Sunday, January 25, 2009

Parliament of Whores*

No one is really surprised in the least that legislation is for sale, that four Labour Lords have been caught brazenly setting out the tariff rates that they are willing to work at is a little unusual. Ordinary non-political people presume this happens all the time, whereas Westminster Village insiders deny it is so and reckon we have a relatively uncorrupted legislature. Sir Michael White is the leading advocate of this proposition and he should really know better.

The ordinary people have it right. You can buy legislation openly, covertly and in a combination of the two. You can even buy yourself a seat in the legislature itself. The Labour Party is structured to sell policy setting to the unions, which is why we have an unreformed and bloated public sector. Corporations buy former legislators to lobby for laws made by their former colleagues day in, day out. Staffers are lobbyists at the same time as providing material support to MPs.

We have a parliament of whores.

Guido confidently predicts none of these lot will go to jail. They may even escape reprimand since no money changed hands. You may wonder why this is the case, after all the original Sunday Times “Cash for Questions” investigation in the Major years involved cash changing hands. The reason no money changed hands this time is because newspapers can no longer “entrap” crooked politicians. They made sure of that after too many close calls in the past...

*Parliament of Whores is the title of a great book by P J O’Rourke.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Polly Should Look at Her Bosses’ Fat Cat Bonuses

The Tuscan redistributionist friend of the down-trodden, the three-house-owning, multi-millionairess toff, Polly Toynbee, is ranting against undeserved bonuses. With the colourful prose that earns her £117,000 basic (before book royalties, media fees and advances) she lays into the worth of “performance-related pay” and the bonus culture that sees loss making Northern Rock bosses get a 10% bonus.The loss making Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, got by on a total compensation package of a mere £544,000 up from £473,000 last year. A 15% increase as a reward for losing £26.4 million – no belt tightening for him. His boss, the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Carolyn McCall, was paid a package of £827,000, comprising a salary of £424,000, plus a bonus of £385,000 and benefits in kind of £18,000. An eye watering 90% bonus.

Handy having your friends, rather than shareholders, decide your pay isn’t it? Guido has said it before and he will say it again, Polly merely dislikes the “wrong type” of rich people.

Incidentally, GMG have always been adept at using the Scott Trust and other dodges to minimise tax charges. Guido congratulates them on achieving an effective tax rate 4.99% last year. Remember that the next time Polly Toynbee calls for higher taxes and everyone to pay a fair share.

Is Myners Full of Self Loathing?

Paul Myners, long-time Brown crony and now City Minister, is attacking over-rewarded bankers. Myners made his millions in the City, he was until recently a director of GLG, the hedge fund spawned by ex-Lehmans staff, that made fortunes for traders taking short-term bets. It was one of the funds that profited the most from the collapse of Northern Rock.

He has a cheek doesn’t he?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Does Hain Still Have Campaign Debts?

Peter Black draws our attention to the continuing blame game between Peter Hain and his disgraced former campaign manager, Steve Morgan.

Morgan is widely believed in Labour circles to have been the reason the campaign’s financial reporting went so badly wrong. Morgan is retaliating by casting aspersions on Hain, “My main disagreement with Peter was, and remains, the fact that he was not prepared to pay the Labour Party the full money owed to them on those donations under the rules of the Leadership contest.”

Guido calculated in January 2008 that Hain still had campaign debts outstanding of £41,200, comprised of a 15% tributeto the Labour Party of £16,200 on funds raised under party rules and a debt to Willie Nagel, a diamond broker and former Tory supporter for repayment of an interest-free loan of £25,000.

The £16,200 has still not, according to the Electoral Commission, been paid by Hain to the Labour Party. Harriet Harman and the other candidates struggled to pay off their campaign debts, why should Hain be forgiven the debt just because he was incompetent? Have they written off Hain’s debt as a bad debt? Is it still outstanding?

Friday Caption Competition

What are the Chances of the IMF Bailing Out Britain?

Brown says Cameron is “ridiculous” to talk about the possibility of the International Monetary Fund being called in to bail-out Britain. Brown reckons that is impossible.

The money markets though say different, clearly they think it is a possibility. How probable is a bail-out? Guido listened on Wednesday to Gerard Lyons, Chief Economist at Standard Chartered, Geoffrey Wood, an economist at Cass Business School and Paul Ormerod, author of Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics talk at a Policy Exchange seminar on the Credit Crunch. They were far more sanguine about the economic prospects than Guido. Essentially they thought the recession would run its course over a year or two and we would come out of it with a huge bill in terms of the national debt. The consensus was that Britain probably wouldn’t be humiliated at the IMF again, but it wasn’t impossible. Some joked that if we were going to have to go to the IMF we should get to the front of the queue.

