We all pay our tax. But as scandal after scandal has shown, companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks can get away without paying their fair share. And the incredible thing about this is that much of this is legal.
The Smith Institute’s latest report investigates the relationship between healthcare and the local economy and how the former can better work for the latter; this is the process of ‘joining the dots’ that the report is named after.
A new report from the New policy Institute (NPI) has shown that 29% of young adults (19 – 25 years old) are in poverty. Considering that we recently found out that the government will not be releasing official statistics on poverty until after the election, this NPI report offers a vital insight into the state and direction of poverty in the UK right now.
This post is the first in a series authored by members of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield, examining how and why the issue of inequality is rising up both political and academic agendas. You can read the series in full here.
Inequality is back.
Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released their international comparison productivity statistics and unsurprisingly, it was bad news for the UK.
This is the first time a productivity comparison release from the ONS takes into account the depreciation of ‘fixed capital’ (factories, offices, equipment etc.
The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward. J.M.
Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released their data on regional economic performance (focusing on productivity) and for the first time measured economic performance by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), a flagship regional reform introduced by the coalition government in 2011.
Today the Co-operative party has released their policy agenda for the election; the central theme being ‘Creating A John Lewis Economy’. Last week this site featured a piece describing Ed Miliband’s policy announcement on business ownership.
Prime Minister Cameron or Miliband would confront some major budgetary tensions within months of taking office. David Cameron faces the challenge of negotiating both with his own party and with other European member states on the terms of European Union membership.
Today, Ed Miliband announced reforms to be carried out under a Labour government whereby workers will have the right to buy out a firm and run it as a co-operative.
William Hague has dominated much of the political headlines today, with his vague adoption of English Votes For English Laws; bringing localism and English devolution in limelight once again. Yesterday, the Smith Institute released their latest paper, this one describing the ‘local double dividend’ of local economies and what they can achieve.
Yesterday, David Cameron announced that ‘people’ have a right to be lifted out of taxation and that they ‘deserve tax cuts’. It’s hardly a surprising admission by the leader of a party which has historically had a minimalist approach to taxation; but it speaks to the confusion at the heart of the way the coalition is run.
After the success of last year’s pre-Davos release, Oxfam pulled the same trick again this week with the publication of their analysis of global inequality. According to last year’s report, 85 people owned as much wealth as the rest of the rest of the world; this year the figure is more like 80.
This week we have had a few pieces about problem areas facing the economy this election year; namely productivity and pay disparity. We thought we would continue the trend of covering incoming money into households by looking at the outgoing, specifically household debt.
This last Tuesday was ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’; the day that the High Pay Centre calculated was the point at which the average FTSE 100 CEO has earned the average person’s annual wage. By the end of the second working day of this year, these CEO’s had earned above the £27,000 that constitutes the average wage.
One of the many many problems facing the economy this year, and for the foreseeable future, is productivity. Labour productivity is still down on levels prior to the 2008 financial crash and we are still trailing behind the productivity of comparable European and other OECD countries.
Some of the toughest challenges confronting the human civilization lend themselves to practical solutions hidden in plain sight. These solutions don’t require us to strike tough compromises or to unravel complex priorities. These policy ideas simply require us to think clearly and act decisively.
The Bank of England opened its doors yesterday to 120 young women between the ages of 14-17 yesterday in an effort to inspire and encourage girls to consider a career in the financial sector.
Land value tax is a levy on the value of land. Where that land has a higher value, the revenue from the levy is higher. This simple concept is crucial to understanding how land value tax can encourage density, reduce urban sprawl and ensure land is used as it is demanded.
Despite the consistent leaking ahead of this year’s Autumn Statement, it was still a very interesting one.
Land value tax has huge opportunities for better aligning incentives most efficiently using land. However, there are issues that land value tax would have to overcome ranging from financial impacts to politics.
Firstly, those who are asset-rich but cash-poor would be affected.
A land value tax is a charge on the ownership of land. It is generally thought of as an annual levy on land ownership whereby the value of the land, excluding the property/properties value/s that sit on the land.
The benefits to such a levy are wide-ranging.
