THE IMF’S VERDICT ON RETAIL POLITICS.
The more the opinion polls stay stuck, the greater the frenzy of politicians to try and get them moving in their favour by a series of uncosted promises.
All parties are guilty of it to some extent but the Conservatives are particularly guilty. This was encapsulated by the here today and hopefully gone tomorrow Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. He announced the other day that workers would be given three paid days off to do community work. When he was asked how organisations like the NHS were going to pay the huge cost of employing people to cover for absent colleagues, he had no answer. He was reduced to saying “they’ll find a way.” When pressed by the exasperated interviewer, Pickles tried humour saying his answers were getting in the way of the BBC’s questions. Very droll Eric but not good enough.
The questions about where the cuts are going to be made will continue to be asked but the truth is no politician is going to risk pinpointing the specific groups who are going to face cuts until after the election. You can see why but it all adds to the rampant distrust that voters have for those standing for election.
Thank heavens for Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. As the promises flow from the manifestos, he points out how many are uncosted. He also bemoans the short sightedness of this frenzy of retail politics. For instance in the housing field what we need are comprehensive plans to build more homes not the gimmick of selling off housing association properties.
Thank heavens also for the International Monetary Fund which has forecast that at the end of the next parliament, far from having a £7bn surplus, we are likely still to have a deficit. With all these spending promises and the likelihood of a Tory minority government being unable to force through big cuts, the IMF forecast has the ring of truth.
BE FAIR TO LEEDS!
There will be little reporting by the media of the manifesto promises on devolution for the north.
The Conservatives confirm their support for the Northern Powerhouse, HS2 and 3, and science research. The Liberal Democrats would pass a Devolution Enabling Act to allow for the possibility of a Yorkshire Assembly.
Unlike the Tories, Labour are not demanding elected mayors in return for devolution. Hilary Benn, the shadow Communities Secretary says it is unfair for Leeds to have been given less powers than Manchester because it would not bend the knee to the concept of an elected mayor. Labour is also offering devolution to county regions. It is time Lancashire and Yorkshire’s needs were recognised alongside the cities.
CONSTITUENCY FOCUS: HAZEL GROVE.
Can the Liberal Democrats hold on to one of their safer seats in the North when the incumbent MP has retired? Andrew Stunell was the member for nearly twenty years and it could be difficult for Lisa Smart to retain the constituency even though she has been bequeathed a six thousand majority. Ms Smart was chief executive of an international development charity in London. If she does hold on she will help to redress the male domination of the parliamentary Lib Dem party.
Hoping to win the seat for the Tories is teacher and local resident William Wragg. His top issue is reform of the business rate. Hoping not to be squeezed out by the Lib Dem/Tory fight is Labour’s Michael Taylor, a familiar figure to Downtown in Business members, he wants a workforce that can make Britain competitive.
Votes lost by the Conservatives to UKIP could be crucial here. UKIP’s candidate is financial advisor Darren Palmer.