Thursday, May 26, 2011

Huhne Prediction

I've been meaning to write this all week just to get it down so I can say, see told you so. (After not blogging on my solution to reducing fuel duty which then ended up in the budget I don't want to miss out again).

My theory is that if Huhne is going to go of his own free will (which is by no means certain based on his behaviour to date) he will go sometime during recess, my first prediction in fact is that he will go today. Why during recess? Well it means he can lie low for a week or so without having to be in the House for votes or if he's not there getting lots of "he's not serving his constituents" comments coming through. Also there are very few MPs around for the lobby to pounce on and get a scathing "It's disgraceful, always knew he was guilty" comments.

On the negative it's relatively quiet political news wise during recess, but I still think if he's going through his choice it will be before Parliament returns.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama's failure to endorse government's economic plan isn't good news for the left

There is much crowing from the left that Obama has failed to endorse the Coalition's plans to reduce the deficit by saying lines such as "Our different countries will need to take different paths". However perhaps they should consider that he may not be willing to support our plans because they aren't as quick as his, rather than the other way around.

As the Spectator has shown in this graph, the "Obama plan" sees public spending reduced by a larger percentage in 1 year than we're doing over an entire Parliament.

So why has he been saying this different paths line? Well either
1) He wants to ensure that the Republicans can't accuse him of wanting to go back on what he has already agreed (i.e. not cut as quickly) or;
2) The Coalition (who surely had sight of his speeches and remarks beforehand) didn't want to embolden those on the right who are saying we should be going much quicker than we are, or do any damage to the public's view that we want to go quicker.

Either way, his comments certainly don't endorse the Labour Tax and spend approach, if anything it says the opposite.

I've just seen the transcript of the joint press conference where Obama says:

"And obviously the nature and role of the public sector in the United Kingdom is different than it has been in the United States.  The pressures that each country are under from world capital markets are different.  The nature of the debt and deficits are different.  And as a consequence, the sequencing or pace may end up being different."

The role and nature of the public sector in the US is that it provides much less to it's citizens than ours, therefore they can cut quicker than we can here, is my reading of that.

Interestingly the PM said:

"But each country is different, but when I look across now and see what the U.S. and the UK are currently contemplating for the future, it’s actually relatively similar program in terms of trying to get on top of our deficits and make sure that debt is falling as a share of GDP...."

"...So as he said, we may take slightly different paths but we want to end up in the same place."

So there's that different paths line again, clearly an agreed line between them.

Update 2:
From the transcript of Obama's speech in Westminster:

"Having come through a terrible recession, our challenge today is to meet these obligations while ensuring that we’re not consumed with a level of debt that could sap the strength and vitality from our economies. That will require difficult choices and different paths for both of our countries."

Also notice his focus on debt, which is a major issue in the US, unlike our debate here on the deficit.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Plan A working - Unemployment Falls

Unemployment is down by 36,000, it's not a huge amount but it's down none the less. The total number of people in employment rose to 29.24m which isn't bad compared to a pre-recession peak in May 2008 of 29.56m. Youth unemployment is still 20% but that is a fall from last quarter.

Overall Labour will argue that it's too slow and that the increase in jobseekers claimants (up by 12,400) shows that we are spending more money on benefits than would be spent if we just continued increasing public sector employment (That's my prediction for an attack question at PMQs today).  However some of those will be people moving off disability benefits after being reassessed and found fit to work and the overall trajectory is positive.

Basically Plan A is working, so Ed Balls couldn't be more wrong with his constant "we need a Plan B"  message.

Picture stolen from Guido, it was just too good.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Huhne might resign today

Rumours are circulating on Twitter that Chris Huhne is going to announce his resignation at 4:45 today.

There's a few reasons why he might go:

1) No one has yet discovered the smoking gun on the rumours / claims that he got someone else to take speeding points to avoid a driving ban. He can therefore resign now claiming it's over something else (My guess is wicked Tories and their wicked and alleged "rich kids get uni places plan") and get the heat off his back before anyone can find it.

2) His ministerial pension rights apparently kick in today.

