Friday, 21 April 2017

Labour Poised to Attack the Workers

Labour's General Election pitch is clear, an unrelenting attack on medium and large employers, and large tax rises for the rich. Jeremy Corbyn says that the big corporations and the rich need to fear a Labour Government. They certainly won't be in fear, as the biggest corporations will have resources to more than match any civil service department to mitigate the increased costs brought to them by a Labour Government. Those that need to be in genuine fear of a Corbyn led Labour Government are the workers up and down the UK. The workers on average wages, the workers who work hard every day to make ends meet, the workers who simply cannot afford a Labour government.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonell, has already indicated that the rich will be defined as those earning £70,000 or more a year. This is a nice salary for anyone but it's not a fat cat wage. £70,000 is your local school's head teacher, your local police superintendent and your own GP. What the ordinary workers need to fear is that this is only the starting point. A shallow minded and lazy tax and spend policy can only go so far. Previous Labour Governments have punitively targeted tax hikes to their definition of "the rich" to cover their spending plans only to discover that two things happen.

Firstly, the higher rate tax base is tiny and dwarfed by the basic rate tax base. There is little to be gained and everything to lose by targeting such a small section of society. The last time Labour attempted to tax their way out of economic crisis in 2008/09 it saw the bringing forward of a 45% rate for the highest earners and increasing it to 50%. They wanted to raise £2.5bn from this but behavioural changes of those being taxed, such as bringing forward income so it was paid before the rate came into effect, reduced the tax take so much that it actually reduced the tax take for these high earners by £1.8bn. (budget2012/excheq-income-tax-2042.pdf)  
The long term effect will always be speculative as the Conservatives were returned to power in coalition and the 50% rate was reduced to 45%. Although this move was attacked ferociously by Labour it resulted in a tax revenue increase of £8bn. Had Labour remained in power their previous form would have been to increase the tax rate ever higher. We know this because that's exactly what they did in the 1970's. On gaining power in 1974 the top rate was hiked from and already eye watering 75% to a stifling 83%.

This brings me on to the second consequence and one which all reasonable hard working average earners need to know. Even the most economically incompetent Labour Government can be made to understand that there is only so much which can be extracted from the high earners before they are incentivised enough to up sticks and take their money away from taxation. Whether this is by fair means or foul the result is the same, less tax paid into the exchequer.
Denis Healey always denied saying he'll "Squeeze the rich until the pips squeak" and there could be some truth to his denial. After failing to raise enough tax revenue at the higher rate, the Labour Government turned on the ordinary workers. With a far larger tax base the increase from 30% to 33% and then to an astonishing 35% basic rate brought in the revenue they needed. No matter how loud the rhetoric about going after the corporations, the rich, the elite, Labour Governments always  attack the very people they purport to represent. Even in recent history the last Labour Government attacked the very lowest earners by scrapping the lower rate of 10%.

The ones to fear most of all from a Corbyn Labour Government are the hard working average earners. Gestures like increases in minimum wage will be evaporated in the heat of a tax hike on those least able to afford it.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

PFI? Should Have Gone to Brighthouse

A while ago the All Party Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance published a report on so called 'rent to own' stores the best known of which is probably Brighthouse (2015 APPG Report on Rent to Own). The report was damning, accusing them of cashing in on people's financial struggles. I know from experience that it is so easy to find yourself in financial shock when the cooker suddenly breaks down or the fridge is beyond repair. Your options to finance a purchase of this magnitude can be severely limited and there may be little choice but to go for rent to own. The APPG report gave a raft of recommendations to make the rent to own weekly payment stores operate more fairly and transparently. There is some justification for the APPG intervention, too. A fridge from an online retailer which cost £176 would cost £468 from a weekly payment store after paying, drip drip style for 156 weeks. That's a staggering 165% mark up.

