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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Coffee break

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 06:32 pm
I've commented on the Budget at length for tomorrow's Independent, so I'll restrict myself to two small points here.

1. Gordon Brown began his first answer at Prime Minister's Questions with: "This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today." I have previously complained about the restoration of the redundant "later", which Brown did not initially use, and to which he quickly reverted. But the point is that it was a condolence-free PMQs, even after a two-week break. Operations in Afghanistan must be going well.

2. On the Budget itself, it has indeed been wondrous to behold Conservative blogpersons getting their keyboards in a twist over the 50p rate of income tax, raised from 45p and brought forward to next April from April 2011. Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome has called on David Cameron to oppose the measure even as Philip Hammond (shadow minister for touring the studios doing the dirty work while the bosses wrap wet towels round their heads and work out the line in detail) said it was "not a priority" to reverse it. The Sensible Wing of the Tory party, aka Daniel Finkelstein, meanwhile, says that the priority is to reverse (or not implement) the half-percent rise in National Insurance contributions on earnings over £20,000 a year pencilled in in November to take effect also in April 2011.

I have news for the Less Sensible Wing of the Tory party as well as for the Sensible Wing: prioritise away; nobody's going to be reversing tax rises or cutting taxes or doing anything that Tories regard as fun for a generation. The borrowing requirement is 12 per cent of national income. It is vast. We will be paying to close the gap between government spending and revenue - never mind the debt itself - for as far as the eye can see.

Coffee will also be served.


Condolence-Free PMQs
jw013 wrote:
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 06:35 pm (UTC)

Do you know that the MoD only releases information about deaths and casualties suffered in incidents where there is a fatality? There could have been 15 soldiers maimed and 10 vehicles destroyed in the last two weeks and it wouldn't be mentioned in parliament, silence at PMQs doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of operations going well. It also might mean that our forces aren't conducting as many operations because they don't think that they are achieving anything using their current tactics - exactly as happened in Iraq.

You should also note that many more American troops are going into Helmand province precisely because the operations there haven't so far been as successful as hoped.


PS Thanks for maintaining your very interesting blog.


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