Downing Street Vacancy : Television Image Maker Wanted

Guido has always been a news junkie, taking it in from all directions; online rolling news, radio, television news channels and the papers, hell even Twitter nowadays. When Guido was a paperboy he read every paper from the Sun to the FT, which must have annoyed the customers wanting their paper before the morning commute. As media pundits go Guido is as qualified as anyone can be after 30 years of news consumption and analysis. What that experience has taught Guido is that one thing is for sure: television is the medium that matters.

It may not matter to the chattering class, but it does influence the voters more than they do. Most voters don’t read the Guardian, they don’t read the Indy, Times or Telegraph either. They watch television, which is why more people voted for the winner of X-factor than the government.

One of the central ideas that inspired the creation of this blog was the “Guidoisation of politics” by which is meant more than just the trivialisation of politics, it alludes to the conveying of ideological messages in simple images and terms. It is also about the personalisation of politics via the character of politicians. Character matters to most voters more than ideology. Gordon Brown’s character weighed against him with voters more than his economic policies. His character was revealed on television to more people, more effectively than Andrew Rawnsley or Tom Bower could ever dream of doing. Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were masterful televisual image makers – remember them deliberately delaying the acceptance speech that May morning in 1997 until a shaft of sunlight broke through into the Royal Festival Hall – “A new dawn has broken, has it not?” Brilliant imagery.

Roger Ailes is famous as the boss of Fox News, the news channel with the most viewers in America, making it the most profitable news channel in the world, more profitable than all the other US news channels combined. It has so much political influence that Obama’s strategists reckon it costs them 3% at the polls. Roger Ailes cut his teeth as a young TV producer who Richard Nixon hired after he told him to his face “The camera doesn’t like you”, Nixon replied “It’s a shame a man has to use gimmicks like this to get elected”, the young Ailes retorted “Television is not a gimmick, and if you think it is, you’ll lose again.” In a televised democracy, television decides elections, it really is that simple.

It is a given that the coalition is about to enter a period of unpopularity, to win the next election the economy firstly has to come good or be coming good by 2014, that is a pre-condition. Secondly they have to get the credit for the economy coming good as well. Television will help most voters decide who gets the credit, not broadsheet editorial writers. Cameron and Clegg are better television performers than Miliband, if they want to exploit that they should hire a director of communications who understands televisual imagery. The media grid planning can be done by Downing Street drones a plenty and Osborne has a good grip on political strategy. Television requires a certain genius. If they want to win over the voters they need a political maestro equivalent to Simon Cowell or Roger Ailes. If they think that television is just a gimmick…

Feck Off Euro-Socialists

Euro-Socialist and Green MEPs have tabled a motion calling on Ireland to double corporate tax rates as part of a quid pro quo for a bail-out. Not a single Irish MEP has supported the motion. Ireland should just tell them to “feck off”…

Douglas Carswell is right, Ireland should decouple and default. Coupling the Celtic Tiger to the euro was a disaster, it was inevitable that when economic cycles were asynchronous the big core EU countries would set interest rates to suit themselves. The ECB kept rates too low for Ireland’s over-boiling property market, which predictably bubbled over. Exactly as Euro-sceptics from Farage to Redwood predicted would eventually happen.

The Irish property crash has destroyed the banks, none more so than Anglo-Irish Bank, a bank run by corrupt allies of the governing Fianna Fáil party. The state guarantees proffered in the panic of 2008 to Irish banks gave them the backing of the state’s ‘AAA’ credit rating. Those guarantees have now sunk the state’s credit rating.

