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How to encourage growth

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Better cuts and more Keynesian spending programmes says Iain Malcolm

Following this post I posed the following questions to a number of our South Tyneside politicians of ALL parties, including the new “South Tyneside First” group of councillors, I also asked for opinions from some of our local businessmen and nationally recognised prominent bloggers and commentators:

If you were in a position to be advising the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, what would you be telling them about efforts to achieve deficit reduction and balance the budget?

How would you advise them to promote growth in the British economy to increase Treasury revenues?

What steps would you advise taking to help our local authority in South Tyneside promote the right conditions for job creation and improve consumer demand locally?

Sadly, some haven’t even bothered to engage or contribute to the discussion, one decided he could only contribute if I gave him space to openly criticise officers of South Tyneside Council (which was not within the remit of the discussion because officers do not decide upon policies), another said he would contribute but failed to do so. The ONLY local politician who took the time to send some carefully considered comments was Labour’s leader in South Tyneside Cllr. Iain Malcolm, who told me this:

The deficit, caused by the greed of the bankers not the last Labour Government’s spending on infrastructure,  needs to be reduced. However the Tory-led Government are using the deficit as an excuse for making deeply ideological cuts in public expenditure. The Government should be clawing back the unpaid tax by multi-national corporations and taking a leaf out of local government for ways of streamlining their civil service budgets. The Prime Minister has admitted that Councils are the most efficient part of the public sector, so send in the Local Government Association to review Whitehall expenditure with a aim to making drastic savings in their budgets.

But we also need growth in the economy and that means Government spending on economic infrastructure projects, I would rather pay people to work and receive their taxes than pay them for being unemployed. The Chancellor himself is starting to realise his austerity plans are not working and the deficit will need to be reduced over a longer period of time.

The greed of the banks nearly led to a total collapse of the economic system, if Gordon Brown had not stepped in (where other world leaders failed to lead) and reassured the public that their savings, pensions and homes were safe, we would have been in a far grave state than we are today. There would have been public panic (as witnessed over Northern  Rock) on an unprecedented scale with possible social disorder.  Whatever else one feels about our former Prime Minister remember it was his bold leadership that prevented a complete melt-down.

Finally, there needs to be greater regulation of the banking system – the light touch of the former Government (supported by the Conservatives at the time) clearly didn’t work.

It’s a fairly straight down the middle “follow the party line” sort of statement, but it does not show any real vision or initiatives to help the local economy in South Tyneside return to growth. there is no commitment. for example, to retain zero growth in Council Tax rises which would help maintain the little spending power that consumers have right now, and spending power is what lights the blue touch paper of economic growth.

However I’m very grateful and thank him for his participation.

In the table below are the combined thoughts and initiatives of the independents, Conservatives, UKIP, bloggers, and business people.

South Tyneside Opposition ideas for growth

Not very encouraging is it?

Perhaps this is one part of the explanation as to why we have such a heavily Labour dominated council here.

Update 1

This is from UKIP Cllr. David Potts

It never fails to amaze me that Labour politicians have the sheer nerve to blame the financial sector for the global economic situation. Coun Malcolm states that the crisis has been “caused by the greed of the bankers”. This is a pathetic throw-away comment backed up with zero evidence, and Coun Malcolm is intelligent enough to know this. Gordon Brown sold UK Gold reserves in the $200-300/oz range. Today, it is trading at $1600/oz. The Labour Government spent money like a drunken sailor, and the mantra that they “didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining” could not be more accurate.

It really annoys me when governments blame the financial sector for operating within the regulatory boundaries that THEY create in the first place.

However, we must move away from national and global issues and focus upon what matters to us as councillors; South Tyneside. The highly respected think tank, IPPR North has warned that the South Tyneside jobless rate is set to skyrocket, particularly among our young people. It is deeply concerning that Coun Malcolm and his £170’000PA Chief Exec, Martin Swales publically comment that it is nothing to do with them and it is ‘all the evil Tory Government’s fault’. That is nonsense. II speak to local business people regularly. I know one energy broker who offered to save the council hundreds of thousands of pounds by switching their suppliers. His exact words were “I tried, but it was pointless, it’s a closed shop”. There is an active movement among the business community in South Tyneside to push ahead an agenda of progress and growth through directly influencing Council policy via peaceful protest and diplomatic pressure.

