By Popular Request : Caption Competition Special

EU to Ireland : Tough Luck

Back in the last century Guido was very much in a minority in Ireland opposing swapping the punt for the euro – “it is the future”, “it will make things easier when we go on holiday”. Not the strongest economic arguments. More often the antipathy was blamed on Guido spending too much time in the company of British Eurosceptics.

Now times have changed. Being in the eurozone is recognised as having exacerbated the property bubble. Interest rates were just too low and cheap money flooded into over-priced property. If Ireland’s central bank had interest rate sovereignty it would have raised interest rates – it couldn’t and the Irish property crash will be one of the world’s worst as a result. 

Now the economy is in trouble Irish interest rates should be lowered to make the currency more competitive and the attractive to U.S. investors. Ireland is a high cost country for American investors who now look elsewhere. Irish finance ministers John Bruton in 1986 and Bertie Ahern in 1993 drove down the punt to bring in foreign investment when economic growth was faltering. But as a member of the euro, devaluation of the exchange rate is no longer an option.

Yesterday the president of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet bluntly told Paul Tansey, economics editor of the europhile Irish Times that “the ECB has to care for the superior interest of the euro area”. Tough luck, Ireland isn’t important, monetary policy will not help the Irish. Anti-treaty campaigner Declan Ganey says the Irish are not eurosceptic, they are Brussels-sceptic. As the Brussels political elite’s contempt for Irish democracy becomes clearer, that could change…

Gordon Gets it in the Groin

Guido hates to repeat here anything he reads in newspaper diaries, (if only they felt the same) however this chuckle is just too good to keep from the co-conspirators. According to Black Dog, at a Downing Street reception to mark the 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army, a rushing TV sound engineer bashed Gordon in the balls with with a boom microphone.

Obviously the engineer enjoys his work…

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Time for the weekly Pigs in Shit ratings (ranking guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

Dizzy kicks it off with evidence of Cameron’s Piggish Tendencies. Nil pigs.
Cherie Keeps Official Car and Driver Still

Mail on Sunday

Denis Thatcher used to get the bus, Cherie wrangled a deal for a government driver.
Northern Rock Hounds Whistle Blower
Mail on Sunday

Guido’s old friends at Schillings are up to their old tricks. Hounding an alleged whistle-blower for telling the truth about what is going on at Northern Rock – the bank we own. There is a legitimate public interest defence.

Flashback : The Smith Institute Exposé

If you are new to the Smith Institute story this January 2007 documentary expo which Iain Dale presented and Guido scripted for broadcast by the old 18 Doughty Street internet TV station gives you the background. This video really did kick off the official Smith Institute investigation. It was whilst filming outside the Charity Commission office that a press officer came out and asked Guido what we were doing. In conversation Guido was told that the reason they hadn’t started an investigation was they had no official complaint! The next day Guido filed his complaint, days later the investigation was announced. It was not too bad an effort for a first time citizen journalist producer…

Some bloke called Crick had a go as well – see here. Hmmm…

The Sith Suffered a Grave Defeat Yesterday

Guido has now had time to fully digest yesterday’s report on the Smith Institute. Some comment from the unpopular wing of the blogosphere shows they don’t seem to have grasped that the Sith were found to have operated illegally nor have they understood the full ramifications of the Charity Commission’s investigative findings:

The Institute failed to implement key elements of the 2002 commitments arising from the first investigation.

The “predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activities, compromised the Institute’s independence.”

“Due to the amount and nature of party political content in some of the Institute’s events and publications, the Commission concluded that the Institute’s work was not always as sufficiently balanced and neutral as required under charity law”

“The trustees allowed inappropriate party political comments which were made at events, to be reported word for word… without any commentary, editing, qualification or disclaimer in Institute publications and disseminated to a wider audience”

The language used by the Institute at times “constituted a party political statement inappropriate for the charity. This inevitably compromised the Institute’s independence and reputation”

The Institute “took insufficient steps to regulate inappropriate party political” activities by Senior Research Fellow, Robert Shrum.