A World Bank report from back in May 2009What Went Wrong in Ireland? written by Patrick Honohan, Professor of International Financial Economics at Trinity College Dublin, put the blame squarely on joining the euro and having the wrong interest rates:

…the underlying cause of the problem was … too much mortgage lending (financed by heavy foreign borrowing by the banks) into an unsustainable housing price and construction boom. The boom seemed credible to enough borrowers given sharply lower interest rates with adoption of the euro … it was Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) entry that really started the housing price surge by sharply lowering nominal and real interest rates, thereby lifting equilibrium asset prices…

Honohan isn’t some obscure professor, since writing that report Honahan has been made the new governor of the Irish Central Bank. Left-wing British commentators like the Fabian’s Sunder Katawala, the Indy’s Ben Chu and even Polly Toynbee are trying to blame Ireland’s woes on low tax rates and free market reforms. No serious Irish economist attributes Ireland’s crisis to low tax rates. The reason Polly, Sunder and Chu want to present that argument is to stick it to those of us on the right who praised Ireland’s supply-side economic policy reforms, which is why they point the finger at the likes of George Osborne, Dan Hannan, John Redwood and Nigel Farage. It is intellectually dishonest of them to cite derisively the British right’s praise for Ireland’s successful free market micro-economic reforms and ignore warnings from the same about the macro-economic systemic risk of joining the euro. That is exactly what the left-wing commentariat is trying to do.

The micro-economic reforms that led to the Celtic Tiger pre-date Ireland entering the euro and were designed to improve the supply-side potential of the economy, make markets and industries operate more efficiently and thereby contribute to a faster rate of growth of real national output. Low taxes and freer markets achieved that objective – incidentally many of those reforms were championed in the 80s and 90s by the Progressive Democrats – the party of which Guido was a member. After joining the euro in 2000 Ireland had negative real interest rates, sparking an out of control property bubble.

German economic advisers from Frankfurt have been in the Irish finance ministry and central bank for nigh-on a year. Last month the ECB in Frankfurt mandated the Irish government to pay off European holders of Irish bank bonds – the European bail-out of Ireland is really a bail-out of European lenders to Irish banks. In joining the euro Ireland’s economic sovereignty was surrendered by Fianna Fáil with the support of almost the entire political class, consequently the next generation of Irish taxpayers have had their future mortgaged. Guido could cry for what the europhiles have done to his country…

“Progressive” Government is Not the Way to Progress

During the detoxification phase of the Cameron Project to get the Conservative Party re-elected they re-branded themselves as “progressive”, which is the opposite of conservative. It disarmed critics at the cost of ideological coherence.

All parties now say they are committed to welfare reform, even Red Ed says he agrees with IDS that it should always pay more to work rather than stay at home on welfare. Yet whenever a practical reform to this end is advanced a chorus goes up from the left-wing think tanks, Labour politicians, the Guardian and the BBC that it is not “progressive”. Guido does not seriously dispute the methodology or accuracy of the IFS analysis of the Spending Review, no doubt the bottom decile will be marginally worse off in proportion to other population deciles as a result of the Spending Review. Guido questions how we can move forward without, in aggregate, the lowest decile losing out.

The lowest income decile in this country is comprised largely of welfare transfer recipients, these people receive money largely from the working poor and the squeezed middle, quite simply that decile’s welfare payments come from the taxes of the rest of us. The only way that reforms can be made to fit the “progressive” template that would please the progressive choir would be to pay the unemployed more money taken from the working poor and the squeezed middle. That might be “progressive” but it won’t lead to progress.

It is in no one’s interest to increase the poverty trap by increasing the payments to those who aren’t working at the expense of those who are working. It isn’t progressive, it is divisive.

One example of a reform which struck Guido as common sense yet raised the hackles of “progressive” lefties; Osborne announced in the Spending Review that single claimants aged under 35 will be limited to claiming housing benefit for the equivalent of a room in a shared home, rather than for a one-bedroom flat.  Almost everyone working in the private sector who is single is unable to afford their own home in London, sharing is the norm. Is it fair that young single welfare-claimants are paid enough for a flat of their own which their working peers can’t afford? “Progressives” are campaigning against this fair reform.

