Exclusive: Do the party conference tax announcements stack up?


LeadersjSpencer Thompson has picked apart the conference announcements of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems – so which party will benefit whom?

Now that the conference season is over, we can reflect on what was actually announced by the three main political parties.

All face a variation on the same challenge: given their plans for fiscal retrenchment in the next Parliament (a stance all three share), how can they navigate from here to the general election with a credible strategy for deficit reduction while also starting to outline their general election offers to voters?

Labour

Labour’s fiscal stance is to reach a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible in the next Parliament, while protecting the entirety of the capital budget. Depending on how fast they intend to reach a surplus, this means Labour has to raise between £3.6bn and £28bn through a combination of cuts to departmental spending, cuts to welfare and tax rises.

Even taking the lower of those figures, the policies announced at their conference amount to a very small proportion of the resources needed. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls identified £400m of savings through limiting child benefit rises to 1 per cent over the first two years of the next parliament. But since the current Coalition plan is for 1 per cent up-rating in year one, this only amounts to a single extra year. This implies that on a per year basis (the appropriate way to consider savings) this policy will only bring in around £100m. Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , , , | 47 Responses

GP dementia charging: the profit motive has no place in healthcare


The introduction of mechanisms that mimic the market add unnecessary levels of bureaucracy

DoctorsjThe plan to pay GPs £55 for each patient they diagnose with dementia has rightly been condemned as ‘odious’: it’s a threat to the trust between patient and doctor. Patients will wonder whether the diagnosis they receive is coloured by the lure of extra cash, rather than clinical need.

But it also illustrates, very clearly, what’s wrong with our approach to the NHS, and many other public services today.

We’re taking a service that relies on professional skills, compassion, caring, and treating it as though it concerned the manufacture of widgets.

Performance-related pay, of which this is just a particularly gross example, might make some kind of sense in a factory, or at least one where each worker has the same tools and makes each item personally, but in the many other environments in which free market ideology has placed it, the effects are distorting, damaging, even disastrous. As of course it has been in our financial and commercial sectors, with their runaway bonus cultures. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Responses

The spat over the Welsh NHS gets ugly


Jeremy Hunt has been accused of telling a ’tissue of lies’ over the health service in Wales

NHSjThe virtual war now waging between the UK and Welsh governments over the NHS has intensified following the release of a letter sent from Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford to Jeremy Hunt, accusing the Conservatives of telling a “tissue of lies” over the health service in Wales.

With the Daily Mail continuing its dirty tricks campaign designed to undermine Labour ahead of next year’s General Election, the latest spat focusses on whether or not the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development should be allowed to undertake a study to compare the performance of health services across the four nations of the UK. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Responses

MigrationWatch: a short history of spin, shoddy statistics and downright dishonesty


MigrationWatch don’t ‘talk truth to power’. They tell it exactly what it wants to hear: that it’s all the fault of the immigrants

immigration ncrWith it being reported yesterday that Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch is to receive a peerage, commentators have been queuing up to praise the man who was ‘brave enough to talk about immigration’ etc etc.

It is, apparently, now a sign of unmitigated courage to talk about something the tabloids never shut up about.

So is MigrationWatch – and by extension Sir Andrew – really a brave vessel for truth telling?

Not really.

Here at Left Foot Forward we’ve taken a brief look back at some of the spin, bad statistics and downright dishonesty that MigrationWatch have deployed over the yeas.

The Migrationwatch report that was ‘simply wrong’ and a ‘stark misapprehension’

‘Immigrants cost Britain £3,000 a year each’, boomed the Daily Telegraph back in March.

“Immigrants have cost the taxpayer more than £22 million a day since the mid-1990s, totting up a bill of more than £140 billion,” it added.

The ‘findings’, if you could call them that, were from a report by MigrationWatch. The report claimed that a paper by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), which appeared to show that immigration was a net benefit to the UK, actually showed that immigration had cost the British economy hundreds of billions of pounds over 20 years.

The Telegraph had predictably regurgitated a MigrationWatch press release for a story.

The problem was that the MigrationWatch report was based on a ‘stark misapprehension’ and was ‘simply wrong’.

Not my words, but those of one of the authors of the original study on which MigrationWatch had based its findings.

Not understanding the term ‘net contribution’

In 2010, MigrationWatch published a report which argued that the UK’s education budget was being stretched beyond capacity due to migration.

The problem was that MigrationWatch ignored the contribution migrants were making to the public purse through things like income tax. As we noted at the time, the evidence suggests that migrants contribute more in taxes than they consume in public benefits or services.

More recently, a study by University College London found that migrants who have come to the UK since the year 2000 have made a ‘substantial’ contribution to public finances.

Using shoddy data to push an anti-immigrant narrative

In a 2011 report entitled ‘Mass Immigration: Labour’s enduring legacy to Britain’ (and laughably billed as a ‘forensic’ analysis of immigration trends’), MigrationWatch got confused over some fairly simple datasets.

As Ruth Grove-White of the Migrants’ Rights Network pointed out on Left Foot Forward, a graph produced by MigrationWatch, which claimed to represent the ‘Sources of Net Migration’ between 1997 and 2009, appeared to attribute all net migration for this period to non-EU sources. Meanwhile the accompanying text claimed that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of foreign immigrants derived from non-EU sources.

