Margaret Thatcher’s passing was, for many us, a time of reflection and assessment. Political choices made by the then Government – the sale of council houses, demutualisations and privatisations – created a political and financial settlement which has persisted to the present.
During the 2009 Lib Dem party conference, Vince Cable proposed introducing a mansion tax for all properties valued higher than £2m. Initially, the annual tax rate was set at 1% for such properties but it was later adapted to include a 7% tax rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax instead.
In February I wrote about how women are penalised with smaller pension pots because of the disparity in pay they earn throughout their working lives. This was backed up by research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which stated women earn less, meaning that they are able to contribute less to a pension pot.
The Labour leadership has made little secret of its intention to turn 2015 into a “living standards election”. Speeches have been given and lessons from the United States on living standards are apparently being placed at the heart of the party’s policy review process.
In George Osborne’s budget, politics triumphed over economics and bravado over honesty. But in amidst the cauldron of denial, downgrades and general gloom there was one interesting policy proposal that small businesses should celebrate and progressives should build on.
This time last year, commentators were panning George Osborne for a budget that left few people happy and unravelled painfully over the spring of 2012. Yet for all the talk of pasties and grannies, a much more serious feature of the omnishambles Budget was largely missing from the subsequent furore.
As George Osborne stands up to deliver his Budget, he does so knowing that support for his policies falls 15 points when his name is attached to them. His approval rating, at -33, is at its lowest point. ITV have taken to polling on whether he should be sacked and find just 18% say he should keep his job.
Ed Miliband has begun to flesh out Labour’s economic strategy. Last week’s proposal for a network of regional investment banks builds upon plans for a more redistributive approach to tax, intervention in failing markets like energy and a renewed focus on apprenticeships for young people who don’t go to university.
Yesterday, Ed Miliband delivered a speech at the British Chambers of Commerce conference and committed Labour to form a new tier of banking in the form of regional banks. Regular readers to this blog will understand the pleasure this has given me as you would have read this and this. So what exactly is he suggesting?
Well, let’s start at the beginning.
The EU bankers bonus cap, the Swiss Referendum on executive pay and the colossal bonuses awarded to the senior staff of failing, taxpayer-backed banks have brought the issue of high pay back to public prominence.
Over objections of Tory Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson, the EU is currently pressing ahead with plans to cap bankers’ bonuses at 100% of base salary (or 200% where there is explicit shareholder approval). A cap on bankers’ bonuses is a very good idea.
Last year I suggested that a government austerity programme which hits women hardest amounted to a deliberate ‘back to the kitchen sink’ policy.
But I was wrong. It’s much worse than that. It’s not just the domestic front where women are expected to pick up the pieces following unprecedented cuts to Sure Start centres and adult care services.
Getting back into government must be Labour’s number one priority – but to secure it we need to demonstrate, and not simply evangelise about, our desire to get Britain back to work. With more than five people chasing every job, Ed Miliband is right to focus on building a One Nation economy.
The timing of the EU’s announcement of a cap on bankers’ bonuses could not have been better.
On a day that RBS confirmed £287 million worth of bonuses for its investment bankers, to sit alongside an annual loss of £5 billion, not even the most squawkingly Eurosceptic parts of the media had the chutzpah to break out their template diatribe.
On this blog, Stewart Lansley has argued that Ed Miliband’s Bedford speech should be seen as ‘a key turning point in social democratic thinking’ about the economy.
If there has been a worse Chancellor of the Exchequer in my lifetime than George Osborne I am struggling to put a name to him.
“The power that money gives is that of brute force, it is the power of the bludgeon or the bayonet.”
On 9 March it is 250 years since William Cobbett, whom Karl Marx described as “the creator of old English Radicalism”, was born.
Women who work full-time in their 50′s earn 20% less than men, research by the Trades Union Congress revealed yesterday.
Their research, which was based on figures from the Office of National Statistics, found that the disparity in pay corresponds to smaller pensions. The worst hit by the gender pay gap are women aged between 50-59.
‘Responsible’ and ‘moral’ capitalism are phrases often knocked about by progressives to describe the ideal end point of their beliefs; the centre of a Venn diagram between ideology and pragmatism. It’s a potent and emotive concept, one that few would disagree with, but also one that is currently lacking in substance.
