Monday 9 January 2023

Leaders' Messages

Both Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, and Sir Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, have given us upbeat speeches to enliven our New Year. Mr Sunak has made five promises, to: Halve infaltion; Grow the economy; Reduce debt; Cut Health Service waiting lists; Stop small boats carrying asylum seekers and migrants across the Channel. Sir Keir Starmer is less specific, but is promising to allow local areas to "Take Back Control" (clever choice of slogan) by devolving power to them. Mr Sunak's list of promises is pretty vacuous. The rate of inflation, currently 10%, is predicted to halve anyway. It is a typical piece of political perception management that the current high rate is claimed to be entirely due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, but halving it will be claimed as a government achievement. It is criminal that, nearly 14 years after the Sustainable Develpment Comission's "Prosperity without Growth" report was published (Marh 2009) our major plolitcal parties are still looking to growth which wil fry the planet to solve our short-term problems. When I first heard "reducing debt" as an aim I presumed this was private debt - possibly by raising wages to avoid people over-borrowing on their credit cards. Apperntly it's govenment debt, which is not a short-term problem, especially as aditional governent expenditure will be needed to bring the public services up to scratch after 13 years of governemnt austerity to facilitate tax cuts. This leads us on to cutting health service waiting lists, which wil need both immediate expenditue to pay health workers fairly and discourage them from leaving, along with serious long-term investment to provide an adequate service for an ageing population. Finally boats full of migrants making dangerous Channel crossings could be stopped within a fortnight if adequate alternative legal provisions were made. As for Sir Keir's vague promises, devolution of powers to local areas is long overdue but the devil will lie in the detail of how it's done. If it's to national paliaments and regional assemblies elected by proportinal representation and with powers to raise funds and the right to spend them as they wish, with Whitehall and Westminster limited to foreign policy. defence, the mainenance of the currency, and redistribution of "LEVELLING UP" funds well and good. If it is to flamboyant mayors elected by First Past the Post, based on city regions and needing to spend half their time on putting in bids to all- poweerful London, then not so good. We shall see. Fortuantely for us, (and mybe unfunately for Sir Keir, who sees advantages in remaining vague) Michael Jacobs, professor of political economy at Sheffiled university, has combed Labour's policy promises and collated an encourageing list of good intentions. The full article can be found in the Guardian on line at 04/01/23. In summary, there's a resonable chance that a Labour government will: spend £28bn on climate change action this decade; achieve a net zero power generation system by 2030; drive a 10 year energy efficiency programme to insulate homes and buildings; use a "Brexit opportunity" to direct government porcurement to UK companies (I'm not too happy about this one); establish a national wealth fund; introduce sginificalnt economic devolution (see Sir Kier's aspirations above); tax wealth equally with income; abolish non-dom status - this with the one above would raise £26bn a year in additional tax revenues; raise the minimum wage to a real living wage; increase workers' rights and protection, incuding banning zero-hours contacts; negotiate fair pay agreements with employers and trade unions; bring rail operations back into public ownership when their franchises expire. All the above sounds exciting. Presumablky Sir Keir hopes we won't notice. Although both New Year speeches seem equally unispiring, Andrew Rawnslkey in yesterday's Observer summed up his conclusions as follows: "At heart, Mr Sunak is a low-tax, small-government, light-regulation Tory. That is his desired direction of travel. His default view about the state is that it should get out of the way. Tellingly, his one thought about addressing the crisis in the NHS is that more health care should be provided by the private sector." "At heart, Sir Keir believes in a large and activist government, with the levels of taxation implied by that, though he prefers to talk about an “agile state” to make it sound more attractive to the wary."


  1. Apperntly it's govenment debt, which is not a short-term problem

    Well, no, in the short term it's fine — instead it's living large and passing the costs of our extravagance on to future generations, which is just morally odious.

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  2. Finally boats full of migrants making dangerous Channel crossings could be stopped within a fortnight if adequate alternative legal provisions were made

    No, they couldn't. What possible 'alternative legal provisions' would stop channel crossings?

    None of the suggestions I've heard — for example, allowing people to apply for asylum from outside the UK — would stop people crossing the channel in boats. In the case of allowing applications frm outside the UK, for example, there is absolutely no reason for someone who knows they have no valid grounds of claiming aslyum so would have their claim rejected to apply form foreign soil and so put themselves on the border force's radar, when they know that if they manage to set foot in Britain then they are basically guaranteed to be able to stay forver whatever the merit of their case. So anyone in that situation would continue to cross by boat, and as people in that situation make up the majority of current boat-crossers, the policy would make no difference in the number of boat crossings whatsoever.

    But perhaps you have an alternative legal idea that I haven't come across yet. Let's hear it.