25 April 2009

Does John Lewis have a sense of humour?

I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw the current advertising on the Guido Fawkes website

The adverts are for a range of items from the John Lewis home appliance range. 

MPs have previously faced criticism when it emerged they can claim up to £10,000 for a new kitchen to spruce up their second homes. They can also buy TVs and stereos worth £750 apiece, £300 air-conditioning units and £6,335 bathrooms out of their Parliamentary allowances. 

The notorious expenses claims, dubbed the 'John Lewis List' was published in full in 2008, causing public outrage.

Despite claiming to be 'surprised' over the expense row, the marketing people have either stumbled across a gold mine of MPs raring to kit out their second homes or are fully aware that the Guido Fawkes website is the first port of call for MPs trawling for scandal and gossip on their co-workers. 

Either way, what a novel way to drum up business during a credit crunch!

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But not everyone welcomes them...

Michael Gove made a major announcement about the direction of any Conservative governments education plans this morning. He has outlined policy to extend the school academy scheme to primary schools across the country. 

However, according to the BBC, Ministers and teaching unions have widely rounded on the proposals, savaging them for introducing market privatisation of primary education through the back door. 
"Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said it was not financially possible.Teaching union the NUT has likened the plan to Labour's secondary city academies, which it says are failing.

NUT National Executive member Kevin Courtney said: "When you study these schools, [they] are improving their results by changing pupil population so that social segregation is coming in again.

"That's what we're worried about with this Tory proposal. It's a return to deregulation and privatisation and a return to social segregation."

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates added: "Having already announced academies will be the norm for secondary schools, this proposal for primary schools completes the Tories' blueprint for the dismantling of state education.

"These plans are the naked marketisation of education and will place thousands of children and young people at the mercy of private, voluntary and independent providers."
David Cameron will be keen to get a smooth roll out of these proposals, given that, excluding inheritance tax reforms (which according to Ken Clarke are no longer a priority), this is the only flagship Tory policy at present. 

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Gove outlines new Tory education proposals

Watch here

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Mandelson: Gordon Brown rift ruined my career

Lord Mandelson has claimed his long running feud with Gordon Brown ruined his political career. 

Despite only recently being summoned back from political wilderness by the Prime Minister, Mandelson stated that: 

“It was a source of great sorrow and more to me that from 1994 onwards we were unable to get on. It wrecked my political career… in obvious ways.”
The Business Secretary described himself as the ‘casualty’ in a three-way marriage between himself, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The relationship between Brown and Mandelson has been notoriously rocky since Mandelson backed then Shadow Home Secretary, Tony Blair, for the Labour leadership over the presumed heir, Brown.

Interesting to wonder why Lord Mandelson has made these comments now? He is widely believed to be the second most powerful man in government, operating as de facto Deputy Prime Minister. Is Mandelson attempting to distance himself from the Prime Minister in the wake of the supposed ‘non New Labour’ 50p tax rate?

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Tony Blair: Gordon Brown should resign

There is a new e-petition on the Number 10 website which is doing the rounds across the right wing blogosphere. The petition states that "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign". So far it has a little over 4000 signatories. 

I was having a little look over the names of those who have called on the Prime Minister to stand down and was surprised to find a certain Mr. Tony Blair amongst the list of names:

It couldn't possibly be former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Could it? 

Representing the right wing blogosphere we find Messers Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home and Iain Dale. 

Perhaps more surprising is the addition of Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, to the line up of those who would like to see Gordon resign. The supposedly ultra loyal Brownite can be seen on the list below:

Of course we have to question the validity of some of these names given the appearance of legendary mobster Al Capone on the petition. He of course died in 1947. Of syphilis apparently

Although we probably don't have to wonder too much about whether Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie have been calling on the Prime Minister to tender his resignation...

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Blair: 50p tax rate is a "terrible mistake"

Tony Blair has reportedly launched a scathing attack on Gordon Browns decision to raise the highest rate of income tax for those earning above £150,000. 

