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If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, who would win the 2015 general election?

According to the Telegraph, Ukip are reportedly winning "the Google election". But what other fictional elections could produce a landslide result?

Election coverage over at the Telegraph has raised this mole's whiskers today. A headline, reading "Ukip is winning the Google election" reveals that, "if internet searches were votes, Nigel Farage's party would be romping to a majority in the 2015 general election".

It got this mole thinking...

If tweets including #milifandom were votes, Ed Miliband's party would be romping ahead in the 2015 general election.

If tweets including #camronettes were votes, David Cameron's party would still not be romping ahead in the 2015 general election.

If internet searches were votes, porn would actually be winning the 2015 general election.

If ex-girlfriends were votes, Nick Clegg would have a stonking majority.

If gaffes were votes, Ukip would be the largest party.

If women who wanted to vote Tory were votes, the Tories would be losing.

If upsettingly poor media performances were votes, Natalie Bennett would be queen.

If Daily Mail splashes were votes, Ed Miliband would have already won the election.

If pints were votes, Nigel Farage would be drunk on power.

If tabloid comments about skirt suits were votes, Nicola Sturgeon would be Prime Minister.

If online hate comments were votes, Katie Hopkins would be our One True Overlord.

If kitchens were votes, Ed Miliband would have... two votes.

If cupcakes were votes, Justine Miliband would be First Lady.

If literally anything could be votes, nothing makes sense to this poor mole any more.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty Images
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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.