Wednesday, November 5, 2008

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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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 Jones as the spin tops. The pendulum of the Lobby is ready, eager even, to turn against the too smooth, too cool Cameroons.

CCHQ will be pleased that Gordon has shored up his position, other fresher faces would knock 10 points off their poll lead, Brown is at least that much of a drag on the polls for Labour. The Conservatives are heading to Brum confident that they are on their way to government. The media, in particular the BBC, will be more than willing to throw a spanner in the works. As Dave said, “the deal is far from sealed”. The narrative is ready to shift. One thing Guido noticed about Gordon’s speech was that it borrowed more from McCain-Palin than from Obama. Experience versus change is the only viable line of attack for Gordon, they will use it. Will the media buy in to it?

UPDATE : Dave has just delivered a speech at the Carlton Political Dinner. According to a seasoned co-conspirator it was a good one and went down well with a friendly business crowd.

He started off by mocking Brown – said he was surprised that Sam Cameron hadn’t introduced him, then said she was “my wife, not a prop”. Dave joked about how the shadow cabinet were great because “they come up with loads of ideas and I take all the credit”. He also pushed the ‘no complacency’ ‘mountain to climb’ line quite hard. Last year’s Carlton speech was effectively a rehearsal for Dave’s conference speech. According to Guido’s source, the business crowd were in love with him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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 pundits who are fully paid-up members of the political class – an elitist contempt for democracy.

Richards accepts that a referendum on Europe would be lost in Britain, he blames this rightly on “distant bureaucrats that run the EU, apparently incapable of producing documents that are comprehensible to voters. We cannot hold these officials to account if we do not know what they are doing or supposed to do.” Does he accept this signals that Europe needs to be reformed? No, it means a referendum should not be held.Bizarrely he goes on to argue that politicians “are so in touch with the mood of voters they are fearful of their own convictions… Party lines are already blurred because leaders fear the voters too much. If they became less neurotically attentive, politics would become more interesting and, I suspect, more progressive.” There we have it. In print. If only politicians ignored the voters, the policies he favours could be implemented. If only the voters weren’t in the way…

The arrogance and contempt for the will of the people that Steve Richards shows again is breath taking, he makes no bones about it, he wants a progressive tyranny run by people who think like him. He knows the voters do not want the same, so he thinks politicians should ignore the voters. He laments that this is “unfashionable”, on the contrary, it remains a core belief of many members of the political class in the Westminster Village and in Brussels. Is it any surprise that an anti-politics culture is growing as people and politicians become disengaged?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

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 pore over the expenses of 14 leading politicians going back three years.
They have bought from Heather exclusive rights – the Sunday Telegraph is only getting the details of the two MPs it FoI’d and the rest of the media is being carved out completely. The Speaker is desperately keen to smother the story in the post Crewe and Nantwich media wake. The other papers are up in arms that the normal practice with FoIs is not being followed – once the applicant has been given the information it is normally freely available. The Sunday Times has effectively bought up an FoI with the connivance of the Speaker.

Guido doesn’t blame Heather – she along with her co-litigant Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas have got their hands on the one and only copy of the material – she wants to look at it herself first before throwing it open – which she plans to do on Sunday. The Speaker is not following normal practice – it is not his job to give exclusives out.

Heather told Guido that

I get the bulk as I asked for 10 over several years. Initially I asked for all 646 MPs but the Commons authorities said that would cost too much so I was forced to narrow it down. Funny how they had no money to compile the expenses but plenty to go to Court to stop them being made public!

As is always the case, the money I get for my articles goes back into my campaigning. Unlike the Speaker, I don’t have unlimited taxpayer funds on which to draw so this is how I make my living. It’s certainly not a profitable venture I can assure you (3 1/2 years for one story is not a good business model) but worth doing I think.

The receipts will number in the thousands. The sooner Heather gets them online – the faster we will be all able to hold our pigging politicians to account…

The Speaker is now hiring a dedicated Legal Counsel for £100,000, plus bonus and package. Heather financed her legal fight herself, the political class uses taxpayers’ money to fight against the public interest. Trebles all round for them and you pay…

Friday, May 16, 2008

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, thinking that he would be intellectually firm in the face of the shallow flim-flammery of Cameron.

She wrote immediately after the Glasgow terror attack:

Mr Brown made a terse and perfectly judged statement. For all its brevity, it conveyed the essential message of calm resolution and national unity: “I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong.” This was High Seriousness delivered in the old-fashioned way, with spare wartime urgency and without sentimentality.

