The bad economics of ‘top Labour figure’ would keep Tories in power

The Guardian reported comments made by current Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie today in an article headlined “Corbyn’s economic strategy would keep Tories in power, top Labour figure says”. To me it says much more about the Labour right than anything Corbyn has come up with. It’s the mode of thinking Leslie expresses that will really keep the Tories in power. If Corbyn does win, he needs to make a clean break from the sloppy thinking set out in the Guardian’s article.

The current view on the economy in the Labour Party is identical to to that expressed by the Conservatives (but completely at odds with what most sensible economists would advocate). That is to say they think is the government’s deficit gets too high, and the total stock of debt gets too high, ‘the markets’ will start to doubt the government will be able to repay their debts and interest rates will rise, which will mean the government actually can’t repay its debts and may have to default, leading to economic ‘chaos’. To mitigate this risk, the government needs to cut spending/raise taxes to try and reduce its deficit in order to get the public finances back on a sustainable track.

It’s not clear at all to me that the Conservatives actually believe this argument, but that’s the one they have been endlessly repeating and which Labour apparently agree with. The trouble is though, if you accept this argument as true, Labour’s calls for ‘fairer cuts’ looks incredibly weak and makes it easy to attack. I don’t see how Labour can win with this argument, but the media and the Westminster establishment seem to think it’s an absolute must. I got an email from the Liz Kendall team today giving me a long list of nice sounding ideas (with no detail) about her ‘vision’ for the country, but while maintaining this wrong model of how the economy works, she and others in the Labour Party can argue for nothing more than that they will be better managers that the Conservatives. If you buy the argument on deficits and nobody is disputing that version of reality, surely you would just vote Tory?

The current view however, is nonsense. The economy just doesn’t work like that. The government always has as much money as it needs. High deficits don’t lead to higher rates, and there is no chance the UK would ever default on its debts. What we need is someone who gets this and doesn’t let bad economics prevent them for arguing for what needs to be done. Can Corbyn be that person?

Getting your priorities right

After his somewhat surprising victory last week, David Cameron gave a speech outlining his intention to bring the country together. About his last government he said:

The government I led did important work. It laid the foundations for a better future and now we must build on them. I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country: we can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing.

So foundations laid, a majority won, time to hit the ground running with policies that will help achieve that ‘good life’ for all right? It was a nice speech, but the priorities of his new government seem rather different. Far from building on these foundations, the immediate priorities of the Conservative Party seem to be rather different. Here’s the policies that seem to be top of their list:

Bash the BBC

Further undermine free speech under the guise of tackling extremism

Hobbling the Freedom of Information Act

All but ending the right to strike

Scrapping the Human Rights Act

I not quite sure how these things go together with ensuring the good life for all (at least all who are “willing to work hard and do the right thing”, but I’m sure the ‘one nation’, ‘good life’ will be announced soon!

A few thoughts on the Tories’ GE victory

The reaction to the result of Thursday’s election on the left has been one of confused outrage. How could so many people back the evil Tories after five years of austerity? Protests were organised on Facebook, and all day on my Twitter timeline, people have been Tweeting about how the Tories have no mandate because 75% of adults did not vote for them.

Well you know what? 80% plus people did not vote for the Labour Party either. I am someone who has never voted Tory and can’t imagine any circumstances under which I would, but I just couldn’t stomach voting for Labour this time either. They just didn’t deserve to win. I suspect a lot of people felt the same way as me. Turnout barely hit the mid 60s%.

We have a first past the post electoral system in the UK. It’s not a fair system, but the result under this system was fair. More people voted Tory than voted for any other party and they have won enough seats to command a majority in the House of Commons. People who voted Tory aren’t bad people, they just think differently to you.

Moving on to Labour, the early signs are not great. None of the MPs who currently say they are considering leadership bids particularly inspire confidence that they can transform the fortunes of their party. The front runner seems to be Chuka Umunna, a man who seems to be held in high regard by those inside Westminster, but who I’ve always thought has nothing interesting to say about anything. His strategy seems to be to do what Labour’s opponents have always demanded. An apology for ‘overspending’.

The Conservative’s majority is small. They will struggle to get anything controversial through, and anything the leadership wants, they will have to trade with the right wing nutters on their backbenches to pass it. That does not make for harmonious government. The Fixed Term Parliament Act means they will probably limp on for the full five years though.

