Sunday, June 24, 2012


While we have some Liberal Democrats worrying that Cameron wants to cut Housing Benefit to those under 25 and suggesting to the press that this won't happen, we also have David Laws warming up on the sidelines and telling us that what we really need is a smaller government and tax cuts. (Do note that he resigned after he claimed £40,000 in rent for a property owned by his partner, even after that was banned under the rules). We've only had government spending around the 35% mark between 1920 and 1940 and then again in the period 1955-60, briefly in 1989-90 and then in 1999-2002. Indeed, in 71 of the last 111 years, government spending has exceeded 35% of GDP and in the 65 years 1946-2010, there have been only four years when government spending has been less than 35%.

As this period encompasses the life of the welfare state and that the welfare bill is a huge chunk of government spending, this would suggest that if you want to get the spending percentage down, then you either need a massive growth in GDP or you have to make far deeper cuts in the welfare bill.

Laws' views would also suggest that he is in the wrong party and the sooner he crosses the floor to the Tories, the happier he will be.

Cameron's plans are as woefully undercooked as so much of his political menu, but that raw meat is perhaps designed to feed the ravenous hordes over at the Daily Mail. This isn't a new idea - it appeared back in the Spring and still has the same flaws - what about young people leaving care, those chucked out by their parents or those in work (and perhaps have moved to find employment) and not earning enough in their first jobs? What about those temporarily out of work - do we force them back into the arms of their parents? Remember that Housing Benefit is paid not just to those out of work, but those in work and on low incomes, although the Tories seem to hold the view that all those on benefits are feckless layabouts.

Cameron too has ongoing problems with consistency - he saw nothing to investigate in the behaviour of his Culture Secretary, but was only too happy to have Baroness Warsi checked out for what appears to me (on available evidence) to be the mildest of breaches of the Ministerial Code. Again this week, he laid into Jimmy Carr for his tax avoidance plans, but adopted a policy of silence over personal tax matters when it came to his own supporters.  This tax issue has the potential to be Back to Basics for Cameron - taking a stance on Carr's tax behaviour effectively declared open season on the tax arrangements of his Cabinet, donors and anyone who supports the Conservatives. He can expect to be asked about the morality of various individuals for some time to come.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Not the 'nasty party' but actually crossing into evil

Clearly, Surrey Tory County Cllr John Butcher (nominative determinism in action, there) isn't representative of his party, is he?

Not only does he suggest using healthcare as a weapon to force the sick out of the county and raise house prices, he also claims that higher mortality would suit the Tories electorally and that the NHS is a Marxist organisation (which will come as news to the consultants). His view about this gerrymandering on the basis of healthcare makes Shirley Porter look like a rank amateur. His re-election campaign in 2013 could prove interesting.

Vile views.

Here's his email reproduced in full. Unsurprisingly, it leaked.

1 Please pass on my apology for absence from the Surrey HOSC meeting on 24 May 2012, but I have a hospital appointment that day, and it has already been postponed once.
2 Because of the economic catastrophe facing the capitalist world, the NHS, that is a Marxist organisation, is bound to fail – like Greece.
The government’s efforts to ‘improve’ it are merely a postponement of that failure, which will arise from ever-increasing demand for, and the unit costs of, healthcare and the ever-decreasing national wealth available to afford those demands and costs, through taxation or otherwise.
Politicians who support the diversion of increasingly scarce fiscal resources into propping up the NHS, without taking measures to curb demand, not only accelerate its eventual demise but allow more important demands on the public purse to go unmet, with serious adverse consequences to the people. It will be the people who suffer from the collapse of the NHS – but they will have only themselves to blame – for voting in politicians who promise to improve the NHS regardless of other factors.
3 One way of saving the NHS is to encourage patients to take very much more care of themselves, with penalties on those who won’t do that. If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.
And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.
This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here – assuming that planning controls remain similar to now.
4 Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.
These ‘other’ patients would move into areas, such as, hopefully, Surrey, where ‘other’ patients are not nearly so adversely affected. Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area:
4.1 the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and 4.2 the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.
Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas than in the ‘others’. This may mean that ‘other’ patients moving out of ‘equality’ areas may have to live in a less desirable dwelling, because of house price differentials, but that is a trade-off, that they can choose, with healthcare differentials between the two types of area.
Such house price differentials already apply for schooling, with houses on one side of a catchment boundary being worth a lot more than houses on the other side of it.
Indeed, the perception that the gap in those prices between those two types of healthcare area will grow substantially will encourage the ‘other’ patients in those ‘equality’ areas to move out of them sooner, lest they see their dwelling there becoming worthless.
5 Thus, any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold: 5.1 mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’, and
5.2 by concentrating its voters into particular areas, that party will never be able to win enough seats to dominate Parliament.
Regards John Butcher

Paul Krugman on Newsnight

A calm, rational and ordered demolition of the government's austerity agenda by Paul Krugman on Newsnight, as he gives backbench Tory MP Andrea Leadsom a brief tutorial on economics.
"This is like medieval doctors, who thought you could treat a sick patient by bleeding and the patient, of course, got sicker, so they said - let's bleed even more"