Thursday 21 October 2010

Nick Clegg v the IFS: the rematch

Conventional wisdom has it that George Osborne's emergency budget in June was regressive, what with that being what the graphs and IFS analysis showed and everything.

But not so fast. This blog was one of the few outlets to give time and space to Nick Clegg's creative dissent - in which he pointed out that the IFS in June had completely failed to include any future decisions which the government had not made yet.

Fast forward a few months and Clegg should be pleased to see that the economic pointy-heads have finally raised their game.

Today's IFS report does at last contains a detailed analysis of Wednesday's Comprehensive Spending Review decisions, after these were so strangely omitted from its June study.

Clegg somehow seems far from gruntled, as The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow blogged on the Cameron-Clegg post-CSR conference this afternoon.

Clegg also said that the question of fairness was "literally the question I have been asking myself every single day of this very difficult process we have been going through".

"I honestly would not have advocated this if I didn't feel that, notwithstanding all the difficulties, we tried to do this as fairly as possible. Of course I understand people are very, very fearful, and fear is a very powerful emotion and it kind of sweeps everything else aside. But I would ask people to have a little bit of perspective: if you look at some of the announcements we made yesterday, and add that to some of the announcements we made in the budget, I think the picture is a little bit more balanced than people are saying".

Hell, we can do better than that. If you look at all of the announcements the government made yesterday, and add them to all of the announcements in the budget, then you've kind of got the IFS methodology for getting a whole lot of perspective on the balance of the governments overall policy programme.

Still, Clegg's plea for selectivity tells us something too.

As Stephanie Flanders blogs, what the IFS want to know is why the Treasury keeps leaving out from its budget and CSR analysis a third of the benefit cuts which hit the poor hardest, when the IFS has already done the modelling work for the Treasury.


Haven't you seen what that does to the graphs, silly?

They think its all over. But somebody should tell Nick Clegg that Spurs were four-nil down at half-time yesterday in Italy - and they kept trying.

Since its got a bit one-sided in Whitehall too, Next Left has one helpful suggestion to help level the playing field. Mightn't Downing Street - on the Know Your Enemy principle - see if Mr Robert Chote, now of the independent Office of Budget Responsibility but having been IFS head honcho during the budget - might now be persuaded to spend a lunch-hour or two giving the odd tutorial and especially helping the Deputy Prime Minister road-test any some more wheezes he has for creative rebuttal.

If Mr Chote were to get wind of this plan then you might spot him wondering the Treasury corridors muttering "it's not fair".

Yet, were Nick to put that dream-team together, perhaps it could be after all.

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