Not Bright's blog

Martin hands over his blog to a guest writer - the author of the blog

Whose riding who? The bloggers and the mainstream take turns.

I laud myself as independent journalist and blogger. I'm quieter about that fact that I'll also shag anyone for mainstream attention.

Here's my riveting story: I launched my half-assed journo's careers as a mainstream columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald about ten years ago. I was selected for that lofty office because of my gender and youth credentials (this was the mid-1990s, when young, and so-called stroppy, women were all the thing for some reason. I think the emphasis was on the 'young.'). I followed the well-worn road of the wannabe-edgy-but-wannabe-mainstream media slag – ie, did a turn as a hooker and wrote about it, pissed away a book advance, stormed out of the Herald, sloped off into PR for the money, etc, etc. Yawn.

Time to move countries, I thought.

Life in the UK has been all a media fiend could have hoped. The bloggers loathe the mainstream, and base their days around the stories that the mainstream generates to kick-start long discussions about the mainstream's uselessness. The mainstream hates bloggers, because they say what they like about the crap that others write, and have cool fans. I knew there'd be a place in this excellent structure for me.

I decided I wouldn't make much of a blogger, because I'm not so brilliant at taking a stance, or sticking to it - especially if there's power and/or money involved, as you'll see. I thought it was time to get back to honest old reporting. I kicked this about it a bit, and decided to elect myself as reporter for the passionate citizens of the Left.

First, I set up a website for the United Left in Unison – an uplifting experiment in collective publishing that lasted a record six months before the heinous implosion - I was chucked out of Unison conference for publishing to the site on a union computer, and then sort of chucked out of the United Left for hating the SWP.

I set up a website at and started covering the union and industrial action scene, and John McDonnell's campaign for the Labour Party leadership.

There were two big pluses to covering this campaign. The first was that it was unexpectedly interesting. People at McDonnell meetings were talking about the NHS, adequate pensions, and decent terms and conditions at work. The second plus was that nobody else was doing it. That's when I decided that the time might be right for a journalist such as myself - a person with nothing but exclusives, if you will - to stand out in her empty field.

In other words, I thought it was time to start sniffing round the mainstream.

I found Martin Bright's blog via another blog and left my website address in his comments section with a half-witted comment about debate on the Left around it. He followed that link to my site and emailed me from it. I sent a cute little email back.

Pretty soon, we were parked around a couple of wines in a bar in Victoria, trying to work out who best could use who. He agreed to feature my website on his, and I agreed to submit a story about the future of the Labour party based on interviews with its young members. I only told my partner, my parents and 8,000 of my closest friends. And so the thing has grown. The young Labour members I've interviewed have written about being interviewed on their blogs. A story turned up on the indymedia site, asking if the New Statesman's link to the hangbitch site meant the New Statesman had taken a turn to the kooky Left. People went from there to the New Statesman to find out for themselves, and then came to my site to confirm. The number of visitors to my site has quadrupled. The story's not even finished, yet I feel like it's been out for years. As Clive James would have said, it's the best story I never wrote. Weird.

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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.