The Budget, lobbygate, the US healthcare bill, the Tory cock-up over hashtags and more.
The Week in Politics
• This week saw one of the biggest events of the political calendar, the Budget, described by The Guardian as “Political but not profligate; No big headline measures, and tough decisions on cuts deferred – a smart budget from a chancellor with few options”. The Telegraph called it a “tax raid” on the middle class, and it was called “nakedly political” by the Times, with the FT headline reading “Darling ducks deficit challenge”. The Sun and the Mirror, in true tabloid style, went for something a little different, the Mirror describing the Chancellor as a “safe pair of eyebrows”, while the Sun, ripping off their headline from the time of the pre-Budget report, screamed out loud that Mr Darling had “just screwed more people than JT, Ashley, Mark Owen and Tiger Woods”.
Other commentators, meanwhile, described the Budget as “a Budget for the future” and “a difficult hand played well”, with environmental campaigners proclaiming the announcement of a Green Investment Bank “fantastic”, something which could herald a “low carbon revolution”. There was caution, however, over the Chancellor’s “Belize gambit” – his plans to crack down on tax avoidance – tax expert Richard Murphy saying it “sounds good”, but “the reality is far from living up to the title”.
Left Foot Forward had expert analysis of the Budget plans on:
– The green economic recovery
– Government investment preventing soaring unemployment
– The impact on SEOs and enterprise
– The impact on small businesses
• The story which began the week was the “lobbygate” scandal that snared former cabinet ministers Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, caught pimping themselves out by an undercover Dispatches/Sunday Times investigation – charging up to £5,000 a day to influence policy. Remarkably (or maybe not) all three have protested their innocence, insisting they’ve “done nothing wrong”. The Labour party, however, have taken a dim view of their activities and suspended them from the parliamentary Labour party, alongside disgraced Luton South MP Margaret Moran.
Moran, who has been “off sick” for ten, yes, ten months, was filmed offering herself for hire, looking perfectly healthy, even suggesting she might start work straight away, while still an MP. She had been forced to stand down as an MP last May following the expenses scandal, and the revelation she had claimed £22,500 to treat dry rot on her home in Southampton, which, you will have noticed, is neither in her constituency nor in London.
By coincidence, the Telegraph this week won the newspaper of the year, scoop of the year, campaign of the year and special supplement of the year awards for their expenses exposé.
• In America, President Obama passed his healthcare bill, paving the way for near-universal health coverage for the first time in US history, bringing to an end almost a century of struggle since Theodore Roosevelt started the ball rolling in 1912. The $940 billion package extends coverage to 32 million Americans without healthcare and makes it illegal to uninsure people who become ill or have existing conditions.
After the 219-212 victory, Mr Obama said: “Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics … We proved we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling big challenges … This is what change looks like, tonight we answered the call of history.”
Earlier, right-wing Republicans had tried to intimidate Congressmen into opposing the Bill. “Some directed racist and other derogatory remarks at African-American members of Congress, including John Lewis, one of the veterans of the 1960s civil rights movement,” reported The Guardian. “One congressman was spat on. Another protester shouted ‘faggot’ at a Democratic congressman, Barney Frank.”
Progressive of the week
Chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Sir Ian Kennedy, who this week outlined his vision of reforming the system of MPs’ expenses – based on the principles of fairness, workability and transparency – in a speech to the ippr. He also said it was important to understand the role of an MP, adding that “parliament has become rivaled – some might say supplanted – by attention to case-work, taking up the concerns of constituents”.
Regressives of the week
Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, the former mininsters caught out by the “Politicians for hire” Dispatches/Sunday Times investigation. The best reaction to the scandal has been that of Lord Kinnock, the former Labour leader describing the three as “repulsive”. He told Wednesday’s Times: “No one is going to mistake this for Labour conduct or Labour values. They are plain wrong, not just as adults but — even worse — as parliamentarians … If they had only disgraced themselves it would be sad. But they have inflicted harm on our party and that is repulsive.”
Evidence of the week
Left Foot Forward’s calculation on Budget day that a Tory government would result in £21 billion of additional cuts. If the Tories wish to bring the Treaty Deficit down to 3 per cent by 2014-15, as Ken Clarke suggested last week, it would mean taking an additional £21 billion (1.2 per cent) out of the economy in 2013-14. This would mean a fiscal consolidation of £78 billion in total.
Conor Pope’s Blog The Week
This week, Conor tries to do a little fundraising for Lord #CAshcroft following the spectacular collapse of the $15,000 #CashGordon website, and takes a trip down to Bristol to #Labourdoorstep with a couple of girls he met on the internet…
What’s trending on Twitter
According to our friends at Tweetminster, here is a list of the week’s top political stories:
• The Budget, which had 11,132 tweets across twitter, at an average rate of 2.29 tweets per second. The most tweeted parts were around duty on cider, the tax agreement with Belize, the digital economy measures, the bonus tax results, the stamp duty announcement and the £2.5bn growth package;
• News Corporation’s announcement that The Times will be introducing a paywall was widely
ridiculeddebated on Twitter.
Following the complete and utter failure of the Tories’ Crashed Gordon website, here are some of tweets on the story:
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