Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comprehensive Spending Review: Nick Clegg comes out fighting

The Guardian is reporting an exclusive interview with Nick Clegg on the front page of tomorrow's paper.

It says that he has attacked the Institute for Fiscal Studies' methods of measuring the fairness of the CSR and quotes him as saying:
"We are going to spend 5% more of national income on the state at the end of this process that Tony Blair and Gordon [Brown] were in 1997. We are going to employ 200,000 more people in the public sector at the end of this process. I think it is a cavalier misrepresentation to claim somehow it is a scorched earth policy."
This latter point is an important one and a measure of how public spending ran out of control in the last few years of Labour government.

I am not an expert on the methodology the IFS uses, but I am rather pleased to see someone having a go at it. Because the IFS is treated with such reverence these days - replying to George Osborne on yesterday, Alan Johnson seemed to think that citing it settled any argument - that it is becoming unhealthy for democracy.

Whether or not a policy is fair is a moral judgement, not just a technical, economic one. Though the real problem here is the concept of fairness. It has been embraced by all the parties precisely because of its vagueness. Talking about equality and how desirable it really is would risk frightening the horses.

12 comments:

Braveheart said...

Isn't Nick sounding just a wee bit desparate these days....

Anonymous said...

Blaming Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for the level of spending in 1997 is extremely desperate! They had only just taken over after 18 years of Tories! So Nick is effectively saying that a four years of the coalition is going to be not quite as bad as 18 years of Thatcher and Major! Not exactly comforting is it?
Will we be seeing you at region conference in Ashfield next week?

Anonymous said...

What the IFS does is to look at the lowest decile - of which 40% comprises students & other non-waged persons who are not claiming benefits, eg those with large savings.

The second decile is the indicative one.

And of course the incoming Torture & Rendition Party made a big thing of sticking to (evil) Tory spending plans in 1997. How conveniently the T&R Party apologists forget this, & the fact that the first welfare cut they made was to cut £5 a week from lone parent benefit.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous 1 (Why are these people always anonymous?):

Of course Nick is not blaming Blair and Brown for the level of public spending in 1997. His point is that public spending is going back to where it was a few years ago.

And since when has the size of the public sector been the only indicator of how good a society is?

Anonymous said...

Clegg is coming across as quite a vile, venal character these days. One of those who will say whatever it takes at the moment to keep him where he is.

What he has agreed to is wicked, immoral and ought to shame even a Tory. I voted for Norman Lamb (in his words "to keep the tories out") and now look where we are. I remember 1979 to 1990 and how unpleasant our country was and people like you are trying to drag us back there. You should be thoroughly ashamed but I bet you sleep like a fucking baby.

Anonymous said...

oh, and if you're having to debate what 'fairness' means then you should already realise that you know you haven't got a leg to stand on.

Can you understand how obsequious you sound saying things like "well, it depends on what you call 'fair' really..."

eeeuurgghh!!

Jonathan said...

Anonymity, swearing and putting words in quotation marks that I never wrote.

It's a trolling full house!

Anonymous said...

I disagree passionately with you and that doesn't make me a troll.

How do you justify agreeing to so many things you wouldn't have touched with a bargepole a few months ago? You change your opinion as it suits, hence you're opportunistic, unprincipled and a charlatan. I would be ashamed to my core to behave like you are doing.

The general point about your weaseling around 'fairness' stands. The fact that you are wittering about what 'fairness' actually means demonstrates quite clearly that you know it is obviously unfair by any standard definition.

Jonathan said...

If you were a regular reader of this blog you would know that I have long questioned whether "fairness" is a robust enough concept to build a political party around.

I wrote this about Nick Clegg's Conference speech last September:

"Judging by this speech, what the Liberal Democrats stand for today is fairness. But there are problems with making this the centre of our appeal.

"'Fairness' is a playground word which all political parties now use because a) talking about equality frightens the horses and b) it goes down well in focus groups. But that means that it hard to stand out when using this word.

"Besides it may well turn out that "fair" means very different things to people. Is it fair that people should be poor? No. Is it fair that people should be able to use their talents to earn high salaries? Yes. The hard thing is to reconcile such disparate views."

dreamingspire said...

Indeed Blair/Brown had only just taken over from a Tory govt that had dramatically improved the financial position of the country. I remember that same Guardian pointing out that the Tories had given Lab a great start, and indeed it worked well for 3 years (as I have noted before), but we now know that Lab were squandering their inheritance.

Anonymous said...

"Besides it may well turn out that "fair" means very different things to people. Is it fair that people should be poor? No. Is it fair that people should be able to use their talents to earn high salaries? Yes. The hard thing is to reconcile such disparate views."

er, as I said. Unprincipled and slippery. I'm not remotely religious but it gets the point across if you imagine Jesus talking about 'fairness' in the way you are:

Peter: Is it fair that we are taking from the poor while the rich still have way more than they need, Jesus?

Jesus: Well, Peter, it depends on what you call fairness

Peter: I know what fairness is Jesus, we all do, and that's unfair

Jesus: Peter, let's have a chat...

Jonathan said...

God: In my experience, anonymous comments are worthless.