Friday, 30 April 2010

The general public

Politicians need the general public. But at a safe distance. When standing for the council, I often expressed frustration because the public's simple questions usually have complex answers. And people don't usually have time to listen - certainly the media doesn't, and the media is always watching the leading politicians.

The sad thing about "Brown's gaffe" is not so much what he thought about a specific voter (any of us could be caught out sometimes if people heard what we really think) but the attitude the political elite have to one of voters' real concerns: immigration. Raising the issue commands the response "bigot" if not "racist". It's one of the most frequently raised issues on the doorstep - especially amongst the young - and there's a lot of reasons for that (perceived pressure on local services, unfair prioritisation for services, focus on multiculturalism rather than integration, too big a growth in population numbers in too short a time) mainly arising from the fact that we have not had proper controls over immigratuion for some time (apparently as a deliberate policy).

The political parties are mostly afraid to address the issue because of the "r" word - but they must if they are to prevent tension growing - and a further pressure on public finances. And in avoiding the issue they show a contempt for the general public, which is just as harmful as the expenses scandal in devaluing politicians in the public's mind.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


One of the main issues in this area is the state of the A1. The large majority of people in the area want it dualled, for reasons of safety, convenience and most importantly to support economic development in this one of the poorest regions in Britain.

It's just not likely that a Lib Dem will have the influence to get this done. Interestingly in today's local paper he's quoted as saying that he would like to see the A1 classified as a national strategic road (because that would attract more funding). On the same day the Conservatives announced that they would so classify it. That is thanks to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, our local Tory candidate who has fought hard to raise the issue up the political agenda. Although Nick Clegg said on a visit to the North East he would try to find more money, his party's transport spokesman made it clear that the Lib Dems would not spend money on this sort of project.

I think this announcment is a massive step forward. I hope we get a change of MP to initiate it.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Economic Growth: I don't agree with Gordon

A couple of figures released in the last couple of days show that the recovery from the recession is weak - despite, as I noted the other day, very low interest rates and a substantial amount of funds injected into the economy by the Bank of England (QE, or quantitative easing).

Unemployment was up to 2.5 million, and this does not include those of working age classed as "economically inactive", a record 8m.

GDP in the first Quarter was estimated to be up 0.2%. That is lower than expected.

And in addition, inflation (the RPI) rose to 4.4%. This will partly because of the fall in the value of sterling but supports those woried that the large QE programme and low interest rates will be fuelling inflation. This is good in that its one way of reducing the debt burden - but bad because interest rates may have to rise.

So does this mean that the Government is right to warn that the Conservative plan to "take £6bn out of the economy" risks damaging the stilted recovery? And that teh focus must be on protecting growth rather than cutting the deficit?

I think not:

The amount that the Tories are talking about in 2010/11 is small compared to the economy. Even if it were to have a negative effect on the economy it's too small to be material (even Vince Cable agreed with that, until he changed his mind). But it is an important start which sends a message that is critical to investors who fund our debt.

As I've noted before, reducing the amount the Government takes from the rest of us does not take it out of the economy. It leaves it with the rest of us; and we are capable of spending it much more efficiently than the Government.

And perhaps most importantly, the debate on this topic has ignored the interest rate burden from our massive public sector debt. The Bank of International Settlements (the nearest thing the world has to a central bank) published a report on the debt burden around the world, noting amongst other things that the UK has one of the biggest long term problems.

The interest paid on Government debt (about £30bn last year) is in the top 10 of things the Government spends money on, and is forecast to rise to the top 3 or 4 in the next five years (at over £70bn a year). That's in the same ball-park as the entire education budget.

And a lot of that payment really IS money out of the economy. Many countries with high debt - like Japan, Germany and Italy - are fairly secure because their debt is mostly owned by their own residents. The UK however cannot afford to buy all the debt we have. A lot (about a quarter) is held by overseas investors. So although some of the interest we pay is recycled in the UK economy as payments to savers, pension funds and so on, a lot goes to overseas investors. And leaves our economy.