And yet according to the ONS, while in 2009 non-British citizens accounted for 83 per cent of all long-term immigrants to the UK, a third of these migrants were from EU countries.

MigrationWatch also claimed in the same paper that:

“…illegal immigrants could number almost one million.”

This figure was not borne out by independent research from the London School of Economics, which put the figure at approximately 625,000 – too high certainly, but significantly fewer than the MigrationWatch estimate.

Falsely accusing migrants of driving down pay and taking our benefits

In 2013, MigrationWatch published a paper calling on the government to remove the ‘pull’ that attracts immigrants to Britain.

By ‘pull’ they were referring to the UK’s minimum wage and benefits apparently “worth up to five times more than those in Romania and Bulgaria”.

However as was pointed out at the time by Thomas Southern, migrants do not come to the UK for the benefits – nor are they ‘stealing our jobs’. As Southern put it:

“Out of the 2.2 million EU nationals in the UK in 2010, 4.21 per cent claimed working benefits. By contrast, 14.32 per cent of British nationals within the age range were doing the same.”

And to quote economist and head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, Jonathan Portes, on wages, EU migrants “don’t appear to have a negative impact on the employment prospects of natives – several different studies have failed to show any link”:

“However, there is some evidence that migration, while having some positive impact on wages overall, might have a small negative impact for the low-paid. But these impacts appear quite small – other factors, like general labour market developments, or the minimum wage, appear to be considerably more important.”

 

So much for MigrationWatch ‘talking truth to power’.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , | 79 Responses

The sell off of our greatest national asset is the big general election issue


A week can be a long time in politics.

NHS protestFor the NHS, last week was a boost with people prepared to take action- both civil and industrial to say to the government our NHS is not for sale.

No one can claim that there is political apathy amongst the public over the NHS and where best interests of staff and patients lie.

The most recent ICM poll puts the NHS at the top of the agenda for concerned voters. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The government faces difficult questions on Trident after the election


There are options for the next government beyond full replacement or scrapping the system

Trident ncrTensions with Russia and the need to assure NATO allies on or near its border have dashed any possible hopes for short-term progress in negotiated nuclear disarmament.

Casual observers may conclude that this closes the debate Britain would have had over Trident renewal in 2016 when the vote over constructing new follow-on ballistic missile submarines was expected in Parliament.

The received wisdom that Labour can only lose on this issue (whatever its position) is understandable, given past experience, but maintaining some policy flexibility in position up to and beyond 2016 would be sensible, for the leadership, for the party and for the country. There could yet be severe pressures to reconsider. Read More »

Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses

UKIP policies: dangerous, costly and yes, racist


We don’t need to go trawling through old manifestos and historic statements; it’s right there on their website

UKIP rosetteThe establishment’s UKIP strategy is failing, and failing badly.

Gaffe after gaffe have done nothing to dampen the party’s appeal, and the latest musical travesty won’t either.

You can expect to hear the phrase ‘more Tory than the Tories’ more and more over the next few months, and this has some value for Labour as a UKIP strategy.

Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 111 Responses

NHS in Wales – what the public thinks


As the Welsh government issues a rebuff of the Daily Mail’s new campaign to undermine Labour’s credentials on the health service, Left Foot Forward looks at what the public in Wales thinks of the health service

Wales flag ncrjAccording to polling undertaken by ICM for the BBC and published in June to mark 15 years of devolution in Wales, just 23 per cent of respondents felt that having a National Assembly for Wales had led to an improvement in the NHS.

This compared to 37 per cent who said that devolution had made the health service worse and 34 per cent who believed it had made no difference. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses

Five reasons we need a stronger recall bill


The ‘power of recall’ doesn’t really give constituents the right to recall their MP

Commons ncrMPs will today debate whether voters should be able to deselect them using the ‘power of recall’ if they are found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

The plan being put to a vote will mean that an MP could be unseated if 10 per cent of voters sign a petition – but only after the MP in question had been sent to jail or given a 21-day Commons ban.

Commons bans are given out by the Commons Standards Committee, which is mostly made up of MPs.

In other words, an MP would have to have committed an offence and other MPs would have to agree that an offence had taken place before constituents were given any right to recall that MP.

This really doesn’t give constituents the right to recall their MP. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Responses

The left should be honest about CAGE and Moazzam Begg


Cage

Parts of the liberal left should be honest with the British people about their alliance with CAGE and Moazzam Begg. Now more than ever we must turn to Meredith Tax’s book ‘Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights’ for reference and moral clarity

It is entirely correct that the rule of law should be upheld for Moazzam Begg. It is entirely correct that the ethical abomination of Guantanamo Bay be campaigned against. The left should oppose and be sceptical about further misguided laws to combat extremism, as suggested by Theresa May.

But sections of the left must also be honest about their support for groups like CAGE and all other Salafi/Islamist/Jihadi activists. They should tell the British people that support for them is on the same basis as supporting the rights of, for example, nationalist fascists, and on the basis of the principle that our laws apply even to extremists and fundamentalists. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , , , | 48 Responses
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