Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recession Bites Into Politics

Financial Dynamics is letting go of a dozen spinmeisters – mainly on the public affairs side. FD paid £4 million for dodgy close-to-New-Labour spin operation LLM only last year, just as the usefulness of New Labour contacts became questionable.

As yet unconfirmed rumours going around that the ailing Dods-owned website ePolitix.com is to close with two thirds of Dods reporting staff being made redundant next week. An insider told Guido that they were not “immune” from the downturn.

Brown’s Whips are Paid Yobs

Quentin Letts in the Mail and Anne Treneman in the Times have identified another abuse office of by Brown. Have you wondered why it increasingly sounds like a football match during PMQs and big debates? The speaker is more than ever admonishing even frontbenchers. Letts highlights the tactics of Labour Party’s yobbish, undemocratic whips:

An astonishing 17 members of the Government Whips’ Office rushed in as Mr Osborne started speaking, to mix with Labour backbenchers and give an impression of widespread outrage.

The way they appeared from nowhere it was as though someone had just lifted a manhole cover and so many sewer mice had come scampering into the cockpit of democracy.

I have noted before the rising tendency of these state-paid Whips (they receive ministerial salaries which place them comfortably in the current top-rate tax bracket) to pack the Labour benches when a Tory is speaking. Never has it been so bad or obvious.

Whips traditionally kept silent in the Chamber. Under the leadership of Gordon Brown – the same Gordon Brown who poses as a defender of Parliament and who claims to want to hear the Tories make their case – this custom has been trashed.

The Whips are now rent-a-gob.

Today a twitchy little man called Lucas, one of the Whips’ number, stood by the double doors heckling Mr Osborne like a football hooligan. The place where Mr Lucas was standing was not officially part of the Commons playing-field.A moment later he stepped over the red line on the carpet and strode to a seat.So it can be said legitimately that a servant of the Crown entered the Commons bawling abuse, like a drunk entering a Wild West saloon.

Another Whip, Bob Blizzard (normally meek), was sitting beyond the gangway in a little knot of Labour MPs. Mr Osborne was trying to explain Conservative policy. Labour people kept trying to get him to give way so that they could make interventions – and throw him off track. “Give way!” shouted Mr Blizzard. I watched him. He said it more than five times, top of his voice, smirking as he did so. Five times!

Speaker Martin tried briefly to quell the Government side but he was no match for this wall of noise.

Another Whip, Mark Tami, chuckled as larky neighbours kept jumping up to try to disrupt Mr Osborne.

Ian Austin, yet another high-salaried tribune of Her Majesty’s Government, leaned back, played pocket billiards and drawled ruderies out of one side of his gob.

Nick Brown, Chief Whip, sat near the Chancellor and oozed satisfaction.

Why are taxes paying extra for party whips on either side of the chamber to thwart democracy? Surely whipping, even in its traditional rather than neo-Brownshirt form, is a party matter, and arguably an unhealthy method of suppressing the democratic will of the people. Why should taxpayers fork out extra for this?

Off Down the Pub

For a cause and a pint.

Italian and German Governments Cautious on Fiscal Stimulus

Labour’s spin line repeated incessantly is that the Tories are a “do nothing” party, Mandelson’s genius with a soundbite for the frontbench to chant shows. Leaving aside whether it is better to do nothing than do the expensive wrong thing, is it really true that the rest of the world is going down the path of massive fiscal stimulus?

Labour’s benches laughed arrogantly when the Tories retorted that little Ireland and Latvia were taking a Cameroon path. However, bigger European right-of-centre governments in Germany and Italy are not, contrary to Gordon’s claims, embarking on massive fiscal stimulus programmes. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Danish Socialist party leader in the European parliament is complaining that “Angela Merkel and other conservative leaders such as Berlusconi may well water down the plan and refuse to make the necessary national investments…”. The “plan” is the European Commission’s €200 billion fiscal splurge proposal. Another top down taxpayer funded folly.

Gordon, in full on Global Saviour delusional mode at PMQs yesterday, claimed that everyone backs fiscal stimulus except the British Tories. If you don’t read the foreign news you might believe him. The fact is that across the world left of centre politicians back that approach, right of centre politicians are more sceptical. The need to be seen to “do something” means that right of centre governments are doing token symbolic gestures. Mandelson knows that philosophically the conservatives are wary and is capitalising on this with the “do nothing” soundbite.

Confidence won’t return until the property market bottoms out first, corporate balance sheets are recapitalised and personal indebtness reduced. Governments can do nothing to force those things to happen. Politicians just can’t accept their impotence.

