So, back in March we were transitioning towards a low-trust society via the phenomenon of the bogus hairdresser. I identified a maximum at the chilly limit of 1.16 million people who might be kept off the official unemployment number via Work Programme wipe-your-own-arse classes, zero wage placements, or bogus hairdressing. I didn’t believe it was that many for reasons I set down in the post.
Anyway, here’s Markit chief economist Chris Williamson comparing a variety of survey-based metrics of employment. They note that the total employment growth according to the ONS since 2010 is 1.16 to 1.2m jobs. Other survey-based estimates put it far lower, between 174k and 308k. If this is the case, the fabled “productivity gap” is at least halved.
Reading into the piece, Williamson notes the existence of 300-odd thousand additional self-employees – the bogus hairdressers – and also a sudden increase in the number of companies registered for VAT and PAYE, an extra 86.7k overall with 31k turning up between 2011 and 2012 thanks to a database cleanup at HM Revenue. He estimates, on the basis that an average British firm employs 11.4 workers, that this on its own would account for 989k jobs.
We’ve got two effects here that point in the same direction, and I said as much in the March post – one is the bogus hairdresser one, a survival response that creates fake employment to stop abuse from IDS. The other is genuine employment being forced out of the black economy and being counted, whether responding to Work Programme badgering or to VAT audits.
The upshot, anyway, is that the unemployment numbers have a cushion of something well north of a million. Williamson doesn’t, as far as I understand, try to model the contribution of zero-wage Work Programme placements or of people who signed off to reset the clock, so it’s quite possibly more.
The macro implication is that the whole second dig at recession was even worse, but that the recovery could be better. The real surprise is that anyone who lived through the 80s or 90s could be at all surprised that they just rigged the dole numbers again.
Frances Coppola’s fine blog points out that Will Hutton is wrong, and so is George Osborne. Letting Chinese banks trade in the UK as branches of the parent company (like: Bank of Ireland), not subsidiaries (like: Bank of Ireland (UK) Ltd), may perhaps get the UK taxpayer off the hook should they go bust but only in the sense that it leaves it up to the Chinese whether UK depositors ever see their money again. (And if you think it was hard getting Iceland to pay up…)
I was leaving a comment but it turned into a blog post. The problem of letting them operate as branches is that it creates two classes of financial institution on the high street, one which is ultimately safe and one which…isn’t, but which has very good reasons to present itself as being so.
The aim of policy here is surely to prevent runs on the bank, as well as just looking out for normal people who aren’t in the habit of forensically reading financial statements prepared in accordance with someone else’s accounting standard and possibly written in Chinese.
If a run on the bank happens, either the depositors (that’s us) end up out of pocket or else the taxpayers (that’s also us) end up out of pocket, depending on whether the government insures the deposits. There is obviously a better option – don’t have a run on the bank in the first place. This is one of the main reasons why governments insure bank deposits. (And, just on general principles, do you really want to be your own bank regulator?)
If you don’t want runs on the bank, you need it to be the case that if a random citizen puts money into a bank, it will still be there in the morning.
Deposit insurance did very well at this for many years up to 2007. Then it failed.
As a society, I think we need to reflect deeply about why it didn’t work. It didn’t matter that the Bank of England could lend Northern Rock all the cash it needed to clear withdrawals. It didn’t matter that the Treasury could tax the whole country to pay out the depositors. They were sufficiently convinced on a normal and quite prosperous weekday in the autumn of 2007 that the government would just break the law and default on its debts in order to screw them personally that they all went down to the bank to fetch the money.
Whatever you think the explanation is, I think it’s a fair conclusion that we need to make an extraordinary effort to restore the credibility of deposit insurance. We now know that a run on the bank is a real threat. We also know that the measures to prevent one didn’t have any credibility for a lot of people. So I think the notion of having two kinds of bank on the high street, one of which is ultimately reliable and the other isn’t, is crazy talk.
Perhaps no-one’s suggesting opening up in Uttoxeter, Featherstone, or Kirkwall. But even if they didn’t go as far as opening up in Uttoxeter or wherever, part of the Icelandic story was that just because something is considered a wholesale bank, it doesn’t mean it can be treated as similar to an old-fashioned casino where anyone who loses presumably knew what they were getting into. KSF ripped off lots of local councils and similar institutions by serious amounts of money.
