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Nick Hargrave: The capitalism of the future demands a bigger role for the state

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street Special adviser where he worked for both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works for Portland, the communications consultancy.

Philip Hammond’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference last October is unlikely to be remembered as a rhetorical classic. But it contains within it an important insight for the political fortunes of the Conservative Party and the long-term prosperity of our country.

Speaking to a less than packed hall, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told delegates that Conservatives of the future must:

“Harness the power of the market economy, taking a model which has evolved continuously down the ages, so that the capitalism of the twenty-first century looks nothing remotely like that of the nineteenth – and adapt it once again to speak to the values of a new generation.”

Hammond was speaking to a truth that Conservatives sometimes forget. Capitalism is not a static construct held in aspic. It is an economic system which flexes to meet the challenges of its time – and in doing so renews its mandate from one generation to the next.

This flexible conception of capitalism has been seen in the differing approaches of Conservative governments since the Second World War.

In the 1950s and 1960s, after a landslide defeat in 1945, our party accepted a greater role for state involvement in the running of the economy; spurred on by a gradual realisation that the laissez-faire approach of the 1930s had been an opportunity lost.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Margaret Thatcher burst onto the scene with an articulation of capitalism that was more libertarian and evangelical about the merits of free enterprise – in keeping with its time and a reaction to the drift and decline inherent in state involvement going too far.

The 1990s and 2000s saw the pendulum swing the other way, and voters demand a gentler articulation of the harder-edged approach of the 1980s – with support for a minimum wage, windfall taxes and more investment in the public realm. On this occasion, our party failed to meet this challenge, clinging doggedly to our post event conception of Thatcherism, and paid an electoral price.

The lesson of history is clear. When Conservatives adapt to generational calls for change on our political economy they prosper and own the terms of debate; more than capable of beating a Labour Party whose competence is usually doubted. When they fail to acknowledge the call for change they lose – and only regain power after a period of painful reflection.

If the events of the past couple of years have taught us anything, it is time for Conservative politicians to once again come up with a coherent answer for how capitalism can renew its generational mandate. Specifically, how it can materially improve the British people’s living standards in an economy that is undergoing a technological transformation; one that is increasingly global, that’s conducted online, that’s moving at pace to automation – and which is increasingly flexible in its conception of the nature of work.

It’s this transformation which is fuelling the rise of identity politics in our country – which for all its short-term attractions is unlikely to end well. It’s fuelling divisions between the upwardly mobile and the educated in our vibrant urban centres who are benefitting from this change – and the many in our towns and communities who feel left behind. Between a younger generation which is finding it hard to amass capital – and an older generation who have assets that have appreciated over the years.  It’s why a lot of public and private polling out there indicates that people feel the country is moving in the wrong direction domestically. And it’s why the main thing keeping the current Conservative voting coalition together is the illusory tiger of a Brexit which can never meet the hype – and one suspects will eventually end in disappointment.

So what’s the real answer for Conservatives in how we reinvigorate capitalism in a way that is relevant for the 2020s and beyond – and in the process renew our own mandate to govern? This could be the subject of several more articles, but here are a few core thoughts as follows:

  • First, in politics you must get the tone and definition right before you get into the policy weeds. The platform must feel upbeat, inclusive, and focussed on the guiding prism of a better future for us all to share. Optimism is infectious. This is where I think in hindsight Theresa May got the balance wrong during the period 2016-17.  The framing of the ‘privileged few’ may have been tactically popular, but it was caricatured and created expectations of a reckoning with business that was self-defeating and ceded political space to Jeremy Corbyn. It’s much easier to have difficult conversations with businesses about their responsibilities in the modern economy if you have an overall macro-message that is supportive. 70 per cent carrot and 30 per cent stick feels about right.
  • Second, I think we are going to have come to terms with a more muscular and high spending state over the next 20 years. Critically, that spending and guiding hand must be prioritised on investment in the future rather than pumping cash hand over fist into resource spending. In Treasury, speak this means more ambitious capital programmes than currently on R&D and science, digital infrastructure and transport. Always remember that the jobs, wealth and economic security of 25 years’ time will come from ideas that we cannot even conceive of yet.
  • Third, people have to feel confident they are benefitting from the system. Rather than using Labour language of ‘fixing a broken market’, focus instead on the positive articulation of what a muscular state can do to promote the holding of capital. Spend much, much more on state-backed programmes to build houses, remodel the corporate tax system with the strategic goal of incentivising employee share ownership – and turbocharge the somewhat limp National Retraining Scheme into a massive endeavour for all people in industries at risk of automation.
  • Fourth, we need to be able to pay for this and remain fiscally credible. There is no perfect way to do this but a shift towards wealth over income taxes is broadly the right way to go. This is hard but inevitable. Most realistically this can only come from a new leader at the height of their political powers.
  • Fifth, there is the question of how we maintain our political definition with Labour. I would strongly suggest we do not fall back into an ideological debate about libertarianism versus socialism (if put like that, Britain over the next 20 years is going to go for the latter). Focus instead on the values and language of economic competence and strong leadership, brought to life in the programme above, and the rest flows from there. With the current Labour frontbench this task is inordinately easier than if we were up against a centre-left leadership.
  • Finally, whatever you do – don’t countenance a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It will detract focus from this generationally important task – and will lead to many more years of austerity. This cannot be emphasised enough.

