Thursday, June 25, 2009

Preparing for Government

On last night's Newsnight I was amused to see Jeremy Paxman's fake shock at the Guardian front page lead story about the Conservative plans to hold a two day Cabinet session to decide how best to cut public spending. From Paxman's reaction, you would have thought it was akin to King Herod wanting to cull the first born. Philip Hammond dealt with it all rather well, although I'd have preferred him just to say: "Yes, damn right we're going to do this. Isn't that what Cabinet government is all about?" Conservatives must learn not to be defensive about the need to justify every pound of public spending. The public mood is with them on this issue, and people are less likely to be taken in by Labour's increasingly outlandish scare stories.

But the main reason I raise this is that, assuming the Guardian article is essentially true, it demonstrates that Francis Maude's implementation team has really started motoring. The first few months of any new government are crucial. If the requisite level of planning has not been undertaken there is a real risk of drift and ministers being dominated by the civil service machine. I was talking to one Shadow Cabinet Minister yesterday who has already made clear to the Permanent Secretary of the department he is shadowing what will need to be implemented in week one. Maude's challenge is to replicate this level of planning across each and every government department.


Javelin said...

The greatest weapon against bloated government is transparency. All spending must be public.

james said...

paxman is yesterdays man.

he is like on of those angry god squad types in the usa.

Paul Halsall said...

While I abhor the idea of a Tory government, Paxman was off the wall last night. With a substantial poll lead it would be a massive failure if the Tories were not doing advance planning.

Clearly the government deficit needs to be addressed. But ALL Tory governments tend to do this is ways that hurt the already poor and minimally help the upper middle class, and give away wealth to the financial elite.

There is no reason for Labour not to campaign on this issue. And point out that the deficit can be contained by a combination of some cuts (Trident, ID Cards, ending PFI), actively using public ownership of the banks to frustrate the greed of the rich, and, yes, by raising income taxes.

The Tories, as it is, want to punish the poor for the crisis caused by the rich and upper middle class.

Giles Marshall said...

I thought Hammond was actually rather poor - given the chance with the opening question to put some useful observations about Mervyn King's statement forward, he simply retreated into party line speak by boringly going through why the government was in a mess. Hardly a mature level of debating, and ignorant of the sort of audience that watches Newsnight which doesn't really need to be patronised by party automatons who can't engage in discussion. So sorry, but I came away wondering whether we were ever going to get some decent Tory communicators!

Desperate Dan said...

You are so right that the Conservatives shouldn't be defensive about spending cuts. The public, unlike Gordon Brown or Jeremy Paxman, understands perfectly well the need for spending cuts.

Fausty said...

Paxo tries to undermine anything Tory-originated. His aggressive tone got my bile up. Why is he allowed to be so obnoxious to Tories? He didn't give Hammond a chance to finish making a single point.

Do the Tories have a strategy for dealing with the likes of Paxo? If not, I suggest they devise one.

The Tory public spending initiative is a vote winner and Philip Hammond was exceedingly patient with sneery Paxo.

But who won that round?

Stuart said...

Agree. Paxo looked foolish twice last night but Hammond was poor. Tories must stop apologising, state the facts (eg we don't see the books till we're elected) and leave it at that.

They can take a hatchet to the BBC too, while they're at it.

no longer anonymous said...

"The Tories, as it is, want to punish the poor for the crisis caused by the rich and upper middle class."

The crisis was caused by the BoE holding interest rates too low for too long.

In any case middle class professionals in the City are already suffering by losing their jobs.

javelin said...

Do they want to cut the BBC expenses.

Mark Thompson paid 2,236.90 to hire a plan back to Boston to fly back to defend Russell Brand - on the 30/10/2008 - from a family holiday and we have been told that the cost of the chartered flight was agreed by the board down to Boston USA.

What is interesting is that there is no plane charge for himself or his family to reschedule to fly from the US to the UK.

He also charged the same to the day ...

2 days car hire for family not used 30/10/2008 55.00
Holiday cut short 30/10/2008 206.00
[section 38] 30/10/2008 80.00
Siracusa (Hotel) 30/10/2008 300.00
Ragusa (Hotel) 30/10/2008 202.00

But these are Italian cities?