Osborne’s “progressive” phase was a tactical necessity during the detoxification phase, it is a hindrance to real progress now. Attempting to solve the problems we face using policies that pass an arbitrary “progressive” bar will fail. It is time the Liberal-Conservative government abandoned the pretence to “progressivism” to move the country forward.

See also : Don’t Fight on a Battlefield of Your Enemy’s Choosing

Spending Cuts: Real or Unreal?

Last week John Redwood advanced the argument that we will not see any overall cut in government spending during this parliament, Guido would add that the government isn’t planning on paying down a single penny of the national debt by 2015 either. Nobody challenged the Redwood-Guido contention that in cash terms there is no overall spending cut – the fact is the coalition budgets over the next 5 years to raise expenditure 15% – from some £600 billion to nearly £700 billion.  Some counter that specific expenditure programmes are already being cut because in real-terms, inflation adjusted, there will be an overall cut in government expenditure.

Last week Peter Hoskin on the Speccie’s CoffeeHouse blog produced a chart* showing an inflation adjusted real-terms spending cut of 2.7% after 5 years. Even this thinnest of salami slices doesn’t ring true, Guido is under the impression that the Treasury aims to keep spending flat in real terms. Peter was kind enough to supply the spreadsheet showing his workings.

Peter used a combination of HM Treasury sources to calculate his deflator (red). If however we plug in the Bank of England’s inflation target of 2% things come out different (orange). Mervyn King was warning us only last year, when he was making the case for printing money (QE), that it was deflation that was the coming threat. Nevertheless if we ignore his previous scaremongering and accept that he will meet the Bank of England’s 2% average inflation target over the term of the parliament, the result is a real terms cut of 0.2%. That is a rounding error, not a significant real terms cut in government expenditure. Based on the Bank of England’s inflation target, government spending by 2015 compared to 2010 will be flat in real terms.

Contrary to the BBC-Guardian cuts narrative, the reality is that there is going to be a real terms spending freeze, the coalition is planning a spending hike of 15% in cash terms, it isn’t planning real terms cuts and it isn’t planning to pay down a penny of the national debt. The deficit unfortunately will still be with us come the next general election…

*Fraser Nelson has other 21st century modernisation plans besides charts for the Speccie under his kilt. Expect to see changes to the magazine’s cover, look and feel.

“You Can’t Have Politicians Stepping Into the Scientific Arena”

The sacked Professor David Nutt has turned the tables on Alan Johnson.  Johnson keeps repeating angrily that the professor should stay out of politics, the professor is squarely saying that politicians should stay out of the science. Dr. Les King has followed the professor and resigned as a government adviser, a third adviser Marion Walker, is said to be going. Drugs policy in this country is mad. You can get 5 years jail time for smoking a spliff, something millions of Britons do regularly. We hear baseless political propaganda about “skunk” and schizophrenia. The scientists have determined what users already knew, that this scare is myth. Professor David Nutt’s Eve Saville Lecture 2009 – the source of the controversy – is clear on this:

… schizophrenia seems to be disappearing (from the general population) even though cannabis use has increased markedly in the last 30 years. When we were reviewing the general practice research database in the UK from the University of Keele, research consistently and clearly showed that psychosis and schizophrenia are still on the decline. So, even though skunk has been around now for ten years, there has been no upswing in schizophrenia. In fact, where people have looked, they haven’t found any evidence linking cannabis use in a population and schizophrenia.

This was the Jacqui Smith and David Cameron excuse to justify their hypocrisy, dope today was different from the dope of their youth, skunk was supposedly some kind of dangerous super-marijuana.  Hypocritically Cameron was, according to his Etonian contemporaries that Guido has interviewed, a regular toker.  A bit of spliff didn’t seem to stop him getting into Oxford or getting a first in PPE.   He really does know better.