According to todays Telegraph, Mr. Blair was exasperated by the announcement, claiming it was a 'terrible mistake.' 
"One friend of Mr Blair said: "Tony thought the original proposal to raise the top rate to 45 pence was just about saleable in the current economic circumstances."

But he believes taking 50 per cent is not acceptable. It would not have happened if he was still there. He thinks it's a terrible mistake."

One of Mr Blair's closest allies said: "The 50p tax move is a disaster. Blair would have cut taxes, not increased them."
Senior Blairites have allegedly conceded that the next election is now unwinnable. One senior Labour figure remarked that: 
"There is no way back. People want a man with a plan, and no one would believe Labour if they changed leader now."
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24 April 2009

Have I Got News For You?

The new series of Have I Got News for You started on BBC One tonight. Alan Duncan, Shadow Leader of the House was one of the guest panelists. I have always liked Duncan but I can't help but feel he came across atrociously this evening. He was dismissive and even smug about claiming for an allowance on his second home whilst he rented his third property out. 

Take a watch on BBC iPlayer

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What the Budget really looks like

Source: Wordle
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Jack Straw for Labour Party leader?

Political Betting published an interesting poll on Wednesday, asking Labour supporters who they would prefer to be the next Labour leader. 

According to the poll, Jack Straw is Labour members top pick for leader following Gordon Browns eventual departure. 
25% Jack Straw (14/1)
20% David Miliband (7/1)
10% Alan Johnson (7/1)
8% Ed Miliband (10/1)
4% Harriet Harman (3/1)
2% Ed Balls (14/1)
2% James Purnell (8/1)

The balance of the responses were “none” or “don’t know”. Interestingly Harriet did better amongst Tory supporters with 7% saying they would prefer her.

The most startling figure from the poll was that Deputy Labour Party leader, Harriet Harman, is the top choice of only 4% of members. 

I think when Labour members eventually come to pick their next leader, there will be deep divisions within the party. Ultimately, I think vast parts of the party will be unsatisfied with the choices. 

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CON 45(+4) LAB 27(-7) LD 18(+2)

First post-budget poll does not make pleasant reading for the Labour Party, suggesting that the government has dropped 7 points, giving the Tories an 18 point lead. 

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Well worth a watch

I've just been to see the Bill Mayer comedy documentary 'Religulous.' Although not particularly cleverly argued, it does make a humorous case against religion in politics. 

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Best traffic ever!

This month has been the highest traffic ever for Politicana.

I think this is largely down to the explosion of Twitter and linking from my blogs on LabourList and Next Left.

Thanks to everyone who has read the blog! Hopefully next month will be even higher!

Should the government bailout the British Grand Prix?

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has launched an outspoken attack on the British Governments unwillingness to support the British Grand Prix. 

Speculation that the race may be dropped from the F1 calender when it was announced that Donington Park owner Tom Wheatcroft is taking legal action against the track's leaseholders for unpaid rent. He also wants the lease declared void.

Bernie Ecclestone thinks it will be a 'disgrace' if the British government does not step in to ensure that the British Grand Prix is not dropped from the Formula 1 calendar.

Being a big Formula One fan myself I lean towards the position that the Government should ensure the sport remains in Britain. A number of the high profile teams, including current championship leaders Brawn GP are based in the United Kingdom. These teams employ hundreds of staff, especially in Northamptonshire. This is not to mention the component suppliers and the international prestige from being a technological base. 

The G
overnment spends billions supporting other spots, not to mention the investment in the 2012 olympics. Why should Formula One be any different? 

Bernie Ecclestone stated that "It's a disgrace that the British government don't step in to help. They are throwing billions at the London Olympics. They could do what is needed to save the race by putting in a fraction of it - 0.002 per cent."

Even World championship leader Jenson Button has expressed his unhappiness at the situation."As a British driver, and motorsport is very British, it would be very disappointing not to race in my home country," he said. "I don't live in the UK, I live in Monaco, but I'm very British and very patriotic and it would be a disaster.

Formula One is an important industry to the United Kingdom and we remain a world leader in motorsport technology. The Government should be proud of that. Most Grand Prix receive Government funding, why should the British one be any different? 