Siberian Tory said...

Just watched last night News Night. We really are winning this argument aren't we?

Paul Halsall is right Labour should argue this with us. I think Labour would struggle in a task entirely new to it i.e. cutting spending. Paul's sugguestions just don't cut the mustard and reveals their problem what, of substance relative to the debt, to cut?

The Labour party is a collection of warring spending requirments there is little in the way of a voice for cuts. Any cut will have to be cleared with the cabinet, the backbenchers, the party and most importantly the unions.

I hope the sane Labour voices like those of Paul Halsall can win the internal Labour argument but he and those like him are going to have to be MUCH bolder if they want to deal with this.

Anonymous said...

Halsall - your comments are puerile.

Its labour who have hit the poor. No statistical sleight of hand can hide that.

Trident spending is years away. And will be part of a general defence budget anyway.
Labour have spent years telling us the ID card scheme is not expensive.
PFI is spending - geddit - cut it and you cut new schools and hospitals - it is not free money for some undeserving cause that can be cut without pain.

We are talking about MASSIVE debts a MASSIVE gap between income and spending - if it were as easy as you idiotically suggest there would be no problem.

Paxman was pathetic. Not interested in illuminating the issue - solely interested in a preening attempt to look pushy aggressive and clever. Anything to embarrass his interviewee, anything to force a partisan stance.
He soon forgot the central issue - the NEED for these cuts, the ability of govt to do more with less, the shocking disclosures by the Governor and the OECD.

Anonymous said...

It's the one thing that is causing me a great deal of frustration at the moment. The Tories are simply not being assertive enough about the absolute necessity of cuts.

Why? The public mood has completely changed since 1997. People are sick of propping up the ever expanding state.

Cameron, grow some nuts, get on TV, and tell the public that everyone has to start living within their means.

Labour economics are a total illusion - we need some hard reality, not Brown's madness.

Bearded Socialist said...

Fair enough. Now they've finally settled on a policy idea, they should indeed try to work out how to put it all into practice.

Mr Dale, how can you stand to be in a party with Nadine Dorries? I feel sad sharing a planet with her (and her ilk)

Convince Me said...

Paul Halsall said...

"The Tories, as it is, want to punish the poor for the crisis caused by the rich and upper middle class."

What a pathetic statement! Typical NuLiebour slogans to hide their own mismanagement and paucity of ideas. If you mean that they do not bribe the electorate with taxpayers money you might have a case.

Paul Halsall said...


I accept Brown is too complicit in the PFI scandal to do anything about it, but then I am not one of his fans.

But I am old enough to have lived through and remember two periods of Tory rule - under Heath and under Thatcher/Major. Although Heath was, in retrospect, more moderate than Thatcher, the whole attitude of Tory governments is to oppose organized power among the working class (i.e Trade Unions) while to support organized power among elites (e.g. Public and Private companies).

While I think some respects Blair and Brown did do some good things - raise NHS spending, actively conciliate in Northern Ireland, enact partial legal equality for gay people (none of which would have been done under the Tories) - I also think New Labour loved business and markets far to much. This has lead to the refusal to renationalize rail, an obsession with false "internal" markets, and a completely catastrophic growth in unjustified administrative bodies devoted to naff business jargon ("stakeholders"/"evidence based"/"branding") and non-transparent "public consultations".

I detest New Labour.

But even New Labour's command and control administrative centralism has had a basically beneficent view of the poor and dispossessed, even if its solutions ("aspiration") are nonsense.

Tories will just attack, because it is they, much more than the modern Labour Party which wages class warfare.

The basic think about class war is that the working class have never been very good at it. The financial elite have proved repeatedly they are very good at in indeed.

simon said...

I might disagree with Paul Halsall over the word 'punish' but basically he is right. Parties exist to serve the interests of specific groups: in the case of the Tories, they will tend to favour the wealthier end of the spectrum and the less well-off will suffer as a result. Osborne's IHT proposal demonstrates the innate presumption in favour of the interests of wealth clearly enough.

