** Labour Conference Edition ** Sell And Spend, Not Borrow And Spend ** …But We’re Not Deficit Deniers Either! ** Vaz Under Fire ** We Love Them, We Love Them Not ** “Good Old Labour Stitch-Up” ** Naughty Boy ** Not Dead Yet **
SELL AND SPEND, NOT BORROW AND SPEND
Trust the canny Ed Balls to get round one of the biggest conundrums of them all: how do you do what’s right, in economic terms, i.e. spending/stimulus, without doing what’s wrong in political terms. i.e. borrowing/debt? How do you (not)borrow-yet-spend?
In his conference speech today, the shadow chancellor will call on the Treasury to use the expected £3bn windfall from the sale of next-generation 4G mobile phone to “kick-start the economy” by building 100,000 affordable homes and giving a tax break for first-time buyers
The shadow chancellor will be pleased with the Guardian’s splash headline: “‘It’s time to actually do something’ – Balls pledges extra £3bn for housing”
He might not be so pleased with the Mail headline: “Balls: Let’s spend, spend, spend”
According to the Guardian: “Balls is estimating that the sale will raise £3bn and proposes to spend £2.5bn to build 100,000 affordable homes, allocating the remaining £500m for a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £250,000.”
I suspect some Tories, however, might want to remind Balls that, in 2003, he and Gordon “prudence” Brown used the proceeds from the sale of 3G licences to pay down the national debt. Then again, we weren’t in a cuts-inspired double-dip recession back then. And, as Ed Balls tells me in an interview for the HuffPost UK: “[W]e were not a balanced budget party, we were a borrow-to-invest-and balance-the-current budget party.”
…BUT WE’RE NOT DEFICIT DENIERS EITHER!
Balls continues to walk his tightrope: he wants more stimulus, but he isn’t a – gasp! – deficit denier. God forbid!
In his conference speech at noon, he will warn that “hard times will last longer than all of us hoped” and will pledge that a Labour Government would hold a “zero-based spending review” to look at “every pound spent”.
He’s even managed to pull his deputy leader into line: Harriet Harman told the BBC’s Sunday Politics yesterday that she’d been mistaken last week, in an interview with the Spectator, when she said that Labour would not match Tory spending plans at the next election.
VAZ UNDER FIRE
24 hours, as a former Labour leader almost said, is a long time in politics. Yesterday afternoon, Yvette Cooper began her equalities speech by asking Ed MIliband to pay tribute to the first ethnic minority MPs on the 25 anniversary of their election to parliament, including Keith Vaz, the former Labour minister and influential chair of the home affairs select committee.
But this morning, the Telegraph splashes on: “Secret police probe into Labour MP’s £500,000″. The paper claims a Scotland Yard investigation “found that over a six-year period, almost £500,000 was apparently deposited in [Keith Vaz's] accounts — in addition to his salary between 1997 and 2001. The source of the funds has not been declared publicly and the evidence gathered by police may contradict assurances given by Mr Vaz during an investigation into his finances between 2000 and 2001 carried out by parliament.”
Vaz denies all wrongdoing. Lest we forget, however, as home affairs select committee chair, he’s charged with holding the police to account. Gulp.
“I’M PROUD TO BE A GEEK”
That’s the headline the Sun this morning, referring to Ed Miliband’s admission on the Marr programme yesterday that he was proud of his image as a “pointy headed” policy “wonk”.
Meanwhile, as the Telegraph reports:
“Ed Miliband has begun a campaign to rebrand himself and play up to his “geeky” image, after Harriet Harman yesterday conceded that many voters did not know who he was.
The Labour leader stars in a party broadcast to be screened nationally on Wednesday, which features interviews with his former classmates and teachers at the “tough” state comprehensive he attended in north London.”
That’s Haverstock, in case you’re wondering. Not, er, Eton. You get the point.
(If not, the Guardian’s Michael White sums it up: “Ed is not posh and helped other kids with their homework. All together now: ahhh.”)
I’M NOT FRANCOIS MITTERAND. OKAY?
New Tory Party chair Grant Shapps tries to defend his use of the ‘Michael Green’ alter ego. “Tries” being the operative word. Check out the Mitterand (!) reference.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this video of 24‘s Jack Bauer making cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes.