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How should you vote in the Euro elections

Fun little quiz doing the rounds at the moment. Answer about 30 questions and it will tell you where you lie on the scale of Euro parties. 

Apparently, I am a socio-economic left, pro European integration. Or as they call it, a Lib Dem... 

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23 April 2009

Labour must cut spending now

Alistair Darlings announcement to the Commons yesterday could very well be the Labour Party’s penultimate Budget in Government for some time. The polls remain heavily stacked against a fourth term Labour government, and despite economic and polling volatility, there is little sense that yesterday will begin to turn the tide against the Tories.

I am immensely proud of many of the Labour governments achievements over the past 12 years. The minimum wage, maternity and paternity leave, civil partnerships, Sure Start centres, devolution, the London mayoralty, free entry to national museums – all of these have impacted massively on people’s everyday lives for the better.

I have spent much of my time as a Labour member largely agreeing with our agenda, although often lamenting that the Government did not go far enough on some vital reforms. I do not carry any residual anger over the war in Iraq, having been an early supporter of the action. The part privatisation of the Royal Mail, although not a policy I would pursue, seems justifiable given the limited future for a cumbersome postal service. I may have strongly disagreed with 42 day detention but I have wondered whether a Government who was willing to stake so much political capital on an unpopular policy had legitimate reason to call for such draconian measures.

But yesterday’s budget left me fuming at the Labour governments policies. It was not the new 50% tax rate that infuriated me, as I generally support the measure to ensure those who can most afford it shoulder more of the tax burden; I was delighted with the pledge to offer new training and jobs to the under 25’s and felt that the scrappage scheme could give a much needed boost to the car component manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom.

What is unforgivable is the dire state of the public finances that was laid out for all to see yesterday and the complete lack of willingness to tackle the growing mountain of debt. There seems to be an unwillingness to discuss this problem at the highest level of government for fear we give credibility to Tory attacks.

But the figures speak for themselves. Britain will borrow £175 billion this year and £173 billion in 2010. This is a higher total of government borrowing in two years than in the entirety of the 316 years since King William introduced the national debt. This is equivalent to 11.9% of GDP in borrowing this year alone. It is worth noting that the official level the EU regards as acceptable as a maximum for any member state is 3%.

If growth figures are as optimistic as the Chancellor suggests, Government debt will still reach a staggering 79% of GDP in 2013/14. This is higher than the United States, whose mind boggling deficits we have gawked at with disbelief. It is also a higher national debt than Germany, France, Canada, Portugal, India, Pakistan, and Brazil, to name merely a few.

Arguably more realistic growth forecasts released by Citigroup indicate that national debt will eventual reach 90 per cent of GDP, with public debts at £1.6 trillion in 2013/14.

This staggering burden is not simply the result of extortionately expensive bank bailouts - public spending is poised to jump to about 48 per cent of national income next financial year, a figure not seen for 27 years. Investment in education, healthcare and infrastructure should be commended. But sound fiscal policy is not a uniquely conservative or progressive cause. It is the foundation of good economic management and up until as recently as six months ago the Government was reiterating its belief that the burden of public-sector net debt should not rise higher than 40% of GDP. Optimistic estimates put it at double this figure within 4 years.

I am by no means advocating that the Government slashes vital public services and much needed help for those worst hit by the recession. A number of the measures we have advocated are vital to ensuring, as Alistair Darling stated, we do not leave people on the scrap heap. The under 25’s are particularly susceptible to rising unemployment and we must target resources to ensure they remain in education, training or the work place.

But offering this help can not obscure the need for clear and decisive action to enable fiscal recovery. This is likely to include painful spending cuts across Government and a willingness to make a progressive case for increased taxation.

Otherwise we face the prospect of storing up even more severe spending restrictions for the next administration, giving the Conservatives an excuse to attack the public sector budget with an axe, thus potentially destroying Labour’s legacy of investing in education and healthcare. We can make the tough decisions now or we can allow the Tories to hide their agenda under the veil of fiscal responsibility. Either way, it’s going to painful.

