Thursday, 29 June 2017

Public sector pay and the end of austerity

Two ministers, Michael Fallon and Chris Grayling, indicated yesterday that the Government might consider reviewing the cap on public sector pay. However, once the Treasury got wind of these remarks, the story got knocked on the head. Matching the rate of inflation in public sector pay would cost over £4 billion a year at a time when there is still a big budget deficit.

This came after a report from the British Social Attitudes Survey suggests that popular support for higher taxes and spending is stronger than it has been for a decade. There was particularly strong support for more spending on health and education. The survey was conducted in the second half of last year before the general election.

One needs to ask whether respondents realised they might have to pay higher taxes themselves. As the head of the Institute of Fiscal Studies pointed out yesterday, austerity could not be ended just by imposing higher taxes on businesses and rich individuals.

The Government will undoubtedly continue to consider the issue of public sector pay between now and the Budget. It may be that any increase would be targeted on particular groups such as nurses.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Grant Jordan

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Grant Jordan, a leading analyst of pressure groups. An fitting tribute from Professor Paul Cairney: Grant Jordan

The designated adult?

Philip Hammond is suddenly the flavour of the weekend as a possible successor to Theresa May. First, The Economist Bagehot column ran a favourable portrayal under the title 'The Designated Adult' and today the Sunday Times is running with a story that he could be an 'interim' prime minister for two years with David Davis as deputy prime minister.

Bagheot argues that 'spreadsheet Phil' is a 'serious man for serious times'. No one doubts that he is serious: he reminds me of an old style bank manager who tells you can't have a loan for your business. Bagehot admits that he is 'emotionally buttoned up', but argues that he is a smarter version of Mrs May. Is this what is needed?

One British politics expert makes a good point when he tweeted, 'He has the same dull qualities as John Major. This could be a benefit in interesting times.'

The underlying problem is that the Conservatives don't have a suitable successor. Bozza, or at least his people, gave offence by going out 'on manoeuvres' immediately after the election. Admittedly, if he reached the last two, the activists would probably vote him in.

David Davis is a strong Brexiteer and has been a contrarian over the years. Amber Rudd would have a chance if she didn't have a wafer thin majority. People are then reduced to looking at the likes of Priti Patel!

What may happen is that Theresa May stays longer than anticipated. The plan is to have a long recess with Parliament not meeting again until October which would rule out the election then that so many believe in.

Friday, 9 June 2017

An unexpected result

I hadn't expected Labour to gain Warwick and Leamington. Indeed, it was the only Labour gain in the West Midlands where the Conservatives gained two seats.

There are over 5,000 students in the constituency and no doubt they played a part in the outcome. The constituency voted 'Remain' in the referendum and although outgoing MP Chris White was a remainer, it would seem that many of those who voted remain chose Labour as happened elsewhere.

What is clear is that the constituency is not a typical Midlands one. BBC West Midlands political correspondent Patrick Burns suggested that it is more like a North London constituency with a metropolitan, cosmopolitan outlook.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

British general elections since 1931

Political Quarterly has produced a special virtual archive issue featuring articles on general elections since 1931. The first article is one written by Sidney Webb in 1932. The articles are free to read for a month: General elections

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Labour's moderate pitch

I have now received the Labour and Liberal Democrat election leaflets for Warwick and Leamington. The cover photo of the Labour manifesto is initially a little puzzling as it contains a picture of two men, but it is not clear which of them is the candidate. However, turning over the page it is apparent that one is a 'local folding bike inventor.' Perhaps the subtle message here is that Jeremy Corbyn should get on his bike.

For there is no picture of Jezza or mention of his name. The overall message is that the candidate, county councillor Matt Western, is a moderate. He is pictured with a local business owner (a greengrocer) and reference is made to his 24 years of management experience with Peugeot. The candidate also makes it clear that he doesn't support Brexit in a constituency that voted Remain.

Nick Solman's leaflet emphasises the dangers of 'extreme hard Brexit'. There is a prominent photo of unimpressive leader Tim Farron. The candidate himself is photographed in front of the Pump Rooms and Warwick Castle.

Warwick and Leamington is a constituency that should have some potential for the Lib Dems, but they have never come close to realising it. For the Lib Dems more generally, only 7 per cent of the electorate voted Remain and select Brexit as their most important issue.