WE LOVE THEM, WE LOVE THEM NOT
From the Independent’s Andy Grice:
“Divisions have opened up inside Labour over how to handle the sensitive issue of the party’s relationship with the Liberal Democrats and whether there could be a Lib-Lab coalition after the next election.”
Grice notes how Ed Miliband reiterated Harman’s description of the Lib Dems as “accomplices” of the Conservatives in his Marr appearance yesterday yet “last night John Denham, Mr Miliband’s parliamentary private secretary, shared a platform with Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, at a Fabian Society meeting at the Labour conference. Mr Denham is launching a new group, Labour4Democracy, to promote pluralism in the Labour movement.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with me for the Huffington Post UK, Ed Balls calls on Vince Cable “to show some leadership” and stage a Lib Dem walk-out from the coalition, adding: “[T]he idea that you would sort of turn away for sectional reasons from doing the right thing in a hung parliament would be absurd.”
“A GOOD OLD LABOUR STITCH-UP”
The FT”s Matthew Engel is worth a read today. He draws attention to the “thin attendance” in the conference hall yesterday, as well as “a good old Labour stitch-up”:
“The conference having begun at 2pm, the first vote was at 2.26, on some characteristically obscure attempt to send back the conference arrangements report to the relevant committee for reconsideration.
‘All those in favour of the report,’ said the chairman, Michael Cashman. A few hands went up. ‘Against?’ Rather more hands, I reckoned. ‘Clearly carried,’ he said.”
Sticking with the Engel column, there’s another good bit where, after noting the one-hour ethics lecture from Harvard academic Michael Sandel (“Some of my press colleagues thought this exercise bizarre”), Matthew writes:
“[T]here was also a tieless man at the back who was slouching, appeared to be chewing gum, talked quite loudly to his neighbour and generally acted like the naughtiest boy in the class. Then he left before the end. This was David Miliband, the man who isn’t leader. On stage his brother Ed, who is, and clearly had dreamt up the Sandel stunt, was staring rapt at the guru.”
(David, of course, was quoted in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday saying baby brother Ed “will crash and burn” – which is a quote from the new, updated, paperback edition of the Ed Miliband biography that James Macintyre and I first published last year. Shameless plug alert: it’s out on sale today!)
NOT DEAD YET
The Progress/Blairite fightback against the unions begins (via PoliticsHome):
“Speaking at the Progress rally at the Labour conference, former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw warned union bosses: “We don’t need to silence anybody.”
Mr Bradshaw was cheered on by Progress supporters as he responded to Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, who told the Sunday Times Ed Miliband needed to “kick the New Labour cuckoos out of our nest” and stop listening to the “Blairite dead”.
…Caroline Flint also picked up on the theme. The shadow energy secretary told the rally: “Apparently I’m a cuckoo so I’m going to start by talking about the dodos tonight. The Liberal Democrats – who did you think I was talking about?”
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
From Michael White’s Guardian diary:
Good day: Ed Balls. In the annual MPs vs Hacks football match, played at Salford FC’s ground, he took a dive to win a penalty and scored two (Andy Burnham slotted home the third) in the MPs’ 3-0 win.
Bad day: Harriet Harman. On Sky TV she twice referred to David Cameron as David Miliband. A Freudian slip?
“There’s a limit to even my generosity.” Ed Balls’ response, when asked by me whether he’d be willing to give up the shadow chancellorship to David Miliband.
HOW DO WE MAKE THE PIPS SQUEAL?
From YouGov’s Anthony Wells:
“…while there is widespread support for more tax on the rich, this doesn’t necessarily translate into support for wealth taxes on the rich, as opposed to income taxes on the rich. When YouGov asked whether people thought it was fairer to tax wealth or income, 69% said income to only 22% who thought it fairer to tax wealth.”
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
“Fewer than one in five Brits thinks Labour chief Ed Miliband is a PM in waiting, an exclusive YouGov poll for The Sun reveals.
An overwhelming 66 per cent say he does not look ready for power — and that includes 40 per cent of Labour voters.”
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@Dorianlynskey Ed Balls always sounds ready for a ruck. “Deficit? I’ll give your face a deficit mate. I’ll put your bloody life into recession” #bbcr4today
@nicholaswatt: Is @edballsmp talking to @EvanHD in the third person? #lab2012
@GPW_Portland FT’s @GeorgeWParker robbed by @edballsmp dive in penalty box of lobby match, TV pix reveal.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: “Ed Miliband’s biggest task will be to… convince the disillusioned that Britain can develop a less short-term, less unequal economy, in which companies can again be admired.”