Directly criticised the trustees, finding “evidence of unchallenged party political comments being made at Institute events by politicians and also party political comments made by or on behalf of the Institute… combined with the predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activity, compromised the Institute’s independence. Bearing in mind the previous engagement between the Commission and the trustees in 2001/02 on this matter, the Commission concluded that the trustees had not safeguarded or adequately supervised the risks posed to the independence and reputation of the Institute”

Found that “the trustees had allowed the Institute to become exposed to concerns that is supported Government policy and was involved in party political activity inappropriate for a charity” and that they were “not sufficiently engaged to ensure the proper supervision of the charity”. The trustees were lambasted throughout the report for failing in their statutory duties to oversee the workings of the charity.

Still had ongoing concerns “over the Institute’s frequency of use of 11 Downing Street and over the review and monitoring of the impartiality of its educational programmes”.

Found “a number of instances where the balance and neutrality of the Institute’s work were compromised by a party political association… Sufficient steps had not been taken to identify or manage the perception that the Institute was unacceptably linked to and supported the Labour Party or that it inappropriately promoted Government policy… it is understandable how the perception arose that the Institute was focussed on or was connected to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

This is a good result and Guido feels totally vindicated in making his complaint. The Commission has formally found the Institute in breach of the laws on political neutrality – anyone interested now knows what really went on. The Institute has been forced to restructure, with an audit committee. It has also closed down the subsidiary company S.I. Events Limited, which was used to launder money from corporations seeking regulatory favours and to invoice the Treasury for seminars. A formal oversight structure was ordered to be put in place with tight controls and it has been told to appoint known Tory and LibDem supporters to the board. It is now on probation and must report back on the implementation of the changes as ordered in six months. The Commission will take a second look next year.

Guido doesn’t think we will be hearing any more speeches on how to beat Cameron and the LibDems at Smith Institute events in the future…

+++ Brown is in Baghdad +++

Thought he said he wasn’t taking a foreign holiday..?

Friday Caption Competition (the Men in Suits)

Gordon Brown Refused to Answer Inquiry Questions

One footnote from the Charity Commission report into Gordon Brown’s Smith Institute is positively Nixonian.

You have the right to remain silent but….

Labour are spinning that the report clears Gordon of any links to the Institute. Which is complete bollocks. The Treasury Minister John Healey welcomed attendees to Number 11 in December 2004 thus:

“I am a last-minute substitute for Gordon Brown, so I would like, on his behalf, to welcome you all to Number 11 Downing Street. I know, looking around, some of you are quite regular attendees of Smith Institute seminars, and you will know you get a letter from Wilf Stevenson before each one explaining that you are invited to Number 11 by Kind permission of the Chancellor. I have to say, this series of seminars in particular is being held not so much by the kind permission of the Chancellor, but by his absolute insistence that they take place. He is unable to be with us now, but he will want to know exactly what has been said in the discussion when I see him earlier this morning. Many of you, including and perhaps especially the panel here, have known Gordon for a long time”

The Centre for Open Politics has summarised the web of close links to Gordon Brown in a single document.

click to enlarge

Smith Institute Report

Guido is digesting the lengthy Charity Commission report. The Smith Institute has been found guilty of charge after charge first highlighted on this blog.

Back with fuller comment soon.

UPDATE : There seem to be some errors of fact which Guido will be highlighting.

Treasury Denies Plans to Break Broken Golden Rule

The FT front pages the Treasury’s supposed plan to break the Golden Rule and breach Gordon’s self imposed debt limit of 40% of the UK’s gross domestic product.

The truth is the City and the Gilts market has regarded the Golden Rule as a political fiction for years. 700 or more PFI debts that build schools and hospitals owned by the state are government guaranteed debt whatever fudge the government claims. Northern Rock mortgage guarantees are not only bad debts they are also government debts, the Network Rail debt likewise, state pensions are another unfunded government debt.

The Office of National Statistics made it officially 43.1% back in May (full explanation from IFS download here). The only news is that the Treasury looks set to admit the truth. The pathetic reality is that Gordon’s psychology did not allow him to admit his failure to keep his own rule. The rule could have been kept to in the good times, it hardly needed much fiscal rectitude to sustain when he inherited falling public debts from Ken Clarke.

