Monthly Archives: September 2011

Jim Pickard

The tactics in the battle of Daily Telegraph v George Osborne/Greg Clark over the planning system are the equivalent of trench warfare. The ministers insist, day in, day out, that they will not budge over its planned changes. Introducing a new “presumption in favour of sustainable development” will help the economy to grow, they fervently believe.

On the other side we have the Telegraph, which agrees with charities who fear that the changes (a new ‘national planning policy framework’) are a licence for developers to run amok. Read more

Elizabeth Rigby

I wrote a piece today on Labour’s attempts to exploit the Tories’ failure to connect with women voters. The piece highlights the coalition’s failure to help low-paid women cope with childcare as a major issue for the working mother. But during my research, another issue was brought up by Tory women: David Cameron’s marriage tax allowance.

It may be the Tory leader’s totemic ‘family’ policy but it is exactly the sort of scheme that chimes well with his old-style grassroots but does little to endear the party to the plight of the working couples.

Under the scheme as it was outlined before the election, a married couple only benefits if one person stays at home since the policy is based on one member of the couple being able to transfer £750 of their tax-free personal allowance to their partner to reduce the ‘family tax bill’. Eligible couples where the main earner has an annual income of between £7,300 and £42,000 will be £150 better off. Read more

Jim Pickard

This morning I wrote on the FT front page that Ed Miliband has been accused of “hypocrisy” for launching his moral crusade against ‘bad’ business while Labour officials are negotiating a £1m donation from Andrew Rosenfeld, a former tax exile.

Rosenfeld is also controversial because in 2005, during the collapse of Allders, he refused to accept responsibility for its £68m pension deficit despite his large financial stake in the retail chain – through a vehicle called Scarlett Retail. Read more

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband wants to help “producers” and not “predators” through the tax system. And through regulation. This was one of the driving messages of his speech.

At face value it’s hard to argue with that. But where things become far from crystal-clear is when you start to think about the detail of how a government would go about doing this. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Labour figures believe David Cameron was onto something when he started talking about “ethical capitalism” in 2009. They feel he then abandoned such talk when he became prime minister, and reckon that Ed Miliband now has the opportunity to capture that ground.

That is why his speech was so heavy on words many in New Labour would have hated: words like “values”, “right” and “wrong”. Take this passage for example: Read more

Helen Warrell

So, will Labour field candidates for the election of police and crime commissioners or will it find a way to avoid putting up its own contenders?

Toby Harris, Labour peer and former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, warned conference delegates in Liverpool on Monday that party grandees are considering not contesting the PCC vote in November 2012. But this morning, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, was quick to dismiss suggestions of a boycott. She told the BBC:

That’s not what we are proposing but we will have to consider how we respond to the legislation that has just gone through Parliament. We will be thinking about the best way to respond to do that.

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

Ed BallsEd Balls’s flagship announcement at his party conference speech was a “five-point plan for growth”. Some of the policies were old, some were new. He said that if Labour was in power it would:

  1. Repeat last year’s bank bonus tax, using the money to build 25,000 affordable homes and guarantee a job for 100,000 young people;
  2. Bring forward long-term investment projects, such as schools, roads and transport;
  3. Reverse the VAT rise now for a temporary period;
  4. An immediate one-year cut in VAT to 5 per cent on home improvements, repairs and maintenance;
  5. A one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

All is calm in Liverpool. Unlike last year’s Labour conference in Manchester, ripped apart by fratricide and the gloom of being in opposition for the first time. Or the year before that – in Brighton – when, despite looming defeat, delegates were gripped with election fever. (Akin to the music-playing on the Titanic ahead of its final plunge.)

In recent years Labour fought against the inevitability of eventual electoral defeat with no regard to the internal collateral damage. Now its people have realised that government is at best a long four years away.

There is no overwhelming sense of disunity. For sure, the Blairites and the left-wingers still disagree on which direction to take the party; but without the viciousness of the past. Out of power and without a policy platform such arguments can only be philosophical rather than practical.

Nor have there been personal fisticuffs. I’m told that David Miliband considered staying away altogether to avoid negative coverage. In the end he dropped in for a day and made a plausible display of loyalty to his brother. This morning we saw Ed Balls describe Ed Miliband as a “friend”. (The reality may be closer to ‘frenemy’, but relations are better than they were eight months ago.)

This does not negate the fact that the party still faces considerable hurdles. Read more

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband suffered a setback on his first day of the Labour conference after he failed in his symbolic attempt to reduce the relative influence of unions over future leadership elections.

A new cadre of “registered supporters” – thousands of members of the public who wants to influence the result – will have up to 10 per cent of the total vote, after a “Refounding Labour” document was expected to be passed at the Liverpool gathering. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Amid the Labour-dominated headlines this morning on the first day of the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool, something else caught my eye. The Independent on Sunday had a story about David Cameron tackling Alex Salmond head on. It read:

David Cameron is to go head to head with Alex Salmond in a bitter battle over the future of the union between England and Scotland.

The Government is to fight what it sees as “outrageous” claims and increasingly aggressive moves towards complete self-rule from the Scottish First Minister in a desperate attempt to stop Scotland from “sleepwalking into independence”.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

We’ve written a long piece in the main FT this morning about the widespread attempts in Whitehall to avoid FOI requests – by civil servants as well as special advisers. Texts, private email addresses, more phone calls, and inserting *s in the middle of key words are among the popular methods.

One anecdote didn’t make it into the newspaper and it seemed worth repeating: Read more

Helen Warrell

There is a growing confusion over the government’s target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015 – at least, its chief adviser on immigration issues seems to think so.

As I reported last month, the 21 per cent increase in net migration over the past year, taking the total to 239,000 – more than twice the level the home office needs to reach in four years’ time – must have made uncomfortable reading for the department’s number crunchers.

However, speaking at London’s Global Immigration Conference yesterday, Professor David Metcalf, chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, suggested that the firm target of less than 100,000 was actually more of an “aspiration” for the government. He told the lawyers at the International Bar Association event:

There are certain tensions within the coalition about whether [the tens of thousands] is a firm target or an aspiration.

This is not the first time that such tension has been mooted. Read more