Parliament, the media and numbers

Labour’s great banking crash and recession has tested political debate to destruction. Politicians,  parties and most in the media are happiest talking about a few billion of spending. To most people a billion is a lot of money, without having any precise feel as to how much. It is a lot of money, but it is also  just fifteen pounds each for every man, woman and child in the country. It is not a significant sum when discussing the UK economy. It is a small rounding error in the national accounts.

In this election the biggest annual sum argued over has been the £8 billion extra for the NHS. It hasn’t  been much of an argument anyway, as Lib Dems and Conservatives say they will pay it, and Labour in office would end up paying it. The largest individual sum is the misleading £100 billion   for Trident which is some kind of lifetime cost. On a similar time frame the NHS would  be  say £3000 billion. The actual cost of four new submarines would be around one quarter of that, spread over a number of years of building.

Yet as I have set out we are talking in theory of annual public spending of  £737 billion , rising to  £797 billion over the next Parliament on Conservative plans. There is little discussion of whether these are the right totals, and whether we get value for all that.

More importantly, the UK Parliament proved incapable of having good debates about the far more important large numbers which determined our economic crash in the 2005-10 Parliament or the progress to recover from it  in the last Parliament. The £375 billion of QE was worth more debate and examination than it got. The massive £800 billion of assets and liabilities removed from the balance sheet of the state’s own bank,RBS, was crucial to our economic progress.It was only when there was a change in policy towards RBS in 2013 that the economy started to improve more quickly.  It would be good if in the last days of this election campaign there could be some discussion of the big numbers that have a real impact, as well as debate over  the nice to have smaller sums that are important to particular programmes but do not have much impact on the economy as a whole.


  1. Lifelogic
    April 29, 2015

    Indeed the appalling way Natwest/RBS treated even good and solid customers demanding funds back or over hugely charging for them (even after the government bailout) was perhaps the biggest single cause of the painfully slow recovery.

    That and the lack of vision and lack of a pro business approach from the lefty Coalition, its 299+ tax increases, its love of religious expensive energy, it over regulation of almost everything and its total failure to cut the largely inept, misdirected and incompetent state sector down to size.

    1. Lifelogic
      April 29, 2015

      Miliband (as it seems Cameron is determined to gift the election to Miliband) will of course be even worse. His attacks on the rented sector will be hugely damaging to both tenants and landlord but a gift to the essentially parasitic legal profession. It is just in essence a totally immoral form of theft. His attacks on non doms will also be entirely counter productive.

      His intervention in the energy market will be entirely negative too.
      What is needed in energy the the abolition of the idiotic grants for wind, electric cars, PV and the likes, to start fracking and to remove all the other insane government market distortions.

      1. Hope
        April 29, 2015

        The tone of your blog by politicians is the problem. You all cite a billion as a small amount of money and inconsequential to the overall UK budget. However, if you had the mindset that a million pounds is a lot of money and careful consideration given to such spending then the country would not be in the mess it is. thatcher was the closet to have the mindset.

        Billions on overseas aid because it is ONLY 0.7 percent of GDP, billions to the EU for club fees it is ONLY a small percent of GDP, hundreds of millions on providing university education for EU citizens it is ONLY 1 or 2 percent of the budget, green energy subsidy crap only a small amount of my energy we pay each month- stuff it, I do not want to pay for Cameron or Miliband’s economic stupidity or incompetence. etc etc. There is only one choice, none of the cartel.

        I am sick of my taxes being wasted by politicians who have this stupid mindset. This is costing us billions in extra taxes. Every pound should count, if every public sector body, Whitehall Dept and MP had this mindset taxes could and should be reduced.

        Good article by Booker how much it costs each person for the ridiculous Climate Change Act introduced by Miliband and gold plated by Cameron. It is not even discussed or debated, I wonder if this is because it has its origins in the EU!

        If Miliband is as bad as Cameron wants us to believe, why did he follow and gold plate his policies, including matching his spending plans in opposition! Why did he follow Brown, the most loathed PM in living memory, to give away English taxes to Scotland only a few months ago? Brown derides English nationalism but financed and promoted Scottish nationalism with our taxes! Who started devolution? Labour implementing EU policy!

        I see Guido highlights the 291 LibLabCon councillors who have committed crimes in the past year that would have the MSM in hysteria if they were UKIP councillors. The cartel need to look closer to home before they make such slurs.

        1. Hope
          April 29, 2015

          Today in the Mail it is reported that 65 percent of the 2.7 million houses built between 1997 to date is headed by a foreigner and the percentage increases to 89 percent between 2005 and 2009.

          Therefore this shows that the UK does NOT have a housing crisis it has an immigration crisis that the LibLab Con will not discuss as part of the election debate even though the vast amount of the public want the numbers cut. The number of immigrants being higher under Tory than when Labour left office even though we had the No ifs or buts from Cameron knowing that he could Not cut EU immigration as he has no control over it. Disgraceful. Yet Cameron wants rural England to vote for him when he continues this policy of madness and all that flows from it is public spending on public services, benefits and the rest. How can your party plan any finance or budget when you have given away control of our borders to a limitless amount of people from the EU?

          Most reasonable prudent independent people plan the size of their families on their income on the principle of calculating what they can afford. Cameron’s plan is like the reckless and feckless people who will have as many children as like expecting others to pay for them. Yours is not a Tory party. I hope the rural voters of England vote according to the detriments Cameron imposes upon them.

          Reply We have discussed immigration, and Mr Cameron has pledged to cut immigration substantially.

          1. Lifelogic
            April 29, 2015

            Was that a “no ifs no butts, reduced to the tens of thousands pledge?

            Does Cameron still want to continue to racially discriminate by law against potential immigrants from outside the EU? I assume so.

          2. matthu
            April 29, 2015

            [Same as he did last time.]

          3. zorro
            April 29, 2015

            Reply to reply – you mean like he pledged to cut it last time to 10s of 1000s but ended up increasing net migration at them last count! No credibility……


          4. Denis Cooper
            April 29, 2015

            I see that today the Telegraph is reporting that Juncker has said that he is open to proposals for treaty change, a boost for Cameron the headline says.

            However what he actually said was that he could envisage minor treaty changes, but not major treaty changes for example to limit freedom of movement.

            Presumably that would also include treaty changes to free the UK from the commitment to a process of “ever closer union”, which Cameron has said he also wants.

            All this ignores the legal position that treaty change is not in the gift of the President of the EU Commission, even though Juncker talks as if it is.

          5. Hope
            April 29, 2015

            JR, the amount of people affect public services and spending directly related to your post. The consequences of unlimited migration impacts directly on public spending.

            My son was on a time limit when he saw a doctor yesterday, she remind him that he had three minutes left of his visit. My nephew was given an appointment date last week to see his doctor for 29th May!

            Cameron needs to balance his spending plans to what he can afford. You cannot set a public budget spending programme when it is not known how many you people or services you are catering for. Pretty basic stuff really. If Cameron can afford to give away £1.7 billion pounds of our taxes to the EU, aft trying to con us that he would not pay the amount or on the date demanded by the EU, as an extra payment, then he ought to be able to afford basic health care for those who pay their taxes. Nor do I have to walk very far to see the mass building programme on rural Englnd for his mass immigration policy even though there is no local priority clause for local people! We had the no ifs or buts nonsense, his spending plans do not match his spending on an inflate population through his immigration policy.

          6. JoeSoap
            April 29, 2015

            Reply to reply
            I think the 2 words Cameron and pledge in the same sentence invalidate any meaning in that sentence.

          7. Brian Tomkinson
            April 29, 2015

            Reply to reply,
            More breathtaking complacency.
            Just to remind you, in 2010 your leader promised to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. Instead it is now just short of 300,000. What will we see over the next five years with that sort of pledge delivery? Your colleagues are always telling us to look at your record to see how you will deliver your promises, well we are doing and you score a great big zero.

          8. Bob
            April 29, 2015

            @Brian Tomkinson

            “you score a great big zero.”