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The Moggcast. He is “very concerned” delaying Brexit would allow “Tommy Robinson to win the European elections”.

You can also listen and subscribe to the Moggcast on iTunes, through our YouTube channel, or through the RSS feed here.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Nick Hargrave: Conservative moderates need to help change our Party. Here’s how to start doing it.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street Special adviser where he worked for both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works for Portland, the communications consultancy.

It is fair to say that Conservatives like me are a little dissatisfied with the direction of our party at the moment..

On Europe, we cannot fathom why our Government is prepared to even countenance burning a sturdy record of economic competence on the altar of No Deal.

On public spending, we sigh about the state of affairs in which no tax rise can ever be countenanced – no matter how sensible, marginal or necessary – to fund our public services.

On immigration and identity, we worry that very reasonable concerns about control have morphed into a less acceptable place; that the United Kingdom will be seen in the years to come as less open, diverse and welcoming because of policies taken too far.

And above all, we are sad that the fundamental Conservative tenets of the nineteenth and twentith centuries – moderation, competence and responsibility – are losing out to dogma and obsession.

The trouble with Conservatives like me is that we have not been very good in recent years in translating this concern into concrete action.

We have tended to write long plaintive articles that despair at our drift away from modernising principles, laced with unkind digs about the composition of our grassroots.  In recent months, this has been accompanied by concerned tutting when Cabinet ministers – who we would previously have identified as sensible – position themselves for a future leadership election by pretending that leaving the European Union without a deal wouldn’t be so bad after all.

This is certainly cathartic. But it’s not a very constructive way of moving forward. Decisions are taken by people who show up; not least on our Leader and future parliamentary candidates. If we want to keep our party anchored in the centre as a moderate force, then we’re going to have to do something about getting people who share our values through the door as Conservative members.

We should establish some clarity on what this means.

First, we should not tie ourselves up in knots on the definition of a ‘moderate’. It inevitably leads to an arid debate on demographics and runs the risk of narrowing the tent rather than broadening it. As a starter for ten, I would simply suggest that the best way of thinking about moderation is balance to reflect the growing values divide in Britain today. You don’t need an academic paper – although there are several you could reference such as the 2017 British Election Study – to understand that there is a growing divergence of opinion on attitudes to diversity, integration and the nation state. The greatest separator of these values is age. Our party will not be able to speak for Britain as it really is, and as it will increasingly come to be, unless we make some efforts to reflect this in our membership. Given that over three quarters of our members are over the age of 45, according to the Party Members Project at Queen Mary University, it is surely sensible now to prioritise recruitment for those under 45.Qu

Second, this is not about building a mass membership movement to take on Momentum. It’s difficult to recruit people to a cause when you have been in Government for nine years and had to take difficult decisions; even more so when your party’s position on Brexit puts off a lot of the people that you are going to need to attract. So let’s be realistic. There are currently 317 Conservative MPs in the Commons. If each were set a target of recruiting one person under the age of 45 a week into the party over the next two years, then we would have over 30,000 new members. Although the total number of Conservative members is a perennially fuzzy question, that would certainly be a substantial voting weight in future leadership elections.

