“Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng will struggle to hit his target of boosting annual UK economic growth to 2.5%” writes the FT’s Chris Giles in an article that is representative of much of the broadsheet commentary since Friday, with the honourable exception of the Telegraph. Starmer is, at the time of this going to pixel, not planning to reverse Kwasi’s tax cuts or the now cancelled tax rises he’d already opposed, with the result that the Labour Party is quibbling with very little of the changes. It boils down primarily to their rejection of the abolition of the 45% rate bringing the top rate of income tax down to 42.5% (including NI). Labour have accepted two thirds of the personal income tax cuts. They are only rejecting one cut, the top rate cut…
So the the dividing line between the parties is: Will “new era” economics work and crank growth up to 2.5% before the next election?
Not a chance say Rachel Reeves and the assembled hardline-centrists of the broadsheet punditry, plus all the orthodox economists from the IFS, Institute for Big Government and gloomy Torsten Bell with his distribution charts. Kwasi and Liz say it will work. It won’t surprise co-conspirators that Guido thinks it is less of a gamble than the BBC’s Faisal Islam reckons. Barring oil going to $300 or some other catastrophe, it is far more likely to work than the doomsters would have you believe. If Kwasi and Liz fail to hit the 2.5% target they have set for themselves, they will deservedly lose the next election. The choice now is pull out all the stops and go for growth, or go into opposition…
The ongoing fun at TalkTV’s expense has pushed Guido to reflect at length on something that he has thought for a while. There’s too much broadcast political content chasing too small an audience and it will end in tears – for shareholders.
Guido had his second watch of Piers Morgan’s show last night, and by the standards of most current affairs shows, it is better-than-average infotainment. He’s doing issues in an accessible way, a bit more tabloid than say Peston, with much more show business than Marr used to put on his Sunday morning show. Will it work in the sense of making a profit? That remains to be seen. The economics of television favour mass market products; politics-focused television products lose money because politics is, in general, a minority interest and there are just not enough people in the UK to make that minority pay. ITV has always regarded politics as a loss leader, so TalkTV and GB News are attempting to do what no British commercial broadcaster has ever done. They are trying to do politics for profit.
The British television audience is one fifth the size of the US television audience, which is why Fox News, MSNBC and CNN can make money. Although CNN+, the channel’s new streaming venture, failed and shut down after just one month. In the UK magazines, think tanks and online political enterprises have all launched video shows and podcasts of varying quality to service political geeks. Content that mostly preaches to the choir, be it their readers or the ideologically allied. These are niche ventures that build brand loyalty and increase subscriptions and donations. The Spectator’s family of podcasts drive magazine subscriptions, and are financed by sponsors wanting to be associated with the glossy magazine and reach their affluent readers. On the left, Novara’s professional high production values and left-wing critiques give comrades Sarkar and Bastani a measurably bigger reach than TalkTV, funded largely by the donations of their left-wing fans. One think-tank boss told Guido that if their policy wonk focused videos reach just 500 people, that is ten times as many as would ever turn up to a policy seminar – if one donor likes what they see and makes a £50,000 donation, that pays for a lot of cheaply produced online videos spreading their message. The financial logic of these ventures is that they spread the brand message and are self-funding.
These online-only narrowcasters don’t pay presenters millions and don’t have the infrastructure of legacy broadcasters, with purpose built studios, satellite fees, network fees and big production staff head-counts. Yes, the production values are lower, yet viewers don’t seem to mind and they have surprisingly big audiences. They will continue to thrive.