Now would councillor Malcolm like to tell us how many local firms are involved in the building of our new swimming pool complex? Would he also like to explain why suppliers of materials to South Tyneside Homes were based hundreds of miles away down South?

Look after the people of your Borough first.

Coun Malcolm and Mr Swales take people for fools and playing on this nonsense assertion that they are socialists. If they are socialists, I’m a Dutchman.

Update 2

This from George Smith, President of South Shields Conservative Association.

I asked our Campaign Director (Dorothy) for a brief, but they “don’t do Blogs”.
Sorry about this, according to the Levenson inquiry they do Twitter, a bit too much for me.

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It’s party time!

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What is beneath the gloss?

So now that the Diamond Jubilee parties are over and we bask a little longer in the glow, the next party is upon us from tomorrow in the shape of a footballing feast known as the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Another few weeks of supermarket prodding will have us overfilled with lager, beer, and frozen pizzas, our homes and cars will be draped with the flag of St. George, the “red tops” will exhort the England football team to glories well beyond their reach (they have only ONCE reached the semi final of this tournament), the new flatscreen TVs will be overheating, and when it all ends……….well there are the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to in London, along with commercially sponsored torch bearers. One only hopes that South Tyneside Council is NOT tempted to mount the giant screen in the park again, I fear the demand will not be there to sit and watch in a South Shields park!

Of course our politicians will probably be a little more sanguine than myself, especially having invested so heavily in the London Olympics, and I confess most of the Olympian sports hold little interest for me even though there will be some football in Newcastle, but for others this will indeed be a veritable feast of summer sports with Wimbledon and Test Match cricket thrown into the mix. David Cameron and News International will be hoping to share the glory of English and British sportsmen and women as the medal count increases the “feel good” factor and the national index of good cheer. Parliament will be enjoying its long summer break with only the Leveson inquiry interrupting the good news, yet quietly gurgling away beneath the veneer of good cheer and “gloss” will be ……………………the economy.

Let’s not forget, that this is the main event!

After two years of a Conservative led coalition government the track record is not that impressive, the deficit continues to grow (albeit at a slower pace), the national debt is still woefully out of control, borrowing is still at record levels and getting higher, public expenditure is higher now than in the last years of Brown’s disastrous administration, so much for the cuts eh? The slight saving grace is that unemployment has not yet broken past levels which might lead to the sort of civil unrest witnessed in Greece. The Eurozone crisis refuses to go away, banks still appear to need recapitalisng (again) and none of the major European players seem willing to take the bull by the horns and dismantle the single currency. All the while the pan European policy appears to be one of further austerity, less public spending, and increasing taxation, as near every nation in the EU other than Germany slumbers along on virtually zero growth.

Growth? Did I mention growth?

Ah yes, who has the secret elixir which will put more money into the hands of consumers or savers? It is they alone who can provide the demand and stimulus that economies need, and any person in South Tyneside who tells you that they couldn’t use a few extra quid a month is madly deluded. Banks rely on savers to swell deposits, greater deposits create more capital, more capital creates greater liquidity which normally leads to easier lending and investment, yet the current economic cycle has brought us interest rates which creep closer to zero and discourage any saving at all. Similarly current personal and indirect taxation levels do nothing at all to inspire consumer confidence and help us to prioritise our spending on essentials such as mortgages and rents, fuel, and keeping our older cars on the road for even longer. It is almost a pan European deflationary cycle. Our own government is caught up in the very same frame of mind as Labour’s outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling who was equally determined to reduce the deficit whilst raising taxes and sending out hopeful signals on government expenditure. Neither Labour nor the current coalition appears to have had a “plan B” that might have included some major initiatives to promote economic growth and rekindle consumer demand.

So, sadly, whilst we are in the summer party of love mood we have to remind the politicians that “it’s the economy stupid”, and with that in mind I’ve asked some of our prominent politicians in South Tyneside, along with some business people and other bloggers for their ideas on what we need to do to get our local and national economy on the move. Of course your own ideas are very welcome too.

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All in it together

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Brown bookOf course they are!

“We are all in this together”  may have been the most prophetic words uttered by Conservative Leader David Cameron following the post crash demise of the last Labour government, leaving an economy in tatters and the whole of Europe drowning in debt after the sage advice of Brown and Obama to governments and central banks to borrow more and print more money to keep the world floating happily along towards oblivion. Cameron’s words were meant to galvanise public opinion as we entered an age of austerity to tackle the worldwide mountains of debt and return the UK to a “balanced budget” after the profligacy of the Brown/Blair years, yet after two budgets from the coalition government the achievment of that aim does not seem to be approaching with any speed.

