Blog Regulation :They’ll Have to Prise the Keyboard Out of Guido’s Cold Dead Hand

Dale has been telling Guido this was coming for some time. At a fringe meeting at Conservative Party Conference on the platform Guido insisted the government wouldn’t have a chance of suppressing him unless they went down the Iranian route of censoring the internet at the ISP level or copying the Great Firewall of China, and they wouldn’t do that.

Maybe Guido underestimated the government. Having failed to put a positive spin on Gordon, Stephen Carter is going to try and regulate blogs under the guise of “promoting content standards” – otherwise known as censorship. No doubt bloggers will first be found guilty of some kind of thoughtcrime to justify censorship, apparently calling Chinese milk a “Chinky Drinky” in a jokey headline is bigoted, co-conspirators calling Ed Balls names will no doubt be guilty of a crime against the state soon.

Andy Burnham a couple of weeks ago made a direct threat against bloggers, “It is not just about copyright or intellectual property but [things like] taste and decency in the online world. The time will come to say what are the direct interventions [needed, if any].”

Freedom of speech is messy, freedom is messy full stop, but it is of primary importance There is no way Guido is going to surrender his liberty to insult, expose and humiliate our rulers in the vilest ways he can. That wouldn’t be fun at all. If they want a fight, a fight they shall get. They will have to prise the keyboard out of Guido’s cold dead hand…

Friday Caption Contest (Brillo’s Babes)

Gordon’s Pollster Deborah Mattinson Slammed for Dodgy Polling

Guido has banged on for a long time about Deborah Mattinson’s dodgy polling. Her firm’s “free” polling for Gordon Brown’s Smith Institute seemed to correlate with their ability to win 90% of government contracts. In September 2007 the Greens accused her of distorting evidence to support the government’s position on nuclear power. She of course raked in the fees for Citizen’s Juries, (motto “verdict first, evidence later”). Her firm famously charged taxpayers an incredible £153,484.38 for a one day seminar.

Guido wrote in February 2007 that “in times of need, Gordon’s pollster conducts polls with dubious methodologies which she then writes up in hagiographical pro-Gordon articles… Is Guido the only one who thinks there might, in the circumstances, be a serious conflict of interest in her not only sitting on the board of the Smith Institute but also having HM Treasury as a paying client?”

Following yet another complaint, this time from Greenpeace, the Market Research Standards Board has found that in the consultation conducted by Opinion Leader Research, “information was inaccurately or misleadingly presented, or was imbalanced, which gave rise to a material risk of respondents being led towards a particular answer.” OLR is now finished as a serious pollster.

See more on Deborah Mattinson

Is That It?

is_that_itGuido has just got back from Bloomberg’s City HQ (a cross between a nightclub and an art gallery with offices above). He was there to hear what had been billed as Cameron’s speech in defence of free enterprise and the start of the counter-attack on Gordon’s handling of the crisis.

First the good news: the Tory diagnosis of Brown’s errors that have got us where we are is coherent. The mistaken emasculation of the Bank of England is critical to understanding what went wrong with British banking. The Brown Bust is going to be worse for Britain than the credit crunch is going to be in many other countries because the government’s finances are so weak. Dave told the City audience that, basically, they would not have got us into this situation because they would have held down public expenditure – the traditional role of centre-right governments the world over. Fine. But we are where we are.

Now the bad news: if the Tories were in government tomorrow they offer next to nothing to get us out of the mess we are in. There was no road-map out of recession. The Tories promise to be “responsible” with the economy is just an echo of New Labour’s pre-1997 promise to be “prudent”. It is political triangulation to neutralise Labour’s tried and tested attacks on “Tory Cuts”. Guido heard only two concrete policy initiatives repeated; a freeze on council taxes and the removal of the requirement for retirees to purchase pension annuities.

The freeze is worth some £50 to £100 per household per annum. The change to pension planning applies to less than 1% of the population per annum. Not exactly policies to get us out of recession are they?

There is no “responsible” route out of recession – we need radical action to rescue the economy. We need a growth package and we need it fast, the sooner it is in place the quicker we will be out of recession. On the back of an envelope Guido reckons raising tax thresholds £1000 will cost £6 billion or so per annum. It will boost household incomes accordingly, putting money into the economy the best way, not via the state, but from spending decisions by those hard pressed families politicians are always on about. Forget the PSBR and the golden rule, that has just been overshot by 100% plus, you can’t prudently get out of recession, you need to stimulate growth.

The U.S. will be out of recession faster because they have already put $500 billion into the economy with a tax rebate and because both presidential candidates are running on a platform of more tax cuts to boost growth. The Tory plan for responsibility is a plan for prudence, not a plan for growth. Wrong policy, wrong time. Is that it?

Osborne and Cameron always emphasise that they won’t be reckless with the economy, they also say we now have the highest levels of taxation ever. Isn’t it actually reckless to maintain that level of a tax burden on an already depressed economy?

UPDATE : A tax wonk tells Guido that for £20 billion we could raise tax thresholds some £3,000 per annum. Even better. That would be real help, for real people in the real economy.



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