Ed Miliband’s Bedford speech last week deserves to be seen as a key turning point in social democratic thinking. New Labour’s economic strategy was built around the idea that growth and economic success depended on allowing markets and the rich to flourish.
The Pensions Invesment and Research Consultants (PIRC), an adviser to pension funds responsible for a combined £2 trillion worth of investment, have announced that they will be advising clients to vote ‘no’ to all new Long-Term Incentive Plans (LTIP’s) introduced for company executives (see the attached press release from PIRC).
From Robert Halfon to Mehdi Hasan, calls for the great 10p tax come-back have been bipartisan and longstanding. And the politics of this are even smarter then the economics.
Because, as David Clark notes, Ed’s speech moves Labour policy on from New Labour in ways more substantive then just 10p and mansions.
Growth is certain to return to the British economy in advance of the next election, but there is no reason to think that it will be spectacular or that it will produce the kind of feel-good factor that would make the result a foregone conclusion.
Only the little people pay taxes – Leona Helmsley, American businesswoman
One critique of the recipients of welfare is that overly generous state support creates cultures of entitlement and dependency, hollowing out the drive to entrepreneurialism, self-improvement and independence.
During his conference speech in Manchester in October, Ed Miliband said the words ‘One Nation’ 46 times. By using the phrase made famous by the Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Miliband was not only rolling his tanks onto the Conservatives Party’s lawn, he was also trying to claim the mantle of national unity for Labour.
In May 2010, at a Citizens UK election rally, David Cameron declared the Living Wage to be an idea “whose time had come.” Two months later, in a volte face that has since become a hallmark of his Government, the Coalition announced that it was to abolish a body that guaranteed a Living Wage of at least £7.66 per hour for 45,000 British workers.
It appears almost banal to reiterate that the current economic recession, sliding inexorably towards its third dip, was not caused by the people who continue to suffer by it. It was caused by the rapaciousness of the banks and the governments who continue to quantitatively ease hedge fund managers’ bonuses.
Over Christmas, Save the Children – a charity best known for their attempts to relieve the suffering of the global poor – were providing urgently needed medical and food supplies to children affected by the recent violence in Syria and Gaza.
Getting banking regulation right should be a high priority for the Labour Party as it formulates its policies ahead of the 2014 European elections and the next general election.
The debate around high pay is characterised by emotional language. Terms like ‘fat cats’, ‘eye-watering bonuses’ and ‘politics of envy’ are abound. Sometimes that’s understandable.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has rightly said that New Labour was “too timid in enforcing rights and responsibilities, especially at the top, and it was too sanguine about the consequences of the rampant free markets”. This certainly is true with respect to the banking and financial services industries.
There are three central arguments that will determine the outcome of the next election. One is over fairness, a second is over economic management, and a third over cultural affinity with the British – or more accurately the English – people.
When I was nineteen I did some work experience in the economics and strategy department of a City investment bank.
Though my four months there confirmed that investment banking was not for me, the office was an interesting place to be, with real characters possessing real brains which they enjoyed pitting against each other and the world outside.
James Buchanan, one of the most influential intellectuals of the last fifty years, died last week. The mainstream media and the right-wing blogosphere rightly devoted considerable space to tributes and reminiscences, as well as to some early reflections on Buchanan’s legacy. In contrast, there has been a rather muted response on the left.
The British people have been failed by financial services regulation. The “light touch” regulation favoured by both New Labour and the Tories contributed to taxpayers having to stump up hundreds of billions of pounds to prop up failing banks to avoid an economic meltdown.
2013 will see us unveiling our plans for how we can reunite Britain and create a One Nation country.
Under the Tories, we have become a divided country, with fragmented groups living side by side: the rich and the poor, the working and the out-of-work, the Brits and the non-Brits, the young and the old.
Last year saw an unusually high level of shareholder opposition to executive remuneration policies at UK companies. More company remuneration reports were rejected by shareholders than in any other year since the introduction of a mandatory shareholder vote on executive pay in 2002.
This year’s Prince’s Trust Youth Index on the emotional and mental wellbeing of my generation came out last Wednesday, with the news that one in 10 young people (16-25) feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life, and 28% of all young people feel depressed “always” or “often”.
The coalition government’s decision to increase most benefits (from Jobseeker’s Allowance to Tax Credits) by less than inflation marks a new low in the post-war history of welfare in the UK. First, it is unprecedented since the war.