We had just gone through a Parliament awash with excess, the MPs expenses scandal had left a very nasty taste in the mouth and the reforms put in place have not done an awful lot to assuage public anger and resentment at what politicians are perceived to be doing with their time and our money, the News International phone hacking revelations and the subsequent Leveson inquiry will probably also confirm the public’s suspicions that our politicians are easy to influence and are seen to be far too close to some journalists and newspaper proprietors for the sake of good honest and open public governance.

Having taken what they think is statesmanlike stances during their years in office it may seem unedifying to some that former holders of great office now hawk themselves around on the world’s stage making an absolute fortune and banking their income not in a personal account, but into the account of a privately owned company specifically set up to reduce their liability to pay the full rate of UK tax. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and South Shields MP David Miliband all operate such companies and manage to reduce their tax liabilities by sums that some of us may never manage to earn in a year. Don’t get me wrong, we should all praise success, but if we are all in this together we should all be paying our fair share of taxes.

This “being in it together” though, is now becoming a catch phrase of the left, perhaps Cameron may regret having uttered those words in the first place, there are many who would just love to push them back down his throat, and if they have a reasoned cogent argument then why not? Trouble is, some are none too careful about republishing these words, take for example the septuagenarian Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart, invited by David Miliband to deliver one of his South Shields lectures:

“I have nothing but contempt for the expression ‘we’re all in this together.

That’s bullshit – we’re not all in this together,”

“The members of the cabinet are not in the same position as the people who live near me in Bermondsey. What we have seen is not so much a response to a global crisis but Tory policies as usual, masquerading under the claim of necessity.”

Putting aside the fallibility of memory, Stewart seems to miss the response to the UK crisis as well as missing the point on worldwide debt reduction, it does not look or sound so good bleating about the phrase “we are in this together” when one has resided in such luxurious surroundings as these in California:
Patrick Stewarts Californian residence

Picture via Guido Fawkes

The lofty left certainly do not so sound so chummy and down to earth when their wealth is revealed, the folks of Queensferry, Westoe, Trimdon, or Bermondsey must be choking with contempt at any politician/actor (hard to tell the difference with Tony Blair) talking about “being in it together”.

Beam me up Scotty, I want to be in it together with you 🙂

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Relaunch No.6 “Doing the right thing”

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Keeping Ed Miliband may be the “right thing” for Cameron

Video courtesy of Guido Fawkes.

I don’t know how you feel, but I find it rather difficult to “connect” with this bloke, he may want to do the “right thing” but he never sounds right, nor looks right, and as Leader of the Opposition he just appears to be the “right thing” for providing target practice for David Cameron at the Dispatch Box.

However, talking of doing the right thing, at least Ed Miliband appears willing to join the Prime Minister in forcing the hand of Alex Salmond, the SNP’s First Minister in Scotland. This is an interesting position considering how many seats Labour might lose in Westminster should Scotland be broken away from the Union and attain independence, but fighting a move in a referendum on the matter is surely the right thing to do. Salmond the populist leader of his party has been invited by South Tyneside Council Leader Iain Malcolm to speak in the north-east at a meeting of the North East Economic Forum organised by Malcom’s Sovereign Strategy lobbying company. This is a good move as it will help to define relationships between Scotland and this region irrespective of the outcome of any referendum, whenever it may be held, our economic prosperity may suffer heavily should Scotland be in an independent position in regard to taxes, subsidies, and “sweeteners” to businesses and it is right that Salmond should come down here to clarify what he really wants for Scotland and to take back our views on how our joint prospects may pan out if Scotland is no longer part of the United Kingdom. Iain Malcolm said:

“I’m not in favour of Scotland becoming independent from the rest of the UK, we are stronger together, but that is a matter for the Scottish people.

“Whatever happens it is vital the North East has a stronger relationship with our partners across the border.

“That is why yes we do have to look at what might happen, say after 2014.”