            Minus 200,001 by my reckoning.

          9. APL
            April 30, 2015

            JR: “Mr Cameron has pledged to cut immigration substantially.”

            (getting up off the floor)

            That would be a ‘cast iron pledge’ then?

            ‘substantially’ – Nice, a sufficiently woolly term to be meaningless.

          10. Timaction
            April 30, 2015

            I see following the EU ruling on African asylum seekers yesterday that many millions will be given refugee status here following Cameron’s Libya legacy. Not reported by the msm. We will be allocated millions more. What a state of affairs. We are no longer an independent sovereign democracy but ruled by a foreign socialist dictatorship. Farage is the only voice in of sense in this nightmare known as the EU!
            We have to remove the legacy parties for our very survival.
            My grand daughter was not able to have a hospital appointment honoured yesterday as there wasn’t enough public funding! etc ed

      2. Stephen Berry
        April 29, 2015

        Cameron is not gifting this election to anyone. The Tories are struggling because the right-wing vote is being split, similar to the splitting of the left-wing vote by the SDP in the 1980s. That resulted in thumping victories for the Tories. Let’s face it, the main reason this election is not already decided is the collapse of Labour in Scotland. Without the strength of the SNP, Miliband would be cantering along Downing St at very this moment.

        This poll by YouGov gives the picture fairly clearly.

        As Mark Wallace, the writer of the article, comments, “There are some trends of which we’re well aware – the fact that the largest single source of UKIP votes is former Tory voters (39 per cent), for example…”

        In Sweden recently the splitting of the right-wing vote resulted in a Social Democratic government. No reason it can’t happen here too — and it’s not all Cameron’s fault.

        1. A different Simon
          April 29, 2015

          UKIP appeals to ordinary people across the political spectrum .

          I think there is going to be a bit of a shock when everyone sees how many votes UKIP takes from Labour in the North East .

          Reply The only shock that would shock would be if UKIP took seats off Labour in the NE, which the polls indicate is unlikely.

        2. Lifelogic
          April 30, 2015

          Cameron is the person who refuses to do a deal with UKIP and calls them fruit cakes & closet racists. This from the man who runs on openly racist by law (EU good rest bad) immigration policy. Cameron is also the person who has made the Tory party into essentially a pro EU, green crap, 299+ tax increasing, serial ratting Labour party.

  2. Narrow Shoulders
    April 29, 2015

    The debate can not be had I am afraid. After years of spin from both sides the electorate is split into two camps both of whom need to see government tinkering around the edges.

    Government, it has been decided, must provide for the population. The debate now centres on how much the rich should contribute not how much government should provide.

    I suspect this is a symptom of having most decisions made for us at EU level.

    Personally I would welcome better debate rather than bickering and mithering (this site is often a good example although we could do with more Baz like posters to challenge us) which one would get on the doorstep or face to face. It is unlikely to happen as that is not what the majority of the tribal electorate wants.

    Having a tribal electorate suits the large parties.

    1. outsider
      April 29, 2015

      Dear Narrow Shoulders, I don’t think the electorate is anything like as tribal as it was when the Conservative and Labour parties broadly represented the wishes and aspiration of very large swaths of the people.

      Rather, the three centre parties want to avoid serious discussion of big issues because they have no answers. So they have adopted American “pork barrel” political campaigning, bidding goodies to suit every interest group they can think of to try to garner a few more votes.

      One example is the housing/immigration nexus. Con/Lab/Lib will neither curb net immigration signifcantly nor take measures to provide the extra housing needed. Labour, for instance, has a supposedly ambitious policy to raise homebuilding from 130,000 to 200,000 a year by the year 2020. But this would not even bring homebuilding back to the level before the crash and with immigration at an average 250,000 a year, would do nothing whatever to ease housing shortage.

      Only Ukip (by slashing net immigration) and the Greens (by building an extra 100,000 social housing units a year) address the issue seriously And the great political blob collectively pours scorn and derision on both these policies.

      1. Timaction
        April 30, 2015

        They can continue to pour whatever they like. The truth is getting out and people will eventually realise the lies they all tell.

  3. Newmania
    April 29, 2015

    The massive £800 billion of assets and liabilities removed from the balance sheet of the state’s own bank,RBS, was crucial to our economic progress

    I would be obliged if someone would explain this statement . My understanding was that around £140 billion was paid in cash for Bank Shares and the interest on that was around £5 billion pa . About £750 billion of guarantees were undertaken which were not called on , is that the £800 billion in question , a notional underwriting of RBS .
    If that is the case I don`t understand the relevance and I do mean “don`t understand the.. ” not ” question the truth of ….”

    This question of scale is one I recognize immediately . People have been given the impression that a possible few hundred million from Non Dom persecution will make a difference when it clearly won`t

    Reply The RBS balance sheet, assets and liabilities, was slimmed down by a massive £800 billion through write downs and sales.

    1. Julie Innis
      April 29, 2015

      My brother in law worked for RBS until he retired at 50 on a pension many of us can only dream about. When the crash happened he still got to keep all his shares and every year he gets a 3 – 5% rise on his pension.

      Why is it the ordinary pensioner and taxpayer are the only ones paying the price for the bank’s failures?

    2. acorn
      April 29, 2015

      In the last WGA Accounts, they did not consolidate RBS into those accounts. The numbers were so large they would have dwarfed the governments’ normal spending of £700 billion. The net liability was about £1,620 billion at the end of fiscal 2013. So, it now appears there is only £820 billion left to be written off.

      “It was only when there was a change in policy towards RBS in 2013 that the economy started to improve more quickly”. Says JR.

      Stop pulling my plonker you!!! It was nothing to do with RBS’s balance sheet, it was Osborne giving up with the June 2010 austerity plan A. And, guess what, he is planning even worse slash and burn austerity for the next three years, if we let him.

      He will repeat the last five years, and get the same result. The private sector will decide how much it wants to spend and how much it wants to save. At the moment it is being told to expect a repeat of Osborne’s June 2010 speech and it will start saving again. That is what will dictate the deficits that Osborne will have to run; OR, has he got a death wish for the UK economy?

      Why does he hate us little people so much that he needs to impoverish the bottom 90% of UK citizens using an economic ideology that was out of date a century back?

      Reply The coalition increased spending the most in 2010-11 and borrowed more that year than 2013

  4. alan jutson
    April 29, 2015

    Any debate about money should perhaps start with the fact that the Government only spends what it can take from its people, if it cannot take enough then it has to borrow in the peoples name.

    I think the majority of our population need to be reminded of this simple fact first and foremost, as many seem to be unaware of any connection between taxes and spending.

    Perhaps a few more people may be a little bit more wise about taxation if all Benefits were taxed in exactly the same way that income is.
    Less the personal tax allowance of course.
    Then you could truly say the £26,000 cap was linked to average earnings.

    Given the above, your posting makes perfect sense, which unfortunately shows the lack of engagement/understanding by PR company that the Conservative Party have engaged over the last 5 years to put your message across, at I guess huge expense.

    1. Hope
      April 29, 2015

      Average earnings takes into account huge pay differences. Perhaps another method ought to be introduced like the median of what people are paid under 40p tax threshold or the average on the lowest band of income tax. £26,000 is far too high and there re a considerable number of hard working people who do not manage to achieve this wage and there are huge numbers on welfare who would never command this wage in their lifetime.

      Paddy Ashdown spouted against lowering the 26k threshol, but he never had an answer when the question was put to him on Question Time last year by a person who earned way under the average wage for long hours at work and thought it would pay her to go on welfare at £26k.

    2. oldtimer
      April 29, 2015

      It is a good idea to talk in big, round numbers and what that amounts to per head.
      Per the OBR`s December 2014 Economic and Fiscal Outlook:
      Table 4.1 on page 98
      Nominal GDP (2013-4) = £1733 bn =£27,035 per head (on population of 64.1 m)

      Table 4.4 on page 108
      Tax as % of GDP = 35.9% = £622 bn = £9,703 per head
      (Note 35% is max long run taxable capacity of the UK)

      Table 4.17 on page 134
      Total managed expenditure = 41.5% =£719 bn = £11,219 per head

      Table 4.38 on page 170
      Interest payments = £48.4 bn = £755 per head
      …rising to £75.2 bn = £1173 per head by 2018-19

      Perhaps someone can check and confirm my calculations.

