James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.
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• George Osborne finally unveiled his eagerly anticipated budget this week against a backdrop of a flatlining economy and the recent loss of the triple-A credit rating.
Highlights (or lowlights, depending on where you stand) included 1p off a pint of beer, a help-to-buy mortgage scheme for new builds worth up to £600,000, and a raising of the personal tax allowance to £10,000.
Although Osborne’s budget probably represented an improvement on last year’s “omnishambles”, some of the details began to unravel soon afterwards, with questions arising over his department’s apparent attempts to manipulate the borrowing figures and the mortgage scheme that could subsidise second homes.
This week Will Straw looked at how the budget fails to provide the country with what’s needed, while James Bloodworth found that Osborne’s £10,000 personal tax allowance giveaway is anything but progressive. Ashwin Kumar also found Osborne was borrowing on hidden pension promises. Richard Murphy looked at what the budget said (or failed to say) on tax avoidance.
•In the early hours of Monday morning a deal was finally reached between the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Labour on the implementation of the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson.
The approach of using a royal charter – rather than legislation – to back the new press regulator was agreed by Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband in a 2am deal done to avert a Commons stand off.
Here at Left Foot Forward Nigel Warner of the IPPR argued that Labour should ensure they are seen to be standing up for the victims of press intrusion. Taking the opposing view, Padraig Reidy of Index on Censorship wrote that Labour risked being cast as the enemy of freedom if it backed Leveson’s proposals.
• The week marked the 10 year anniversary since British and American forces went to war to topple the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
Tony Blair made an appearance on ITV and defended the use of military force in Iraq, citing the current conflict in Syria as an example of how inaction could often result in an even greater loss of life than military intervention.
This week Left Foot Forward looked at some facts and figures on Iraq 10 years on from the start of the war.
Progressive of the Week:
Those MPs who voted against the government’s emergency legislation to ensure that job-seekers unfairly sanctioned by Workfare policies are unable to claim compensation.
The move followed a ruling by the Court of Appeal last month that rules governing the government’s work programmes were illegal – albeit on fairly narrow technical grounds. Labour MPs were whipped to abstain, rather than vote against the measure, but 44 MPs rebelled.
This week Left Foot Forward looked at five things David Cameron won’t tell you about Workfare (hint: it doesn’t work).
Regressive of the week:
George Osborne. Unemployment is up. The deficit is up. Debt is up. Growth is down. Living standards are down. Britain’s credit rating is down. Not working is it, @George_Osborne?
There were plenty of reasons for progressives to hold George Osborne in contempt, but most damning perhaps is the mounting evidence that George Osborne is failing dismally on his own terms.
Left Foot Forward reported on the Institute For Fiscal Studies’ post-budget report in which it said that borrowing under the current chancellor would be £70billion more than was forecast in 2010 by 2015.
Evidence of the Week:
Wednesday’s labour market figures revealed a surprise increase in unemployment after a strong performance in terms of employment for the past 18 months. More worryingly perhaps, the figures also revealed that average weekly earnings for regular pay (3 month average) in January was just 1.2 per cent higher than it had been a year earlier – the fifth successive fall in the annual rate of increase.
As Richard Exell of the TUC put it, this is the most worrying trend: the absolute level of average weekly earnings is falling: down from £472 a week to £470 for total pay and from £444 a week to £442 for regular pay.
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