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How the papers have covered the budget

The BBC News website has a very helpful guide to the main thrust of newspaper coverage of budget 09. I think its safe to say that the tone has been almost universally disapproving.

The Financial Times says "a wide and deep chasm" lay in front "but it turned out that he had only the materials for a short and rickety bridge."

Jeremy Warner of the Independent says "this was one of the most unconvincing and wrong-headed" recent Budgets.

The Daily Express concludes that "the nation is hurtling towards bankruptcy at breakneck pace".

'Political war'

Nearly all agree that history was made in the Budget.

The Guardian calls it "a return to class politics" - the Daily Telegraph calls it "class war".

The Daily Mail describes the new 50% upper tax rate as "a stake driven through the heart of New Labour".

The Times thinks "it is a declaration of economic and political war on the country's entrepreneurial class".

The Telegraph says it is "shabby cynicism" and comments: "They will not be forgiven for it."
'Robin Hood chancellor'

The Daily Mirror stands alone in applauding the Budget. "Just the job," it says.
It hails Alistair Darling as "the Robin Hood chancellor", saving the day by being "bold Labour", if not old Labour, and taxing the rich to "help the poor".

The Independent says tax will certainly be "the election battleground".

The Sun says the disposition of the forces for that campaign are now clear: "Labour is back to its high-tax, high-spending roots."

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Now mobile blogging!

I have now set up mobile blogging - which gives me something to do on those long train commutes!

Even more blogging! Fantastic!

... It's the simple things in life.

22 April 2009

No such thing as bad publicity?

The Coffee House blog is covering tomorrows front page coverage of Budget 09. And it won't make pleasant reading in Numbers 10 & 11 Downing Street.

The Daily Mail’s headline is the rather droll ‘Alistair in wonderland’. 

The Telegraph blasts ‘The return of class war’. 

The Guardian’s has ‘Darling’s great squeeze’. 

The FT's is 'Darling gambles on growth'. 

The Sun lists the bad economic news and has a headline about how 'At least it's sunny'; appropriately it is meant to rain this Sunday. 

The Times has the wonderful double—or is it triple—entendre, ‘Red all over’. 

The Independent highlights the breach of Labour’s manifesto promise not to change income tax rates with the line ‘That’s rich!’.  

The Daily Express’s front page is simply, ‘They’ve ruined Britain’.

Who do you think is going to win the battle for the budget narrative? Hmm...

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The Wall Street Journal buries Britain

The Wall Street Journal, the American right wing business bible has this evening published a damning verdict on the Labour Governments 2009 Budget. The article, titled Burying Britain's Future opens with this blistering attack:
"Building Britain's Future" is the optimistic title of the U.K. government's latest budget. "Burying Britain's Future" would have been more accurate."
It goes on to claim Britain's reputation as a friendly climate for international business is now a thing of the past. 
"Any advantages the U.K. might once have had as a low-tax base for international business have now been jettisoned."
The WSJ then goes on to slate the Government for failing to take hard decisions to tackle record levels of public debt" 
"Faced with a similar collapse in its public finances and a potential loss of international investor confidence, the Irish government bit the bullet, introducing sharp tax rises, steep cuts to public spending and savage cuts to public sector pay. Yet the British government has chosen to blatantly disregard a clear warning from the Governor of the Bank of England that the UK could not afford any further fiscal stimulus with a further discretionary spending boost equivalent to 0.5% of GDP."
The Labour government has long prided itself by pitching itself as an economci bridge between the United States and Europe. This damning verdict on Britain's economy that is spreading across the globe will severely damage the UK's reputation worldwide. 

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Quote of the Day

“Sound fiscal policy isn’t Conservative or progressive, it’s just plain smart for everyone.”
- Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco & candidate for Governor of California

Gavin Newsom yesterday announced his official candidacy for Governor of California. In his announcement video he contained this little gem that I felt so simply and concisely summed up the way I feel about economic management.

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How much tax does the rest of the world pay?

The budget coverage around the increase in the top rate of taxation led me to wonder how our rate of income tax compares internationally?

