Labour Party and Public Spending: The case for reallocation

Another look at what engendered a lot of anti-Ed Balls sentiment, even from inside the Labour ranks, as I put it on a Liberal Conspiracy entry;

“On CiF, and during an interview with Radio 4’s World at One, Balls spelt out his reasons for wanting to go ahead with spending, along with why fighting within the Labour ranks is hurting the party, and giving the Tories a free ticket to political high ground.

But Balls in the interview was clearly more cautious than some have now made out – like Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for example, who said

“We are going to decide how the growth in public spending is divided up much closer to the time. Looking into a crystal ball and understanding what the economy looks like in the year of the Olympics, I just don’t think is possible right now.”

Balls boldly stated that the moves on spending, to outdo Tory plans on 10% spending cuts

“will depend upon what happens to the economy and to unemployment and debt interest. But I think that with tough choices we can see real rises in the schools budget and the NHS budget in future years.”

These careful claims are justified, but why has Byrne not understood them? Has he let anything out the bag? And more importantly, why is the Chancellor’s department not backing the plans?”

I stand by my main thesis; that Balls is a cautious pursuer of future public spending, is stridently opposed to the Tories’ staunch commitment to cuts, and in order for the Government to promote the “quality of life” – or the “missing link” as Pete B has put it – spending should begin the minute our finances can allow for it.

What’s more, is that Byrne appeared to want to distance himself from Balls. But Byrne, over the weekend in the Guardian, has said that with a dash of cuts in capital expenditure, power to people, economy boosts, “Public services are the way in which we … open up those new horizons … [for] a more equal Britain”, in order or the Labour Party to be at the centre of the public services debate.

So there was clearly no anger directed at Balls for his optimism – for public services are what Byrne, as well as Brown, consider to be the fighting issue at the next general elections.

But what it could be is that Balls’ talk of “tough choices” – which I have translated as reallocation of money from other departments and/or expenditure – is implying that no new money (scroll down to see Jonathan Freedland for his criticism of this) will be achieved by the party.

Though it doesn’t necessarily imply this at all.

The fact that Balls has been cautious when saying spending “will depend upon what happens to the economy and to unemployment and debt interest,” proves that Balls doesn’t know what is around the corner (and he certainly hasn’t pretended to be looking into any “crystal ball” as Byrne noted). But whether the economy perks up or not, serious considerations should be taken in order to prioritise on sensible spending, aimed at “supporting families and improving services“.

Whether or not we experience spendthrift times in the future, perhaps we the Labour Party could utilise some methods of reallocation – and renegotiate necessity – in places where possible, and without necessarily predicting the worst in the state of the economy.

ID cards today looked to be scrapped by the always ID-sceptic Alan Johnson (and now, since he is Home Secretary, such a move is not as “embarrassing” as this Mail article would have us believe). A Trident U-turn in the pipeline? These examples for a start seem, not only ideologically redundant, but an excess in terms of financial commitment. If reports are to be believed, a hold on these two issues would save £29bn itself.

A re-think on policies and spending that has working families and services – once the heartland of the Labour Party – in mind, is a tactic that can work alongside the creation of real money in the future. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

And furthermore, Balls’ talk of “tough choices” can be a practical presence to all the good talk Labour are doing to counter the Tories’ real commitment to 10% cuts.


Guido Fawkes is doing what?

Next Left have just blogged the “news” that Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) is considering joining the LibDems.

But I’m not so sure Mr. Anti-politics will do such a thing; does he seriously plan to blow up parliament from the inside?

Mind you, what does it matter if you’re in the LibDems, no one is paying the slightest bit of attention. And such a move will surely boost ratings up zero.

I should imagine that, due to the nature of how it seems to have been communicated by Staines at the21st birthday of the ippr (Institute for Public Policy Research), it may well be a case of the punked doing the punking!

George Galloway; acting scriptwriter for Nick Cohen

The man is generating a lot of chatter once again from the blogerati, and with good reason.

Firstly, he has been the champion of Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections, saying that the elections had not been stolen, in spite of the extremely dubious circumstances with which the results were conducted.

Galloway’s voice on 24/7 News Truth, the Iranian news channel (aptly described on Harry’s Place as “the Islamic Republic’s propaganda station that broadcasts neo Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and other nutters”), can be heard to purport admiration for the theocratic dictator, as well as, oddly enough, being able to sideline some of the President’s less than progressive policies (he’s literally acting out Nick Cohen‘s material for him).

As The Poor Mouth has mentioned, one of the more notable absences to Ahmadinejad’s terms is the release of Mansoor Osanloo, a trade unionist demanding better wages for bus drivers.

Secondly, not content with making friends with the worst of anti-semites, neo-nazi justifiers, and cranks, recent details of MPs’ outside incomes, published this week, show that Galloway makes almost £250,000 from media positions, which is separate from his income as a Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

But just how long TalkSport Radio – for which he has a radio show – can continue to be frowned upon for Galloway’s complaints is anybody’s guess. Last week Ofcom criticised the station “for breaking impartiality rules after the Respect MP called on listeners to attend anti-Israel protests across the UK at the time of the Gaza conflict earlier this year.”