The prospect of a nation on our doorstep offering better incentives to business, or smaller tax rates may well be something to fear, or will it? Perhaps such a scenario may lead to wholesale revision of business taxes in England introducing a necessary level of competition. Other worries may surface about areas such as VAT or sales taxes which could result in cross border shopping expeditions to Edinburgh or Dumfries furthering the decline of our north east shopping centres, a major worry for places such as South and North Shields, Wallsend, or Gateshead.

Like Malcolm, I do not want to see the eventual break up of the United Kingdom , and I do not believe it would lead to increased prosperity for the people of Scotland, I do not believe that they could cope economically without the levels of subsidies provided via Westminster. Like Cameron and Ed Miliband I think the “right thing” politically is to force Salmond’s hand and hold a definitive referendum at a time not of his choosing, with the legal framework clearly outlined so as there can be no doubt about the differences between a yes and a no vote.

Also, whilst we are on the subject of the “right thing” it is comforting to see that stumbling Ed Miliband at last recognises that cuts in public spending are necessary and right, and that deficit reduction needs to be ongoing, just a shame that he has spent the opening period of his leadership campaigning against such measures along with Ed Balls. The “right thing” to do now, surely, is to apologise for the mistakes made during the years that both of them spent in Gordon Brown’s government as the spending spree with other people’s money piled debt upon debt adding to the problems that we all face now.

So, Labour is starting to see the benefits of doing the “right thing” (and here’s another), now Miliband just needs to pull the rest of his party along with him. Unfortunately, and this will remain for  some time, the presentation is abysmal, lacklustre, weak, and dull as dishwater,  with major players in his own ranks bemoaning his performance – long may he remain as Labour’s leader!

 

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Not the right way

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not the right waySo many things that I said “No” to during the past week.

It didn’t help that “Dave’s” coalition government and the Opposition sort of joined forces to whip their MPs to vote against giving us a new referendum on our relationship with the EU, after all it is a totally different beast to the one which we last had a say about in 1973. The idea that people could register their ePetitions on the No. 10 website and if they had enough support (over 100000 signatures) they would result in a debate in the House of Commons is essentially a good one, especially as there are, from time to time, issues where it seems our MPs might be slightly out of tune with the public. However, a second petition relating to the price of petrol will apparently NOT be debated because of a lack of time in the Parliamentary calendar! Come on Dave, your government is devaluing the importance of these petitions if you cannot find time to debate them.

I profoundly disagreed too with the whole “solution” to the Eurozone crisis, this managed default of the Greek debts is a signal of much worse to come, we have spent the last two years throwing more debt at the Greeks and the Irish with other economies also being drip fed bail out funding, and let’s not forget how much was borrowed by Gordon Brown to increase the liquidity of British Banks either, I fail to see how you can solve anyone’s debts by piling more debt upon them! But we are led by the (European) nose to help create a 1.2 trillion Euro fund to assist member states who cannot manage to spend   around the same amount that they earn in revenue. Surely a result of the Brown/Obama plan to solve the banking crisis, invest spend your way out of trouble! Italy, Spain and Portugal will be next to feel the pressure of the mountain of Eurobond debts, as once again we see economies that are introducing austerity measures rather late in the day to balance their books. If we ran our household budgets in this way we would soon be looking towards a voluntary bankruptcy! Which brings us to the UK, where we too have come to realise, late in the day, that our national debts and budget deficit needed to be urgently addressed, and despite the efforts of the coalition government to bring public spending under control, those debts continue to rise and public spending continues to be a massive burden, George Osborne tells us that we are not contributing much to the European Stabilising mechanism but with deft sleight of hand we are increasing our contributions to the IMF instead, any wonder that we fail to meet spending targets? The hand of Brussels lies heavily upon the decisions made by our politicians and the whole mess has the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel musing over the future peace of Europe, possibly a rather far fetched view in my opinion, but it shapes the ridiculous writing in some of our newspapers this weekend.

Solution, allow the Eurozone to collapse and let member states reintroduce their own floating currencies, allowing a managed default based upon the exchange rate of the remaining Euro at the time of conversion to the new currency. Tell these member states that the European Central Bank will not be bailing them out in future, perhaps then we might see some fresh starts and some  growth slowly emanating from the ashes, this whole sorry affair of the last week has been more about saving the single currency and the European dream of political unity more than it has been about saving the economies of individual member states, and by playing their own small part our coalition government has nailed its flag to the mast as a lukewarm supporter of European integration. I firmly believe that ALL British politicians were wrong, wrong, wrong, not to allow their MPs a free vote during the EU debate, and that sometime in the far future the EU will collapse as a result of its utopian political and economic dreams.