Firstly, it would raise revenue for the exchequer.
Since the early 1970s, house prices have risen at an exponential rate.
Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which showed that wages have grown faster than inflation in the last quarter for the first time in five years. Many critics have consequently jumped on the argument pushed by the Labour party of the past, the cost of living crisis, as being dead in the water.
Good news from the prestigious Cranfield School of Management. Its latest research found the percentage of women on boards has now reached 22.8% – close to the 25% target set by Lord Davies for 2015.
The report said that great progress has been made since the publication of Lord Davies’ report.
New ONS statistics released today confirm what we all thought we knew; the story of economic growth that we have been told as a universal success is a lie. It is London that is centralising growth and not everywhere is experiencing that boom.
I am taking part in a debate on tax justice at the Class conference this coming Saturday at TUC Congress House in London.
This session will have a pretty lively panel made up of Margaret Hodge, Ann Pettifor, Prem Sikka and me, with Stefan Stern giving the unenviable task if chairing us.
Political economy as a field of study seeks to explore the real world of economic organisation, looking beyond the market metaphor and the price mechanism, to examine how power dynamics contained in social and political relations shape and constitute economic life, and vice versa.
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
All money is a matter of belief.
In a speech that will have warmed the cockles of Conservative activists last week, George Osborne’s visionary thinking offered the Party Conference more austerity, freezes on tax credits, child benefit.
Today David Cameron addressed the Conservative party conference in what was a well performed speech, littered with a surprising amount of policy announcements.
George Osborne, amongst others, took to the stage today at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham with a pretty clear objective in mind, to set out vote-winning policies and ideas for the next election.
This morning, the last of this year’s Labour conference, Left Foot Forward hosted a fringe event looking at how we make the economy work better for everyone.
Avid readers of this blog will have seen my post on property wealth and how London is a world of its own. To follow on from this, let’s look at property wealth in a slightly different way.
The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) published a report recently called ‘Making Sense of the UK Collaborative Economy’.
At the heart of Labour’s One Nation: Labour’s Political Renewal e-book, which summarises 2 years of work from the policy review, lies an anecdote that the authors feel describes where we are economically and socially right now.
During his speech to the TUC this afternoon, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney described the fall in unemployment rate in the US by saying “that headline is much better than the details”.
Frances O’Grady’s speech to the TUC Congress this morning used the imagery of the past to describe the economic and social situation we find ourselves in in 2014.
The Green Party has begun their autumn conference in Birmingham today, a conference they see as key in their effort to crack the UK political scene once and for all. The party, despite being chronically underrepresented in the media, is seeking to do this with a bid to claim the progressive left of British politics as their own.
Stories of payday lenders ripping people off and trapping them in spirals of debt are sadly well known. The recent revelation that Wonga chased debtors with letters from fake law firms is only the latest in a long line of examples showing an industry profiting from unscrupulous practices to the detriment of its financially vulnerable customers.
Recently the Labour party has been putting effort into wooing business leaders ahead of the election; it’s an inevitable part of the electoral cycle but it also represents a very real attempt by the party to persuade businesses and the public that the 70’s style stereotype, where the party is anti-business, is simply not true.
Vince Cable quietly launched what he called an ‘enhanced’code of conduct for executive search firms to support the appointment of more women on boards recently. It is targeted at the FTSE 350 and recognises those firms who have been most successful in the recruitment of women to the FTSE 350 boards.
This morning Ed Miliband delivered a speech at a Policy Network event, where he reaffirmed the Labour party’s commitment to big reforms over big spending in an era of austerity.
Today the think tank Class has released a paper written by the authors of the bestseller The Sprit Level which looks into the role the labour market can and should play in tackling economic inequality.
The inquest into England’s worst ever World Cup campaign has focused on the usual questions of team selection, tactics and the attitude of the players, along with the obligatory search for a scapegoat.
Ingvar Carlsson became the Prime Minister of Sweden under the worst possible circumstances. His predecessor, Olof Palme, was shot, on a cold night in February, 1986, at half past nine, walking home with his wife through the streets of Stockholm. We still don’t know who did it. Or why. The theories are as many as there are Swedish crime novels.
