Amongst all the egregious failings of the last Government, one that annoyed me more than most was the continual elision of public spending with the economy – as if somehow the two were just interchangeable constructs. In the Gospel According to Brown, £6 billion cuts in public spending was ‘taking £6 billion out of the economy’.
That’s just madness. The money is still there – it’s just in the hands of the private sector rather than in the hands of the Government.
But then Labour always used the state to create jobs in a kind of mini communism. Take the unlamented Home Information Packs (HIPs). Originally, they were intended to be used as a way of getting house price data onto Government databases and store various other things that could have been useful to the Government. Then, watered down in the face of massive protest they became a way to garner an emissions report to comply with some EU regulation or other.
Whatever. They gave rise to an entire new career path – the HIP Consultant. Thousands of people trained to become such consultants, with attendant websites, business cards and everything else. So HIPs created jobs, that much is undeniable. But those jobs had no intrinsic value. No wealth was created by their existence and no social function did they perform.
Government has excelled in such jobs. Rare indeed is the council, quango or department that doesn’t have diversity officers (and yes, they are real, not merely a figment of the Daily Mail’s imagination) and so on. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of highly skilled people (such as my cousin) are taking up jobs in the Middle East, the USA, China and anywhere else there is real economic growth based on solid economic foundations.
Of course, the cuts that are coming will mean that jobs are lost in the public sector. Many, many thousands of jobs. But the private sector will grow as the pressures of tax and regulation are lifted. Cameron’s analysis is, ultimately, spot on. Watch below.
Government spending has always been enigmatic. Ministers blithely stand at the despatch box to speak of a billion here and a billion there as if it means nothing to talk of money in these terms.
And somehow, this money – our money – vanishes into the complex world of Whitehall, and the number of people who can tell you where the money ended up is vanishingly small. Freedom of Information campaigners have sought for years to get access to details of government spending, only to be stymied at every turn. But now, in a bold reversal of that policy, the database used by the Treasury to overlook spending – the Combined Online Information System – has been published in open formats.
Such is the complexity of the database that the Government is anticipating that useful analysis will come from independent experts rather than Government mandarins. The BBC has the story covered in more depth here, but we already think this is a marvellous idea with huge potential to shift the relationship between people and their government in the people’s favour.
Perhaps the best early adaptation of the data can be found at wheredoesmymoneygo.org - which while lacking granular detail has amazing visualisations of where our money is currently being spent.
Well the election was first disappointing (we like to see the new occupant taking over after a crushing victory) then enraging (Lib/Lab ‘coalition of the losers’) and finally quite inspiring.
The love-in between Clegg and Cameron as described in the rose garden of Number 10 was really quite lovely. Whether it will withstand the storms and tides that will buffet the government as they try to force through unpopular but necessary cuts in public services remains to be seen, but for a few days at least we can all be proud to be British and that our unwritten constitution has once again proved flexible in the event of uncertain circumstances.
Best of luck to our new Government – we’re sure they’ll need it!
UK airspace has been re-opened after nearly a week of chaos across Europe caused by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull on Iceland and the resultant ash cloud. But now questions are being asked about whether the UK government should have done more or – perversely – less.
Critics of the Government (notably Boris Johnson) argue that the decision to close UK airspace was taken with undue haste and too much emphasis on an impossible ‘zero risk’ approach to health and safety. Such things are a common trope on the right of the political spectrum that sees Health and Safety zealotry as part of a wider encroachment on human rights or freedoms.
In this case, we have to say that we’re probably on the side of the government. We’re talking about the lives of many tens of thousands of people who use flights every day. A single crash could have caused hundreds of deaths and it doesn’t take much imagination to guess how much opprobrium would have fallen on the government had they allowed the flight to go ahead.
We’re sure the decision making wasn’t perfect, but better that lessons are learnt in leisure afterwards than in the aftermath of a tragic loss of life.