DruggiesIf things had gone slightly differently for David Cameron instead of being on the verge of becoming PM, he could be yet another former public school boy who ended up squandering his privileges and doing jail time for possession of cannabis and cocaine. The current President of America could just be another black ex-con from a broken home. Our drugs policy can not be determined by the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre, who lives in an alternative drug-free reality.  Gordon Brown’s Calvinist mores don’t permit any room for people to do recreational drugs and his misguided claim that cannabis is lethal is just wrong.  Tobacco and alcohol kill far more people than all the other illegal recreational drugs combined.  Psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms have been used by Britons for millenia, used by druids in the only indigenous religious ceremonies we have because they are found naturally all over these isles.  Guido has munched them on golf courses.  This has now been criminalised.

Nice people do drugs.  We need a grown up political conversation that shifts problem drug addicts out of the criminal judicial system and into the healthcare system.  The same as we do for alcoholics.  The lesson of Galileo should teach politicians that sacking scientists won’t make the earth flat.  Time to deal with the reality, not Dacre’s drug fantasies.

Source : [pdf] Estimating drug harms: a risky business? Professor David Nutt Eve Saville Lecture 2009

Steve Richards Says “No Bank Collapsed”

Steve Richards in the Indy begins his panglossian column with “Labour activists heading for their pre-election conference in Brighton this weekend have cause to be in a mood of giddy euphoria. The Government called it right during the recession. No bank collapsed.”

Apart from Northern Rock of course. Oh, the Royal Bank of Scotland as well. Errrm, didn’t Halifax Bank of Scotland almost bring down Lloyds TSB into the bargain?  Almost forgot Bradford & Bingley. Every UK household has the equivalent of £3,000 invested in shares in RBS and Lloyds.  The taxpayer 100% owns Northern Crock and Bradford & Bingley because they collapsed.

Giddy Steve Richards’ grasp of the facts is worse than his analysis…

See also The Case for Elite Politics and Not Listening to the People, Steve Richards: Fails Numeracy Test and Steve Richards : “Voters Aren’t As Clever As Me”.

Not Nihilistic, Realistic

Yesterday afternoon Guido put in a call to Paul Richards, Hazel Blear’s SpAd, after being tipped off that she was going to attack Guido in a speech later today to the Hansard Society. Guido also called the Hansard Society to arrange to attend the speech. He was told it was a closed meeting. The subject of the meeting, ironically, is political disengagement.

The pre-speech spin to the press is that corrosive cynicism, fueled by politically nihilistic blogs and a retreat from dispassionate reporting is endangering British political discourse and fueling growing political disengagement in Britain. She will say:
“We are witnessing a dangerous corrosion in our political culture… Perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a ‘Samizdat’ style. The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?

“But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.

“Until political blogging ‘adds value’ to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.”

Paul Richards, Guido understands, wrote her speech. (Guido has written about him a few times.)

Anti-establishment and occasionally vicious Guido may be, but nihilistic? Never. Nihilists deny that an objective morality exists. Guido has a clear sense of morality – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Blears really shouldn’t use words she doesn’t understand. Does Blears actually think that Guido rages against political corruption because he cares not for morality?

She is however correct to say that Guido has disdain for political corruption and seeks to unearth scandal and hypocrisy. Does Blears really think that is a bad thing?

Asking political bloggers to “add value” is to misunderstand the relationship between a free press and politicians. Take a memo Ms Blears, we are not here to “add value”, or do what politicians want, Guido has his own values and aims to hit back at political hypocrisy and lies. Politicians make laws, so they should be held to account, to a higher standard. The Nick Robinsons, Peter Riddells, Michael Whites and Steve Richardsons of the world don’t do investigative digging, they report back their impressions from their lunch meetings. They re-package and interpret spin from the party machines. That is how they “add value”. They are what Peter Oborne memorably described as the “client media”.

Guido has, without the platform of a newspaper or broadcaster backing him, achieved a position of influence for some reason. From nowhere this blog has become one of the most widely read political sources in Britain. It reaches a lot of people who were once disillusioned with and disinterested in politics, it is written (on a good day) in an accessible and entertaining way. Why does Hazel think this fuels political disengagement? The Labour Party would love to have a website that engaged as many people as this blog.

