Monthly Archives: April 2009

There was some surprise in the Tory ranks after Gordon Brown pledged in PMQs that – as part of MP expenses reform – there would be changes to “grace and favour homes”. This was a reference to his proposal that ministers with free London homes would no longer get the second home allowance. Read more

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. The Liberal Democrats never win Commons votes. Opposition day motions always fail. Those are the Parliamentary conventions*. Read more

The quality is often poor, the number of viewers is usually low, but there can be no doubt that some of Gordon Brown’s best moments are captured on YouTube. We’ve compiled a top ten here, based on the strict criteria that they are funny or cringeworthy, and found on YouTube. They are in no particular order. (We spared you the nose picking incident.) Bagehot has a thoughtful take on what this all means.

1. Brown saves the world Read more

Sir Peter Viggers, the veteran Tory MP, was quoted yesterday saying: “As only one in seven cars are made in the UK, the government is effectively spending £7,000 for each new UK car sale.”

The Treasury select committee was also told  – by government officials – that the scheme would fund the purchase of 300,000 new cars. But two-thirds of these purchases would have taken place anyway. Read more

Whatever is left of Gordon Brown’s attempt to reform MPs’ expenses is about to be dealt a heavy blow.

The powerful standards and privileges committee, which represents four parties, will table an amendment on Thursday calling on Gordon Brown to allow an independent review of expenses to conclude before passing reforms. Read more

With the European elections fast approaching, eurosceptics will again be claiming that nothing good  comes out of Brussels. I’ve been leaked a document that conclusively proves them wrong. This proposed apple-pie-directive, which has been doing the diplomatic rounds, is quite special.

Some of it will mean nothing to those of you who are not immersed in the comfortingly odd habits of Brussels. But some of the insights are hilarious. My hat goes off to the Eurocrat who wrote it. Read more

The new 50p top rate of income tax is hugely significant. Read more

It is a gift for the Tories. And the timing is bizarre.

The International Monetary Fund has made its global economic predictions and the results aren’t too pretty for the UK. Read more

Two thoughts on the politics of the 50 per cent tax rate.

1) Alistair Darling has given the Tories a ticket out of tax raising jail  Read more

There is a grim chart on page p36 of the Budget showing national debt “on a declining path”.

Unfortunately it only goes up to 2020, so it is impossible to see exactly when the Treasury expect the debt to return to 40 per cent of national income. I’ve made my own clumsy attempt (see below) which sheds little light on the matter, other than to show that it will take a very long time indeed. Read more

It was only a small promise but gives some insight into how the government works.

Darling promised £50m on housing for the armed forces, with a grandiose pledge: Read more

The Budget scorecard (see p10) is far from clear in outlining the full extent of the raid on high earners. But the footnotes give a rough guide to how much extra the exchequer will be collection from people earning more than £100,000.

In 2012/13 the Treasury expects to be collecting about £7bn a year. Most of that is from people earning more than £150,000. About £1.5bn comes from the removal of the personal allowance, £2.4bn from the new 50 per cent rate, and £3.1bn from cutting tax relief for pensions contributions. Read more

Being leader of the opposition on this Budget Day was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The forecasts didn’t predict a U-shaped recovery but a “trampoline recovery”, said David Cameron.

Predictions from the November PBR of a 1 per cent fall in GDP (it’s now 3.5 per cent) had turned out to be “utterly useless” and a “work of fiction”. Read more

Counting the same number twice is very New Labour.

So far I’ve spotted one example already in today’s Budget. Read more

You can see how much of a squeeze the government is in by looking at the figures for its tax receipts.

Projections for 2009/10 are: Read more

If you want to take away two main points from today’s Budget they are these:

1] Borrowing is about to go through the roof. The figure for public sector net borrowing (PSNB) was just 2.4 per cent in 2007/8. It will have jumped to a punitive 12.4 per cent this year, before easing back to 11.9 per cent, 9.1 per cent, 7.2 per cent and (by 2013-14) 5. 5 per cent. Read more

The FT revealed on Tuesday that Darling would have to issue more than £200bn of government bonds this financial year, far above market expectations.

With public borrowing set to soar to £170bn-£180bn, the chancellor will have to tap the market for an issuance of gilts that will be well over £50bn higher than the Debt Management Office estimated last month,” we wrote. Read more

As David Cameron points out, there is an admission on page 200 of the Budget red book: “The current downturn is forecast to be much deeper than that of the early 1990s.”

Doesn’t this make a nonsense of Gordon Brown’s constant claim that things were much worse in the early 1990s when interest rates and inflation were in the double-digits?

Follow’s live blog on the Budget today at 12.30pm BST

A £1bn mass job creation programme is the centrepiece of the jobs package in today’s Budget. Alistair Darling is determined to avoid writing off a generation of young people and repeating the mistakes of past recessions. The irony is that he has opted to revamp a (relatively successful) Thatcherite scheme to do so.

The new programme will be called “Jobs for the Future”. Local authorities will bid for funds to set up youth employment schemes. Central government will effectively pay for part time jobs in the community. About 150,000 under-25 year olds will be taken off the dole and put to work by councils. Ministers want to create an additional 100,000 jobs in the private sector, by providing an employment subsidy for sectors such as social care. Read more