Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Battle for Blaydon day 5 - a policy blast from the past

Attention today was focused on Westminster for the Autumn Statement. There wasn't much left for George Osborne to announce, as most of the contents had already been announced by the PM and DPM from the edge of Stonehenge in a kind of pre-winter solstice dash to build roads and give more money to the NHS. Nevertheless, the stamp duty announcement took on the role of the rabbit being extracted from the hat. It was an interesting surprise for most people and a rather pleasant one for me. When I was working as a policy office for the Lib Dems in the last decade, I was the one who wrote the housing policy paper. That was where reforming the stamp duty system on house purchases was first proposed and today's announcement was very similar to what we proposed back then.

It's the second big policy that I wrote that has now been put into operation by Lib Dems in government. The other was the privatisation of Royal Mail. In the case of the latter, the final shape of the policy had some differences to what was carried out but the fundamentals were the same - that the liberalisation of the mail sector by the Labour government in 2006 meant that Royal Mail needed to be in the private sector to compete against the other private providers or face a slow death in the public sector, starved of investment.

What struck me about today's debate in the Commons was the unconvincing uturn performed by Labour. 4 years ago they were attacking the Coalition for trying to go "too far, too fast" in cutting the deficit. When it was clear that the initial plan to eliminate the deficit by the end of this Parliament would result in too much damage to the economy, the Coalition response was to be flexible and put the date back towards the end of the next Parliament. You would have thought therefore that Labour would have been saying well done, this is what they had called for. Instead, we now have the opposite. They are now attacking the Coalition for not cutting the deficit fast enough. It's a remarkable uturn made all the more incredible by Ed Miliband's forgetful conference speech.

Anyway, not all my attention was grabbed by the Autumn Statement. I had more focuses to deliver today, made all the more challenging by a frost that made some drives into ice rinks. I managed to avoid landing on my rear end when sliding down paths but it was a close run thing at times.

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