Coalition trials and tribulations over budget

The coalition have been having a few weeks of pretty bad media storms. There was the fuel crisis that never was when the government in trying to make people prepare for a possible crisis managed to create one. The government may have thought they were preparing themselves like a mini version of the Thatcher governments preparations for taking on the miners. In reality the government actually did the tanker drivers propaganda for them demonstrating how bad a strike might be: something which may well have increased the employers enthusiasm to make a deal. The government seemed to want to play up Ed Milliband’s links to Unite whereas in reality it is Francis Maude who seems accidentally to have been Unite’s secret weapon.

The other problems have centred around the budget. The most fundamental of these problems was the degree of prebriefing leaving many of the major announcements as yesterday’s news and thus leaving the press to pick over the minor issues which have been more problematic.

The cut in the higher rate of tax was the most important of the major controversial announcements. The government stated it was necessary to encourage wealth creators and that it had raised “next to nothing;” others have claimed the tax cut will cost the government a great deal and the reality is probably that we cannot really tell. However, the idea of reducing tax on the richest in society does not instantly chime with “We are all in it together”.

Further political banana skins were the “Granny tax” of scrapping the age related income tax allowance, the “Pasty Tax” followed by the embarrassing claims by Cameron that he had recently enjoyed Cornish pasties from non existent outlets.

Latest we have the controversy surrounding capping tax relief on charitable donations and the possibility of a climb down promoted especially by Nick Clegg. Ironically the cap on charitable donations whilst lambasted by the charities and some of the super wealthy has received more favourable comment on a number of talk shows, straw polls etc. The reality is that wealthy people are not being prevented from giving charitable donations, they are simply having a maximum placed on tax relief for so doing. That tax relief effectively currently means that all tax payers subsidise the largess of the super rich and laudable as these donations may be they are made to the charities of the wealthys’ choice. That means that there is less tax money available for the possibly less charismatic things general taxation pays for such as the NHS, defence, education and social security. The rest of us are not given a choice on what our tax pays for and this measure if better presented and more robustly supported could have been presented as popular (nay even populist) and progressive. That could have wrong footed Ed Milliband in his attacks on the subject. Instead he has been handed yet another recent victory.

Mick has alluded to the fact that this apparent lack of political control may be the way Cameron wants things. On Radio 4, however, it was suggested last week that part of the problem is that once a policy has been agreed by both the Tories and Lib Dems it is difficult to unstitch and there is a tendency not to refer it to those in the Conservative (or Liberal Democrat) party whose job it is to keep the closest eye on party and public opinion.

The idea of drift or lack of iron control may become a problem. This is the poshest cabinet for practically a century with a social makeup very like those of the Edwardian era. That is a potential handicap but the “We are all in it together” narrative may have been a fairly effective foil to that. In addition the British people are not as class conscious as they were. Hence despite Cameron being consistently seen as upper class, that may not be a disaster. What may be more problematic is the image of a group of rich toff amateurs running the country, potentially made worse by the relative youth of Cameron, Osbourne and many of the senior cabinet members. The most effective blow Brown ever landed on Cameron was “This is no time for a novice.”

The criticism of New Labour might have been that they were too interested in getting power and seemed to have been working towards it to the exclusion of practically everything else for most of their lives. With Cameron’s government there is a danger that they may become seen as very clever, very rich dilettantes lacking real deep understanding of governance who came to the position almost by accident or in parody just for a “bit of a wheeze”.

In a way that portrayal of a lack of overweening ambition may have been partly deliberate to set a contrast from New Labour control freakery. Now, however, it could be in danger of appearing to be a lack of the necessary application, gravitas and proper understanding to run the country. Thus far the government have been doing acceptably but no better and Labour have been only workman like in opposition. Perceptions can change quickly, however, and the charge of novice, amateur, dilettante could if it sticks become very damaging.

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  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    ..in trying to make people prepare for a possible crisis managed to create one.

    Yes, I remember well back in the early 70s there was a poor sugar cane harvest somewhere and the government put out a statement that there were adequate supplies and that people shouldn’t hoard. At the end of the following day the sugar shelves in the stores were empty.

  • andnowwhat

    Just watching Newsnight regarding the Abu Qatada affair and yet again, Therese May’s performance lacks any direction save a sense of panic.

    Anyway, the ConDems have got away with promoting some total nonsense right from the start. Cameron began with comparing a very senior army officers salary (despite having goodness knows how much of a budget under him and soldier’s lives in his care) and a very senior doctor’s salary (again, a person with a wealth of knowledge and responsibility) with his own. In the next breath, he said we should be gentle on the bankers lest we lose their “talents”. This knowledge went virtually unchallenged even though it gave a massively skewed impression of public services wages.

    As for the tax reduction, we know that the wealthy are more likely to save their money, rather than spend it. There is zero logic to support a 10% decrease in taxes being any incentive for the rich to pay their taxes and besides, they’re meant to pay their taxes.

