Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brown's Spin & The Small Print

GORDON BROWN’S FIRST MONTH: THE SMALL PRINT
'I've said politicians have got to be more humble and they have got to be strong
when it comes to seeing something through… I hope people will judge us by what
actually happens' (Gordon Brown, The Guardian, 30 May 2007).
During his first month as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made a series of grand statements and promises. But just like with his stealth taxes and pensions raid, you have to check the small print to discover what he’s really up to. New research by the Conservatives reveals that behind the good headlines, the truth is very different.

Flood Defences
Brown’s Spin
In July, the Government announced new funding for flood defences. Gordon Brown said that the budget for flood defences ‘will now rise [from £600 million] to £800 million and every major project that was being moved forward by the Environment Agency, indeed every infrastructure, or what you might call capital project, is moving ahead as planned and there has been no disruption in it whatsoever. So the investment in flood defences is moving up and it will continue to move up in the future’ (Downing Street Press Conference, 23 July 2007).
The Small Print
In fact, the small print of the statement given to Parliament revealed that the additional £200 million funding would not be introduced for four years, until 2011 (Hansard, 2 July 2007, Col. 690).
It also emerged that Gordon Brown had actually frozen the Environment Agency’s budget just weeks before the floods (Freedom of Information Act Request, Environment Agency). Last year’s flood defence bill was cut by £15 million in order to make cost savings after chaos at the Rural Payments Agency left DEFRA £200 million in the red.
Gordon Brown deliberately referred only to ‘capital projects’ because in fact he’d cut spending on non-capital items like flood defence planning and essential staff.

Support for Flood Hit Areas
Brown’s Spin
On a visit to flood-hit areas, Gordon Brown announced that local authorities would get 100 per cent compensation for the damage caused by the floods. He said: ‘We will provide 100% for local authorities for the emergency work they are doing’ (Press Association, 23 July 2007).
The Small Print
In fact, the small print of government’s Bellwin Scheme revealed that they would only provide this relief above a certain threshold – meaning that many councils would have to fund millions of pounds worth of relief themselves. For example, in Gloucester, the local council will have to find an extra £1.2 million.
The Government’s scheme would also only fund uninsurable revenue costs, not expenditure such as repairing assets (such as roads). A council such as Gloucester will have to find some £24 million to repair roads alone – equivalent to their entire roads budgets for the year.

Border Police
Brown’s Spin
In his security statement, Gordon Brown announced – after years of Conservative pressure – that he would introduce a new Border Police. He said: ‘To strengthen the powers and surveillance capability of our border guards and security officers, we will now integrate the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK visas overseas and at the main points of entry to the UK, and we will establish a unified border force’ (Hansard, 25 July 2007, Column 842).
Gordon Brown said the proposal would be ‘implemented very quickly’ (Hansard, 25 July 2007, Col. 848).
The Small Print
It then emerged that Gordon Brown’s proposals were not for a new agency, but for new uniforms – and the plan did not even include the police or British Transport Police.
When questioned about the cost, staffing and resources of the force, the government admitted that these details had not even been decided (Press Briefing from Prime Minister’s Spokesman, 25 July 2007).

‘New’ Legislative Programme
Brown’s Spin
On 11 July, Gordon Brown outlined his ‘new’ legislative programme to Parliament. In the fourteen paragraphs, he used the expression ‘new’ a total of eighteen times to describe the Bills and announcements (Legislative Programme Statement, 11 July 2007).
The Small Print
A detailed examination of the ‘new’ Bills revealed that every single one had been announced already. Six had already been published as White Papers; two had already been published in Green Papers; five had already been published as Draft Bills; 4 had already been announced in Statements; five had already been launched in consultations; and one had already been published as a full Bill. Gordon Brown was merely continuing work that had been started under Tony Blair.