The Treasury is spinning this morning that it is not going to break or loosen the rules. Guido suspects it will “redefine” the economic cycle somehow.

See also Fantasy Island Economics.

+++ Charity Commission Smith Institute Report Tomorrow +++

Radically Opaque

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The troubled Demos think tank is officially saying “no comment” this morning but there are reports that the new director of Demos, Catherine Fieschi, has already abandoned ship. It seems to be something of habit for Demos to lose leaders. She was installed following the failed and brief captaincy of Madelaine Bunting which produced a mutiny of the wonks.
Sunny over at Pickled Politics thinks it is something to do with Demos co-sponsoring an event held by the British Muslim Initiative – which some claim is Hamas allied – Guido has no idea if that is true and is a bit sceptical of Islamophobia mullahs-under-the-bed stuff. The Demos “no comment” is a bit of a laugh when you know that they advocate “radical transparency” and a new way of “doing politics… short-circuiting the damaging relationship between politicians and journalists”.

They ask citizen bloggers to get in touch because “We’re thinking about how citizen journalism and new media are having, and might have, an impact on political communication, and on traditional journalism.” Well, Guido got in touch and they said “no comment”.

UPDATE : It is official. She resigned on Monday and an article has just popped up on the New Statesman‘s website where she says

“no matter who’s in an organisation, organisations seldom love you back as much as you love them. They are strangely, in this respect, less than the sum of their parts. And so it’s time to move on…. I wish Demos nothing but the absolute best, but a sense of après moi, le déluge has a certain appeal when you’ve been slugging your guts out for a couple of years. Does harbouring a secret longing for an inept successor, possibly unpleasant, maybe even scarily unattractive, make me a terrible person?”

Unloved, belittling, negative wishes – something tells Guido the Christmas card list will be shorter this year…

Can Clegg Carry His Party?

Yesterday Clegg announced plans to “streamline” decision making in the LibDems, in reality giving him more control, today he announces that the party will reduce the overall tax burden. Effectively he is moving the party away from social democracy and back to liberalism, shifting the party from the centre left to the centre right.
Promising to slash Whitehall waste and cutting taxes, reducing the number of MPs – all good stuff. We have been here before, Ming muttered the same kind of thing – talking about deregulation and reducing the scope of the state. Yet the press releases continued to pour out from his shadow team calling for more regulations and more state spending. The modern successors to the Liberal Party seem to have lost the language of classical liberalism. They are always clamouring for “something to be done” by the state. Cameron’s personal responsibility agenda and assertion that “there is such a thing as society, it is just not the same as the state” is an authentically liberal stance.

Clegg can probably carry the parliamentary party, however the activist base is way to the left of his voters. Clegg’s party is in collective denial that it faces annihilation at the hands of the Tories in much of the South East. How will he get the legendary sandal-wearing, lentil-loving weirdy beardies to sell the new message?

Flip-Flop Punditry

It seems like only yesterday that the pundits were collectively predicting Labour would lose. Guido was sceptical.

Today, according to Andrew Rawnsley and “Britain’s most authoritative survey of inside political opinion”, they think Labour will win. The punditry, more fickle than a teenage girl…

Tory Expense List Released

Uploaded to the Tory website.

Ooooh, what a surprise, the troughing Wintertons don’t appear to have put in their return…

Gordon Gets a Psychotherapist

Hencke in the Guardian this morning reports the Labour Party is hiring Derek Draper, a psychotherapist “experienced at treating emotional and psychological issues including: self-esteem, personal development, depression, anxiety, addictions, self-harm, personality problems and family and relationship concerns” to advise on how the party should better communicate its message. Clearly the right man at the right time in the right place.
Draper was one of the original sleazy New Labour lobbyists that proliferated in the late 90s. He quit politics after a cash for access scandal engulfed him. That he has been re-appointed by Labour just shows that Gordon is really having to scrape the barrel.