He even became to her a great, non-neurotic TV performer:

Again, yesterday, in his interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Brown did not put a foot wrong … Interestingly, these were the first television appearances I have seen in which there was no sign of his peculiar nervous mannerism of rolling his tongue inside his mouth that is so beloved by satirists. Has he been trained out of it, or has he been transformed by his role and the state of national emergency? Either way, its absence helps to remove the impression of neuroticism that would not have inspired public confidence.

So no more laughing at Gordon the Great. The next month in August 2007 she contrasted Brown’s biblical strength to the effete Dave. Gordon had, in Janet’s view, the strength to withstand the trials of power:

First the terror attacks, then the floods, now the pestilence. Gordon Brown seems to be undergoing the trials of Job. But in this case, it is not so much his faith that is being tested as the country’s in him. And, my goodness, isn’t he rising to the challenge?

Once again he has appeared on our television screens within hours of terrible news, not just to assure us that he personally is taking charge of the foot and mouth crisis but to thank the authorities in affected communities for their cooperation and competence – to make it clear, in other words, that he is in command but also deeply respectful of people on the ground who must deal with the problems over which they have singular expertise.

Wow! Will this guy ever put a foot wrong?

Gee, Janet, who knows? Your psephological predictions suggested not: What the voters will look for is not a leader who bangs on about how things look, but one who can cope with reality.

Reality struck Janet hard in September :

Can Gordon pull it back? This week is the true beginning of the Brown era, as opposed to the fag end of the previous one. With the Queen’s Speech and the first Brownite legislative programme we should get the answer to the political question of the moment: was the New Brown a figment of our imagination, the most transitory illusion ever to capture the imagination of the Commentariat, or was there really something there worth grasping?

Almost a redemptive mea culpa.

The Commentariat collectively, Janet in particular, wrote in the summer of 2007 with all the considered judgement of a herd of sheep. They however would have you believe that they possess valuable insights and good judgement based on their intellect and access to the key players. They have opinions just like everyone, no better, no worse. They merely express them better than most. More often than not their access and close proximity to the subjects they write about clouds their judgement. Mostly their opinions are not worth the chip-wrapping they are written on…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brown Loses Compass, Neal Lawson Calls for Him to Go

Neal Lawson runs Compass which is the liveliest of Labour’s soft-left factional campaigning organisations. He is a prickly character, some will attribute his knifing of Gordon today (Indy) to a mixture of disappointment and perhaps irritation that post-Blair he has neither been listened to, nor given any preferment by Gordon. He might not have taken up a position in Gordon’s big tent, but it would have been nice to have been asked…

Compass was a strategic part of the “coalition of the willing” to unseat Blair, so Lawson should accept some of the responsibility for saddling Labour with Brown. The month after Brown took office Lawson wrote a piece for the Guardian gushing like a school girl:

The skilfully engineered bounce witnessed in the first days of Gordon Brown’s premiership could be turned into something more: a political earthquake. The time is ripe not just for a better Labour government but for a shift in the centre of gravity of politics decisively to the left. Brown could be the first Labour leader since Clement Attlee to recast British society – not by taking small steps but giant leaps. This is why. Once in every generation a political revolution takes place in which thinking and behaviour shifts not just by degrees but qualitatively. It happened in 1945 under Labour, as the experience of the war and the economic depression before it heralded the centralised welfare state.

He concluded his paean with a quote from the left-wing theorist Gramsci: “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions, without becoming disillusioned.” Well today he has himself failed Gramsci’s challenge, his disillusionment is total. He complains that since Gordon funked calling an election in October he has been an “unmitigated disaster”. Gordon’s “responses have been both wrong and weak” or merely “dog whistle policies”. How hard it must be for Lawson and his Compass followers, who connived with the Brownies so long to make life difficult for Blair, to see left-wing hopes crushed as Labour now campaigns on an authoritarian agenda, promising British jobs for British workers, attacking the Tories for being soft on foreigners and ID cards so soon after publicly taking tea with Mrs Thatcher. Gordon is now reviled both by the vindicated Blairites and the disillusioned left. The worry for the Tories must be that the factions might just unite to dispatch Brown early…

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Profundity of the Punditry : Janet Daley


Still looking for examples of Janet Daley’s stunning insights into Gordon Brown from last year. Send any gems you have found to Guido.Fawkes@Order-Order.com

Incidentally the Telegraph today repeats the mistake that the Tories have not taken a seat from Labour in a by-election for “30 years”, a mistake also made by the Sunday Times yesterday. That error was compounded by the article claiming Margaret Thatcher’s constituency was Grantham. Mistakenly they refer back to the famous Ilford North by-election of 1978 which presaged the fall of Jim Callaghan’s government. In fact the Tories more recently gained Mitcham & Morden from Labour in a 1982 by-election, when Maggie was of course actually MP for Finchley.

