Seventies Socialism Returns

In 1975 Britain was told by Tony Benn that the nationalisation of British Motor Holdings and the Leyland Motor Corporation would be “partial”. Alistair Darling today says the nationalisation of Northern Rock will be “temporary”.

It is worth taking a moment to reflect on how we got here. When Northern Rock’s troubles became critical there was no systemic risk to the financial system. There was a risk to 6,000 regional jobs which was a political risk in a period of election fever in Labour’s North East heartlands.

If Northern Rock had been put into administration the shareholders and probably the employees would have lost out. No mortgage holders would have been worse off, depositors would, since we are told by the government the bank’s assets are good, have got their money back.

The only cost to the taxpayer would have been the unemployment benefit payments to redundant Northern Rock staff – most may have kept their jobs with new owners of the business (Lloyds TSB was said to be interested). Instead of the normal commercial and legal run off process taking its course, the government intervened. The result is the biggest nationalisation of the century.

Many would argue convincingly that depositors would have not been able to extract their money in the event of a liquidation, or at least not in good time. The government could have in that case guaranteed the deposits and collected the money back as a normal creditor. For a moment in the beginning that did seem to be a real possibility. That would have been a much smaller risk to the taxpayer.

Now we have a situation where £100 billion of taxpayer’s money is being bet on the UK property market as it teeters on the edge. Gordon Brown repeats the mantra that the public’s money is secured against the bank’s assets. The bank’s assets are what exactly? The equity in mortgagee’s homes belongs not to the bank, it belongs to the homeowners. The only properties Northern Rock has an interest in are it’s own branches and offices. The only homes it owns are those where it forecloses, usually and increasingly at a loss due to negative equity (remember all those 125% offers). The other major asset the bank owns is it’s profit stream from the spread it makes on lending versus borrowing. That has disappeared because of the credit crunch. Right now there is no profit stream to speak of, that is why the bank is bust.

What is most disturbing about the new legislation being proposed is that it will empower the state to nationalise more banks. Which seems to contradict Darling’s claim that this is a “temporary and exceptional” measure. It has always been the objective of British socialists to nationalise the banks. Thirty years ago they wiped out the British owned car industry, now they are coming for the banks. New Labour is dead. Socialism is back…

UPDATE : Anatole Kaletsky agrees – wind-up the bank.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Due to the quantity of political sleaze being reported Guido has introduced a simple Pigs in Shit rating system for guidance on the misdemeanors of porcine politicians (guide here).
Speaker Fiddled Family Flights on Taxpayer’s Airmiles
Press Association

Gordon’s Undeclared Rent Under Investigation
Press Association
Wendy Praised Campaign Donors in Parliament
Sunday Post
24 London MPs Claim £20,000+ Overnight Accommodation
Sunday Times

Has Guido missed any sleaze? Answers in the comments please – will update above.

44% Want Chancellor Darling to Go

The damning poll in the Sunday Times this morning reinforces Guido’s view (expressed at some length here) that Darling is the fall guy for Brown and Balls. Darling will be blamed for their mess, Balls will be shuffled in to “resuscitate” the economy just before the election in the hope that it will by then be out of the worst and Balls will be in a position to succeed Brown whether Labour win or lose the general election.

So they will need Darling to suffer meekly for another 2 years…

The Mail on Sunday’s frontpage reports that the Ed Balls has come up with a plan to plug Brown’s black hole in unfunded public spending. Issue Sharia Law compliant “sukuks” designed to allow the government’s Debt Management Office to raise money from the Saudis:
Britain is to become the first Western nation to issue bonds approved by Muslim clerics in line with Sharia law, which bans conventional loans involving interest payments as ‘sinful’.

The scheme would mark one of the most significant economic advances of Sharia law in the non-Muslim world.

It will lead to the ownership of Government buildings and other assets currently belonging to British taxpayers being switched wholesale to wealthy Middle-Eastern businessmen and banks.

Such is the parlous state of the public finances that the Treasury can no longer rely on the centuries old method of financing government debt, demand for Gilt edged securities. No Western nation has ever relied on Sharia financing and the U.S. Treasury bans banks from engaging in the practise because of potential links to Middle Eastern terror financing. Ed Balls first came up with the Sharia sukuk strategy when he was Gordon Brown’s Treasury SpAd and final consultation on the plan closes this Thursday. Alistair Darling is expected to give full approval for H.M. Sharia Treasury issues before the March budget…

Newsnight Reports Valentine’s Day Market Massacre(That Never Happened)

Newsnight just doesn’t do business reporting very well. Guido suspects this is because they are neither interested in, or sympathetic to business. They would much rather review some new feminist state-subsidised play than the FTSE 100’s profitability. The saga of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme being repeatedly unable even to report the market closing price correctly has been pointed out by Guido before. Peter Barron told us after the last multi-day FTSE fiasco “I despair! We are having a complete revision of the way we collect and check the markets information.”

