Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Caption Competition (Cappuccino edition)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Lobby Pass Dilemma

Paul Linford reflects on the perennial Lobby passes for bloggers issue. This has come up again because Ben Brogan (current Lobby chairman) has described the issue as a “a huge headache.”

“They’ve been very reluctant to start issuing passes to new media outlets. There’s an ongoing conversation whether the House of Commons authorities start issuing media passes to bloggers. That remains unresolved.”


Not entirely true, new media in the form of Robert Gibson from the Gallery News email service has a pass and the nascent have a pass. Neither have the kind of circulation enjoyed by the leading Westminster blogs. When some time ago 18 Doughty Street (R.I.P.) applied for a pass they were told by the Serjeant-at-Arms that passes were only available to “substantive organisations”, yet they have now given a pass to the smaller PoliticsHome operation run by the same people. Dale and Tim Montgomerie already have (if Guido recalls correctly) Commons passes, presumably Dale could plausibly now get a Lobby pass via Total Politics.

Adam Boulton when he was chairman of the Lobby* told Guido that he thought he should be entitled to a pass and he had no problem with it. Having now gatecrashed quite a few briefings, it really is questionable whether it is that valuable. If you ask a difficult question you don’t get an answer. Ironically half the Daily Lobby spend their time reading blogs and writing comment pieces for their own blogs rather than actually chasing news stories, Guido now feels that going to press conferences can be safely left to the broadcasters – (it would be better for us all if the all the Lobby briefings were broadcast, ask yourself why fearless Lobby journalists are opposed to that happening).

Given the lack of respect Guido has for many members of the Lobby and the tense relationship that some of them have with Guido, it would be something of a headache for Ben if an application was made by this blog. Remember how upset Sir Michael White was when Guido attended a Lobby lunch in an Irish rugby shirt?

There is also a very real danger that by being assimilated into the Lobby one would become part of the system and compromised. Ask yourself why did the decades old issue of MP’s expense fiddles only really come alive in the last few years? The Lobby (with one or two exceptions) didn’t rock the boat on that issue – bloggers and pressure groups led on that issue.

You gain very little edge from invitations to minister’s drinks parties and you don’t get an exclusive by going to an event attended by half the Lobby. Guido has got his best stories directly from sources, not scripted events. The Lobby gets spoon fed by Downing Street and spun from all directions, would the blog be enhanced by having a seat at the back of the plane on a Prime Ministerial trip to Beijing? Would being cosy with Damian McBride be of service to the co-conspirators? Methinks perhaps not.

*Guido called Brogan to ask him his view and he promises to get back shortly.

Kaletsky v Tories

The Cameroons should take heart from Anatole Kaletsky’s condemnation of their approach to economics. Kaletsky’s heyday is long past as Mister-E-Man notes on Nick Robinson’s blog -
The same Anatole Kaletsky who in January of this year, in his Times articleGoodbye to all that: the worst is over for the global credit crunch, predicted that…

…conditions are not nearly as bad as the headlines and market pundits suggest. In Britain, there seems to be almost no chance of economic and financial disasters comparable to those suffered from 1990 to 1992. …I believe that the global credit crisis, far from taking a turn for the worse, is now almost over…. There will be no US recession. …Stock markets around the world will rise in 2008.

Shock horror – Cameron must be devastated not to have this prophetic economic genius on-board…

Anatole Kaletsky is long and very wrong.

Liquidity Issues – Wine Prices Going Down?

During the tech boom in the late nineties Guido was buying wine faster than he could drink it (for once). When the tech collapse halved Guido’s net worth he drank all the wine rather than see it, errm, depreciate. Seemed sensible at the time. This time Guido thinks he should just get short the Wine index (which is exchange traded) and drink the profits.

Unfunded Government Spending Up £1.4 billion in October

Public sector net debt (on the Treasury’s definition) rose to £640.9 billion, or 42.9% of GDP. This does not include other liabilities such as off-balance sheet public sector pension liabilities.

Unfunded government spending is getting worse as the economy nose-dives. it would have been much worse if wasn’t for the receipts from oil companies.

With oil back down to $50 a barrel that won’t be the case in the future…

Unfunded Spending and the End to Prosperity

Danny Finkelstein is fighting a proxy battle for his friend George Osborne, that is why advocates of tax cuts like of Fraser Nelson, Tim Montgomerie, Iain Dale, Dominic Lawson, Nick Clegg and Guido are so willing to battle with him on the blogs and rehearse the arguments.

What is so depressing about Danny’s arguments is that they are primarily about politics rather than economics. They are not even about politics with a capital “P”, but the low politics of electoral calculation.

He has even taken on Arthur Laffer. Danny doesn’t believe there is anything to gain from promising voters tax and spending cuts. Even though strong political leadership could make the case to the voters more credible. It is because of an unwillingness to tackle the issue head-on that the Tories have allowed the vocabulary of the argument to be determined by Brown. How come we never hear much of Gordon’s unfunded spending commitments – the budget deficit? In all of this the actual merits of the case for a low-tax, higher growth economy have been ignored.

Laffer’s new book The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy–If We Let It Happen reminds us that there is more to the argument than just psephology. If we want to get out of this recession faster we need to lighten the tax burden on business and consumers…

The Granite Hits the Fan

The FTs Alphaville blog draws our attention to bad news on the wires this morning, as the Dow closes below 8,000 and the FTSE trades below 4,000, we get the news that Granite Master Issue PLC, the trust that is 28% of the UK mortgage securitisation market, is reporting a “non-asset trigger event”. It is telling lenders that Northern Rock‘s collaterallisation, and hence credit worthiness, has declined significantly.Granite is the single biggest funder of the UK mortgage market. If it goes tits up, £38 billion of Northern Rock mortgage assets could be liquidated…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mandelson’s Big Chance

Obviously the big political news today is the withdrawal of John Sergeant from Strictly Come Dancing. He says he feared he would win.

Hmmm. Guido is suspicious, you don’t think he has been got at? It was after all only a few days ago that Mandelson said he wanted to be on the show….

UPDATE : Mandy has, this really is genuine, released a statement “John Sergeant should not bow out… He has become the people’s John Travolta and he should be a fighter, not a quitter… . The Guidoisation of politics continues.

PMQs Live Chat

Having a Few Image Hosting Problems

Normal service will resume after lunch.

Seen Elsewhere

Britain’s Beheaders | Speccie
‘Underclass’ Is Dave’s Fault | Conservative Women
Civil Liberties/Privacy NGO Hires New CEO | Big Brother Watch
Why I Won’t Join UKIP | Dan Hannan
Who Will Stand Up for the Christians? | Ron Lauder
Labour Swing Extends Deep into Tory Seats | Lord Ashcroft
5 Tips for Tory Moles | LabourList
Time for a Labour Speaker | ConservativeHome
Austin Mitchell Shows Why People Hate Politicians | LabourList
Commons Should Reject Aussie Rules | Telegraph
Galloway Interviewed By Police | Standard

Westbourne-Change-Opinion hot-button

Labour MP Austin Mitchell discusses female MPs on Newsnight:

“Are they more leadable? I don’t know, I think they probably are.”

Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.

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