Next disagreement is with Iain Malcolm, the Leader of South Tyneside Council who wrote in the Guardian during the week that councils were taking the flak for the government’s spending cuts. Was this a paid for article Iain? Anyway, pretty good at playing politics, perhaps the first stage in an election strategy for next May blaming the evil wicked Tories and Lib Dems for wreaking misery on us all but good old Labour in South Tyneside has managed to produce a budget which will not increase your council tax for e second year in succession! Can you see it coming? It may have been better and more honest of him to admit that Labour frittered away £ billions when in office, and saddled us with larger debts than we accrued through fighting the Second World War, perhaps he should have done a Liam Byrne and admitted that the cupboard was bear at the end of Gordon Brown’s tenure. He said:

The government’s cuts are brutal and ideological. Our task isn’t just to protect residents from the worst effects – it is to make them fully appreciate whose hand is on the axe.

Brutal? Idealogical? What then would Alistair Darling’s cuts have been described as if Labour had won the last election? There is no doubt that you could hardly have passed a cigarette paper between Labour and the Tories public spending pronouncements at the time, £2 bn difference within a national debt amounting to £1.2 tn is minuscule. That is where I find my disagreement with the Leader of the Council, a fair lack of honesty and a total lack of clarity over who put us all in the financial mess that we are in, he was quite happy to accept the cash that Gordon Brown’s government kept producing, quite happy to keep increasing council taxes year after year when even Brown’s largesse was deemed as insufficient. He knows, I know, and we know, that the party had to come to an end.

Because it doesn’t have to be like this. Local government has been a force for good in Britain. We will work to defend our communities by examining new and innovative models of service delivery – through trusts and co-operatives, asset transfers to the voluntary sector, strategic partnerships with the private sector or more joint working between councils.

Ah, now here are the clever little secret caveats, we WILL do it the way the coalition wants, because we DO want to make sure that there will be no increase in council taxes again! Look, yes, I know and understand that it is tough going, with very difficult spending decisions to make, but I also know that we knew this latest tranche of cuts was coming, it was NOT a complete shock,we knew twelve months ago that the “front loading” was only the first phase, this is probably the press release was made by Martin Swales rather than a Labour politician. Please take time to look again at the Gazette article, because therein lies another disagreement, some fool writing in the comments section reckons we somehow managed in the past without a Chief Executive, beats me how this sort of stuff gets into some minds. No council could be administered without a manager at the top, it matters not what he/she is titled, Chief Officer, Chief Executive, Director, or Town Clerk, we have always had a one!

Finally car parking in South Shields, perhaps one of my hobby horses, I wrote at the time of the introduction of the first “pay and display” areas in Beach Road, South Shields that it would not necessarily kill off the town centre, but also warned that it was the thin end of the wedge and that Town Hall bosses would soon extend the pay and display schemes to other areas, and I was right. I published a picture showing Beach Road populated with parked cars using the new meters, more recent evidence suggests they are not quite so popular now, for instance I can never remember seeing Beach Road so empty opposite the Town Hall, yet places such as Derby Street, Claypath Lane, and back Westoe Road are totally choked! There are even decent amounts of spaces in the town centre car parks since the charging scheme was amended, 1p per minute for just one hour is simply not giving the average shopper sufficient time, the 1p per minute charge should extend to the first two hours as a good compromise. If we can go somewhere toward attracting these motorists back to the areas where they want and need to park, then we won’t be creating as many problems for local residents who see their streets choked by other motorists, then we won’t have the thorny and expensive problems of resident permit areas!

“Big society” parking operators? OK I can go along with that, but more and more “pay and display schemes” at the wrong prices and in the wrong places is now something that seems to be creating additional problems in areas where we don’t need them.

OK, end of rant, I now have a pumpkin to carve, if I can manage to get Iain Malcolm’s face on it I’ll post a picture, I seem to remember that George Elsom looked pretty ghoulish a few years ago 🙂
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Cameron warns US and Europe to tackle deficits.

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david cameron…whilst failing to control UK PSBN?