Well, the answer is “this”: a GCHQ program to “stain” jihadis’ computers so that they could be identified even if their IP addresses were obscured by multiple layers of network-address translation or indeed by TOR, revealed in the latest Snowdendump, is classified as UK Top Secret/Strap 1/COMINT.
The fact that it contains COMINT – communications intelligence – automatically flags it as being even more agonisingly secret, and subject to the inter-allied arrangements for the security of signals intelligence product.
This is old news, but there was something I wanted to pick out here.
Farage said: “Spot checks and being demanded to show your papers by officialdom are not the British way of doing things. Yes, of course we want to deal with illegal immigration, but what’s the point of rounding people up at railway stations if at the same time they’re still flooding in through Dover and the other nearly hundred ports in this country.
“I’m astonished that the Home Office has become so politicised that they’re actually advertising ‘another 10 arrested’. Before long they’ll be live video-streaming these arrests. I don’t like it. It really is not the way we’ve ever behaved or operated as a country. We don’t have ID cards; we should not be stopped by officialdom and have to prove who we are.”
He said the solution lay in proper checks at the borders.
Well, there’s Farage confronted by the oh so thin libertarian/manchester liberal layer on top of the seething mass of authoritarian wankers that is UKIP, for a start.
But there is something interesting here. I’ve seen plenty of people angry about the “racistvan” because they think it’s…racist. I’ve seen quite a few who are strongly committed to full open borders and who object to immigration controls in general. And I’ve seen some who (like Farage) are opposed to it because it’s illiberal and intrusive.
Very few people seem to be outraged about the politicisation, though. You need to get it from Nigel Farage of all people. And I think it’s possibly the most disturbing aspect of the whole thing. The institutions, resources, and coercive powers of the state are being deployed with the specific purpose of generating product that the Home Office SPADs can trumpet on Twitter and brief out to the yellow press.
“All the current generation of politicians, myself included, typically came up through the back offices. We’re the professional politician generation, aren’t we? I was schooled in this, kind of, ‘How do we make a press release today that embarrasses the opposition?’ That’s the kind of politics that everyone was doing, and the kind of culture developed where you’re scrabbling over a bit of the centre ground with micro-policies that are designed to just create a couple of days’ headlines and create a feeling, but not change much else. And I think a little bit of that culture is degrading our politics at the moment. I look at Cameron in the commons, doing PMQs, and he doesn’t answer a bloody question.” Burnham regards the prime minister as the ultimate embodiment of that culture, but admits, “I think we’re all guilty of it to a degree, it’s not unique to the Tories. What I am saying is we’ve lost the art of thinking bigger.”
Indeed. This is basically the world of Crosbyism, politics as a succession of irritable bowel gestures.
Kantel makes a point I’ve tried to make before about Green politics. He’s having a go about the German Green party leader, Renate Künast, who’s decided it would be cool to order all public service canteens to observe a vegetarian day every week. He remarks that the party is a mixture of “neoliberalism dyed green, and the desire to force everyone to be happy”. I couldn’t agree more.
This is something that I notice whenever I’m in Germany. The content of Green politics is served by the SPD or even, now, the CDU. You can argue about how well the grid transition is getting on, but it’s getting on, and the argument is basically technocratic.
That leaves the style, and as a result, style hegemony is now a major aim. Lifestyles are generally on sale, and as a result, the people who whine about consumerism and gentrification the loudest seem also to be the best equipped and most expert in these disciplines.
OK, so Lynton Crosby is all better now so long as conditions. What are these conditions? After all, they define the limits of acceptable behaviour in our society.
It looks like he’s not allowed, or won’t be allowed, or shouldn’t have been allowed to take part in ministerial meetings or sight government documents. The interesting thing here is the definition of a ministerial meeting.
A meeting is ministerial, in the special sense, if it includes ministers and officials (i.e. permanent civil servants) and deals with government business. In this case, the civil servants will be present and will take notes, which get circulated and filed in the national archives, and may eventually be released under the Freedom of Information Act or through the so-called 30 year rule process.