Third, given the national blockage in our politics caused by our departure from the European Union, micro tactics on a constituency level are going to be much more effective at the start of this endeavour than a grand strategic project. It would be nice to position ourselves on a national level with policies that are modern and relevant. But for now I do not think they are going to cut through the communications noise as we move onto the next stage of Brexit psychosis in future relationship negotiations (and if we leave without a deal then this noise will only be intensified).

As just one example of a micro tactic, CCHQ’s young local campaign managers should be responsible for building links on the ground with young local entrepreneurs who are starting up businesses. Most new entrepreneurs will tell you that the things they would value above all are start-up capital, a network of established business people that can mentor – and space to work away from home. It is surely not beyond the wit of humankind for the Conservative Party, with the current assets it has, to assist and build relationships on these fronts.

Fourth, before anyone gets too excited, this is not an attempt to sway the results of the next Conservative leadership election; which one way or another you would expect to come before the year is out. This is clearly going to take more time than that. All I would say to the current crop of Downing Street hopefuls – falling over themselves to promise Brexit unicorns that will disappoint in the long run – is that you might be better off focusing on the next leadership election but one.

Finally, all of this has to be done with good grace and respect. Our current party membership work hard, pay their subs and – although I disagree with a lot of them on some important national issues at the moment – are decent people who care about the future of our country. We need them in the tent. So much of the division in our politics today is driven by the atomisation of the lives we need. We don’t talk face to face as much as we used to, preferring to sit at our screens and retreat to ideological barricades in the comfort of our moral certainty. Getting a greater mix of people into local Conservative associations on the ground, realistic in its scope and clear in its objectives, might be a useful start towards a better dialogue and sustainable electoral success.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Shutdown? What shutdown? US adds 304,000 jobs in January

Westlake Legal Group TrumpPhoenixSpeechThumbsUp715-8-17 Shutdown? What shutdown? US adds 304,000 jobs in January workforce participation rate Unemployment The Blog labor force jobs report Government Shutdown Economy donald trump

If the five-week shutdown had any impact on the economy, employers overlooked it — in droves. In January, the US added the most jobs in nearly a year, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported net job creation for the month at 304,000. Unemployment rose a little higher to 4.0% as temporary layoffs surged in the public sector due to the shutdown:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 304,000 in January, and the unemployment rate edged up to 4.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in several industries, including leisure and hospitality, construction, health care, and transportation and warehousing.

Both the unemployment rate, at 4.0 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 6.5 million, edged up in January. The impact of the partial federal government shutdown contributed to the uptick in these measures. Among the unemployed, the number who reported being on temporary layoff increased by 175,000. This figure includes furloughed federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff under the definitions used in the household survey.

The labor force participation rate remained above 63% for the second straight month, demonstrating that more of the old overhang has been reversed:

The labor force participation rate, at 63.2 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.7 percent, changed little over the month; both measures were up by 0.5 percentage point over the year.

The former number had been stuck around 62.7% for five years or more. Analysts insisted that the generationally low number was the result of the leading edge of Baby Boomer retirement, but the growth in that number over the past year strongly suggests that workers are reentering the labor force as jobs open up. It matches a similar growth in the employment-population ratio that had been stuck in the 59+% range since the Great Recession until January 2017. It has grown almost a full point over the past two years.

Over the same period, wages have begun rising after years of stagnation. The BLS reports that wages have increased 3.2% over the past year after a modest rise in January. That also suggests that a labor overhang was keeping wage growth down, and that we have either eliminated or greatly reduced that overhang in the past couple of years.

Today’s results blew far past Reuters’ predictions, even accounting for a downward revision for November and December:

Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 304,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February 2018, the Labor Department said. Job growth was boosted by hiring at construction sites, retailers and business services as well as at restaurants and hotels.

But data for November and December was revised down to show 70,000 fewer jobs created than previously reported. The economy needs to create roughly 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 165,000 jobs in January.

CNBC noted that the results are counterintuitive, especially considering the season:

January job growth shatters expectations from CNBC.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.

In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019. January marked 100 months in a row of positive job creation, by far the longest streak on record.

It’s a bonanza of a report for Donald Trump, a solid win on the economy — and a much-needed change of subject on the shutdown. The report demonstrates that worry over the economic impact of the shutdown was mostly exaggerated, at least up to the point when it ended. Had air traffic snarled any further, it likely would have had bad impacts on job growth in February, but for the most part the shutdown didn’t have an impact outside of those directly affected by the furlough.