Each % point rise in interest rates we have to pay on Government debt means about £3bn will leave the UK economy. And that figure will grow as the debt figure rises (currently the debt figure is rising at about £150bn a year).

That is why action has to be taken on the deficit quickly. If it isn't interest rates will have to rise to persuade people to buy our debt.

On reading this post I can understand why the Conservatives aren't making more of the point. It's a bit complicated, even boring.

But it's really important: the debt run up by Labour has become so big that the interest we pay - especially that we pay overseas - is becoming a massive drag on the economy. The other parties aren't really interested in this, but it runs to the heart of Conservative thinking for the past few years. If you don't cut the deficit, growth will be weak. Not the other way round.

2nd Debate

I really can't think of anything to say: from scouring the papers, blogs and comments and from watching This Week last night the debate seemed uneventful.

All three performed up to expectations but no better; based on my conversations with people I very much doubt that many viewers/listeners sat through it all, and the vast majority of voters will take their cue from media comment; and this is bad news for the Conservatives because although the Lib Dem surge is fading they will take votes from the Conservatives in seats they need to win. The Betfair index at the bottom of the page (I place great faith in the accuracy of lots of people betting money) has shown a slight rise in the predicted Conservative seats this week, but the average opinion polls since January tell the story.

Michael Portillo last night predicted that the Conservatives would be willing to accept some form of alternative voting system to work with the Lib Dems. That may be so (I doubt it) but I can't see much common ground on the key issues of the economy - where cutting the deficit is critical - and social issues is concerned.

A final anti-Lib-Dem thought for the day: they aren't really that different from the other parties: I've posted before on their dubious funders; here's a comment about their campaigning techniques.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Does a Hung Parliament matter?

I've thought for many months - well before the boost in Lib Dem support in the polls - that a hung Parliament is the most likely result of this election simply because of the enormous extra number of votes the Conservatives need to get seats, and that a Lib/Lab grouping is the most likely outcome.

Does this matter?

Well, yes, if you don't agree with Lib/Lab policies but I was really thinking of the economy rather than the whole suite of Government policy.

This thought was prompted by a meeting today with the local bank manager about one of the local groups I'm involved with. (I say local - he is based in Gateshead, but at least he's not been outsourced to India). His view, with which I agree, is that many people and firms have not been significantly impacted by the economic troubles because interest rates are at very low levels (he did accept there is a problem getting new credit, to small firms in particular, but issue of the supply of new credit is less important than interest rates on existing credit).

If interest rates go up a lot before the economy is in good shape then many firms and people will have a hard time meeting interest payments. There will be defaults, bad debts, bankruptcies and even more unemployment. (Have I mentioned before that every Labour Government has left office with more unemployed people than when it came in?). For that reason the Bank of England is under real pressure to keep interest rates low.

So what would make the Bank of England increase rates? Two things - increasing inflation and problems selling Government debt. The latter could be affected by a hung Parliament. And badly. Prices in markets of all types are about confidence. If investors think that the UK Government will not get a grip on public finances then they will not buy Government debt unless there was a big increase in the interest rate.

And the problem of a hung Parliament is that it will take time for the Parties to agree who is in charge and then to agree what action will be taken on cutting the deficit. And then there is more likley to be tension and difficulty in implementing the cuts. This will increase uncertainty. And uncertainty will also prevent investors from buying - why should they, when the outcome is uncertain.

I have read a ludicrous comment that a hung parliament would lead to Vince Cable being Chancellor - or at least heavily involved in economic policy, and that would be a good thing. Cable is not credible internationally or in financial markets; he is a good presenter but has shown no consistency. This is starting to be found out.

If the Parties resolve a hung Parliament quickly and reach a quick conclusion on responsibilities and areas of focus for cuts, then the uncertainty will be lessened and interest rates may not have to rise quickly. But if there are delays, tensions and a lack of clarity then we will not be able to fund our massive deficit. And interest rates will have to rise too soon, causing big problems.

In other words: it is possible that a hung Parliament will not cause immediate economic problems. But it certainly could, and that is one important reason why we should hope for a clear outcome on May 7th.