The new channels – GB News and TalkTV – have gone for the infrastructure of legacy broadcasters, in the full knowledge that Sky News loses £20 million-a-year and that the BBC News Channel has a tiny audience by BBC standards. Whilst GB News is doing things on a tighter budget, break-even is still some way away. What takes these channels into profitability will be multiplying their audiences ten times. Good luck with that…
Mumsnet, the motherhood focused website which has been going for 20 years, has long been caricatured as a coven of Waitrose-wine-glugging, liberal, Guardian reading, middle class mums. There is some truth in it; they have championed right-on campaigns on #MeToo, desexualising girls clothes, against gender stereotyping clothes and toys – though Guido notes with regret, somehow never championing toy guns for girls. The founder of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts, told the Guardian she was most
proud that Mumsnet seems to have given mothers a platform to express themselves in all their magnificent variety, and I’m pleased that so many users (58%) say Mumsnet has made them more likely to consider issues from a feminist perspective.
Safe to say, it has not been the place to find feminist Tory voters. Until this Wednesday.
Following on from Keir Starmer saying “trans women are women”, Boris was asked at PMQs by Angel Richardson about the issue of “gender distress”. Boris said in his response, “when it comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important.” This might seem like basic common sense, however biological facts are no longer accepted by much of the Labour Party…
Mumsnet’s readers reacted with an ecstatic chat thread, “Boris Johnson Just Stated that Biology Dictates What is a Man / Woman“ with over a hundred comments of which 99% were positive for Boris. Here they are to show just how radicalising an issue Labour’s toxic woke policies are:
This week Tony Blair warned the Labour Party in the New Statesman that wokeness will cost them working class votes:
If you look at the culture wars, identity politics, it’s exactly the same as the 1980s. If Labour gets in the wrong place on these things, it’ll alienate part of the working-class vote, a part of which is small-c conservative. If you look as if, on identity politics or culture, you are far away from those people, you’ll frighten them: they won’t vote for you.
Looks like it will cost Starmer middle class women’s votes too…
During the Question Time Ukraine Special last night, former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (who is married to Stephen Kinnock) smugly came out with this disconnected-from-reality take:
“First of all you said something that made me almost chuckle before, when you said ‘Putin will think that the UK’s leading the efforts against Russia right now’ of course it’s not. The EU is leading the effort against Russia so I don’t think they’ll see Boris Johnson as a particular leader in this field”
Leaving aside the fact David Lammy can be seen nodding along to this nonsensical bilge, Thorning-Schmidt is clearly oblivious to the UK government trying to go further and faster than almost all of the EU when it comes to sending military equipment, banning Russia from SWIFT and sanctioning more Russian assets than the US and EU combined. It was not the UK that dithered on sanctions, or carved out exceptions so Italy could carry on exporting luxury handbags to Putin’s regime.
Even Kremlin spokesman Maria Zakharova contradicts Lammy et al: “London plays one of the leading, if not the main, roles, leaves us no choice but to take proportionately tough retaliatory measures. London has made a final choice of open confrontation with Russia.” A back handed compliment to London’s leading role against Russia.
Of course it’s not just Thorning-Schmidt becoming deranged by this self-loathing brain rot.
The inhumanity of our Govts resistance to fleeing refugees is depriving the kind and generous hearts of the British people of their capacity for compassion… we want to help… please let us.— Deborah Meaden 🇺🇦 (@DeborahMeaden) March 8, 2022
"I'm very grateful to you Boris" says Zelensky, calling for tighter sanctions.— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) March 8, 2022
The UK lags behind the EU and US.
