UK GDP up 0.7 per cent

UK GDP grew by 0.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2014, according to the latest quarterly national accounts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The key points from the latest release from the ONS are: Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , | 7 Responses

Renewables are the future: get on board, or get out of the way

Over the last year renewables have been breaking records

wind turbineEarlier this week something amazing happened. Wind power overtook nuclear as the third largest source of electricity on the UK grid, keeping the lights on as gas power stations caught fire, and atomic ones developed cracks in their boilers.

This was not a freak event. Over the last year renewables have been breaking records with monotonous regularity. In the second quarter of 2014 renewables contributed 17 per cent of national electricity demand. In fact if you close your eyes and listen carefully on any windy or sunny day you can almost hear the last creaks of the 20th century electricity system as it starts to fall apart. Read More »

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , | 14 Responses

The row over TTIP rumbles on

The row over TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal between the EU and the USA) and the inclusion of an ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) mechanism is growing almost daily.

TTIP2 ncrjFollowers of the progress of the TTIP talks will be aware of the twists and turns on policy in regard to ISDS which has resulted in the EU president having to clarify the EU’s position, over-rule his new trade commissioner and now ask his number two to sort it out. Read More »

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

Pay at the top has become a self-enriching racket

The relationship between bonus increases and profit growth is virtually non-existent

Canary wharf ncrjThere are a number of difficult questions to grapple with when trying to establish whether or not the increasingly extraordinary sums of money paid to a super-rich elite in a handful of leading professions are ‘fair’.

Can one or two individuals really be responsible for the success of organisations employing thousands of people on multiple continents? Are the markets for executives, lawyers, bankers and consultants completely transparent, open and functional?

Is there a limit beyond which we might consider the gap between rich and poor to be intolerable, grotesque or socially and economically destructive? Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , | 17 Responses

Cameron must not cave in to UKIP pressure at the EU climate change summit

The argument put forward by Tory and UKIP dinosaurs is fundamentally flawed

Coal ncrjOver the next few days, European leaders including David Cameron will meet in Brussels to thrash out an agreement on the EU’s climate change targets up until 2030. There is a huge amount at stake.

So far, the EU has been a world leader in the fight against climate change, becoming the first region to set binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in the face of the financial crisis, leaders have become more nervous and the momentum behind the drive towards a greener economy has started to wane.

This could have far-reaching consequences. If EU leaders fail to agree on ambitious EU targets, this would send a damaging signal in the build-up to talks over a global deal on reducing emissions in Paris next year. Read More »

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Responses

UKIP continue to lead in Rochester and Strood

UKIP’s lead in the seat is up from the 9-point lead it had in a similar poll published earlier this month

Ukip badgejConservative HQ will this morning be feeling jittering thanks to a new poll by ComRes in the Rochester and Strood constituency published last night.

Ahead of the by-election on the 20 November, triggered by the defecation to UKIP of the sitting Conservative MP Mark Reckless on the eve of the Conservative Party conference, UKIP enjoys a 13 percentage point lead over the Conservatives, with UKIP on 43 per cent, the Conservatives on 30 per cent and Labour on 21 per cent. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , | 12 Responses

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’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 , , , , , | 62 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 , , , , , , | 28 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 , , , , | 86 Responses
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