I think there are others, and if I have time I'll write about them later. But first I should comment on the second leaders debate; like the first, I preferred to go to the pub quiz (which once more we did not win) but I've seen enough other people's comments to have a go myself.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Election excess

For the first time in my life I am seriously thinking of voting Labour.

I have been in London for a couple of days, where my flat is in a very marginal constituency between Labour and the Lib Dems; it's currently held by Labour with about a 480 majority. I have been inundated by leaflets and letters from the Lib Dems; in the last couple of weeks, there have been 10 different leaflets, papers or letters - including personal letters to me from Nick Clegg and Vince Cable (although strangely their signatures didn't seem to indent the paper, and the ink didn't run when wetted. But they seemed so genuine they surely couldn't have been facsimile signatures).

Tuesday alone saw 3 new bits of paper including a letter from an ex-conservative telling me that he had decided to vote LibDem "because the Conservatives couldn't win here". His letter was in a hand addressed envelope - except again, if I didn't know better, the ink seemed printed rather then genuine. (And even more bizarrely, the letter from the ex-conservative was in a typeface as though from a 1960s typewriter but printed in a very slick 21st century way). My new bestfriends Nick and Vince seemed very angry - so angry that they flung abuse at both Labour and the Conservatives which implied they could never work with either if there was a hung Parliament. They misrepresented the policies and funding of Labour and Conservatives. But despite them being my new friends and despite them saying they wanted openess in politics, they didn't mention the mistakes in policy they had made (for example wanting to join the Euro and encouraging excess borrowing in the mid 2000s) and the dubious funding they had received. And again, both reminded me that the Conservatives couldn't win here.

That theme - the Conservatives can't win here - is a constant theme, repeated on each page of each bit of election material. It was even highlighted in a leaflet printed in Conservative party colours (but with the Lib Dem disclaimer in tiny print at the bottom).

In the election period and the weeks before I have had no leaflets from the Tories - obviously not ones to waste paper - and only one from Labour which rather cleverly didn't mention the Lib Dems, and tried to frighten voters by saying how evil the Tories are.

The Lib Dem strategy isn't helped by having a candidate who comes across as smug busybody you'd just hate to have as your next door neighbour. The Labour candidate is a barrister ex-neighbour of Tony Blair with large property portfolio, but hey - its easier to look after the deserving poor if you aren't poor yourself. And she comes across as quite decent on her occasional appearances on the Westminster Hour.
The thrust of the Lib Dem campaign seems to be: don't vote for what you believe in, just vote for us. And that push to vote against your beliefs makes me want to vote Labour in Islington South and Finsbury just to punish the unpleasant and OTT campaign the Lib Dems have been running there.

I think I would, if it wasn't for the fact that I am actively supporting a good candidate in Berwick upon Tweed who has a real chance of defeating a useless MP. I just hope that others in Islington South and Finsbury are pushed the same way as me.

Two final thoughts from London:
- It's very quiet. Lots of people may be stranded abroad but you'd think there'd be as many stranded here. Yet the tube, the shops, streets restaurants etc are nowhere near as full as normal. Is that to do with the economy? The lack of aircraft? The election? School holidays? Not sure.

- I walked past the Houses of Parliament on my way to an exhibition at the Museum of Garden History about the life at Great Dixter (the garden I most admire) of Christopher Lloyd (the gardener I most admire). It's a wonderful building, currently under used. It made me feel sad to think about just how much damage New Labour 's meddling has done to our Parliamentary process. (Yes, I primarily blame New Labour for the expenses scandal: read here).

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Leaders' debate reprise

I had a weekend full of conversations with normal people (ie non-political junkies).

They were at a relation's wedding (in Scotland) and a golf match - perhaps my relations, their friends and fellow golfers are not the most representative sample of people, but there was a consistency of views from all age groups and nationalities (Scots & English), and not all were closet Tories:
- The debate was too boring to watch the whole way through;
- Clegg did well but not that well - all he said was yah boo I'm not the same as you two;
- It's hard to understand why the media has hyped it up so much. (To sell papers? Or advertising?).

