Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gordon Brown and the sound of chickens coming home to roost

Today's weekly column picks up on David Cameron's latest attempt to address the English Question, but focusing less on his pledge to create an "English Grand Committee" and more on the background to how Labour got itself such a mess on the issue.

Of all the politicians in the UK, Gordon Brown bears more responsibility than any for the ongoing "English backlash," given his repeated refusal to reform the grossly iniquitous Barnett Formula despite a critical Treasury Select Committee report on the issue as long ago as 1999.

In my column, I argue that Labour had a great opportunity to tackle Scotland's disproportionate share of public spending under the formula in 1999/2000 when the party was riding high politically and public expenditure as a whole was rising so sharply that the adjustment could effectively have been concealed.

That opportunity has now been lost. The politics of the situation have changed utterly, with the SNP now very much in the ascendant, while public spending is no longer rising anything like as fast.

"New Labour’s refusal to reform the Barnett Formula when it was in a position to do so is a metaphor for its entire performance in government. It had two majorities of 160 plus. It was faced by an opposition which wasn’t capable of running a whelk stall. It had a chance to do difficult but necessary things for the long-term benefit of the country. And it didn’t do them."

The piece can be read in full on my companion blog HERE.

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Barnacle Bill said...

When you think what Blair could have done for this country with the majorities he enjoyed - you could weep.
Talk about ten wasted years.
Even with reform of the second chamber, we are still waiting for it to be completed.
It would appear to me that Blair was seduced by the thrill of playing the international statesman.
That led him to neglect more mundane matters at home.

Anonymous said...

Paul I have to say, with sincere regret, that I'm finding a distinctly unattractive and excluding element creeping into your blog with this posting and the preceding one on 'What England means to me'.

That preceding one just read to me like the maudling, sillyness of a potentially dangerous irrational sort that I also hear from a certain type of Scottish 'patriot'.

What are we all to do with this... slowly receed into some sort of never-has-been pretend wee nationalist corner in each part of our Island? Oh, and add on the bit at the top of Ireland, because, after all, it has given us British a great example of this 'my land that I love right or wrong' nonsense hasn't it?

And, on what is becoming your endless one-liner about Barnett, a few ore contextual 'facts' please?...

Public spending in Scotland is £9631. per head, lower than London's average alone of £9,748.

Scotland brings in £9593 per head in tax - more than anywhere in the UK outside London.Latest estimates show the tax take from Scoltand is £49Billion, meaning Scoltand pays it's own way.

People living in North East England claim on average £3,284 welfare benefits per head, Wales £ £3,136 and Scotland... just £3,086

(Lot's more available from the 'Herald's enquiry)