Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Budget

The Budget

No one really expected anything radical from George Osborne today, as he has very limited room for manoeuvre plus he said that the government intends to stick to plan A.  However, this budget shows that the Chancellor is listening to people’s concerns and compared to last year’s budget the 2013 budget was a pleasant surprise.

It was obvious that the Chancellor was never going to give into his backbenches and make sweeping tax cuts, although it is clear they were not completely ignored, as there were tax cuts.  These included a rise in the personal allowance for basic rate taxpayers to £10,000 from April 2014.  This will leave the lowest earners have around an extra £100 a year.  The Chancellor also showed he has been listening to pub landlords by scraping the alcohol escalator for beer, which has led to a 1p decrease in price of a pint.  Stamp Duty in “growth markets” is set to be abolished, and in addition to these tax cuts, the 3p rise in fuel duty has been postponed again.

One of the budgets flagship policies has been designed to deal with the cost of childcare for working families, as of early 2015 the government will pick up the tab for 20% per child of a working families childcare costs which adds up to £1200 per child.  This only covers childcare costs up to £6000 per year and is only for families who have working parents, so is not available to families who have one parent who does not work (this includes single parents).  The main aim of this policy is to make it easier for parent to go back to work after having children by easing the cost of childcare, emphasising this budgets theme of supporting working families.

Another major policy of this budget is the help to buy scheme, this scheme has two separate parts both are designed to make buying a house easier and get the housing market moving again, and both only apply for properties with a value up to £600,000.  The first part of the scheme is that is you put down a 5% deposit on a house the government will guarantee and extra 15% (this will be paid back with interest) so in effect the buyer would get a 95% mortgage rather than an 80% mortgage.  The second part of the scheme is for anyone wanting to buy a new build property and will run for 5 years.  If the buyer can put down a deposit of 5% the government will provide them with a loan worth up to 20% of the property’s value.  This loan will be interest free, and will be paid back when the property is sold.  This second part of the scheme has clearly been designed to support the building industry as well as homebuyers.  The building industry is one of the areas worst hit by the recession and is likely to welcome this new scheme.  Critics of the scheme have warned the government to be careful as the scheme could potentially create another housing bubble.

The Chancellor has also creating a new employment allowance that will reduce companies’ national insurance bills by £2,000 per employee.  This is hopefully going to encourage small businesses to take on more staff.  The budget also saw a 1% cut in corporation tax down to 20%.

This blog has not covered all the policies in the budget just a few that caught my eye.  It is also worth pointing out that not every policy in the budget is positive, for example public sector workers have had their pay increase capped at 1% until 2015/2016.  Considering all things, I think this is a robust budget that is making the best out of a bad situation, it is leagues ahead of last year’s budget, and most people got a little bit, of what they wanted.  I think it will be much harder to attack the 2013 budget than it was to attack the 2012 budget.   

Monday, 18 March 2013

Who Is Adam Afriyie?

Who Is Adam Afriyie?

You probably had never heard of Adam Afriyie MP until recently, when he was all over the news as a potential leadership challenger to David Cameron, But who is he?  Adam was a Businessman before entering Parliament, and he is a self-made millionaire.  This is probably the reason why he does not claim expenses for his London home, or travel to and from his constituency.  Adam is no Tory toff he was bought up on a council estate in Peckham, this is likely to help him if there is a leadership election as it is a significant contrast between him and the Prime Minister who is seen as an out of touch old Etonian.
Adam was became MP for the Conservative safe seat of Windsor in 2005 and retained his seat in 2010 increasing his majority by just under 10,000 votes to a massive majority of 19,054.  As an MP Adam has served as Shadow Minister for Science and Innovation (2007-2010), however he has not served as a government minister but then again Blair and Cameron both served as PM without any prior experience as government ministers.  Adam has sat on numerous standing committees he is also has had roles as chairman of several committees and is the current chairman of three committees (space, science and technology and Expenses).  The majority of the committees Adam has either chaired or served on have revolved around science or finance.

Having seen Adam on the daily politics recently it is clear to me he has ideas for how the country should be run.  He also has a charm and charisma, which is essential for a Prime Minister in the era of 24-hour news.  Although what is most important about Adam as a potential leadership candidate is that, he is apparently popular in the parliamentary party, which is essential for a potential leadership campaign.  Whether he has enough support to defeat the Prime Minister is a different question, also is he experienced enough?  It is true ministerial experience does not make or break a Prime Minister, it would be nice to see how he could cope running a government department before he runs the country or even just the party.  Although he is clearly got the qualities of a leader I hope he does not try to overthrow Cameron as it would just damage the party and in my opinion make defeat in 2015 inevitable, as divided parties are always unpopular.  If he does hold back until after 2015 you have to ask will he get the leadership, he is likely to come up against Boris Johnson if the election is lost.  And if the election is won he will have to face a David Cameron who would have won the first Conservative Majority in over 20 years and it is unlikely he will win.  I think it is unlikely he will be the next leader of the Conservative party, but he is defiantly one to watch and he is made of the right stuff to one day have a crack at the leadership one day. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Union Of Ministers Should Shut Up Or Resign

The National Union Of Ministers Should Shut Up Or Resign

The National Union of Ministers is the name the press has given a group of ministers who are trying to resist departmental spending cuts, it includes heavyweights such as Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, Home Secretary Theresa May and Business Secretary Vince Cable.  The main aim of the group is to avert further spending cuts to their departments claiming they have already cut their departments to the bone.  The exception to the rule is Vince Cable who is just generally against cuts and wants greater spending.