Again, too soon to say whether there's a germ of a point here; if it is media hype, the Lib Dem bubble will burst. Unless it becomes self fulfilling. But it does seem overdone.

And interestingly, just after writing this I noticed this comment on the BBC site...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Leaders' Debate - the result

We didn't win the quiz (see below). We were tied for first but lost the tie break. I did catch the first minute of the debate before leaving - I was at a neighbour's "Debate party" - but my only observation was that, much against the predictions their ties matched party colours rather than being a neutral purple. That decision will have taken hours of time, and usefully highlights the fact that there really is a clear choice between the parties. You'll want to know that I am writing this wearing a blue sweater and trousers, although my shoes are brown.

I've now read lots of blog posts, summaries, newspaper articles etc (even some tweets) on the debate - and talked to people who did watch it - so feel well qualified to comment.

I'm fairly pleased with my predictions below, but underestimated:
a) how well Clegg would do (it was always obvious he would do the best, but he personally must have excelled to have done so well); and
b) the interest in the debate, and how interesting it was; it seems to have been more spontaneous than I thought.

I suspect Cameron (and Brown) must also have underestimated how well Clegg would do. Cameron seems to have made two mistakes in the debate: one was to allow Clegg to appear, the other to be too passive: he apparently could be seen to be holding himself back from attacking Brown (verbally). But he was probably under strict instructions not to behave as though it was Prime Minister's Questions. The impression is that he mildly disappointed, but did not damage himself. Although an immediate poll put him a long way behind Clegg, it continued to show him as the best PM of the three.

And this was after being attacked by both Brown and Clegg. It appears that Brown continually sought to identify himself with Clegg ("I agree with Nick..."), probably partly to cement the pact if there's a hung Parliament and partly to show that Cameron was not the reasonable one.

Clegg did not seem to talk about policy much - his line was, you two (Cameron/Brown) are all the same, I'm one of the public - and his choice to look at the TV audience not the studio - made seemed to pay off as he was "one of us" rather than a - spit - politician. That's a good approach, but it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off twice.

This all creates a dilemma for the Tories and to a lesser extent for Brown - to what extent do they highlight the Lib Dems weaknesses in both behaviour and policy (eg their biggest doner was a crook; they wanted to join the Euro which would have decimated our economic position now) but at the risk of giving them publicity - as opposed to essentially ignoring them and hoping the hero worship will die down.

The immediate polls show a significant rise for the Lib Dems - and the Betfair stats at the bottom of the blog show a near 10% reduction in people thinking there will be a Conservative majority, and a similar increase for a hung Parliament (although strangely there hasn't been much movement in predictions of numbers of seats won by each party). But will this last? The This Week experts last night said ignore any polls until Sunday. Those will be the interesting ones.

And from talking to people who did watch it, I don't sense it's going to change many people's minds. The decided voters saw reasons to support their existing choice, the undecided voters thought Clegg won, felt a bit more positively about him but also thought he had had an easy time of it.

Its a bit of a bugger for Berwick upon Tweed, though, where an exciting Conservative candidate is showing signs of outpacing a Lib Dem MP past his sell-by date. The debate will have made waverers waver more.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Leaders' Debate

What a shame the three debates clash with my local pub quiz night. I'll have to miss them.

But I suspect I won't miss much; I'll review them based on comments in the press and on blogs.

Some preliminary guesses:
- all three will be regretting they were bounced into it;
- none of them will make any glaring errors because they have been over-rehearsed;
- all three will show their hidden character flaws (Brown: wierd; Cameron: smug; Clegg: bland);
- Brown and Clegg will gang up on Cameron. Which suggests what'll happen if there's a hung Parliament.

Brown will do better than expected, Clegg will win as the "third way" and Cameron will not quite reach his potential.