Aircraft Carriers
Brown’s Spin
In July, Gordon Brown announced that the government would build two new aircraft carriers. Defence Secretary Des Browne announced: ‘The carriers represent a step change in our capability, enabling us to deliver increased strategic effect and influence around the world at a time and place of our choosing’ (Hansard, 25 July 2007; Col. 865)
The Small Print
In fact, the detail of the announcement revealed that the two aircraft carriers had actually been delayed from the 2012 and 2015 dates as originally promised, and would not in fact be in service until 2014 and 2016 respectively.
It also emerged, in a document buried in the library of the House of Commons, that the final cost for contract had not even been agreed.

Drug Strategy Consultation
Brown’s Spin
In July, the Government launched what it described as the ‘largest ever’ consultation on tackling drug use. The document said that drug treatment must continue to be the ‘cornerstone’ of the Government’s drug strategy (HM Government, Drugs: Our Community, Your Say, A Consultation Paper, 25 July 2007, p.15).
The Small Print
A footnote to the document revealed that the Government’s aim was ‘to reduce overall costs whilst improving effectiveness’ of drug treatment (HM Government, Drugs: Our Community, Your Say, A Consultation Paper, 25 July 2007, p.15).
Days later emerged that Gordon Brown intended to cut £50m from the Government’s drug treatment budget over the next three years (The Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2007).

Limiting the Prime Minister’s Power
Brown’s Spin
Gordon Brown claimed he would reduce his powers as Prime Minister: ‘I now propose that in 12 important areas of our national life the Prime Minister and the Executive should surrender or limit their powers… I now propose to surrender or limit these powers to make for a more open 21st-century British democracy which better serves the British people’ (Hansard, 3 July 2007, Col. 815-6)
The Small Print
On the very same day as he made this promise, Gordon Brown slipped out a new version of the Ministerial Code on an obscure government website. This gave him increased powers to block investigations into Ministers and decide for the first time – inserting a key phrase that ‘If there is an allegation about a breach of the Code, and the Prime Minister…. feels that it warrants further investigation, he will refer the matter to the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests’ (Paragraph 1.3, Ministerial Code, Cabinet Office, July 2007).
For the first time, Gordon Brown also lifted the ban on civil servants attending party political events, such as Labour Party conferences – raising new questions about the politicisation of the civil service.

Supporting Sport
Brown’s Spin
On 13 July, Gordon Brown new funding for sport in schools and said the government would 'raise the number of hours that kids in school can do sport, to increase the number of competitions that are possible and have a national sports week' (Gordon Brown, GMTV, 13 July 2007)
The Small Print
In fact, it emerged that the new funding that he had announced for sports represents less than 10 per cent of the amount he cut from grassroots sports as a result of his raid on lottery funds. It was also revealed that of the £750 million promised for school sports seven years ago, just half had so far been spent by the government.

Cuts in the NHS
Brown’s Spin
Gordon Brown told Parliament that a review of the NHS in London was ‘not proposing the closure of existing hospitals’ (Hansard, 11 July 2007; Col. 1440)
The Small Print
Buried in the detail of the Government review that was published on the same day, Gordon Brown’s new Health Minister announced that ‘the days of the district general hospital...are over’ (Healthcare from London; A Framework for Action, page71, paragraph 186).
Lord Darzi also stated that there was a need for ‘fewer, more advanced hospitals’ in London (Health Care for London: A Framework for Action, 11 July 2007, p.10).

Servants of the People
Brown’s Spin
Gordon Brown also promised to ‘forge a stronger shared national purpose—only by building a new relationship between citizens and Government that ensures that Government are a better servant of the people’ (Hansard, 3 July 2007, Col. 815)
The Small Print
On the same day, buried in the small print of his proposals on Constitutional Reform were new plans to allow charities to campaign politically. This meant that the Smith Institute - Gordon Brown’s favourite think tank that is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission over its political links to him – would have a wider political remit. The small print read: ‘Charities should be free to participate in appropriate ways in political activities. There are clear benefits to society from allowing charities to do so’ (Governance of Britain, Ministry of Justice, 3 July 2007).