      In this context any politician arguing against eliminating the deficit asap is irresponsible – such as Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens. It also suggests to me that welfare must be the next big target.

  5. Ralph Musgrave
    April 29, 2015

    “Labour’s great banking crash?” There is a sting in the tail there, namely that totally free markets and lax banking regulation (i.e. what lead to the crash) were enthusiastically backed by Conservatives.

    Reply Untrue. Conservatives regularly warned re excessive credit in the run up to the boom, and my Economic Policy Report said we needed tougher cash and capital control.

    1. formula57
      April 29, 2015

      @ Ralph Musgrave – “Lax banking regulation” as you call it was of course not the cause of the GFC, although some like to promote that idea now usually to advance a particular political view.

      Gordon Brown however ignored warnings from the Conservatives that the regulatory regime he was creating would lead to problems. It is therefore an error, again usually promoted to advance a particular political view, on the part of those who suppose the Conservatives would have done the same.

      Brown was told in clear terms of the likely (and actual, as it turned out) consequences of his folly, thanks to Peter Lilley who records (@ ): –

      ” …..I was shadow Chancellor when the Bill that became the Bank of England Act 1998 was introduced. He pointed out that I then warned the House that: –

      “With the removal of banking control to the Financial Services Authority…it is difficult to see how…the Bank remains, as it surely must, responsible for ensuring the liquidity of the banking system and preventing systemic collapse.”

      And so it turned out. I added:

      “setting up the FSA may cause regulators to take their eye off the ball, while spivs and crooks have a field day.”-[Official Report, 11 November 1997; Vol. 300, c. 731-32.]

      So that turned out, too. I could foresee that, because the problem was not deregulation, but the regulatory confusion and the proliferation of regulation introduced by the former Chancellor, which resulted from a failure to focus on the banking system’s inherent instability, and to provide for its stability.”

      1. Denis Cooper
        April 29, 2015

        The Labour government was just bringing us more into line with the EU’s preferred model – an independent central bank, with a separate regulator for financial markets. One strong hint that it came from the EU is the fact that the Irish did the same thing, which contributed to their problems.

  6. Lifelogic
    April 29, 2015

    So David Cameron pledges 5 year ‘tax lock’ – The Prime Minister will say that voters should go with their ‘gut instinct’ and trust the Conservatives to cut taxes. How stupid does he think the public are? Was it not his referendum lock (Lisbon ratting distraction) gimmick last time?

    Well we do not need gut instincts. We can all see Cameron’s record of 299+ tax increases, VAT increased to 20% “when they had no plans” and above all a total failure to cut back on the endless government waste, the green crap, the cost of the EU and HS2, the over regulation and other insanities.

    If governments do not spend sensibly you cannot really cut taxes and you thus render the economy uncompetitive, kill the productive sector and further diminish the tax base too.

  7. Alan Wheatley
    April 29, 2015

    The way things are these days the wished for debate is very unlikely. But consider a different approach to national politics.

    Lets start with the BBC. They have more TV broadcasting time than they know what to do with; they have a duty to inform; we, the licence fee payers, should have a dominating say as to what is broadcast. So providing broadcast slots is not a problem.

    The Conservative financial spokesperson, lets call him JR, makes a programme presenting the Party’s position on “the big numbers that have a real impact” and “the nice to have smaller sums”. BBC production facilities would be made available, but, and this is vital, editorial control is with JR. Visual aids will help illustrate points about trends and relative sizes. This can all be done in a studio, with no need for outside broadcast teams showing JR walking aimlessly about in irrelevant settings causing distractions to the point being made. So the cost will be small.

    Such a programme enables JR to explain the facts (for and against) and argue the points in a coherent and logical manner without being interrupted and diverted by the BBC interviewer.

    Such a programme is NOT the debate, it is but the start of the debate. Other political parties would be able to make their own programmes. And such programmes would not inhibit any of the media having their own programmes and newspaper articles. But we, the electors, would be better informed as to what the parties think and say, and better able to judge the media criticisms.

    It will, no doubt, be argued that hardly anyone would bother to watch. But many people are interested and do want to be informed; what turns them off is bickering arguments with people speaking over each other and the “chairman” ending the debate prematurely because they have “run out of time”. And if a party is so stupid as to make a programme that sings their own praises, attacks their opponents, avoids the facts and uses spin rather than argument, then more fools them for wasting the opportunity of persuading people to their cause.

    How about your own half-hour programme on BBC4 at 8PM, John? I would definitely be watching.

    Reply I have proposed informative programmes about the EU , England and the constitution and offered various formats to deal with the argument over balance and impartiality, but they have always been turned down by the BBC. I doubt they would be any more forthcoming about a JR on the economy, but I might give it a try after the election.

    1. Bob
      April 29, 2015

      @Alan Wheatley
      I have noticed a surfeit of public information broadcasts on commercial radio channels. Why are government spending scarce resources on expensive commercial PSB slots when the BBC is already paid for and has more then adequate TV, Radio and internet penetration. Could govt be buying influence?

      And why does the BBC place their recruitment ads with one of the lowest circulation UK newspapers when the beeb’s own website has a far wider coverage and would not cost the tv taxpayers anything more. Could it be to narrow the possible types of applicants it attracts to a particular gaurdianista mindset?

      The Royal Charter requires the BBC to inform, educate and entertain, but from what I have seen they mis-inform, indoctrinate and distract.

      1. Lifelogic
        April 29, 2015

        “Mis-inform, indoctrinate and distract” – the BBC in a nutshell particularly on the EU, the green crap expensive energy, global warming and wanting ever more tax and ever larger (and ever more regulating) government.

        Near all BBC staff are lefty, innumerate, art graduates with chips on their shoulders. The possible one exception being Andrew Neil who is competent & fairly central.

      2. Qubus
        April 29, 2015

        All the BBC and government job adverts seem to be with the Guardian. What is wrong with the Daily Telegraph?

    2. a-tracy
      April 29, 2015

      Do the broadcasts John using modern means twitter, you tube, facebook, run your ideas on your blog to invite public critique then answer those queries too. The conservatives media, pr and message sending as Alan said above is appalling relying on old fashioned anti-Tory broadcasters will never work. C4 news has spent so much time on Scotland I’m wondering what’s going on in the North West or the Midlands, I know more about current political thinking in Inverness than I do where I live.

    3. Iain Gill
      April 29, 2015

      You would be good as a guest on the Max Keiser show.

      1. Mitchel
        April 29, 2015

        Funnily enough,I’ve long thought that combination would make for interesting-and illuminating-viewing.

        How about it?Kwasi Kwarteng (sp?)rose to the challenge and acquited himself well.No need to be too precious!

    4. agricola
      April 29, 2015

      Your comment says much. You might get a better response from the Guardian.

      The BBC news and Current Affaires department are undoubtedly a political party in their own right. They should be made to survive in a commercial market just like any newspaper.

      Perhaps , as Alan suggests, a stand alone public broadcasting service, open to almost anyone of proved sanity is the answer. Capable people could then contribute unhindered by hosts too fond of their own voices or rent a crowd audiences.

      It would be interesting to see if the EU would wish to pay for influence if stopped from doing so by a BBC without a news and current affaires function. Who would then be taking their pieces of silver.

    5. David Price
      April 29, 2015

      @Reply: The BBC has given up on quality education and discussion programming. There are plenty of high quality presentations and discussions on all manner of topics on the internet. You don’t actually need to start with the BBC or any of the conventional media. Just get someone to video your talks and presentations but at least make sure someone who knows what they are doing sets up the sound.

      Reply I do set this all out on this site, and in lectures.