Anonymous said...

"I was talking to one Shadow Cabinet Minister yesterday who has already made clear to the Permanent Secretary of the department he is shadowing what will need to be implemented in week one."
I understand that another one told the Permanent Secretary of the Department he was shadowing that they would not be in post come the new Government...

Eckersalld said...

Paul Halsall, you seem a tad confused as to which party has damaged the poor the most.

Who abolished the 10p rate? Labour.

Who have presided over the greatest levels of inequality since Victorian times? Labour.

Who have so diluted the education system that the poorer parts of society cannot compete with foreign labour? Labour.

Who have created target-based systems in health, education and policing whose failures damage the poorest the greatest? Labour.

There are many areas you can condemn the Tories on, but playing the class card really takes some brass neck.

Flemingcrag said...

The thing I found particularly annoying, not confined to just last nights interview but, the many that are introduced so, by the BBC;
We asked for a Government spokesperson to be here but, no-one was available.

There is no condemnation of the Government for this two fingered salute to democracy and lack of accountability to the electorate.

Then what follows is the "impartial" BBC interviewer, in this case Paxman assumes the mantle of Government spokesperson arguing their case for them.

Nick said...

I would advise the Tory transition team not to take any advice from Nick Boles however.

It was Boles who was responsible for putting together the team of advisors for Boris Johnson last year - and we all know what happened there*

* Well all who read blogs other than this one

Simon The Bluesman said...

Politicians are frightened of speaking the truth because they feel the truth will come back to bite them in the ballot box. No balls, no conviction. I wait for the day when a member of the Shadow Cabinet stands up and actually explains what the Conservative Party will do to reduce debt. If I was in the Cabinet I would say that for every £3 the Treasury receives in income the current Labour Government spends £4, therefore, a future Conservative Government will, in the short to medium term, have to spend considerably less in order to reduce the mountain of debt this country is drowning in and these savings will be achieved by cutting back on non-essential spending.

Eckersalld said...

Simon said: Osborne's IHT proposal demonstrates the innate presumption in favour of the interests of wealth clearly enough.

That's a load of bull. IHT has always been an unfair tax, regardless of what level it's set at or which sector of society is affected by it.

And given how house prices rose before the bust, it also adversely effected many poorer families who'd just been handed a windfall and a leg-up in life.

IHT needs dumping, stick an extra penny on the 40% band of you wish, but drop the grave-robbery and overly pious claims of equality that attend it.

Rob said...

Paul Halsall, then how come the gap between rich and poor has got wider under labour (new/old, it's the same old claptrap)? The ethos of thatcher was about opportunity, giving those at the bottom the chance to pull themselves up the ladder. It wasn't handed to them on a plate, but if they worked hard at it and showed intelligence the chance was there. The Labour idea seems to be to drag everyone down to the lower rungs and pull at the social climbers. It's the politics of envy and that is why they always have and always will end in disastrous governments. I'm under no illusions that a Tory government will be popular for fixing the mess, but they'll do it anyway. They have to.

Anonymous said...

You argue that the Tories are the "benefit the rich" party, and then bring up inheritance tax as an example.

You are aware, are you, that under Brown's chancellorship, inheritance tax was allowed to affect more and more middle-and-low-income earners through his favourite tool of fiscal drag (ie not increasing in line with inflation)?

Notwithstanding this, inheritance tax is fundamentally double taxation, and therefore morally wrong. The socialists claim that it is about wealth redistribution, but it doesn't redistribute wealth - it taxes the dead. The very wealthy plan their way around it anyway.

Personally, I'd like to see inheritance tax entirely remodelled to be based on a per-beneficiary basis - that would encourage real wealth redistribution. As it stands, it's just a envy-motivated punishment for the frugal.

GrassyKnollington said...

simon said...

"I might disagree with Paul Halsall over the word 'punish' but basically he is right. Parties exist to serve the interests of specific groups: in the case of the Tories, they will tend to favour the wealthier end of the spectrum and the less well-off will suffer as a result. Osborne's IHT proposal demonstrates the innate presumption in favour of the interests of wealth clearly enough."