New Osborne Drugs Probe

George Osborne’s younger brother Adam, 32, has been suspended from practising as a doctor for 18 months over alleged prescription irregularities. The suspension by the General Medical Council was ordered in September to allow an investigation. It only became public this morning after it was discovered by the Daily Mirror.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

+++ MFI & Woolies Bust +++

Bankruptcy was not entirely unexpected in the case of these two ailing retailers. Despite Mandelson pleading with Woolies’ bankers into the early hours of this morning they pulled the plug regardless. Tuppence off prices won’t make much difference for them.

Keen readers will notice the change to the portfolio on the right hand side for the first time in a month. Guido has just shorted FTSE futures and Dow futures. Combination of bad local news and a sense that there is a mood of bailout fatigue in the U.S. There is usually a “Santa Claus rally” in the markets at year end. Not sure Santa is going to come this year…

Loans for Lordships Converted Into Donations

At first glance the just released Electoral Commission figures show that the Conservatives raised £5,315,271 (over 20% of which came from taxpayer subsidy) and Labour raised a total of £7,649,747 in donations.

Actually when you break it down it looks like Lord Sainsbury wrote off £2,511,808 in loans and interest, converting the debt into a donation, Sir David Garrard did the same for £352,278 and Sir Gulam Noon likewise for £307,576. J K Rowling put £1 million of her Potter profits into propping up Labour. The rest of the money came from the unions apart from a donation-in-kind from Saatchi and Saatchi for their crap “Not Flash, Just Gordon” campaign.

UPDATE : Contrary to the Press Association report which all the rest of the media (both broadcast and print) are using for their reports, the total figure for loans converted is not £2.25m. It totals £3,171,662 in loans and interest written off from Lord Sainsbury, Sir Gulam Noon and Sir David Gerrard – the latter in the form of a partial conversion of his loan and interest into a donation. Guido just confirmed this with the Electoral Commission. Don’t they check their sources? Guido 1, Big Media 0.

Boulton v Brillo

Have just watched (for the first time all the way through) Sky’s coverage of PMQs and have to say the post-match play-by-play format is superior to Brillo’s post-PMQs style – have a few old political war horses round to chuck in their tuppence on the issues – format. It was a bit stale and boring in comparison.

Sky’s coverage was more like sports reporting, which is how it should be. PMQs is a bloodsport…

PMQs Live Chat – Now 18.5% Bigger

Will be flicking between coverage on Daily Politics and on Sky:

VAT Charade Shows Politicians in a True Light

Gordon’s dithering now appears to be the official government macro-policy stance. We all remember the introduction of the 10p tax rate, the disastrously implemented abolition of it, then Gordon being forced to compensate losers he denied existed. We can see with this inadvertent release of the Treasury document on the implementation of the immediate VAT cut and the planned subsequent VAT hike, how Gordon’s government really operates:
  1. He isn’t able to tell the voters the truth.
  2. He dithers: clearly the intention is to hike VAT later to recoup the revenue lost from the VAT cut now. They were planning to announce that. Cowardice got hold of them and they backed away from admitting it at the last moment.
  3. Incompetence: they hastily re-jig the Pre-Budget-Report to hide this intention, but neglect to delete the truth from all the documents released and fail to fully recalculate the figures. The numbers now don’t add up and there is a £100 billion black hole unexplained. The suspicion is that other tax hikes are being hidden.
These are indeed serious times, so this kind of low political maneuvering is not just politically dishonest, it further damages confidence. It also shows politicians in the worst light, Guido would argue it actually shows them in a truthful light. World weary columnists like Michael White and Polly Toynbee say that Guido’s political analysis is flawed by his hostility to politicians. Guido argues that the public interest is ill-served by pundits who are too sympathetic and close to politicians.

Well here is a chance for them to demonstrate their superior powers of political analysis of this fundamental dishonesty with the voters. Go on Michael/Polly, stop sneering in the margins, explain how this is in the public interest and not narrow party electoral interest. Go on, for once: justify this behaviour.


Seen Elsewhere

Comply or Die at Grauniad | MediaGuido
Labour Beats UKIP in South Yorkshire | LabourList
Mock the Week’s Weak Comedy | Nigel Farage
Can Jim Murphy Save Scottish Labour? | Guardian
There is Still Appetite for the Westminster Lunch | Jon Craig
Labour Turn Their Backs on Jewish Community | Dan Hodges
Chivalry is Not Dead | Laura Perrins
Jonathan Jones is a Tw*t | Iain Dale
Second Scotland Poll Suggests Labour Wipeout | Times
Paedo Probe Boss Urged to Quit | Sun
Keynesian Tories Won’t Eliminate Deficit | Tim Montgomerie


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