Hopefully, the childish hissy fits that have followed the election result will soon make way for some more constructive opposition to whatever bright ideas the Conservative front bench come up with over the next few months. A lot of the pressure is going to have to come from outside Parliament as it did with things like on the sell-off of forests early in the last Parliament. Petulant protests against the legitimacy of a democratically elected government probably ain’t going to do it though.

Tories end all pretence that the deficit is the biggest issue

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic, but the week after Ed Balls gave a speech declaring his love for fiscal rules and balanced budgets, David Cameron gives a speech in which he abandons all pretence that the number one priority is reducing the deficit. Of course Cameron wouldn’t admit that that was what he has done, but in offering a large tax cut to the top 10-15% of earners, (and a small one to the top 80%), it sends a clear message that all the rhetoric about getting the deficit down is just that – rhetoric.

That’s not to say that Cameron’s tax announcements today are a bad thing. Frankly, more tax cuts are to be welcomed, although if it was me, I would seek a better distribution than the one that would result from these cuts announced today:

So tax cuts, OK fine, although more progressive would be better. What I find hard to take is the double standards displayed by Cameron. The deficit is a huge issue when spending cuts are on the table, the grandkids start getting a mention and it’s a huge moral issue, but when a tax cut is being announced, you just get some hand-waving about the ‘structural’ deficit, which as Chris Dillow explains, is pretty much unmeasurable so can be whatever you want it to be. It would be great if politicians on both side of the aisle could just cut the crap and stop pretending it’s all about the deficit. Then we can have a grown up discussion about the level of taxation and public spending each side thinks is appropriate for the type of society they want to see evolve.

Decisions on tax and spend should be judged, not in terms of some arbitrary numbers, but rather in terms of what public purpose the government wants to achieve. Cameron implicitly acknowledged that today, by playing to his voter’s desire for lower taxes and a smaller state. Once you clear away the fog of the talk about debt and deficits, that’s what it really comes down to, and that’s what Labour should be arguing too. How much should we tax? Who should the burden fall on? And how much of a role should the state play in the economy?

Strike Day Bradford

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I am on strike today. I actually voted no to strike action, but feel I needed to respect the collective decision of my union’s members. I lot of my colleagues however do not feel the same way and are not participating in the strike. The picture above is from the rally held in Bradford City Park this morning. These rallies are usually held outside the steps of City Hall, but there is an urban festival there this weekend so we were shunted over to one side. This was probably a good thing as there were only a couple of hundred people there (mostly union stewards) even though seven unions were on strike. Meanwhile, the Conservatives make hay with their announcement of plans to bring in yet more anti-union laws.

Good private sector companies understand the need for unions, knowing that proper consultation with workers can lead to improvements in efficiency and productivity. The Government’s attitude to unions however seems rooted in the 19th Century, and they are being goaded on by their right-wing allies in the media. This kind of anti-union zeal is already seen in many red states in the US, and leads to worrying events like this, where an employer welcomes the setting up of a union, but the employees are scared into voting no by unprecedented pressure from Republican politicians and their allies.

I’m deeply unhappy with the way the Government have treated public sector workers over the past 4 years. The grievances are real and I’m in favour of taking collective action to try and achieve change. Nevertherless I voted no to strike action because I don’t think there is any prospect of victory under this Government. One day strikes aren’t going to achieve anything, and support for unions is falling. Even among union members, a large number do not participate when a strike is called. There is no stomach to go on strike for an extended period because in general, public sector workers care too much about the job they do to walk out for the length of time it would take to budge the government. All we are doing now is pissing people off, losing pay and giving the Government the excuse it needs to bash us some more.

To today’s rally in where  I am in Bradford then, and there were a number of speeches.

  • Imran Hussain, the Labour Councillor who was defeated by George Galloway in the Bradford West By-election gave a very loud speech in which he supported the strikes, but made it clear that while Labour would like to help, they really couldn’t afford it right now.
  • A GMB rep made a good case for why action was necessary, but pretended there were 1.5 million out on strike today.
  • A PCS rep said some rude things about the Coalition and said sorting out tax avoidance could obviate the need for cuts. This pissed me off because the tax avoidance thing is a total red herring. There is no link between cuts and tax avoidance. Tackling avoidance is about fairness, not funding.
  • The best speech was from a teacher talking about what it meant to her to be a teacher and why she felt she had no option but to go on strike. To me, this type of message is most likely to resonate with the public. We need to hear more of this.

