Total Nonsense in the Westminster Bubble

I cannot say that Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC is one of my favourite political journalists because she isn’t, like the predecessors in her role for the BBC, she too has become far too full of herself, too clever by half and not thoughtful enough. If has always amused me that a corporation funded from taxation, feels the need to be as ‘sensational’ as the commercial media when they have actually been given the opportunity to do a high quality job when it comes to the ‘News’.

The problem and echoed by Nicola Sturgeon this week in Edinburgh is that both the politicians and journalists get so bound up in the minutia of their trade that instead of speaking to the public, they are really talking in a closed room to and among themselves. To us outside of this bubble, it most often sounds like childish nonsense and generates no respect for them, no wonder the public baulk at the idea of paying MPs proper wages.

The Latest Example

The latest big thing was Philip Hammond having to reverse his intention to raise NIC for the self employed which has led to all kinds of hysteria: “Does this mean that Theresa May will back down over Brexit negotiations, Is she a prisoner of her own backbench MPs because of her narrow majority ?”

The truth is that because of all the ‘fluttering in the dovecot’ by the media and some Tory MPs with fragile majorities, she probably took the view that it just wasn’t worth expending too much political capital on defending it, far better to reverse the proposal. Obviously we get all the “U Turn” headlines but frankly and as long as it doesn’t get as daft as Donald Trump’s early morning tweets and disconnected thoughts, it would be a good thing if politicians generally were able to reverse their positions when required, the schoolboy “humiliation” thing is ridiculous.

The Real Story

Theresa May is stuck in a difficult position through no fault of her own and has quite rightly discounted doing the obvious thing and calling a snap general election. Between the 2015 General Election, the 2016 EU Referendum, the subsequent preparations for negotiating our departure, the triggering of that 2 year process, before we know it the UK Parliament will be left with only a year before the 2020 General Election, she will sink or swim as a politician on the basis of her success or failure in the EU negotiations. Set against this background, fighting a pointless battle over NICs is just the same as pandering to the SNP over Indyref2, not worth bothering with, she has enough to get on with.

However there is an important lesson for all politicians to learn from this, NEVER, NEVER put “guarantees” in your party manifesto on NOT raising taxes for 5 years if you become the Government. No one in this fast changing economic and political world on the cusp of a whole new industrial revolution can afford to make such a promise and that is really what this story is about, manifesto pledges will need to be broken because circumstances WILL change before our very eyes.

David Cameron and indeed the polls called the 2015 general election very tight indeed, it could have been another coalition, it certainly didn’t look like a Tory majority until the actual night. Also as is now clear, David Cameron did not put a “Leave” victory into his calculations when deciding on setting the date for the EU Referendum. His expectation was the same as Brussels, the Media and the ‘Business Community’ that Remain would win hands down and all would be well with the world, pretty much as the recent Dutch election results are seen by these same people.

There Will be Trouble

It is in both the UK and the EU’s interests to settle a mutually acceptable deal as fast as is humanly possible because at the end of the day it will come down to a ‘cash for trade’ option and all that will remain is for suitable public political obscuration and fudge that will satisfy both sides. But however quickly both sides proceed and for the moment at least, we will assume that both will negotiate in good faith, it will only be after the French and German general elections are done and dusted that any substantial progress will be made.

Even allowing that everybody knows what they are doing, the fastest period of time would be around 12 months and 24 is more likely but all this assumes that nothing else happens to blow these negotiations off course in terms of pressing political or economic problems inside or outside the EU during this time. The point is that the world doesn’t stop turning so the UK Government will need to be vigilant with regard to its economic situation during this period of time because the “markets” are prone to stampede at the slightest whiff of trouble. It cannot be ruled out that during this period as government spending is controlled by either cutting “services” to the population to reduce costs or, raising taxes to keep those services functioning, the need to raise taxes remains a strong probability.

Conclusion

Whatever political party you run or are part of, do make sure that this Cameron/Osborne mistaken promise not to raise taxes, NEVER EVER appears in YOUR party manifesto, no government can see that far ahead. As a kind of footnote from someone who spent most of their life as self employed, it is obvious that the National Insurance Contributions of both the self employed and those of PAYE employees really should become aligned in the very near future. If we are going to have NICs then just like general taxation, for basic fairness alone, the rates should be aligned.

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