Clear Blue Water

I haven't read all three main party manifestos - but as I've noted elsewhere, that shouldn't prevent me from discussing them intelligently. After all, almost everyone else discussing them won't have read them either.*

The good thing is that, despite many comments for so long that the parties are all the same, the manifestos are very different. They may all be full of bland comments about improvements and fairness, and and claims about sorting out finances, but no-one really expects them to be taken seriously. What is more important is the themes, the direction of travel.

The Conservative and Labour manifestos differ substantially and therefore offer voters a real choice. The Conservative manifesto, ultimately, believes that people make things happen and the State should be there to provide essentials and a support where necessary - with mre emphasis on the support aspects than previously seen. The Labour manifesto believes that people can’t be trusted and the State – the centre – has to do things. This contrast is an old one and goes to the heart of the differences in the two parties, and will influence how the parties would behave if they won the election. Inevitably, given the relatively small influence Governments have over events, their choices are limited. But where they have choices they will tend to follow the style set out in the manifesto. The Lib Dem manifesto is a soft version of Labour's, but with more specific figures on Government finances (or more made up figures, depending on your point of view).

The Lib Dems deserve credit for highlighting the issue of public finances more than the other two, but given the lack of information on what's really going on with the deficit and expenditure it is hard to take any figures seriously. Again, what matters is the approach, the direction of travel. The Conservatives want to promote private sector growth and to cut public sector waste more quickly than Labour; The Lib Dems follow both approaches.

A couple of other thoughts: Labour wins the prize for the most stylish cover (even if it is redolent of soviet era collectivism) and the Lib Dem manifesto is incredibly hard to collate and analyse.

* In case of interest, they can be found here:
Lib Dem.

Two thoughts from searching for these:
- None of them were the top item on the results list;
- The Lib Dem site crashed my network link. I assume it's personal.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Headline News: Brown admits mistake

Gordon Brown has admitted he made a mistake in not introducing tougher bank regulation when he was chancellor; the truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more," he added.

Its good he's admitted he's not infallible. But I don't think he's learnt the correct lesson. It wasn't a question of more or less regulation: it was a question of the right sort of regulation. I wrote last year on the excessive amount of irrelevant financial regulation; a couple of colleagues posed by a stack of paper representing the amount of regulation in one year for financial services. Over 5,000 pages of it. But it didn't focus on a few simple issues, like the amount of gearing banks could have, and by being very detailed, people looked for ways round it rather than applying principles.

And this approach of excessive detailed regulation rather than simple principles applies in most factors of life - another example is our tax legislation, which is the longest in the world having in the 90s been one of the simplest.

It's an attitude to life. Labour believe that people need to be told how to behave, to be told what they are allowed to do, in all aspects of their life because the state can be trusted, people can't.

I just think that's wrong. And although Brown has admitted mistakes on bank regulation (he could hardly do otherwise) he's not, in my mind, admitted the right ones.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Etiquette of Leaflet Deliveries

When I stood for council, the question of leaflets deliveries troubled me greatly. I posted on the subject a couple of times.

And here I am again, delivering leaflets around the area.

I still despair of houses with no letter boxes. It's as though they don't want political leaflets.

But the thing that's being really worrying me now is the ettiquette of leaflet delivering. My early political guru told me to be careful to re-latch front gates as you went in as well as out, not to run over their pets and so on. These are issues of respect. Its the more subtle ones that concern me.
- Should you leave leaflets with known opposers? Should you leave leaflets with massive supporters? Especially if either are way out of the way.
- If you know someone, is it better to leave the leaflet and not disturb them? Or will they think that is rude and you should stop and talk to them. But do they really want to associate you with politics?
- If you do talk to someone - how quickly do you get away from them? You have hundreds of the bloody things to deliver - but you don't want to rush it. It's often nice to talk to people. But.
- What do you do with houses with no letter boxes? Tie it to a brick and throw it through the window? I have left them by the door, but perhaps that's not effective enough.

These perhaps are the issues that undecided voters should use to decide who to support. They go to the heart of respect for the individual, service efficiency and care for the community.

Mind you, I'm not sure leaving the car engine running did much for my green agenda.

