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.

See the snag? Sounds tough and progressive to triangulating wonks. Sounds more like adding insult to injury when you are lying on a trolley bleeding, hoping you won’t catch MRSA – “Here’s Wayne, he is very sorry he stabbed you”. Doctors and the opposition went ballistic. By lunchtime today the plan was dropped.

Is this a new record time for a U-turn?

UPDATE 18.41 : A co-conspirator explains the skidding spinning:

Earlier today the Home Office issued a release claiming the A&E story was down to a “misunderstanding” with a reporter – presumably Boulton’s interview. They briefed the BBC on this, and the BBC were happy to run it (on the basis that they hadn’t got it “wrong” – i.e. they got scooped on Sunday by Sky and didn’t have the story). When the Home Office was confronted with the email it had sent to most of the Lobby on Saturday, and the fact that all of them had apparently suffered the same failure of understanding, and shown the PA copy which stemmed from it, and challenged about this “misunderstanding”, they went into reverse (again – twice in a day). However, by then they’d got the friendly Beeb to run the line on PM (incredibly including the reporter suggesting the press release was ambiguous and therefore open to misinterpretation) and were happy.

Spin within spin within spin.

EXCLUSIVE : Sam Coates of ConservativeHome Hired as Cameron Speechwriter

It will be announced later this afternoon that Sam Coates, deputy editor of the influential ConservativeHome website is to become Dave’s deputy speechwriter.

The appointment of the social conservative will be seen as reassuring to the right of the party where Sam is seen as a promising and sound voice. There was a lot of competition for the vacancy created by Danny Kruger leaving. Presumably there will be a lot of competition for the vacancy he will leave at ConservativeHome…

Gove Column Collapses

Guido analysed Michael Gove’s swotty psychology last year.* He has another typically modest piece in The Times this morning Here are My Four Columns of Wisdom.

Guido didn’t get beyond the first line before laughing:

There may be more than a billion books in the Library of Congress but there are only seven basic plots.

Guido has read that there are in literature Seven Types of Ambiguity (though William Empson never met Mrs Fawkes). However the former incredible “billion books” claim prompted a quick check of the Library of Congress website, revealing that there are in fact a mere 32 million books on the shelves. Not such a wise column after all…

*See I Might Be Ugly, But I’m Smart.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Guido has introduced a simple Pigs in Shit rating system for guidance on the misdemeanors of porcine politicians (guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

The Multi-Millionaire Civil Servants
The Times

Accenture, is like Capita and Halliburton, a para-statal corporation dependent on government contracts for hundreds of millions in revenue. It is unbelievable that senior civil servants who are ex-Accenture still have millions of pounds worth of shares. This is obviously a conflict of interest when they are in a position to influence the award of lucrative contracts.

MPs Claim Expenses for Unnecessary Homes
Telegraph
Getting the taxpayer to pay for homes that are nowhere near the constituency or Westminster is a new twist on this fiddle.
Report Re-Ignites Wendy Donations Row
BBC

All you really need to know is that she knowingly and deliberately broke the rules – despite her claims.

Friday Caption Contest (Fancy Dress Democracy Line-Up)

Byrne Fires on Downing Street

Colin Byrne, CEO of mega-spin merchants, Weber Shandwick, is a former protege of Mandelson and was the Labour Party’s chief press officer from 1988 to 1992. He has his own blog and has, judging by his latest post, had enough of the team of second raters around Gordon.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau on the “fake maths” of economic forecasts:

“The truth is that our ability to forecast the future beyond the current quarter is limited… The curse of our time is fake maths. Think of it as fake news for numerically literate intellectuals: it is the abuse of statistics and economic models to peddle one’s own political prejudice… The fakeness of the maths lies in an exaggerated inference. Economic models have their uses, as do opinion polls. They provide information to policymakers and markets. But nobody can see through the fog of the future.”

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