Why the coalition won’t tear itself apart over evidence based policy

It continues. It intensifies! This time its interdepartmental rather than stroppy bloggers attacking IDS. The Foreign Office is getting stuck into Theresa May (alternative). There is a view within the Home Office that there is electoral gold in them thar hills of health tourism and immigrants squeezing local services, but they’re having difficulty turning up any evidence to support their policy. As one government official put it…

..Ms May is frustrated that the evidence she has received “doesn’t fit the Home Office view”, adding: “Theresa wants to go big on impact of immigration on local services and health tourism and the reality is there is very little evidence to demonstrate this. There is a political view from May’s people, but this report has to be evidence-based.”

The evidence she has received doesn’t fit the Home Office view. What a wonderful vignette of official thinking. Anyway, this is all around a report being prepared by the Home Office for the FCO on the negative impact of free movement in European on the UK. Problem is they can’t really find any…

Health tourism is really very small. Figures like from 2% to 0.06% of the NHS budget are bandied about, the official views of the right and left. The first figure is so ludicrous I remain a little convinced that much of the right is engaged in an elaborate performance piece and they’re on the verge of yelling “The Aristocrats!” The other figure might be a bit on the small side but it corresponds to 40,000 people or so, which is at least the right ballpark.

Anyway, the battles between different government departments are fun to watch. Hopefully the FCO will win in this one and the Home Office will have to tone down its rhetoric and adopt slightly less disastrous policies. Luckily we’re at the point where the coalition’s deficit fighting zeal might help poor people.

We’re well below the optimum level of immigration for debt reduction. This is the officialish position as set out by the Office of Budget Responsibility. More immigrants means more workers means more taxpayers means a bigger denominator on the debt to GDP ratio. There’s also the clusterfuck around preventing foreign students studying in the UK as discussed by Paul Sager (Yes! Really!) here. If the FCO can help wear down May’s position then both of these policies could be reversed in the name of fiscal rectitude.

I’m not arguing that there is any coherent pro-evidence based policy putsch in action, just that evidence based policy is a tool of actually existing politics not a new approach to politics.

The Tories at least used to be competent

Why couldn’t it have been this lot to have taken on the miners? Scargill would have eaten them for breakfast. Mind you, the Argies would have as well.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, ordered the rearrest and deportation of the extremist cleric on Tuesday morning, believing a time limit in which his lawyers could appeal against his removal had elapsed.

But yesterday, to the surprise of the Government, officials at the European Court of Human Rights said the deadline was 24 hours later and that it had received an appeal application from Mr Qatada’s legal team with an hour to spare.

As the situation descended into chaos on the eve of a government-hosted conference in Brighton to reform European human rights laws, the Home Office was accused by Labour of potentially acting illegally by starting the deportation process apparently before the deadline had passed.

The Financial Times was once a paper of record – Elizabeth Rigby and Helen Warrell seem unhappy with that

So we have a profile of Theresa May, Home Secretary…

Theresa May is the head girl of David Cameron’s coalition. Famed for never putting a kitten-heeled foot wrong, the home secretary barely batted an eyelid this week when Ken Clarke rounded on her for claiming an illegal immigrant had avoided deportation because of his pet cat Maya.

It was a cat fight that the liberal justice secretary was doomed to lose, against a woman who has always done her homework and has the prime minister’s full backing to bear down on migrant numbers. Within hours, Downing Street had rallied to her defence, delighted at her crowd-pleasing attack on perceived abuses of the Human Rights Act. Mr Clarke had the backing of the Lord Chief Justice’s office, but he was still told to pipe down [my emphasis].

This spat is not interesting because two politicians had a difference of opinion, as is presented here by Elizabeth Rigby and Helen Warrell. This spat is interesting because one politician told the truth and one politicians made things up (or copied things made up by others) and the politician that made things up (or copied things made up by others) won the power struggle.

Ken Clarke was right to criticise Theresa May because she said something that was demonstrably untrue. It was, in fact, demonstrated to be untrue by her own department. The cat was “immaterial” to the reasons a certain Bolivian student was given leave to remain rather than reported.

Rigby and Warrell do not see fit to include this detail in their hagiography of Mrs May. They actually make light of the situation by closing with a pun that this is “just the sort of cat fight the party needs to keep the grassroots content.”

Real journalists would have pointed out that if the grassroots need falsehoods to keep the content then something is amiss at the Tory party conference. But it seems the Financial Times has decided it doesn’t need to employ real journalists anymore.

Dear David Cameron,

Thanks for the speech, it was great, oh boy, was it great (snigger). Just a few questions for you.

1) Do you think that a man was given leave to remain in the UK because he owned a cat, and that separating a man from his cat breaches his human rights?

Because, that is incorrect. Not only is it incorrect, but you and your Home Secretary should know that. The cat was immaterial to the decision to grant leave to remain and the Home Office themselves knew that. 1.2) Are all your attacks on human rights based on such flimsy evidence?

2) Do you really think “even mighty America is being questioned about her debts”?

The US can borrow over 10 years at 1.76%, that isn’t what it looks like when your debts are being questioned. This is what it looks like when your debt is being questioned. It appears people have never been more desperate for US debt and that the only reason the US has wavered is nutty Republicans in government holding the country to ransom.

3) Do you really think Government, consumers and business can all pay down debt simultaneously, just as the UK’s main export market explodes?

If everyone reduces their outgoings at once…how can anyone’s incomings increase at all? What you are proposing amounts to nothing less than a return to recession. Moreover, you own Office for Budget Responsibility predicts the exact opposite to happen to that which you personally want/expect. They predict household debt to increase rapidly because this is the only way for your deficit reduction plan – and I use the term plan lightly – to work.

I’ll be very grateful for your response as soon as possible, maybe before the economy returns to growth please.