Can the economy maintain this momentum? Trump needs months like these in September and October 2020 more than he needs them in January 2019. But the White House will still be glad to see this now nonetheless, and they should be.

The post Shutdown? What shutdown? US adds 304,000 jobs in January appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group TrumpPhoenixSpeechThumbsUp715-8-17-300x162 Shutdown? What shutdown? US adds 304,000 jobs in January workforce participation rate Unemployment The Blog labor force jobs report Government Shutdown Economy donald trump   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: Our 12-point plan to revitalise 
the High Street

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Visit almost any community in the UK and at its very heart you will find a traditional town centre or High Street. They are usually home to a tick-list of the civic buildings and services that support community life: a town hall, the council house, police station, courts, libraries. Public transport networks converge on them, carrying people like nutrients to a vital organ. Historic landmarks – statues, memorials, castles and churches – cement their deeply symbolic place in the local psyche.

It’s no wonder that residents see them as representing the health and prospects of a community. Yet they are clearly facing immense challenges, with each week seeming to bring more disheartening news from retailers. As the former Managing Director of John Lewis, I fully understand the challenges facing the sector. I also know it’s hard for communities to believe in a new economic future when their High Street is partially boarded up.

In the West Midlands, even though the economy is growing quickly, people walk through their town centre and see tired shops, vacant units and run-down public spaces. There is a big difference between the economic statistics and people’s everyday experience.

However, it is a challenge that we are rising to – with our 12-point West Midlands blueprint for successful town centres in Britain. The councils that make up the region – Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Dudley, Solihull and Sandwell – have come together to announce a programme of trailblazer pilots to put this pioneering plan into action.

Five local centres – Bilston, St Thomas Quarter in Dudley, Bordesley Green in Birmingham, St Matthews Quarter in Walsall and West Bromwich – will take part in a scheme which will benefit other areas, too.

High Streets and town centres across the country have struggled in the last few years, with the rise of online shopping and out-of-town retail destinations. The collapse of BHS, Poundworld and Maplin; pressure on House of Fraser and Debenhams; and branch closures from M&S and the big banks demonstrate how serious this challenge is.

So here it is, our 12-point plan to revitalise the High Street – with some examples of how it is being applied across the West Midlands:

Experience-led Retail: Traditional retailers recognise that they need to evolve to differentiate themselves from online, focusing more on the personal touch and the face-to-face experience you can’t get from a screen. Think specialist retailers, mixed-use spaces, local shops and some new concepts we don’t even know about yet.

Beyond Retail: There are lots of reasons people come to a place: leisure, work, living and accessing public services. A thriving modern town centre needs to offer far more than shopping. Successful places need people to want to come and spend time there. In Walsall, for instance, Walsall Waterfront has brought contemporary culture to bear on the area, with the Walsall New Art Gallery.

Urban Living: Providing homes within walking distance of workplaces gives people more cash and free time to spend it. This could mean repurposing surplus business premises to provide quality urban housing. Apply the lesson of our major cities, where urban living has tripled since 2000, to our town centres and High Streets.

Co-Working in the Town Centre: Our start-up hot beds are too often focussed on bespoke office space in higher rent areas – why not drive this dynamo into every town centre? In Moseley, Birmingham, The Exchange hosts buzzing creative start-ups.

Public Services for All: We need to think radically about how people access public services. As the focal point of public transport, town centres should be the natural place for health and services, skills training and careers advice. In Dorridge, Solihull, Sainsburys built a doctor’s surgery and small retail units alongside their main store. In Sutton Coldfield, the main library now also hosts a popular child-centric café.

Green and Clean: Town centres must be places that people enjoy being. That means safe dedicated cycle and walking routes, green space galore, and elegant street design and street furniture. The approach to Coventry city centre from the railway station past Friargate, is clean, green, landscaped and even has outdoor gym equipment, such as an exercise bike for people to charge their phones

Safe and Secure: People need to feel safe for them to spend time and money in town centres. Good lighting, CCTV, proactive policing and even simple things like secure bike racks are an absolute must. In central Birmingham, the Colmore Business District has appointed wardens to give helpful and reassuring support to businesses and visitors.

