The Deal between the Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservative and Unionist Party can be criticised for a lot of reasons. The accusation that it is a bribe is roughly denied by the Conservative and Unionist Party. The claim that it should trigger payments to Scotland under the Barnett Formula are dismissed because this is additional money and not expenditure for issues for which the devolved administrations, as distinct from Westminster, are responsible. The Barnett Formula dismissal and the denial of bribery combine to suggest that the Conservative and Unionist Party have made a fundamental error of negotiation.
Big Data is all about bringing together large data sets from multiple sources, combining them, using statistical argument and data processing power to draw conclusions. It is as much about exploring the data as deciding what to do. The Conservative and Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party – the CUP and DUP – insistence that this is legitimately extra money that is additional spending can be examined through the ideas of Big Data. The existence of Electoral Law makes understanding the money correct incredibly important for the CUP and DUP and Democracy. The money needs to be additional to whatever would have been spent had the DUP not been part of the Government but also it needs to be money that is extra across the whole budget in order to fall outside of the Barnett Formula.
The Barnett Formula is a principle for calculation and a formula. Expenditure on issues for which the devolved administrations, as distinct from Central Government, are responsible is governed by the Barnett Formula’s principle. Any change in England will automatically lead to a proportionate matching change for the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The principal issue is control. If Central Government directs and controls the expenditure then the expenditure falls out of the Barnett Formula principle but if the expenditure is controlled by the devolved administration then it falls inside the principle.
The first claim being made by the CUP and DUP Government is that the money is not covered by the principle which means that the expenditure is controlled by Central Government and is therefore exempt from being matched by payouts to other administrations. In essence the DUP must do as instructed with the expenditure.
This requires a particular interpretation of the actual Formula part of the Barnett Formula.
There are four parts to the Formula:
F: the amount of extra funding in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
P: the population proportion compared to England
E: the additional funding given to England
C: the extent to which relevant English departmental programme is comparable with services carried out by the Devolved administration
F = PEC (1)
Once you know PEC it becomes possible to work out F. Which seems pedantic to say but it highlights how people understand mathematics. It also highlights how the CUP and DUP are seeking to reinterpret the Barnett Formula for their own purposes. The essential attempt at reinterpretation is to suggest that this additional money which would mean that the extent to which relevant English Departmental programmes can be compared ceases to have meaning. In essence the Barnett Formula is avoided by suggesting there is something exceptional about Northern Ireland and so the Barnett Formula can be ignored.
The Barnett Formula was a 1979 innovation to help negotiate in Cabinet between Departments in the lead up to devolution of powers and, according to the House of Commons Library, has no legal standing or democratic justification. The danger for the Barnett Formula is that it is uniquely sensitive to negotiating positions: once you know PEC you can work out F.
If the Government of the day gives £X to England or Scotland or Northern Ireland or Wales then it is possible to infer how much additional money the other three places might legitimately expect. The CUP and DUP have insisted that the money falls outside of the Barnett Formula and so those expectations can be driven by one thing and one thing only: the per capita amount. The extent to which relevant English departmental programme is comparable with services carried out by the Devolved administration is irrelevant to additional money outside of the Barnett Formula and so the expectation amount depends upon the strength of the bargaining position. It is a real example of a municipal market at work where each identifiable region negotiates with Central Government for additional money. For the CUP and DUP, committed to free market economics this is an obvious development that fits with their stated ideological stance.
What is clear from the CUP and DUP agreement is that the outcome is based upon negotiation not formulation. It is an outcome that can be applied across constituencies. By understanding the claim that the CUP and DUP make – that this is not a bribe or corrupt practice within either the letter or spirit of Electoral Law – the amounts given to the ten DUP Constituencies forms the basis for calculating what every single Constituency should seek to negotiate to achieve. This is money that is outside the Barnett Formula and so can only be calculated on the basis of a per capita basis. In other words, the Government only avoids the accusation of corruption by accepting an adaptation of the Barnett Formula.
The Government is, effectively maintaining that funding is not corrupt. Which suggests that all Constituencies – or at least those constituencies that argue for it – should receive a proportional funding allotment. In short, the CUP and DUP formula is a per capita allotment. Using the same principle as the Poll Tax, the CUP and DUP have devised a Poll Credit – a kind of reverse Poll Tax. In the same way that the Poll Tax was a tax levied on every adult, without reference to income or resources, the Poll Credit is a benefit disbursed outside of reference to equitable principles. What can be understood from the Benefit disbursement is that the Government consider an additional amount of financial support should be given to People who demonstrate those qualities that are admired by the CUP and DUP. In short it is a Tamworth Manifesto Formula.