But there is a process for having meetings of ministers that specifically do not involve the civil service, that don’t get minuted or archived, and that generally escape from the rules. The term-of-art is a “political” meeting.
For example, the Cabinet normally meets in its usual way, but it can also meet as a “political Cabinet”, in order to discuss purely party-political strategy rather than public policy…if you or anyone believes that. In this case, “the officials withdraw”, rather like the ladies from a rowdy aristocratic dinner in 1885, and take no official notes. One suspects that, as with the ladies, the conversation down the hall might be more interesting than in there with the port and cigars. Which would you pick?
That said, it’s worth pausing to take in the facts here.
It’s OK for lung cancer guy to brief, so long as he does it when nobody who has any responsibility beyond personal partisan interest is in the room and when nothing that is said gets into the public record. Further, it is actually better if the Tories give him more money, put him on the permanent payroll – even though they are apparently “in the process of putting the funds in place”, that is to say, passing the hat round all the people whose money has no place in our politics.
Also, it’s OK so long as he doesn’t propose policies himself. Fortunately we have the former Great Panjandrum of Policy Exchange, Nicholas “Call Me Nick” Boles, around who’s blabbed to the Daily Mirror of all papers.
Tory MP Nick Boles admitted that politicians have to win Mr Crosby’s backing for their pet schemes.
He denied claims the aide influences policy, and added: “If anything, it is we who try to lobby Lynton.”
So, he acts as a filter, a logical NOT gate. Policy is proposed to him; he vetoes it, or not. In the particular case of the unmarked cigarettes, this was of course what his client Philip Morris International was paying him to do – to prevent the progress of a policy proposal, not to introduce any.
Yes, I called him lung-cancer guy. Are you shocked? That, I think, is your problem. I can’t think of any more morally repellent profession than that of tobacco lobbyist. Can you? Most of the stuff BAE sells will never be fired in anger, and you can’t say that of cigarettes.
And we know that the Government has regularly held political Cabinets. As early as June 2010, for example. We even know that they held political Cabinets while Lynton Crosby was working for them and also working for Big Tobacco – like here, in March this year. Let’s run the tape:
It is understood that Gove did not name May but left the political cabinet in no doubt that he had the home secretary in mind after her high-profile speech at the weekend in which she spoke way beyond her formal brief and set out her thoughts on what she called the three pillars of Conservatism…
The rare personal blue-on-blue attack came hours before Tory MPs were given a stern warning by their Australian general election guru, Lynton Crosby, in front of Cameron, to decide whether they want to act as “commentators” on Twitter or “participants” in the runup to voting in 2015.
At a meeting of the Conservative parliamentary party, Crosby, who is a famed disciplinarian, said the general election was eminently winnable…
OK, so they held a political cabinet to decide strategy and had a hell of a row. Later in the day, they held a meeting of the Conservatives in Parliament, at which Crosby briefed. Presumably, the point of having a political cabinet and then a parliamentary party meeting would be to decide things and then communicate them to the MPs, or to come up with something and then consult the MPs’ opinion.
Is it credible that Crosby, their doubtless expensive polling and spin expert, would have been consulted by the MPs but not by the ministers? Is it credible that, having based your strategy on his wisdom, that you wouldn’t use some of his talking points to convince your MPs of it?
Last week, Lynton Crosby told the Tories’ political cabinet how the party would undermine Labour between now and the next election. The Australian strategist explained that the two main lines of attack were going to be that Labour hasn’t changed — ‘same old Labour’ — and that Miliband is weak. It was testament to Crosby’s dominance over the party machine that no Cabinet minister queried his analysis. I understand that the precise phrase ‘same old Labour’ was Cameron’s suggestion
Awww, they’re still all het up about “New Labour, New Danger”, aren’t they? But more to the point, yes. Fag-Ash Crosby regularly briefs the Cabinet. This is apparently acceptable behaviour in Britain. Sir Jeremy Heywood says so, and this hurts because I have great respect for the civil service.
I was about to reply saying that it was OK by me as long as all landlords receiving housing benefit payments, all pensioners, and all farmers receiving subbo had to disclose as well, rather in the spirit of the last post. Perhaps that would convince folk.