So what am I arguing for then? I would do two things. The first would be to constantly remind people just what public sector workers do. I would find former students who’d been turned around by a teacher who were willing to say how much they valued their help, and do the same with NHS patients and users of local government services. I’d also shut up about tax avoidance, and start talking about the scandal of pay and conditions in some parts of the private sector.

The second thing would be to replace strike action with working to rule. For example, teachers I know work a ridiculous number of unpaid and informal unpaid overtime. If all teachers resolved to only work their contracted hours, schools would start to fall apart in a matter of weeks. It would very quickly become obvious how much teachers are expected to do, and how much money they are actually saving through their extra hours and goodwill. There have been half-hearted attempts already at work to rule in schools, but they haven’t held. It would take all unions to work together and commit to sticking with the action. I think if this could be achieved, it would be far more effective than a one day strike, and would force the Government to take action. The public would be more likely to be in support too, as workers would only be doing the hours and work as per their contracts, which would put the spotlight firmly back on the Government.

 

 

 

 

Options for Britain in Europe

I’ve written a series of posts on the EU in recent weeks, where I’ve tried to show the confidence of the pro-Europe argument is not backed by good evidence. There are downsides to Britain’s membership of the EU, free movement of labour is not necessarily a good thing, and the EU is not very democratic. Many people struggle to see an alternative to EU membership, but there are actually a number of alternatives to the current status quo that Britain could adopt. In their book “Moored to the Continent“, Baimbridge et al, discuss some of the following options that could be considered:

1. Renegotiation of EU membership obligations. This is the Conservative Party’s stated position, although it is not currently known what they want to renegotiate. Baimbridge et al suggest possible areas could be the reconstitution of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, Britain’s contribution to the EU budget and it’s involvement in EU foreign and defence policy. There is some skepticism as to what could be achieved through renegotiation, as each nation would probably desire to change different aspects of the rules, but such is the importance of Britain’s market for EU exports, the could be some scope for renegotiation if the alternative was full withdrawal.

2. Creation of an Associated European Area (AEA). This arrangement would create a kind of two-tier Europe, with one group of countries continuing the path towards further integration, and a second group continuing to cooperate on areas like trade and the environment, while keeping control of other areas like economic policy, currency and social and labour market policies. This option could be facilitated by an amendment to the Amsterdam Treaty, and would allow those countries who wish to integrate further to do so, while  allowing others favourable terms while maintaining a looser association. Win win?

3. Membership of the single market through EFTA and the EEA. This option would mean the UK would formally leave the EU and rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), that it was a founding member of over 40 years ago. That would make the UK eligible to join the European Economic Area (EEA). This would give the UK some of the benefits of full EU membership (but also some of the downsides), while allowing it autonomy over areas like agriculture and fisheries, and allowing it to trade frrely with nations outside the EU. As an EEA member, they could also veto EU law if they think it goes against their national interest. This is a similar situation to that of Norway.

4. Bilateral free-trade agreement between the UK and EU. This one means full UK withdrawal followed by a negotiation of a bilateral trade deal. The UK would retain greater freedom than under option 3 and create a relationship similar to that between the EU and Switzerland. The UK is such an important market for other EU states, it is highly likely that such an agreement could be negotiated without the EU engaging in discriminatory practises – they would have more to lose.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all these options, but all involve the UK maintaining some kind of relationship with the EU, while regaining certain powers it has given away. I favour option 4, but can see some advantages of option 2. There is scope for cooperation on areas like environmental protection and scientific research that could cross national boundaries. Most people agree the EU will need to change, but while some feel this change should be closer integration, others are less enthused. We already have something of a two-tier Europe with those within the Eurozone and those without. Something more formal could be an option worthy of consideration.

Labour promised fireworks but delivered another damp squib

All week I’ve been reading that Labour were planning some big policy announcements soon. Ed Miliband gave his big speech today after pre-briefing the big announcement to the media which was [drum roll] to refer the banks to the competition authorities with an eye to creating some new banks… and that was pretty much it. Miliband strikes me as a nice guy and he’s not bad at political speeches. He made some approving noises about low pay, high cost of living, housing etc, but his party have no answers to any of these issues that are significantly different to what the government are doing. So while I despise the Conservative Party, all I feel about Labour is an ever growing sense of disappointment. As Miliband is fond of saying, “Britain deserves better than this”.

