Dave’s clueless start to 2009

SOMEWHAT after the event (Carolyn and I have just returned from a two-day break sans weans), but I can’t avoid commenting on Dave’s interview with Jeremy Vine, which we listened to on the way to our country retreat on Friday.

First of all, Dave made much of the Civitas study into the welfare system (pause while red mist descends in front of the eyes of most of my readers) which revealed that couples on welfare are less well off than they would be if they separated. Dave feigned surprise and outrage at this. This has been a part of the system for many years, under Labour and Tory governments – was he seriously unaware of it?

I assume this arrangement is in place because of the recognition that couples can live together more cheaply than can two single people living apart. That’s why the state pension for a couple is – and always has been – less than double the rate for a single pensioner. Dave presumably doesn’t believe that’s an injustice worth getting all hot under the collar about, but what’s double standards when there’s a headline to be won?

Secondly, he described the 2.5 per cent cut in VAT as “a scandalous waste of money”. Just consider that statement for a minute.

Let’s assume he’s right to claim that the cut itself had no discernible effect on pre-Christmas sales (not a judgment anyone can accurately make without knowing what they would have been in the absence of the VAT cut). Even then, that £12 billion (as Dave claimed the figure was) tax cut went directly into the pockets of British shoppers. And the Tory party reckons that that’s a “scandalous waste of money”?

I thought the Tory Party were, in principle, if not in policy terms, in favour of giving tax-payers their money back? It’s not the government’s money, they constantly tell us, but the public’s. And yet, giving us back £12 billion of our hard-earned is “a scandalous waste of money”.

There comes a point when putting headlines before principle becomes such a way of life, so second nature, that no-one even notices any more. So Dave is all style and no substance – so what? So he wants to “send a signal” rather than create policy – who cares?

Meanwhile, GB is criticised by the right for saying he want to create up to 100,000 new jobs. Yes, the actual number of jobs created will be hard to assess, and yes, the actual economic policy behind the plans should be scrutinised and, where appropriate, criticised.

But contrast the two approaches – Dave contradicts his own party’s principles and seeks to “send a signal” while at the same time refusing to say whether he’ll actually change policy, and if so, to what; while the Prime Minister seeks to use whatever power government has to make things better.

Dave’s certainly not “the man with a plan”, unless “becoming PM” is considered “a plan” these days.



Filed under Conservative Party, David Cameron, Economy, Gordon Brown

19 responses to “Dave’s clueless start to 2009

  1. John Smith

    Where to start?

    First of all Governments can’t create jobs, the market creates jobs. The Government might hire some people to do some things, but how many of them would have been given jobs anyway. And the plan is up to 100,000 jobs. What’s a success then? 90,000? 50,000? 5?

    The Conservative point about couples being incentivised to live apart by the benefit system is about stabilising and reinforcing families. Two adults living with no dependents is not the model anyone has at the top of the priority list. I’m sure you know this, but it’s easier to pick holes.

    Just because a problem has been in the system under successive Governments does not mean that someone can’t plan to fix it. That’s really what we all pay you to do.

    And the VAT cut was a staggeringly ineffective way to encourage shoppers back onto the high street. You are, of course, right to say we don’t know how much money would have been spent in the absence of the VAT cut.

    But, we do know shopper numbers were down on a year ago and we do know that the VAT cut disproportionately benefits the well off because they are spending more to start with.

    Moreover, common sense tells me that I don’t want to buy anything any more just because it costs me a few pence less. It doesn’t make luxury goods any more affordable and, if you can’t afford them to start with, essentials any less expensive.

    But then, common sense?

  2. Donkey Kong

    Have you got a crush on Dave? I really think Carolyn deserves an answer to this.

  3. V8RLZ

    John Smith, well said. Only two things I would add to it are:

    1.The money wasn’t giving tax payers there money back, because that money isn’t our in the first place it’s borrowed. So yes Conservatives are in favour of giving tax payers their money back, but they are not in favour of giving someone else’s money back to taxpayers.

    2. I hardly think ANY Labour politician has any right to criticise anyone about wating to grab headlines. I wonder Tom, could you remind me when “spin” came from? It certainly wasn’t the Conservative Party.