You can see Hazel Blears‘s thought process here; it’s terrible that rich kids benefit from internships and businesses milk the interns, I’ll sign this “Wages for Interns” thing, and in the meantime I’ll see if we can get some for folk from Salford. Inevitably it looks terrible.
And then, of course, there’s the whole, vast, third independent disaster of the bedroom tax. The evictions have begun, and here is a real doozy of a bureaucratic fiasco. I mean, you have no idea until you’ve seen this.
If you’re drawing Universal Credit, and you have to pay a service charge on your home – for example, if it’s an ex-local authority flat, quite a significant point – the Man from the Ministry has to decide which elements of it are “eligible” or “ineligible” service charges, and do a cost-allocation of the janitor’s time spent on each category of charges. Apparently, they are advised to ask the managing agent. Who can then turn around and bill you for it. But all is not lost, as you can include the agent’s fees in the cost of housing for UC purposes, but only in so far as they relate to eligible service charges.
Presumably, you then need to allocate the increase in the fees on the same basis, and the cost of this exercise can be re-billed in the same way, in literally ever-decreasing circles of fantasy accounting.
It gets better. Anything involving “the installation and maintenance of disability equipment and adaptions” is ineligible. I can only imagine that the DWP civil servants are hoping to trip him up now, as it’s blindingly obvious that someone will demand judicial review of this on grounds of discrimination. But aren’t public authorities required by law to ensure their buildings are accessible?
More to the point, isn’t this the most perfectly ridiculous bit of bureaucratic meddling you can imagine? The minister insists on having every caretaker in Britain’s timesheet, NOW.
Mr Duncan Smith lost his temper when he heard a member of his team rowing on the phone with a Treasury official. He grabbed the receiver and shouted down the line: ‘If you ever speak to my officials like that again I’ll bite your balls off and send them to you in a box.’
But none of this should be at all surprising. Here’s a sample of IDS’s judgment from 1994.
The reforms ought to go wider still. We should learn from the success of the 15 million people who have opted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) and abolish it altogether. The public has a greater choice and better service with private pension schemes, the State’s record is abysmal.
Yes. Yes. Contracting-out was such a triumph wasn’t it? Then of course, there’s the bullshitting and the fake CV.
I think, in general, it’s the bullshit that’s the tell here; Alan Watkins wrote, years ago when IDS was the Tory leader, that it was a mistake to see him as a cipher, a man without qualities. Instead, Watkins wrote, he reminded him of people he saw in Fitzrovia pubs in the 1950s, typically ex-RAF officers who went into the motor or wine trades, always getting into unlikely scrapes and trying on bizarre money-making schemes, the best possible of which would be to marry a heiress. And of course he did. Terribly, the Indy‘s new website only has Watkins’ columns back to 2006.
The character Watkins was sketching was, of course, a prize bullshitter and chancer. Also, we have a word for exactly that character: a spiv.
He threw his hat in the ring for Tory leader because why not, in the same way as you might fill the Jensen with undeclared vintages and hope they sold like they tasted better than they looked to Customs, or get Virginia to take you ski-ing in St. Moritz so you could fill your old Erskine with watches for resale at the St. Moritz in Soho. He got it because all the other candidates had a substantial negative following of enemies. He decided he had a social conscience because, again, nobody else was doing it and why not? Unfortunately, if you want to have a social conscience in Britain you also need the bureaucratic gift, and we see the consequences.
But what service does he provide to the Tories? Why? Literally no other minister generates such a constant flow of terrible news. But he is allowed, alone among ministers, to tell the Treasury to bugger off, to threaten its officials, to refuse Downing Street staff access to the DWP officers. In British politics, Winston Churchill gets to tell the Chancellor to bugger off, just as Madonna gets copy approval and you aren’t, as my old editor once said.
Why on earth hasn’t he been offered a cheap ticket to Canada and a pat on the back yet, thinking of Watkins’s characterisation?
I think the explanation is this: IDS was the first of the few. He integrated the Tories, the first pure chancer who opened the way for the broader chancerisation of the party. The amazing variety of PowerPoint divas, OK-ish opinion journalists, cupcake peddlers, and general-purpose availability entrepreneurs who now rule us all emerged in Tory politics post-IDS, and they respect him as the chancer icon who blazed the trail.