I found myself debating with a friend over lunch that this new higher rate for those earning over £150,000 was not that high when put in to an international perspective - but soon realised that I didn't in fact know whether this was the case.

So I began to scour around to see if any table existed to compare the rates of corporate, income and sales tax for the major economies around the world. The best that I have managed to find is this (click for enlarged image):

Apologies for the rather messy graph. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was surprised to see that the highest rate of taxation (the new 50% rate) in the United Kingdom is amongst the most punishing in the world. I am a fundamental supporter of ensuring those on the highest incomes are taxed fairly and that our taxation system reflects are desire to see a more equal society. But in a globalised society where capital is footloose and fancy free, how can we expect to keep these earners?

Perhaps we need an American style tax system where being a US citizen means you are taxed on your income no matter where you work in the world?

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Pic of the day

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The reality of Government debt...

I have always been a big proponent of balanced books at fiscal responsibility. I laregly welcomed a number of the measures in the budget, in particular the new 50% tax rate for the highest earners.

But the scale of public debt is now at astonishing levels.

According to The Spectator:
Britain will borrow £175 billion this year, £173 billion the year after — a higher total in two years than in the entirety of the 316 years since King William introduced the national debt.
Absolutely mind boggling... 

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Government debt

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Ipsos MORI: More want higher taxes, not cuts in services

According to pollsters Ipsos MORI, a majority of the public would prefer increases in taxes to cuts in public services.

The report states that 53% of the general public would support an increase in tax to tackle improve public finances. 35% would prefer reduced spending on public services.

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Tories: "cannot be our priority" to reverse 50p rate



Philip Hammond, Shadow Chief Secretary to the TreasuryBBC News
Mr Hammond said that his party would not make a priority of reversing the
new higher rate of income tax for high earners proposed today.

"We know from history that high marginal rates of tax are
inefficient that they create all sorts of problems," he said.

"This can't be our priority, we cannot propose to reverse the
50p rate," he added.

"There are much more important priorities"He said the priority for the Conservatives would be the increase in National Insurance contributions which
"will really risk choking off the recovery".

Mr Hammond criticised the Chancellor's proposals not to
introduce curbs on public spending until 2011, arguing that significant
savings could be made earlier.

Source: PoliticsHome

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Will we really grow by 1.25% in 2010?

The IMF has once again rained on Alistair Darling's parade by claiming that the UK economy will continue to skrink in 2010. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has bullishly claimed that the British economny would recover to growth levels of 1.25% next year.
In its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, the IMF predicts that
recession in the UK will be "quite severe", with the economy shrinking by
4.1% this year, and continuing to contract, by 0.4%, in 2010. In the budget,
Darling forecast 1.25%
growth in 2010.

The IMF did however acknowledge that Britain will suffer less than Germany and Japan.

The IMF expects Germany's GDP to shrink by 5.6% this year, and Japan's
export-dependent economy,
which has seen industrial production plummet, to contract by a catastrophic 6.2%.
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Complete budget report

A little light reading. The PDF doc of the 268 page full Budget Report.

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And the pic...

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The key points

From the BBC

• Alcohol and cigarettes taxes to go up 2% from midnight
• Fuel duty to rise by 2p per litre from September

• From next month motorists to get £2,000 discount on new cars if they trade in cars older than 10 years - this will remain in place until March 2010

• Economy forecast to shrink 3.5% in 2009
• Growth expected to pick up in 2010, expanding by 1.25%.
• Economy to grow by 3.5% annually from 2011
• Public borrowing to increase to £175bn this year
• Borrowing levels to rise by £173bn, £140bn, £118bn and £97bn in years after
• Consumer price inflation to fall to 1% by end of year.

• Income tax for those earning more than £150,000 to rise to 50% from April 2010
Tax relief on pensions for those paid more than £150,000 to be reduced

• Government support for economy to protect 500,000 jobs
• All long-term unemployed under 25s to be offered job or training
• £1.7bn additional resources for Job Centre network
• £250m funding to help people get work experience in growth industries
Funding to create 54,000 new places in sixth form education

• Scheme to guarantee mortgage backed securities to boost lending
• Stamp duty holiday for homes up to £175,000 to be extended to end of year
• Extra £80m for shared equity mortgage scheme
£500m to kickstart stalled housing projects
£100m for local authorities to build energy efficient homes
£50m to upgrade housing for the armed forces

An extra £9bn in efficiency savings is planned
Public spending to be cut from 1.1% next year to 0.7% in 2011-2012

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The budget as it happened: my twitter feed.