More recently there were the comments from the British Red Cross Chief Executive expressing his view on the state of the NHS. Whereas most sensible commentators will view his humanitarian crisis reference to the NHS as misguided and to some 'unhelpful' the moribund Labour Leadership took this as a cue to activate their weaponisation. With liberal use of a hashtag, #NHSCrisis, they hoped to set the social media world alight with indignation on the Government's running of the National Health Service. The response was full on from the loyal followers of Jeremy Corbyn with perhaps a special prize for Paul Mason whose self imposed exile from his broadcaster paymasters has allowed his left wing lunacy to bloom bright red. Despite even his best efforts on twitter there was no ground swell of support for their latest efforts. 

There was, however, a stark reminder of the legacy that Labour left to the NHS. As a parting gift in 2010 the out going Chief Secretary to the Treasury left that famous note, to the NHS Labour left PFI. Just as with rent to own PFI meant that there was no upfront payment and, just as with rent to own, payment is by regular installments. At the end it's yours to keep. This is where the parallel ends. That fridge would be yours after paying 165% more than you'd pay for it from an online retailer. With PFI, as well as repaying for literally decades, the interest, based on HM Treasury figures, works out as a staggering 581%, well over triple that of Brighthouse.

The APPG recommended that rent to buy stores, Brighthouse included, should have health warnings so that people are aware of the total cost. I completely agree, and as PFI is over three times more expensive to fund than buying from a weekly payment store, hospitals funded in this way should also prominently display similar information so taxpayers are completely aware that not all health care funding goes on health care but also pays for Labour's disastrous misuse of PFI and we will be doing for many years to come.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Look Right, Look Left, Look Left Again and Keep Looking Left

Others have said it before (, I've said it before ( and I'll say it again, it is imperative that Conservatives keep up the fight in the cities, the industrial north and the coalfields. These areas are the traditional strongholds of the Labour vote and with Jeremy Corbyn emboldened by his increased mandate to lead the Labour party, the importance of our job to oppose them in these regions takes a renewed significance

After his first win there were jovial tweets, Facebook posts and blogs about how his leadership is great news for the Tories and how we will be in Government until, well, until forever. A brief look at social media will show you that this is happening again. I agree, his leadership will leave his party in the Westminster wilderness for the foreseeable future but Westminster is only one aspect of how we're governed. Local Government is a completely different matter where the unstoppable rise of the left in the Labour Party can be translated into power in the Town Halls. Significant spending decisions and priorities are decided locally and with increasing devolution this is set to increase and without fierce opposition from local Conservatives they'll have it all to themselves.

A microcosm of this may well be unfolding already in Leigh, Andy Burnham's constituency which is set to become a significant signpost of Labour parliamentary candidate selections to come. Leigh is a very traditional Labour stronghold. When Labour's Henry Twist became Leigh's MP in 1922 it has been a Labour held seat ever since. Leigh is not overtly political but has a very large and stubborn core of Labour vote which successive Labour MPs have relied on to see them safely returned to Westminster time and time again.
Out on the doorstep you meet many of these core Labour voters who mostly do so out of habit, they simply can't see themselves voting for any other party. Some, of course, will pause and consider the implications of supporting a Corbyn led Labour party but most won't. It is this cohort which need to be persuaded to think again before X marks the spot on the ballot paper. Failure to engage with voters who will passively vote Labour whoever the leader is will see Corbyn sympathisers gaining power in Local, Mayoral, County elections across the industrial north. 

This means a lot to me and my neighbours who happen to live in Leigh. We are in Greater Manchester where Andy Burnham will be the Labour Candidate for the Mayor of Greater Manchester.  As I predicted ( a Corbynite has become Manchester Mayoral candidate and if you don't consider him a Corbynite then consider who was the only senior shadow cabinet member to stay loyal to Jeremy Corbyn during the summer coup. If he's elected this will trigger a by election in Leigh, one of Labour's safest and most treasured seats. It would be extraordinary if Momentum didn't put every effort into selecting one of their own to be Labour candidate if a by election were to take place and the signs are they are preparing now. 