  4. Rory

    On the point about the VAT cut being a waste of money, this will be true if the purchases made by the public would have been bought anyway regardless of the VAT cut. This will be though, as you point out, hard to quantify.

    And as for the (up to) 100,000 jobs to be created, Fraser Nelson deals with that porky pie with the following:

    “Sure, Brown can hire some builders to renovate schools. But first of all, how many of his 100,000 were going to be hired by the state anyway? And of those who weren’t, can he be so sure they were all otherwise heading for the dole queue? It’s all a nonsense designed purely to enable him to trot out the line “we are creating 100,000 new jobs while the Tories would do nothing”. For Brown’s plan to work, no one must challenge his figures. And I suspect no one will.”

    Not so sure you’ve labeled the right party leader with the term ‘clueless’.

  5. Julian Gall

    The point about the VAT cut is that no one (certainly no one I’ve spoken to) really felt it. Nobody said: “hey, I’m really glad my cappucino cost £1.95 and not £2”. For the Exchequer, it has been (and will continue to be) an enormous cost that is funded out of borrowing that will have to be repaid.

    The big worry is that any initial fall in prices will just be mopped up by the retailers. I’m already seeing shops quietly ignoring their earlier reductions at the till. Of course, we all know shops that didn’t reduce prices in the first place.

    You’re right when you say it’s our money and therefore not a waste to give it back to us. However, the government is really only lending it back to us. We’ll have to repay in higher taxes in future. David Cameron is right to question whether it was the best us of such a sum. In the US, they like to give people cheques to stimulate the economy. I wonder whether that wouldn’t have had a bigger impact than a price reduction of 2.3%.

  6. Andrew F

    Wow, the irony. That post was a load of soundbites basically criticising someone for using soundbites.

  7. Johnny Norfolk

    I think you need to justify what Labour are doing. not all this smoke and mirrors about the Tories.

    Labour are the government not the Tories. As Labours policies for the economy fail will you ever learn, sadly NO.

  8. I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but I see a lot of posts by you Tom about how the Tories will bring rack and ruin to the UK if we vote them in, but very little about why your party isn’t to blame for the rack and ruin we’re already in as a result of you being in office for a decade….

    In short, it’s very easy to attack someone with no record (the current try front bench may have been in office in Major’s cabinet but none of them were policymakers) than it is to defend your own bad record (like, where do you stand on the massive error that was the 10p tax fiasco? Or the decision to forget about asking the voters about the EU constitution? Or perhaps you’ll have some smart wit and jibing to display about the refusal of your unelected boss’s refusal to go to the polls and earn his job?). Nah, thought not.

    On other matters entirely I read recently that support for independence is rising again after the Scottish people seeing how wonderful a job Mr. Brown is doing, and how much worse off we’d be if we were independent like all those other EU nations that are projected to be out of recession years before the UK….
    So I’ll ask you again. Given that upwards of 90% of voters want a independence referendum, yet your party think we don’t have a right to one, do you dislike the principle of democracy and think the State is better off making decisions than voters and don’t give a monkeys what the voters think unless you’re legally obliged to ask them, or are you simply afraid of the answer?

  9. timbone

    Create 100,000 jobs? Well, I can think of a way to recreate 100,000 jobs. This is a proportion of the unemployment created by not allowing choice in the hospitality industry in the area of smoking. If pubs were allowed to choose whether to be non smoking, smoking, or if large enough to have designated areas (not forgetting good ventilation), then some of those 2500 pubs which began to close in July 2007 would have their customer base back again and be able to reopen.
    (Just a little note. Please nobody talk about the credit crunch which started many months after the smoking ban, or the cheap supermarket booze which began at least a decade before).
    At present, for every piece of employment found, the staff of the latest pub closure become unemployed.

  10. //First of all Governments can’t create jobs, the market creates jobs.//

    This is such a clichéd bit of nonsense it’s a wonder anybody bothers repeating it. Too young for the 1980’s I guess?

    Governments patently can create or destroy jobs, and Cameron is going to spend the next year claiming that this Government has destroyed loads of them. That’s bunkum too of course, but to then go on to claim that a cut in VAT has no effect rather makes a mockery of you and your friends’ love of the market. (Price reductions increase demand. Economics 101, whether you’re a monetarist or a Keynesian.)