My twitter posts from throughout the budget. Apologies for the poor spelling and grammar!

You can grow your way out a recession, you can not cut your way out. from web

Tax free ISAs - increased limit to £10.5k! from web

State pension up by 2.5% #budget from web

...although makes me wonder why Labour hasn't been giving bold progressive budgets for the past twelve years. Hmmm... #budget from web

Grandparents who care for kids will earn towards state pension! This budget is amazing! #budget from web

Child Poverty: child tax credit will increase by £20. Kids with disability will get extra £100 - £200 in child trust fund. #budget from web

New funding mechanism for new genertion of power plants from web

£525m of new support over 2 years for offshore wind. #budget from web

First Carbon Budget! from web

We are ahead of every other major economy in reaching our Kyoto targets! #budget from web

New funds for emerging tech - bio, digital etc #budget from web

Broadband to be expanded to almost every community! #budget from web

£100m for local authorities to build energy efficient homes #budget from web

£50m for army housing modernisation #budget from web

@Daryn_mccombe The kept the top tax thing quiet! Very bold. Makes me warm and fuzzy inside... from web in reply to Daryn_mccombe

£500m of extra support for house building. #budget from web

61 new hospitals, 140 new schools and modernisation of public transport... Capital investment to continue at high levels #budget from web

@kevpeel You missed the best bit! New top tax rate! from web in reply to kevpeel

Now all the efficiency savings yabbering. Increased savings.... etc etc #budget from web

The headline from this is without a doubt going to be the new top rate of tax. 50% on those earning above £150,000. Very bold! #budget from web

Alcohol up 2p tonight! Lets go drinking! #budget from web

NEW RATE OF TOP TAX 50% FOR THOSE EARNING OVER £150,000!!!! #budget from web

NEW RATE OF TOP TAX 50% FOR THOSE EARNING OVER £150,000!!!! from web

I am not proposing to increase taxes on incomes this year. But as economy recovers it is right we take additional steps. #budget from web

1/4 of all money for pension tax relief goes to top 1.5% alone! from web

It is important that everyone is encouraged to save for their retirement. #budget from web

Tough decisions, but fair decisions #budget from web

"We need ot help people now. We need to maintain key public services now." #budget from web

"We need ot help people now. We nee dot maintain key public services now." #budget from web

As share of GDP, borrowing will be 11.9% of GDP next year. Ouch. #budget from web

Our deficit (public sector net borrowing) this year will be 12% of GDP from web

Cuts now would choke off recovery and prevent investment in the future #budget from web

Tightening of 0.8% of GDP until 2013/14 from web

How to rescue public finances... Uh oh #budget from TwitterFon

"We chose to act because it is the right thing to do." from TwitterFon

We will implement scrappage scheme of £2k when selling car over 10 years old from TwitterFon

Top up trade credit insurance schemes. Whatever that means... #budget from TwitterFon

"Additional support for those who lose their jobs and new help for for people to get on property ladder" from TwitterFon

Introduction of scheme to guarantee securities backed by mortgages #budget from TwitterFon

From next year anyone under age of 25 who have been unemployed for one year will get guaranteed job or training #budget from TwitterFon

We will not repeat mistake of generation of young people left on scrap heap from TwitterFon

Additional £1.7bn of support to get back in to job market #budget from TwitterFon

RPI -3% by September #budget from TwitterFon

Unemployment rate 4.5% #budget from TwitterFon

Economy to grow by 3.5% from 2011 from TwitterFon

Science base investment increased by 88% in past 10 years! from TwitterFon

Economy to grow by 1.25% in 2010 from TwitterFon

British economy to suffer less than Japan and Eurozone this year from TwitterFon

-3.5% growth this year! from TwitterFon

"no quick fixes. No overnight solutions." from TwitterFon

Total amount of fiscal support across G20 will amount to £5trillion! from TwitterFon