This week’s report from Save the Children is a useful reminder of the expected rise in child poverty over the next few years. The IFS projects a rise from 17.4% to 22.5% by 2020. But it falls into two traps which can be damaging to wider efforts to tackle poverty.
First, it focuses purely on families with children.
When New Labour followed through on John Smith’s commitment to devolution, many sceptics saw it as a means of appeasing the independence movement in Scotland. With the Scottish independence referendum looming on the other side of summer, it is understandable if some think hasn’t devolution didn’t work.
Last week I went with colleagues to watch French economist Thomas Piketty, author of the much talked about Capital in the Twenty-First Century, present his ideas at an IPPR event. The book is a surprise bestseller and has animated the political left.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
Today Barclays held its high profile annual shareholder meeting in London. The climax of the gathering was the showdown between shareholders and CEO Antony Jenkins over the size of bankers’ bonuses. People are understandably outraged at the millions that Barclays’ bosses plan to award themselves.
High inequality is failing us morally, socially and economically. It corrupts us by making money the centrepiece of existence. It divides citizens by ensconcing them in separate social worlds. And all this inequality doesn’t even help the economy grow.
Today, Ed Miliband gave a speech in which he discussed the interim findings of Andrew Adonis’s Growth Review and used it as a springboard to describe how One Nation Labour will aim to end a ‘century of centralisation’.
George Osborne’s Budget has appeared to bet the house on an election win in 2015. While his announcement was neither flash nor hard-hitting, a couple of announcements, when brought together, will have wider implications.
The first of these is Help to Buy.
The UK has just experienced its annual budget announcement from the Government. It contained an extraordinary attack on the eco-agenda, including cuts to energy costs for manufacturers. On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, backed this policy to the hilt.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, used his budget speech to again spell out the need for economic rebalancing. But nowhere did he address one of the most serious sources of imbalance, the uneven way in which the economic pie is shared.
In his last big budget before next year’s election, George Osborne today played to the gallery. The budget contained measures for retirees and businesses but few mentions of the imbalanced state of our economy.
Businesses were given a doubled investment allowance, energy bill being cut for manufacturing and reforms to national insurance payments.
Today the Resolution Foundation has released a report marking the end of their nine month review into the minimum wage.
The arguments in their final report are three-fold; they argue for a broader, more far-sighted and assertive approach.
For the best part of a century, economic debate has been dominated by a single statistic: GDP. At next week’s budget, the chancellor will point to growth in gross domestic product as evidence that the government’s economic plan is working.
Would the 2008 Crash have happened if we had more women economists? This is a genuinely interesting question, because it goes to the heart of whether we think our gender influences our viewpoints on matters such as the economy, healthcare, education and so forth – and thus whether better representation from women in policy-making might lead to different so
Income tax is an area I think has been underdeveloped in political and policy debates over the course of the Coalition’s first term. This is probably for several reasons.
The north/south divide has long been a political issue and a challenge, but against all the press attention, the statistics and the moral arguments, it doesn’t yet seem to have translated into action in Westminster, at least beyond the ever raging HS2 debate.
All things considered, I thought some of the reaction on the left recently to George Osborne’s intervention on the minimum wage bordered on the churlish. Even if Osborne’s conversion does owe more to psephology than theology, that a Conservative Chancellor sees Government action on it as a vote winner can only be a positive thing in the long term.
Female executives are ambitious and sure of their own abilities to become top managers, but they are much less confident that their companies’ cultures can support their rise.
This is the main conclusion of the latest McKinsey Global Survey of male and female executives.
Whenever there is some good economic news, the opposition, not matter who they are, always use the same language; ‘the news is welcome, but’. Today is no exception, and Labour are absolutely right to welcome the today’s news of a sharp drop in unemployment, and they are just as right to criticise it.
Yesterday, Oxfam made headlines with their warning to the World Economic Forum, meeting this week in the ski resort, Davos. The report was framed with the attention grabbing statistic that the 85 richest people in the world had the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.