Given most of Britain’s external debt is denominated in pounds, the way to avoid going completely bust is to print more money and devalue the debt. Which is what the markets expect to happen, hence they are dumping pounds…

Economics is a dismal science, but playing www.BailoutBrown.com is a bit more fun. Enjoy throwing your money at Brown for a change…

UPDATE 26 Jan, ’09 : Paul Ormerod emails to correct the impression that he isn’t pessimistic:
I am a great fan of your site. I am sorry you thought I wasn’t pessimistic enough at the Policy Exchange, I thought I was being. I did, for example talk about a 6 per cent switch in GDP purely through consumer attitudes, and on top of this is the impact of tight credit on the corporate sector. So I think things are pretty grim.

+++ GDP DOWN 1.5% Q4 2008 +++

Recession is now official.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

+++ Hain Slammed by Standards and Privileges Committee +++

Guido is reading the report:
  • Hain blames Steve Morgan for the original failure to register donations.
  • Accepts he was personally at fault after campaign ended.

Committee concludes:

We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Hain’s failure to register donations on this scale is both serious and substantial. We are bound to take this into account, notwithstanding the facts that Mr Hain has apologised unreservedly, and that he acted with commendable speed to rectify his omissions once he discovered them, without waiting for others to invite him to do so. Because of the seriousness and scale of this breach and noting the considerable, justified public concern that it has created, we would ordinarily have been minded to propose a heavier penalty. However, we accept that there was no intention to deceive and Mr Hain has already paid a high price for his omissions. We therefore recommend that Mr Hain apologise by means of a personal statement on the floor of the House.

Expense Cover-Up – What Really Happened

Margaret Beckett was embarassed on the BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday after PMQs, by vehemently insisting it was clear the Prime Mentalist had just promised a free vote on the expenses Statutory Instrument. Beckett was all over the place and Brillo had some sport out of her discomfort.

In the morning at the Lobby briefing, Downing Street briefed that the expenses Statutory Instrument was to be a whipped vote, yet during PMQs Brown seemed to announce a free vote, until finally it was confirmed at the afternoon Lobby briefing that it had been withdrawn. Downing Street blames Harriet Harman in her capacity as the Leader of the House of Commons.

Guido suspects that the return to a dithering shambles in government spin owes something to the “deputy PM” Lord Mandelson being in India trying to smooth over the mess left by Miliband – though the Indian PM is refusing to meet him in a deliberate snub.

The mySociety organised online campaign against the MPs expenses cover-up saw 90% of MPs contacted by voters opposed to the move. Thousands were mobilised very quickly. Despite this a back room deal was still all set to go ahead until Dave vetoed it.

Shadow Leader of the House Alan Duncan now claims that the Tories rejected the moves on principle, it is fair to say that on this issue Cameron has “got religion” and thinks the old ways are finished. (The LibDems have always been sound on transparency.) However an old school axis of expense fiddlers exists which is cross party. Tory bed blockers and Labour backbenchers all have a highly developed sense of entitlement to pocketing the taxpayer’s money. This particular alliance with Labour, quietly sorted out by Sir Michael Spicer, chairman of the 1922 Committee, in his capacity as shop steward for Tory MPs had agreed a nod and a wink deal with Labour to get the motion passed. Cameron scuppered the deal when he ordered that all Tory MPs be whipped to vote against it. Brown only U-turned after it became clear that the deal was off.

Has Oxygen Deprivation Brain-Damaged Kawczynski?

He may at 6 foot, 8 1/2 inches be the tallest MP in parliament, but is Guido the only one who thinks Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski handing over a constitutent’s letter (without a warrant) to a policeman shows that he is an idiot?

Seen Elsewhere

5 Things We Learned From Guido’s Party | GQ
Revealed: Guido Fawkes Anniversary Dinner Guestlist | Peter Oborne
More Owen Jones Errors | Michael Ezra
Why Should Men Get Equal Maternity Leave? | Laura Keynes
Dentists Have Last Laugh Over Sneering Keynes | FT
Why’s Clegg Giving Men Paternity Leave? | Conservative Women
Cam Cannot Stem EU Immigration | David Keighley
9 Mansion Tax Questions for Ed Balls | TPA
Politicians are Lying to You About Immigration | Alex Wickham
Give Journalists Public Interest Defence in Law | Guardian
Cameron is Going to Have to Deal With UKIP | Dan Hodges


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Chris Bryant talks to the Times Diary about a famous gay actor:

“I don’t think I’ve had sex with him. He says we had sex in Clapham. I’m fairly certain I’ve never had sex south of the river”



Progressive Inclusion Champion says:

Great to hear Carswell call for inclusive policies and that UKIP must stand for first and second generation immigrants as much as the English.


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