Monday, 22 December 2014
2014: The Year in Review
As we approach the end of the year, we take a look back through the eyes of the LEAP blog, which has had a record number of posts and of hits in 2014 ...
A theme that would be returned to intermittently throughout the year was the contradictory or insufficient policies pushed by Ed Balls and the Labour opposition - also covered this month were rising house prices and a great new book by John Hilary.
One of the major political issues of the year was the Scottish indepedence referendum in September, so in advance we gave our economic analysis: Posturing over the pound. On other issues, Prem Sikka analysed the Banking Reform Act, and we continued to scrutinise the misbehaviour of banks like Barclays.
We paid tribute to Tony Benn who passed away in March, with LEAP Chair John McDonnell saying "What a world we would have created had we listened to him". We assessed the March 2014 Budget, and the inadequacy of the Labour opposition - this time over the the welfare cap - and we continued to monitor the UK banking sector as Santander was fined.
As the financial year ended, we gave our assessment of George Osborne's "long-term economic plan" and analysed the state of the UK labour market. The Treasury also announced their intention to send out pie charts showing where your taxes go. We fact-checked their claims on welfare spending, as well as highlighting Iain Duncan Smith's failures. We also previewed the imminent launch of LEAP co-ordinator Andrew Fisher's book The Failed Experiment ... and how to build an economy that works. As Martin Wolf penned an article on nationalising money creation, we assessed the debate on credit, banks and democracy.
The proposed takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer hit the headlines, Prem Sikka applied a public interest test and looked at the clash between nationalism and neoliberalism. As the European elections loomed we argued that is was boardrooms not Brussels that had taken our economic sovereignty. And 21 years on from the death of John Smith we assessed his offer on workers' rights. Continuing our updates on the housing market, we penned "Housing is a right, amassing wealth is not".
Figures revealed that only the top 20% were sharing in Osborne's 'recovery'. While a nonplussed Andrew Fisher considered the findings of the Living Wage Commission and Labour's latest capitulation on welfare policy. The annual report of Thames Water also gave us a lesson in who benefits from privatisation, while the Eurozone continued to flounder.
As mass strike action loomed on 10 July, we used published HBAI data to argue We all need a pay rise. Giving us a break from Eurozone bad news, Germany agreed to introduce a minimum wage. But elsewhere, the EU and US were negotiating TTIP - a treaty threatening democracy. While at its National Policy Forum, Labour and its affiliates decided to stick with austerity, if elected.
Danny Alexander used the quiet summer period to set out Lib Dem plans to cut public services and increase inequality (not how he described it, but a more honest assessment). The wider economy continued to add jobs but not increase pay, while Prem Sikka assessed a Bank of England consultation on bankers' bonuses.
As conference season fell upon us, we previewed TUC Congress, co-ordinated a Guardian letter arguing Labour must break with austerity. As Labour conference passed we assessed the pledge for an £8 an hour minimum wage by 2020 and Ed Miliband's speech. Osborne kicked off Tory Party conference by calling for a two-year benefit freeze.
At Tory conference David Cameron's speech was a blueprint for further inequality, while disappointing figures arrived for George Osborne on the deficit and housing benefit figures also highlighted just how counterproductive is austerity. We also reviewed a new pamphlet by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett. The banks continued to sack workers for profits (Lloyds this time).
As by-elections saw UKIP take a seat, we looked at new figures on the cost on migration and silly Tory targets, to analyse the xenophobia vs neoliberalism tensions straining the Conservatives - while John Hilary updated us on TTIP. New contributor Luke Thomas also explained what Black Friday told us about the UK economy. We also assessed the Mansion Tax and what austerity has achieved, and found that corporate profits were at record highs as the Living Wage Week campaigned for better pay.
On the eve of the Autumn Statement, we took another look at the unbalanced labour market, before turning our attentions to assessing Osborne's plan for permanent austerity, and later assessing claims of economic rebalancing. We asked the great and the good to tell us what were their great and good books of the year 2014, while some new analysis found £5 billion in unclaimed tax credits. Finally, we tried to coin a new term: wage avoidance.