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Labour can demolish coalition claims in same way as IFS has done

Posted on 22 October 2010 | 9:10am

In this cynical, media age, it is not easy for an organisation to establish a strong reputation for taking complicated facts and delivering sound and sober judgements upon them, but you’d have to say the Institute for Fiscal Studies has done so.

There were times when I was working for the government when their judgements could be a pain in the neck, and their sanctimoniousness could be a bit off-putting at times too. But the reason for the pain was the knowledge that they were taken seriously inside and outside the Westminster-Whitehall bubble, and they were often right.

That is why both the Tories and the Lib Dems, when in Opposition, would leap on any criticism the IFS made of Gordon Brown’s economic approach.

So as Nick Clegg rages at the IFS over their factual observation that the Spending Review was regressive, ie hitting the poorest hardest aka unfair, let us add the IFS to the list of things on which the DPM has stood on his head since May 6.

Both Clegg and David Cameron looked a bit uncomfortable taking questions from the public yesterday. The beginnings of real anger at the unfairness of some of their decisions was coming through. That anger will grow when the decisions are implemented. And I was not at all surprised to see Clegg popping up in The Guardian trying to assure Lib Dems that values of fairness underpinned the approach to the CSR.

But the paper’s front page, even without his help, rather torpedoed that. The IFS report on the regressive nature of the overall package; and their other main story about the bankers breathing a big sigh of relief that the planned levy is not going to hit them very hard at all.

And over on the letters page, someone pointing out that the extra welfare cuts on top of those announced in the budget – £7bn – is the same sum enjoyed by bankers in bonuses. Fair? Don’t think so, Nick. Or ask yourself this … if the Tories had got a majority, and you had still been in Opposition, would you have said it was fair? No, didn’t think so.

There is also a lot more unravelling to do on the pupil premium. A perfecfly fair idea in many ways. More for those at the bottom end .. like it. But the money is coming from the schools budget which they all claimed was being protected. It isn’t. It means spending per pupil for the average will fall, n’est-ce pas Nick. Fair? No.

What the IFS has shown is that on big arguments, it is possible to push this lot back fairly quickly. Even with most of the media still in bottom-kissing mode, I reckon before too long it will be well established with public opinion that this package is not fair.

Meanwhile Labour needs to push back hard, strategically and over time, on the ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’ part of the Tory argument. It can be done. And it needs to be done, with the same doggedness and attention to detail that has got the IFS established as such a strong voice in this area.

  • Billy Blofeld


    If the Tories last 18 years in government again you’ll be 71 next time Labour get into power.

    For your own health you might want to calm down and bit and just accept we voted to remove Labour. We wanted change……….

    • alan

      Given the miserable showing so far by the new labour leader and his team it will be 18 years by the time labour get back into power.

      I’m not hopeful of anything resembling Britain being left by then

  • Archie

    Clegg’s case, set out in the Guardian article, that the IFS analysis is wrong seems to be based on the argument that it only considers tax and benefits and doesn’t take account of the impact of public services received.

    Clegg: “People do not live only on the basis of the benefits they receive. They also depend on public services, such as childcare and social care. All of those things have been airbrushed out of the picture by the IFS.”

    But since public services, childcare and social care are all going to be clobbered by the spending cuts that Nick and his chums are supporting, and since the poorest depend on these services while the richest don’t, taking these things into account would only serve to increase, and not decrease, the regressiveness of the coalition’s actions.

  • Olli Issakainen

    The coalition has been very good so far at political framing. Their narrative has dominated the headlines.
    But this will all change when the cuts are implemented. Many people have made their minds on emotion, and no amount of facts will change the situation. So Labour must be patient and wait for “events”.
    Mr Osborne´s reckless ideological gamble based on wishful thinking will fail. There is a funding gap in the banking sector. The private sector will not invest enough, and cannot rescue the coalition.
    Labour´s “ballooning” budget deficit, in fact, mirrored the average deficit rise across the 33 most developed countries.
    David Cameron reinvented his party as nice, green and socially concerned. It is now neoliberal. And George Osborne is neo-Thatcherite, not One Nation Tory as he claims.
    Alan Johnson is the right choice as the shadow chancellor, as both members of the Balls family could have been cast as deficit deniers because of their earlier stances.
    Labour has already offered its broad alternative to the coalition. In opposition, you do not have go to the details. David Cameron did not while in opposition.
    George Osborne has no plan B. His misguided courage will only magnify a disaster. Labour is right to call for smaller and slower cuts. And spending cuts should be made in line with growth rate, unemployment rate, house prices and level of private sector investment.
    There also should be a long-term growth strategy. The most effective way to reduce the deficit is to revive growth, not to cut welfare. The coalition´s cut plan will not only kill the short-term recovery, it also weakens Britain´s economy in the long run.
    The Keynesian policies after the Lehman brothers collapsed worked.
    Hundreds of millions have been poured to the banks. But banks have returned to their old practices. £7bn will be paid in bonuses this year.
    The City has an army of lobbyists. It provided £66bn in tax revenues in 2009. The City employed 1 million people, and accounted for 10% of GDP.
    For ideological reasons the coalition is not blaming the banks for the “mess”.
    The financial markets should be tamed, state upsized and the single global market downsized. Complex financial instruments should be banned. We cannot to afford to have our current financial system.
    There is unjustifiable inequality in pay and how work is rewarded. The average income of FTSE 100 chief executive is £3m a year. It is 100 times median household income.
    There are people like Jorma Ollila of Nokia who are worth all this. But often the pay is unconnected to skill or profitability.