    Public sector jobs are in the direct gift of the Government just as surely as private sector ones are in the gift of private capital. Public money pumped into private ventures muddies that distinction that even further. Work is work, and it’s not the exclusive preserve of the private sector and certainly not (at least you had better hope not) exclusively at the mercy of a private market. If you need confirmation, go ask your boss whether he’d turn down a Government contract right now!

    The fact is that Government action, or inaction, can either lead to earlier recovery or a more prolonged recession. You’re on the side of inaction I take it?

    Keep singing that song boys, it’s going to sound increasingly shrill and vacuous at the same time. Neither will be attractive to the electorate.

  11. bupendra bhakta

    Mr Harris, I must say I am hugely impressed as to how seamlessly the Labour Party has moved from tax and spend to being the taxpayers’ friend.

    Would you like to make a long list of all the public services that are going to be cut to pay for this largesse.

    Education? Law-enforcement? Hospitals?

    Thought not.

    Of course the government can create jobs. Stick an ad in The Guardian for Street Football Co-ordinator and there you go – one job created.

    The trouble is that the rest of us (here in the productive sector) have to pay for this person for the rest of his life.

    How many public sector jobs has the government created in the last 11 years?


    How many of them were needed?


    One could make (just about) a Keynesian arguement for public sector hiring in a recession but only for the duration of a recession. But the UK public sector offers jobs for life and the rest of us are fed up with paying for them.

  12. davidc

    how many of the ‘up to 100 000’ jobs will be

    1 wealth creating

    2 last more than one year

    3 filled by ‘british’ rather than ‘foreign’ workers ?

  13. Letters From A Tory

    “that £12 billion (as Dave claimed the figure was) tax cut went directly into the pockets of British shoppers”

    You have got to be joking. On what evidence do you base this statement? There is no legal compulsion for any vendor anywhere in the country to pass on the VAT rate cut to their customers and unless you can provide hard numbers on how many have done so, this remains a fictitious claim of the highest order.

  14. Norman Bates


    What about this, wee Tom, in the clueless stakes?


  15. Er, Norman… I provided that link in my original post…

  16. wrinkled weasel

    Mr Brown cannot, as has been said, create 100,000 jobs. Well he can, but they would be the micky mouse kind. They will also cost the taxpayer more money and be a very expensive way to massage the unemployment figures, which, by the way, should be displayed on what was once County Hall, across the Thames from your local drinking hole. (They will need a few more zeros than when Red Ken did it).

    There is another, slightly oblique angle to the government’s financial doings: Your lovely Mr Darling is refusing to cooperate on the desperately needed Forth Bridge project which as you know needs a massive cash advance and needs to be started pronto. This would create real jobs and revitalise the economy locally.

    This refusal to play ball with the SNP is political and ideological, for the Government wants to tie the Scottish Government into years of crippling debt and fraudulent siphoning off of public money, by using the PFI route of funding, which is discredited beyond doubt. The figures speak for themselves and servicing these debts runs into billions.

    So to get back on topic, yes, you could create jobs, but you can do it by investing in infrastructure that will serve the community, not smooze the dole figures.

  17. Simon

    It’s interesting that you call Cameron clueless, when Brown was Chanceller for 10 years, PM for just one, and the country is bankrupt.

    Promising 100,000 new jobs, none of which will help the economy by bringing money into the country, and all of which will need to be paid for by the tax-payer, is just crass politics.

  18. bupendra bhakta

    Let’s face it, in the same way that Scargill thought the mines were there to provide jobs for miners (rather than to provide low-cost energy for the nation) Gordon Brown believes the public sector exists for no other reason than to provide jobs for public sector workers.

    He has been at since he was unelected to power – any hint that his miracle economy might be slowing out went the call to the public sector, ‘hire, hire, hire’.

    Hey presto, another 900,000 needing mortgages, buying houses, and spending ‘equity release’ on the High St.

    The Brown Miracle eh!

  19. richard

    “And yet, giving us back £12 billion of our hard-earned is “a scandalous waste of money”.”
    Giving us back? When did you have it in the first place…?

    Even if we take your comment at face value surely this “cut” will need to be paid for by other means (such as general taxation) so it’s effectively a loan anyway.

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