He’s clearly trying to steer a course through some treacherous waters. He’s seeking to reclaim some vestige of fiscal credibility in the face of the continuing political damage being done by the outgoing Chief Secretary’s missive of May 2010. He’s seeking to appease those who feel that our social security system too often offers something for nothing, and offers not enough to those who have dutifully paid in for years.
Those who oppose Labour dismissed the speech as saying nothing very new. Those on his own team felt that the speech was more successful in steered a difficult course (eg here and here). More particularly, it had charted a viable and distinctive way forward. The revival of the contributory principle, rather than the incursions into the principle of universalism, is emphasized.
The emerging thinking on housing – switching the focus from housing benefit to construction – is broadly welcome. The suggestions about local authorities intervening in the private rented sector to suppress rents, and the rather vaguer intimations regarding the revival of rent control – have perhaps been less broadly welcomed, to put it mildly. If there is one thing guaranteed to get a frothing free-marketeer in a lather it is rent control. In part that is because pretty well all microeconomics students are taught rent control is unambiguously bad. Usually in week one of their course. That is the case even though specialist housing economists are rather more circumspect on the point.
Anyway, within the constrained parameters of the debate it seemed to me that Mr Ed did pretty well. Continue Reading →