Welfare Reforms
Brown’s Spin
A week before he became Prime Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton reassured the public that Gordon Brown would continue with planned welfare reforms.
He said: 'I know there are some who hope the coming political transition will mean the Government goes cool on the prospect of further radical welfare reform to benefit the hardest to help. They will be disappointed’(Welfare to Work Convention 2007, Birmingham, Wednesday 20th June 2007).
When the Freud Report on welfare reform was launched, Gordon Brown went out of his way to endorse it, saying: ‘This starts a new phase of welfare reform which I will champion’ (The Guardian, 6 March 2007)
The Small Print
On Tuesday, Gordon Brown's new Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, announced to a newspaper that the government wanted to roll back plans for large scale private sector involvement in providing welfare services as outlined in Freud. He said that offering large regional contracts to private companies ‘is not my preferred option’ (Financial Times, 31 July 2007).
When David Freud was summoned to the Treasury to present his findings: 'He said hello, got a 45-minute rant from Gordon then said goodbye...Then he was marched into a room full of advisers who shredded him' (The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2007).

New Crime Strategy
Brown’s Spin
On 19 July, the Government launched a new crime strategy for 2008-11. It was based on the premise that there had been ‘Ten years of cutting crime’ (Home Office, Cutting Crime: A New partnership 2008-11, 19 July 2007).
The Home Secretary said: ‘we have revolutionised the crime fighting landscape… This formidable combination has seen crime fall by around a third since 1997’ (Hansard, 19 July 2007, Col. 463).
The Small Print
In fact, on the same day new recorded crime statistics showed that in 2006-07, 300,000 more offences were committed in England and Wales compared to 1998-99, and violent crime has doubled (Crime in England and Wales 2006-07, Home Office, July 2007).

Building Homes; Protecting the Green Belt
Brown’s Spin
Gordon Brown promised to put ‘affordable housing within the reach not just of the few but the many’ and said that ‘I assure the House that we will continue robustly to protect the land designated as Green Belt’ (Hansard, 11 July 2007, col. 1450).
The Government also said: “Green Belt land will stay as Green Belt land. Yes, we can give you an assurance that we will not build on Green Belt land. We are not proposing any changes to our very robust protection of the Green Belt” (10 Downing Street spokesman, PM Lobby Briefing, 10 July 2007).
The Small Print
In fact, it emerged that a report commissioned by Labour Ministers warned that Gordon Brown’s building plans would have ‘a negative effect on the character of the countryside’. Planning experts, Roger Tym & Partners, warned the government in the report that housing plans would ‘increase pressure to develop in the Green Belt’; have a ‘significant negative impact on the Green Belt’; ‘increase the risk of flash flooding’; and ‘increase pressure to develop in these areas of flood risk’ (Augmenting the Evidence Base for the Examination in Public of the South East Plan, May 2006).
Gordon Brown also failed raise the thresholds for the 3 per cent or 4 per cent stamp duty bands since their introduction, meaning more and more homes are being dragged into the higher stamp duty brackets every year. The average first time buyer thus pays £1,500 in stamp duty (Hansard, 18 April 2006, col. 121WA), compared to nothing in 1997, since stamp duty thresholds have not kept pace with house price inflation.

Reforms in the NHS
Brown’s Spin
Before he became Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said the NHS would be his ‘immediate priority' (Gordon Brown, Leadership Acceptance Speech, 24 June 2007) and said: ‘I do say to colleagues in the Trade Union movement that reform will continue, it has to continue. In some cases it has to intensify quickly, because our duty to the country is to ensure that we have the best standard of healthcare in the modern world’ (Gordon Brown, Sunday AM, 10 September 2006).
The Small Print
In fact, Alan Johnson revealed on 25 July that the government was actually beginning a process of limiting private sector involvement in the NHS – rolling back the reforms introduced by Tony Blair. Mr Johnson told the Health Select Committee ‘I don't believe there is the need for another independent sector treatment centre [ISTC] procurement and there won't be a third wave’ (Daily Telegraph, 26 July 2007).

