Tuesday 25 April 2017

Following on

Following on from CU's post below.

 Image result for sir humphrey yes prime minister education

How policy is made.

Sir Humphrey and Prime Minister May are working in her office. Mrs May stops reading her papers for a moment and asks her Cabinet Secretary.

"Sir Humphrey?"

"Hmmm....Yes, Prime Minister." 

"Sir Humphrey. You know that traditionally lefties have really, really bad ideas."

"Yes, Prime Minister." 

"I mean, really, really terrible ones. Prices and incomes controls. Abolishing private education. Selling off the nations gold reserves to the lowest bidder..."

"Yes, Prime Minister." 

"..98% taxation. Offshore wind farms. Ordering two huge aircraft carriers without crews or aircraft to put on them."

"Yes, Prime Minister." 

"Sure start centres. Paying children to go to school. The fuel tax escalator. Home Improvement Packs. Green energy taxes. The Lisbon Treaty."

"Agreed, Prime Minister."

"Signing up to unlimited Eastern European immigration many years before any other European country. The Iraq war. No Win No Fee legal applications. The £12 billion spent on NHS computer system no one used. The assets recovery agency. C4 Wales. Fire Control centres."

"Yes, Prime Minister"

" Child Support act. Tripartite financial regulation Abolition of the 10p tax rate."

""Yes, Prime Minister." 

"£10,000 corporation tax threshold. Taxing pensions.  Making the tax code twice as large as it was in 1997. .."

"I get the idea Prime Minister. A catastrophe of financial blunders and ill thought out political gimmicks."

"Exactly! Well..I was thinking, you know how these ideas are failures."

"Indeed, Prime Minister." 

"And not only don't work, but are ruinously expensive too."

"Very true, Prime Minister." 

"And these ideas quite often have the opposite effect to what was intended."

 "Yes, Prime Minister." 

"And quite often damage the people they were meant to help. And cause misery for many and take many, many years to overturn. Or take further legislation to negate the worst effects of the original daft policy. And quite often any proposed savings end up costing five, ten or twenty times any actual savings made. Tax credits for instance!"

"Tax Credits. Quite so, Prime Minister."

"Well. I was thinking. .. maybe...maybe.."

"Yes, Prime Minister?"

"..Maybe, with my once in a generation, landslide majority..maybe.."

"Yes, Prime Minister?"

"Maybe.. I should adopt a load of polices like those?"

"Yes, Prime Minister."


Dick the Prick said...

How disturbingly prescient. I read Damien McBride's book of the Brown years and his analysis of Osborne's pasty tax was enlightening as he said that was on pg4 of Treasury proposals which they always discounted.

Either it's a) a lack of brains, b) a lack of medium to long term effort or c) gimmicks in the absence of a & b.

Cheers Bill - quality list!

Blue Eyes said...

Tax credits were originally a free-market right-wing idea called "negative income tax".

Offshore windfarms make sense, especially if your core vote is suburban and rural NIMBYs - so not Labour voters then.

The pasty tax was a sensible simplification - it was politically stupid but not economically illiterate.

Opening the labour market to the accession countries was widely supported at the time, especially from the free-market right. The countries which didn't open up were regarded as economically protectionist and self-disinterested. Newcomes helped fill labour shortages at a time when the economy is booming.

If you are anti everything at all times you may be anti something good sometimes. And you are destined to be permanently cross with everything.

Blue Eyes said...

The Labour government was also looking at long-term projects like road-pricing (a policy which would replace socialist queueing with free-market paying) and council-tax reform.

If you assume that everything proposed between 1997 and 2010 was idiotic socialist guff then is it any wonder that when some of it continues you think that the hard left are still in power?

Anonymous said...

"The countries which didn't open up were regarded as economically protectionist and self-disinterested."

That'll be the entire EU except for the UK and Ireland, then.

I sometimes wonder if BE thinks of Britain as "an economy" that just happens to coincide with a state boundary.

Back on politics, are some in Corbyn's campaign working against him? Announcing that a Labour administration would unilaterally guarantee that EU workers can stay (with max BBC amplification this am - main news on Today) isn't exactly the stuff to shore up the vote of the guy in Stoke on a zero hours contract, while it might stop some Labour remainers peeling off to the Lib Dems (I imagine the results of Teresa May's negotiations will be something very similar, but she's not going to tell us in advance).

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Offshore wind farms make sense, do they? No need for subsidy then.

Electro-Kevin said...

+1 BQ

Anon 8.54 - I don't think many Brexiters want to see existing EU workers treated unfairly. So long as they are employed or if they have paid a decent amount of tax (and served a number of years and are settled) they should be eligible for citizenship.

No new ones without a points approach though.

That you are even considering the subject assumes that EU workers are:

- going to want to stay, because we are not racist

- going to want to stay because Brexit Britain is going to be successful enough for them to want to stay

We are not to be confused with Le Pen/Wilders voters.

Remainers always call British pig ignorant racists and this is mainly because we are not multilingual. But look at the facts. The EU was construction because of an inherent problem with Continental extremism. NOT a British trait.

