Newt Gingrich's campaign is dead in the water

The architect of the "Republican revolution" is the run-away leader of this year's "Rudy Giuliani El

Oh dear. A week after his campaign team resigned en masse, there is more bad news for Newt Gingrich in this latest Gallup poll. His positive intensity score has plummeted from a high of 19 in April to just two at the latest count.


To put in context just how mind-numbingly awful this is, take a look at the positive intensity scores of some of the other Republican candidates.

The rest of the pack 

In Gingrich's defence, however, he is not the only candidate suffering from falling positive intensity scores. The widely-tipped Tim Pawlenty's rating has halved, from a peak of 17 to nine. Jon Huntsman's positive intensity rating has gone down too. But neither Pawlenty nor Huntsman have seen drops as remarkable as Gingrich's.

Gingrich seems to be fulfilling the Rudy Giuliani role in this election. Like Giuliani in 2008, Gingrich is a seemingly competent - if a little crazy - candidate, running a truly awful, ill-thought out campaign, marred by poor organisation and strategy. For these reasons, I nominate Newt for the inaugural "Rudy Giuliani Electoral Implosion" award. Well done, Newt. You might win something.

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Autumn Statement 2015: whatever you hear, don't forget - there is an alternative

The goverment's programme of cuts is a choice, not a certainty, says Jolyon Maugham.

Later today you will hear George Osborne say there is no alternative to his plan to slash a further £20bn from lean public services by 2020-21. He will also say that there is no alternative to £9bn cuts to tax credits, cuts that will hit the poorest hardest, cuts of thousands of pounds per annum to the incomes of millions of households.

But there is.

As I outlined here the Conservatives plan future tax cuts which benefit, disproportionately or exclusively, the wealthy. Suspending those future tax cuts for the wealthy would say, by 2020-21, £9.3bn per annum.

I also explained here that a mere 50 of our 1,156 tax reliefs cost us over £100bn per annum. We don't know how much the other 1,106 reliefs cost us - because Government doesn't monitor them. And we don't know what public benefit they deliver - because Government doesn't check.

What we do know, as I explained here, is that they disproportionately and regressively benefit the wealthy: an average of £190,400 per annum for the wealthiest.

And we know, too, that they include (amongst the more than 1,000 uncosted reliefs) the £1bn plus “Rights for Shares Scheme” - badged by the Chancellor as for workers but identified by a leading law firm as designed for the wealthiest.

Simply by asking a question that the Chancellor chooses to ignore - do these 1,156 reliefs deliver value for money - it is entirely possible that £10bn or more extra in taxes could be collected without any loss of  public benefit

To this £19bn, we might add the indiscriminate provision - both direct and indirect - of public money to wealthy pensioners.

Those above basic state pension age enjoy a tax subsidy of up to 12% on earned income.

Moreover, this Office for National Statistics data (see Table 18) reveals that the 10% of wealthiest retired households - some 714,000 households - have gross pre-tax and pre-benefit private income of on average £43,983. Yet still they enjoy average cash benefits from government of £11,500 per annum.

Means testing benefits to exclude that top 10 per cent of retired households would save £8.2bn per annum. And why, you might wonder aloud, should means testing be thought by the government appropriate for the working age population, yet a heresy for retired households?

Add in abolition of that unprincipled tax subsidy and you'll save even more. 

So there are alternatives. Clear alternatives. Good alternatives. Alternatives that enable those with the broadest shoulders to bear some share of the pain. Don't allow yourself to be persuaded otherwise.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.