David Blunkett, writing in the Daily Mail, says: “British politicians have rarely been so ridiculed and despised, and that should worry us all”.
Paul Goodman, writing in the FT, says: “Mr Miliband’s biggest problem, like that of the Tories, is less one of policy than of people. Or rather of one person. Himself.”
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What People Are Saying On Facebook
- … TAKE FEW MINUTES TO READ THIS STORY: (really touching) A Father come home from work late, tired and irritated to find his 5 years son waiting for him at the door…. Son: dad, may I ask you a question? Father: yeah, what is it? … Son: how much do you work for an hour? (father was angry) Father: that is non of your business. Why do you ask such a question? Its 100 dollar per hour. Son: dad, may I borrow you 50 dollar please. (father was furious) Father: i know u want to buy toys. Nkt! (father walks to upstair to have a rest) (the little boy quietly went to his room) … See more
- … During these tough times, many of us are poor. Let's be honest – we are all flat broke. People cannot afford the luxuries they once had. Furthermore, some people have even been forced to work two jobs, ask for government assistance, or borrow money from loved ones. It really stinks to get to that point in life. Every now and then, everyone deserves a little splurge just to forget about being broke. However, there are some folks that just take it too far. Some people always have problems paying their bills. They need to borrow or beg all the time. Yet, these same people make some unwise decisions about their money. Quite frankly, I don't really care how other people spend their money. My frustration … See more
- … Another nice one from Narayana Murthy…. Learning from the West: by…….Narayana Murthy Ladies and gentlemen: It is a pleasure to be here at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management. Lal Bahadur Shastri was a man of strong values and he epitomized simple living. He was a freedom fighter and innovative administrator who contributed to nation building in full measure. It is indeed a matter of pride for me to be chosen for the Lal Bahadur Shastri Award for Public Administration and Management Sciences. I thank the jury for this honor. When I got the invitation to speak here, I decided to speak on an important topic on which I have pondered for years – the role of Western values in contemporary Indian society. Coming from a company that is built on strong values, the topic is close to my heart. Moreover, an organization is representative of society, and some of the lessons that I have learnt are applicable in the national context. In fact, values drive progress and define quality of life in society. The word community joins two Latin words com ("together" or "with") and unus ("one"). A community, then, is both one and many. It is a unified multitude and not a mere group of people. As it is said in the Vedas: Man can live individually, but can survive only collectively. Hence, the challenge is to form a progressive community by balancing the interests of the individual and that of the society. To meet this, we need to develop a value system where people accept modest sacrifices for the common good. What is a value system? It is the protocol for behavior that enhances the trust, confidence and commitment of members of the community. It goes beyond the domain of legality – it is about decent and desirable behavior. Further, it includes putting the community interests ahead of your own. Thus, our collective survival and progress is predicated on sound values. There are two pillars of the cultural value system – loyalty to family and loyalty to community. One should not be in isolation to the other, because, successful societies are those which combine both harmoniously. It is in this context that I will discuss the role of Western values in contemporary Indian society. Some of you here might say that most of what I am going to discuss are actually Indian values in old ages, and not Western values. I live in the present, not in the bygone era. Therefore, I have seen these values practiced primarily in the West and not in India. Hence, the title of the topic. I am happy as long as we practice these values – whether we call it Western or old Indian values. As an Indian, I am proud to be part of a culture, which has deep-rooted family values. We have tremendous loyalty to the family. For instance, parents make enormous sacrifices for their children. They support them until they can stand on their own feet. On the other side, children consider it their duty to take care of aged parents. We believe: Mathru devo bhava – mother is God, and pithru devo bhava – father is God. Further, brothers and sisters sacrifice for each other. In fact, the eldest brother or sister is respected by all the other siblings. As for marriage, it is held to be a sacred union – husband and wife are bonded, most often, for life. In joint families, the entire family works towards the welfare of the family. There is so much love and affection in our family life. This is the essence of Indian values and one of our key strengths. Our families act as a critical support mechanism for us. In fact, the credit to the success of Infosys goes, as much to the founders as to their families, for supporting them through the tough times. Unfortunately, our attitude towards family life is not reflected in our attitude towards community behavior. From littering the streets to corruption to breaking of contractual obligations, we are apathetic to the common good. In the West – the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand – individuals understand that they have to be responsible towards their community. The