Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inconsistency

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.

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