Friday, 22 October 2010

IFS – independent and impartial experts on the economy, or Labour astroturf? You decide

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!

1 comment:

Tim Trent said...

I hate that these cuts have had to be made.

But I also hate people like an ex tenant of mine, against whom I have a pair of CCJs for £4,500 for back rent and damage to my property, and who is paid for by the state because she is a single mother of seven children by various fathers, who takes holidays in foreign parts and lists her interests in her bebo profile as 'getting drunk and having babies', but declared it impossible to pay me.

I hate the cuts to the armed forces, but all the wars have been recently are fundamentalist christian leaders against islam. I did not trust Poodle Blair and I find Strong Moral Compass Brown not to my taste either. We have no wars to fight. We area small nation with big ideas. We could not defend ourselves against attack, not even from the Isle of Wight were it to declare independence.

I applaud corrections to incapacity benefits, confident that those who need them will get them.

Child benefit should never, not ever, have gone to people like me.

After my mother died she became entitled to Winter Fuel Allowance. Go figure.

I hate the cuts because we ought to be better than that, but we have been bankrupted by the greed of multinational bankers, none of whom have been called to account.

But I also hate the growth of the state under Poodle and Compass men. Those inflated spending areas must be ripped away. I'm desperately sorry for those who work there. I've been out of work many times. It sucks. But they must blame those who created those top heavy departments and must berate them, not the poor guys we elected to get us out if the mess.

Blair and Brown left is in the shit. They were wastrels, both. Blair;s nest s feathered, perhaps Brown chooses a hair shirt to go with his moral compass. Some things like uncancellable contracts they did on purpose to make their successors look stupid. More power to the coalition. And that is not something I ever thought I would say.

Yes, I hate the cuts, but I hate the people who made them necessary, who raped our pension schemes, and who feathered their own nests far more.