Easy to Get To: Whether it’s bus, train, metro, cycling, or walking, town centres must be easy to get into and out of. And public transport beats driving wherever possible. Government must invest in the transport links needed to create thriving high footfall town centres. The extension of the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Dudley and Brierley Hill will bring people into those town centres quickly and easily.

Accelerate Technology Changes: Technology is disrupting retail, transport and all other industries. We can’t turn the clock back, we need to accelerate the future of the town centre. We must adapt and change, like providing pick up options for online deliveries, or perhaps drop-off points for autonomous vehicles.

Strong Local Leadership: Town centres need co-ordination to make sure they provide a good experience for residents and customers. Whether it is local councils masterplanning, BIDs co-ordinating, a single landlord or landlords working together, the best town centres are the most joined up. In Birmingham, the Bullring and Grand Central malls actively ‘curate’ the shopping experience through its choice of tenants.

A Fair Tax System: Traditional and online retailers should be treated equivalently and we should review business rates to even the playing field for town centre shops.  It is widely reported that Amazon’s UK Corporation Tax bill last year was a meagre £4.6 million. This figure was lower than in the previous year. Under the current rules, as their market share grows, they are paying less. In his most recent Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced measures, including plans to cut business rates by a third for almost half a million small High Street shops. He also unveiled a ‘digital services tax’ on online operators, which must be applauded – but we must constantly review taxation policy to make sure it keeps pace with technological change and shopping habits.

Retain Local Character: Each town centre has a character of its own that makes the locals love it. Whether it is a bustling High Street serving the local Asian community or a quaint old market town, we celebrate a town centre’s unique selling point. In Birmingham, the annual Soho Road Diwali celebrations are run by the local Business Improvement District, one of the many ways it serves the community.

We need to take a dynamic new approach to our High Streets with ambitious thinking. The future is not just retail. Our town centres need housing, workplaces and public services to make them thrive.
In the coming months, we will call on experts from the retail sector, finance, housing, landlords and local authorities from across the UK to support my initiative, too.

Every High Street and town centre in the UK has its own unique characteristics, and there is no ‘one-size’ solution to the problems they are facing. In the same way, the five local centres we have selected as ‘pilots’ have different challenges. By addressing them we can learn lessons to apply across the wider conurbation.

Town centres are deeply symbolic. They matter a great deal to people. This plan can help turn them into thriving and vibrant places again.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

DC region lost $1.6 billion during shutdown, economist says

WASHINGTON — The D.C. region was hit hard by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which came to an end after Congress and President Donald Trump worked out a deal to reopen the government for at least three weeks.

The 35-day shutdown cost the local economy $1.6 billion, according to Stephen Fuller, a regional economist with George Mason University.

“The impacts are widespread,” Fuller said. “The cost can be measured by the number of jobs lost and the jobs that didn’t receive payment.”

According to Fuller, there were 145,000 federal employees and more than 100,000 federal contractors in the area who missed their paychecks during the shutdown.

“There were another 100,000 other workers, restaurant workers and retail workers, in and around federal enclaves that didn’t work,” he said. “Many of them were minimum wage workers who lost a month’s worth of work.”

The region’s growth rate for 2019, which was projected to be around 2.9 percent, is now expected to take a significant hit.

It could go down to 2.7 percent, Fuller predicted.

“That is considerable underperformance for the potential of the economy,” he said. “That can be blamed on the shutdown.”

In addition to the financial damage, Fuller said the “brand” of the area has been tarnished.

“Who would want to work in Washington now?” he asked. “More federal workers will probably leave their jobs and move to other jobs outside of the region after this experience.”

A bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers is expected to consider border spending as part of the legislative process to keep the government open past a Feb. 15 deadline for a budget agreement.

President Trump doesn’t think the negotiators will strike a deal that he’d accept. He pledges to build a wall anyway using his executive powers to declare a national emergency if necessary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Steve Double: May has misread the mood of the country over free movement. Now is the time to drop hostile rhetoric.

Steve Double is MP for St Austell and Newquay.

Since the nation voted for Brexit in June 2016, our resolve to respect the results of the referendum by leaving the EU and the European Single Market has been unwavering. Talk of a second referendum has dominated the airwaves lately, but there is scarcely any evidence this would deliver a decisive result – the kind that some politicians are seeking in order to rethink Brexit – were we to have another vote tomorrow. If anything has changed, it is the way the British public views migration – its importance and its impact on our economy and communities.