I find the generality of your statement difficult to agree with. If what you claim was true, then wouldn't every general election throw up the exact same result?

People vote for the party/brand/leader which catches their imagination and offers something, apparently, different.

Anyway, in respect of the topic of cuts, I think Labour would do well to give up the "Tory cuts" ghost and attempt to debate honestly with the opposition. I'm aware honesty is a no-go for New Labour but this is their only option. Meanwhile, I'd like to see the Tories make a big big list of the nonsense they would take an axe to and actually behave in a manner that would befit the title The Opposition.

Is living within our means really that bad?

P.S. He may have been a fanny last night, but Paxman is and always will be, the man.

Anonymous said...

Simon again talks rubbish.

Are the poor better as a result of 12 years of Labour?

The difference between the parties is not a case of one hammering the poor and favouring the wealthy - that is facile.

Increasingly it is one of honesty v. dishonesty. Browns latest lies being a case in point.
It is about being able to create real wealth that can to some extent be redistributed v. Browns 'robber baron' stealth taxes.

Why should the conservatives target the 'poor' - by definition they have no money to give. What we do have is a labour created underclass that need to be encouraged into productive work. That really means amongst other things lower direct taxation and increased tax allowances. The state needs to take less so the people can keep more and thus contribute to real not bogus growth.

Halsall continues to live in dreamland.

Boo said...

I do have to question the Tories hate the poor line.
I mean most of the Labour stronghold have remain poor, dispite Labour representing them.
Could it be that Labour need people to remain poor?
After all if the poor became rich, they'd start voting Tory.
This is why Tories have an incentive to help the poor become rich, while it is in the best interest of the labour party for the poor to remain grasping for hand outs

commentor said...

I'd have preferred him just to say: "Yes, damn right we're going to do this. Isn't that what Cabinet government is all about?"

Oh dear no. Sounds like a 'spat' to me.

carter said...

I'm sorry but the idea that an "implementation" unit run by Nick Boles, who totally screwed up the staffing of City Hall, and Francis Maude, who is one of the laziest MPs in Westminster famed for his inability to ever do anything on time, is a really poor joke. However, the joke will be on Cameron unless he makes other plans soon.

Paul Halsall said...

Well, obviously Oliver and I disagree, but it's nice to face a coherent and mutually respectful discussion.

I think you are certainly right about New Labour expecting everyone, or even 50%, to go to university. I strongly believe people should be enabled to develop their skills, but I very much doubt whether university type skills are or should be necessary for being an individual to be able to find a useful role in the economy.

Around 50% of the population has an IQ of 100 or less (by definition), and I think New Labour has seen no role for this major part of the population.

I certainly reject "The rich man in his castle/the poor man at the door" notion of the social order. But it is equally true you cannot (logically) have a society in which everybody climbs in soci0-economic terms. If some people go up, other people go down. It's not quite a zero sum game (until total equality, whatever that means, is reached), but what you see among Tories (and New Labour cadres) is an effort to preserve the privileges of their really-not-very-good offspring against the clamour of the outsiders.

Little Black Sambo said...

Paul Halsall: "The Tories, as it is, want to punish the poor for the crisis caused by the rich and upper middle class."

Can you give chapter and verse for that daft statement.

Not a sheep said...

At yesterday's PMQs Gordon Brown let slip that a Conservative government "is not going to be allowed to happen".

Labour have not spent 12 years in power without planning to ensure they cannot be replaced. Whether it be by "postponing" the general election for security reasons, ensuring that the UK is so tied to the EU that a Conservative government would have little power over more than road cleaning, or by vote rigging to reduce or eradicate the Conservative majority; Labour will not go quietly.

Paul Halsall said...


"Unfortunately we appear to have lurched from one badly thought out idea to another"

On this I entirely agree. I also agree that, because New Labour has been such a disaster, there are some interesting oppositional developments under the Tory banner. (I liked Cameron's "freedom" speech today for example.)

I simply think that in practice the Tories will jetison such ideas in office (I hope I am proved wrong) and will hew to the Tory Party's traditional role.