As one of the top ten oil producing nations on the planet, Nigeria has a massive advantage over most of the developing countries in Africa. Coupled with the domestic demand which a population of around 160 million people gives, there is a fundamental strength within the Nigerian economy which offers real potential.
Over the last year, inequality has been racing up the political agenda. ‘Inequality, as President Obama has put it, ‘is the defining issue of our time`. Yet for all the talk, the income gap – apart from dipping slightly in 2009 – has been rising through the crisis.
Now, some of my best friends are heterosexual – and while the same doesn’t yet apply to gays – I fully support their right to be married in the church. Of course, I’m being sarcastic.
So the Autumn Statement comes and goes with the usual media hype and the typical lack of detail. If you wanted an even briefer summary than the following article it would be: poor economic performance, fudged borrowing targets, mostly ineffective headline-grabbing policies and a lack of demand stimulation.
The Autumn Statement is upon us, though delayed this year well into Advent. The timing may well be more appropriate. In it we expect to see little of Keats’ “mellow fruitfulness”. Rather the British economic outlook fits C.S. Lewis’s words, “Always winter, but never Christmas.
Not much has been said or written about the Occupy movement in Britain since protesters folded away their tents and left the front yard of St. Paul’s Cathedral earlier this year.
Last week, the Treasury spin machine went into overdrive in response to Labour’s push to highlight the cut in the 50p top rate of tax.
The centrepiece of their case was that the 50p tax had reduced the number of millionaires paying tax in the UK by 10,000 from 16,000 to just 6,000.
There’s a lot of competing objectives for Labour’s developing economic policy to juggle at the moment. First, winning back our reputation for economic credibility, unfairly but successfully shredded by the Tories in the wake of the financial crisis.
The Tory-led government talks about us all being in it together and yet it feels very much like this is not the case.
There is some feature of an economy that means it regulates the way in which goods and services of value move around a market: are exchanged and traded. This immediately presents us with a challenge. There are services of value that are performed every day – sometimes throughout our lives, for which individuals receive nothing.
I recently wanted to buy something from a website, but had a question. As this was a well-know retailer, I thought I’d give them a quick call, so went to the “contact us” section of the website and it turned out they were trying their hardest to make sure that I couldn’t.
As a member of the European Parliament’s Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Committee I have worked for a number of years to increase women’s participation in decision-making.
I’m sure that many listeners of a recent Radio 4 Analysis episode, in which an interviewee asserted that “to try and create zones which are morally free in human affairs is a mistake”, would have found cause to nod along in agreement.
The debate around George Osborne’s Autumn Statement has barely begun to gather momentum, with the announcement a mere three weeks away.
There are few issues that unite the Liberal Democrats across the social/economic liberal spectrum at the moment. However, the proposal to give up employment rights for shares, appears to be one of them. Despite a carefully worded defence by Vince Cable on Lib Dem Voice, the party just isn’t buying it.
“Too far, too fast.” “A double dip recession made in Downing St.” “Jobs-and-growth.” EdB’s flat hand gesture.
This has been 2012′s political narrative on the economy. And it is to the remarkable credit of both Ed’s that is.
It is disappointing, if unsurprising, to read in research released by Scottish Widows that women’s pension savings have fallen relative to men’s in the last year.
Labour and Ed Miliband desperately need to carve out a position on social security. Boxed in by public popularity with the tough Tory stance, Labour has resorted to an unconvincing defensiveness on welfare reform: often accepting new policies ‘in principle’, but stating that Labour would do it just a bit differently.
10 million people a year travel between Britain and the Continent using the Eurostar channel tunnel: we are in Europe and, despite the anti-Europe rhetoric, we benefit from it.
Switzerland is frequently cited as the destination of choice for super-rich individuals fearful of possible checks on their wealth and power in the UK. But the Swiss public are just as angry about excessive pay and inequality as we are.
As a recently transplanted American I’ve hit my share of snags adjusting to living in Britain, from spelling mistakes to realising that in Britain ‘are you alright?’ doesn’t translate to ‘why do you look like you’re about to cry?’ Most recently, this culture shock took the form of a very wet lesson in British plumbing.
For a speech that was billed as being about personality, I thought yesterday’s address from Ed Miliband was actually fairly policy heavy.
Claiming the mantle, or at least the rhetoric, of Disraeli the Labour Leader sought to frame his party as the true One Nation Party committed to a “One Nation economy”.
