Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And winner of the worst government policy of the year is . . .

There have been plenty of contenders for the year’s worst (UK) government policy.  The coalition seems to have inherited Labour’s desire to meddle, fiddle and tweak and the uneasy marriage of Lib Dem lefties and nominally right wing Tories has been a recipe for fudge and confusion. 

This has led to a bumper crop of terrible policies including:

-          George Osborne’s “tax cuts for employment rights” policy was designed to please right wingers but was just another politician’s wheeze which backfired at the taxpayer’s expense (and confirmed that George’s scary similarity with Gordon – see “Oh No it’s Geor-don!”);

-          Ed Davey’s horrible energy bill which slaps an extra £100 onto fuel bills for a hotchpotch of measures which will damage the UK economy but do nothing to “combat climate change”.  In a world where India and China are building new coal-fired stations every week, the UK messing around with wind farms and subsidising loft insulation is an expensive irrelevance.  Davey’s bald-faced assertion that his measures will eventually reduce bills by £94 (compared to what they would have been without the bill) was political lie of the year ;

-          Separately the £2bn “climate aid” pledge to assist with climate change projects in the developing world had massive-waste-of-money written all over it;

-          The way the Treasury rowed back on the child benefit cuts for rich people was also depressing.   The original cut, announced last year, was the right thing to do but was badly botched from the start, penalising single-wage households.  The efforts to undo the damage have watered down the savings and added another huge layer of complexity to the tax system (see this if you don’t believe me see Couples face “who buys toys” quiz by taxman to get a flavour of the madness);

-          Kicking Heathrow airport expansion into the long grass (yet again) while simultaneously making UK air passenger tax the highest in the world, was a great example of political expediency trumping the long term economic interest of the country; and

-          Getting control over Labour’s crazy “open door / open wallets” immigration policy is important but the coalition have set an arbitrary target of limiting non-EU immigration and Theresa May is trying to reach it by clamping down on students from abroad and skilled workers business needs.  Leaving the EU and restricting welfare payments to citizens who have earned it would be a better bet (see EU’s migrant rules prove the referendum case).

So what could be worse than this lot?  Well my nomination as worst government policy of the year is Minimum Alcohol Pricing.  It’s at the White Paper stage now so not law but it will be soon, particularly given that the PM has thrown his weight behind it (so we can’t blame the Lib Dems for this one).  It may not be the policy with the most serious bad consequences but it is truly awful for lots of reasons which I describe here:  Minimum alcohol price: Cameron’s dodgy dossier

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