Friday, October 17, 2008

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.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Tory Obamacons Should Look and Learn

The Cameroons who lean towards Obama are the same Tories who shy away from advocating reducing the tax burden. Look however what their hero says on the issue:

Danny Finkelstein says repeatedly that voters don’t believe politicians who promise tax cuts – so why make the promise? One thing for sure is that the next President of the USA will have run on a tax cutting platform and both candidates think that is what the voters want. Danny will no doubt argue that America is different, perhaps, or maybe he is re-fighting the 2005 UK campaign. Voters are now feeling the pinch, they would rather they took home more in their pay-packets. The Tories should join the LibDems in giving a straight-forward promise to substantially raise tax thresholds to help 95% of hard-working families. If it is good enough for Obama…

UPDATE : Danny defends himself this morning. He nuances it a little, he is in favour of tax cuts, but not the promising of them and questions whether they would be responsible. Is it it really responsible to depress the economy with this high level of taxation?

Credit Crunch : Irish Politicians Lead with Pay Cuts

Hopefully this is another Irish example that will be followed here. The Irish President Mary McAleese has announced that she will be taking a 10% pay cut in light of the current budgetary troubles. The finance Minister Brian Lenihan says he and his ministerial colleagues will also take a 10% wage cut. The opposition leader has instructed his party’s parliamentarians to take a 5% cut. The governor of the Irish Central Bank and Financial Services Authority has volunteered to also surrender 10% of pay. RTÉ’s top six executives are taking a “significant reduction” in pay. This follows the government’s announcement of a round of spending cuts as recession bites.

The Irish ruling elite realise that they need to show leadership by example in tough times.

Will British politicians follow suit? After all their pension’s profited from short selling. Will they get their snouts out of the hard-pressed taxpayer provided gold-plated troughs? Perhaps some of the senior executives at the BBC could follow the example of their counterparts at the Irish state broadcaster? They all want the bankers to sacrifice their bonuses, but don’t the Chairman of the FSA and the Governor of the Bank of England need to make sacrifices? It is not as if they have been brilliant at bank regulation. If they were all paid on a performance-related basis they should be losing 30% or more – the same as the stock market has cost pensioners…

City Starts to See Capital Flight, Lehmans Regulatory Mess Forces More Selling, Italy Could Bring Down the Euro

The return of socialism to British shores and the expropriation under terror laws of Icelandic assets has unnerved some foreign investors. The problem with the government doing things out of expediency in pursuit of headlines is that the actions are remembered long after the headlines have faded. “If it can happen to Iceland it can happen to us” some of the huge sovereign wealth funds will be thinking. Trust is key to successful markets, would you risk trusting this government?

Elsewhere fund managers are seeking a quick resolution of Lehmans bankruptcy issues, billions remain frozen in accounts resulting in margin calls on fund managers unable to retrieve securities from the Lehmans administrator – making them forced sellers and an extra downward pressure on London’s markets. The FSA or the Bank of England needs to untangle this mess urgently. Unfortunately it is unclear who has responsibility under Gordon’s regulatory regime.

City law firms are dusting off old legal tomes from the seventies on sovereign defaults – when countries go into bankruptcy – Iceland is on the edge. What will surprise many is that Italy is the second candidate for bankruptcy. How will the Euro survive a member country’s financial collapse? Italy has cooked the books since before even joining the euro. Bond markets know it, the wide spread between Italian government bonds and German government bonds shows that many believe that European unity will not include the Bundesbank standing behind Italian Buoni del. Tesoro Pluriennali. If Italy fails what happens to the European project?

Markets Give Gordon Thumbs Down

So how many shares opened up this morning? None.

Hat-tip : Alphaville

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

D Minus for the Schools Minister

The new Schools minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry admitted to Michael Gove in a Parliamentary Question that just 4 of the 113 letters about the government’s new diplomas have been supportive:
School Leaving: Qualifications

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many letters he has received from members of the public on the 14 to 19 diplomas in the last three months; and what percentage of those letters have supported the programme. [224564]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Over last three months we have received a total of 113 pieces of correspondence in regard to diplomas. Of which four (4.52%) were specifically in support of the introduction of diplomas. The remaining 109 pieces of correspondence were general inquiries.

Doh!

4 / 113 = 3.539%

The Schools Minister can’t do basic maths…

Politicians v Drinkers

Guido always says an advertisement is not an endorsement, however these Drinker’s Alliance ads are very good, laying into politicians who get taxpayer subsidised booze when they want to raise prices for the rest of us. Guaranteeing 101% support from Guido.

The campaign adverts should be good, they were done by Blue State Digital, the people who do Obama’s online campaigning and made their name with this brilliant attack video. Word is that Blue State Digital have hired Matthew Macgregor to run a soon to be opened London office. Macgregor worked on Ken Livingstone’s 2008 Mayoral campaign, for War on Want, TULO and Jon Cruddas’ deputy leadership campaign. Hopefully this campaign will be one he wins.

Seen Elsewhere

Miliband Drawing Attention to His Mistakes is Madness | Lord Bell
Another Renewable Myth Goes Up in Smoke | Matt Ridley
Ed’s Problem is His Policies | Trevor Kavanagh
Ed’s Image is All He Has Going For Him | Boris
Labour a Risk to the Economy and Jobs Growth | Leo McKinstry
UKIP Will Make Miliband PM | Tele
Tories: Ruffley Critics are ‘Minority Feminist Groups’ | Buzzfeed
Harriet Harman Offers Less Than the Living Wage | Owen Bennett
Fallon’s Red Arrow Spin Unravels | Wings Over Scotland
What is the LibDems’ Problem With “The Jews” | Speccie
Image is the Least of Ed’s Worries | Speccie


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New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:

“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”



Christie Malry @fcablog

Ed Miliband does photo oops, not photo ops


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