The FT this morning carried an interview with Ed Miliband with the main news line as his (and his brother’s) advocacy of a higher tax on banks. Intriguingly, he also told me that the two brothers hadn’t had a drink together – or visited one another’s homes – for ages. (I asked him when they last did so, and he just said they had been too busy). It’s slightly curious given that they are appearing at joint hustings 56 times over the summer months.
Listening back through the tape Ed says that he is proud of the fact that the brothers remained “very close” even during the Blair-Brown wars when they were in different trenches. But there was also a telling moment when he was asked if he has a typically fraternal relationship with David: “What is a typical sibling relationship?” he replies. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the famous Prince Charles quote from when he was asked if he was in love with Diana: “Whatever love means“.
Adrian Bailey, the Labour MP who chairs the business select committee, is writing to Vince Cable with a series of questions on behalf of the committee about the decision to cancel an £80m government loan to Sheffield Forgemasters.
His questions include:
- What would have been the cost to the government of the loan, year on year?
- Why did you cancel this loan, but not ones to Nissan, Ford and BAe?
- Was the loan properly costed?
- What role did Andrew Cook have in the loan being cancelled?
- What assistance can be provided to the company in future?
No one can question the decency of Iain Duncan Smith’s vision for overhauling the welfare state. His message of “making work pay” is winning plenty of disciples. It is a revolution to simplify a fiendishly complex system and make the benefits of employment clear. To some, it is the only way of ending the welfare dependency blighting British cities.
But conservatives should be on guard. Grand schemes are intoxicating. The allure of sweeping change can overpower. The IDS reforms require real, unavoidable sacrifices, even if George Osborne pays billions of pounds upfront. This is not a case of hidebound Treasury bureaucrats blocking change to keep the poor tethered to the state. If the overhaul goes ahead, the risks and trade-offs are considerable.
Here are some of the hurdles that I’ve identified from speaking to people in Whitehall and Ian Mulheirn, an expert on this area at the Social Market Foundation. They prompt two questions. Is it worth it? And is there a simpler way?
Winners and losers Without additional funding, the IDS plan involves raising the tax rate on millions of workers. To “make work pay” for the few he will need to make work pay less for the many.
Alex is too modest to write about it himself but he enjoyed more than 15 minutes of fame in Turkey last week as he surprised local dignitaries and press by asking the prime minister a question in Turkish (during David Cameron’s visit). The moment has even been turned into a cartoon by a national newspaper.
Here is a link to the cartoon:(don’t ask me to translate)