primary difference between the West and us is that, there, people have a much better societal orientation. They care more for the society than we do. Further, they generally sacrifice more for the society than us. Quality of life is enhanced because of this. This is where we need to learn from the West. I will talk about some of the lessons that we, Indians, can learn from the West. In the West, there is respect for the public good. For instance, parks free of litter, clean streets, public toilets free of graffiti – all these are instances of care for the public good. On the contrary, in India, we keep our houses clean and water our gardens everyday – but, when we go to a park, we do not think twice before littering the place. Corruption, as we see in India, is another example of putting the interest of oneself, and at best that of one's family, above that of the society. Society is relatively corruption free in the West. For instance, it is very difficult to bribe a police officer into avoiding a speeding ticket. This is because of the individual's responsible behavior towards the community as a whole On the contrary, in India, corruption, tax evasion, cheating and bribery have eaten into our vitals. For instance, contractors bribe officials, and construct low-quality roads and bridges. The result is that society loses in the form of substandard defence equipment and infrastructure, and low-quality recruitment, just to name a few impediments. Unfortunately, this behavior is condoned by almost everyone. Apathy in solving community matters has held us back from making progress, which is otherwise within our reach. We see serious problems around us but do not try to solve them. We behave as if the problems do not exist or is somebody else's. On the other hand, in the West, people solve societal problems proactively. There are several examples of our apathetic attitude. For instance, all of us are aware of the problem of drought in India. More than 40 years ago, Dr. K. L. Rao – an irrigation expert, suggested creation of a water grid connecting all the rivers in North and South India, to solve this problem. Unfortunately, nothing has been done about this. The story of power shortage in Bangalore is another instance. In 1983, it was decided to build a thermal power plant to meet Bangalore's power requirements. Unfortunately, we have still not started it. Further, the Milan subway in Bombay is in a deplorable state for the last 40 years, and no action has been taken. To quote another example, considering the constant travel required in the software industry; five years ago, I had suggested a 240-page passport. This would eliminate frequent visits to the passport office. In fact, we are ready to pay for it. However, I am yet to hear from the Ministry of External Affairs on this. We, Indians, would do well to remember Thomas Hunter's words: Idleness travels very slowly, and poverty soon overtakes it. What could be the reason for all this? We were ruled by foreigners for over thousand years. Thus, we have always believed that public issues belonged to some foreign ruler and that we have no role in solving them. Moreover, we have lost the will to proactively solve our own problems. Thus, we have got used to just executing someone else's orders. Borrowing Aristotle's words: We are what we repeatedly do. Thus, having done this over the years, the decision-makers in our society are not trained for solving problems. Our decision-makers look to somebody else to take decisions. Unfortunately, there is nobody to look up to, and this is the tragedy. Our intellectual arrogance has also not helped our society. I have traveled extensively, and in my experience, have not come across another society where people are as contemptuous of better societies as we are, with as little progress as we have achieved. Remember that arrogance breeds hypocrisy. No other society gloats so much about the past as we do, with as little current accomplishment. Friends, this is not a new phenomenon, but at least a thousand years old. For instance, Al Barouni, the famous Arabic logician and traveler of the 10th century, who spent about 30 years in India from 997 AD to around 1027 AD, referred to this trait of Indians. According to him, during his visit, most Indian pundits considered it below their dignity even to hold arguments with him. In fact, on a few occasions when a pundit was willing to listen to hm, and found his arguments to be very sound, he invariably asked Barouni: which Indian pundit taught these smart things! The most important attribute of a progressive society is respect for others who have accomplished more than they themselves have, and learn from them. Contrary to this, our leaders make us believe that other societies do not know anything! At the same time, everyday, in the newspapers, you will find numerous claims from our leaders that ours is the greatest nation. These people would do well to remember Thomas Carlyle's words: The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none. If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than them. Infosys is a good example of such an attitude. We continue to rationalize our failures. No other society has mastered this part as well as we have. Obviously, this is an excuse to justify our incompetence, corruption, and apathy. This attitude has to change. As Sir Josiah Stamp has said: It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities. Another interesting attribute, which we Indians can learn from the West, is their accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are held accountable for what you do. However, in India, the more 'important' you are, the less answerable you are. For instance, a senior politician