When Cameron and Osborne won the leadership of the Tories, “Dolly” Draper was said to be boasting that he had socialised (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) with them back in the Notting Hill days. The understood implication being that none of them had kept their noses clean. No News of the Screws scandal exposé resulted. Some said it was because there was none, others mused that no newspaper editor thought Draper would be a credible witness for the defence in a defamation suit. Still, it will be handy to have his new skills available to Gordon…

UPDATE : 1 in 5 MPs has suffered mental illness according to a survey conducted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health. The report suggests that MPs cover-up their illnesses. LibDem MP Sandra Gidley chairs the group and says when “the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik publicly disclosed his experience of depression, it did not affect his popularity”. The Palace of Westminster has a dispensary, the inventory supplies list would show a hefty monthly order for Prozac.

Without wishing to trivialise mental health issues, the PM’s mental health is being widely discussed if not publicly commented upon in the press. Given that Blair / Campbell back in the day described him as “psychologically flawed” it is not a new matter of concern. It is legitimate in these circumstances to consider the head of government’s mental well being when he clearly looks like someone at the end of his tether. A large proportion of the Westminster Village (across political lines) thinks that Gordon is unbalanced. The youthful wunderkind, blinded in one eye, the obsessive political nature, the brooding malevolence… some openly speculate that he suffers from high-functioning autism- a form of Aspergers. The first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem.

EXCLUSIVE : Glasgow East Labour Fakes “93 Year-Old War Hero” Endorsement

This is really stooping low and a sign of the Labour Party’s total desperation to hang on to Glasgow East. This picture is taken from Labour’s election propaganda (see also here). The by-election candidate Margaret Curran says

Some of the people that I have met out and about over the past 9 years as a local MSP have been absolutely inspirational. Today I met a man who was up there with the very best that the East End has to offer.

Mr McGuiness is a 93 year old – who looks not a day past 70, by the way – living in a sheltered housing complex that I went to visit today.

Mr McGuiness fought with the Desert Rats in World War II and was treated in hospital for shrapnel wounds. He also fought in Yugoslavia with the partisans against the German occupation.

He reminded me of all the sacrifices our older generation made so that we can enjoy freedom today. I hope every single voter in the East End uses their hard-fought right to vote on July 24th.

Having met Mr McGuiness today, I am reminded we owe it to people like him to use our democratic right to vote.

What more could you ask for? A smiling endorsement with the candidate from a proud medal holder and old war hero who fought for democracy. Vote Labour!

Mr McGuinness looks in good shape for 93. He looks more like 67. With good reason, he is 67. He was 4 years old when the war ended. The picture above is of George McGuinness a lifelong left-wing Labour activist whom Downing Street got an MBE as a reward.

Did you somehow get a different impression? You don’t think that was their deliberate intention?

UPDATE : The picture and the story have been up over a week, yet within minutes of this story being posted the picture was removed and the article has been drastically edited. Too late., they are also deleting the dozens of incoming mocking comments. The story now has no picture and refers to Mr John Hipson. John Hipson will be pleased to know that Margaret Curran was so impressed with meeting him she could not even remember his name.

Midnight Football from the Prime Mentalist

The former Brown fan The Mole occasionally brings back the odd gem from inside the bunker. This has the ring of truth:

There are even reports from the PM’s plane to Japan that a young civil servant touted by Brown as his next speech-writer desperately doesn’t want the job and kept pretending to be asleep when the great man marched down the aisle towards him.

A group of London MPs who were called to the Cabinet room to meet Brown last week were mystified when – having told them that he wanted to tell them about his plans for dealing with knife crime – he came up with the idea of ‘midnight football’. He told them that youths in his own Scottish constituency enjoyed late night football, and it could be expanded in London.

“We asked him whether kids in his constituency really played football at midnight. He said they actually played between 8-10pm. It was really pretty odd,” said one MP who was there.

Won’t this interfere with the plan to curfew children? Perhaps the troubled families that get evicted can go live on the football pitches after they get back from visiting their stab victims at the local hospital. Pick a potty policy time…

Jacqui’s Handbrake Skid Policy U-turn

Knife crime is the media scare of the moment and on Sunday Jacqui Smith spun Sky News that “something would be done”. The knife carrying and stabbing classes would be taken to hospital A&Es to confront the results of their crimes.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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