On Valentines Day Newsnight reported (above) another bad day in the markets, off 80 points or nearly one and half percent down. Time for a stiff whiskey nightcap before examining your stock portfolio in the morning?

No. It was down 0.8 points, some 0.0136%, which is what market experts call “flat”. Stephanie Flanders, Newsnight’s economics editor, said after the last time this happened that it was “unforgivable and embarrassing”. Clearly it was forgivable because it was announced yesterday that she has been promoted and will now be the BBC’s chief economics editor. Jeff Randall is on Sky…

Hat-tip : Musing Markets

Friday Caption Contest

Bradford & Bingley Shares Down 23%*, Queues Outside Tomorrow
*This week, 63% on the year.

Guido has said it before and he will say it again, Lee Jasper is a shake down artist. Although it was only 12 hours ago that the Mayor informed us that he had full confidence in Jasper, Ken clearly realises that he can no longer bluster his support for Lee Jasper in the face of a criminal investigation. Nothing to do with a forthcoming election…

Britain Needs a George Bush Style Growth Package Not a George Osborne Tax Simplification Package

Later this morning Osborne will deliver a speech on tax simplification. Guido looks at the economy and sees real trouble ahead, it needs decisive action, not hand-wringing words from politicians about tax simplification. The property market is seized up and consumer confidence is draining away. A massive pro-growth tax package is required now, the earlier the better.

George Bush is pushing a bi-partisan growth package targeting $150 billion in tax relief at individuals and businesses to kick-start private sector spending. That is a stimulus equal to 1% of U.S. GDP.

In the U.K. the equivalent amount would be a £13 billion, a quarter of what the government has used to prop up one insolvent bank to protect a mere 6,000 jobs in Labour’s North East heartlands.

A growth package should include two simple elements of action:

Housing market – stamp duty should be abolished for two years to help resuscitate the property market. House builder shares have slumped as demand expectations have plummeted, this is a relatively cheap way to boost sentiment and help young families in particular.

£500 per taxpayer flat relief – no matter what your level of taxation. This would disproportionately favour those taxpayers on lower incomes, boosting high street spending at a difficult time for retailers. It is simple and easy to implement, would be populist and would let individuals, rather than Whitehall, decide their own spending priorities. The receipt of a cheque for £500 by millions of taxpayers would boost economic growth from the bottom up in a healthy, decentralised way.

Greenspan says today the U.S. is teetering on the edge of recession, Mervyn King has said the same of the U.K., the cost of not acting now will be higher later…

UPDATE: Just read Osborne’s speech and am reminded that it is is already Tory policy to lift the stamp duty threshold for first time buyers to £250,000, taking nine out of ten out of the tax altogether.

Osborne’s Non-Dom Policy Now Worse Than Darling’s Policy

Polly Toynbee is wailing in her column this morning about the Chancellor’s U-turn. She reckons it is the “FT Wot Won It” and that Digby is Jones is the Thatcherite vetoing policy in Brown’s Big Tent. On one point Guido is in agreement with her; Labour claim they will take £650 million from non-doms, while the Tories claim they will squeeze them for £3.5 billion. Labour will tax them only after they have lived in Britain for seven years, whereas the Tories will tax them from day one.

So won’t the Tory policy drive more globally mobile wealth creators out of London? Isn’t Osborne’s policy worse for the City and more punitive?

Repossessions Surge :Remember this 2005 Labour Party Poster?

Repossessions are up 94% since Labour ran this election advert…

Mervyn King : “We Are F**ked”

Yesterday Mervyn King said the Bank of England’s predictions for growth in yesterday’s inflation report were “not inconsistent” with two quarters of zero or negative growth – the economist’s technical definition of a recession. For a central banker, that is strong language.