What has deservedly brought about disengagement from and cynicism towards politicians is spin, triangulation, focus group derived policies, positioning purely for partisan advantage, vacuous slogans and meaningless promises. Add in personal self enrichment from expense fiddles, petty corruption and barefaced lying to that toxicosis. Hazel has herself personally defended with repulsive sophistry everything from 45 minutes to mass destruction and cash for honours in her time. Who has really fueled corrosive political cynicism? Look in the mirror Hazel.

Hutton & Polly v Mises & Milton

Listening to Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee you would think they were actually monetary economists when in reality they are just soundbite savvy talking heads spouting the latest fashions of the metropolitan media elite. Both property millionaires in their own right, three-houses-Polly and Hutton have substantial family stakes in the property market. If they had such great economic foresight would they have got so badly caught out? Rumours circulate as to the viability of Mrs Hutton’s extensive property portfolio.

Toynbee has now realised that Gordon is staying and that her flirtation with David Miliband was just a passing fancy. Her tune has changed, now saying (once again) that Brown is the man for our times when only weeks ago she was telling the cabinet they were spineless not to get rid of him. Laughable.

Polly’s advice and economic genius is as suspect and as reliable as her loyalty to whichever politician she is championing this month. At the beginning of the year she was still loyal to Gordon and chiding Cameron for his new year message which she claimed

smacks of callow point-scoring, with his five repetitions of “Labour’s hopeless” – and it will look even thinner in retrospect in a year’s time if Brown has steered through economic rapids without most voters feeling any adverse effect.

She was confidently predicting

A minor slowdown with neither inflation* nor unemployment rising will see Brown’s old “no boom or bust” boasts triumph this time next year.

Guido suggests we leave Polly and Will to their studio soundbites and ignore their siren voices – they have been advocating their brand of redistributive social democracy as the solution to everything for decades. If policy makers are looking for guidance on avoiding a depression (alas a recession is upon us already) they should dust off the works of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman – Mises wrote the seminalThe Theory of Money and Credit. If this book had been read by more central bankers outside the Bundesbank we would not be in this mess. Guido once listened to an LSE lecture by a Bundesbank board member speaking in reverential tones about Mises’ thinking. He is the high priest of monetary theory.

If history is not to repeat itself then reading Friedman’sThe Great Contraction, 1929-1933should be a priority. If you think this is irrelevant to the state we are in you should note that the current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, pays tribute to this work and is quoted in the introduction to the current edition. Whereas Mises is heavy going, Friedman and Schwartz are essential reading.

Guido can summarise the primary policy response to the situation we are in succintly : cut interest rates, to lessen the pain of the inevitable reckoning.

Gordon Lives – CCHQ Celebrates Prematurely

Guido has been telling anyone who would listen over lunch that the media are ready for a change in the Westminster narrative. Guido would point to the Tatler photo-shoot and the Andy Coulson midwifed Cameron on Cameron hagiography by Dylan



The Case for Elite Politics and Not Listening to the People

Fresh from telling people that if only they were as clever as him they would vote for Ken Livingstone, Steve Richards has a pricelessly revealing piece in The Indy this morning. It reveals a core trait shared with many fellow



The Price of Freedom of Information

After spending over £100,000 and losing his appeal the Speaker is going to finally hand over the 14 MPs expenses to Heather Brooke tomorrow at 4pm. She will then be chauffeur driven to Wapping, where the Sunday Times will



The Sheep With The Wool Pulled Over Her Eyes

Janet Daley’s stunning insights into the character of Gordon Brown in her Daily Telegraph column last year caused disquiet with many on the right because she is seen to be of the right. She firmly bought into Gordon’s project, […]


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François Hollande on the EU referendum:

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