It can't be coincidence that @momentumleigh twitter account was created on the day that Andy Burnham won Labour's candidacy for the Mayoral election. Shortly afterwards the Facebook page was launched. True enough Momentum are gearing up to make sure they have a continued presence in Westminster for some time to come, this just marks the beginning with talk of deselections across the UK. But to get to this point Constituency Labour Parties must be populated with compliant hard left members, these members go on to become candidates, then Councillors and could go on to lead Councils and influence our everyday lives in so many ways.

Conservatives are rightfully entitled to a moment of mirth. Corbyn's grip on Labour will see them in the wilderness for many years to come but once the dust has settled we must allow any complacency to evaporate. The hard work ahead is to stop the left wing take over of our towns and regions. With many comparisons with the 1980's and the Militant take over of cities like Liverpool, there is one crucial and significant difference. In the 1980's Labour had a leader which despised the hard left and expelled them. In 2016 and for a good many years to come, Labour have a leader who embraces them and will not stop them from doing everything they can to get their hands on power. It's never been a more critical time to be a Conservative activist.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Conference Security or Job Security?

To Tory onlookers, like me, it is very amusing watching the Labour party lurch from one crisis to the next. At the time of writing their latest was their debacle over security providers to the Labour Party Conference. To paraphrase Jeremy Corbyn's predecessor it ended in a 'grotesque chaos' only to be rescued at the very last moment with the appointment of OCS. Having been intricately involved with Party Conference security with the hotel industry at party conferences I still remain unconvinced that OCS can validate security 
clearances  in time but I sincerely and absolutely hope they do.

I really don't care what trouble Labour NEC's dogma gets its own party into but I really do care about the negative impact on ordinary workers their dogma brings. Ironic that this conference is in Liverpool, the very city where the Militant Labour council leaders callously used their own workers as bargaining chips in a vile political game in which even they admitted they were making 31,000 council workers redundant was a tactic to buy time. 

Party conferences are excellent news for the hosting town. They are planned well in advance, they bring vast amounts of business from across the UK and internationally. Businesses serving a party conference forecast over a year in advance the supplies they will need, the services they will  use and, above all, the hours of payroll which need to be budgeted for. Workers in conference venues, restaurants, hotels and a myriad of other places will be given extra shifts, extra workers recruited and jobs secured, all because of a few days of party politics. 

Most reading this will have attended conference and will know just by looking around how busy it is and the amount of staff that are being employed directly and indirectly. Even at the periphery, public transport gets a boost, businesses get unrivalled publicity and the host town gets recognition as a provider of major conferences which could secure future business and secure yet more jobs.

In short, party conferences are excellent news for workers and from my own personal experience I know this all too well. If there were needed yet more reasons why only the Conservative Party are the party of the workers you will not see any reference to workers from Labour MPs and activists. We have heard about the Labour Conference's importance as its "Sovereign decision making body" from Labour's John Woodcock and even Unite's Len McClusky, whose first concern should be his membership, prefers to pick fights with fellow Union Boss Tim Roache of the GMB. While Labour boycotts and the Union barons bicker it is the workers who are caught in the cross fire, just as they were in this very city 31 years ago. 

Will their in fighting mean they won't get that overtime? Will their jobs be less secure without the big business of a party conference? Not one Labour MP or Union leader has said the conference must go ahead for the sake of the workers and it would never occur to them to do so. Why is this? Because they only care about there sorry selves, their self promotion and self preservation and have the thinnest veneer of compassion for the conference workers. These are the workers who have been looking forward to a few more hours, more pay. These are the workers who have been looking forward to a bit more hard earned spending money than they would normally have though the dignity of a pay packet.

The true workers' party are the Conservative Party and as a Conservative I passionately care and I am very glad the conference workers in Liverpool now have a little more certainty about whether or not they will have work to do at the end of September.