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Botzarelli
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The story about your cleaning job is an interesting one for what it doesn't say. We don't know whether it happened before the NMW and whether the "simple" but effective workers were being paid more or less than the students. If it was in pre-NMW days it is unlikely that the employer would have paid existing reliable and effective permanent members of staff less than the bunch of shiftless temporary student workers unless he was actively trying to exploit them and didn't care about how good they were. If it was after the introduction of the NMW, it is a story of workers unlike the very small category Freud was asked about - those who no employer would be able to justify employing at NMW but who wanted to work and for whom work would, even at less than NMW be personally rewarding. Those who are not only "simple" but also incapable of doing even as much as the shiftless student temps however hard they try (and trying hard is something they really want to do). There is a real issue about making sure that a scheme to help potential workers of this sort get jobs doesn't turn into a system whereby employers refuse to employ any disabled people without a wage subsidy and take the view that all disabled people are incapable of doing work that merits the same pay as those without disability. But that is a practical issue about how you draw up a scheme under, eg http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32014R0651&from=EN Articles 32-35 to subsidise the employment costs of disadvantaged workers. The existence of that exemption from the State Aid rules suggests that dealing with this issue isn't just an evil frolic of the minister's own devising.
Toggle Commented Oct 16, 2014 on Why Freud's wrong at Stumbling and Mumbling
Interesting. I wonder whether the inverse of this might not also apply. That is, if people are told that they are badly off and things are getting worse, over time they start to see this as normal so any improvements they actually experience seem better than they might otherwise have done. A bit like a slower acting version of the changes to the chocolate ration in 1984 - a painful reduction in an already meagre portion of a small pleasure followed by a small increase that is still below the original ration feels better than merely having a smaller reduction in the ration in the first place. If true, this would have serious adverse implications for the "cost of living crisis" theme developed by Labour if there is continuing good economic news and individual optimism rises. That people might still be worse off than they were in 2010 or 2007 would be masked by the fact that they'd long ago stopped aspiring to the level of wealth they had in those increasingly distant days.
The thing about PPE is that relatively few people studying it, at least out of those at Oxford, actually graduate in Philosophy, Politics AND Economics. The courses for the Economics papers in Finals are mainly heavily mathematical and difficult to access without A level maths. So, apart from those who actually want to go into professional or academic Economics after graduation, Economics tends to be dropped. Most PPE graduates actually have degrees in Philosophy and Politics. The First Year Economics course is as far as they go in that dismal science and it doesn't involve much maths.
Were the scheme to be effective in supporting a higher volume of house sale transactions there would also be a rise in the level of SDLT receipts to the government. That would be beneficial to the government even if there were to be continued house price falls (and a higher volume of transactions would more likely lead to rising prices until developers built more).
Very interesting and pleasingly non-partisan. The problem with it is a political one. In the uk the main parties have all to some extent pushed the line about the squeezed middle. It is pretty obvious that the middle are always the easiest and most productive ones to squeeze but they also form the largest part of the electorate. It would take some bravery to attempt it when even small and poorly conceived squeezes like withdrawal of child benefit get howls of anguish and outrage from both ends of the spectrum.
Put a constituency residency requirement onto all prospective candidates and the whining about expenses and pay will disappear. A requirement of having lived within 25 miles of a constituency for 4 years prior to election would do the trick. The disparity between what an MP might earn and claim on expenses, and what they could earn outside Parliament would cease to be of any importance at all in securing good candidates. In London and the South East there would be a glut of candidates for all parties who already may in some cases be expecting a substantial pay cut. Outside the South East, an MP's total package would be in excess of that previously earned by all but a fraction of a percent of potential candidates and so be an irrelevance in selecting candidates. It would also mean that we could make the idea of an MP as a local representative rather more of a reality than a romantic fiction. I can quite understand why a career policy wonk who has based themselves around Westminster since their days as a student activist would bemoan becoming a "glorified case worker" for a random bunch of people a hundred or more miles away from anywhere they have ever lived. So stop such people from being let anywhere near having such a burden on their precious time and recruit candidates who don't begrudge doing case work because they actually have an affinity for the local area and all its people, not just the activists of their party who they have to sidle up to in order to get selected.
