Archive for octobre, 2011

David Cameron & the Eurozone.

Vendredi, octobre 28th, 2011

With the UK not part of the Eurozone, it was not surprising that Prime Minister David Cameron raised the ire of President Sarkozy of France in pressing for inclusion in the talks leading up to the recent Eurozone debt rescue deal. Arriving earlier the Prime Minister said that he was glad to be at the talks, as many issues the leaders would discuss were directly relevant to Britain. Mr. Cameron then joined leaders of all 27 EU nations for the summit, which was followed by a working dinner attended only by heads of the 17 nations using the Euro.
UK Chancellor George Osborne commented afterwards that the debt deal agreed by the Eurozone leaders was much better than expected but additional bailout funds should not be expected from Britain. He also confirmed that no British banks would be required to hold additional capital following the meeting which, in addition, and to avoid a Greek default on its debt, essentially forced a 50% discount on Greek debt in those European banks involved.
The question is how should we view this performance by Mr. Cameron? Was he right to insist on the UK being involved in the Eurozone talks despite upsetting his French counterpart? We must consider that on balance he was right, faced with no choice but to get involved, based on past experience when France and Germany have got together to carve out a solution impacting the EU. The most recent and celebrated case is when they came up with the idea of a Tobin-type tax on financial transactions within the EU, 90% of the net burden of which would have been borne by the UK, given the dominant position of the City of London in European financial markets! This Tobin tax proposal is also a prime example of the EU not considering its overall competitivity as a trading bloc, with both George Osborne the Chancellor and his Labour opposition counterpart Ed. Balls in agreement that such a tax should only be applied on a global basis.

Five-Point Plan of Labour for Jobs & Growth

Jeudi, octobre 20th, 2011

Labour in their Five-Point Plan are saying that the Tory-led Government is cutting too far and too fast and risks choking off economic recovery. They say that unemployment is rising again and is currently at the highest level in 17 years. Labour adds that one in five young people are out of work and now more women are unemployed than at any time since 1988.
On this latter point, David Smith writing in his Economic Outlook column in the business section of the Sunday Times of 16 October, comments that we would serve our young people better if we did not give such a bleak picture of youth unemployment. He says that everybody knows that the unemployment figure of 991,000 includes 269,000 full-time students looking for part-time work. Subtracting the latter figure and measuring youth unemployment as a percentage of the youth population as a whole (and as calculated by the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion), brings the youth unemployment rate down to a still too high but more manageable, 9.9%.
However, David Smith would not reject all five points of the Plan overall, although he considers cutting back VAT to 17.5% a non-starter, presumably because this would entail higher government borrowing (to disturb the credit rating agencies) and/or higher taxes (to stifle growth further) to fill the resulting shortfall in tax income. On the more positive side, he writes that other points such as a one-year national insurance break for small firms hiring new workers, a temporary VAT cut to 5% on home improvements and bringing forward some capital investments, all merit further consideration. Indeed, on the question of capital investment he confesses himself disappointed to see little of this discussed at the recent Conservative Party annual conference. He makes no comment on the first point of the Plan, a populist proposal for a further £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people and build 25,000 affordable homes.
Of course, it is much easier for Labour to talk about plans for jobs and growth in isolation from the global economy i.e. when in opposition and not facing the practical realities of the government of a trading nation such as the UK, whose major trading partners - the European Union and the United States - are also struggling to create growth and the associated jobs. It is again rather disingenuous of Labour to talk about temporarily reversing the VAT rise to provide a £450 boost for individual families with children, when a significant part of the growth in the economy presided over by the previous Labour government, was driven by our now over-borrowed consumers spending money to buy goods they couldn’t really afford and, therefore, should have done without at the time.

Individual Electoral Registration (IER)

Mardi, octobre 11th, 2011

The draft legislation of the Electoral Registration Transformation Programme for individual electors, includes international comparisons of electoral registration levels (91% for England & Wales) which are not necessarily comparing like with like, particularly in the case of France. Since (unlike the UK) France extends the right to vote to all its expatriates of voting age, presumably the French (90% - 91%) electoral registration levels must also include what are otherwise defined as overseas electors in the draft British government legislation.
However, in the case of overseas electors for the UK ( or England and Wales since Scotland is excluded from the comparison) it is estimated that there are around 5.5 million British expatriates of which at the last count (December, 2010) only 30,809 were registered to vote. Assuming that 50 % of this overseas elector base is not excluded by the 15 year cut-off rule, this still remains rather a significant proportion of potential voters missing from the comparison and implying that the England & Wales registration level is not as good as presented.
Such a large number of British expatriates missing from the electoral register can be attributed to a number of reasons including of course general apathy or less of an attachment to the old country, but there is also the need to update and facilitate the currently difficult and time consuming process of registration/voting, to better reflect the availability of more modern communication aids such as the on-line means mentioned in the draft legislation. In their favour, expatriates usually have the benefit of a valid British passport to aid with accredited ID assurance compared with the absence of similar ID cards for the UK population at large but which exist for all French nationals. However, again many expatriates complain about not being able to register or vote because of the rather arbitrary 15 year cut-off rule whilst still paying UK taxes, which rather contradicts those who say expatriates should not have a vote because they do not pay UK taxes! Indeed, on the tax question, there is also a perhaps rather irrational concern expressed by some expatriates that they do not want to register because HMRC would be able to then better track and investigate their personal tax affairs.
Removing any tax link to the right to vote (as in the case of the controversial Poll Tax of Mrs Thatcher) or indeed any time limit such as the 15 year rule, would then recognise this as a fundamental human right of any British national of voting age. It would also satisfy those ex-servicemen/women now expatriate and without a vote after 15 years non-resident, some of whom believe that the government is thereby even breaking the military covenant between the country and those who have put their lives at risk on its behalf.

Electoral Roll Fraud?

Lundi, octobre 3rd, 2011

Interviewed by Sky News last Thursday during the annual Labour party conference, the Labour Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, claimed that the Conservatives were trying to push up to 10 million voters off the electoral register to make it easier for themselves to win the election!
Coalition government plans for Electoral Roll reform would require each individual to sign up, ending the system where one person can register their household and research by the Independent Electoral Commission has found most of those who will become ineligible to vote are likely to have been Labour voters.
She asserted that the people who, as a result of these rule changes, are most likely to be pushed off the register, are young people, people living in rented accommodation, rather than people who own their own home, and people who live in cities rather than rural areas. Describing the right to vote as absolutely fundamental in a democracy, Ms Harman was going to use her closing speech at the Labour conference in Liverpool to criticise the policy and say that the Electoral Commission expects the number of eligible voters who are registered to drop from 90% to as low as 60%. She added that the people bumped off the list were likely to be predominantly poor, young or black, and more liable to vote Labour.
Now it was not explained why such people would be pushed off the Electoral Roll as a result of these proposed changes and, therefore, it can only be assumed that this proposed government policy is aimed at reducing the number of fraudulent or invalid electoral registrations. It is ironic that, as one of many British expatriates who have lost their democratic right to vote only as a result of being a non-UK resident for more than 15 years, we still have British passports supplied and validated by HMG which, in the absence of ID cards, could easily be used to identify us as valid voters on the Electoral Roll!
Join our campaign on www.votes-for-expat-brits.com!