So his big idea today was on the banking sector. Would more competition be a good thing? Probably. Would it transform the industry? I don’t see how. Labour’s ideas about banking are already very much in line with what people like Vince Cable are already trying to do in government. There’s nothing radical or transformative about it. There are other options though. Here’s two that sound interesting to me.

The first may be known to some people, coming as it does from the Positive Money people. They favour removing the power from private banks to create money with a “full reserve system” which I think means that every £100 they lend out must be backed by £100 of deposits. I think they also propose a system where depositors (you and me) can decide if we just want the bank to store our money, or to lend it out and in return receive some interest payments.

Instead of the banks creating money then, they propose the government should just create enough money as is required to ensure the economy runs at full speed. And instead of politicians deciding how much money is created, Positive Money want it to be decided by an unelected committee (albeit one accountable to Parliament). Radical? Yes. Democratic? Maybe not. It’s an interesting idea, but I haven’t looked into it into enough detail yet. There’s a nice video here with more details for anyone interested.

The second proposal is outlined by Neil Wilson on his 3spoken blogTaking inspiration from Minsky and elsewhere, Neil proposes that the role of banks should be significantly narrowed to the extent that their main purpose should be to underwrite loans to businesses and individuals who are going to do productive things and develop the economy. Banks would be allowed to go bust, which would happen if they don’t underwrite the loans competently. Such a system would promote competition because operators could be licensed by the state, with that license affording the operator an interest free overdraft at the central bank. So the better the underwriting, the more successful the operator. The money being created by the loans would be government money, but banks would determine how much of it is created and who it is distributed to based on demand. This system appeals because of its flexibility. As Neil writes:

“So with complete disintermediation by the central bank you can have several models – from a fully nationalised state bank with employed underwriters, through the ‘Provi Model’ where you have self-employed lenders and collectors, to the normal bank with employed bank managers.

The amount of state money injected is limited by demand – as determined by a highly distributed set of underwriters locally on the ground varying interest rates to suit local conditions and their own profitability vs the competition from fully match funded lenders.”

Narrowing the scope of banking and focusing on high quality underwriting would probably reduce the amount of credit available from recent levels, but this could be compensated for with lower taxes or higher conventional government spending. Read the whole thing as Neil raises issues of the payments system.

So both of these proposals offer a radically different way of doing things. In my view they are both well argued and warranting of wider discussion. But both are so far outside the mainstream political debate as to be almost unheard of by the wider public. So it’s worth saying again, while Labour and the Tories argue furiously over tiny differences, there are a whole range of potential options open to consideration. Options which could have an enormous impact upon the economy and which do not simply seek to tinker at the edges while maintaining the status quo.

 

Why don’t more people vote?

In the run-up to and aftermath of last week’s elections, all the talk was about the rise of UKIP as a new force in British politics. UKIP managed to go from 8 county council seats to 147 on a projected national share of the vote of 23%. There’s been a lot of ruminating in the last few days about why so many people voted UKIP. Was it because of immigration, the EU, or just a reflection of dissatisfaction on the economy? Was it an anti-politics vote? Are people just fed up of the main parties?

All of these are interesting questions, but there’s something that’s less focus placed on it, although to me it is the elephant in the room – turnout. The BBC has estimated the average turnout at last week’s elections to be 31%, down from 41% in 2009, the last time these elections were fought. So while in wards where UKIP stood candidates, 25% of those voting, voted for UKIP, when all eligible voters are taken into account, this means only around 8% of people who could have voted, actually voted UKIP. The proportions for the other main parties will be similar.

The Conservatives have taken UKIP’s success as a sign they need to start talking tougher on immigration and Europe as that’s what they think the message from voters has been, but what about the 69% (plus the (around) 10% who aren’t even registered to vote) who didn’t vote at all? Even in the last general election, turnout only just touched 65%, down from over 80% in the early 50s, and at last November, a paltry 15% of people bothered to cast a vote. The main parties seem a bit complacent about what to me is becoming a democratic crisis, and are instead focussing on appealing to a smaller and smaller number of people. But why are people opting out of voting at elections in such great numbers?