Meanwhile on planet Brown the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, claimed yesterday that “the fundamentals of the British economy are strong because of what we have done over the last 10 years. They will remain strong…. because of the robustness of our economy, I am confident that we can return to growth and we can keep inflation down to target.”
In reality inflation is now higher than in 1997 when Gordon took over, the ballooning budget deficit is 2.8% – the largest in Western Europe and nearly triple the pan-EU deficit average of 1.1%. Real incomes are now falling…

The Citizens Advice Bureau has just released a report which says “The number of county court actions for mortgage and secured loans has also risen steeply over the last few years. Between 2004 and 2006, the number of mortgage possession claims has increased by nearly 70% and the number of possession orders actually made by 94%. The number of possession actions in 2006 is now similar to that seen at the beginning of the mortgage repossession crisis in 1990.” Somebody should dig out that old Labour Party general election poster which blamed house repossessions on Hague and Portillo, changing the pictures to Brown and Darling. So much for an end to boom and bust…

Arresting Position

Too little, too late…

The Labour Party is seeking to recruit a Compliance Administrator to work in our Compliance Unit in our London Head Office.

The successful applicant will work with the Compliance Unit Manager to ensure that the Labour Party complies with its obligations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.

Hat-tip : Tory Radio

The briefing against Alistair got a little heated in the last week – “Why Darling is a menace to Britain” – William Rees-Mogg; “Darling’s confidence seems misplaced” – Anatole Kaletsky; Knives out as Alistair Darling loses trust of City in the Sunday Times and various other City scribblings. It had the feel of the briefing before the non-election, the authors of which were to varying degrees Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander.

Ben Brogan has been briefed on the Brownies’ hotline to throw a bucket of water on all this – the Brownies would say that wouldn’t they?

Since taking office Alistair has presided over lost data disks containing millions of mum’s bank account details, the capital gains and non-domicile U-turns plus the first run on a bank in living memory. Not good when Alistair has in truth already been dealt a very bad hand by Gordon; public and private debt is an albatross around the economy, consumer inflation is over 4% making it hard for the Bank of England to cut rates which is the orthodox solution to a credit crunch. In any event the tsunami of liquidity thrown at the markets so far has not removed the fear in them. Guido’s friends in the City all say it is bad with a capital “B” – we are seeing only the tips of the credit crunching icebergs.

Contrary to what Gordon endlessly repeats Britain is not well placed to weather the turmoil. We have a worse balance of payments situation than the U.S., we have a worse government deficit, the golden rule has been shattered, loss of confidence in sterling and the consequent fall is fueling import inflation. Stagflation is returning. The omens in the property market are very worrying.

So if Brown’s heir apparent, Ed Balls, wants to become Chancellor he would perhaps be wiser to bide his time, let Alistair take the blame for the coming 2008/9 slowdown / recession, then take the Chancellorship in early 2010. Putting him in a position to go for the leadership following a Labour general election defeat or claim glory for “rescuing the economy” if it goes well. Is Balls wise and patient enough to wait?

Labour Donor Non-Doms Up In Arms

So it looks like the Ditherer-in-Chief is going to back down on non-doms and it may well end up as a flat-rate £30,000 charge, no further questions asked. City uproar was not the reason for the change of heart. The billions that the Square Mile brings to Britain were of no consequence to our ruling clique of politicians without a drop of entrepreneurialism* in their blood.

Lord Paul, the Indian-born steel billionaire, Gordon Brown’s biggest backer, says Labour is proposing an “unfair levy” which risked undermining him the economy. Sir Gulam Noon, who gave Labour £450,000 for a peerage (undelivered) says “everybody is against” the Government proposal.

When did the Labour Party first realise this policy would jeapardise millions in donations?

UPDATE : Osborne is gloating already – the Treasury is spinning the climbdowns as a clarification of “what the Government’s intention has always been”

Osborne is giving Darling a kicking for good measure

“In times of economic uncertainty, people need a Chancellor who can demonstrate strength of leadership and consistency of judgement. With Alistair Darling, we have neither. In his time at Number 11, he has gone from one retreat to another and his economic incompetence, whether on Northern Rock, Capital Gains Tax or now non-domiciled taxation is doing real damage to the real economy. The question for our dithering Prime Minister is how long can he keep someone at the Treasury who is clearly not up to the job.”

That will please Ed Balls…

Don’t know why Osborne is laughing, his policy now looks more punitive than Darling’s new version of his own policy. Doh!

*Except when it comes to making up expense claims, then they display the most imaginative entrepreneurialism.

“Politics Home” Beta Snapshot

“Politics Home”* is the beta working title of the still-under-wraps site that aims to be the Bloomberg News of politics – it certainly looks a little familiar to the users of the financial newswire service. No original editorial as far as Guido can see, more rolling news headlines from not just the blogosphere, the entire English speaking online political universe.[…]


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Quote of the Day

Trump jokes about media bias…

“The media is even more biased against me than ever before. You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My Wife Melania gives the exact same speech! And people get on her case! And I don’t get it! I don’t know Why!”

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