I guess David Cameron is taking the right approach in trying to dissuade other nations from continuing to “live on tick” and to get a grip on their own structural deficits, we have gone through one of the most irresponsible economic phases in the modern post war history of the world, there are so many with their heads buried in the sand refusing to see or hear the warnings that eventually when the chickens come home to roost there will be no more corn. One cannot expect nations to borrow excessively without any means of being able to repay the debts, only the most manic households run their family budget on this basis, but after Gordon Brown and Barack Obama badgered the rest of the free world to “invest” in their economies and borrow to bail out the banks following the financial collapse of 2008 it follows that the strain on financial systems will eventually cause a very severe and painful recession as the cash runs out. Hence the need for a false solution known as quantitative easing, to you and I this more easily understood as turning on the presses and printing more money, a historical cause of inflationary pressures leading to increasing interest rates! The writing is already on the wall in respect of the UK economy although the Bank of England is extremely reluctant to allow base rates to rise in fear of depressing the fragile economy even further.

The greatest worry that I have over David Cameron’s fine words in the “new world” is that his coalition government is not making sufficient headway in its own efforts to tackle the budget deficit left by Labour’s wholly incompetent handling of our money, the latest figures for the UK’s Public Sector Net Borrowing requirements showed a record £15.9bn borrowing for last month, an increase of£1.9bn over July signalling a likely inability to meet the full year target set by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Those who warned that austerity measures were going too far too fast were too hasty to judge, and the reality is that the UK’s public spending and national debt are still far from being under any strict control, the coalition government’s problems are massively compounded by the crisis in the Eurozone propelling further injections of our cash into foreign banks to prop up states that (a) followed Gordon Brown’s advice to spend their way out of recession, and (b) did far too little far too late when they realised that no growth equated to no cash. On top of this it has been revealed that the build up of (off balance sheet) debt accruing to the “investment portfolio” of PFI schemes rolled out by Labour in their last term grows with inflation and is likely to have crippling effects on public bodies such as the NHS and Local Authorities as they face up to thirty years of heavy mortgage payments to private companies as well as being tied in to massively expensive maintenance agreements, much as new schools and hospitals are welcomed the method of paying for them is a scary business. South Tyneside will not be immune from this either and I predict that the future costs of our new schools and clinics will lead to even tougher decisions having to be made on expenditure for other services in a painful reality check (if only John Major’s government had not had this bright idea of mortgaging our children eh?).

A reality check is needed from Cameron and Clegg too, it is right to get the Obamas and the profligate spenders of this world to mend their ways, especially if we want China to lead the world into growth, but the PM can only safely harangue them if he is comfortable with the financial stability within his own country first, and for now I don’t think that the coalition has really got to grips sufficiently with the debts left by the disastrous Mr. Brown. Furthermore, spending cuts and austerity measures do only half of the job, the other half requires a complete change of direction, and it was “change” which Cameron campaigned on during the last election, to produce a radical and credible growth policy which involves reform of the taxation system.  So far there have been very few signs that George Osborne wants to stimulate the economy with an effective plan that shifts the emphasis from public to private sector investment, the 50p tax rate needs to be abolished despite the howls of protest that will ensue, the Lib-Dem plan to take the low paid out of the taxation system needs to be enacted quickly, National Insurance contributions from start ups need to be reduced, and most importantly we need to re-adjust our relationship with the EU and throw off  the shackles of its financial and political strictures we need to get back to having a great trading market with Europe as it was originally envisaged. Osborne needs to be reminded that lower taxes have always resulted in higher tax revenues, and if coupled with lower public spending this will encourage consumers to have more confidence in their own budget planning and spending power and their decisions will help foster a return to controlled growth in the economy.

In short Cameron’s warnings may be right, but he must put his own house in order first before lecturing the world, his government will stand or fall on this one single issue.

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“Rocky” Cameron rolls with the punches

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PM emerges bruised from the debate but not battered.

Haven’t done a “pea roast” for a while so I thought I’d throw a couple in today.

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been doing a gargantuan research into the analytics of this blog which has now been running for six and a half years, a lot has changed over that time in terms of readership and demographics along with a huge increase in the amount of blogging, micro blogging, social networking,  and the platforms which carry such content. Suffice to say that this blog either needs to keep up with the pace of change or close completely in advance of a new offering. There certainly will be changes over the coming months, the first of which will be a total overhaul of the sidebar links, many of which are now dead, followed by a complete alteration to the style sheet and template. Sorry it has taken so much of my time but it has been a necessary journey.