The following table (click on it to enlarge) is comprised of data taken from the website of the Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). I’ve compiled data on turnout and electoral systems from each of the current OECD countries. The turnout is for each country’s last Parliamentary election, while the right hand column gives the peak turnout since the end of WWII.

Voter Turnout

A few things jump out on looking at the table. Firstly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, countries which have compulsory voting have higher turnouts in general, although a few countries (like Denmark and Iceland) manage to achieve high turnouts without voting being compulsory.

Secondly, with the exception of Australia, all of the top 15 countries in the table have some sort of proportional voting system, mainly the list system. It was interesting that during the referendum campaign for AV, the no campaign made much of the fact that AV is used hardly anywhere else, but of the OECD countries, only three use our current system of First Past the Post, and of those three, the UK had the highest turnout at the last Parliamentary elections, but that was only the 19th highest in the OECD. This makes the Lib Dems decision to settle for a referendum on AV rather than PR all the more baffling.

Thirdly, the data on peak turnout is quite interesting. In relatively young democracies (like the former communist states), turnout tends to peak at the first democratic election, after which it falls off quite quickly. In more mature democracies though, peak turnout seems to have been in the period between the end of WWII and the 1970s, dropping off significantly since then. This is true of the UK, US, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and so on. Nordic countries, by comparison have managed to maintain high turnouts since WWII without much of a drop-off. So why might this be?

Here’s my theory (feel free to disagree). Since the late 1970s we have been living in the neoliberal period, during which time, the agenda known as the ‘Washington Consensus’ has been pushed – privatisation, liberalisation of trade and financial/capital markets etc. Initially, there were distinct political parties, which fought over these big issues, but as time went on, all main parties came to accept these ideas to such an extent that they are now largely indistinguishable on the main issues. This has been true of the UK since about 1992. These policies are detrimental to the welfare of a significant proportion of the population, so under a first past the post system, where the main parties look identical, what’s the point in voting? At least when people vote for an X Factor contestant, they can see that their vote has counted and can feel as though they have influenced something (no matter how trivial).

So what can be done? Working on the assumption that the more people voting the better, from the data above, we can see that in general, the countries with the highest turnouts use a proportional system for voting. If people feel like their vote counts they seem to be more inclined to vote. Compulsory voting also seems to ensure high turnouts. The Lib Dems blew a golden chance to address our democratic deficit in 2011. They blew it by plumping for AV – when they could surely have got a more proportional system on the ballot – and perhaps ensured the downward slide in turnout becomes terminal.

Politicians need to react to this if they are to remain committed to democracy. PR and compulsory voting will go most of the way to turning things around, and will also promote differentiation of political parties, which desperately needs to happen. The concept of a ‘party of protest’ should not exist. UKIP should have to spell out their policies like all parties and attract voters on their merits, rather than purely because they are not a ‘mainstream’ party. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories should be made to diverge so that, at the very least, the difference between them goes beyond the colour of their rosettes.

“Squeezing the poor”

This post by @Ramanan_V prompted me to seek out Nicholas Kaldor’s “The Economic Consequences of Mrs Thatcher”. Kaldor was an eminent Cambridge economist and member of House of Lords at the time when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, and this short book is a collection of speeches made during the first four years of Thatcher’s time as PM.

In ’79 when Thatcher rose to power, the UK economy was in trouble, with rampant inflation and low growth with rising unemployment. In the months preceding the ’79 election, Britain had experienced its “Winter of Discontent”. In his first budget in June 1979 Thatcher’s Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe increased VAT to 15%, reduced the top rate of income tax from 83% to 60% and announced reductions in public spending.

While there were many differences in both economic environment and policy between Thatcher’s early years and today, from Kaldor’s speeches, we can draw some interesting parallels between the justifications made for government budgetary decisions made then, and the justifications for austerity being made today. Here are a few examples from Thatcher’s first year in office.

On the incoming Conservative Government (13.6.79, p12):

“…up to now Conservative Governments in this country were predominantly pragmatist… This time it is different. This time we have a right-wing Government with a strong ideological commitment which is something new in this country…”

The new Thatcher broke with the post-war consensus and steered a different course, one which was continued through the Major, Blair and Brown years and a course which the present Government is now trying to accelerate before it’s too late.