Vince Cable valiantly announced his flagship, financial policy of the Small Business Bank at the Lib Dem conference. The positive way to look at this would be see the appetite and potential for trying something different, or, dare I say it, a ‘Plan B, C, D or maybe Z’.
The word ‘pre-distribution` may not trip easily off the tongue but we are going to hear a lot more of it. To date, Ed Miliband’s call to mould a narrower income gap before the application of taxes and benefits has received something of a mixed reception, even amongst Labour supporters.
With most western economies either stalled or contracting, there is an obvious need for action to promote a return to growth. My concern is that the very tool that Central Banks are using to improve liquidity in stagnating economies (Quantitative Easing) could actually be creating a brand new bubble.
In the 1980s and 90s, and to a large extent during the Blair-Brown years, it was the last of these three choices – unfettered capitalism – that won out as both main political parties subscribed to liberal free market economics.
The concept of ‘pre-distribution’ has grown increasingly popular with Labour Party policymakers, as witnessed by Ed Miliband’s use of the term at a Policy Network conference in London last week.
How times have changed.
The story that was sold to the public in 2010 was that dramatic cuts were needed, due to a ‘profligate’ Labour Party, and ‘red tape’ needed to be hacked away which would appease the financial markets and boost business growth.
Yesterday, at the Policy Network conference entitled ‘The Quest for Growth’, Ed Miliband set out his stall for conference season. His speech, a brilliant exposition of Labour’s New Growth Agenda, was delivered with the urgency the economic situation demands.
Mortgage fraud has increased dramatically. According to Experian, in 2011, 34 out of every 10,000 applications were deemed to be fraudulent, which is more than double the 2006 figures of 15 out of every 10,000 applications.
It is always easier to criticise and condemn rather than paint a picture of how to do things differently. In my previous post I argued that Britain needs a new long term plan for our economy and at this moment in time the population are more likely to be seeking one.
Reading Steve Richards’ Whatever it takes: the real story of Gordon Brown and New Labour I was struck by the extent to which New Labour felt constrained by British political culture.
Globalization has had a dual effect on the sovereignty of the nation-state. Since 1945, the normative framework of human rights has embedded a sense of obligation on the part of the state toward its citizens. The social contract now has a strong welfare element to it.
When a crisis rips through an economic system, questioning whether that system is fair becomes more frequent and urgent. The sight of tents pitched by a Cathedral that had once been the towering symbol of London, but now dwarfed by the temples of the City, seemed to evoke, in one curious image, the changing and uncertain nature of our times.
Read Part I of Jeremy’s piece (‘Falling Standards’) here.
Fetishising the amateur
Welcome to the Age of the Amateur. Qualified experts, specialists, practitioners operating within established, well-regulated trades; these professionals have had their day. True integrity and nous belong to the volunteer, the have-a-go hero.
Has Britain reached a state of permacrisis? The past five years have seen a nigh-on seamless succession of scandals and mishaps that have rocked public faith in the nation’s institutions.
What is probably most worrying about the current situation in the EU is the intense focus on a long term roadmap to create a stronger banking union, without sufficient effort being given to measures needed to sort out the current crisis now.
The fog is now clearing from the political battleground that faces Labour in the 2015 general election.
The Conservative’s original game plan was to eliminate the budget deficit by 2015 and pave the way for a significant tax cut.
The Government’s ‘City Deals’ mark one of the biggest shifts towards devolution of power to local areas that England has seen for decades. It’s a day to celebrate some hard-won freedoms and flexibilities – but there’s a long road to travel before cities can say they have real autonomy over their local economies.
The living wage is different to the national minimum wage: it pays more, being linked to a higher standard of living for those low-income families that it targets.
I am a passionate supporter of its implementation, not just because of the change it can bring for employees, but also for the benefits it can bring to businesses.
John Denham’s introduction to the Fabians’ latest collection of essays from the centre of the Labour party demonstrates the effectiveness of that woefully underused rhetorical device: ‘concede to win’.
When Ed Miliband delivered his party conference speech drawing a distinction between productive and predatory capitalism last September, the gatekeepers of free market orthodoxy reacted with fury and scorn. He had insulted British business, the wealth creating heart of the nation.
Read Part II here.
