The £74,000 question

Piggy bank pound sterling. Clipping path included.The brouhaha over the impending proposal by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to increase MPs pay to £74,000 is understandable. It seems perverse to be considering an 11% pay rise on a £66,000 base salary at a time when most other public sector workers are in the middle of a long period of real wage stagnation.

The cross-party rush by frontbench politicians to publicly distance themselves from the IPSA’s recommendation is equally understandable, even if it is known that many MPs say something rather different in private. They can see it would be politically damaging to accept such a pay rise now. It risks further reinforcing the reputation of politicians as self-interested and out-of-touch. David Cameron stated that the total cost of politics needs to be going down not up.

Of course, some of those graciously foregoing the payrise are independently wealthy so it will hardly make much of a difference to them one way or the other. [Read more…]

Is the Minister of State being naïve or disingenuous?

Norman BakerSometimes pronouncements emanating from Liberal Democrat Ministers are a puzzle. They are either naïve or disingenuous. And if they are disingenuous then they must think we’re all naïve.

The proximate cause of this observation is Norman Baker’s post “We’re not turning into authoritarians!” at Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday. The focus of Baker’s post is the Coalition’s proposals to reform anti-social behaviour legislation. The aim of the post is to assure everyone that:

It is utter nonsense to suggest we are targeting skateboarders, ramblers, youngsters playing in their local park, or anyone else going about their daily lives perfectly reasonably.

In reality the new anti-social behaviour powers are designed to protect such activities.

Not only that:

It has also been suggested that the Coalition plans to curtail rights to peaceful protest. This is also nonsense and nothing in the Bill does that. I have made it clear on the floor of the Commons that peaceful protest cannot be subject to a dispersal order and we do not believe that the public spaces protection order could be used in this way either, or to prevent wider peaceful protest, but in the light of the scare stories generated, I am looking at what further steps we might take to make this even clearer.

This intervention is somewhat at odds with most other commentary on the Coalition’s bill. The general view is that the bill is so shockingly loosely drafted that it could be applied to just about any activity that someone takes exception to. [Read more…]

Osbo’s poverty trap and pinging the elastic of reality

Message opposed to unemployment.Since they entered office the blue-tinged contingent of the Coalition has been engaged in a systematic process of stigmatising those in receipt of social security benefits. Great emphasis has been placed upon the undeserving and the fraudulent. There is support for the hard working strivers, but condemnation for the skivers. The spotlight has been on the most extreme cases of households receiving substantial financial support from social security in order to create a smoke screen for cuts in benefits to the poorest. The Tories are convinced that welfare “reform” – particularly the overall weekly benefit cap – is their most popular policy. Yet many of the components of this policy have yet to be fully implemented. The general public has yet to grasp their full impact. It may transpire that once they do, the Tories will feel they acted precipitately in drawing such a positive conclusion. [Read more…]

Libdem futures – Implosion or renewal?

We are witnessing a spate of exits from the Liberal Democrats announced online. While these have been happening intermittently for a while, we’ve had several in the last week or so. James Graham announced that he was leaving the party, and elaborated that the issue was party politics generally, rather than the Liberal Democrats specifically. Yesterday we had blog posts by Chris Ward and Daniel Furr announcing that they were resigning. No doubt there are many others deciding to leave the party less publicly. From the left and the right there is discontent, but for different reasons.

A focus for much of this discontent is the recent shenanigans around the Health and Social Care Bill. Those who were pleased – either for political or policy reasons – that Conference voted to amend the “Shirley Williams” motion are disgruntled, first, because of the way the leadership tried to manipulate the vote in the first place and, second, because almost immediately after Conference had voted Parliamentarians were indicating that they were going to ignore the vote and support the Bill. And so it came to pass in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

In contrast, those who supported the Health and Social Care Bill and believed the Libdem Lords had won significant amendments were frustrated by the whole Drop the Bill effort. Rather than an onward march towards the sunny uplands of a bright economic liberal future there was a feeling that the Drop the Bill grouping represents some form of backsliding towards soggy socialism – Libdems somehow succumbing en masse to delusion, under the spell of the Labour party.

So no one is very happy. [Read more…]