I suppose for those who feel little more than scorn for the ex-Labour MP, who once tried to throw Iraqi translators into a phraseological fury with his use of the word “indefatigability” to describe Saddam Hussein when he went to meet him in 1994, solace can be found in the fact that many a new moustache style (and worse) will be coming Galloway’s way, onto the 24/7 News Truth posters featuring him on London bendy buses.

Michael Jackson dead?

Has Michael Jackson died? Saw it on the news.

The BNP/Equality and Human Rights Commission problematic

Is it me, or is there not something rather peculiar about the issues regarding the BNP and their legal obligation to accept peoples of other ethnicities into their organisation. Unless in the context of hiring outside staff (cleaning staff, DJ’s etc) – for which there obviously should be equal opportunity legislation observed (though, as Afua Hirsch comically noted, don’t all rush at once!!) – the obligation for the far right to incorporate foreigners begs two pointers;

1) Its their loss if they don’t want to include, say, anti-Muslim Sikh’s into their infection-laden party, or other non-British rightwingers (some of the most challenging arguments-cum-debates I’ve ever been engaged in had occurred when I worked on the Old Kent Road during my student days, with one or two Caribbean men whose views would have made John Tyndall blush).

Along these lines, see here for an argument that looks at how the move may well exacerbate the problem of the BNP.

2) Which self-respecting person of non-British ethnicity would want to join a party that has to be told, in a legal framework, to allow non-British people.

In a reversal of the (Sigmund Freud, Groucho Marx? Who knows) infamous phrase; who would want to join a club that wouldn’t have me as a member!

Total decides to talk

If Obama has taught the political landscape one thing, it is that communication is crucial in achieving results. Hence, it is good news that Total have agreed to talk to the laid off workers at Lindsey. Though it seems the decision is not altruistic;

“Total said repeated problems had delayed its new hydrosulphurisation project at Lindsey by six months, adding as much as €100m (£85m) to the cost. “Further cost overruns will jeopardise the future viability of this important inward investment into the UK,” the company said.”

But demands need to be asserted on the ins and outs of subcontractor rights and how they are enforced, because Total will not take these rights lying down.

The new Speaker and the Poles: Another bad night for the Tories

Its been on the cards for a bit, but the Tories, and David Cameron, are going to lead a new right-wing fringe group known as the European Conservatives and Reformists, the Guardian reports.

The Tories have taken themselves out of the centre-right EPP on a anti-federalist ticket, while Cameron has told other conservatives not to listen to Ken Clarke – known for his Europhilia –  who told BBC1’s The Politics Show that: “If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened.”

As the article in the Telegraph explains “Mr Clarke’s comments confirms that there is a serious shadow cabinet split on Europe”.

But this Tory split will not be the major focus for the next couple of days, since Conservative candidate John Bercow has tonight been voted new Speaker of the House of Commons, beating his nearest opponent Sir George Young by 322 to 271 votes.

Tories have been hard-pushed not to express their disgust at the winner. Already rumours are circulating that “Tories have been muttering about running a candidate against him at the general election, or trying to vote him out of office at the next election.”

Further in the above Guardian election run-down by Andrew Sparrow, he notes that “My colleague Michael White, who was in the chamber, says it was striking how little applause Bercow had from the Tory benches.”

And Michael Crick for the BBC, re-told this story;

A Labour MP was standing in the House of Commons gents and found himself standing next to David Cameron.

“For the first time in my life,” admitted the Labour MP, “I voted for a Conservative today”.

David Cameron inquired which of the Speaker candidates he meant.

“John Bercow,” replied the MP.

“He doesn’t count,” said Mr Cameron.

Is this the anti-Tory vote, as Sparrow asks?

The New Statesman attests to the Bercow vote as being, against all odds, a vote for the “most progressive candidate …. [s]tate-educated, and someone who sends his own children to state schools, he is no longer regarded as “one of us” by his party colleagues”.

But in an Guardian editorial, also on the left, and also against all odds, seemed to back Young, saying “His background will put many off and he shared his party’s opposition to freedom of information when Labour brought it in. Against that he has a dry resilience that could make him a tougher and more radical Speaker than his grandee status suggests.”

As for me, I was with Bob Piper and the anybody but Young vote (I do believe he was being sarcastic).

I suppose part of me didn’t want to see London oust another member of the working class in a political role for an Etonian that has a history of saying twatish things (when Housing Minister Young once joked that ‘the homeless are the sort of people you step over when you come out of the opera’.)

But I suppose at the end of the day the right person won. His Monday Club history well behind him, his willingness to reform the commons, and especially, his ability to get co-Tories all worked up.

So while Cameron mourns the Tories defeat (too far?) to a moderate, William Hague makes his position clear on the new European friends of his party;

“Hague dismissed “out-of-date and ill-informed” criticisms that Poland’s Law and Justice party was homophobic. “The Law and Justice party is a party committed to be against discrimination, for equality under the law,” he told the BBC.”

The same party that, in the run-up to 2005 elections, “accused gay and lesbian couples “of being a cultural and even biological threat to the Polish nation, lowering the birth-rate, and imperiling (sic) what ultra-conservatives lovingly call “natural law marriage and family.”

It seems that in an odd reversal, the Tories are reinvigorating a cross-European Monday club.

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