The key lessons of the 2008 crash are now becoming clear. For the last thirty years, some of the world’s most important economies have been applying a faulty theory on the way the economy works. Demand in most large economies is wage-led not profit-led. That is, a lower wage share leads to lower growth.
Read Part I here.
The driving force behind the widening income gap of the last thirty years has been a shift in the distribution of “factor shares” – the way the output of the economy is divided between wages and profits.
Does inequality trigger economic instability? A few years ago this was a issue that did not register on the political Richter scale. Nor did it attract much attention amongst professional economists. As James Galbraith, the economist son of John Kenneth Galbraith, has put it, those few working in inequality research were in an economics “backwater”.
I regularly disagree with David Laws’ views on the size of the state (though not on a number of other issues). But I am actually very pleased that he has set out in stark light his in principle objection to the state spending 40% of GDP.
Cuts versus stimulus, stimulus versus cuts. It’s a binary choice we hear more and more of these days. And it’s getting boring.
One of my enduring memories of the frantic days of Coalition negotiation in 2010 was the sight of William Hague declaring the eventual agreement a “realignment of the right”.
In the six weeks since his election, President Hollande has already shifted the focus of Europe away from an exclusive focus on austerity towards a commitment to create jobs and growth.
Next week’s European Summit is a crunch time for the new President.
Over the last few months we have seen a marked increase in shareholder activism on the issue of executive remuneration. Shareholders have been using their advisory vote on executive remuneration and there have been sizable votes against at Barclays, Aviva, William Hill, and Legal & General.
The crash in the world economy has claimed many victims, among them a now-discredited picture of how the state should approach the regulation of business.
What do Mitt Romney, Glasgow Rangers Football Club, Amazon, David Cameron’s father and some PFI hospitals have in common? At first sight not much until you start to think about the accounting rules by which they organise their finances and then the answer falls into place: all these people and organisations have made extensive use of offshore financial c
The 2007 world banking crisis affected most developed economies but some more than others.
Germany’s regional banks, the Sparkassen, show why Germany suffered less than most and what , belatedly, we need to do to make our banking system better for business, consumers and society as a whole.
Most of us can see in our daily lives how our world is beset with social problems: we’re stressed, mistrustful, our communities have eroded, crime is a constant problem, and the lives of growing numbers are dominated by despair and depression.
Ed Miliband’s speech at the 2011 Labour Party conference majoring on the need for a more responsible form of capitalism attracted predictably sharp criticism from the right-wing media, but also met with a nervous reaction from sections of the Labour Party that have become allergic to radical economic ideas.
A crisis of confidence seems to stalk the West, unemployment remains high and just recently the ILO warned that youth unemployment will remain stubbornly so until at least 2016.
A victory for the people. A government that listens. A well-functioning and healthy democracy where the concerns of ordinary citizens are taken on board and a policy programme that’s reflexive and responsive.
These will be the sort of things trotted out over the next couple of days. And no, you haven’t missed a vital piece of news.
If Europe’s leaders really want to avoid the calamity that would ensue with a Greek exit from the euro it is time for a radical new policy prescription.
Europe’s elite have adopted three main approaches to tackling Europe’s economic malaise, each as flawed as the next. The first is to force severe austerity on countries struggling with high debts.
One of the Coalition’s most popular – or at least defensible – policies is the increase in the personal tax allowance. Perhaps the least ‘omnishambolic’ move in the March budget was the raising of the income tax threshold to £9,205.
This week is a global week of action for Robin Hood Tax campaigners, and we’re taking our message to G8, G20, NATO and OECD governments, as well as the European Parliament and an EU leaders’ summit, where new French President, Socialist Francois Hollande has tabled the Financial Transactions Tax for discussion.
As Duncan Weldon highlighted in his article on Shifting Grounds, No end to the ‘squeeze’ in sight, the recent fall in the headline rate of unemployment has largely been driven by an increase in part-time employment. Whilst a part-time or temporary job is better than no job, the instability these jobs can bring signifies a problem for long term growth.
Sitting around texting, watching crap films on telly, napping half the day away and drinking four glasses of wine before two. It sounds idyllic. In Francis Elliott and James Hanning’s new book ‘Cameron: Practically a Conservative’, we get a tantalising insight into the interior life of the prime minister and how he unwinds of a weekend.
It is intriguing to think that, dramatically, the future of the West depends on the future of the country where the West itself was born.
