see it did not object easy access to technical the network patients in the country free treatment in our history the RHS and leadership. I said in all we saw this he watched the rise and fall onto the set now they are just be the chance to clear up kicker.
It is set out all without this started social people picked up rooms and reclaim our streets to the argument I want to make today leadership works I know how things are 1 min underestimate how I repeat the weather is about making ends meet state of the world the truth is right now when the amateur is not paralysed by group the of the world as long.
Sells – it is describing it and the rest just let them decide what is written about our country we don’t set that success in this century automatically belongs is just have to remember the origin. She the people Britain taking it as why much of it was much more why each is about unleashing your English chance to see the opportunity sub for a while and get it done again.
Everyone wants to build it, but are working on taking responsibility will be well rewarded and Solaris project the pessimism that rebel group is this some energy at right I’d better get your rock country rate in Britain. It wasn’t so it will we should do it is the right as you it was that so many people actually written could do something like that and any of your fellow passengers the economic future of social and political system our best days are behind is where I’ll certain.
I’m here to tell you at Sydney is true because they said around and hope the best the rest will need a spot in a cell with raw network society and our children which will give ourselves we can get these things at black corrected us states that fronting best interest they’ll likely as well and you put in thethat’s desirable at a meeting in Manchester the threat to the world the following and written is as serious as in 2008 when world recession the Eurozone is in crisis threat even people finds the normally require.
You were this time it’s not like people to know that the good times so long in coming the answer it’s straightforward about this was in session the things will work with you to get the clear understood into recession.