Bringing an end to freedom of movement, one of the four indivisible and fundamental freedoms of the EU, has been a priority for the Prime Minister in her negotiations. Migration ranked highly among the reasons for the people’s vote to leave the EU. “We have no control over migrants coming in”, “open borders has not worked”, “they are putting a strain on local infrastructure and services” – these were the concerns many of my colleagues and I heard time and again on the doorstep and at town hall meetings, and the more-than-unexpected results of the referendum spoke volume about the extent that these concerns were felt across the country.

While it is certainly true that leaving the EU presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a fairer and more effective migration system that meets our needs and returns control of migration policy from Brussels to London, Number Ten would be misguided if they thought nothing has changed. Public attitudes have changed in profound ways and these changes have taken place on three levels.,

First, the Brexit vote has given rise to a more positive view of migration. Fewer people think that there are too many migrants in the UK, as Britons increasingly recognise the benefits that migrants bring to the country and are assured by the government’s commitment that there will be a reduction in migration levels.

Recent evidence from the National Conversation on Immigration has shown that our citizens are ‘balancers’, on the whole, who see the gains and pressures of migration when weighing up its impact. They appreciate the skills they bring in, the jobs shortages they fill and their contribution towards public finances. They understand that there are realistic trade-offs when it comes to controlling migration and know what is at stake for British businesses. There is also a broad consensus for a fair and humane migration system that places the welfare of families and individuals at its heart: The vast majority of us are ashamed of the treatment of the Windrush generation and none of us want to see administrative failures and incompetence lead to a repeat of the scandal.

While it is true that controlling migration remains to be an issue of concern for Leave voters, it is no longer the case that migration is seen by the public as the most salient issue. Two weeks before the nation went to the polling booths to decide our future with the EU, a YouGov Most Important Issues poll found that 56 per of those surveyed saw “Immigration & Asylum” as the most frequently-cited issue facing the nation – more than 10 points ahead of any other issues including the Economy, NHS and Public Health, Defence and Terrorism. This figure was most recently recorded at 29 per cent.

Third, with employment rates hitting record levels and virtual full employment across many sectors, businesses have raised legitimate concerns that they do not want an oversimplified approach to migration which will leave them worse off with fewer workers. Removing the numerical cap on Tier 2 skilled workers visas would be a good start, but any salary-based threshold must be driven by evidence and not imposed arbitrarily.

Furthermore, the importance of certain lower-wage roles for our economy and society needs to be adequately considered. In my constituency of St Austell and Newquay in mid-Cornwall, for instance, the seasonal nature of our visitor economy as well as fish stocks, fruits and vegetables mean that a flexible and dynamic migration system for temporary low-skilled labourers will be absolutely crucial to ensuring the continued success of the Cornish economy.

It appears quite clear that the approach from Number Ten has been that as long as we stop free movement people will view that as delivering on the referendum. However, regaining sovereignty over our own laws and trade has instead become a more important issue. The notion of ‘control over our own borders’ has moved away from a debate around migration to one focused on the so-called backstop and the integrity of the union.

The Prime Minister has misread the mood of the country by overemphasising and prioritising the stopping of free movement of people. The draft Withdrawal Agreement has not captured the shift in public mood with regards to migration, and fails to keep our commitment to regain sovereignty to the UK – a precondition to any true Brexit that delivers on the result of the referendum.

In a rare admission of fault, the Prime Minister told MPs recently that she was wrong to have referred to EU citizens as “queue jumpers”. Though she might have been able to get away with that kind of language in 2016, the British people have since moved on and have come to better appreciate what is at stake in the migration debate and migration’s impact on our country.

Despite the many irreconcilable differences that exist between Remainers and Leavers over Brexit, there is a now a window of opportunity for a better, more sensible and cross-party debate around migration than the one we had in the referendum campaign. The public wants us as politicians to lead the way in improving the quality and quantity of discussions on migration.

It is absolutely right that as we leave the EU we do take back control of our borders. But having control over our own migration policy is not the same as stopping all migration. We should be able to manage migration in a way that suits our own economic and social needs and concerns whilst having a compassionate approach to those fleeing war, persecution and oppression. We should also be able to better ensure we have the infrastructure and services to meet any increase in population and protect those communities who have in the past felt overwhelmed by migration.