      1. David Price
        April 30, 2015

        I have been exploring your video material on your site and Youtube. The latter, in particular, demontrates that the BBC and other broadcasters are no longer the sole technical route to the audience. I wouldn’t want to advocate you take on even more work, what perhaps is needed to nullify the blockage that is the BBC et al is a wider set of curated channels

        Perhaps if the fee cannot be removed an increasing proportion of the licence fee should be made available to web based education and discussion channels instead of the BBC now that it seems more interested in sport, buying and selling tat and properties.

    6. David Price
      April 29, 2015

      “To most people a billion is a lot of money, without having any precise feel as to how much. It is a lot of money, but it is also just fifteen pounds each for every man, woman and child in the country. It is not a significant sum when discussing the UK economy. It is a small rounding error in the national accounts.”

      I beg to differ – It is a lot of money and far from just £15 per person. That £15 as tax will require someone in the private sector to earn at least £38, the £8 billion promised for the NHS will require income tax from at least £20 billion of private sector income, more if you base it on base rate taxes and more again if any of it is borrowed to account for the interest.

      A different way of looking at this “rounding error” is that 1 short billion represents in the region of 10,000 man years of R&D in the high tech sector, a massive lost opportunity to make some politicians feel good about giving the money to some third world charity or part funding an unnecessary railway. It is not insignificant and it is not a small rounding error.

      1. David Price
        April 29, 2015

        sorry, this previous comment was meant to be in reply to the original post.

    7. Alan Wheatley
      April 30, 2015

      John, thank you for your reply.

      I do not expect the BBC to want to run with my suggestion, after all the whole point is that the BBC is failing in its duty to inform so they are hardly likely to welcome a different approach that highlights their own failure.

      The way to bring about change is by a change to the Charter, and to the Trust. This is in the hands of the politicians. My proposal is political party neutral, so if thought to be good, it should (at least in theory) receive support across the political spectrum, and with the public.

      The BBC Charter is coming up for renewal in, if memory serves me right, 2016. The BBC are current considering closing down BBC3, so instead of closing a channel better to allocate it to things the BBC are not currently addressing. The cost of broadcasting is not high, and the programmes of the type I am proposing would also not be high, so the total cost would be but a small part of BBC costs.

      There are other ways in which this would work, but rather than address that here, first there needs to be support for the principle. I would like to think politicians would want this different approach, and then we can sort out the details.

  8. Hefner
    April 29, 2015

    Thanks for such a very nice idea, translating the numbers in figures per person per annum.

    Or possibly listen to “More or Less” by Tim Hartford on BBC Radio 4, it is a generally enjoyable programme debunking politicians’ fuzzy numbers.

  9. Denis Cooper
    April 29, 2015

    “To most people a billion is a lot of money, without having any precise feel as to how much. It is a lot of money, but it is also just fifteen pounds each for every man, woman and child in the country. It is not a significant sum when discussing the UK economy. It is a small rounding error in the national accounts.”

    So what about £10 billion? Obviously that is ten times more significant than £1 billion, but in the context of the UK and its economy it is still fairly trivial.

    In fact £10 billion would be equivalent to something like 0.6% of our present GDP; and remember that GDP grows over time at a long term trend rate of something like 2.5% a year, so it would rise by that 0.6% over maybe 3 average months of natural growth.

    I mention this figure of £10 billion because at an election meeting here last week a question was asked about potential risks to the NHS from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, between the EU and the US:

    and the Conservative candidate, one Theresa May, extolled its virtues and said that it would provide a £10 billion boost to our economy.

    That would, of course, be a one-off rise in GDP, and as that one-off rise of £10 billion or 0.6% would be spread over a number of years it would pale into insignificance compared to the £100 billion or £200 billion added through natural growth.

    Even if they were actually achieved all the claimed economic benefits of the EU Single Market would represent a pretty small mess of pottage for which our politicians have been only too willing to sell our national birthright, and despite Cameron and May and others talking it up the benefits of TTIP would be even smaller.

  10. Mic
    April 29, 2015

    A simple £15 per person doesn’t sound much, even when you consider that’s £60 for a family with two children; an average household. The problem comes when the billions are so carelessly thrown away by successive Chancellors that they become trillions. That means that I am effectively on the hook for tens of thousands of pounds, largely spent on things I neither want or need.

    It’s no good saying that I have a vote once every five years, because I live in a safe seat. That makes my vote worthless. The only way I could personally affect the outcome of the vote for the MP who will have their name against the area is to assassinate the incumbent. Apart from that not being in my nature, the perisher is always anywhere except in the constituency. Safe seats are there to be ignored….

    Reply There is no such thing as a safe seat, as Labour may soon discover in Scotland. Someone in a seat with a large majority at a previous election still needs a large number of people to turn and vote for him or her again at the next election to keep a large majority.

    1. Lifelogic
      April 29, 2015

      Well perhaps not in Scotland given the effects of devolution and the referendum, but in England very many seat are extremely unlikely to change hands. That is why Cameron is scrambling for the few floating voters in the few marginals and sounds almost as bad as Miliband in most respects.

      Reply Who knows? So called safe seats have been lost by all parties in past elections. On current polling a substantial number of so called safe Labour seats could go in Scotland. I recall quite a few so called safe Conservative seats being swept away in 1997.

      1. Max Dunbar
        April 29, 2015

        Scotland has been run as a one party state for decades. It looks as if the keys will simply be handed over to an even more dangerous and autocratic regime. My vote at a General Election counts for nothing whereas EU Election votes at least provide some significant opportunities to influence the outcome.

    2. formula57
      April 29, 2015

      Indeed, no safe seats – but as I should have posted here perhaps as soon as I knew a few days ago, an associate who lives in the Wokingham constituency and not political but interested in his locality tells me that you are virtually certain to be re-elected.

      Reply I will only be elected if enough people want that sufficiently to go and vote for me. Your source has no way of knowing what people are about to do on polling day.

    3. Mick Anderson
      April 29, 2015

      To JR reply: Much as I hold out a tiny hope that the incumbent will not win, around here the chance of the usual Party not winning is virtually zero.

      In the last 100 years there have only been five different MPs returned, even allowing for occasional boundary changes. Once their feet are under the table, only retirement or death shifts them. The last time that a different Party held the seat was about 150 years ago (1868, I think).

  11. Bill
    April 29, 2015

    Yes, thank you for seeking to shift our gaze to the big picture. Gordon Brown and his assistants, Balls & Miliband, seem to have been the worst economic team in charge of the nation’s finances since the 1920s. ‘There’s no more money left is their epitaph’.

  12. Ian wragg
    April 29, 2015

    I think the debate should focus on the 742 billion pounds spent and aim for at least a 20% reduction by stopping wasteful expenditure.
    That should be relatively easy to do.
    Yesterday I had to take my Mother to her local minor A&E. I was there 5 hours and I witnessed the most appalling waste of manpower you can imagine
    Eventually she was treated and told to go to hospital on Thursday. I asked if she could attend our local hospital 2 miles away as she would be staying with us for a few days but was told that their computer system was not compatible so I said why can’t you email the results
    Not the way it’s done I was told
    I now have a 40 mile round trip when we have a main hospital on the doorstep

  13. Mike Stallard
    April 29, 2015

    What has come out in this election above everything else is the division of this country. At the head is the metropolitan elite of London run by world experts, telling us what to think, what we like and how to bring prosperity, happiness and all that. Avoiding difficult stuff: the EU, the Defence fiasco, the appalling state of the Civil Service, the Deficit and, even more, the debt, immigration and its appalling effects on local employment and social life.
    Just a few baubles and, as you rightly point out, distraction with figures that we needn’t bother about because they are too big for us to understand anyway

    Then there is the North (of Watford) where we do not get much say in any of all this and where we have to make it up as we go along. Sometimes we achieve enormous success: Nigel Farage, Mrs Sturgeon, the Green Grannies. But usually we are mocked as amateurs, bumpkins. Actually Mr Farage represents almost exactly what I for one am thinking, and I am sure that the SNP are speaking for an awful lot of Labour people. Even the Green Grannies are saying what a lot of Comprehensive alumni and 60s pensioners must be thinking. But as soon as we get success, we are treated with malicious derision.

