In the week we celebrate the Fall of the Wall (more in this coming week’s Guidogram) the covers of our political weeklies are worth comparing. The Speccie reveals and condemns Soviet agents at the highest levels of the Labour Party. The New Statesman glories in a cover with a flattering (old) picture of the communist tyrant Fidel Castro. On the inside is a feature on his allegedly ‘popular’ variant of socialism. So popular is Castro’s socialism that he has turned the island into a prison, locked up dangerous poets, not held an election in half a century and jailed dissident democrats. No mention in the article of the people who to attempt to flee to Miami on floats made out of car tyres or the level of destitution to which the country has been reduced. Perhaps Castro is popular in the same way that the Staggers is ‘popular’. Up to date ABC circulation figures are no longer available, but the suspicion is that since they have got rid of the adult political reporters the weekly circulation has gone below 20,000 – less than the daily readership of this blog. Online data since the beginning of the year shows the relative downward trend:
Perhaps if it was more in the real world politically – the latest claim is that the Chief Rabbi of Poland is a Tory stooge – the downward trend of the Staggers might be arrested. Perhaps they are hoping, vainly in Guido’s view, that a change of government will boost circulation…
Splashed across the opinion pages of Britain’s lower-circulation, loss making newspapers the punditocracy claims Blair is The Only Man for this Job. Steve Richards, Oliver Kamm, Jackie Ashley, Matthew d’Ancona (“the former PM is certainly the best candidate available”), John Rentoul “Yes, Oui, Ja“, and most of the rest of the Islington chattering classes are agreed: Blair should be president.
For a reality check let Guido quote the Süddeutsche Zeitung
The chances of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair going to the post of President of the European Council’s are zero… At the meeting of Socialist leaders before the start of the EU summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was not listened to in his plea in favour of his predecessor… Thus Blair is in fact out of the race, because for this task no one wants to trust him.
Also overlooked by our somewhat delusional and europhile media elite is one glaring inconvenient fact; centre-right parties are politically dominant in Europe currently, the President is likely to come from their ranks.
Yesterday Brown fibbed in Brussels that “People would be pleased if a British person became president. I think most people would prefer a British person taking this job rather than citizens of other countries.” Polls show that less than a third of Britons support ‘President Blair’. Brown has perhaps the worst case of delusion, out of touch with the will of his own people. Guido knew that Blair would definitely not get the job once Brown cursed threw his backing behind him…
On his somewhat dark looking blog, Nick Assinder, fresh from resigning from PoliticsHome on a point of high principle, suggests this morning that as a result of The Sun switching “Brown will be hurling staplers and mobiles across his hotel room tonight.” Suggesting that the Prime Mentalist is prone to uncontrollable rages and throwing office equipment around the room.
So, here is a classic example of a dark, unsubstantiated rumour about the Prime Minister’s personal life that owes its existence entirely to a single blog.
about allegations that the Prime Mentalist pops pills?
Does Nick Assinder have a shred of first hand evidence that Gordon Brown is prone to Nokia throwing? Or is this just a classic single example of a blogger’s hypocrisy?
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…
Don Paskini laments the profound insight into political strategy offered by the Guardian’s Jackie Ashley, the self-confessed Brownite also know as Mrs Marr:
June 2009: “what is silly is to imply that Labour would not make cuts or that they would not have to raise taxes for ordinary families…Better to admit the obvious and draw clear lines between Labour policies and Tory ones. There is a sensible, grown-up argument to be had, and it’s one that Labour could end up winning.”
Labour took the advice and how did it work out?
“It’s certainly now much easier for the Conservative government to make cuts. Labour has provided cover and, deliciously, Ed Balls has started the process.” ConservativeHome.
ConservativeHome is now reporting that
Today Jackie Ashley’s column is on the need for Labour to set out its plans for tax rises.
Guido has some sympathy for Paskini when he foams at the mouth “next time don’t write a newspaper article about how Labour would be more popular if they did what George Osborne wants them to do.” Quite.
David Aaronovitch suggests, not completely seriously, that perhaps it would be better to just publish people’s tax returns publicly rather than having a High Pay Quango to regulate banker’s bonuses. As Aaronovitch says, it would be fun.
It will also destroy any semblance of privacy. If private individuals have made money in the private sector why does anyone apart from their paymasters – the shareholders – have a right to know what they are being paid?
On the other hand everyone in the public sector and in public life should be transparent with their paymasters – the public. So BBC mandarins, Newsnight presenters, civil servants and politicians should reveal how much of our money they are trousering, down to the last penny. We are the paymasters.
It seems eminently sensible that members of parliament should, as in America, publish their tax returns. It would be nice to know how Mandelson in less than a decade has gone from being broke and tearful in his Hartlepool constituency with “water pouring down the walls”, to being able to afford a £2.4 million mansion off Regent’s Park for cash. He did this during a decade in which he was a selfless public servant. Multi-millionaire John Prescott’s tax returns would be similarly interesting. Alan Duncan is wailing that he might be a millionaire, but he isn’t rich, show us the truth Dunky and we will understand.