    Ps. The first figure is budget deficit, second public sector net borrowing, the third net debt/GDP.

    02/3 -11bn -25bn 30.8%
    03/4 -17 -33 32.1
    04/5 -19 -39 34
    05/6 -13 -37 35.3
    06/7 -5 -30 35.9
    07/8 -4 -33 43
    08/9 -49 -86 53
    09/10 -100 -145 61.8

  • Sarah-dodds

    Just come in from work and a chat with my head. I’ve basically been told to lose my job from April, as if I’m surprised!! I am gutted, naturally. I care deeply about the children I am trying to help – sentimental in this day and age I know. I also care deeply and passionately about my colleagues, my school and teaching as a whole. In the light of the chat I have had about the future of my school and education generally with my boss, I don’t think I want to stay around anyway. I don’t know if I can stand to watch what is about to happen. I am so angry and so hurt. At the moment all I want to do is jump ship, because watching it go down is way too much for me to bare.

  • Nicky

    Very good post, AC.

    Clegg’s hypocrisy is just appalling. At that PR exercise at the school in Nottingham, he was confronted by reality when Margaret Lynch, who has MS and is wheelchair bound, tackled him about how the poor and disabled are bearing the brunt of the cuts. This lady has worked all her life and been a model citizen – now she’s up against it, and her life has now just been made even harder. Clegg, who has zero experience of hardship (financial, physical or otherwise) blethered on with his buzz words of ‘fairness’ and something he called the the ‘real world’. He had no idea. I wouldn’t normally use such intemperate language, but, really – what a disgusting piece of filth.

    Also, he seems oblivious (either he’s blinded by his own ego or he’s just incredibly stupid or probably both) to how he’s being cynically used by Cameron and Osborne to be a whipping boy when things go horribly wrong. His party are down to 10% now.

    What did Cameron say about Clegg being his favourite political joke?

  • Chris lancashire

    Fair or unfair, regressive or progressive – argue away as you like. Two facts stand out – Labour has yet to advance any clear strategy for dealing with Brown’s enormous defecit and, until it does, has no credibility. And secondly, the Coalition has done more in 5 months (fairly or unfairly) than Blair did in his first five years.

  • Nicky

    Very sorry to hear that, Sarah.

  • Janete

    So sorry Sarah. From the comments you post here it is clear that you are the kind of dedicated public servant we should value very highly.

    Extremely selfish, narrow-minded people have brought back discredited Thatcherite ideas, aided by cynical politicians who were prepared to lie about their intentions before the election. Try to take heart from the fact that the majority of voters believed they were opting for a slower, more compassionate response to resolving the deficit.

    The solution to us winning the argument in the long term, is to improve polital awareness among the electorate. To achieve this our children need to be educated well, to be encouraged to think for themselves so they cannot be easily manipulated by self interested wealthy people. Dedicated, caring teachers are vital in this task. You should be very proud of the work you do and I hope that in whatever capacity, you will continue to strive for a better society for our children.

  • toni

    @BB. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that Alastair was becoming excited or endangering his health actually, but what I do read here is lots of analysis and calm assessments, and I’m hoping, confident even, that he’ll continue to do that. We need him, and I thank him for the years he’s devoted to our party.

    The election? Pish! Hardly an overwhelming victory for the Tories.