once declared that he 'forgot' to file his tax returns for 10 consecutive years – and he got away with it. To quote another instance, there are over 100 loss making public sector units (central) in India. Nevertheless, I have not seen action taken for bad performance against top managers in these organizations. Dignity of labor is an integral part of the Western value system. In the West, each person is proud about his or her labor that raises honest sweat. On the other hand, in India, we tend to overlook the significance of those who are not in professional jobs. We have a mind set that reveres only supposedly intellectual work. For instance, I have seen many engineers, fresh from college, who only want to do cutting-edge work and not work that is of relevance to business and the country. However, be it an organization or society, there are different people performing different roles. For success, all these people are required to discharge their duties. This includes everyone from the CEO to the person who serves tea – every role is important. Hence, we need a mind set that reveres everyone who puts in honest work. Indians become intimate even without being friendly. They ask favors of strangers without any hesitation. For instance, the other day, while I was traveling from Bangalore to Mantralaya, I met a fellow traveler on the train. Hardly 5 minutes into the conversation, he requested me to speak to his MD about removing him from the bottom 10% list in his company, earmarked for disciplinary action. I was reminded of what Rudyard Kipling once said: A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly. Yet another lesson to be learnt from the West, is about their professionalism in dealings. The common good being more important than personal equations, people do not let personal relations interfere with their professional dealings. For instance, they don't hesitate to chastise a colleague, even if he is a personal friend, for incompetent work. In India, I have seen that we tend to view even work interactions from a personal perspective. Further, we are the most 'thin-skinned' society in the world – we see insults where none is meant. This may be because we were not free for most of the last thousand years. Further, we seem to extend this lack of professionalism to our sense of punctuality. We do not seem to respect the other person's time. The Indian Standard Time somehow seems to be always running late. Moreover, deadlines are typically not met. How many public projects are completed on time? The disheartening aspect is that we have accepted this as the norm rather than the exception. In the West, they show professionalism by embracing meritocracy. Meritocracy by definition means that we cannot let personal prejudices affect our evaluation of an individual's performance. As we increasingly start to benchmark ourselves with global standards, we have to embrace meritocracy. In the West, right from a very young age, parents teach their children to be independent in thinking. Thus, they grow up to be strong, confident individuals. In India, we still suffer from feudal thinking. I have seen people, who are otherwise bright, refusing to show independence and preferring to be told what to do by their boss. We need to overcome this attitude if we have to succeed globally. The Western value system teaches respect to contractual obligation. In the West, contractual obligations are seldom dishonored. This is important – enforceability of legal rights and contracts is the most important factor in the enhancement of credibility of our people and nation. In India, we consider our marriage vows as sacred. We are willing to sacrifice in order to respect our marriage vows. However, we do not extend this to the public domain. For instance, India had an unfavorable contract with Enron. Instead of punishing the people responsible for negotiating this, we reneged on the contract – this was much before we came to know about the illegal activities at Enron. To quote another instance, I had given recommendations to several students for the national scholarship for higher studies in US universities. Most of them did not return to India even though contractually they were obliged to spend five years after their degree in India. In fact, according to a professor at a reputed US university, the maximum default rate for student loans is among Indians – all of these students pass out in flying colors and land lucrative jobs, yet they refuse to pay back their loans. Thus, their action has made it difficult for the students after them, from India, to obtain loans. We have to change this attitude. Further, we Indians do not display intellectual honesty. … See more
- … TAKE FEW MINUTES TO READ THIS STORY: (really touching) A Father come home from work late, tired and irritated to find his 5 years son waiting for him at the door…. Son: dad, may I ask you a question? Father: yeah, what is it? Son: how much do you work for an hour? (father was angry) Father: that is non of your business. Why do you ask such a question? Its 100 dollar per hour. Son: dad, may I borrow you 50 dollar please. (father was furious) Father: i know u want to buy toys. Nkt! (father walks to upstair to have a rest) (the little boy quietly went to his room) father … See more
- Haha awesome day, I feel full of energy since it's nearing October and my bank balance is doing better. So I went out, bought all the food I wanted (but wouldn't usually buy) and some other stuff. Of course the flipside to this is that my housemate then asked to borrow £200 haha. Well I can hardly spend lots on myself and refuse her like :S
Tags: David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Labour
The Category: Debt Management News