Monthly Archives: September 2013

In his speech today, George Osborne made two arguments in defence of his economic policy. First, that there was no an alternative. Second, that there is no alternative.

In the past few weeks the opposition’s case against the chancellor has shifted emphasis from the existence of a recovery to its nature. The overall picture may be improving, his critics admit, but it does not feel like that for many people. Policy must change to ensure an improvement in “living standards”, the argument goes. But Mr Osborne chose not to accept the premise. Instead, he repeatedly argued that the same approach (albeit with some amendments) that “worked” for the macroeconomy will also deliver on a micro level. Read more

In the UK, the House of Commons vote to reject action revealed these gaps through a baroque display of incompetence. In the US, the House of Representatives could be set to affirm these divisions. And given that the House is inherently more attuned to US public opinion, it might show us something about American society, too. That is unless Mr Obama can persuade Congress otherwise. Read more

Universal Credit is the government’s flagship reform to the benefits system. It is also in complete disarray, according to a National Audit Office report released on Thursday. The document is perhaps the most scathing NAO verdict I have read on a large public project. Read more

In today’s Guardian, Ed Balls admits that “at last economic growth is returning”. As my colleagues George Parker and Chris Giles note, this is a sign that the political debate over the recovery is changing from when will it begin to “who will own it?”

The answer to that is presumably George Osborne and Mark Carney. But there is another, subtly different question that will also be asked: “who will experience it”? Read more

On January 1 1993, Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The two new states opted to keep a monetary union. Thirty-three days later that union collapsed. Over the next five years, exports from each country to the other quickly fell as a share of total trade. Economists cite this as a dramatic example of the “border effect”, the lack of trade and capital flows between two areas due to a territorial limit. In a paper released on Tuesday, HM Treasury suggests that it also provides a warning to Scots: they will be poorer if they vote for independence and for a formal border to be established near Hadrian’s Wall. Read more

Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee, is turning her attention to the looming sale of Vodafone’s 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon. On Monday, the trenchant critic of corporate tax behaviour said that “if Vodafone are manipulating the rules to avoid paying their fair amount they should think again”. The UK tax paid — or not — by multinational companies is a sensitive political topic. Ask Google and Amazon. Or Vodafone. What might Ms Hodge be referring to in this case? Read more

In 1972, the Scottish National party launched a campaign poster featuring a photograph of a forlorn old lady beneath the slogan: “It’s her oil”. Four decades and 3.5bn tonnes of North Sea crude oil production later, Scotland is preparing for a vote next year on whether it should become independent for the first time since 1707. The SNP’s case is about more than oil – but it is central. Those after analysis that goes beyond tendentious snaps of women in their dotage should read Gavin McCrone’s guide to the economics of the referendum. Read more