Tracker mortgage families have saved £230 a month thanks to interest rate cuts from TwitterFon

Darling confirms VAT cut will last until December from TwitterFon

"Banks will be able to lend billions of pounds more" thanks to Labour measures. from TwitterFon

"Britain can and will be a world leader." from TwitterFon

Darling compares current crisis with 1930's great depression from TwitterFon

Watching the budget!! from TwitterFon

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20 April 2009

Gordon Brown to appear on South Park

According to todays Telegraph, Gordon Brown will be making an apperance on long running crass TV series, South Park.

"The Prime Minister is due to be immortalised on the
animated sitcom alongside its main characters – schoolboys Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh, and Kenny McCormick.

In the episode to be aired later this year, Mr Brown becomes part of an international plot to steal money from aliens in a bid to solve the global recession.

He and other world leaders agree to claim the "space cash" found on a fugitive spaceship.

However, the Prime Minister orders a nuclear attack on Finland after he discovers that it plans to tip off intergalactic police about the ploy.

The episode is due to be shown on the Comedy Central channel."

I'm sure he's delighted.

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UK economic recovery to begin in 2010

The BBC has reported that the British economy is to return to positive growth in the first quarter of 2010. Good news for Labour ahead of a May 2010 poll (which, if this is true, will almost certainly be the date).
The British economy is likely to stage a recovery next spring, forecasts by two leading business groups have said.

The employers' group, the CBI, has predicted that there will be economic growth in spring next year but said any recovery would be "slow and fragile".

It predicted the economy would shrink 3.9% this year but grow 0.2% in the second quarter of 2010.

Separately, a report from the Ernst & Young Item Club has predicted that the economy will shrink by 3.5%
this year.

It forecast the economy would shrink by 0.1% in the whole of 2010.

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Why we blog: our ethic of progressive blogging

This is a statement prepared by Sunder Katwala which aims to set out the ethic which informs the bloggers of the left.

Please let us know what you think: you can sign this statement at www.changeweneed.org.uk, post or write about it on your own blog, discuss this here and with those who have signed it on the participating blogs linked below, or discuss it on twitter using the hashtag #cwn

We are a group of Labour party members and supporters who believe that blogging can make an increasingly important contribution to progressive politics. We are seeking, in different ways, to make our own individual contributions to that, and wish to set out the ethic which informs our blogging and the broader politics we are working for within the Labour Party and beyond it.

Many of these are truths which should be self-evident. We are well aware that the broad spirit which we seek to articulate has long informed what most Labour bloggers do, as it also does most of those who blog in other parties and in non-partisan civic activism. So we do not claim any particular originality; still less do we seek to impose our views as a new regulatory code, or to attempt to police others.

Our purpose is simple. We do not believe that new technology leads to inevitable outcomes, but rather that we must all make choices about how we use it and for what purposes.

So we wish to set out why we blog and how we want the party which we support to change so that it can connect to new progressive energy for the causes we support.

1.Ethical and value-based

We believe we must act as ambassadors for the political values we profess. This applies to all politics, online or not. The Obama campaign's power to mobilise was rooted in supporters living its ethic of 'respect, empower and include'. As Labour supporters, we wish to ensure that our values of solidarity, tolerance and respect are reflected in how we do politics as well as the causes we seek to serve.

So we oppose the politics of personal destruction. We believe that the personal can be political, where it reveals the hypocrisy of public statements, the wilful misuse of evidence, or breaches proper ethical standards in public life. Where it doesn't do that, it should be off limits. Politicians should be able to have a family and private life too. A politics of personal destruction violates progressive values and brings all politics into disrepute.

2. Positive about political engagement

We do not believe that the internet is inevitably a force for anti-politics. We reject the mythology of the internet as a lawless and ethics-free zone. Bloggers are subject to law, as well as to the ethical and civic pressures of our online and offline communities. We are clear that the left can never win a politics of loathing and mutual destruction, because the faith in politics that we need will inevitably be a casualty of war. The nihilistic approach practiced by a few online should not overshadow the greater energy and numbers engaged in constructive civic advocacy.