Received Wisdom

As I drove around delivering leaflets yesterday, I listened to Prime Minister's Questions. And as I lay in the bath this morning I listened to Gordon Brown being interviewed by John Humphreys.

PMQs was much the same as ever; I thought Clegg had the best line, about Labour: "Look at them now. You've failed. It's over. It's time to go." Cameron focused on Brown's major mistakes - Army funding, the economy and so on, especially increasing National Insurance Contributions. One of Brown's claims made me want to deliver leaflets even more: that by reducing the NI tax, the Conservatives would take "£6bn out of the economy". Sadly he wasn't challenged on that. Only someone whose entire life has been lead at someone else's expense could say that leaving money with taxpayers, so keeping people in paid work, was taking money out of the economy. Government taking money from taxpayers isn't putting money into the economy; if anything, given greater public sector inefficiency, its the opposite.

Its a really scary thought of Brown's: he knows how to spend money better than we do.

He peformed well against Humphreys this morning in that he managed to blame everyone else for the current economic position - especially the US regulatory system and "The global banking crisis". And said that when he said he had abolished "boom and bust" he meant he had turned the UK into a low inflation, low interest rate economy.
The only trouble is that he didn't: the transformation came when Ken Clarke started as Chancellor after we delinked from ERM and decided to have formal inflation targeting (which was in 1992/3; there's a good paper from Mervyn King in 2002 on the subject):

He does deserve credit for not messing it up but he can't take credit for the improvement in the UK's position. (There's also an argument that low inflation was mainly caused by China's economic development as a low cost provider of consumer goods, but lets not go there - it's all too complicated). He can however be criticised for giving the Bank of England the wrong targets: he did not ask them to review asset price inflation, which boomed unsustainably and caused much of the UK's current problems. He did not create a low inflation economy; he did oversee a boom and bust in asset prices.
And I do think the system of financial regulation, which was his, and the massive public sector spending increases without efficiency improvements, which was his, meant he can genuinely claim to have created the boom and bust in asset prices.
His last point was that he worked hard to protect the financial system and the banks by the action he took in 2008. I've earlier set out thoughts on why he made the recession worse by doing too little too late, but the key fact is this: other countries - even the US - didn't have such a bad crisis in their banking sector because they had a better system of financial regulation.
So overall - he didn't persuade me that he was fit to control our financial affairs. He messed up and is now blaming everyone else and changing history to prove it wasn't him.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

It's time, as they say, for change..

In this constituency, Berwick upon Tweed, we have had the same – Liberal-Democrat - MP for nearly 40 years. However, in the 2008 County Council elections across the constituency there were more votes for the Conservatives than for Liberal Democrats. For the first time for years we could have a change of MP. I think there are national and local reasons to vote for Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative candidate:

Nationally, the country has serious economic problems. We are the slowest recovering G20 economy with one of the biggest public sector deficits in the world. We have also had over a decade of largely ineffective initiatives with a new law being passed for almost every day Labour have been in power. The Conservatives are believers in small Government and sound finance – they have a record of achieving higher employment and better finances. In turn, every Labour Government has left office with more unemployment and a bigger public sector deficit than when they came into office and this one looks like being no different. If there is to be a change in Government, constituencies like Berwick need to become Conservative.

Locally, whatever individual help people have received from Alan Beith, this area has suffered from under-investment. This must at least partly be due to the fact that we do not have an MP from one of the parties of Government. Anne-Marie has in a short time made progress on many projects, such as launching the most recent dual the A1 campaign, helping get money for the new harbour wall at Seahouses and getting a mobile MRI scanner to Berwick Infirmary. I think we now need someone of her energy as MP.

She has a blog herself: Trevelyan Talks which is a chance to see what she thinks. I know from my own experience that it's impossible for her to meet every voter - but she is getting around.

I was just telephoned to arrange to collect a mass of leaflets for delivery in the next few days. That will be a chance to get around and see what people think.

And they're off....

This is a really important election.

