In a controversial briefing the IFS has launched an attack on the 'fairness' of the cuts proposed by the coalition government.
Well, not the 'fairness', they say that's in the eye of the beholder, rather they contradict the coalition view that the cuts are 'progressive'.
But according to Nick Clegg, the IFS are guilty of a ‘cavalier misrepresentation’ of the truth, which he explains stems from their continuing adherence to the Gordon Brown’s own analysis of fairness based solely on the tax and benefits system.
He says this is not right and it is frightening people – which appears to be supported by the evidence of commenters in this thread.
Anyway here's the relevant graph from the original Treasury document.
Compare and contrast with the relevant one from the IFS.
The Guardian describes it as a highly unusual step to attack a think-tank in this way, but Clegg argues any calculation of fairness should also include access to public services, and points out that even after the cuts take hold public spending will still be 5% higher as a proportion of GDP than when Labour came to power.
It seems the debate has come a long way from thatcherite ideology if people are now complaining that the growth of the state is not fast enough!
Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph describes the IFS presentation as a traditional post-match hatchet job.
Ah well - everyone's got a newspaper to flog!
If we take 1997 as the baseline and consider the spending review cuts as a rollback of Labour decisions I’d like to know who exactly do people think is still getting that extra 5% of taxpayer (mine and yours) money?
Obviously increased debt levels means higher repayments, in which case Labour has been taking money out of the pockets of working families to hand it over to the bankers.
Taking into account their own £20m overdraft, Labour have an ongoing interest in keeping unscrupulous city loan sharks happy – which means the basis of their opposition to the coalition looks more and more like a massive fraud and that they are the real con-artists.
The public is not stupid – when the next election comes around they will appreciate LibDem pragmatism, even if that includes giving temporary support to the dogma of others up to a point.
It will be interesting to see where that point is.
With a referendum on AV scheduled, and backed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, it strikes me as a short-sighted and counterproductive strategy for Labour to have already put distance between themselves and any prospective coalition partners - perhaps that's why their proxies at the IFS were given the job of getting their hands dirty, so Miliband could be starting their decontamination project by making a show of retreat from favouring them to the extent that Brown did.
If so he's planning on a Lab-Lib coalition.
Which means we can watch to see if any Labour denunciation of the IFS the next step in the orchestration.
Update: Something interesting is definitely going on.
Traditional supporters of a Lab-Lib coalition, The Fabian Society, have hit back at the criticism with a seemingly robust defence of their brethren IFS, suggesting some selectivity in the Treasury presentation - a standard, if strong, oppositional tactic.
Perhaps it is piqued pride at having their preparations thrown out of the window by the coalition, or maybe it's selective emphasis and an inability to take criticism on their behalf.
Still it's a solid point that Robert Chote, the director of the newly created Office of Budget Responsibility (it's still a bizarrely portentous name) and only recently departed from the IFS, hasn't been more prominent in the process.
For one it would defuse some of the more partisan criticism, and for two it would show the OBR is a serious creation which takes its' responsibilities seriously.
I can't imagine Mr Chote isn't busy behind the scenes, although it does make me wonder what he's doing... and then there's the matter of who pushed the particular quote from Nick Clegg at the post-CSR Q&A to Andrew Sparrow for Sunder Katwala to pick over and selectively emphasise (umm, 'take out of context').
But back to the IFS, Faisal Islam's tweet of the laughter which greeted their presentation showing "the most regressive graph in history" is perhaps most informative of all.
Possibly it may have something to do with Robert Chote's prescient departure, but somehow I suspect the IFS' days as the most respected economic think-tank in town are numbered!
Friday, 22 October 2010
IFS – independent and impartial experts on the economy, or Labour astroturf? You decide
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