The Ministers say rather than cutting their departments the government should cut welfare, Phillip Hammond claims a 0.5% cut in welfare would avert further cuts to the military.  This is a persuasive argument, as I am sure many people would rather see further cuts to welfare than job losses in are armed forces.  However, this is not the problem with the Union of ministers, the problem is that rather than keeping their argument within cabinet they are taking it to the press and openly undermining the government.  It is almost as if they are unaware of their responsibility as cabinet ministers.  They can fight their corner in cabinet and they can fight their corner in private with the Prime Minister or Chancellor.  They cannot however fight it in the press, it undermines the government, and makes the ministers themselves look like spoilt children who have thrown their toys out the pram because they have not got their own way.  I am not personally against their aims, but they are supposed to be cabinet ministers, so they should keep their arguments in cabinet or resign.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Does the UK need the European Court of Human Rights?

Does the UK need the European Court of Human Rights?
Chris Grayling (Justice Secretary) and Theresa May (Home Secretary) have recently announced a Conservative manifesto pledge to leave the European court of human rights, (ECHR) but what would that actually mean for the UK?  The ECHR is nothing to do with the EU it is a court that was established by the European convention of human rights.  If an individual feels that the state is infringing one of their rights given to them in European convention on human rights, they can take the state to the ECHR.

I don’t think anyone would argue against human rights being a good thing however the ECHR is often vilified in the right wing press.  For things such as Abu Hamza not be deported due to the ECHR, the court can make it difficult to deport asylum seekers and this is the court that wants to give prisoners the vote.  However, this does not negate the fact that the ECHR is a great protector of human rights across Europe.  It is also worth noting that in all the cases against the UK government the court has only ruled against the government in 2% of cases, however these cases do usually get reported leaving many angry at the court.

Despite claims from the left, you would not lose all your human rights if we were to leave the ECHR look at countries such as America and Australia their citizens are not being abused by the state.  It is true that the ECHR would no longer protect our rights, but either the human rights Act or if David Cameron gets his way a British bill of rights would protect our rights.  It would be our courts however rather than the ECHR which would make ruling on what is and what is not an infringement of our human rights based on the human rights Act or a bill of rights.  There is an argument that a government could get rid of the Human rights Act or a bill of rights however due to the fact that would be extremely unpopular and due to the fact the UK is proud of its record of standing up for human rights it would be unlikely to happen.  So to conclude although I believe that the ECHR is a fantastic institution and a staunch protector of human rights I do not believe our rights would be at risk if we left due to our own track record on human rights and our own courts independence and commitment to upholding human rights. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

UKIP the UK’s Tea Party

UKIP the UK’s Tea Party

The Eastleigh by –election was a great success for UKIP and a dismal night for the Conservatives, 22% of Eastleigh’s Tory voters in 2010 voted UKIP in the by –election.  However, UKIP are not just stealing Tory votes, 19% of the 2010 Lib Dem vote turned to UKIP this time round, and 17% of Labours 2010 supporters decided UKIP was for them.  A poll showed that 55% of UKIP voters said that immigration was their key issue.  However immigration is not the only reason UKIP’s vote is growing.

UKIP is now a rallying point for voters who a sick of the three main parties who are seen as out of touch, scandals like the Iraq war and expenses have severely damaged the main party’s reputations.  Also inability to deal with mass immigration, housing and crime has helped UKIP’s cause,  UKIP are becoming more than a party of disgruntled former Tories it is becoming the party of those who are disillusioned with the main parties.  UKIP has also tapped into a new group of voter, people in their mid 20’s and 30’s who have never voted before, this group is turning out and are voting UKIP according to Nigel Farage.  If this is true this further supports the claim that UKIP are the party for people who are sick and left out of mainstream politics.

Although UKIP did fantastic in the by-election the general election could be very different to what we have seen in Eastleigh.  There are two main reasons for this, the first is that if UKIP are a protest vote for disillusioned Tories when it comes to 2015 there is a good chance they will vote Conservative again through fear of gifting seats to Labour or the Lib Dems.  This does not mean that the UKIP vote will collapse or that they won’t damage the Conservatives.  As seen in Eastleigh, those who don’t usually vote may vote UKIP and disillusioned floating voters may float towards UKIP and it is these floating voter which the Conservatives will need to win on top of their traditional base if they want a majority in 2015.  The second reason UKIP may not do as well in 2015 is Lynton Crosby, he is the Conservative party’s Karl Rove and is nicknamed as the Wizard of Oz due to his electoral success in Australia.  He will be in charge of the Conservative party’s strategy in 2015, he will digest the Eastleigh result and will be drawing up a plan to take UKIP’s vote.  In other words, he will try to make the Conservatives look more in touch with the electorate in an attempt to steal UKIP votes, if he is successful with this then UKIP’s vote may collapse.  However just like the US Tea party UKIP are showing just how many of the people are angry with the mainstream parties and that means they may be a new power in UK politics.