    Nicky. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with you that Clegg’s being used by Cameron. In that PR stunt at the Notts. school, they seem to me like twins, joined together in their common purpose, replicating eachother’s body language and loving the status, the power, and eachother. No, Cleggs in it up to his neck, and reading the comments on Lib Dem Voice re. the spending review I’m not alone in thinking that.
    Had to smile though as they sat with the well turned out, healthy looking children sitting in front of the computers, provided by the Labour Govt.

  • Roadriverrail

    Blether, nonsense and ignorance, Chris. You’ve no understanding of opposition politics, have ignored the fact that Labour had a def-reduc strategy at the last election where HM’s opposition offered ‘efficiency savings’ as their stated intention in office. They have no mandate for these cuts and have lied to the British people, and to Parliament about the cause of the defecit.

    If this is the best you can offer, you should sign up for a few GCSEs to stretch your intellect, son.


  • Roadriverrail

    I’m dismayed, AC, at the flaccid nature of the Labour response to the review, at least as it came through the prism of the media. Where’s Miliband?

    Concerning me more is this: the Condem(ned) present cause of the deficit in concrete terms. This HAS to be matched in turn. The Co. has no mandate for the cuts, they have lied to Parliament and to the British people about how we got into this situation. Their lying is flagrant, too – it isn’t even subtle. A polite, ‘gentlemanly’ response is going to cut no ice with a floating vote that reads right-wing trash and watches pathetic news TV barely fit for 10 year olds.

    If Ed and his team think that they are going to respect an opposition which is calm and measured, we have already lost the next election. Calm and measured comes across as a chronic lack of passion and belief. If the FV think we (Labour) are either asleep or appearing to accept the fact that this financial hole was caused by overspending (not by baling out a bank collapse and a concomittant fall in economic growth) I wouldn’t be remotely surprised.

  • Joe

    Labour´s “ballooning” budget deficit, in fact, mirrored the average deficit rise across the 33 most developed countries.

    Guess that makes it alright then!

  • Anonymous

    Very funny – need to share…

    Friday 22nd October 2010 – Extract from “David Cameron’s Likely Blog”
    Posted on October 22, 2010 by theunofficialdavidcamerondiary

    Wow, pretty good week considering. If anyone needed a display on how to communicate £81 billion cuts from public spending along with not much is going to change, then Osborne did it. With his head bowed down, avoiding the glare of the opposition, he coughed and spluttered throughout his spending review. He loves the power but wobbles in the limelight, always has. He could have had a huge career in the city but the power bug hit him, and he will now and always be seen as the Eton billionaire taking from the poor. God hope he’s got this one right before the next election.

    Pickles made me laugh earlier, suggesting we should get Norman Tebbit in a photo opp shouting “on yer bike!” to the housing queue. That’s one I really don’t get the jumping up and down about. If people can’t afford to live in say London why are we financing them to do so. Surely they should go to the cheaper areas until they can afford it. I know the ghetto for the rich argument but what’s the alternative?

    Only real sour point this week is the lack of coverage of my PMQs. Ed might have won last week but I nailed the commie this week. He looked weak and baffoon like, reading Ken Clarkes double dip quote that clearly referred to Europe not just the UK. Even Nick Clegg looked a bit happier on my bench – though god knows why considering the spending review was up next. My best moment was Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington asked me to name 3 businesses in her constituency that were increasing manpower and I was able to simply knock back with the 38 signings of the CEOs from many of the biggest UK companies who are desperate for their knighthoods. Who’s the daddy!

    Sunday Papers will no doubt delve into human stories from the review. They’ll also wheel in that blooming RAF chap, Kris Ward, banging on about unemployment. I wish these army guys would face up to it that if it wasn’t for the Services many of them would have been unemployed a lot earlier.

    To Do: Need to counteract the probable “nasty Tory” badge. Will wheel out Duncan-Smith and a few LibDems early next week. Also need to stop Ed getting airplay with counter argument. Hopefully squeezing BBC will keep Murdoch and his mob on task.

    Favourite person of the week: My top man this week has to be Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Not quite sure what his game plan is but he’s certainly taking many of our blows and the media don’t know what to do with him. It’s as if they want to rip him to pieces for deserting the poor, but as he’s a Lib Dem and Scottish he surely can’t be doing this. Love it.

    Night Thought: Making sure no pics get out from my Birthday Bash this weekend. Wish I could do a line again with a clear head the next day, but PM protocol dictates alcohol only leaving me with a hangover and anxiety on Sunday – note to self, go easy on the champagne, especially with the Bullingdon boys. Goodnight.

