Osborne leads the way

June 15, 2009

 

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Labour have wanted a policy debate for a long time and now that we are fully engaged in a sensible debate about public spending they are trying to shy out of it instead preferring to throw up a smokescreen of Tory cuts. This debate was sparked by Andrew Lansley’s gaffe last week but we have acted swiftly to once again move onto the front foot. Writing in the Times today the shadow chancellor George Osborne has written the kind of article on public spending that is long overdue. He says:

“There is a moment in Nineteen Eighty-Four when Winston Smith realises that “in the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it…the logic of their position demanded it”. The Labour Party reached that moment last Wednesday when Gordon Brown told it that his plans to cut real spending on public services and halve capital spending equalled more “Labour investment”.

Gordon Brown was at it again this weekend, talking about the Tory’s 10 % cuts – only for the Institute for Fiscal Studies to point out that this is exactly what his own plans involve if he, like we Conservatives, promises to protect health spending. Why is Brown treating us all like fools, Gordon Brown’s claim that real spending will rise under Labour is akin to his claim that the 10p tax rise didn’t hit the poor.

“The big discussion in British politics for the foreseeable future will be how to tackle the debt crisis and deliver quality public services when spending is tight, and Gordon Brown has taken his party to the sidelines of that discussion.

The real dividing line is not “cut versus investment”, but honesty versus dishonesty. We should have the confidence to tell the public the truth that Britain faces a debt crisis; that existing plans show that real spending will have to be cut, whoever is elected; and that the bills of rising unemployment and the huge interest costs of a soaring national debt mean that many government departments will face budget cuts. These are statements of fact and to deny them invites ridicule.”

This is excellent stuff. Rather than fearing Brown’s “cuts vs investment” dividing line, we are taking him on, exposing the truth behind his rhetoric. The old saying that a house built on shifting sands can not stand, seem to ring true for Browns argument. Thankfully no one in the media is being taken in by Browns lies, not even the Guardian and everyone knows that there will need to be cuts in spending. As Peter Hoskin says “Brown is now in danger of losing what is perhaps the biggest pre-election battle there is.” Good work George, keep it up!

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Opposition’s Economy Debate

March 19, 2009

 

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Yesterday George Osborne made an important speech on the economy in which he highlighted the Government’s failure to deliver on the many economic action programmes that it quickly announce to much fanfare.  This oppositions economy debate was called by the Conservatives because the last debate on the economy took place in would you believe it, December! The government obviously does not take parliamentary scrutiny seriously enough if it can’t be bothered to debate solutions to the grave economic crisis. However the Chancellor Alistair Darling did not come to the despatch box to respond to the Opposition’s economy debate. Instead of Darling Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper took his place.

 

Mr Osborne said:

 

“Today the IMF has produced new growth forecasts for the world that show that Britain is set to be in recession for longer than any other major economic area.  Indeed they predict that the British economy will be only major economy contracting next year, 2010, when the economies of America, the Eurozone and Japan are all forecast to be growing again by then.  And today Lord Turner has published his Report.  It says something about the coordination of the tripartite committee that they couldn’t get the report to Hon members in this House. The report offers a pretty devastating critique not just of the regulatory system created by the Prime Minister in 1997 – but also of the model of economic growth that was based on unsustainable debts, overleveraged banks and a huge macroeconomic imbalance.

You would have thought, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer who commissioned that report and whose policies are deepening this recession would be here to debate the economy and defend his approach. But apparently not.

We have not had a debate on the economy in government since December and the government have known about this debate for two weeks.  When we suggested it, we were told there was no pressing international summit or unbreakable commitment that would require the Chancellor’s absence.

There is only one conclusion.  The Chancellor is running away from the debate because he knows he is losing the debate. A confident Government, and a Prime Minister who meant what he said about restoring the primacy of Parliament, would have relished the chance for the Chancellor to appear before us today.”


George Osborne then turned his attention to the record of the Government’s programmes that were announced with much fanfare but have still not been implemented:

 

“The scandal of inaction continues.  Let us take the most important support needed, the support for loan guarantees.