    If the rich want to give to good causes,here’s a few; the health service, their own defence forces, the emergency services.

    Cameron should have been kicked out the very second he said that America was in WWII before GB!! Ladies and gentlemen, we have our own version of Dan Quale running our country. God Save US

  • HeinzGuderian

    Yip,bring back New Labour,the really know how to run the Country…………into the ground.

    Give the man a chance Turg…….the alternative just doesn’t bare thinking about :-(

  • FuturePhysicist

    As if having bad media means much these days. The media in the UK’s been exposed as bad as much of their politicians.

  • andnowwhat

    The media is there ok FP but because they do not join in the chorus they’re branded as being oddballs. As Paxo pointed out to Baroness Warsi, on Newsnight, last week, the Telegraphand the Mail, “your friends” as Paxo called them, are ripping in to the tories. Inevitably, Warsi smiled back, stammered a little, denied it all and quoted yet another vaccuous soudbite that Cameron seems to think counts as a policy.

    Heinz, if you think anyone on the left is going to defend the Labour Party, you’re peeing in the wind. Ed Milliband is worse than useless, totally unable to go off piste at PMQs and his brother could not have opened his mouth as a serious player in the previous government and thus stained with all their sins. Possibly Yvette Cooper is the one for the job.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    There always is/should be a tension between the government and its parliamentary support. We now have a novel five-way conflict: between the coalition partners, between their “leaderships” and the gut-instincts of their respective back-benches, and between the parliamentary and the extra-parliamentary parties. The more distant from the Front Bench, the further Tories consistently lean “right”, and LibDems, ditto, “left”. As Tennyson would recognise, only faith unfaithful keeps them at all decent and falsely true. Try catching any Tory Association committee-member in his/her cups, and get an earful. Whenever Tim Farron, the LibDem president, engages in a tv interview, it’s a sadist’s delight.

    John Major had it hard with his “bastards”: this time round, it isn’t just the right-wing diehards, but also the disappointed who expected their ministerial boxes, and see them clutched by the likes of Lynne Featherstone.

    As I witness things, the Tory party is now beyond any tension being “creative”. The inevitable loss next month of several hundred council seats (and therefore disappointed, mouthy and belligerent local worthies nursing grievances) presupposes scapegoats. One, almost certainly, will be Sayeeda Warsi.

    Then there’s the Euromania which consumed the party in the ’90s, which has been stoked further by the Daily Mail hysteria about Yuman Rites — thus Mrs May’s current slough of despond (which will deepen and darken if/when Qatada gets bail). Watch this space: at some point “the rule of law” will be loosened by the need for personal survival and — whoops! — crude expediency again beats worthy principle (whereupon the carnivores of the rearmost bench come looking for more carrion).

    All of which is why Tim Montgomerie and ConHome faff around, seeking to keep the gang onside, with fluff about “building a Conservative majority”.

    Similarly, the LibDems are well-and-truly stuffed. Their leadership cannot walk away from the ConDem coalition and survive. Their foot-soldiers and pavement-artists cannot hope for any sort of presence while the coalition persists. Damned if they do; damned if they don’t. Would anyone put money on a LD winning a single university-city seat next time round?

    Let it be remembered that “May you live in interesting times” is only the mildest of the three linked curses.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    I thought things were bad. Now I read the latest twitter from Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound):

    “1922 Committee was bloodbath ‘Avalanche’ of criticism of Lords reforms. Massive rebellion pending unless Cam tells Clegg to stuff it”

    The “Lords reforms” are code for the issue of constituency boundaries, requiring Tory MPs to fight each other for new seats. If the reform of the Lords (a Clegg initiative) can be derailed, the constituency boundary changes would fall, too.

    It’s not just self-interest here, it’s totemic — and visceral hate.

  • Barry the Blender

    This article more than any other highlights Slugger’s present problem.
    It is easily the most interesting, and most relevant blog of the last few days, and yet because it’s London politics, there is absolutely no discussion (save for Malcolm Redfellow’s numerous monologues).

    In future Turgon, stick to covering obscure outbursts in the Dail, that will generate hits.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    The ghost of David Steel haunts the LDs as Clegg paraphrasing, tells the troops, ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for extinction’. The local elections next month will concentrate a few minds in coalition bunker.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    danielsmoran @ 4:38 pm:

    Quite a few will be watching for just that, come the early hours of 4th May.

    There is, though, some evidence to suggest that, in local elections — particularly when the main opponent is a Tory, the LibDem vote holds up.

    When Labour runs a half-decent campaign, and is in with a shout, things change.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    MR. There might just be one or two Portillo moments.[with any luck].