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Competition is good. Conservatives ought to believe in it as a mechanism for improving outcomes. Centralised control of the sort advocated here is the opposite of that. The problem is that the article focuses on the wrong thing - the exams rather than the circumstances that have led to competition being a race to the bottom. The precise cause of that is the fixation on ever-increasing exam scores. I'd like to blame that on the last government and certainly they were a contributory factor to encouraging the appearance of improvement through higher marks in the statistics. But the rot set in before that. So, an alternative would be to attempt to assess the quality of schools other than by reference to ever-increasing numbers of top grades. This would stop schools gaming the system to focus on those on the C/D boundary or to choose GCSE-equivalent courses or easier syllabuses but rather to focus on what was best for their pupils. Why not give all schools with a rating of Good or above the independence to decide their priorities so that they are all Free Schools? So, some or many might be run by Guardianista lefties - so, what? Parents and pupils should be able to choose between them. We could then return to the situation that existed in the past where schools actively sought out the harder syllabuses because they were specifically valued by the universities their students would apply for (some ended up being too hard for anyone - I went to the top sixth form college in the country and it had stopped entering candidates for SMP A level Further Maths because even though you only needed 15% to get an E it was still demoralisingly tough, so we did a more traditional O&C syllabus instead). We need less meddling, not more.
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"Another possibility - which I’m less sure about - is that the right has valued national sovereignty more highly than the left and so thought its loss more grievous." I think this is a major motivator for the eurosceptic (or more accurately anti-EU) right. It was probably also a strong factor for the anti-EU left when that existed as a significant force in politics (pithily summed up by Attlee's dismissal over the phone while on holiday in France of being a founding member "the unions will never buy [letting foreigners decide on their jobs]"). That's why despite the issue being right at the top of the news and political agenda and anti-EU right wing voices being prominent, they don't tend to propose a concrete vision of the policies they would like to enact if only it weren't for the EU. They are able to reel out long lists of things in the EU they don't like, but cutting red tape (or more accurately moving away from harmonisation of trade laws back towards mutual recognition) is not a massive vote winner in the abstract. It is more of a technical issue for lawyers. The Left could easily come up with attractive things it could do which played to both its core vote and chimed with the times if we were to leave the EU. Indeed it did so very clearly in its 1983 manifesto which I suspect, with anachronistic parts like unilateral disarmament removed, could be very popular now. But the Right doesn't have so much to enthuse the public about in relation to leaving the EU other than the return of independence and sovereignty of our way of doing things. http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/no-answers-only-caricatures-on-hra-and-eu/
Toggle Commented Dec 9, 2011 on Left, right & the euro at Stumbling and Mumbling
OK, so we're not obliged to have a referendum on the basis that fiscal union in the eurozone would not involve any transfer of powers from London to Brussels. That does not mean that there is anything prohibiting us from holding such a referendum does it (other than the need to pass primary legislation to give it effect)? I can understand that Cameron does not want to be seen to contribute to the collapse of the eurozone by blocking the Treaty changes needed for fiscal union. So, why not have a 2 question referendum? 1. Should the UK ratify the changes to the Treaty enabling eurozone fiscal union? 2. Should the UK leave the EU following such ratification? It would be right for the government to urge a strong Yes vote on 1. That would be the responsible thing to do in terms of enabling the eurozone to try to save itself and with it, to reduce the risk of smashing a hole through the very modest growth predicted for the UK. It would then open the question of whether the EU following such a big change, albeit one which did not technically involve any transfer of power rather than a significant lessening of de facto and de jure influence, was an organisation which was still in the UK's interests to belong to. There's no reason why the Coalition Parties could not take different views on the second question (indeed, if the case was made out on the facts that the new Treaty was not in the UK's interests but the right thing in Communautaire terms Douglas Alexander's recent speech and articles on the EU might even support a Labour vote against continued membership, not that I'd count on that!).
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Given that about the only places which do not have State education are places where there is little that can be described as civil society, no thanks. If the US can manage to reconcile its love of freedom and economic liberty with having a state education system I don't think we are on the road to totalitarianism by having one ourselves.
