All entries for Wednesday 06 December 2006

December 06, 2006

That Pre–Budget Report In The Numbers That Matter

PBRTotal Pages = 274

Price: £45

Investment = 347
Environment = 168
Spending = 160
Building = 114
Future = 79
School = 59
Prudent/Prudence = 12
Drugs = 7
Strong Economy = 4
Hospital = 3
Legacy = 2
Immigration = 1

How dare Michael Grade offend the proletariat journalists like John Simpson?

John SimpsonJohn Simpson has criticised Michael Grade’s defection to ITV, saying he saw the BBC as “just another organisation” rather than as a principle or ideal:

We tend to be freer and more creative than other outfits, but that’s not why we endure the low pay and the infuriating bureaucracy and the sometimes ludicrously difficult conditions…

Now hold the phone a second…

that’s not why we endure the low pay…

Er… how much is John Simpson paid and could it possibly be described as “low”?

Does Gordon love Wales?

Welsh politics is in a bit of a crisis at the moment over its budget, and is looking to Gordon Brown to solve it when he announces his Pre-Budget Report.

The Labour leadership in Cardiff say there’s no more money to be spent on education or health, but the opposition parties are refusing to sign off on the budget before they find some.

So they’re looking to Brown for more cash.

But there’s personality politics at play. First Minister Rhodri Morgan is regarded as little better than a Liberal Democrat by Brown and Blair, and know that if they refuse to help him out, they might be able to get rid of him.

Let’s see whether Gordon’s in a helpful mood.

What's in Gordon's box?

Today, Gordon unveils his 10th Pre-Budget Report. As reports go, it isn’t a Hutton or a Stern.

But, as it’s by Gordon Brown, we’re pretty well aware of what’s going to be in it. He just loves to leak his own work before he unveils it properly. It allows him to revel in his own glory before anyone can properly slag him off about any of it.

Well bugger that.

Much of what he says will be full of dazzling ideas, but with little substance behind them. Apparently we’ll have ten-year jail sentences for CD and DVD pirates. Which, considering how many of them they’ve caught so far, isn’t likely to scare anyone.

His promise in 2004 to cut the number of civil servants – following the Gershon review – sounded brilliant. He promised £21bn of ‘efficiencies’, which actually meant a few thousand civil servants being moved to outside agencies, while still being paid by the government. Whole departments were moved, but it turned out only 4 people worked for them.

We’re promised higher fuel duty and airline taxes, but won’t be given any promises as to where that money will go. You can bet it won’t end up making the railways any better.

The fact is that under Brown, the economy has done brilliantly well for nearly ten years. We’re beating most of our genuine competitors (which doesn’t mean China or Eastern Europe) and our schools and hospitals are much better than they were in 1997.

But he’s still wasted a huge number of opportunities. There’s far too many people in poverty. Elderly people are still struggling to pay their bills. And the official inflation figures don’t take into account that for many people, their fuel bills (which have been soaring) make up a disproportionate amount of their living costs. Similarly, there are subsidies available to people wanting to install solar panels on their roof. But they’ve run out.

Brown’s problem is that he looks too carefully at the polls. We care about education and health, but the environment and child poverty don’t get our blood going. And he knows he’ll do best at the next election if he focuses his spending on the things the majority of people are interested in.

The saddest thing is that, for Brown, the elderly won’t be around to vote for much longer, and so don’t warrant much ‘investment’. The same goes for children and the people in Africa dying because global warming has roasted their water supply.

So whatever is in his box, and whatever emotion he pulls out of it, don’t expect much genuine compassion.

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