With the Immigration White Paper now published, the time is now to drop this hostile rhetoric against those who come legally to our country to contribute in our workplaces and communities, and begin a more mature and measured conversation around how we can put together a post-Brexit migration system that works for everyone.

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Despite media claims, immigration remains among top concerns for voters

Westlake Legal Group BorderPatrol Despite media claims, immigration remains among top concerns for voters The Blog polls immigration Illegal Immigration Economy concern

The debate in Washington over construction of the wall has tended to overshadow (or at least divert) the ongoing debate over illegal immigration in general. While a solid barrier across areas commonly used by border jumpers is an important part of an overall immigration strategy, the wall has become an all or nothing proposition for members of Congress. It’s a fact that was highlighted by Senator Angus King’s laughable claim that “nobody in Congress wants open borders.”

This partisan spin falls flat under the least bit of scrutiny. King may technically be an independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats. And there are plenty of people in his caucus who have not only refused to discuss hardening the physical border, but have called for the abolishment of ICE. If you don’t want a barrier of any sort at the border and you want to get rid of the law enforcement personnel that remove illegal aliens, what else are we to call it besides the support of open borders? That’s like saying you’re fighting obesity while guzzling soda and chowing down on chocolate cake.

While there may be elected officials who don’t care about border security, that’s not true of the public at large, however. Senior Democrats are still playing this off as something that people just don’t care about, but the most recent polling shows that immigration is actually one of the top priorities on the minds of potential voters. (Associated Press)

As much of the U.S. government remains shut down over President Donald Trump’s insistence on funding for his border wall, nearly half of Americans identify immigration as a top issue for the government to work on this year.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted shortly before the shutdown began finds that both Republicans and Democrats are far more likely to include immigration in their list of top issues facing the country this year compared with a year ago.

Overall, 49 percent mentioned immigration in an open-ended question as one of the top five problems they hoped the government addresses in 2019. By contrast, 27 percent mentioned immigration in December 2017.

Republicans are still more concerned about immigration as a top priority, but in this survey, 37 percent of Democrats said the same thing. That’s a significant increase from the 20% who mentioned it in the same poll one year ago. This isn’t an issue that’s just going to go away if the Democrats refuse to debate it.

The breakdown in those numbers is rather stark when you consider what each side really wants out of this debate. Just because most people cite immigration as a top priority, liberals still want to focus on amnesty and the dreamers, while conservatives are concerned with border security and more resources to process cases at the border without releasing the detained into the country’s interior. But to write immigration off as a pressing concern for the voters is obviously a false narrative.

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Boom! US added 312,000 jobs in December

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Laissez les bons temps rouler, Madame le Speaker! The good times continued all through 2018 right to the very end, according to the December jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The US economy added 312,000 jobs last month, blowing past economists’ predictions and even topping the ADP employment estimate:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December, and the unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing, and retail trade.

The unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9 percent in December, and the number of unemployed persons increased by 276,000 to 6.3 million. A year earlier, the jobless rate was 4.1 percent, and the number of unemployed persons was 6.6 million. …

The labor force participation rate, at 63.1 percent, changed little in December, and the employment-population ratio was 60.6 percent for the third consecutive month. Both measures were up by 0.4 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 4.7 million, changed little in December but was down by 329,000 over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

That’s a nice bounce-back from a middling November report, but there was good news on that front as well. Revisions in this report added 58,000 jobs to the previous two months, moving November up to 176K and October to a more robust 274K jobs added. The average in the last quarter of 2018 rose to 254,000 jobs added per month — a pace well above that needed to keep pace with population increases.

That was enough to ensure that 2018 showed a significant year-on-year increase:

That wasn’t the end of the good news, either. Wages went up 3.2% in December, the third month in a row that annualized wage gains exceeded 3%. That outpaces any inflation that might be taking place and represents the first real gain for workers in the past decade of “recovery” from the Great Recession.

That is directly related to the one seemingly sour note in the report. The unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a point to 3.9%, but that’s actually the result of other good news. Thanks to the demand for workers, the civilian labor force grew by 419,000 in December while the ranks of those not in the labor force fell by 237,000. The higher the labor force numbers go, the higher the unemployment rate will become until those new or returning entrants find jobs. The labor market has grown healthy enough to reduce the overhang of chronically disconnected workers, and the sustained improvement in wages suggests we’re reaching the end of that overhang. I hate to say I told you so, but … actually, I don’t hate to say that.