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Welcome though they would be, scrapping the Common Fisheries Policy and once again opting out of the Social Chapter are pretty meagre concessions to be dreaming of. The former would be good for a number of coastal areas that used to rely on fishing to support their economies but would not bring massive increases in employment. Although the latter might have harmed our international competitiveness there's a big question-mark over how much of the changes wrought by it would we really get rid of and how big an improvement doing so would cause in the economy. If the government isn't prepared to do things like rip up the National Minimum Wage, which it can already do, is it realistic to expect it to pass the measures to repeal everything implementing the erstwhile Social Chapter? There needs to be a much more tangible set of policies of wider import and public popularity that can only be secured by renegotiation for it to be a proper subject to rally around. It is hard to do because taking the EU back towards its past purported form as a free trade area goes against the popular call to do more to help the UK and in the UK's direct and immediate interests. http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/life-in-the-fast-lane/
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Good article. However, I think that it is too easy to get the good sense written about the failings of recent education policies dismissed as elitist in a pejorative sense. Rather than focusing on the reintroduction of grammar schools, inviting an inference that you don't care about "the others", it would be good to make a positive case for what can happen under a selective system that is beneficial to less academic children. I recently found some surprising data from the DfE which showed that Secondary Moderns are only barely behind Comprehensives if looked at on the basis of the measure of 5 GCSEs at A*-C. Of course this may to an extent be distorted by Secondary Moderns using some of the maligned "GCSE equivalent" courses. However, given that Secondary Moderns by definition only teach lower ability children with grammar school "near miss" children with better off parents being more likely to go to local private schools, the results are striking. http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/mad-bad-and-dangerous-statistics/ The case might be made from this to argue that a selective system is actually beneficial to lower ability children at least as much as it is to the high ability children who pass the 11+. At the very least it would be a foundation for turning the debate away from being pro-grammar school for clever/posh kids (as it is invariably caricatured) to being pro-education for all.
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It is a bit disappointing that the proposals revolve around helping people to buy houses rather than looking at the issue of helping people to find homes. There is too big a gap between insecure short-term rental in the private sector and either social tenancies or buying a home. It makes it unsurprising that most people aspire to buying a home but that doesn't mean that the only solution is to make buying easier regardless of the public costs or broader economic consequences. I suggested on here some time ago that we should look into creating a form of tenancy which bridged the gap, provided a degree of security for households while balancing this with landlords' interests in not having their property effectively dispossessed by tenants, provided a clear link between private and social accommodation so that social tenants could move on without removing the best property from social estates and would ultimately cost HMG much less money. http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/middlehold-how-to-make-the-housing-market-work-better/
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I think that most ordinary people couldn't give a stuff about ERM or Maastricht. The thing about the ERM and Black Wednesday that hit people was the massive hike in interest rates. The fact that it was caused by trying in vain to stay within the ERM will have been so much word soup to those who were finding their mortgages unaffordable, mortgages that they had spent the 80s being encouraged to take on. I agree that Major will grow in reputation in the future, particularly given that the real foundations for Blair's win were so spectacularly squandered by Blair. Cameron risks being Major if his and Osborne's economic policies end up working but leaving the country in 2015 thinking that he doesn't offer a positive vision of what to do with that success. Major and Clarke could have taken the wind out of Labour's sails by doing precisely what New Labour did with PFI to build schools and hospitals. It would have been very popular both with the public and with business. They didn't do so because it would have been a terrible squandering of their success in getting the economy back on track. The question is whether Cameron and Osborne will be keen enough to be more political and populist in 2015 with the fruits of the pain many are suffering now. If their policies have worked you can be sure that no-one will remember that Balls thought it wrong when he's offering glittering prizes, just as no-one really remembers that Brown was fully behind the ERM until it became prudent to lay the blame on Major and Lamont.