The decision of whether Greece will stay or leave the Eurozone will have a tremendous impact on Europe and on the United States of America.
In 1999, Tony Blair made what was a quite remarkable commitment: to end child poverty in the UK.
It was one of the boldest and most ambitious pledges made during the whole New Labour era. It came after nearly 20 years of rising child poverty rates that saw almost 1 in 3 children living in poverty.
Read the first part of Rachel’s argument here.
Ed Miliband and the Labour party have begun to develop a new agenda that’s about building an economy that works for working people, and advances a common good we can all recognise.
‘Transforming capitalism’ is a phrase that goes to the heart of the questions raised by the financial crisis and its aftermath: questions about inequality and irresponsibility; about the values that underpin our economic system; about the kind of society we want to live in, and the kind of lives we want to lead.
I get riled when people – even those of a libertarian bent – claim that ‘responsible capitalism’ necessarily means ‘more red tape’.
Responsible capitalism should be an economic system in which property rights are properly protected. It should provide individuals with maximum freedom to take decisions over how their lives are managed.
In 1884 the prolific American inventor Thomas Edison built the world’s first industrial research laboratory at Menlo Park in New Jersey. The centre applied Fordist mass production techniques to the task of innovation, and was soon generating a rapid conveyer belt of new ideas for trial and testing.
Ed Miliband has made ‘fairness in tough times’ a major theme of his leadership. The leaders of the other major political parties have also sought to lay claim to the ‘fairness’ mantle. They are right to suppose that much of the unfairness in our society can only be tackled at a national – or international – level.
Once taboo, the label ‘conservative’ is suddenly in vogue on the left.
A marriage of convenience consummated on the Downing Street lawn in May 2010 gave birth to Britain’s coalition government. Arm in arm, two parties united in its commitment to wipe out the budget deficit within the term of a parliament.
Yet a vow to bring stability to the country has morphed into ideological zeal.
In the ongoing debate on how to handle the UK’s public sector deficit, one side of the equation – ‘the tax-take’ – has been mostly ignored. Yet, over the last thirty years an increasing number of rich countries have been hitting an apparent limit on their ability to raise revenue through taxation.
Last week’s news that, in one Edinburgh ward, the Lib Dems received fewer votes than a candidate dressed as a penguin probably best illustrates the extent of their local election defeat.
Read the first part of Jeremy’s argument here.
One rainy winter’s afternoon a few years ago, I found myself in a large 19th century townhouse in the chic 17th arrondissement of Paris, interviewing a Gaullist city councillor about the upcoming European elections.
Read Leo’s arguments about shifting grounds in the manufacturing sector here.
As the the past generation’s political and economic settlement continues to slowly unravel, a newly human economics of planning, coordination and foresight must emerge.
The standard narrative of British manufacturing tends to be one of blanket doom and gloom. For all the well-meaning if half-hearted attempts by Vince Cable to rebalance the geographical and sectoral basis of the UK economy, the despondence about lost manufacturing, and perverse class snobbery towards those who make things, continues to die hard.
Read the first part of this piece here.
An increasing number of Labour politicians are using the term the common good.
There is a growing recognition that its emphasis on relationships, democracy, community and locality can address the problems of social fragmentation and popular estrangement from mainstream politics.
We are blessed by the presence in my parish of three Nordic Lutheran chaplaincies. One important difference between us, however, is that in Norway, Finland and Sweden – as in many other European countries – the major Christian denomination is at least part state-funded.
What we are seeing now is a revolt of voters on middle incomes against the cosseting of the very wealthy by the Conservatives.
However, we have a long way to go before we can assemble a broad electoral coalition of people on low and middle incomes in support of fairer rewards at work and expanded opportunities across the whole of society.
The news that the UK has officially entered a double-dip recession puts into perspective the omnishambles of the last few weeks. ‘Carry on Qatada’ and the banana skin budget could be dismissed as routine mid-term wobbles from which the government might be expected to recover.
In the beginning, there was Wall Street, and then the global Occupy movement was born. To be fair, it was fairly successful. For a while.
In public squares across the world, the political elite who instigated the disaster of economic liberalism were baited and denounced by a reawakened citizenry.
Economic democracy is about creating the opportunity and ability for people to influence decisions that affect their personal economy. This could range from worker representation within a firm, through shareholder decisions on bonuses, to a government’s representatives being given first-hand understanding of how austerity will affect its people.