We believe that we can challenge our political opponents without always questioning their integrity. We believe that there are big political arguments to be had between the left and the right of politics, and the left has every reason to be confident about our values and ideas, which have done much to change Britain for the better over the last century and which are in the ascendancy internationally after three decades in which anti-government arguments have often dominated.

We also believe that what is pejoratively called 'negative campaigning' has a legitimate place in politics. Scrutinising the principles, ideas and policies of political opponents is an important part of offering a democratic choice. We should challenge the ideas, claims and sometimes the misrepresentations of our political opponents, just as we would expect them to challenge us. We believe that this is effective when it is done accurately, and that this will become ever more important as the internet makes politics more transparent. So we will point out where there is a mismatch between professed principles and policies, or where the evidence does not back up what is claimed, but we will try not to assume our opponents are in bad faith where we do not have evidence to support that.

3. Pluralist and open

We believe that pluralism must be at the heart of the progressive blogosphere. We believe that debate and argument are what brings life to politics. We want to promote a cultural 'glasnost' of open discussion within our party, to show that we understand that the confidence to debate, and disagree, in an atmosphere of mutual respect helps us to bring people together to make change possible.

We believe we must change the culture of Labour's engagement with those outside the party too, including those who were once our supporters but who are disillusioned, and new generations forming their political opinions. For us, democratic politics is about individuals working together to create collective pressure for change, but also about the need to continue to talk even when we disagree deeply. We believe in engaging with all reasonable critics of the Labour government and Labour Party, wherever we can establish the possibility of taking part in democratic arguments in a spirit of mutual respect.

4. Independent spaces

We believe that attempts to transfer 'command and control' models to online politics will inevitably fail. Labour must show that it gets that - in practice as well as theory - if we are make our contribution to the progressive movements on which our causes depend.

The government and the political parties should use their official spaces to contribute to and enable these conversations. We also want to see Ministers and MPs having the confidence to engage in political debate and argument elsewhere, while being clear that there is no value for anybody in seeking to control independent spaces for discussion.

5. Participatory and cooperative

We believe in a cooperative ethic of blogging, because the internet is most potent when it harnesses the creativity, ideas and expertise of many people. The internet is a powerful tool for individual expression. We believe it also enables citizens to interact and collaborate in ways that were never previously possible, and catalyse new forces for participation and activism. As citizens, and as bloggers, we believe in asking not only what is wrong with the world but how we can work together to improve it.

We hope that others will offer ideas and responses - supportive and critical - about these ideas and how they can help to inform the future of our politics.

We know that the outcomes of politics matter deeply, that politics is about passion and argument, and that we may ourselves sometimes fall short of the values and standards that we aspire to.

But this is why we blog - and what we hope to achieve for our politics by doing so.


Sunder Katwala www.nextleft.org

Nick Anstead www.nickanstead.com/blog/

Will Straw www.changeweneed.org.uk

David Lammy MP www.davidlammy.co.uk

Rachael Jolley www.nextleft.org

Jessica Asato www.progressonline.org.uk and labourwomen.blogspot.com

Karin Christiansen labourwomen.blogspot.com

Paul Cotterill www.bickerstafferecord.org.uk

Laurence Durnan www.blackburnlabour.org/blog

Alex Finnegan www.abigblockofcheese.blogspot.com

Gavin Hayes www.compassonline.org.uk

Mike Ion mike-ion.blogspot.com

Richard Lane www.politicana.co.uk

Tom Miller newerlabour.blogspot.com

Carl Nuttall www.blackburnlabour.org/blog

Anthony Painter www.anthonypainter.co.uk

Don Paskini don-paskini.blogspot.com

Andreas Paterson citizenandreas.blogspot.com

Asif Sange www.blackburnlabour.org/blog

Stuart White www.nextleft.org

Graham Whitman gtrmancfabians.blogspot.com

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