The sheer unfairness of the wealth divide is a challenge to all of us as moral beings – Will Hutton
The politics of inequality is once again a hotly contested issue.
Today’s speech at Senate House by Ed Miliband, despite a last minute hijack attempt from George Osborne, represents the most significant policy announcement for the Labour party since last year’s agenda-setting move on the energy market.
2014 was started in a typically rabble-rousing fashion by some on the right, obscuring the true nature of the political debate we are having right now.
The use of the phrase ‘responsible capitalism’ seems to have fallen throughout the year; early in 2013, including in pieces on this blog, responsible capitalism was being talked of as the framework for reforms to our economy.
It’s impossible to know precisely how much money was lost globally in the credit crisis of 2008/9. Best estimates put it somewhere near 1.8 trillion dollars or £1,100,000,000,000.
In Britain we have a growing epidemic of urgent debt caused by the reliance, from a cross-section of society, on pay-day lenders. It’s a dangerous spiral of need that is devastating some of the most vulnerable employees, households and communities throughout the country.
The problem is widely known, but the impact largely unmeasured.
For anyone worried that the Labour Party has not done enough to challenge the flawed economic philosophy that enabled, and failed to foresee, the 2008 financial crisis, the policy review report One Nation Economy – summarised on this blog by Jon Cruddas – will come as something of a relief.
George Osborne began yesterday’s Autumn Statement with the words “Britain’s economic plan is working”, making it clear straight away exactly what kind of statement we were in for.
The statement was by no means a surprising one, with seemingly every journalist having been briefed and every policy trailed through the media since conference season.
David Cameron is not a Thatcherite. He is not a One Nation Conservative. He is, according to what he himself said last month, a Marxist. Cameron previously attacked Ed Miliband’s proposed intervention in the energy market as part of a Marxist agenda. But, only last week Cameron underwent an ideological conversion.
We will only succeed in building a One Nation economy when workers have a stake in their workplaces and in our country’s successes. To begin we will address the cost of living crisis and lessen the financial pressures on family households.
Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you’d collapse. And while you people are over consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.
It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age and all the regrets into old age – Margaret Mead
One of the many ugly aspects of recent politics has been the fashioning of a narrative about inter-generational ‘conflict’, the idea that the young today have somehow been betrayed by,
Modern German politics is not known for it’s cliff-edge drama and ideological adventure, yet it’s capital city had a bit of both in the last few days.
Ed Miliband’s proposal of tax rebates for employers that pay the living wage, launched on Tuesday to coincide with Living Wage week, reflects his ongoing interest in ensuring that all UK workers are paid the Living Wage.
This is not, at first glance, a cause that seems of the utmost relevance to the High Pay Centre.
This week is living wage week, and an opportunity to once again make the case for a living wage to be implemented in full across the United Kingdom.
When the national minimum wage was implemented in 1999 the Conservatives opposed it saying it would cost jobs and be expensive, look how wrong they were.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Living Wage Week, with today seeing the announcement of new rates. For outside of London, the Living Wage has risen 20p to £7.65 an hour, whereas within London it rose from £8.55 to £8.80.
Tuesday saw the Bank of England release their latest Money and Credit Statistical Release. Yes, I know, it sounds dry. But actually, trends in the amount of credit, who the lenders are and who they lend money to can give us an insight into the economy.
Unfortunately for the UK, it doesn’t look good.
Today’s GDP figures have solicited some unwarranted sounds of jubilation from government benches, and some rightly more cautious noises from Labour.
Today, in a speech with Stella Creasy, Ed Miliband will announce policies to tackle the growing threat and prominence of vicious payday lenders. As another brick fleshing out Labour’s response to the living standards crisis, it’s a bold policy and one that speaks directly to Labour ideology.
To what extent do the institutions and organisations we create, support and perpetuate determine the kind of society we live in? As the asset-stripping of the Royal Mail continues apace, it is worth taking a moment to consider the effects even beyond the immediate loss of a national postal distribution service and think about the wider implications.
Behind every great fortune lies a great crime
Honore de Balzac
David Cameron told the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week that ‘profit’ is not a dirty word, announcing a clear blue commitment to business and a nebulous ‘land of opportunity’.