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The Thameslink procurement could only have been remedied by the then Transport Secretary announcing that the process that had been gone through for over 2 years was being terminated and a new competition being held. The only way a new competition could have been held without being immediately open to challenge as a weakly disguised way of awarding the contract to Bombardier would have been to have removed the train financing element. This would then have required either that HMG undertook that financing itself (raising public spending) or getting the Thamelink franchisees to do so even though they had no guarantee of retaining their franchises long enough to see the trains they were suddenly being required to finance. On top of that, the whole process would have been delayed by a sufficiently long time to have forced Bombardier to lay off its staff in any event (their order books were empty so they could not have kept those jobs in place while waiting for a new competition). By all means blame Labour for setting up what in retrospect was a bad procurement exercise, but there was no realistic and sensible alternative for the government to take. http://wp.me/p1kusD-1D
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What a petty and demeaning article. Was it written as a cautionary tale about all that was wrong and unattractive about Conservatives when the nasty party label stuck? It certainly doesn't do anything to promote anti-Cameronian Conservatism.
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Focusing on what's wrong with the EU or what people don't like is too negative an approach. It might help in showing which elements of the EU the government should look at changing and influencing, but that's unlikely to be red meat to those who see only a single option for reform of the relationship, that is, exit. For everyone else, the changes, even if capable of being effected would be too modest to be perceptible. I suggest flipping the question round. What set of policies to improve Britain do people want and what changes to our relationship with the EU are needed to achieve them? That is eg (I'm not proposing these as specific policies, just as examples of how they should be put in a positive manner) "We believe that we should get more in return for our contributions to the EU and propose that the rules on defining assisted areas for ERDF purposes be relaxed to enable us to target action more effectively on a greater range of parts of the UK", "We believe that the UK is better placed to use foreign aid budgets in the interests of the poorer countries of the world than the EU and will therefore seek to have the UK's share of the EU overseas aid budget allocated to it", "We believe that the fish stocks of the UK are the UK's resources to utilise in its own national interests and therefore will campaign for the abolition of the common fisheries policy" The problem is that these just aren't particularly exciting or big vote winners.
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JW is right. If there is to be an increase it should be to give the allowance as £4250 per room. It is worth remembering that the Housing Benefit changes the government is implementing mean that single people under 35 will only be entitled to claim at the rate for a room in a shared house. The demand for such rooms will therefore increase substantially in the near future. Raising the threshold would increase the cost of HB.
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Women outside the South East don't trust posh men? Labour know this? So, posh public school and Oxford educated barrister Tony Blair didn't win 3 General Elections in a row wiping out the Tories in much of the country outside the South East and London? John Major, William Hague and Michael Howard weren't posh sounding but it didn't do them a lot of good in winning the votes of women outside the South East in 97, 01 and 05. Men are simple folk who are much the same at 50 as they were at 25? So they blithely carry on as if nothing had changed in their lives when they marry and have children? Focusing policies on the things women are interested in is important because, surprisingly perhaps, men are interested in them too. Maybe a generation or two back men could blank out domesticity and head off to the pit but nowadays the men who don't take their family responsibilities seriously are the ones we blame for the feral youths rioting on the streets, not the norm. Arrogance is generally not liked in politicians by either men or women. You don't need to get rid of it to win women's support, you need to get rid of it to win anybody's support. And if you think there's a, er, particular working class female Northern Tory MP who would benefit the government's standing in the country by being elevated to a cabinet position I think you'll find you're sorely mistaken.
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How many of Twitter's people earn near the £150k at which the 50p rate comes in? Very few is the likely answer. It is a red herring and if the argument is one based on attracting foreign talent and preventing a brain drain out of the UK by domestic talent it needs to be argued on the basis of the personal taxes levied on such people in competitor economies. The 40p rate is the more significant one, or rather, the point at which it kicks in. The current threshold for being considered to be a "higher rate" earner is far too low. This is obvious when you consider that many higher rate taxpayers are also entitled to tax credits. It would be much better to set the 40p rate to come in at a more realistic point, say £60k, than to worry about the 50p rate as a priority. Similarly, it makes absolutely no sense for people on the minimum wage to be paying income tax. The skilled scientists and engineers are most likely to be benefited by changing the lower tax thresholds than the top rate. From a corporate perspective it might be worth considering abolishing employers' NI for those with higher science and engineering qualifications so that there was an incentive to employ such people over others with lesser or lesser valued qualifications. However, we should be wary of trying to engineer the economy by means of employment taxes or rebates - we don't want to create a new Selective Employment Tax: http://wp.me/p1kusD-7p The 50p rate can go on other grounds - the best one being if it is demonstrated that it would be revenue neutral to lose it.
