Methinks the Chancellor really ain’t for u-turning

“I’ve had representations that these changes to tax credits should be phased in. I’ve listened to the concerns. I hear and understand them. And because I’ve been able to announce today an improvement in the public finances, the simplest thing to do is not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether. Tax credits are being phased out anyway as we introduce universal credit. What that means is that the tax credit taper rate and thresholds remain unchanged.”
George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer

You could describe it as a u-turn, yet I am more inclined to call it a stay of execution. However you look at it, tax credits are going.

On the surface you could see some merit in an argument that says the state should not be in effect assisting companies in their under-paying of staff. However, tax credits make work affordable for many, and the consequence of unaffordable work is welfare. It may be that this is a false saving. Having said that, I suspect that many will continue in unaffordable work.

In the long run the Chancellor has changed nothing. Working families, many of them , will feel the pinch. Some, the few already subject to Universal Credit, may already be eyeing a prospect of reduced circumstances.

This may be a u-turn today, but the destination remains unchanged.

Having choice, and being criticised for choosing; some are preparing for rattle propulsion

I am a Tory, I must be – someone on Twitter said so. Daring to choose one of the four Labour leadership contenders that was not the choice of said Tweeter makes me liable to be punished by tweeting “you are no socialist”.

Anyroadup. Yesterday: a day of two debates.

Midday, Osborne versus Benn. I am a big fan of Hilary Benn. I think he is the best speaker in the PLP, a joy to listen to. I could enthuse about his orating the telephone directory. His is always a sober oratory, and able to be economical with words, whilst able to be totally persuasive.

I do not like Osborne’s voice, and apologise if that is too personal. It is less the timbre, than the cocksure lecturing style that he conveys. It is of some comfort that whilst Labour has four good candidates (albeit with reservations about Jeremy Corbyn), the two frontrunners to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader are both unattractive propositions. To be fair, George (or Gideon as some like to call him) did reasonably well at yesterday’s PMQs. However, Benn was masterful, and showed how you can conduct yourself with gravitas, and without resorting to Punch and Judy politics.

Seven pm. The Newsnight debate. Having outed myself as a Kendall fan I was hoping that she was not going to throw into doubt my allegiance. No worries, she was competent enough, although if I am allowed a minor whinge I would work on the body language.

Liz is condemned as the right-wing candidate, a virtual Tory to some – but have they actually listened to her? I do not doubt that I will find myself disagreeing with some of her views, but so far it has been all good.

I thought Jeremy Corbyn showed why his inclusion is so useful. He offered a quite different solution, albeit one inherit from the 1970s. It allowed for genuine comparisons between his standpoint and the other three. I did not agree with too much, although some of his ideas are perfectly sound.

As for Yvette and Andy, Cooper and Burnham. They came across as the continuation candidates, which does not strike me as what is required. However you look at it, we were thumped in 2010 and this year, and something has got to change. Yvette was very statesmanlike, and would make a good leader, whereas Andy seemed incapable of being concise.

Whoever wins will get my support. I just cannot understand those who threaten to leave the party if their chosen candidate does not succeed – how is this democratic? I did not vote for Ed Miliband but was more than happy to work for him, and my not choosing him does not diminish the fact that he is a democratic socialist and more than competent politician. The same for whoever emerges from this competition. If Liz is unsuccessful I will still work damn hard for my community and for Labour. If you want to help the Tories then throw your rattle out of the pram on September 12th when the winner is announced, because they will relish all the division, petulance, and sulking from those incapable of understanding why anyone cannot agree all the time with them.

On last night’s performance I think Liz Kendall came out best, marginally ahead of Yvette Cooper. I would put Andy Burnham some distance ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in third place on the night.

I am going to the Stevenage hustings on Saturday, another chance to hear all four candidates.

George, can you hear the pips squeaking?

Listening to the budget I think any sensible person would agree with the soundbites coming from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a reminder, George Osborne talked of rewarding work, committing to dealing with the debt, making the tax system simpler, and lifting the poorest out of tax; all very laudable, and, superficially at least, entirely supportable aims.

Talk is cheap, it is action that counts, and here is where the Chancellor failed. The middle has been squeezed, pensioners are worse off, and yet the very wealthiest are made wealthier. The detail will be discussed in much better places than this blog, but I think as a brief summation Ed Miliband got it spot on: we now know that we are not all in it together.

There has got to be a moral dimension to taxation policy. When the 50% tax rate is derided as not collecting as much as predicted I see this as largely irrelevant. The evidence I have gathered in doorstep conversations over the years is the people want fairness. I see no fairness in cutting taxes for the rich, not when the rest of us are hurting.

Whilst those who earn more than £150000 will be grateful for the boost to take-home pay, those who now find themselves paying 40% as this threshold kicks in earlier will wonder why the incentive argument does not apply to them. George is squeezing the middle until the pips squeak.

Tax is used to modify behaviour. Tax on tobacco, aside from the revenue considerations, is also seen as a tool to wean nicotine addicts from their drug of choice. I am an ex-smoker; I had my last cigarette on 19th February 1982. Knowing this date so well is testament to the draw of this enjoyable, if ultimately destructive, habit. I gave up as an aide to increasing longevity. I cannot recall the price of a packet of 20 in 1982, but one of the headline figures from today’s budget will doubtless be the 37p hike in the price of a packet of fags.

Oh George, what have you done?

Three years ago this country entered the deepest recession for seventy years, brought about by an international banking crisis. The last government steered us through some choppy waters and we emerged from the recession last year. They bequeathed the incoming coalition some very positive economic indicators.

In less than a year we have lurched from good growth figures to negative growth. This gives me no cheer, despite my repeated warnings that the coalition’s plans were bad and destructive. The cuts are not only going to be catastrophic for public services, it is damaging the economy.

With rising taxes and unemployment it is no wonder that public confidence is failing. The coalition’s plans for dealing with the deficit are cuts that go too deep, too fast, and do nothing to stimulate the economy. Growth is needed, and the private sector has not produced it. Remember that Osborne’s promises included job creation in the private sector.

I am no deficit denier; clearly the deficit should be tackled. I do deny that cuts are the only way – I think increased tax take through economic growth would have gone a long way to sorting out our debt. I also think that last year’s recovery was clearly fragile, and the coalition’s plans were too drastic and too soon.

In the eight short months of this Tory government we have seen a bust in double-quick time. 2011 promises to be a painful year.

And what does the Chancellor offer up by way of explanation for the latest set of bad economic figures – snow. Did it never snow during the Labour years?

We need a change of direction, and we need it now.

The Artful Dodger: Gideon, censorship and entropy

As a public service to Daily Mail and Daily telegraph readers denied the opportunity of seeing the Artful Dodger adverts, I have reproduced it here.

For the story behind the censorship see Mail and Telegraph pull anti-tax-dodging ads

See also Artful Dodger ads are causing a stir

entropy :
Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.