Archive for September, 2014

Devo-max

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Many think that Scotland are going to be offered devo-max. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Real devo-max is proper home rule. Devolving everything apart from foreign and defence policy. Scotland could then decide all things taxation wise. Who to raise taxes from, in what mix, and how much you want to borrow to fund capital programmes.

The citizens of Scotland would know exactly who to blame if the state was taking cash out of their pockets. It would be Holyrood.

This is not going to happen. Scotland has voted against independence, so the Bank of England will remain in charge of monetary policy and the UK government will retain control of many fiscal policies. Taxes such as Corporation tax and Vat still remain firmly in the Chancellor’s red bag.

So were the people of Scotland conned by “the vow”  published on the front page of Scotland’s Daily Record a few day’s before the historic vote? Certainly there was a sleight of hand, devo-max was implied but never really offered

All three unionist parties led great emphasis on devolving responsibility for income tax. Not a word about assigning oil tax revenue. And much to the discomfort of Welsh political leaders the commitment to retain Barnett. A formula, that could not survive under true devo-max.

Scotland will still be subservient to the whims of the Treasury – the paymaster.

So whatever is eventually agreed by Lord Smith’s Commission, devo-max it won’t be.

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A ten year plan

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Stalin and Mao had five-year plans Ed Miliband has a ten-year plan. But nothing in the plan was off the radar. It was all so very predictable. No surprises much of it already flagged up.

In his own words the speech was his job application as chief executive of UK plc. His application based on a six point plan, but to ingratiate himself with those hiring him he wanted it known he was a team player. It was all about being “together.”

“Together” used 50 times during an uncomfortably long speech.  We heard you Ed and got the point that the other candidate for the job was not a team player and that we’re “ on your own” as far as Cameron’s concerned.

In some ways, it was a speech aimed at his core supporters. All good social democratic rhetoric, about the power of government to help people and make a difference in their lives.  Dennis Healy  ‘to squeeze the rich until the pips squeak’ came to mind. In young Ed’s case it was those living in houses worth over £2million, hedge funds that didn’t pay tax and those nasty tobacco peddlers.

He was on the side of the workers who like the poor got the blame and little else where the rich got all the pleasure and the rewards. And whose fault? Miliband pointed the finger of blame at the Conservatives for this inequity.M_f4e4d888-1b14-f7b4-bd30-88908228d8512

In one of his best lines “David Cameron does not lie awake at night worrying about the United Kingdom. He lies awake thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party”.

He acknowledged that there was a problem with England and its representation, but that was for another day. So it was kicked to the long grass of a “constitutional convention.”

If in doubt have a “convention.” And still keep the votes of Scottish and Welsh MPs to get your Commons majority and the keys to Number 10.

You can’t go wrong with a Labour audience if you are seen to be on the side of the NHS. It’s his hope that this will also weigh heavily with the country at large. There is certainly enough evidence that voters care a great deal about the NHS, too.  Hence the promises of extra cash not from the ordinary taxpayer but from the rich. Gain and no pain, must be a winning combination, Ed.

But voters care about the economy also and there was little to convince on this. Perhaps he was hoping the other Ed, had done enough on this the previous day.

A speech who’s purpose was to drive home familiar themes rather than break new ground. Not quite his best performance but adequate enough. Enough to give him the job? On that the jury is still out.

220px-Attlee_BW_croppedHe has to convince that he’s got a winning team because in his own right he’s far from convincing. Atlee had little charisma and yet formed Labour’s most successful government ever.  So there is hope for Ed.

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Who’s for Ed?

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Scotland raised big questions for Labour.

The Scottish referendum saw many traditional Labour voters move to the ‘yes’ side. This will be a major problem for the party come the general election, if those voters stay with ‘independence’ party and vote SNP.

Many of those much talked about 41Labour seats in Scotland will become vulnerable now that their traditional voters in industrial Scotland have bucked the party’s advice and embraced Salmond’s case. An 8% swing to the SNP would cost Labour 19 seats.

Another worry for Labour, surely must be the campaigning skills of their leader, Ed Miliband. What the referendum showed very clearly was how wooden he is when meeting ordinary people, he just doesn’t have the common touch.

Now a party can have policies aplenty, but if the voter don’t rate the leader’s ability to deliver the goods then it’s unlikely to gain electoral success.

This week’s Manchester conference will see pledges made as we’ve already seen on an £8 a week minimum wage and undoubtedly the NHS will feature heavily as will housing and other areas that the private polling of the party indicate as the voters concern. But all will amount to naught if the voters don’t reckon the party’s leader can deliver.

Unfortunately when ordinary punters cast their vote they won’t have gone through a detailed assessment of the policies on offer by the parties, they just make a judgment on who they feel will make a difference to their lives.

It might come down to whether they like or dislike Cameron or Miliband.  It’s depressing to think that elections are decided on such seemingly superficial factors, but that’s life, as they say.

Unfortunately Labour’s problem is that Miliband trails well behind the prime minister in the assessment of voters. Cameron is not particularly popular, but he’s seen as competent, slick and self-assured. While Miliband is seen as aloof and uncharismatic.

But can Miliband turn things around? Well if he can convince he has a plan and a clear message and a sense that he knows where he’s going, he might, just, overcome the natural antipathy the voter has to him. That’s his challenge in Manchester.

Will he raise his game? Well, that’s the question on many a mind, not least his own backbenchers.

 

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