Polly Toynbee, the multi-millionairess toff and three-house-owning, Tuscan redistributionist friend of the down-trodden, made the same demand some time back, namely for everyone to have their tax return in the public domain. Guido emailed her to ask how much she made, she demanded to know details of Guido’s tax return first. Guido gave the figure, she declined to reciprocate. She did later reveal she was getting by on a mere £117,000 basic before book advances, royalties and appearance fees. Barely enough to maintain her three residences.
So Aaronovitch, here is a chance for you to lead by example: how much did you make last year?
Last night’s panel debate on the internet and democracy was as expected a bit of a bunfight, Guido got to deliver about half his speech (intended full text here). Sir Michael interrupted as soon as Guido gave him some stick (no one had interrupted him). Nick was more reasonable in BBCish way, he bemoaned his blog’s comments – something we have in common. He was a bit sarky, characterising Guido as a self-absorbed, overgrown student political hack, which was odd given we first met and clashed when he was the dripping wet chairman of the Young Conservatives in the 80s. He did try to shift the debate back to the big picture.
Grant Shapps was all starry eyed about the possibilities of the internet. Peter Kellner didn’t like direct democracy. Questions from the floor complained that we were all in broadcast mode not listening mode. When the debate organisers (Delib) listened and read out some of the abusive #idebate Twitterings from the large screen feed, it kind of confirmed the panel’s prejudices against listening to crowd sources. All in all Guido enjoyed himself, hopefully it was entertaining if not that informative for those there.
Guido had to dash, to pick up an alternative award, bumping into a very hurt Lembit at the ceremony. Had a few pints with the entertaining Stephen Pound, stopping to chat at the bar briefly with the chief whip, Nick Brown, who claims he enjoys avidly reading this blog. Hmmm…
Polly is moaning again: “The blogosphere could have been a source for better information, but purveys even more rabid anti-politics bile.” Guilty as charged.
Of course it could equally be said that Polly is rabidly pro-politics. Which of us is right? Polly with her frothing at the mouth endorsements of one social democratic politician after another, or Guido, warning against believing the promises of politicians?
Since the days of David Owen she has seen her hopes dashed by one social democrat after another promising her a good time and big government spending. You would have thought that she would have learnt by now, they all fail to deliver in the end and to expect more from politics is to delude yourself. This is not cynical nihilism, this is the age-old reality of politics.
Polly has singled Guido out in the past, saying that he couldn’t write about politics well because he has no sympathy for politicians. If Polly looks at the polls she will see that none of the voters have any sympathy for politicians. Which of us really, truly understands politics: Polly with her over-the-top endorsements and flattery of politicians, or Guido with his anti-political cynicism. Who is rabidly unrealistic?
Polly has written an article on ‘candour’ today
Osborne’s plans will be set out “in due course”, he says, but watch out: “Some savings will only become apparent when we have the chance to look at the books in government.” So we won’t know until after an election – and that’s not honest. There is nothing hidden in government books. It’s all in the Treasury’s red book.
Got that? When the Shadow Chancellor says he needs to have a look at the books once he is in government, he isn’t being honest because he need only look in the government’s openly published Treasury red book. Polly has caught Osborne out!
A few paragraphs down she writes
The red book’s own predications are usually wrong.
N.B. Want to see Richard Littlejohn’s classic bitch-slap of Polly again? The video is here.
How Mervyn King Lost Bank Battle War | WSJ
BBC Corporation Tax Horror Story | IEA
Sally Bercow Judgement in Full | Mr Justice Tugendhat
Commies Blame Capitalism For Terror Attack | The Commentator
Lord Black v Press Regulation | Guardian
Osborne’s Complacency | FT
DWP’s Welfare Failings | Isabel Hardman
Get Used to Coalitions | David Aaronovitch
Woolwich a Showcase in the Banality of Evil | Fraser Nelson
The Enemy Within | Max Hastings
Muslim Led Military-Style Free School Needed | Toby Young
Ed Balls stretches credulity by claiming he isn’t ambitious…
“I would love to be part of Ed’s Labour government but what I do next for me is not an all-consuming passion. I’m more bothered, in a personal sense, about getting to grade 8 piano by the time I’m 50.”
Ned Flanders – Clegg
Lisa Simpson – Natalie Bennett
Milhouse – Hilary Benn
Martin Prince – Andy Burnham
Edna Krabappel – Luciana Berger
Crazy Cat Lady – Glenda jackson
Comic book guy – John Prescott
Carl – Chucka
Lenny – Philip Hammond
Willie – Eric joyce
Poochie – Gordon Brown
Reverend Lovejoy – Tony Blair