The Fabian Society has been asking the Labour leadership contenders some rather interesting questions. They are asked to include replies tagged on to the end of grandly titled "essays."

One question is:

What spending cuts should Labour support?

The only one with anything specific to say was Diane Abbott. She said she wanted a 50/50 split between spending cuts and tax. her suggested spending cit was scrapping Trident. She said that would save £100 billion. But the cost is spread over a 30 year period. Also the total cost is estimated at £15 billion -£20 not £100 billion – which sounds like a nice round figure Diane plucked out of the air.

So if we are asking for a credible explanation of how to clear a £150 billion annual deficit she fails if she says half she could from spending cuts and then only offers Trident – at most a billion a year leaving her £74 billion short. She mentions bringing back our troops from Afghanistan – but says the money would be redirected to UN peace keeping.

Another question was:

“How would you invigorate local democracy? How much power would you devolve to local councils, and how much extra control of local taxation would you give to them?”

Here none of the candidates show any capacity to keep up with what the new Government is doing. For instance, David Miliband offers a feeble contribution. He talks about "difficult issues" and proceeding on "the basis of consensus."

He mentioned giving  utility companies and giving councils the "powers to subject these companies to proper scrutiny and hold them to account." That's not real power, is it? A extra scrutiny committee, an extra Scrutiny Committee co-ordinator, an extra Special Responsibility Allowance. Some requirements for these companies to produce some extra data – so they employ some box tickers and have their costs slightly pushed up. I think there is a case for utility companies having to pay Councils fees for digging up the roads and penalties for taking too long. They should have an incentive to get on with the work. Whose roads are they anyway? But all Miliband can think about is an extra talking shop.



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