To Potential Labour Leaders: First, Admit You Can’t Win

My advice to the Labour leadership contenders – admit Labour will never win a General Election again. It’s not as painful as it sounds, because nor will the Tories. The age of one-Party rule is over, and the sooner Labour admits it the sooner they can develop a realistic strategy for government and for opposition. The Tories have stolen a march on Labour precisely by grasping this fact and acting on it – perhaps out of necessity, but one they have quickly turned into a virtue. Continue reading “To Potential Labour Leaders: First, Admit You Can’t Win”

What do 25% cuts look like? Like this…..

The BBC radio 4 ‘Today’ programme asked me if I’d give them an analysis of what a 25% cut in Departmental budegts would actually look like by applying it to one department: the Home Office (the interview is here if you want to listen). Continue reading “What do 25% cuts look like? Like this…..”

The Budget and Public Services: it really is worse than we thought

Spending on public services is set to reduce by 25% in real terms by 2014-15 (apart from Health and International Development). One quarter of all other public services could go – that is the equivalent of around a fifth of all public sector staff or well over a million jobs. Continue reading “The Budget and Public Services: it really is worse than we thought”

Transparency in British Budgets – you are joking, surely?

We were promised as part of the new politics of the new Coalition government that everything would be much more transparent. Some of this supposed new transparency is proving comical, even farcical, in nature. Publishing the COINS database of itemised government spending, for example, is mildly interesting but to anyone but a researcher largely irrelevant and incomprehensible. Trumpeting this as ‘transparency’ is merely comical, but the  latest “revelation” that the Civil Service employs lots of people (shock, horror) is absolutely farcical. Continue reading “Transparency in British Budgets – you are joking, surely?”

There’s No Such Thing as a Free School

Free schools are not, and cannot be, “free”. They certainly won’t be free in a financial sense. The tax payer will be paying for them. All tax payers, not just the few who currently send their kids there, or may wish to do so in the future. That includes all the taxpayers who send their kids to ‘unfree’ schools. That means all us will have a legitimate interest in how our money is spent, and will seek to exercise that interest, through various avenues. Continue reading “There’s No Such Thing as a Free School”

Pain with a Purpose – a preview of next week’s “Emergency” Budget

The June 22 Budget will herald major spending cuts to tackle the country’s debt crisis. But there is also a wider strategic goal, and it’s called rolling back the ‘Big State’

We are edging, slowly and hesitatingly, towards the sort of debate about the future of Britain that should have happened during the general election, but which all the parties studiously avoided. The ‘big debate’ about long-term spending plans is finally starting properly, kicked off by the ambiguous first report from the much-vaunted Office for Budget Responsibility. As the debate started to shape up, the Observer’s William Keegan asked: ‘They call it “pain with a purpose”. What purpose, exactly?’

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The Two Armed Economist Strikes – 1st Office for Budget Responsibility Report

It was US President Harry Truman who reportedly said that he was fed-up with economists who told him “one the one hand Mr President…”, followed by “but on the other hand….”. Truman said he wanted a one-armed economist. Continue reading “The Two Armed Economist Strikes – 1st Office for Budget Responsibility Report”

Thou Shalt Not Pass On Public Debts To Future Generations – I Say, Why Not?

One of the new Commandments is “Thou shalt not accumulate public debts that have to paid off by future generations”. To which I answer, why not? Like most such axioms, any serious analysis soon shows that the Commandment isn’t quite as absolute, or a useful guide to action, as it first appears. Continue reading “Thou Shalt Not Pass On Public Debts To Future Generations – I Say, Why Not?”

Spending Review Framework: Plus ca change

So, now we know the ‘how’ if not yet the ‘what’ of the cuts in public spending. “The Spending Review Framework” (Cm 7872) published June 8th sets out how the radical new Spending Review will operate, and it’s rather similar to the old one introduced by Labour in 1998. Continue reading “Spending Review Framework: Plus ca change”