Ten questions for Cameron and Osborne on state “waste”

But will they ever be posed and/or answered?

1) How do you define waste in the public sector? Isn't there a difference between making "efficiency savings" and cutting "waste"?

2) How, for example, does selling off valuable public-sector estates and properties at potentially knock-down prices, and in violation of existing contracts and leases, save the taxpayer money in the long term?

3) In 2005, the Tory report on planned savings ran to 173 pages but this year the statements produced by Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Read cover just four pages. Why are they so much shorter, and less detailed, this time round?

4) Isn't there a conflict of interest in having an adviser advocating spending cuts while chairing a private company that could potentially benefit from them?

5) Why won't you put Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Read up for interview? With, say, Paxman?

6) Why do the two two-page notes from Gershon and Read contain no detailed explanations or statistics, or any department-by-department breakdown? What happened to Tory transparency and openness?

7) How do you respond to the Standard Life chairman, Gerry Grimstone, who also happens to be advising the Trearury on its operational efficiency programme, and who says: "By the time the next government is ready to take detailed decisions, we will already be well into the financial year. It is just not credible to think that our savings can be almost doubled"?

8) Why do you pretend as if the government is not tackling "waste" in the public sector, despite the Treasury having announced £15bn out of a target £35bn in efficiency savings?

9) How do you respond to the OECD's chief economist, Pier Carlo Padoan, who says that "the fragility of the recovery, a frail labour market and possible headwinds coming from financial markets underscore the need for caution in the removal of policy support"?

10) Having accused the government of "moral cowardice" in failing to deal with the Budget deficit adequately, isn't it irresponsible, not to mention hypocritical, to use an imagined saving of £6bn to make a tax cut, rather than tackle the national debt?

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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No, Jeremy Corbyn did not refuse to condemn the IRA. Please stop saying he did

Guys, seriously.

Okay, I’ll bite. Someone’s gotta say it, so really might as well be me:

No, Jeremy Corbyn did not, this weekend, refuse to condemn the IRA. And no, his choice of words was not just “and all other forms of racism” all over again.

Can’t wait to read my mentions after this one.

Let’s take the two contentions there in order. The claim that Corbyn refused to condem the IRA relates to his appearance on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme yesterday. (For those who haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a weekly political programme, hosted by Sophy Ridge and broadcast on a Sunday. Don’t say I never teach you anything.)

Here’s how Sky’s website reported that interview:

 

The first paragraph of that story reads:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised after he refused five times to directly condemn the IRA in an interview with Sky News.

The funny thing is, though, that the third paragraph of that story is this:

He said: “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn has been so widely criticised for refusing to condemn the IRA that people didn’t notice the bit where he specifically said that he condemned the IRA.

Hasn’t he done this before, though? Corbyn’s inability to say he that opposed anti-semitism without appending “and all other forms of racism” was widely – and, to my mind, rightly – criticised. These were weasel words, people argued: an attempt to deflect from a narrow subject where the hard left has often been in the wrong, to a broader one where it wasn’t.

Well, that pissed me off too: an inability to say simply “I oppose anti-semitism” made it look like he did not really think anti-semitism was that big a problem, an impression not relieved by, well, take your pick.

But no, to my mind, this....

“I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

...is, despite its obvious structural similarities, not the same thing.

That’s because the “all other forms of racism thing” is an attempt to distract by bringing in something un-related. It implies that you can’t possibly be soft on anti-semitism if you were tough on Islamophobia or apartheid, and experience shows that simply isn’t true.

But loyalist bombing were not unrelated to IRA ones: they’re very related indeed. There really were atrocities committed on both sides of the Troubles, and while the fatalities were not numerically balanced, neither were they orders of magnitude apart.

As a result, specifically condemning both sides as Corbyn did seems like an entirely reasonable position to take. Far creepier, indeed, is to minimise one set of atrocities to score political points about something else entirely.

The point I’m making here isn’t really about Corbyn at all. Historically, his position on Northern Ireland has been pro-Republican, rather than pro-peace, and I’d be lying if I said I was entirely comfortable with that.

No, the point I’m making is about the media, and its bias against Labour. Whatever he may have said in the past, whatever may be written on his heart, yesterday morning Jeremy Corbyn condemned IRA bombings. This was the correct thing to do. His words were nonetheless reported as “Jeremy Corbyn refuses to condemn IRA”.

I mean, I don’t generally hold with blaming the mainstream media for politicians’ failures, but it’s a bit rum isn’t it?

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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