This week’s labour market statistics brought some welcome news – unemployment (on the broad ILO measure) fell by some 35,000 with the rate dropping from 8.4% to 8.3%, whilst employment rose by 53,000. But a look at the detail behind the headlines provides cause for caution.
Until George Osborne’s hara-kiri budget it was widely assumed that the economic battle lines for the next election had been firmly set. The Conservatives would eliminate the structural deficit by taking an axe to the public sector and go to the polls on the back of a modest giveaway budget and claims to have sorted out Labour’s mess.
Out of control, out of touch, the government seem to be ‘out’ of everything. The ‘omnishambles’ narrative has taken a giant leap forward and has now become a mainstay of British political commentary on the government’s leadership of the country.
Last week I somewhat facetiously suggested that Labour should adopt another new clause IV. The idea was to do away with the idiotic blather that had replaced a coherent (albeit flawed) position on property ownership.
Anthony Painter pointed out that he had written a more fulsome version of this article before we even lost power.
Just before the 2010 general election George Osborne, as chancellor-in-waiting, made a speech that outlined his forthcoming economic strategy. He argued that 1980s free market policies had been substantially correct and still provided the model for improving UK competitiveness.
If you thought we had talked about tax quite enough for one year, you may find this blog post a tad disappointing. Tax and the implications of this year’s budget is yet again (or potentially still) on the agenda.
Ask anyone whether they approve of benefit fraud and the answer is universally no.
When David Cameron flew out to Asia last week, he did so on a Boeing 474 owned by Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.
Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, argues that while liberals hold a virtual monopoly on compassion, and value fairness highly, they are ‘virtually tone-deaf’ to wider human instincts such as loyalty, respect, and sanctity, which are understood instinctively by conservatives.
According to George Osborne, the strength of an economy is reflected in its bond yields. Textbook theory tells us that if a sovereign state can borrow cheaply on the open market, it is considered less of a risk for investors.
On Tuesday George Osborne expressed his incredulity that some of the richest people in our society pay the least tax. This once again brings to the fore the supposed distinction between avoidance and evasion, one which even the excellent Richard Murphy was not entirely clear about on the Moral Maze last month.
The aftershocks of George Osborne’s budget ripple on, but one aspect of the last couple of weeks has barely been mentioned.
Things used to be so simple. It was the 1990s: the Cold War was over, capitalism had won; its victory synonymous with the onward march of globalisation. The end of history was declared. The Bretton Woods institutions – the IMF, the World Bank – had emerged as the champions of the monetarist consensus.
Among the most progressive initiatives of the three post-1997 Labour administrations were the introduction of the minimum wage and the strengthening of income support for those on low earnings.
A4e, the welfare-to-work company, has had a tough time of late. Back in February, the company’s founder Emma Harrison resigned as its chairman amid allegations of fraud. Critics of public service outsourcing pounced upon A4e’s misfortune as an example of the dangers of using the private sector to deliver public services.
The Conservative government are in secret talks with sovereign wealth funds in Abu Dhabi with the aim of selling off the state-owned share of the Royal Bank of Scotland, it has been revealed.
It has been obscured by the undeniably important matter of when George Osborne last ate a Gregg’s pasty, but by far the most significant feature of the Chancellor’s appearance before the Treasury Select Committee yesterday was the announcement that he has asked the Treasury to look at the impact of ‘dynamic scoring’ of tax levels on the
The Britain that greeted an incoming Labour Government in 2015 would feel very different to the social landscape that New Labour sought to deal with in the 1990s. Labour’s policy agenda has to respond to the circumstances and aspirations of today’s low and middle income voters, not those of yesteryear.
Not since the 1930s have we lived in such economically precarious times, and not since then has capitalism been subjected to such intense and hostile scrutiny.
‘One of the most profound changes in our modern vocabulary is the way in which “We the People” are defined’, observes the academic David Rutherford. ‘Not so very long ago, we “pictured” ourselves as citizens.
Shortly after Harold Wilson made his genuinely historic speech on the ‘White Heat of Technology’ to the Labour Party conference in Scarborough in 1963, he faced his first general election as leader of the Labour Party. He won that 1964 election, albeit with only a tiny majority – despite his commanding performance during the election campaign.