The timing of this report makes the results even more dramatic than they’d be otherwise. The last two years of economic growth have come while Republicans controlled Washington (mostly). It came while Donald Trump and the GOP leadership in Congress set the nation’s economic and regulatory policies. Democrats will now take over some of that responsibility with their control of the House, a prospect that can’t thrill those Democrats who grasp the potential for political disaster.

The objective evidence shows an economy running at full steam under Republican policies. Any attempt to reverse the policies of the last two years will put Democrats on the hook for the blame if job creation cools down and wages stagnate again. This is the worst possible set-up for Nancy Pelosi’s incoming majority.

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Jobs blahs: US added 157,000 jobs, unemployment at 3.9%

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Call this one a miss. After two solid months of job creation, the US economy slowed its employment expansion in July, adding only 157,000 jobs. The U-3 unemployment rate continued its gradual improvement by dropping a tenth of a point to 3.9%:

In July, the unemployment rate edged down by 0.1 percentage point to 3.9 percent, following an increase in June. The number of unemployed persons declined by 284,000 to 6.3 million in July. Both measures were down over the year, by 0.4 percentage point and 676,000, respectively. …

The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent in July, was unchanged over the month and over the year. The employment-population ratio, at 60.5 percent, was little changed in July but has increased by 0.3 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in July, at 4.6 million, but was down by 669,000 over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Market expectations for today’s report had been set at around 190,000, which still would have been slightly off the pace for the past two months. ADP projected an expansion of 219,000 in its report on Wednesday, part of a pattern of overshoots from the payroll-service giant. Other indicators of consumer spending and business investment had economists expecting something more significant too, especially since analysts at Challenger Gray & Christmas found that job cuts had hit their lowest level last month since November 2016.

The rate of expansion in July is basically a maintenance rate in relation to population expansion, not a significant addition but also not indicating any drag either. Its mediocrity is tempered by a boost in job additions for the previous two months in today’s revisions, which added 59,000 jobs to their previous totals. With those changes, the three-month average is still a healthy 224,000 jobs added per month.

As usual, though, we see some wide divergence between the Household and Establishment surveys. The Household survey shows the number of employed people increased by 389,000, although the number of those in the civilian labor force increased by only 105,000 and the population grew by only 201,000. However, re-entrants to the labor force (those who got jobs but hadn’t been counted in the labor force previously) dropped by 287,000 people, which … doesn’t make a lot of sense. Job-addition numbers come from the more-stable Establishment data.

That is also where we get compensation data, which was a somewhat mixed bag in July. Wages rose by nine cents an hour month-on-month or about 4% on an annualized basis, a bit better than the trend. However, weekly earnings edged down slightly, and aggregate hours worked dropped by two-tenths of an hour.

In short, we’ve seen better months, but we’ve seen a lot worse than this too. As CNBC’s Jeff Cox points out, this still makes the case for job-market strength, even if it’s not quite as good a case as a month ago:

Payroll growth turned sluggish in July after two robust months, though the unemployment rate edged lower and the overall jobs picture continued to look solid, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday.

Total nonfarm payrolls increased by 157,000 for the month, below the 190,000 expected in a Reuters survey of economists and the lowest gain since March. The unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.9 percent, as expected and is around its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

In the key wages category, average hourly earnings also met expectations, increasing 2.7 percent over the same period a year ago. The Federal Reserve is closely watching the wages component as it seeks to meet its 2 percent inflation target.

The AP’s Christopher Rugaber concludes that the trade wars don’t appear to have impacted the job market, at least so far:

One cloud on the horizon has been the Trump administration’s trade fights with China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico. The White House has slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum and on $34 billion of imports from China, and several companies have hit U.S. imports with retaliatory duties.

Yet the trade fights didn’t appear to impact hiring last month. Manufacturers, among the most directly affected by the import taxes, added 37,000 jobs, the most in seven months.

Oil and gas drillers nearly doubled their investment in drilling rigs and other structures this spring, helping manufacturers expand. That’s likely boosted factory output of steel pipe and other drilling equipment. The new spending follows a 60 percent jump in oil prices in the past year.

That is good news, although how long that will go without having an impact is a good question, too. The news from China this morning — about which more later — might make that question even more acute for August’s numbers.

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