Ending Spin; Restoring Power to Parliament
Brown’s Spin
When he became Prime Minister, Gordon Brown promised the British people he would restore power to Parliament, end spin and focus on delivery:
· ‘All the people of this country have a shared interest in building trust in our democracy, and it is my hope that, by working together for change in a spirit that takes us beyond parties and beyond partisanship, we can agree a new British constitutional settlement that entrusts more power to Parliament and the British people’ (Hansard, 3 July 2007, Col. 815)
· ‘One of my first acts as Prime Minister would be to restore power to Parliament in order to build the trust of the British people in our democracy’ (Leadership Acceptance Speech, 11 May 2007).
· 'I've said politicians have got to be more humble and they have got to be strong when it comes to seeing something through… I hope people will judge us by what actually happens' (Gordon Brown, The Guardian, 30 May 2007).
· The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party has promised: ‘In future, under a Gordon Brown regime, we need to have no spin, no briefing, no secrets, and respect for Parliament’ (Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, BBC Newsnight, 29 May 2007).
The Small Print
In fact:
Burying Bad News. On the day Gordon Brown became Prime Minister he buried details of a further 100,000 of political donations from rich businessmen, trustees of the controversial think tank, the Smith Institute, and extra cash from Trade Unions in an obscure file with the Electoral Commission
Spinning the Cabinet. He announced plans for his new ‘Business Council for Britain’ in a newspaper before it was formally announced (Financial Times, 27 June 2007) and key names in his Cabinet and Junior Ministers – like Digby Jones – were also announced in a newspaper (The Times, 29 June 2007)
Admitting he’ll carry on spinning. In a little noticed interview published on the day he moved into No 10, Gordon Brown said he intended to continue briefing newspapers to spin his stories before Parliament. He was asked “Why are so many of your policies trailed in the newspapers before the Cabinet or MPs get to hear about them?”. He replied: ‘…It's inevitable that there will be some kind of public discussion about policy issues before anyone stands up and makes a statement to Parliament. Frankly, I think that's a good thing’ (The Independent, Gordon Brown Answers Your Questions, 27 June 2007).
Announcing policy in newspapers. The day before he told Parliament he wanted ‘open and good government’, he briefed his legislative programme to newspapers, including revealing plans for fixed-rate mortgages lasting 25 years in one newspaper (Daily Telegraph, 11 July 2007) and housing plans were announced in another (Daily Mirror, 11 July 2007). Welfare Reforms to encourage lone parents back to work were announced in a newspaper before Parliament was told (Daily Mirror, 18 July 2007).
Publishing 100 statements as MPs leave. Brown was slammed by opposition MPs after publishing 100 statements to Parliament on the eve of it rising for summer recess. New revelations buried in the Commons library late in the afternoon after many MPs had left included: a new Government appointment for Gordon Brown’s personal donor, Paul Myners; details of the £1.66 million ‘farewell tour’ by Tony Blair; and a new list of ‘celebrities’ entertained at Chequers at taxpayers’ expense.

3 comments:

voreas06@yahoo.co.uk said...

It is a very good document, but it needs to be boiled down to just two or three major examples that shadow cabinet members use again and again and even better if they can be shown to be virtually exactly the same behaviour as when he was chancellor.

Also this rubbish about "Brown is a strong leader" needs to be tackled, Brown is an indecisive desperate bully with a penchant for porky pies and that needs to be shown(I appreciate we have made a good start on the porky pies).

flashgordonnz said...

Lovely! I've printed this and placed it on my wall!

tapestry said...

When will a Beeboid ask the Prime Ministe about anything in his small print?

Gordon Brown and the BBC are a sick joke.