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

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

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

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

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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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