Whilst most opponents of the Government have been united in opposing its stance on fiscal policy and supporting some form of stimulus, there appeared for a while to be little agreement beyond this.
Wandering around Labour conference last week, it was hard not to be struck as much by what wasn’t being discussed as what was. Among everything, there was one particularly notable absentee.
The two most obvious things missing from Labour’s electoral pitch until now have been specific policy detail and a sharp enough populist edge. Ed Miliband corrected both of these omissions today in a speech that set down some important new political dividing lines and gave real substance to Labour’s cost of living agenda.
In his speech later today Ed Miliband will announce his plans to cut business rates for small businesses, with an annual turnover of £50,000 or less.
It’s economy day at conference. The day started early with an announcement on the extension of free childcare from 15 to 25 hours, responding to the needs of modern parenting, and a bid to seal Labour’s economic standpoint by opening up ‘the sums’ to scrutiny from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment…would result in the demolition of society.
As school and work pick up again after the summer and the Bank Holiday, it is worth remembering that such breaks must be seen in the context of the historically very recent concession towards paid leave – and our rapid loss of this right under zero hours contracts and increasingly precarious employment rights.
Last week, everyone from policy makers to pensioners, researchers to investors had their eyes on the new Bank of England governor, Mark Carney. In a bold and audacious move – something you couldn’t have told by his delivery – Carney broke from the orthodoxy and decided to effectively peg interest rates to unemployment.
A squeeze on living standards is being experienced by low-to-middle income Britain. Prior to the economic recession, income levels for many working households were faltering, even though GDP growth was high, employment figures were on the rise, and there was only modest inflation.
“Market is a superb and mystifying metaphor for the energies released and the new needs (and choices) opened up by capitalist forms of exchange, with all conflicts and contradictions withdrawn from view.
A few weeks ago, we learnt that inflation has increased to 2.7 percent, whilst the Bank of England said that it expects inflation to exceed the three percent mark at some point this year. Meanwhile, the growth of pay has been just 1.3 percent and most social security benefits are either frozen or limited to a one percent rise over the next three years.
We started last week with a piece about living standards go up on the site, in light of research by the Joseph Rowntree Trust into minimum income standards. This week we start in a similar fashion by looking at a piece produced at the tail end of last week by the Resolution Foundation on the minimum wage 15 years on.
The country, we are repeatedly told, must pay its debts. Last week George Osborne introduced another round of harsh spending cuts as part of this process.
It is now pretty well accepted that living standards will come to define the 2015 election, specifically living standards in an age of austerity. Last week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation furthered this argument by releasing their latest piece of research, covering minimum income standards.
It feels like groundhog day. Each time George Osborne delivers a budget or a spending review, it feels like welfare gets hit the hardest. Wednesday’s CSR was no different as the Chancellor unveiled a largely unexpected bundle of further welfare reforms.
True to form, today’s spending review was a barrage of further cuts and self-righteous rhetoric. George Osborne set out government spending as totalling £745bn, stipulated the need for £11.5bn worth savings still needed and set out the cuts to be made.
Possibly one of the most high profile of the cuts made is with regards to local government.
The Bank of England has appointed Charlotte Hogg as its new chief operating officer. She is effectively to become the Bank’s number two to new governor Mark Carney and will take responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Bank overseeing everything from human resources to the Banks technology and operating systems.
One of the most serious socio-economic challenges posed by the de-industrialisation process is a reduction in job opportunities at medium and lower skill levels.
One of the things that we often hear from the One Nation Labour camp is that we need to establish a new economic settlement, different from the one established by Thatcherism and inherited by New Labour. However, there is still scepticism as to what this could mean and as to whether or not we are in a state to do so.
Tax avoidance is a hugely important issue for Labour. We believe in the power of public spending to improve life chances and create a fairer and more equal society. We believe in tackling the deficit in a way that protects the most vulnerable in our society.
Monday saw the release of the High Pay Centre’s latest report in which the UK is indicted for their inability to tackle excessive top pay. The report looks at the international context and finds us to be slipping back in comparison to other European powers.
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.