Friday, 10 March 2017

Identifying what's actually broken

Yesterday’s news was full of accusations that the Chancellor broke an election promise by raising the level of National Insurance payments for self-employed people.  I think, though, that people are aiming at the wrong target.
In the Conservative Party, policy is made by the leader; the leader is ultimately responsible for the content of the manifesto; and the leader is responsible for keeping any promises.  So the ‘promise’ which Hammond broke yesterday wasn’t one made by him, nor by his boss, the Prime Minister.  It’s a promise made by a man who is no longer involved in politics and is in no position to either keep or break any promises he made.
Cameron may well have been elected on a manifesto containing the said promise, but we no longer have a Cameron government.  We’ve had a change of government, and under the UK system, it’s a fundamental principle that no government can be bound by its predecessor.  Neither can any Tory leader be bound by anything his or her predecessor may have said.  New leader = new government = new policies; any expectation to the contrary flies in the face of the whole history of the Conservative Party and the UK constitution.
Now some might object that all the Tory MPs were elected on the basis of that same manifesto and they should all be bound by it.  Actually, no they weren’t.  Under the UK constitution, people don’t vote for a party and they don’t vote for a set of policies.  They vote for one person in one constituency, and once elected, that person has the constitutional right to vote for or against any issue, solely as he or she pleases.
What’s my point?  This whole issue shows that something is indeed broken, but it isn’t a throwaway pre-election promise.  What’s broken is a constitution and electoral system which allows a change of personnel to become a change of government and a wholesale change of policy and direction with no elector input at all.  I’m not even sure that ‘broken’ is the right word for this – it was unfit for purpose in the first place.  Either way, in fairness to ‘Spreadsheet Phil’, he isn’t the one who broke it.  And I’m absolutely certain that hounding him for it isn’t the way to fix it either.  But then, who of those attacking him really wants to fix the underlying problem?


Anonymous said...

I'm sure technically you are right. But the way it plays could be very different. Is this the current Tory party's, "read my lips, no new taxes" moment when George Bush senior broke an election promise and was then replaced by Bill Clinton after he was regularly reminded of his broken promise.

I thought the Shadow Chancellor was very poor when he tried to exploit the issue on Radio 4 and went round and round in circles as he tried to escape the suplimentary question of those on £51k.He should have gone for the broken promise and low paid self employed who often don't want to be self employed being penalised.

I've heard virtually nothing about those in Wales who are going to suffer from this broken promise. Will the letters pages in Tory seats such as those Pembrokeshire be making the case for all those self employed in the agricultural and tourism sector that will lose out?

I think you are one of the few Welsh blogs that has picked up on this issue. Could this be a reason why so many Welsh voters don't engage with the nationalist agenda because basic bread and butter issues are rarely discussed?

Anonymous said...

It isn't what you say, it's what you do that counts.

The Tories have just learnt this. The Liberals learnt it with their unaffordable policy on university tuition fees. The Labour party learnt it with their 'weapons of mass destruction' nonsense. And Plaid, well, unfortunately Plaid have never learnt it. That's why no matter what policy changes they make no-one ever believes them and they make absolutely no headway with the electorate here in Wales.

Thank goodness for UKIP.

Anonymous said...

Omnishambles, party lied to voters, worst budget reaction in 20 years are just some of the comments in the press to the £2bn national insurance hike for the self employed. It is so bad that even a government minister has broken ranks saying,"I believe we should apologies. I will apologise to every voter in Wales that read the Conservative manifesto in the 2015 election". So Guto Bebb MP feels vunerable. What about the other Welsh Tory MPs? Are they going to apologise? Will they vote it through? Are they going to take phrases out of the Yes Minister play book like the Chancellor and say we have "moved on" since BREXIT and that legislation after the election "puts this behind us". Their promise was, "not to raise national insurance contributions". Promise broken just like the Liberals and tuition fees.

John Dixon said...

Anon 15:26,

As someone once almost said, it must be a very peculiar problem if the answer is UKIP.

Anonymous said...

We now hear that the omNICshambles only came about because during the election they had a thin day on the election time table and needed to fill it with something. You could not make it up!

Anonymous said...

Tory own goal. Hammond wants to move the budget to the Autumn so puts a holding budget together with the only real item being a £2bn tax increase and wonders why it is the major topic of conversation. Typical of a spread sheet guy- can't see the big picture. Mrs May uses a huge amount of her Brussels press conference about UK-EU relations to deal with the mistake. Many of these self employed are relatively lowly paid, but the Tories have no clue about what it is like for those that are striving to do well or they would not have made this political mistake. Does not bode well for the BREXIT negotiations if these types are going to run the show. Shows how important it is to have a real opposition to hold them to account. Makes it clear that MPs need a vote on the final terms of the BREXIT negotiations.

Anonymous said...

All in it together!
Former Chancellor gains from budget. Single, self employed parent with two kids on £10k a year is down by 16%. When are the rest of the Welsh Tory MPs going to join Bebb and apologies and not break their election promise?