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The man or woman in the street is a mass of contradictions. The Mail has been the best at seeing and understanding this. That's why it has the capacity to enrage everyone who pretends to a more coherent or partisan position. It reflects what most people actually are and how they actually think and is conservative in the way that the average person is - that is, not in terms of a Party label but a broader range of conflicting beliefs and "common sense". If the Mail and Dacre are to be criticised it is for not generally attempting to change the way its readers think or to challenge them into a more coherent set of prejudices. Pandering to the Mail can give the illusion of populism but doesn't ultimately work politically because a lack of coherence in a government ends up as a lack of direction. Something which, ironically, Mail readers would find pathetic.
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Too right, that was my first thought too. If there is a case for SpAds then make it and make it in terms which people who are not, have never been and are unlikely to ever be SpAds can understand and agree. The less reliance is put on an army of SpAds the less easy it is for hangers on like Werrity to go unremarked on for so long. Or is it that our MPs and Ministers are, unlike their predecessors in generations past, just not up to keeping on top of their brief and understanding the politics of what they do? Civil Servants are not appropriate for political advice but they are excellent at providing relatively dispassionate analysis and evidence on the basis of the instructions they are given. Ministers should be competent to commission, read and consider such work to reach a conclusion on the politics. It is far from rocket science. In the dim distant past I recall (as a civil servant at the time) how well the Conservative DTI ministers I advised in the mid 90s were able to do this and bring the political angle in as they think fit.
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It doesn't really matter all that much whether Werrity was any good at taking advantage of the access to business contacts that he was given by Fox. The fact is that any ordinary person (ie not someone with any particular tribal loyalty) seeing what has happened is likely to conclude that there was something dubious about the relationship. Are there really no people within the parliamentary party who are able to do Ministerial jobs competently AND appreciate that bringing their pals on jollies around the world and into meetings in their Ministerial offices is simply not on? If Werrity profited that makes it worse, if he was paid out of public funds to attend, that makes it worse, but even if neither of those things happened, he should never have been there in the first place and Fox should go for letting him and for not appreciating that it was wrong. http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/oh-for-fox-sake/
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Julian Bell, the current Leader of the Labour Group on Ealing Council just tweeted congratulating Benn on his appointment, describing him as "Ealing's Hilary Benn". I don't think he quite got why I found it irritating that he was still being associated with Ealing by a close party colleague when he was meant to be MP for the near-rotten borough seat of Leeds Central (due for abolition in the boundary changes proposed). Perhaps he and Eric Pickles could swap seats so that they were more representative of their constituents!
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I can't see Labour going EU-sceptic while being able to profit from a perceived split on the EU within the Conservative Party. This is ironic given that they actually have a lot more to gain from leaving the EU than the Conservatives because so many of the sorts of things that a left wing/statist party might want to do are prohibited by EU membership. While the Conservatives remain in favour of free markets, competition and trade the core of the EU is aligned with industrial policy even if some tinkering is attractive politically (eg Bombardier) or some legislation is unwanted. Until the EU argument is phrased in terms of "We would like to do X,Y and Z but are unable to because of EU membership" and X, Y and Z are big, popular policies of the sort that we would be trusted to do, it is not going to win any votes. Recently I've seen several people banging on about having a policy of moving to EFTA membership. They don't seem to realise that, in the absence of specific policies to hold out as the reward post-exit, all this is as wonkish and impenetrable (or indeed more so) to the average person as the debates over AV, AV+, STV, PR and reform of the Lords. Until and unless there is a coherent policy strand of what we would do after leaving the EU that we cannot do now, there's no point in letting the EU be an issue. If a party like UKIP whose raison d'etre is leaving the EU can't come up with a coherent and believable set of post-exit policies then I suspect it is just too unrealistic a proposition for any party to the right.
Toggle Commented Oct 7, 2011 on Ideas to win the next election at thetorydiary
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