  • Sarah-dodds

    Thank you Janete and Nicky. Sorry – I lost it a bit earlier. Should not post comments when in rage……shall I open up a Labour Supporters Free School to show the next generation where it’s really at?? :o))

  • Richard Brittain

    The church is corrupt, politics is corrupt, even football is corrupt. So who do we turn to? The Institute of Fiscal Studies. I like it.

  • Nicky

    Point taken, Toni. Cameron and Clegg do seem – in a very creepy way – like twins, mirroring each other. There’s a real narcissistic love-in vibe going on there. For the time being, it’s in Cameron’s own self interest to cultivate Clegg, and Clegg seems to enjoy the ego trip of swanning about in ministerial cars.

    However, I still think Cameron will drop Clegg in the sh*t if and when it suits him.

    …they sat with the well turned out, healthy looking children sitting in front of the computers, provided by the Labour Govt.
    Good point!

  • Robert Jackson

    I know you are very fond of football.

    Some of us do not follow it at all.

    Except it doesn’t say much for the game that a man can negotiate a contract paying him in a week what someone on average earnings gets in eight years – a fifth of a working lifetime.

  • Chris lancashire

    Actually, have rather a good degree old chap. Labour needed a def-reduc (I think I know what you mean) strategy after creating a rec.-def. without the help of the Banks. Unfortunately, so far, they haven’t told anyone what the strategy was or is.

  • Roadriverrail

    British Fashion Victims

    is PAUL KRUGMAN’s response in the NYTimes to the CSR. I urge all Labourists to read, digest and disseminate, a massive weapon against the lies and propaganda being flung at us all by the government. True, there is implied criticism of New Labour leaving the economy over-reliant on the financial sector to deliver wealth, but we also know that twoud have been exactly the same if the Tories had won either of the elections of 2001 and 2005.


  • Roadriverrail

    Do we think Clegg, instead of going down with his party, will join the Tories in 2015 if it (the party) really crashes? Doubtless he’d be welcomed with open fangs – I mean, arms.


  • Taurus43

    Once again, thankyou Olli. Each week another coherent, balanced, informed judgement on ConDem activity. It is much appreciated. Your evaluation of the figures shows a true understanding of policy and economics.

    We NEED Labour to come out now with more of this.

    But it is not just the govt in Opposition that needs to present strong reasonable arguement, but, us, the grass-root voter that need facts rather than passion to help us win the fight. So often it is passionate ideology that I reach for, and then I find i quickly descend into an ‘us and them’ tennis match. Information makes one stronger. The wave of supporters that have joined labour since the election is a demonstration of grass-root support for opposition. We need Labour to now support us.

  • Roadriverrail

    I promise you, Chris, it doesn’t show.
    You’re wrong, of course, about Labour “creating” (you can’t ‘create’ a deficit) a record deficit, or at least you’d have to show me the financial record of this country 1914-18 and 1939-45 to prove me wrong, and I doubt you could. Also, as Krugman reported last week, ” Over-reliance on the financial industry largely explains why Britain, which came into the crisis with relatively low public debt, has seen its budget deficit soar to 11 percent of G.D.P. — slightly worse than the U.S. deficit.”

    You know that the deficit as problem was caused with Brown bailing out the banks to save the economy, so stop wasting everybody’s time with your nonsense – we already know how right wing bigots read when they post to blogs; we know they’re not interested in or incapable of logical argument based on an empirical approach to thought.

    And if you really think you’re winding Labour supporters up, here, you really must be about 15 years old, mentally if not literally.


  • Janete

    Thanks for the link – really good article.

  • toni

    Hi Roadriverrail, sorry I didn’t get back straightaway, only just found your comment. I’d think it highly likely that he will join the Tories, and the others with a job too. But before 2015 and when things start to go belly up, Hughes might strike out, see a perfect opportunity to break free…? Better to be a big fish in a little pond? Predictable answer I’m afraid.
    Had to laugh tonight with Newsnight asking the public (mostly foreign visitors though, which added to the fun) if they cared that Nick Clegg smoked. My answer is that of course I don’t care, if Nick’s an 80 a day man that’s up to him, who am I to dissuade or condemn him?
    Just looking at Alastair’s tweets, BBC showed 16 words of Ed’s speech, and the Tories whine that the corporation’s biased against them.

  • Roadriverrail

    Just found your reply – thanks. Interesting.
    I’ll be the one to condemn Clegg for fagging it like a maniac. Smoking’s for tossers. I saw the light 26 years ago almost to the day. One of the best thing’s I ever did. Smoking in an adult is a sign of a person who is not properly centred, someone who hasn’t got it together. No suprise he’s torpedoed his party by lurching to the right, then.