Burma : Send in the Bombers

Nick Cohen is surely right that we should send in the bombers to Burma. All the pious hand-wringing is worthless in the face of Burmese intransigence. The West has the military capability to arrange airdrops of medical supplies and food. We did something similar when the Communists tried to starve Western Berlin. Perhaps the Luftwaffe and the airforces of some of the less robust European states could take the lead for once, since they seem less willing to take risks in the Middle East.

Not an ideal solution admittedly, but it is surely better than sitting impotently around the UN security council. Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister once hired a ship to rescue boat people fleeing the Communists in Vietnam. Go on Kouchner, give the Armée de l’Air something to do…

UPDATE : Reading between the lines Dave supports sending inunilateral aid. In the comments a co-conspirator reminds us of Operation Manna, the World War II effort using Lancaster Bombers to bombard the starving Netherlands with 6850 tonnes of food during one week in May 1945.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Coming Next Week : Holding the Punditry to Account

The exasperated collective counter-attack by the establishment Commentariat on bloggers has inspired Guido to start a new regular feature. When the great and the good assembled at the RSA last Wednesday, shepherded by Julia Hobsbawm, John Lloyd (in absentia) and Matthew Taylor*, to bemoan their diminished status, they drew the battle-lines for a battle that should be joined and won for the blogosphere. The Commentariat desperately want to maintain their monopoly role as media gate-keepers, as the sub-edited filters of democracy and the monopoly producers of public commentary. Guido has said this before; in an age of near costless technological disintermediation “the news” is no longer what they say it is, we can make the news ourselves, unfiltered by the metropolitan media elite. Successful boutique news sources are proliferating. The media Goliaths now face an army of blogging DavidsA lot of what was said at the Editorial Intelligence event was plain ignorant, the conflation of blog writing with blog comment interaction in particular. It is true that the comments left here and on the Guardian’s CiF can be pretty vitriolic and profane, but they are genuinely reflective of what readers really think. Polly Toynbee hates the contradictory “barrage” of comments that follow her articles because she has an over-inflated view of the value of her analysis. Many of us only read her articles for the pleasure of seeing them torn to shreds in the comments that interactively follow. Polly is highly paid and successful because she is a provocative columnist, not because she is a better analyst of social affairs than Frank Field. That is a valuable hack talent she shares with Richard Littlejohn…

The fear and ignorance heard last Wednesday did not showcase the “Power of the Commentariat”, it highlighted their decline. They are weakened and rightly so, for they have time and time again failed to hold political power to account successfully. Proximity breeds compromise and the politico-media class has for example tolerated lying about expenses by politicians for decades and that toleration spread to tolerating spin, which is as often as not professional lying. Democracy is worse off because the Commentariat are compromised by being so embedded in the political class – or as Polly Toynbee explains “in sympathy with politicians”.

Laughably the Commentariat simultaneously fear and deride what they perjoratively term the “cult of the amateur”. The irony of this is not lost on Guido. The pundits of the unpopular press really need a re-think here, very few journalists earn as much as top bloggers. Guido can think of a few lone website owners who produce their content and make far more than most journalistsof the Dead Tree Press. They are also profit making publishers, unlike the Independent, Guardian and Telegraph.

This misplaced arrogance of the Commentariat deserves a research-based response. The writings of the Commentariat no longer just end up as fish and chip wrapping, their writing is accessible via the internet forever. So tomorrow, hopefully with the assistance of the wisdom of the blogging crowds, Guido will start putting the profundity of their punditry in context and under the microscope, starting with Janet Daley.

What did she, with all her intellectual authority, tell us about Gordon Brown last summer? Feel free to be profane…

*Matthew Taylor has complained bitterly about bloggers before. Contrast Taylor’s attitude to Rupert Murdoch’s attitude to the democratising of commentary. Overwhelmingly the Commentariat basically has a protectionist attitude, the increasing pluralism of news sources scares them because it devalues them. Shrewdly and counter-intuitively, Murdoch has an enabling attitude, expanding by freeing the market for commentary. He gets it.

Seen Elsewhere

Why Are Radicals Like Carswell Leaving Tories? | BBC
Danczuk: Rotherham Abuse Imported From Pakistan | Telegraph
Ashya King Case Shows How Authorities Get it Wrong | ConHome
The Carswell Show | Jon Craig
Cops Seized Journalist’s Phone to Out Whistleblower | Press Gazette
Chuka’s £2,500 Tax Avoidance Donation | Times
Another BBC Stitch Up? | David Keighley
Divided, Pessimistic Tories Expect Defeat | Alex Wickham
Labour Suspends Rotherham Council Members | Sky
PM Used Terror Crisis to Deflect From Carswell | Rachel Sylvester
Scotland Surges for Freedom | Times


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