    There is a wave of discontent out here which the clever Dicks in Lunnun are treating with contempt. We reply by not bothering – La révolution intérieure.

    Reply At election time above all those of you do care about our country should engage with the election, not snipe from the sidelines. A flourishing democracy needs an active electorate as well as good party candidates.

    1. bigneil
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to Reply – -really John ? – A flourishing democracy ? – gave me a good hollow laugh. With a PM who is totally untrustworthy and doesn’t know what promises and pledges are? – -And his bowing and scraping to Merkel/Juncker because he so desperately wants a seat in Brussels? . . . Democracy my ****.

      Reply Yes, a democracy. I disagree with you over Mr Cameron, but as we are in a democracy voters can get rid of him if they choose to do so.

      1. Robert Christopher
        April 29, 2015

        How can ANYTHING Juncker says be believed:

        Jean-Claude Juncker: ‘When it becomes serious, you have to lie’.

    2. agricola
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to Reply

      A flourishing democracy also deserves debate on critical subjects such as EU membership and our sovereignty as a nation. Subjects that the political parties have avoided with one exception. Your leader in particularly guilty in this respect.
      It is long overdue that he explained his love affaire with the EU.

      Reply He has discussed it and stressed his commitment to early legislation for an In/Out referendum. If you want one you have to vote for the only party that can deliver this, the Conservative party.

      1. agricola
        April 29, 2015

        Reply to Reply.

        Well if he has discussed it, I am not aware of it. Please ask him to present his case to the electorate. Any newspaper would be delighted to give him a two page centre spread. My conservative MP already has my vote principally because he is one of your gang of 100. All I want now is an explanation of why he is so pro EU. He deserves every chance to change my mind on such a critical decision.

      2. Hope
        April 29, 2015

        Not true. UKIP will offer out of the EU if enough people vote for them. As you point out, there is no safe seat and it is up to people. Therefore we should, again, treat Cameron’s words with contempt that it is either him or Milband. Your current views on safe seats also contradicts some of your previous comments. You cannot have it both ways.

    3. Max Dunbar
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to reply: The problem with ‘active’ is that there are costs to the individuals who are prepared to be active, particularly if they are coming from a position diametrically opposed to whoever the current incumbents happen to be.
      I take my hat off to the courageous souls who are prepared to sacrifice their personal freedom or who suffer other sanctions for their beliefs.
      Anyone who thinks that we live in a flourishing democracy or that we have freedom of expression is, to say the least, deluded. Freedom is easy to lose and difficult to attain, a bit like money.

    4. Max Dunbar
      April 29, 2015

      Well I took your advice and engaged in a hustings tonight.
      (Comments on individual candidates deleted as not balanced and no list of all candidates standing as required for publication ed)
      The questions from the audience were all prearranged and nobody heckled except me. The audience just sat meekly and did what they were told while the consensus politicians talked at them. Rather depressing but this seems to be what we have been reduced to. A downmarket version of Question Time.

  14. formula57
    April 29, 2015

    A hazard with relating numbers to a per person measure is that each £1 billion then becomes “only 29 pence per week” and by such like slights does the BBC justify its extravagance, lack of value for money and coercive tax on non-users.

    Education is needed too to show people that whatever the numbers, an economy must be based on producing and one resting upon such activites as marketing cappuccinos to one another is not really good enough.

    1. formula57
      April 29, 2015

      Education is needed too to write “sleight” not “slight”!

  15. Denis Cooper
    April 29, 2015

    “The massive £800 billion of assets and liabilities removed from the balance sheet of the state’s own bank, RBS, was crucial to our economic progress.”

    Well, of course that rescue didn’t actually cost the general population £800 billion; the help provided by the Treasury and the Bank of England was much less than that total shrinkage of the bank’s balance sheet, with assets being sold and the proceeds being used to deal with liabilities, and much of the state aid which was given has since been recovered; however it would be interesting to know roughly how much it has cost the British people in total to save that bank from collapse and stabilise it.

    Reply I did not say it was a loss to taxpayers, but you cannot slim down a major bank like that so quickly without it having an impact on loans and economic activity!

    1. Denis Cooper
      April 29, 2015

      I understand that the £800 billion is the shrinkage of the RBS balance sheet, but I would like to know the extent to which RBS has been subsidised so that it could survive and recover.

  16. Denis Cooper
    April 29, 2015

    I see that Cameron has been giving the SNP a bit of a hand by telling the BBC that the dream of Scottish independence is a “false dream” which over time “will fade” once the Scots start to look at “the numbers”.

    At least he didn’t go as far as condemning all SNP supporters as “nutters” and “closet racists” as he did with UKIP supporters, but I think that if he really wants to keep the UK together as he claims than it’s probably unwise to tell people in Scotland that they are deluded and he, the English Tory toff Cameron, knows best.

  17. a-tracy
    April 29, 2015

    Remind me again, did every bank in the UK crash? If they did how did the other’s get out of their mess on their own, did they have our taxes to do it, have they paid it back?

    Its people, not banks that borrowed money too loosely and didn’t repay it isn’t it. Probably the same people who are slating governments for the banking crisis and subsequent bust. I know people who over-inflated their earnings to get interest only cheap mortgages from the Northern Rock who got into a real mess. Did the banks take the publics savings money and spend it in industry loaning to companies, well people run companies too, allowing people to walk away completely from bankruptcies and personal insolvencies whose were these ideas. The people who borrowed sensibly and responsibly are now paying back for reckless policies from a Labour government that were in office for three terms.

  18. Iain Gill
    April 29, 2015

    What we have not seen is the real cost of high levels of immigration. All the costing’s produced have obvious gaps. A quick back of the fag packet calculation by anyone with half a brain shows we are in serious financial meltdown if this continues. And yet none of the main parties are really serious about tackling it.

  19. English Pensioner
    April 29, 2015

    Your statement “The UK Parliament proved incapable of having good debates . . . . ” applies to all issues, not just to the financial situation. It is this which, in my view, has led to the public disillusionment with politics. Politicians in the main believe in “my party, right or wrong” and their opponents by definition are totally incapable of managing anything. Prime Minister’s question time is probably the worst example, the questions are never answered, which, I suppose, doesn’t really matter as no-one in parliament is actually interested in the answer but just looking for an excuse to shout like the crowd at a football match..
    All parties agree that something needs doing about the NHS. Wouldn’t it have been far better to have a proper extended debate on the various options, their costs and the best methods of implementation rather than a brief debate consisting of the parties shouting slogans such as “No privatisation” or “spend more money” at each other without offering any real solutions. Even in our adversarial system, I’d rather see an agreed solution as I simply cannot believe that on party is always right.
    Even in electioneering, none of the parties have given any real detail of what they would like to do and how it would be funded; the main emphasis seems to be on criticising their opponents. Any fool can tell you what’s wrong with the country, what we need are people who can tell us how they would put things right and simply telling us they will spend more money on this, that and the other is not the answer.
    In spite of all the hype, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a record low turnout at the election due to the total disillusionment of so many voters.

    Reply There were some very good debates in Parliament 2010-15, but they tend to get less media coverage. I expect a good turnout at this election. To all of you who are so critical of candidates and parties, why aren’t you standing or putting forward someone better?

    1. agricola
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to Reply

      If that is so you should be asking yourself what the agenda of the BBC is. Is it to be a conduit of information or is it acting like a newspaper with a political agenda. If the latter then it’s news and current affaires departments should be forced to go commercial so reducing our tax contribution to many of the things they do very well.

      As to standing, I do not think that the hierarchy of the conservative party would like us very much. With the quality of people I meet through your diary page I think your leadership would go into apoplexy at the thought of so many free thinking sources they might become dependant on, for the short time they were allowed to last. Have no fear, we would find you an important post however.