On the tax changes in Howe’s ’79 Budget (19.6.79 p19):

“In this Budget the tax remission to a millionaire or to a man with £50,000 a year, is well over £6,000 a year – enough to allow him to get a second Rolls-Royce. Lord Boyd-Carter says that all this is small beer: a small price to pay for the enormous advantages which efficient entrepreneurship and risk-taking can bring us…

In 1979, the Tories cut the basic rate of tax slightly, while at the same time increasing VAT (on many items from 8% to 15%) and significantly cutting income tax for the highest earners. Sound familiar?

On ‘Squeezing the Poor’ (19.6.79 p21):

“The two main contentions of the Chancellor, that the economy must be ‘squeezed’ in order to get rid of inflation and that top people must be better off in order to induce them to work harder and become richer, in themselves imply that some people must be worse off. These people must be the poor people.

[The poor economic forecasts] will not reflect ‘a shortage in demand’ but a ‘growing series of failures on the supply side of the economy’.

Today we have tax cuts for the rich and bedroom taxes and real terms cuts to benefits and wages for everyone else, while poor growth is blamed on ‘the world economy’ and talk of the need for labour market reforms. The similarities to ’79 are unmistakable.

Here’s, Kaldor on ‘The Momentum of Decline’ (19.6.79 p23):

“These policies (in response to inflation in the 1920s) led to the unprecedented crisis of capitalism in the early 1930s, to Hitler and to the Second World War. We can only hope that on this occasion the outcome will not be so tragic. But the tone of the Chancellor’s speech was strongly reminiscent of what was said by Dr Bruning, by Herbert Hoover and by Philip Snowden in his Budget speech. There is one common theme in all those speeches: we must first suffer agony to be able to make a clean start.”

A bit dramatic perhaps, but the idea that austerity is something we must endure in order to renew our economy prevails.

Finally, here Kaldor on ‘An impotent government’ (7.11.79 p38):

“As far as output, employment and economic growth is concerned, the [Comprehensive Spending Review of its time] adopts a wholly fatalistic attitude. All it says is that ‘the prospects are poor… both in this country and the rest of the world’. This reminds me of a statement attributed to Neville Chamberlain during the Great Depression that the government is no more capable of regulating the general demand for labour than it is of regulating the weather. After a long circle, we now seem to have returned to the same point.”

This is very reminiscent of the current Government’s desire to blame all ills on the Eurozone and to stand idle while unemployment remains high, incomes stagnate and the housing crisis worsens.

The point of quoting the above then is to demonstrate that we’ve been here before (and not so long ago). The likely effects were predicted before the policies were implemented (as with Cameron and Osborne’s austerity). While in Thatcher’s time, the result was three million unemployed and the destruction of British industry, today, unemployment has not gone so high, but only because now we have zero-hour contracts, part time work and working tax credit-supported self-employment instead. The long-term impacts though could be equally as damaging.

Conservative Party Steps Up Its Attack on the Victims of Austerity

George Osborne made a centrepiece of it in his Autumn Statement speech in Parliament 10 days ago. He wanted to conjure up the image of rewarding hard-working ‘strivers’ getting up early to go to work every day while hitting work-shy ‘scroungers’ who lie in bed all morning with the curtains closed. He was widely derided for it this at the time, particularly when it was pointed out that 60% of the people losing out from the real term cuts to working-age benefits were actually people in work.

I was somewhat surprised therefore (perhaps naively)  to learn that Tory Party Chaiman Michael Green (AKA Grant Shapps) found Osborne’s attack so inspiring, he’s decided to make it a central plank of his election strategy for fighting marginal seats. They are putting out these targeted banner ads:

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The strategy is pretty straightforward then. Classic divide and rule, pitting those who are working against those who – in the vast majority of cases – are not working through no fault of their own. The Government have had some success in this strategy to date, over public sector pensions and the £26k benefit cap, but judging by the comments BTL here, people don’t seem to be buying this latest attack so far.

Shapps has coincided this campaign with a call for people to ‘have their say’ about the Government’s welfare policy, by launching an online petition. Judging by the wording of the questions, this doesn’t seem to be an honest attempt at gathering people’s view, rather an attempt to affirm his party’s long-held prejudices. Despite this, I would urge everyone to complete it, to let Shapps know exactly what you think of him and his shameful campaign.