I’m using the big megaphone this blogkend, but here are a couple of Simple Plan things. The London Labour Housing Group’s Red Brick discusses why the distinction between general government gross debt and public sector net debt is important. GGGD is internationally comparable, and excludes public corporations, which hardly exist any more but do include council housing departments, PSND is Anglo-British and includes ‘em.
To be honest I’m more interested in whether it would be possible to so arrange the Simple Plan to comply with whatever daft pick-a-number metric they’re using. If good ol’ Karl-Heinz Grasser could get away with lending the Austrian federal forestry agency the money to buy the lakes of Carinthia off the government and claiming to have balanced the budget, well.
Crisis have some numbers on where LHA claimants are moving around London – out of KenChel, Portergrad, Camdonia, and Islington into the rest of North London, basically. The count of LHA claimants in Grant Shapps and Brian Coleman’s fief of Barnet is up 45%, here in Haringey it’s up 21%, 2.1k people.
Meanwhile, it appears we are rebalancing the economy towards a bigger, better property bonanza than ever in today’s super soaraway oh what the fuck does it even matter, just this time the sovereign is right on the hook. Fortunately, and this is something to which I will circle back, the “guarantee” is worth exactly what Paul Dacre tells the least solid No.10 adviser on the day it should be because Osborne wants to abolish the distinction between departmental spending limits and annual managed expenditure.
Here’s someone from Policy Exchange arguing that what the prime minister needs is an internal thinktank made up of partisan Tory special advisers, not civil servants like the people in the No.10 Policy & Implementation Unit. That might cost money, but…
it tends to be forgotten that some of the special advisers to the Centre are employed by Clegg and that they would have been financed in the previous Parliament by the Liberal Democrats’ share of the Short Money given to opposition parties in the House of Commons.
Besides that, employment of special advisers is one of the exceptional uses for which public funds are justified despite the economic problems of the country and the need to contain public expenditure.
And, incredibly enough, Policy Exchange has its Senior Consultant on Constitutional Affairs ready to go, just as soon as they front up some munn. This is pretty shameless chancerism, and the tell is how keen he is to sound all statesmanlike.
More seriously, there’s something deeply suspicious about this bit:
Third, the so-called “Cabinet Manual” must be allowed to lapse at the end of this Parliament. The Manual, which was finally published in October 2011 just before his retirement, was a personal project of Cabinet Secretary O’Donnell and of a narrow academic coterie. It proved controversial because some felt it contained novelties masquerading as established conventions, because one draft chapter arguably favoured the development of coalition rule, and because the entire idea of a quasi-constitutional compendium composed by officials was seen in some quarters as a Civil Service “power grab”. The publication shortly before the 2010 of a draft chapter about government formation following a hung election was a subject of special criticism.
By whom, pray? I remember it being well received at the time. Further, the civil service has long had a file on changes of government including the procedures to follow in the event of a hung parliament, and Peter Hennessey discusses it in his book The Prime Minister. I presume the “narrow academic coterie” includes or means Hennessey.
Is someone at Polex trying to change the procedure? The key question is usually under what circumstances a PM who calls an election and doesn’t get a working majority can call another, which is governed by the so-called Lascelles principles. Sir Alan Lascelles’ statement of them, in an anonymous letter to the Times, is as follows:
(1) the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job;
(2) a General Election would be detrimental to the national economy;
(3) he could rely on finding another Prime Minister who could carry on his Government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons
Peter Hennessey, and Sir Gus O’Donnell, both hold that point 2) was dropped from the civil service handbook on the change of government some time between 1950 and the present day.
Consider this. At some point between here and 2015, the Lib Dems drop out of the coalition or split. David Cameron wants to stay as prime minister, perhaps fighting on as a minority government or trying to stick to some “National Liberal” splinter group. If there is a general election, obviously, he will be swept away. Or perhaps there is an election and somehow he doesn’t quite lose. I can certainly see how appealing to the state of the economy as a reason not to have an election might be attractive. We must not spook the markets!
But this is surely no decision for some bunch of risible wanktank chancers to get involved in.