But somehow I find it hard to get excited. That's partly because I'm worried about the Tories losing - in the same way that I am writing this rather then watching Arsenal vs Barcelona: I superstitiously feel they'll lose if I watch. And partly because I fear this will be a very poor campaign very poorly reported on. So I haven't been hooked on the media all day.

But I caught sight of Gordon Brown's trip from Downing St to St Pancras, where he was catching a train to somewhere suitably deproved in Kent. The motorcade was filmed by helicopter and it struck me how depressing it would be to be followed by helicopters for the next four and a half weeks. His procession through St Pancras was very strange - they took a circuitous route, being applauded by various passers-by. They also missed out the champagne bar. Something seemed odd - but it took a blogger rather than the commentators to explain that the supportive crowds had in fact been bussed in and were Labour supporters who had previously been leafleting at nearby stations.

And later, I heard the soundbites from Brown and Cameron's opening remarks. Brown's were bland - I forget them - but I winced at Cameron's second or third sentence: something like we'll stop another five years of Gordon Brown.

Now, I don't like Brown. I think he was a disastrous Chancellor who has left the UK with a morass of regulation, the world's largest tax code, a massive debt burden, an inefficient public sector, a destroyed pension system and an ineffective system of financial regulation - never mind ensuring that the armed forces suffered through a lack of funding despite him supporting wars beyond our capability. As a Prime Minister he was weak, ineffective and vindictive. As a person, I think he is deeply uncaring of everything except his own position. I don't want him to be Prime Minister any more.

BUT... I already support the Conservatives. I know the positive reasons to vote Conservative. I know the positive reasons to oppose Labour. Cameron's negative sentence chimes a chord with me. But it won't with many people who either haven't seen through Brown yet, or who genuinely believe he is a decent man doing his best, or who are uncertain about which way to vote. Cameron must say why people should vote Conservative - small state, protect the economy etc. I think he can set out what's gone wrong - but he mustn't focus on it.

We had a "meet the candidate" (the Conservative one of course) event in a local village recently. It was not that well attended, but it was a Friday evening. Nevertheless a few Lib-Dems as well as Conservatives came along, and Anne-Marie, our candidate, made some useful comments and I hoped impressed them. We then asked for questions: and they were dominated by negativity. Why weren't the Conservatives bashing Brown and Labour more? And so on. I tried to point out that such an approach would appeal to the core support only, and would be irrelevant to the vast majority of voters. But I don't think I got through.

I hope Cameron rises above his opening remarks.

By the way, Arsenal lost.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dear Prudence

I missed this last year - Gordon Brown's 10 worst financial gaffes - but its still valid and a useful reminder of the cause of many of our problems. (The link should work for as long as the Times keeps free access).

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence won't you come out to play
Dear Prudence open up your eyes
Dear Prudence see the sunny skies
The wind is low the birds will sing
That you are part of everything
Dear Prudence won't you open up your eyes?

Look around round round, Look around round round, Oh look around

Dear Prudence let me see you smile
Dear Prudence like a little child
The clouds will be a daisy chain
So let me see you smile again
Dear Prudence won't you let me see you smile?
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence won't you come out to play

A tax on some jobs

The Tories have form in wanting to limit the increase in NICs: one of their many practical suggestions before the recession hit in 2008 was to reduce NICs because they were a tax on jobs.

It's therefore not surprising that they now want to restrict this tax increase which will do direct damage to employment and therefore ecconomic growth.

They have been called irresponsible for suggesting a tax reduction when they have said that reducing borrowing is important. But this forgets that there will be three ways the deficit will ultimately be paid back, not one:
- a reduction in state expenditure
- economic growth
- inflation (none of the Parties mention this one).

Economic growth will only come from the private sector. State spending in the short term can reduce the harm of a recession: it cannot help growth because it sucks money from the private sector. This is the essential delusion of Labour, and is why they always leave office with unemployment higher than when they came in despite higher public sector deficits. It is what they are mistakenly trying to promote now.

A reason they are happy to increase NICs is because it hits the private sector: an NIC increase is irrelevent to public sector jobs because it is circular. And Labour appear disinterested in private sector jobs; they aren't where their votes are.