Friday 2 March 2012

So long....

Dear Readers,

Thanks for supporting this blog over the last few years. Writing it has been an absolute pleasure, though the time has come to shut this particular site down.

You can still follow me on twitter @Lobbydog, or you can subscribe to me at Facebook, Joe Watts (Lobbydog), and soon read my new blog at the Eastern Daily Press website where I am now Political Editor.

If you are looking for Notts content please go to www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

It’s been entertaining, see you on the other side.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Battle of the speeches

When the press notice came through this morning that Ed Miliband would be giving a speech on Thursday on “fairness in tough times” there was something about it that smelt a bit fusty.

I couldn’t put my finger on it till I glanced over at my diary and realised what it was. The Labour Leader’s speech, timed to begin at 6pm, will take place at exactly the same time as a speech by his one-time-mentor turned nemeses – Maurice Glasman.

It was Lord Glasman, once described as a father-figure for Miliband, who soiled the Labour Leader’s January by writing an article claiming he had “no strategy, no narrative and little direction.”

I’ll be tweeting from the Glasman speech on Thursday and if he says anything interesting I’d wager it is he, and not Miliband, who gets more column inches on Friday morning.

Monday 6 February 2012

David Miliband suggests Coalition unemployment policy may have some merit

Earlier on we had a briefing with David Miliband who has been touting the proposals for tackling youth unemployment from a commission which he chaired.

In his opening spiel he said: “In terms of reforming the welfare state we’re saying that if you’re unemployed, if you’re on the Work Programme for a year you should automatically get a part time job guarantee – part time so that you can spend the rest of the time looking for work.

“We say that if you’re unemployed or on the Work Programme for two years you need to be in a long term subsidised job.”

The Work Programme is the Coalition’s flagship back-to-work policy, which sees contractors tasked to find jobs for the unemployed.

It’s interesting that David is suggesting ideas that incorporate the Work Programme because the official Labour Party line espoused by Ed has been to slag it off and say the previous government’s Future Jobs Fund (FJF) should be reinstated (see here and here).

So did David Miliband’s comments today mean he supported the Work Programme on some level and stood against the FJF – he did claim that the Work Programme was not extensive enough but went on to say…

“The Future Jobs Fund had good aspects including the sense of reality that it was a real job, but it also had some problems, for example in targeting different needs amongst young people – it was an emergency response to the recession.

“We say very clearly that we want to learn from the Work Programme, not reopen the debate to go back to it or not have it – we can actually learn from it.”

David’s response appears to be a break from Ed’s idea that the FJF should just be reinstated. Meanwhile there is the clear suggestion that the Coalition’s Work Programme has positive aspects.

I’m sure David would say this isn’t criticism of Ed's chosen path of course, just a thoughtful contribution to the debate.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Boom and Bust - the definitive explanation

At the Press Gallery Lunch earlier The Guardian’s Michael White and Ed Balls had a conversation about the claim that Labour had abolished Boom and Bust, and it led to the most, shall we say, meticulous explanation of it that I have heard. It follows here…

Michael White: Whenever Gordon Brown said, as he so often did, ‘no more boom and bust’, some of us GCSE economists flinched because we knew that couldn’t possibly be true. We thought it couldn’t be right. What did you think?

Ed Balls: I think, economist or not, the power of retrospection is a great power.

MW: No. That’s the chairman’s cheap joke, come on, what did you think at the time?

EB: Since 2008 there have been many people who have written columns that said in retrospect that phrase about ‘boom and bust’ shouldn’t have been used. But I certainly used the boom and bust phrase as did other politicians in the previous 15 years. Go back to the first time it was used, was in the Labour party economic policy submission to Labour party conference of 1993. I wrote the words, and it was basically pointing out how Conservative politicians of the previous ten years, particularly Nigel Lawson, in their attempt to play politics with interest rates and the currency had ended up with self-inflicted boom and bust ups and downs, and the solution to that boom and bust political interference was an independent central bank, which was our argument. It was never an argument which was, ‘we could abolish the economic cycle’. It was an argument that we could through bank independence prevent the self inflicted political mistakes of the political era.
Did, as the years go on and Gordon Brown made more and more budget speeches, did he sometimes give the impression that stability might have been cemented into the British economic reality and psyche….perhaps. And perhaps in retrospect that was a rhetorical error.

It is only a “rhetorical error” rather than an “error”, Balls explained, because the fact that Labour used the phrase was not a reflection of an irresponsible fiscal policy executed by the party, as claimed by the Tories. The country’s economic situation going into 2008 was sound, said Balls.

So summed up, the boom and bust thing was just a phrase that Gordon Brown got a bit carried away with. I’ll say he did.

Cameron's speech is, er, more about "setting tone"...

There was a rather distracting Union Jack poster behind the PM as he gave his speech on capitalism just now – it almost meant I missed the new thing in his speech which was thoroughly tucked away.

The talk was the latest move in a bid to wrestle the lucrative “responsible capitalism” territory away from Ed Miliband. It’s been riling the Tories that the Labour Leader has been going round saying he started the debate on the issue in his conference speech last September.

And so to show that actually the Tories were talking about it first, Cameron claimed his party set the ground for this debate years ago, and just to make sure Eddie couldn’t trump him again he went as far back as Disraeli and Pitt, before Labour even existed.

Most of the rest of the speech was doing that thing that the Tories do quite often, where they choose a theme and then try and show how all their existing policies already link into it.

So here renewal of the right-to-buy scheme, academies and free schools all tied into moral capitalism.

Then 2,600 words into a 2,800 word speech the PM announced that there were 12million co-operative members in the UK and that their groups are governed by 17 pieces of legislation.

“Today I can announce they will all be brought together and simplified in a new Co-Operatives Bill that will be put before Parliament.”

I know he’s unable to step on the toes of Vince Cable, announcing measures on executive pay in the near future, but it’s hardly a measure to get the blood racing is it.