Offered the Dad's Army UKIP (not the Continental BNP) we go for Tories.

Electro-Kevin said...


PS, I voted UKIP. I did not want Farage - I wanted to send the Tories a rocket.

Bill Quango MP said...

Calm yourself BE. it Was Nick's Hacker reference that prompted some thinking about May in office.

All governments are the same. It's how they are structured. Parliament rubber stamps the idiocies of a policy because its tribal voting not real scrutiny.

So the ERM fiasco wiped out the Tories economic credibility ( even though it was a hood thing).
That was all they had left after the poll tax disaster had wiped out all the gains made through selling off council houses that had wiped labour away.

Add to that rail privatisation. Continuation of the budget breaking PFI, dangerous dogs act. The mortgage relief abolition. The cast iron guarantee, and the cones hotline for a more balanced representation of equal failures.

Though that wasn't the point of the piece.

Anonymous said...

"Offshore wind farms make sense, do they? No need for subsidy then."

They make no sense if you want a reliable supply of electricity for London, and they will kill huge numbers of sea birds.

Don Cox

Electro-Kevin said...

Eggs, BQ... eggs. Don't forget the eggs or who got laid and by whom.

Electro-Kevin said...

Also burgers at the farm gate... and crumpet being rolled over by fatties in football tops.

It's food wot done the Tories.

AndrewZ said...

I think that the Conservative strategy is to occupy as much space as possible around the political centre (wherever they currently think that is) in order to deny it to their rivals. Therefore they adopt a grab bag of centre-left policies that will appeal to potential Labour or LibDem voters and centre-right policies that will appeal to potential Conservative or UKIP voters. The goal is to make it impossible for any of the opposition parties to clearly differentiate themselves from the government without adopting radical policies that will be unattractive to the median voter. Of course, this means that the Conservative position will be ideologically incoherent, if not full of outright contradictions, and will include policies that they know to be harmful or unworkable. But as long as this strategy wins elections they will continue to use it.

CityUnslicker said...

andrewZ- spot on. Exactly what Blair did too quite successfully until the Labour overspending side caught them out when 2008 hit.

rwendland said...

BE, you're right about Tax Credits. It always amuses me that the first tax credit Green Paper was written by (wait for it) Keith Joseph and Anthony Barber:

Proposals for a tax credit system - Cmnd 5116, 1972

They wanted to replace the stop-gap Family Income Supplement (FIS), which had a withdrawal rate in some circumstances of £1.20 for every extra £1 earned - a real earnings trap which Tax Credits eventually fixed (though it still had a small 95% corner case - but mostly a 70% marginal withdrawal rate). But Heath didn't go for it and FIS stayed in place for umpteen years.

Unfortunately I cannot find that green paper online anymore - a near final draft used to be online at the National Archives at one time.

AndrewZ said...


That's a good historical "What If?". How differently might the welfare system in Britain have evolved if a Conservative version of Tax Credits had been introduced in the 1970s? Would it have worked? Could it have survived the toxic politics of the era?

There seem to be a few copies available to buy on Amazon if that's of use to anybody:

Thud said...

Andrew, sounds like a real page turner, I'll dump my Jack Reacher and get right on it.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Conservative strategy is to occupy as much space as possible around the political centre (wherever they currently think that is) in order to deny it to their rivals

This all things to all men strategy is a classic LibDem one. Look how that worked out.

Going back to the Hacker analogy. It's spot on. Nothing to do with the country or even the party interests. Just Saint T wanting the free accommodation at No 10 for a bit longer.

And if anyone thinks she has a strong hand in Brexit or even a hand at all - they're for a rude awakening. The negotiation will be along the lines of how humiliated do you want to be.

It's all ego and vanity.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to negotiate. Why should we continue paying 1% of GDP annually to 'enjoy' a trade deficit? We are leaving & we shouldn't pay another penny. We offer continued tariff-free access & customs co-operation on a reciprocal basis, that's it. If they don't want that we can call in our share of IMF loans to the Eurozone for starters. Other measures (such as access to our spook product) could be thrown in if they want to play silly buggers.

Other suppliers will happily replace European ones. Trade does abhor a vacuum.

rwendland said...

BE, AndrewZ, Thud,

Found the online 1972 tax credit draft green paper, together with a covering memo to cabinet. Looked at a few pages, and as these things go it seems quite readable, if not a page turner! It's more an outline description than full detail.


One notable feature is it also applied to pensioners. I guess to replace whatever Pension Credit was back then. There was an additional credit for children like Brown's version. The paper says Tax Credits would apply to 90% of the adult population - a lot more than Brown's version.

Did spot a problem in the first few pages. It seems to involve posting a chit to the employee who gives it to the employer to get payment through wages/salary. This seems an obvious fraud channel in this more cynical age, as well as being unreliable.

Brown's Tax Credits v1 also worked through the employer (though chits were posted to employer no employee!), but this was dropped in Tax Credits v2 (2003) for several reasons. Employers hated the admin, which was a nightmare of STOP and START notices. It did not work very reliably. Employees did not like the boss knowing their financial situation, and some employers apparently used this info in pay reviews.