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    danielsmoran @ 8:50 pm:

    Continuing my monologue (see Barry the Blender @ 4:18 pm) …

    I’m fairly close to the action here in Norf Lunnun. I’ve actively been electorally involved in out-going and in-coming ordure (originally in Dublin, now over here) since the 1960s. I am thinking I have never seen anything like the orchestrated media campaign that has been waged against Livingstone.

    We need to bear in mind that BoJo is, to all intents and purposes, currently the creature of the corporate lobbyists CTF Partners, a pseudopod of Crosby|Textor (don’t forget the vertical bar).

    ¶ C = Lynton Crosby, the Australian analogue of Dubya’s Karl Gove, and regularly employed as the Tory “dark arts” operator;
    ¶ T = Mark Textor, an Australian pollster;
    ¶ F = Mark Fullbrook, a political slime ball from the darkest recesses of Tory Central.

    My present guess is that the Mayorality will run quite close, especially when the second preferences engage. If BoJo wins, it will be a grotesque manipulation, through hysterics, of the electoral process: who would have thought that Boris “picaninnies” Johnson could smear anyone on race and religion?

    Remember, too, that Johnson was sacked from the Tory front bench for being outed as a blatant liar. Let us cherish Tory leader Michael Howard’s great definition of Tory morality: Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over a messy affair with Petronella Wyatt. It had nothing to do with morality.

    So, you can get offed by the Tory machine.

    Not for agreeing that a journo who had annoyed BoJo’s criminal best man, Darius Guppy, should now be done over with a dose of GBH.

    Not for hiding a quarter-million of campaign donations.

    Not for exploiting the assassination of Ken Begley to impugn the people of Liverpool.

    Not for impregnating Petsy Wyatt, promising (bigamously?) to marry her, persuading her to at least one abortion, and then dumping her (alleged chat-up line “I limit myself to one mistress per annum. How would you like to be Miss 2009?”).

    No: for peddling porkies.

    And London may fall for it, again.

    And that, folks,amounts to an Irish joke: one an Englishman laughs at.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    danielsmoran @ 8:50 pm:

    Continuing my monologue (see Barry the Blender @ 4:18 pm) …

    I’m fairly close to the action here in Norf Lunnun. I’ve actively been electorally involved in out-going and in-coming ordure (originally in Dublin, now over here) since the 1960s. I am thinking I have never seen anything like the orchestrated media campaign that has been waged against Livingstone.

    We need to bear in mind that BoJo is, to all intents and purposes, currently the creature of the corporate lobbyists CTF Partners, a pseudopod of Crosby|Textor (don’t forget the vertical bar).

    ¶ C = Lynton Crosby, the Australian analogue of Dubya’s Karl Gove, and regularly employed as the Tory “dark arts” operator;
    ¶ T = Mark Textor, an Australian pollster;
    ¶ F = Mark Fullbrook, a political slime ball from the darkest recesses of Tory Central.

    My present guess is that the Mayorality will run quite close, especially when the second preferences engage. If BoJo wins, it will be a grotesque manipulation, through hysterics, of the electoral process: who would have thought that Boris “picaninnies” Johnson could smear anyone on race and religion?

    Remember, too, that Johnson was sacked from the Tory front bench for being outed as a blatant liar. Let us cherish Tory leader Michael Howard’s great definition of Tory morality: Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over a messy affair with Petronella Wyatt. It had nothing to do with morality.

    So, you can get offed by the Tory machine.

    Not for agreeing that a journo who had annoyed BoJo’s criminal best man, Darius Guppy, should now be done over with a dose of GBH.

    Not for hiding a quarter-million of campaign donations.

    Not for exploiting the assassination of Ken Begley to impugn the people of Liverpool.

    Not for impregnating Petsy Wyatt, promising (bigamously?) to marry her, persuading her to at least one abortion, and then dumping her (alleged chat-up line “I limit myself to one mistress per annum. How would you like to be Miss 2009?”).

    No: for peddling porkies.

    And London may fall for it, again.

    And that, folks, amounts to an Irish joke: one an Englishman laughs at.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Well, quite, MR. I lived over Willesden/Kilburn direction myself from 1980 to about 15 years ago. Looks klike Boris will get the job again and Cameron will be highly relieved.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    danielsmoran @ 11:18 am:

    My distance (Muswell Hill) may vary.

    I have reconsidered in the sober light of Sunday, and any cogitation, to avoid the monologue, is elsewhere.

    Suffice it to say, as of now, my bottom-line is:

    1. For the sheer romantic hell of it, a first preference for Siobhan Benita, because she comes across as the nearest thing to sane, commonsense on offer. And, probably, the closest approximation to my kind of pragmatic democratic socialism.

    2. Because of the realities, a second preference for Livingstone, because only that unhappy compromise can prevent four more years of rule by the PR-men who front some very shady Tory operations.

    Anyway, Cameron’s 4th May will be effectively soured by what happens country-wide.