Set in a small city of narrow medieval streets and buildings in which Erasmus once taught, the German university town of Freiburg is steeped in tradition. To the casual visitor it looks like the sort of place where Hansel and Gretel might have gone on to become undergraduates.
The Coalition are going to set a minimum price on alcohol. A small step in and of itself but emblematic of much more. Particularly for Labour. It had 13 years in office and there was never the inclination to put in place such legislation. Why?
It was drunk on what the free market could deliver. Intoxicated by big business.
‘Radical Britain’ they called it. Three months into the 2010-15 parliament, The Economist displayed on its cover the image of David Cameron in profile; a punk-rock, Union Jack-coloured Mohawk sprouting from his neatly-combed brow. The background: Sex Pistols yellow.
For the last couple of days Lib Dems have been urged to go out and celebrate a clear Lib Dem win in the budget. The raising of the personal allowance has replaced free tuition as a totemic issue for our party. And of course I welcome it and acknowledge that it was no doubt hard fought for.
Rarely has a budget been as universally panned as the one George Osborne delivered on Wednesday. Surveying the headlines of the last two days must have been a galling experience for the Chancellor.
Since the onset of the global crisis, the question of inequality has been rising up the political agenda. During the 2010 election campaign, David Cameron liked nothing more than to chide Labour for their record. One of the Conservative Party’s election posters showed a smiling Gordon Brown with the caption ‘I increased the gap between rich and poor’.
The fallout from the Budget has focussed on the winners and losers – the stealth ‘Granny Tax’, the cutting of the 50p rate and the continuing debacle that is child benefit reform. The new growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility have received relatively little attention.
It is difficult to overstate the speed at which the global economy is changing. The Chinese economy is more than six times the size it was a decade and a half ago. At the start of this year, Brazil overtook the UK as the world’s seventh largest economy.
It’s always the case with Budgets that you have to wait to see the small print before being able to make a full judgement on its impact.
Having said that, there are a number of announcements made by the Chancellor which I welcome whole heartedly.
The Chancellor opened this year’s Budget with an ‘unwavering commitment’ to reducing Britain’s debts. I applaud this. There is nothing more important than putting in place the conditions for sustainable and controlled public spending.
But this Budget does nothing of the sort.
In the budget George Osborne will announce plans to issue annual personal tax statements in order to let citizens know precisely where their tax gets spent. So far, the issue has been set up as one of left versus right, with some conservative commentators clearly believing the policy to be a route to lower taxes.
George Osborne wants to see how an Olympic moratorium on limited Sunday trading goes. There might be lessons to be learnt, he says. He’s a clever man, George. After all, there’s an election in a couple of years and a few hours extra trading every week for the next two years wouldn’t do the numbers any harm.
Few elements of Britain’s tax code could reasonably be described as ‘totemic’. But the debate over the 50p top rate of income tax has, for better or worse, become much more than a question of costs and benefits. It has become an emblem.
For many in Labour, it is a crucial instrument of tax justice for the 99% of the population who earn under £150,000.
For a decade or more, wealth distribution was off the political agenda. While everyone was doing well, who got what simply seemed to matter less. This has all changed, and tax has suddenly moved up the list – particularly tax for those at the top.
Light taxation for top earners is being criticised from all sides, as well as insiders.
When George Osborne delivered his first Budget in June 2010, he promised a ‘new model of economic growth’ and a ‘progressive’ approach to deficit reduction in which ‘everyone will be asked to contribute’ and ‘everyone will share the rewards’.
Truly transformative politics is always the politics of unlikely alliances.
In 1945, Clement Attlee’s Labour Party drew together a fresh coalition of returning soldiers, the industrial working class and middle class professionals by promising to build a new welfare state that would protect the interests of all.
The Fawcett Society says that we are at a watershed moment for women’s rights. Women are being pushed out of the workforce, with childcare costs soaring, and cuts to legal aid making women more vulnerable to violence.
Female unemployment has reached its highest level in two decades; beyond the 1.1 million mark.
We are going to hear a lot this week about how to face up to the economic challenges of the future and put Britain back on the road to recovery. There will be a blizzard of competing ideas about the best way to rebalance our economy, increase exports, boost investments and create the right partnership between government and industry.
‘Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?’ That’s the question Ronald Regan asked voters as he closed the final Presidential debate in 1980 before winning forty-four of the fifty states. It’s a question George Osborne needs to be wary of as he plans this Wednesday’s budget.