The Tamworth Manifesto defined what it is to be a Tory. It is a document central to the ideology of the Tories for almost two centuries. It sets the Tories against “a perpetual vortex of agitation” and proposes “reform to survive” as being the central principle of Tory Ideology. That principle of “reforming to survive” has replaced the principle of the Barnett Formula with a Tamworth Principle. It is a principle that relies on expenditure only when necessary for the survival of the Tory Government. In short: it puts a price on Tory power and it is the price that the Tories would seek to pay in any negotiations.
The CUP and DUP will claim that the people of the United Kingdom will benefit from the Tamworth Formula. The benefit – the Poll Credit – comes about from knowing what the price the Tories are willing to pay for support in Parliament. We know it amounts to about £1.5Bn between ten DUP Members of Parliament. To be more precise, their constituencies. The Poll Credit would be the amount per capita – per head – the Tories are willing to pay for support. Using the Tamworth Formula with the known figures of £1.5Bn distributed to the DUP Constituencies as follows:
Health Service £200m
Health Service Deficit £50m
Mental Health £50m
Community Deprivation £100m
This equates to a Poll Credit per person of £3,985 based on the Electoral Populations of the DUP seats. The detail for the spending of that £3,985 is as follows:
Health Service £531
Health Service Deficit £133
Mental Health £133
Community Deprivation £266
Which comes from applying the Tamworth Manifesto principles. The DUP and CUP avoid the accusation that there is a bribe being offered or accepted. A bribe would be absurd: no Parliamentary Party would ever consider offering or accepting anything so corrupt. Particularly not when Public Money was involved. This Poll Credit is in addition to any planned spending – to avoid being regulated by the Barnett Formula.
In short, the Tamworth Manifesto principles give a quantifiable and reasonable demand for each and every Member of Parliament to begin negotiations for additional spending in their Constituency. Not only does the additional expenditure in non-DUP Constituencies demonstrate that this is not a bribe, it also demonstrates that, for purposes of reforming to survive the Tory Party must entertain, seriously, negotiations with Members of Parliament for specific amounts of funding to be spent in their constituency. Within the constraints of the spending allocations defined by the DUP and CUP Confidence and Supply arrangement, Members of Parliament would be reasonable in seeking £3,985 per Voter in their Constituency.
Disbursing £3,985 per voter, in additional spending, would be the sign that the Conservative Party has taken seriously the Localism Act 2011 and the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. Going against the spirit of these Laws – that the Conservative Party sought, and put in place, during a Coalition and then again during a Majority Government – would be a rejection of the core principle of the Tory Party as put forward by the Tamworth Manifesto. In short, the Government has unwittingly announced the starting price for the ending of Austerity.
It is a long price list. The total value is £138,157,375,788 or about £138.2Bn. The figure is not exact as there are roundings of values and the total includes the money already given to the DUP. It amounts to about £69Bn of additional spending. That is over and above the expected budget. Because, anything else would be a bribe. The full list of Poll Credit amounts, listed by Constituency is several pages of figures. But it is instructive. Ranging from Na h-Eileanan An Iar, the cheapest, at £53,239,298 through to Bristol West, the most expensive at £386,699,750. This is not some reflection of the politics of each MP but of the Poll Credit principle that arises from the abolition of the Barnet Formula principle. Indeed, some MPs with the highest price include Theresa May at £298,924,238 or Leo Docherty in Aldershot at £208,339,956 or even Phillipa Parry at £94,070,366.
The difficulty with these sort of notes is that it is difficult to show all 651 price tags without the text becoming tedious. Adding a formula into any kind of document, according to anecdotal evidence, cuts the audience by half. Turning it into an infographic obscures a lot of information.
Sometimes detail is necessary. For example, if the money were distributed by Party then the picture would be something like this:
Democratic Unionist Party £2Bn
Liberal Democrat £2.2Bn
Plaid Cymru £0.5Bn
Scottish National Party £5.5Bn
Sinn Fein £1.3Bn
It is an inexact set of figures. Approximations of where bidding should begin. But this is the kind of political marketplace the Tories have created in order to pretend they are not being propped up with a bribe.
Picture: Item from the “Installation Works from The Chapman Family Collection 2002” (Jake and Dinos Chapman).
Guest post by Hubert Huzzah