Thursday, November 26, 2015

Escape ladders for the Osborne labyrinth

George Osborne's Autumn Statement is another twist in his smoke-and-mirrors labyrinth. One month we were going one way and the next 180 degrees back. We are in a Wonderlandesque stupor and seem dulled to the fact that only in May he was scaring us that financial ruin for the UK was imminent unless we kept hold of Nurse Osborne with his essential austerity apparatus. His scare tactics were about Labour's supposed profligacy - this blog May 27 - so it was essential to cut spending budgets and this was enough to turn the election his way, just - with a little help from the Scottish Nationlist surge. Come yesterday's Statement and, Lo! The threatened tax credit cuts are not needed! And the police budget cuts are not needed! And tweaks in the economic modelling show the sun is rising!

Today, respected independent commentator Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies dares himself to say 'Some have even suggested that we have reached the end of austerity.' (FT 26 Nov). As before in this blog I think George Osborne is a master in his long-term power retention ploy through trashing the opposition by inducing fear, largely playing on a single case of jokey foolishness of Liam Byrne - see the May 27 blogpost - as long ago as 2010: 'I'm afraid there is no money'.

If you are lost in a labyrinth you need someone with a ladder who can set it up and from a clear vantage point above the obfuscating high hedges and obscuring smoke clearly point out the direction to more likely success. Frank Field MP may be one such. In a letter to the Times (26 Nov) he said the Chancellor gave him no assurance yesterday that in-work benefit reforms can work with the proposed and much delayed Universal Credit system. Mr Field suggests there should be a Plan B to UC, because it could turn out to be 'nothing more that an expensive fantasy'. An obvious Plan B is Citizen's Income -  payable to all and replacing most benefits; not related to work or absence of work. See Citizens Income Trust . Workable, affordable, effective, simple and quick to introduce.

Unfortunately a politician expected to have a ladder giving a view, has given George Osborne a perfect Liam Byrne moment Mark 2, in plain sight, in the House of Commons. John MacDonnell whilst answering Osborne's Statement gave him Mao's Little Red Book. His backing argument being utterly obliterated as he slid immediately on this self-made banana skin as the Red Book slid across the Commons Table. Too bad that his valid point was that China should not be allowed to buy up important national assets (National Air Traffic Control, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry). But possibly for George Osborne, even all this could be another labyrinthine dead end ploy for the future to divert attention from something else by causing a trumped-up hoo-hah. Then to graciously report:  'I've listened to the concerns. I hear and understand them' and then back off, as he did when he abandoned the tax credit abolition yesterday.  See John MacDonnell's explanation: YouTube

George Osborne did give a hopeful and positive policy in the Autumn Statement for would-be house buyers with the increase in Stamp Duty on the purchase of second homes and buy-to-let properties. This should force down house prices making them more affordable. Duncan Scott of PricedOut  is campaigning for zero house price rises and with an increasing number of people forced to rent through having no chance of buying, this will surely gain increasing voter support. Campaigning for land value tax to achieve this and with Citizen's Income for all, we'd be nearly into open country and leaving the maze.

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