    2. Max Dunbar
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to reply: How many of us would pass the ‘beauty test’ for candidate selection I wonder? And are there any parties out there that we would want to have anything to do with or would want to have anything to do with us?
      The only alternative is to set up your own party, which is quite possible as only two individuals are required as a minimum and the establishment costs are small. The fun bit is writing your own manifesto and the constitution of the party which I’m sure most contributors to this site would relish.
      The difficult bit is contesting elections, especially General Elections where a £500 deposit is required for each candidate and 10 signatures obtained from nominators who must be registered on the Electoral Roll within the relevant constituency.

    3. English Pensioner
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to Reply.
      I would have joined the local Conservatives years ago if I had thought I could make any difference. But in reality they seem to have little say over policies or candidate selection. Hence the fact that the local conservatives are locally believed to have considerably less members than UKIP, in a constituency where the sitting MP has one of the biggest majorities!
      No individual can seriously stand for election as an Independent, a situation partly brought about some years ago by the decision to put party names on the ballot paper. Before that all candidates were individuals and candidates had to make themselves known to the electors, now few bother.
      Whilst there may have been some unreported good debates, why aren’t there any on issues that matter like the NHS. No party has a monopoly of good ideas and many of us would support some consensus approach to its problems.
      And as for my standing for election, somehow I don’t think it would be a good idea for a pensioner who will be 80 next year!

  20. Bert Young
    April 29, 2015

    The trouble when discussing “numbers” is a) – whether someone knows anything about economics b) whether someone is relatively well-off , or , relatively poor c) whether someone is young or old and d) whether someone genuinely has an open mind .

    Many of the media make a point of focussing on celebrities – their lifestyle and goings on . However interesting this may be to the working man and woman , it does paint a picture of the enormous gap of wealth in our society . Those who pay a high price to watch a football game ( by the way – I don’t ) are reminded of the outlandish levels of remuneration footballers get , those who watch the goings on of the City ( I do ) are very much aware of the extreme bonuses paid to most of its employees .

    All of the foregoing ultimately finish up in some feeling of futility in the management of our lives and the disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. I am reminded of this in today’s press that talks about ” the difference of living standards n various parts of the country “. When it all comes down to the ordinary voter , they all wish for something to “make things better” ; big numbers evade them . Trust in leadership is the most convincing thing in their minds .

  21. JoolsB
    April 29, 2015

    It’s blindingly obvious where the Government could save billions if it had the guts to do so.
    International aid, the Barnett Formula, EU contributions, tax credits and welfare in general, public sector salaries and pensions would all be a significant start. Also, how about scrapping the Lords which is costing us over £250,000 every single day if they all clocked on and how about replacing 129 MSPs and 40AMs in the Scots & Welsh Parliaments with 117 part- time Scots, Welsh & NI MPs from UK Parliament?
    The savings are there to be had, unfortunately it’s the political will which is lacking!

    1. Mitchel
      April 29, 2015

      And how many Quangos are earmarked for the bonfire in the public spending cuts that have been promised but not specified for the next parliament?

  22. Brian Tomkinson
    April 29, 2015

    There is no debate about the numbers, be they big or small. The mainstream politicians are managed by their spin masters and terrified of straying off message. In order to play safe they won’t enter into any details of policy.
    Indeed, I have asked you several times to explain to me how saving £1 in every £100 equates to reducing the departmental budgets by £13bn and the welfare budget by £12bn and your answer is that you have never heard anyone say that, even though it has been said on an almost daily basis by leaders of your party rather than specify exactly where those reductions will be made. They either know the details and won’t tell us or haven’t a clue but have to stick to a number. In either case they are unworthy of support. Labour and the Lib Dems are just the same.
    Sadly for us, the media is largely complicit in this and our democracy is resultantly weakened.
    Today, your leader has been told that he isn’t trusted on taxation (or anything else for that matter) and therefore makes a last minute pledge that there will be no VAT, national insurance or income tax rises for the next five years under a Conservative government and vows to enshrine the Tory pledge in law. This would be quite irresponsible if it were not just part of the silly game you are indulged in and, as such, is meaningless.

    Reply I have set out clearly the Conservative spending and tax plans for the next five years from the official figures, and am happy to debate them any time. It is not my job to explain every statement by every Conservative – if you disagree with something they say then ask them through their websites or emails.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      April 29, 2015

      Reply to reply,
      It isn’t just any Conservative who says this it is your leader and his closest colleagues.

  23. yulwaymartyn
    April 29, 2015

    I think the entire world financial crash was caused by the policies of the British Labour party.

    1. a-tracy
      April 29, 2015

      We didn’t have to follow Clinton’s ideas on banking. We could have kept of pay differentials on mortgage loans which would have held back housing price gains.

    2. libertarian
      April 29, 2015


      But the entire world didn’t crash, thats the point. Do try to keep up. It was basically Europe and USA. Canada was fine, China was fine, Australia was fine etc etc

      The US crashed due to sub prime lending. The UK crashed due to the poor regulation and flouting of those regulations by the Labour govt. The rest of Europe crashed because they were dragged down by the others.

  24. agricola
    April 29, 2015

    The size of the government spending plan relates to what government wishes to do. The real debate should be about the extent to which we want or need government interference in our lives. Interference which we pay for via taxes, even if it is re-named as government spending. The re-naming half suggests that the means are plucked from the money tree, without acknowledging that the electorate are the money tree. Those in the dependency camp often do not care where it comes from, only that it keeps coming. The financial debate should be about what sort of society we wish to be part of.

    Almost everything that the UK government can and cannot do is controlled and dictated by our membership of the EU. It is therefore futile to talk about government programmes, manifesto promises etc., because our so called government has sold it’s sovereignty to the EU project. A project that has been in gestation and creation for almost a century. A situation that the UK electorate, in small part, are beginning to wake to, despite an opiate stream of misinformation it has been fed from Harold Wilson onwards. There is a parallel awakening in Europe too, where the downside is being felt in the dole queues throughout southern Europe in particular.

    One of the key aspects of the EU project has been to keep the purpose hidden from the European population, knowing that it would not be swallowed any other way. This is very specifically the case in the UK where virtually all our political leaders have been complicit in the process since the end of WW2.

    Our sovereignty is the great debate we should be having, because everything we are or might wish to be as a nation flows from it. The minutia of manifestos and election promises are mostly irrelevant to the question of sovereignty. Wake up people of the UK. Your heritage is being sold for a mess of potage, the contents of which you have been kept in ignorance of.

  25. Mark W
    April 29, 2015

    Mr Redwood,

    I’m sorry to comment off topic but I’m surprised at the open goal that has been missed by your party. Growth down to 0.3%?

    This to me is obvious. Particularly as it is due to manufacture and building. In my own business and those I know we have all held back in fear of a Labour lead government. Not simply because of the damage they’ll do to the economy. In fairness that is the same for everyone and doesn’t interfere with the competitive playing field, as all suffer equally in like for like trades.

    No, it is the increasingly left wing state interference that is being threatened. Like many it would be insane to invest / reinvest when there is a possiblity that it might be better to sell off assets and quit parts of your interest as you don’t particularly have any relish for being answerable to some populist imbecile lecturing you in your business interests, when they have no personal sweat and tears invested.

    Reply There may be a pre election effect as you say. I suspect the number will be revised up later, as this is a prelim only. Confidence surveys etc are more positive.

    1. Mark W
      April 29, 2015

      Thank you for the reply.

      I agree that these figures are often revised and this makes me wonder whether there accuracy should be treated as more important than the need to publish so quickly. Particularly in the face of a close to call election.

      Recent Conservative campaigns, and some not so recent, seem to suffer from some idea that people take certain facts for granted. I really think they don’t.

      I see Labour movers and shakers getting away with significant misinformation and the Tory interviewees, letting it pass unchallenged (more frustrating when they are allowed the time to do so too).

      I share a view that the polls will not show the true move back until hours after the election like 1992. There are many like me who returned after a brief dance with UKIP. I take my hat off to Mr Farage and I hope they do well in the north and I guess I’d like to see him win his seat too. I only hope that they don’t divide the vote and allow Labour a score of midlands and east coast seats.

