The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond made a dramatic U-turn on the National Insurance hike that he had announced in his first and last Spring Budget to Parliament on 8 March. He had planned to increase National Insurance Contributions (NIC) for the self-employed, on profits between £8,060 and £43,000 (affecting about 2 million people), to 10% in April 2018 and to 11% in April 2019. There followed an absolute furore from the circa 2 million people affected, including many of UK’s NRI population. Hammond was accused of breaching the election promise of 2015 not to raise income tax. One week later, a humiliated Hammond published a letter in the Sun newspaper, saying he had climbed down and withdrawn the increased NIC “…after listening to the views of readers, MP colleagues and others, I announced that we will not go ahead with the changes to self-employed National Insurance…By making these changes, I hope we have shown we are listening to people and demonstrating our determination to keep to both the letter and the spirit of our commitments.” Will his ability to acknowledge he was wrong be enough for him to remain as Chancellor for the full term in the eventuality of a premature election?
The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. The Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 after an investigation into the party’s national and local campaign spending. The investigation concluded there were failures to report accurately on how much was spent campaigning at three by-elections in 2014 and at the 2015 General Election; in 2015, payments worth £104,765 were missing and separately payments worth up to £118,124 were incorrectly reported. Additionally, the Party did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924. The Tories released the information only after a High Court order demanded the missing papers. An embarrassed Tory chairman, Patrick McLoughlin did not want to answer questions. A police investigation now follows to discover if there has been a criminal breach in election spending rules. This is a hard lesson that shows that proper accounting procedures and systems are not in place; in the chaos of an election campaign existing systems are not adhered tobut it has always been so. Both Labour and Liberal Democrats have been fined for the same reasons before. It is also possible the rules are opaque and have consistently been broken and thus become the “norm”, if some reform is advised this may throw a few by-election results into doubt and by-election re-runs will be mooted.
Hot on the heels of the Penelope and Francois Fillon scandal that has seen the French Presidential hopeful plummet in the polls, nepotism is to be banned in UK Parliament. In a new order from the Independent Standards Parliamentary Authority (IPSA) following the next election (2020?) MPs will be banned from employing their wives and relatives paid for by the public purse. At the moment, 84 Conservatives, 50 Labour and 10 SNPs employ a relative. Roughly, 150 MPs’ family members cost about £4.5million a year. This cost will quite likely rise as many family members are undervalued and outsourced support will have to be competitive. MPs argue that only family members can cope with the long and unpredictable hours, necessary confidentially and trust.