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Ed Miliband has many challenges – but the spending review isn't one of them

Date: 7. May 2013
Gavin Kelly

George Osborne's immediate priorities shouldn't distract Labour, which instead must focus on how it plans to cut the deficit

Whether Labour matches the spending totals set out by George Osborne in the spending review is deemed to be one of the most significant questions in British politics and the sternest test yet of Ed Miliband's leadership. But like many self-evident truths that emerge from Westminster, it's a bit wide of the mark.

To be sure, Miliband faces some major judgment calls before the election – above all on the public finances. But whether to match the coalition's spending review proposals isn't one of them. What's more, the main reason for this is that the coalition has inadvertently let him off the hook.

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The end of pledge-card politics?

Date: 22. February 2013
Gavin Kelly

This post originally appeared on Gavin's New Statesman blog

The next election will see a battered electorate in need of economic and social respite confronted by a political elite woefully lacking in resources and public trust. Never in recent times will so much be asked from leaders who have so little to respond with.

The result is starting to pose interesting questions about some of the familiar features of electoral politics – one of these is the entrenched cult of pledge-card politics and the type of statecraft that underpins it.

The art of boiling down an entire election pitch to easily marketed bite-size promises – "short and catchy" as Peter Mandelson used to put it - reached its zenith in the UK in 1997 and has dominated subsequent campaigns even if the pledges have paled over time. Looking back there was an inverse rule between the size of the pledges and what they succeeded in communicating. In 1997, some of the commitments were certainly modest yet still managed to say something significant about the character of the future Blair government (not least by specifying where resources would be found to pay for new spending).

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Living wage – coming to a city near you

Date: 10. May 2012
Gavin Kelly

This post originally appeared on Gavin's New Statesman blog

The last time a letter left on a desk caused such a stir it involved an exchange between two senior politicians about the future of the country’s finances. This time the note was from a group of Whitehall cleaners to Iain Duncan Smith asking him to make good on his commitment to make work pay and make his department, DWP, a living wage employer. The fact that it so caught the public mood says something about how the question of low pay has risen in salience. 

This is in no small part due to the success of the living wage campaign, a grass-roots movement formed just over a decade ago, to push for a decent wage – above the minimum wage - for workers. It has helped shine a light on the rising problem of in-work poverty. In an era when there are many structural forces bearing down on low pay – from shifts in technology and trade to the continued demise of collective bargaining and the real terms falls in the minimum wage - the momentum behind the campaign for a living wage is a rare example of at least some countervailing pressure.

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Why Nick Clegg's still taxing Cameron and Miliband

Date: 19. February 2012
Gavin Kelly

This post originally appeared on Gavin's New Statesman blog

It remains a curiosity of today's political scene that a small and unpopular party bumping along on 7 to 10 per cent in opinion polls is making the waves on the central issue of tax policy. On this one issue at least, the two main parties find themselves reacting to the gauntlet the Liberal Democrats have laid down.

Nick Clegg's recent speech to the Resolution Foundation making the case for going further and faster in reaching a personal tax allowance of £10,000 has been widely reported as a significant moment in the genesis of the forthcoming budget which due to the precarious position of the economy, and the increasingly creaky nature of the Coalition, is destined to be a highly charged affair both fiscally and politically.

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Ed Miliband 1

How seven years of cuts will transform the political landscape

Date: 29. November 2011
Gavin Kelly and

This post originally appeared on Gavin's New Statesman blog

When it comes to big political set pieces, like yesterday's Autumn Statement, the predictable somehow still manages to surprise. Everyone knew it would be bad; and we all knew it would raise big challenges for all three parties. Yet today, everyone is caught off-guard.

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