      But in this close election the Conservative message has not made the most of its air time and valid points, I also know that campaign resources to some marginal seats were left to the individual candidate as the central body considered the seat wasn’t marginal enough. I only hope this doesn’t come back to haunt the party afterwards.

  26. ian
    April 29, 2015

    I have seen so much money go in over the last 5 year i can not keep count, 550 billion in borrowing, sales of assets, bank charges, bank fines, extra taxes, cut backs, you name it and still gone nowhere, the hole is still massive and they are still digging, they pride their selves on no wages cuts in the public sector and lower unemployment and say look at southern Europe 50% unemployment, 30% wages cuts. I say yes you have put in a extra 150 billion a year on top of your regular taxes on average, What i say to you is how are going to compete if and when Europe comes out of economic slump.

  27. forthurst
    April 29, 2015

    “It would be good if in the last days of this election campaign there could be some discussion of the big numbers that have a real impact”

    How about these from Migrationwatch?

    “65% of UK household growth from 1996 to 2014 was the direct consequence of international migration to the UK.

    International migration is now the chief driver of population growth in the UK. This is relatively new. In most years until the late 1980s net migration was negative.

    76% want immigration reduced, 4% wanted it increased. 14% want it unchanged.

    50% chose immigration as the most important issue facing them and their family – higher than the economy (46%) and the Health Service (42%).”

    1. Mondeo Man
      April 29, 2015

      Forthurst – It only takes a the substitution of a few letters to make you a racist.

      Where you say you may be concerned by immiGRATION they will twist your words and say you are saying you are concerned by immiGRANTS. (Nicola Sturgeon did this with Farage.)

      Hence the insulting and dishonest anti xenophobia posters everywhere.

      The Tories are doing nothing to defend ordinary people from such smears. They join in by calling them closet racists.

      They keep the #1 issue from the debate and refuse to encourage people to vote Ukip in areas where Tories can’t possibly win.

      Of the poster campaign I don’t doubt that a lot of young men will be angered that they couldn’t be a firefigher when someone newly arrived got the job. Try pulling that trick in France or Germany – even with a language capability.

      1. forthurst
        April 29, 2015

        Mondeo Man – I was simply quoting statistical information which was reproduced on Migrationwatch, hence the quotation marks. In any case, the term that you quote is devoid of useful meaning but is, nevertheless, extensively used by the enemy within to provoke in the English a Pavlovian reaction of silence in order to proceed with their immigration policies unchallenged until the country has been transformed beyond recognition as well as being uncomfortably overcrowded.

  28. Kenneth
    April 29, 2015

    Regarding the media, I wonder if pollsters have ever asked themselves why they are building in 3 or 4% (or whatever the value is) for the ‘shy Tory’ effect? This is an estimate of the percentage of poll respondents who are too ashamed to declare they will vote Conservative.

    Why is there such a gap between what the public intend and what they will admit to?

    In my humble opinion I think this is a direct measure of the level of bias in the media, dominated as it is by the BBC.

    I suspect the ‘shy UKIP’ gap is much greater and I therefore also suspect that pollster will badly underestimate the UKIP vote,.especially in Labour ‘heartlands’.

    1. Mondeo Man
      April 29, 2015

      Kenneth – I dare not admit my Ukip support at work and would even be quiet about it socially.

      The Left have a free reign to be vocal and strident. They can say the most outrageous and offensive things. Their anger borders on violence and I would be hounded out if I admitted voting UKIP.

      I avoid pollsters.

      Yes. I think Ukip support is underestimated and I never felt the need to be quiet about voting Conservative.

      1. Denis Cooper
        April 30, 2015

        “Their anger borders on violence”

        It strays well over that border, unless hitting somebody on the head with a placard doesn’t count as violence but it treated as an amusing prank.

        And then there are the death threats received by UKIP candidates, and the criminal damage to UKIP offices … all condoned, not condemned, by those leading the old parties and their media supporters.

  29. Roy Grainger
    April 29, 2015

    Politicians have noticed that they get more votes by focussing on the small and specific things that directly affect people rather than large general (more important) issues. In my constituency there are plans to knock down an old hospital and build a new hospital in its place. The Labour candidate’s number one headline item on his election literature is “Stop the Tories demolishing the local hospital”. I bet he gets lots of votes based on that.

  30. A different Simon
    April 29, 2015

    John ,

    I heard via a third party that the Conservative Party tolerates you because they need someone who is good at analysing figures and highly numerate .

    Maybe the others are too lazy to apply themselves to the degree necessary to get to the bottom of things .

    Alternatively , it could be the peculiar British political class’s disdain towards arithmetic and maths .

    Either way , you should have a job for as long as you want it .

    Reply The main reason the Conservative party works with me is that I have been one of their MPs, and am standing as one of their candidates!

  31. Atlas
    April 29, 2015

    John, I had to smile at your true point. I was reminded of the “cost of the Nuclear power station and the associated bike sheds” urban tale/myth? That is, nobody on the deciding committee could comprehend the cost of the power station, but they could comprehend the cost of the bike sheds. So all the committee debate focused on that !

    1. outsider
      April 29, 2015

      Dear Atlas, This is one of the pieces in C Northcote Parkinson’s little book Parkinson’s Law, entitled High Finance or the Point of Vanishing interest. It was published in 1958 but it is still full of worldly wisdom and I enjoy re-reading it.
      Another piece calculates that a Cabinet ceases to be a genuine decision-making body if it numbers more than 20 or 21. The Coalition Cabinet has 22 full members with a further 11 attending but not voting.

      1. Atlas
        April 30, 2015

        Thank you outsider for giving the source of the quote. It seems that there is little that is new under the sun…

  32. rick hamilton
    April 29, 2015

    A billion may be ‘ just fifteen pounds for every man woman and child ‘ but it’s still a thousand million pounds ( if we must use the American system ) and more than most people could even imagine. But if you take out those not in work – students, pensioners, unemployed – how much would it be per taxpayer? Huge numbers of taxpayers are paid out of taxpayers’ money anyway so how much per head is it for those who actually produce the wealth in the first place ?

    Looking at major motor manufacturers where the volumes of products are very large, and relatively expensive objects, they are obsessed with saving every penny on the cost of a vehicle because the cumulative costs can break the company if they get out of control. It is exactly the reverse mentality of many politicians and bureaucrats who think it’s ONLY so much per head or ONLY a small percentage of the total. It’s the ONLYs that add up to the billions of cost and the trillions of debt as clearly you understand JR, but how many know or care?

    “Look after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves ” How is it that manufacturing industry has to think that way to survive but governments apparently do not ?

  33. ian
    April 29, 2015

    USA GDP 0.2 growth, GDP price index – 0.1 instead of + 0.5, they beat you by 0.1 yanks win again.

  34. ian
    April 29, 2015

    Like i say GDP is a waste of time, only good for budget spending forecasts, so when your forecasts are threaten you have to cut interest rates if your not already at zero or wait to see if things improve or more QE or put up taxes, That the trouble of adding growth to your forecast and hinging all your plan on it also paying for thing 1 billion for this for 10 year HS2 over 3 billion a year 15 years PFI so many billion a year 40 years trident 3 billion a year for 30 years and so on. Here we go round the mulberry bush the mulberry bush the mulberry bush, Here we go round mulberry bush on cold and frostier morning.

  35. Max Dunbar
    April 29, 2015

    An interesting post although, not being trained in accountancy, I find it hard to take in these figures.
    However, you did touch briefly on Trident. It would be much appreciated if you could expand on this subject very soon as it is one of the most used pieces of Leftist propaganda here in Scotland at this General Election. A clear and dispassionate analysis of Trident from the strategic and financial perspective would be very useful ammunition for those of us who support Trident in principle but who do not possess in-depth knowledge of the subject.

  36. ian
    April 29, 2015

    The biggest inventory build in usa history, if it was not for this usa GDP would of been down – 3 per cent in first three month of this year, they running out place to store the stuff, i should think they will sell it off to the third world cheap or burn it.