I do not disagree at all that this is a clearly a "last gasp" period of the New Labour Government. And that is largely a personnel matter. I am not sure it is possible for a government to renew while in power.

As all of us (Labour and Tories) know, the Lib Dems can produce attractive ideas and some attractive spokespeople, but on a local government and local elections level they act in ways that make even the SNP appear to be fair.

Just as your best bet is for a successful Cameron govt (and if he achieves more social equality, less governmental limits on individual freedom, and a more fiscally stable situation I hope he succeeds also), my best bet is for a hung parliament, with a Con-Lib alliance that will be successful enough, but moderate, and which will give Labour time to recuperate from Brown.

Paul Halsall said...

The thing I don't get is anger. On either side.

Even if the Tories gain power, and there is an all Etonian/Bullingdon cabinet, I don't seriously expect such a government to destroy Britain, or even to destroy the poor. It certainly will not take the UK out of the EU, to my mind the single most effective anti-war mechanism ever devised in our continent - and massively cheap in that it avoids us facing existential challenges from Europe.

And, while I fear the onslaught of some New Labour surveillance measures I think these are more to do with technological possibilities than ideological differences. They will have to be opposed whoever is in power.

After living in the US for 20 years, I acknowledge the vast majority of Tories would be left-wing Democrats in the US, or akin to the new Conservative Party of Canada. People like Iain Dale, Alan Duncan, David Cameron are effectively Red Tories.

I like the scramble of Politics, but I also think it is worth noting the vast amount of agreement we have in this country.

mtrcricket said...

Paxman is a one-trick pony and his trick is worn out. Simulated shock and anger are as convincing as Brown's vain cry of 10% as a response to all questions.
They both ought to be put out to graze.

Anonymous said...

Maude couldn't organise the proverbial party in a brewery...

The Grim Reaper said...

A polite way of saying what I think on this story: Has Gordon Brown yet started telling the world that, if elected, David Cameron would personally eat every baby in the country?

A less polite way of saying what I think on this story: Brown is a pathological ███████ liar and useless ████ who needs to be ██████ █████ ██████ █████ before he is █████ ██████ ████████ ████ ████.

The Grim Reaper said...

Oliver Drew said "Grim Reaper - You don't work for the committee dealing with Parliamentary Expenses do you?!"

Well, ████ ████ █████████ ████ ████ ███████ ███████ ██████ █████ ████ ████ █████ ███ ███ ██████, so in answer to your question, ██, █ ████ ████ ███ ███ █████.

Also, Iain doesn't like it when people use the word '████' on his blog. Although every other swear word seems to get through nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Well I think it will have been knocked off the front page now...

Unsworth said...

@ Paul Halsall

"the whole attitude of Tory governments is to oppose organized power among the working class (i.e Trade Unions) while to support organized power among elites (e.g. Public and Private companies)."

Oh dear. The usual class war bollox. You really don't have much political knowledge, sophistication or understanding at all, do you?

So what if there's an Etonian cabinet? It's competence and integrity that should matter - not schooling. Once again you lurch towards class war, and as I've said before, that's a two way street. Plainly in your case you have a hatred of those who have gone to public school and believe - without offering evidence - that they are all the same etc etc. You seriously believe that background and breeding somehow precludes understanding, 'vision', competence and - more importantly - decency, honour and integrity?


Oh, and would you care to clarify the difference between New Labour and Labour? Are these two separate political parties? If so, and given your loathing of New Labour, which will you be voting for, come the election?

Roger Thornhill said...

To give true steel, the Tories should promise to begin to reduce the public debt and cut taxes. That way, the income will come down and is inelastic. This will shift the focus of discussion finally away from what each cause/dept should get to if it deserves (more) vs another.

p.s. you can tell Labour from New Labour. The accusers and the blamed.

Joe50 said...

Public services is the one issue where the public mood IS NOT with the Tories. There are a myriad of other reasons the Tories are ahead in the polls. If the public truly supported their take on public services they would have smashed the 40% poll rating by now.

Anonymous said...

Fore-planning, however necessary and worthwhile, still shouldn't be made public. The triumphalism of Kinnock in 1992 is evidence enough.