Archive for August, 2013

A summer storm?

M_f4e4d888-1b14-f7b4-bd30-88908228d8512Ed Miliband goes on holiday and really has a holiday. David Cameron uses his August as a series of photo opportunities and is scarcely off our screens. It begs the question which leader is showing signs of insecurity?

Yet, it’s Miliband that seems under the cosh. And mainly from his own side.  John Prescott doing what he does best put the boot in. But it was done, with the best possible taste, under the pretence of offering friendly advice. His premise is that Labour has missed scoring open goals against the government.

His view is shared by many other senior figures in the party. Strangely, by the same crew that wanted the other Miliband brother as leader. Their view is that under Miliband, Labour is sleep walking into certain defeat at the next election.

Now the Almanac had been critical of Miliband’s leadership in the past – to often he’s accepted the same basic premise on cuts and benefits as the government. But hi there, many of his critics in the party have been peddling the very same nonsense.

Despite him needing a charisma transplant, the party itself are still ahead in the polls. Taking an average of all the recent polls it still shows Labour with an overall majority of over 70. Not bad for a so-called loser.

But clearly this is not a state that will necessary last until the next election. The party needs to flesh out its policies if it hopes to keep that lead and it has to do so soon.

But that said the old adage is still true, its governments that loose elections not opposition parties that win them.

There are plenty of issues that can still stumble the government. The positive news on the economy is certainly being a plus for the government or is it?

The fact is that the recovery is based on an artificial house price rise in the south east of England, helped by government policy that is contributing to the bubble. And all bubbles eventually burst.

But the big problem with the economy stems from government policy and that’s the cuts. The heaviest cuts are only now kicking in.

Far from austerity being over it is just about to get a whole lot worse for lots of people. People have been holding in there, putting up with zero hour contracts, unpaid overtime and wage cuts. There is a limit to how long people will put up with it.

That’s why the narrative already started by Miliband might have some resonance if he fleshes it out. It’s all about living standards.

A recovery, that only favours the already prosperous in the South East, is not one that will win hearts and minds elsewhere.

If your cost of living continues to go down and your facing little prospect of it changing in the near future it doesn’t incline you to reward the politicians responsible.

In the words of Harold MacMillan once said “events, dear boy, events.” And there are plenty of those already on the horizon than could slip up the government.

HS2 is not good news for the Tory vote in their traditional heartland. The prospect of the rural ideal, being ripped up by a vanity project isn’t going to do the party much good in their heartlands.

And of course, Mr Cameron has still got the vexed problem of Europe. It always has the potential of ripping the Conservative party asunder. And these are only some of the known “events.”

No it would take a brave or fool hardy person to predict the result of the next election now. But one thing that can be predicted that parties that looks split and at war with them selves seldom wins. Maybe some of Miliband’s summer critics should reflect on the fact.





Another week in politics


The Children’s committee have said that plans to allow councils to fine parents of regular truants from school should be dropped. Leyton Andrews when Education Minister decided that the threat of fixed penalty notices of up to £120 should be part of the armoury of sanctions to ensure kids turned up at schools and didn’t mitch off. They were due to be introduced next month. Clearly the committee were not enamoured with the proposals and want ministers to look for “positive alternatives”. In response the Welsh Government said they would study the committee’s report.  The usual holding response whilst the new Minister Huw Lewis makes his mind up whether he’s going to start fining poor parents.

In order to grab the summer headlines the Conservative’s have come up with an education idea -divide children up on the basis of an academic and a vocational stream. Describing it as the best of the old “grammar” school system.  Although they’re not calling for an exam at the age of 11 but the decision would be made at aged 14. On what basis hasn’t been spelt out apart its not on exams. The other parties were damning about the proposals, but it clearly went down well with some Daily Telegraph readers who carried Angela Burns’s proposals. What David Cameron said on reading it is unknown, but he’s not a great advocate of grammar schools. After all Eton is open to all abilities, provided you’ve got the readies.

Wales is growing, there are 10,300 more and the population is now 3.1 million. There were 4,700 more births than deaths. But worrying for language activists 1,100 immigrants from abroad and 4,500 from other parts of the UK have decided to settle in Wales.

 The Rest

Geraint Davies MP for Swansea West had a pop at his leader the “jury is still out” on who the voters will choose to trust on delivering a strong recovery. And blames the leaders of his party for going down the same road as the government on the cuts agenda and not defending Labour’s own economic record when in government. His view’s were expressed in the Independent newspaper giving the oxygen of publicity to this rather boring backbencher.

The Bank of England (BoE) plans to keep interest rates at a record low until unemployment falls to 7%. That’s the message delivered after just a month in the job by the new Governor, Canadian Mark Carney. But the sting in the tail is that he doesn’t think it’s likely for another three years. More:

 The Polls this week

polls aug 9

Thur. YouGov/Sun         CON 31%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%.

Tues. YouGov /Sun         CON 34%, LAB 38%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 12%.

Mon. Populas         CON 33%, LAB 38%, LDEM 12%, UKIP   9%.

Sun. YouGov/Times  CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%,


Long term interest rate down


The Bank of England (BoE) plans to keep interest rates at a record low until unemployment falls to 7%. That’s the message delivered after just a month in the job by the new Governor, Canadian Mark Carney. But the sting in the tail is that he doesn’t think it’s likely for another three years.

Despite the hype by the government and Conservative politicians about the state of the economy it’s still the view of the BoE that the recovery is weak. Or as Carney put it “This is the weakest economy on record, and those records go back more than one hundred years. There is significant slack”mark_carney

His strategy of keeping interest rates at 0.5 percent is recognition that wages are to low to get any meaningful growth in consumption. So his approach is to get spending up by getting savers to dip into their savings.

He does give himself some wriggle room by saying that the policy would change if inflation threatened to get out of control or there was a danger to financial stability.

In announcing the new policy the Canadian recognises that Britain is a basket case and needs a great deal of help to get things moving. In the more sedate words of the BoE “Until the margin of slack within the economy has narrowed significantly, it will be appropriate to maintain the current exceptionally simulative stance of monetary policy,”

Effectively what they’re saying is that they’ll print more money if necessary while unemployment is so high.

So the main policy of dealing with inflation for the moment takes second place to getting down unemployment, which is as far as the Bank can go in the absence of the Government doing it’s bit and changing its mind on cuts.

“Attempting to return inflation to the target too quickly risks prolonging the period over which the nation’s resources are underutilised.” the central bank.

The new policy does have a political down side. It means that those on fixed incomes and are wholly dependent on their savings will not see an increase in the interest this side of the next general election. Which may get the grey vote thinking seriously about the cut of the current government’s jib.