Finally, two months after we proposed it, on 14th January, the government launched in a blaze of publicity their scheme to guarantee credit lines to small and medium sized businesses – the Working Capital Scheme.  The Business Secretary said at the time: “there will be real results coming from these schemes going live today”  Two months later that scheme does not exist.  The date when it was supposed to be up and running has come and gone.  The negotiations with the banks are still continuing.  And all the while good businesses are going bust, and good people are losing their jobs.

I wish it were an isolated example of incompetence.  But it is not.

There is the Automotive Assistance Programme which is supposed to help the car industry.  Two months after it was launched there is no evidence yet that a single car manufacturer has been helped.

Earlier this week the Government proposed a car scrappage scheme. Today the Treasury is briefing the media that they are not in favour of that particular scheme. That one didn’t even last a week.

Then there is the Homeowners Mortgage Support Scheme, announced by the Prime Minister back at the beginning of December.  Here we are in March and it simply doesn’t exist.  Repossessions are rising, thousands are losing their homes, and not a single homeowner has received support.

And what about the National Internship Scheme announced three months ago? It has completely disappeared from trace.  They can’t distinguish between getting the headline on the Today programme and actually making sure the help they promise is delivered and working.

But the public can.  And it is causing widespread disillusion and despair.”

 

 

There were only 15 Labour backbenchers in the chamber to take part in such an important debate and the man in charge of the economy could not be bothered to turn up. It’s not like Darling had short notice, he was notified that this debate was taking place in January when the Conservatives organised it. What sort of message does this send to the electorate? The other benches were by no means full but it was certainly a good turnout by both opposition parties. I cannot understand why the country doesn’t wake up to the fact that the Labour party is not interested in working out solutions to the economic crisis. If they are not willing to sort out the mess they got us into then they should call an election and let the people decide who will help them.


George Osborne’s Speech In Birmingham

March 6, 2009

 

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Today I went to watch George Osborne’s speech in Birmingham to business leaders about the economy and its impact on business. There was a good contingent of CF people there, mainly from Birmingham University and I would like to start by expressing thanks to them for inviting us.

 

In his speech to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Osborne argued that people needed to hear some “home truths” and must “work hard and save hard” to get out of the recession. This was a different type of speech to others Osborne has given recently as it used harder language and pulled no punches.

 

Osborne said an apology was necessary to show that Labour understood the current economic problems were home-grown, rather than a result of the meltdown of the US mortgage market, and had learnt the lessons of what had happened. Gordon Brown “won’t say sorry for his mistakes because he really doesn’t think he made any,” he said. That’s undoubtedly true, and as Iain Dale points out “the more his cabinet ministers admit things were got wrong, the more isolated Brown appears.” However we should not pursue this line much further because it has already become established in the public’s minds.

 

He then went on to link the regulatory failures which allowed banks to take unjustified risks to a culture of excess which encouraged individuals to build up unsustainable levels of debt. “Our banking system is not separate from our economy,” he said. “Our banks hold up a mirror to the worst excesses of society.” He went on to say that people need to become more prudent in future and that they will no longer be able to rely on the rising house prises to pay for their retirement. “The money for nothing society has to end,” he stated. “The truth is that Britain is going to have to work hard and save hard to get out of this hole. The Conservatives are ready to tell people these home truths and the country is ready to hear them.” Harsh but true, Browns debt culture is largely responsible for this economic crisis as people built up huge debts on the never, never. We should have weaned ourselves off this before it ran out of control, but we didn’t, so now we will have to swallow the bitter medicine.

 

There was even a bit of policy announced in the speech. The Conservatives will limit tax breaks on debt, and would if possible, commit to further reductions in the basic rate of corporation tax beyond their existing pledge to cut it from 28% to 25%. “The prize could be considerable,” he argued. “A simpler and more competitive tax system, more jobs and investment and British businesses that are less dependent on debt.” Amen to that George, people have to understand that times will be hard, tough decisions will have to be made, and that there are no quick solutions to this crisis. We must start by laying a new foundation of competence in regulation and re-create the savings culture that Brown all but destroyed with his stealth taxes.

 

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