Archive for ‘George Osbourne’

January 25, 2011

UK economy shrinks by 0.5%


George Osborne MP, pictured speaking on the la...Image via Wikipedia

The Office of National Statistics has announced that in the last three months of 2010 the UK economy contracted by 0.5%.  In the two quarters prior to that, there had been growth of 0.7% and 1.1% respectively.

The figures will make uncomfortable reading for Chancellor George Osborne and the Coalition government, despite the fact that many of the cuts that Labour would be looking to blame have not come in yet. Even though it was expected there would be a drop in activity due to the heavy snow around much of the country, growth was still predicted to be at between 0.2% and 6%.

Richard Lambert, British economist and Directo...Image via Wikipedia

The figures will make outgoing CBI  Director-General Sir Richard Lambert’s comments yesterday that the Government doesn’t have a plan for growth sting just a little more.

VN is placing bets on how long it is going to take Ed Balls to go native, and to bring out his ‘Keynes said dig holes” line.

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November 18, 2010

>Nick Clegg wins Politician of the Year Award


Nick CleggImage via Wikipedia

After an increasingly trying six months Nick Clegg has finally got some recognition for his recent achievements. He picked up the the Politician of the Year award…at the Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year ceremony.

Just what he needs to re-endear himself with the left of his party.

Other moments to note were Ed Balls being awarded Parliamentarian of the Year, by Prime Minister David Cameron, and Osborne and Alexander’s award for ‘Double Act of the Year’. VN can’t wait for their Christmas special.

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November 4, 2010

>Amateur act from Chuka Umunna in Treasury Select Committee


George Osborne is this morning in front of the Treasury Select Committee to give evidence on the recent Comprehensive Spending Review. The committee is made up of MPs from across the House, and all get to  have their chance to grill the Chancellor. Labour newbie Chuka Ummunna sits on the committee, and chose to question the Chancellor about the proposed changes to child benefit. This is a perfectly legitimate, if slightly misguided, line of questioning. Or at least it was until Mr Umunna decided to get personal with with Chancellor, asking ‘how will this change effect your life Mr Chancellor?’ Osborne answered that, by definition, it meant his wife would the child benefit they claim for their two children. Seemingly unable to contain himself Ummuna smugly interject ‘and that will effect your life will it’? 

Pretty amateurish behaviour, given that select committees are about robustly questioning those in front of the committee, not scoring cheap partisan points because you know the hearing is being streamed live. The committee will not have gained any more information on the process or impact of the CSR from his approach. It is more worrying that this man,  darling of the so called ‘New Generation,’ is now a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. No wonder his party is in such a mess. 

October 4, 2010

>How can Labour genuinely argue against Osborne’s child benefit cut?

>As expected, the Chancellor George Osborne announced the end of universal child benefit in his speech to Conservative Party conference today. Those earning over £44K a year will no longer receive the payments from 2013. 

If you consider monitoring the Twitterspehre as a good way of measuring opinion, the Labour trolls seem to be out in force. Clearly cutting any kind of benefit is deeply unpleasant, but how can a left-wing party make a genuine argument against the benefits for the better-off being reduced in order to protect those of the less well off? There is the issue of combined salaries; a couple could earn £43k each, a combined total of £86k, but could still claim child benefit. A single parent on £45k could not. However, in a benefit system that under Labour nearly drowned in complexity, this seems the most efficient and effective way of protecting benefits for those that need them most.

Politicians can believe in a less domineering state, but very few come into politics to hack up benefits and make people worse off. Stopping the poor paying for the benefits of the better off can hardly be considered some Thatcherite idealogical cut, which is how many have tried to characterise the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan. Today’s proposal from the Chancellor shows that the Coalition are making difficult decisions in a fair way, that also cuts through the complex bureaucracy that put so many off claiming what they were entitled too.

September 6, 2010

>What will this parliamentary session bring?