I managed to catch the first hour and a half of yesterdays debate in the House of Commons and the Prime Minister’s statement about the phone hacking affair, a debate in which he was seen to come out fighting and defended himself reasonably well against MPs lined up to beat him into submission. This was no “humble pie” moment, but a tough fight, Cameron had his back against the ropes and had to take on all comers, he was expecting a heavyweight onslaught from Ed Miliband but the Opposition Leader appeared to have lost some weight, or focus, and only managed to pepper “Call me Dave” with middleweight shots to the midriff, however it was enough to strengthen the nerve of his corner who sent in wave after wave of bruisers to rough up the PM. Cameron didn’t hide away, he stood in the ring for what seemed like 38 rounds and after the fight was roundly applauded by his supporters, including what looked like a 13 year old schoolboy journalist Daniel Knowles.

So a success for David Cameron, but Ed Miliband is not too unhappy either. The Parliamentary Labour Party seems satisfied enough with the few hits he has landed over the past fortnight. In fact, I just spotted him in Strangers’ Bar with (I think) David Miliband with a broad grin on his face. So both leaders are going into recess as secure as they could reasonably hope to be. Everyone’s a winner – everyone but Rupert Murdoch anyway.

The South Shields MP David Miliband must have been pleased, nobody mentioned his partying with the Murdochs!

The party, held two weekends ago, reveals the extent of the couple’s connections on both sides of the Commons.

As a jazz band played in the landscaped gardens of the £6  million property, Mr Freud, who was wearing leather trousers, greeted guests, including Education Secretary Michael Gove and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. They drank champagne in the company of former Labour Cabinet Ministers Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, James Purnell and Douglas Alexander.

He’d also be pleased in knowing that news of his other work for US corporations was well and truly buried by yesterday’s cream pie bun fight as he continues treading the path created by his mentor Tony Blair.

However it was good to be reminded by the PM that the vast majority of the phone hacking outrages happened some years ago whilst Blair, Brown, and Miliband were running the ship on to the rocks, as we recalled Rebekah Brooks statement the previous day that she’d been invited to Downing Street about six times a year by the last Prime Minister but so far not once by Cameron. The PM also got in a great right hook at Ed Miliband by reminding him that since Coulson is no longer in government employ, the only person with an ex News International hack working for them is the Leader of the Opposition!

As a “judgement day” fight it lived up to it’s billing, the referee had a great deal of work to do much of it in keeping the baying hoards quiet, some just wished that Bercow could manage to be a little more even handed and hush the Labour benches too. Miliband the middleweight could be judged to be both effective and dangerous in the opening rounds but he soon ran out of steam, the fact that he still has a former News International employee working in his corner will not have helped, but fortunately his troops ensured that Cameron took a number of body blows particularly about those conversations hinged around the BSkyB takeover, he kept ducking and diving to evade the shots whether they were “inappropriate” or not! One wonders why his corner men did not give him a better briefing on Labour’s tactic for this manoeuvre,  surely it would have been far better for him to tell the ringside spectators that yes it was inevitable that people came to him and discussed the proposed deal, that’s just what we expect major companies to do with Prime Ministers, but actually I listened and fobbed them off, I told them I have no say in the matter, go and see Jeremy Hunt instead! Instead he stood there trying to parry the blows to the ribs round after round after round until with the final shot he just let out an anguished sigh! It was an unedifying end to a long fight.

Many will judge this fight as a draw and look forward to a rematch after the summer recess, Cameron’s judgement is still under question today and he needs to reveal the name of the company employed to vet Coulson on behalf of the Conservative Party when in Opposition, Miliband needs to get on with publishing the long list of contacts between himself and executives on News Corporation and News International, he also needs to consider if he should continue employing former Times man Tom Baldwin. Cameron scored his best shots by reminding the House that the priority now is to clean up the mess and revarnish the reputation of British journalism (for surely the phone hacking scandal can not be exclusive to News International), and to weed out those corrupt police officers who have been allegedly prepared to take bribes in return for information. He was adamant that the police investigation and the judicial enquiry must be allowed to go wherever the evidence leads them.

Miliband may think his summer holiday will be a cool breeze but he needs to ensure that Labour’s time in The Sun doesn’t leave him with nasty burn marks, whilst Prime Minister Cameron will head off to the coast still in a sweat, but with a dark cloud continuing to hang over him.

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