  37. JoeSoap
    April 29, 2015

    Frankly these are not rounding sums for many of us who are net tax payers rather than takers. We run our business with our eyes on the pennies, literally. Don’t use new paper fro “scrap” uses, don’t pay silly sums for telecoms but go for VOIP instead, don’t move to unnecessarily larger, business-rates sucking premises before we need to.
    We expect government to do the same with that chunk of 20% of our profits we pay, the VAT we collect, and the NI PAYE and NEST, the business rates, the car tax, the import duties….

  38. Lindsay McDougall
    April 29, 2015

    The big numbers: let’s talk about PFI debts and other off balance sheet items. There is a summary of the numbers and a chart of the PFI repayments past and forecast on the Guardian website. The Conservatives toyed with the idea of ending PFI financing but didn’t. Let us hope that they have got better value for money than Labour.

    The numbers for total PFI debt, rounded to the nearest £bn were:
    Department of Health: Capital costs £12 bn, Total repayments £79 bn
    Department for Education: Capital costs £8 bn, Total repayments £29 bn
    All departments: Capital costs £55 bn, Total repayments £301 bn

    What of the timing of the PFI repayments? They started from zero in 1997, have built up to £10 bn per annum now and are planned to continue at that level until about 2025, declining back to zero in 2050. This presumably depends on not taking on very many more PFI contracts.

    Then there are the payments to be made from the Royal Mail pension fund, the government having taken over this responsibility after declaring the fund to be a newly acquired asset to be offset against government borrowing.

    Then there was the planned increase in Network Rail borrowing, to increase from £20 bn to $40 bn. Is that still off balance sheet?

    What is the overall position of off balance sheet government debt?

    We have come a long way since the days of the Ryrie rules, when central government could borrow only by selling gilts, when all State debts had to be on balance sheet, and budgets for each financial year had to be spent by the end of it.

  39. Jon
    April 29, 2015

    In 2010 we had 2 or 3 bond scares where the UK struggled to find buyers for it’s debt renewals. That’s basket case collapse arena like the massive high unemployment in Greece, Spain, Portugal.

    We are not far off that if confidence goes with our high deficit and overall debt. Unfortunately I don’t think many people understand this. In this situation it won’t take Labour 10 years to mess up the economy it will be at best 2 years if not months.

    1. Denis Cooper
      April 30, 2015

      You forget that the Treasury now has a new, captive, totally dependable, investor willing to buy its bonds and able to create unlimited money to do so.

  40. Chris S
    April 29, 2015

    This has been an appallingly disappointing election campaign.

    The only numbers that count, and the only ones that the electorate appears to be interested in, are the number of seats that are likely to be held by each party next Thursday.

    The Conservatives have a good story to tell, particularly over the economy which by every measure, is the one area of policy that they should be leading Labour by a mile.

    By all accounts the Conservatives should be 50 seats ahead of Labour but the polls indicate that the two parties are canvassing themselves to a standstill and neither has established an advantage over the other.

    It makes uncomfortable reading when looking at the numbers : were the SNP not storming ahead in Scotland, Labour would be home and dry. Given Labour’s disastrous term in Government and the fact that Milband is a poorer candidate than Kinnock and barely an improvement over Michael Foot, this is a scarcely believable performance.

    The fault has to lie with the Conservatives.

    Very depressing.

    1. Denis Cooper
      April 30, 2015

      Actually, and contrary to conventional wisdom, Labour would be home and dry if UKIP hadn’t started to make significant inroads into its support from around the end of 2012. Labour was on about 43% then, with the Tories on about 33%, which would have given Labour a 100+ majority; and while Labour’s loss of support in Scotland has been massive it translates to a loss of only about 2% across the UK as a whole, the effect of UKIP in England and Wales has been much greater than that. But are the Tories grateful to UKIP for pulling Labour down towards their level, which is what has happened? Of course not.

      Reply You leave out Greens, Lib Dems and other parties that have taken votes off Labour, and the switches to Conservatives. Polling analysis shows UKIP have taken many more votes off Conservatives than off Labour, and also are attracting people who otherwise did not vote.

      1. Denis Cooper
        April 30, 2015

        I don’t leave them out; I look at the charts and note that the LibDems have actually LOST a bit more support since the end of 2012, maybe 2%, while the Greens have GAINED a bit, maybe 3%, so between those two they may have taken Labour down by maybe 1%; while the Tories were on 33% then and may be on 34% now, so that would be another 1% say; and so with the SNP having taken about 2% Labour has suffered a net loss of only about 4% with respect to those three parties. So the obvious conclusion is that UKIP was responsible for the greater part of Labour’s loss of support over that period, consistent with the rise in UKIP support by about 7%. And that is also consistent with analyses of the source of UKIP’s support, if you avoid the almost universal error of assuming that somebody who voted LibDem in 2010 must have continued to support the LibDems until the point at which they decided to switch to supporting UKIP.

      2. Denis Cooper
        April 30, 2015

        For example, if you look at the schematic here:

        you will see that they have 5 blue men moving from the Tories to UKIP, just 1 red man moving from Labour to UKIP with 3 yellow men moving from the LibDems to UKIP.

        However the colour coding is based on how they voted back in May 2010, when we know that support for the LibDems collapsed by about 60% in the second half of 2010, and that almost of the yellow men who abandoned the LibDems turned red, not purple of blue or green.

        It was only about two years later that some of the yellow men who had turned red started to undergo a second colour change, from red to purple; and if they changed colour again now they would more likely change back to red, not to yellow.

        So that if the rise in support for UKIP since 2010 was reversed it would now be up to 4 men turning from purple to red, offsetting the 5 turning from purple to blue, with a net gain for blue over red of as few as just 1 man out of 9 lost by UKIP.

        As I have pointed out before, either the Tories made a strategic error by lazily assuming that they could beat Labour by bashing UKIP – because even if they succeeded in bashing UKIP to death they would derive only a slight net benefit in their contest with Labour – or they understood that but wanted to bash UKIP to death anyway in order to nip it in the bud and protect our EU membership.

  41. a-tracy
    April 30, 2015

    All of this uncertainty, hung parliament risks, promises to buy votes with uprating costs to the business community, what do you think the effect is of that on the current business investment decisions. Politicians can’t keep breaking things and expecting us to fix it. John where can business find out what each party is proposing to do and by when. What are the promises by each party on the NMW, sick, maternity, paternity leave and pay, holiday pay, employer’s national insurance, corporate taxes, business rates, holiday allowance, what is each party going to do about zero hours – could you have a 5 hour per week contract and that’ll be acceptable? Can you have a university term time contract flexible for both parties or not? Is flexibility only to work one way forever? For example can a business reduce someone’s hours to part-time if the business no longer needs a full time worker to accommodate flexible working that someone else wants? In fact what has the EU got coming next?

    Parties offering about inflation increases in the NMW for example are they offering the same % increases to state pensions?

  42. Vanessa
    April 30, 2015

    Mr Redwood – Please would you tell me why this government is making so many laws for itself. It seems to think that if something is on the Statue Books then we will believe it – unlike some of the promises Cameron comes out with.

    There was a law in 2010 which said that the government would reduce the deficit by some figure or get rid of it. You have not obeyed the law and therefore you are in breach of the law. What will the “law” do to you? Will you all be tried for the crime? Will you all be thrown into prison? If WE break the law the police come after us. What is the point of your laws when you do not bother to obey them and NOTHING happens when you do. So much for an amazing “promise” which was enshrined in our law but which you politicians are so arrogant that you do not bother to obey your own laws and when you do break them NOTHING HAPPENS TO YOU !

  43. margaret brandreth-j
    April 30, 2015

    I thought Trident was a shared concern with France today.
    At a guess I would say that most politicans, having been elected rather than placed for their economic talents ,would not comprehend such large amounts of spending and the tooings and froings between banks, selling off of assests and hedging money in the hope of rebuilding.

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