>At 2.30pm today the House of Commons will resume business after its summer break. Tomorrow Prime Minister David Cameron will return from paternity leave. What though does the this parliamentary session mean for the coalition and the Labour party? 

The coming few months will see a new Labour leader elected, candidates for the London mayoral election declared, and the party conference season. In addition more details of government spending cuts will be revealed, and  their will be movement on the electoral system referendum (possibly as early as today,) so it looks set to be an interesting one.

The referendum to change the the electoral system will be a key moment in the life of the coalition. Should it fail, the Liberal Democrat ministers will find themselves under even more pressure from a grass roots getting increasingly queasy at spending cuts and bad poll results. The promise of the referendum may keep the left leaning ranks of party conference quiet at this party conference, but the future is less certain.  David Cameron’s approach will be very interesting. It would be hard for the Prime Minister to openly campaign for the ‘No’ campaign, as it would increase tensions within the government, however his deputy will surely be at the forefront of the ‘Yes’ campaign. No doubt the new Labour leader will try and make hay, playing the Oppositions favourite game of ‘lets show the differences in the coalition’. For what is worth, VN will be fully supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Of course, the Labour leadership contest will finally come to end this month. The interminably dull contest has basically come down to a choice between the two Miliband brothers, with Ed Balls ranting, Andy Burnham pretending the ‘ambitious socialism’ isn’t oxymoronic, and Diane Abbot becoming an irrelevance. The winner will be revealed at Labour conference on September the 26th. 

The Labour candidate for Mayor of London will be revealed the day before the leader is announced. The race between Oona King and Ken Livingstone has only been mildly more interesting than the leadership clones race, with King holding her own against the tough old campaigner. Boris Johnson is assumed to be the Conservative candidate, while Lib Dem Voice point out that the waters within the Lib Dem’s are slightly more muddy. The party really needs to put forward someone who can not only help get GLA candidates elected, but be someone that people can actually see running City Hall. 

That’s before even mentioning George Osbourne’s comprehensive spending review, due out soon. It is going to be a hard balancing act for the Treasury team to tackle Britain’s huge deficit, without making the entire raison d’etre of the government spending cuts. 

All in all, its going to be a busy and interesting time for the politicos, hacks, and assorted hangers-on in Westminster Village.

June 23, 2010

>The June Budget’s Orange Flavour

>So now we know 

We know that that VAT will go up to 20%, we know that the income tax threshold will be raised by £1000, and we know that most Government department budgets will be reduced by 25%. There will also be changes to the welfare and benefits system, a reduction in corporation tax, as well as a levy on banks.

As someone involved in youth politics I also noted with interest the sale of the student loans book. Labour has buried graduates under a mountain of debt, and it is critical that this sale does not lead to interest being charged on student loans.

Most of it is not that pretty, but neither is the economic mess left behind by 13 years of Labour.

What became increasingly apparent as George Osbourne’s, surprisingly well delivered, budget speech progressed, is just how much influence Liberal Democrats have in the Coalition and its economic policy. There is now a 77/23 split in spending cuts and tax rises, when the Conservatives wanted 80/20, a not inconsiderable shift. The increase in the Income Tax threshold, and the ultimate aim of it being £10,000, is down to the Liberal Democrats. While many in the party are uncomfortable about the increased VAT rate and a small Capital Gains Tax increase, we should be pleased with the distinctly orange flavour this budget had. 

As the Coalition was formed many in the Liberal Democrats expressed fears that the Liberal Democrat voice would be suppressed, that the party would lose its identity. As Mark Thompson points out in an excellent post on his Mark Reckons blog, political times have changed and compromise is essential on the Government benches. I am aware that Bob Russell MP, a man who I have had the pleasure both of meeting and eating his chocolate, is rumoured to be voting against the budget as he campaigned against some of the things in it. 
While not everything we all campaigned on can come to pass, a lot more of it can be put in place than if we were in an unstable, discredited coalition with Labour, or if we were still sitting on the opposition benches.  

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