Apart from the UK, are there any other western democracies that are still allowing members of Putin's government to buy and sell assets, set up companies, and raise money? Is the UK alone or are there other safe havens for them to use?— Jessica Simor QC (@JMPSimor) March 6, 2022
Very funny seeing these stupid fucking op-eds saying "Putin feels like he can attack Ukraine because we are all too woke" instead of saying "it's because he literally owns our Prime Minister"— Nish Kumar (@MrNishKumar) March 5, 2022
Did he thank you and @pritipatel for being world leading in the raising of obstacles to 🇺🇦 refugees? Or for the succour you continue to give to Putin- and Tory-backing 🇷🇺 oligarchs? https://t.co/Wuw6K3AiS8— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) March 10, 2022
Orwell’s oft quoted point that “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality” could be re-applied to remoaners, it is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any tweeting, FBPE hashtagging, blue ticker would feel more ashamed of crediting Boris for something than of stealing from a poor box. All of this is without going over those who revelled in Russia’s foreign minister insulting Liz Truss, because our enemies are less bad than any Tory. Yesterday’s polling showed how those on the ground in Ukraine actually feel, without the luxury to sit back and play political point-scoring via Twitter. Boris is the most popular politician after Zelenskyy among the Ukrainian people, though in the minds of deranged Remoaners he may as well be Putin…
This was an astounding budget. Rishi Sunak is the first Chancellor to raise corporation taxes since Dennis Healey in 1974. He has established a National Investment Bank, fulfilling John McDonnell’s Labour manifesto promise of 2019. During the time he spoke gilt yields rose over a third of one percent, adding some £7 billion to the nominal annual re-financing cost of the national debt in a little over an hour. Rishi audaciously boasted that after 10 years of prudent Conservative Party fiscal stewardship he was able to undertake a massive spending programme, the like of which we have not seen since the post-war era.
That is just not true, in the decade before the pandemic the Tories failed to close the deficit, doubled the national debt and increased the debt to GDP ratio beyond a level which they said would make Britain bankrupt under Labour. The tax burden is now at a level not seen since Roy Jenkins was chancellor.
The last ten years have seen the Bank of England’s quantitative easing allow Tory Chancellors to avoid the imperative of balancing the books. That trick may not work for much longer. Inflation looms and the bond market vigilantes are awakening from their QE induced anaesthesia. This government has convinced itself that what it wants to do, it has to do, which is spend borrowed money.
In 2017 the Tories, including Rishi himself, were proclaiming that it was a fact that higher corporation taxes will reduce the tax take. So why in 2021 is Rishi scheduling the first corporation tax rise in 47 years?
In the year since he became Chancellor, Rishi has failed to meet every fiscal objective and mandate the government set itself. He now intends to oversee a tax and spending regime last seen in the sixties. Tory spinners are briefing this is setting the ground for an electoral strategy; the levelling up agenda, active government intervention in the economy, monumental infrastructure programmes. Perhaps. It is an electoral strategy that owes more to Peronism than Thatcherism…
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is right to call Big Tech’s banning of Trump “problematic”, though Guido is not sure that it can be described accurately as a breach of the “fundamental right to free speech”. The Big Tech platforms are just withdrawing their services, which may seem like an academic distinction in terms of the outcome, it is however important to distinguish between a state enforcing a ban in law and a private enterprise choosing to not provide a service. Germany has strict laws which regulate free speech in ways that we don’t want to import.
Facebook and Twitter saw their share prices fall yesterday as investors worried that regulations were going to hit the firms in the wake of politicians around the globe realising that if it could happen to Trump, it could happen to them. France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire said yesterday that “Digital regulation should not be done by the digital oligarchy itself . . . Regulation of the digital arena is a matter for the sovereign people, governments and the judiciary.” By which he really means politicians like him.
The de-platforming of Trump and the alternative Parler social network, after Amazon pulled the plug on it, reveals where real power lies. The solution is a return to the first principles of the internet. Resilience is surrendered by relying on the main social networks, which are advertiser funded and reliant on giving brands a safe space. Fortunately the architecture of the internet was designed to allow information to flow even if the network was damaged. New social networks that are self-hosted, distributed and decentralised will be developed, they exist already and could soon gain critical mass. Many have just experienced a surge in new users after the Trump ban.
Some of the decentralised services have millions of members, Mastadon‘s codebase allows you to build your own Twitter-like social network, you can either keep it private or open it out to the wider world. We will inevitably now see decentralised and politically polarised networks develop, possibly in the shadows, unregulated. Information wants to be free and the internet enables it. The Big Tech platforms have probably made the big mistake that Mark Zuckerberg has been determined to avoid from the beginning, it could see them go the way of AOL…