3) It's become clear that it won't be easy to get David Laws back into the government, let alone into the Cabinet, so there's little chance Huhne can just be replaced easily with a right winger in the form of David Laws.

Of course at the same time, Huhne is supposed to be at the 2nd reading of the energy bill then (although Guido was claiming that he'll be hiding out at Privy Council instead) and this rumour did start from a journalist on twitter, who has now rolled it back and didn't have that many followers, so was he just aiming to get a few more?

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Stratford Election Results

Final tally from last night.

Conservatives: Gained 4, lost 2, overall result +2

Independents: Gained 1, overall result +1

Lib Dem: Gained 1, lost 4, overall result -3

A good result for local Conservatives last night. Neville Beamer increased his majority to
Roughly 700 in Stratford itself and Lynda Organ won by over 500 votes also in a Stratford ward, both results showing Conservatives have regained the trust of the town's electorate.

Also a fantastic result for Danny Kendal in Wellesbourne winning by 300 votes to unseat a Lib Dem and a close win for first time Candidate Johnathan Gullis in Shipston, with a margin of just 16 votes, also unseating a Lib Dem councillor.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why vote no to AV today

AV is unfair
With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while people who vote for one of the mainstream candidates would only get their vote counted once.

AV doesn't work
Rather than the candidate who receives the most votes winning the election, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner.

AV is expensive
Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which would cost the taxpayer millions. It can take days to figure out exactly who has won. The estimated cost of AV over £250 million. The cost of AV has been estimated to be £250 million by the NO to AV campaign.

AV is obscure and unpopular
Only three countries in the world use AV for their elections: Fiji, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. And in Australia, 6 out of 10 voters want to get rid of it.

AV would lead to more Hung Parliaments
Hung parliaments could become commonplace with more haggling and horsetrading between politicians. AV makes hung parliaments far more likely. While hung parliaments can bring parties together in the national interest, as it did last May, the expectation of a hung parliament -- if it becomes the norm rather than exception -- would make Party manifestos irrelevant and cause more horsetrading between politicians, both before and after elections

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

First past the post favours ....

As we enter the final week before the AV referendum the campaign is hotting up and the Sunday papers are full of politicians telling us how to vote.

In the Observer Lib Dem Chris Huhne has joined forces with one of the minority Labour supporters of AV, John Denham, to call for an anti-tory alliance to remove first past the post which he claims has favoured Conservatives.

Firstly it appears that the Yes campaign has dropped all pretence of real arguments in favour of Mandelson’s argument of vote Yes to defeat the wicked Tories. The new non tribal politics is clearly winning inside the Yes camp.

But the main thing about this argument is that first past the post favours the Conservatives. His reasoning, only twice in the last 110 years (1900 and 1931) has a Conservative government had an absolute majority of 50%. His argument appears to be that if we added together the Lib Dem and Labour vote then they would have had a 50% majority. His argument is therefore that all Lib Dem voters are anti Tory, which of course isn’t true, and if you follow it through then clearly the solution is that Labour and the Lib Dems should merge and become one party, job done.

Looking at the figures of General Election results also destroys his argument. Since 1900 there have been 13 Conservative governments (including the current coalition), 12 Labour Governments and 4 Liberal governments, so how exactly has it favoured the Conservative Party?

Of course in reality First Past the Post currently favours the Labour Party, mainly due to the current constituency boundaries (which is why they’re being changed). That’s why even though the Conservatives got a large national swing last May they still didn’t win an overall majority. In reality the Labour party (a progressive majority?) won a landslide election in 1997 and then two more majorities before being kicked out (although not in any way by a landslide) last year, and technically they could have stayed in power with the Lib Dems.

So given recent history do you really think that First Past the Post favours the Conservatives? And who do you think AV favours?

I see everyone’s favourite Vince Cable wrote basically the same thing in the Guardian yesterday. I do feel sorry for Clegg who I believe is more centre right than centre left, and is stuck with a coalition in his own party, the left side of which is abusing the AV referendum to try to enforce their dominance.

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