In rare SW1 scenes, it was the Lobby – not MPs – leaking via Whatsapp this lunchtime.
At 11.19 the Press Gallery chat was lit up by FT pol-ed George Parker forwarding a link to the gov.uk page on tax dividends. Harry Cole promptly thanked Parker for the tip and commiserated with him for buggering up the FT’s splash.
Sure enough, at half past four, George hit publish on an FT exclusive – that the government is looking at hammering hard-working, self-employed people by halving the current tax-free dividend allowance, and increasing taxes on dividends beyond the annual limit.
Parker’s tweet of the story joked that the scoop was “hinted at exclusively by mistake on the Press Gallery WhatsApp group earlier.”
Guido’s not a member of the Lobby and therefore not privy to the chat. A co-conspirator was only too happy to oblige…
The Pink ‘Un’s John Burn-Murdoch’s statistical number crunching during the pandemic was compulsive and compelling reading. Today he has shifted from analysing Covid figures to quantifying political policies. He has concluded that the Conservative Party has “become unmoored from the British people” and their own voters ideologically. His article goes on to claim that “the government may have adopted the most extreme economic position of any major party in the developed world”. He further claims “the Tories are the most economically right-wing major party in the developed world”!
The government has announced an energy price cap, which it says will cost £60 billion for the first six months and the industry reportedly expects the total bill to be between £130 billion and £150 billion. That is an intervention in the markets on a scale that former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell once dreamt of, and for which he was condemned as Marxist. Guido is at a loss to understand how that is right-wing or free market. It is the exact opposite. How can a party doing that be the most economically right-wing party in the developed world?
It turns out that FT asked a bunch of academics their opinion. Political “scientists” in universities are not famously politically representative, they’re far to the left of the public even if they are supposedly from “across the political spectrum”. The leftie-lecturer stereotype is well founded. This seems more like a qualitative academic focus group.
The claims from the FT’s comparative analysis of data from the British Election Study are even more bizarre. The usual four-quartered political compass (left/right on economics, up/down social libertarian/authoritarian) chart is supposedly applied to the British electorate. According to the FT there are no right-of-centre, social libertarians in Britain. Not one, with that whole quarter of the chart empty. This will be news to those of us who support keeping the government out of the economy and our bedrooms. The many millions of people who vote Conservative for lower taxes and also want to legalise soft drugs don’t seem to exist either, as far as the FT is concerned…
UPDATE: Guido asked John Burn-Murdoch on Twitter “Do you really believe there are no voters in the bottom right quadrant? My friends feel unseen.” He replied “Not none, but exceptionally few. Less than 4% of people who voted in 2019 are in that quadrant. The chart simplifies the distributions in order to make it readable, but 4% is barely distinguishable from zero.” 4% is very distinguishable from zero. 4% of the electorate would be over a million voters.
City grandee Lord Spencer launched a brilliant tirade against the salmon-tinged socialists at the FT, attacking the paper for being astonishingly anti-business and said he’s “astonished it’s still called the Financial Times.”
“That’s typical FT, I’ll be honest with you, the FT is not a pro-business paper, it is not a pro-Tory paper – no reason it should be a pro-Tory paper – but you might think it might be a pro-business paper. It is not. In fact it has always been highly sceptical of the business community. I’m astonished it’s still called the Financial Times!”
He’s right, the pink ‘un has been pinko for decades…
Guardian, Mirror and Financial Times hacks are complaining in Press Gazette that they were “blocked” from attending Priti’s Rwanda trip this month, with the Guardian going as far as to accuse the Home Office of trying to “avoid public scrutiny“:
“We are concerned that Home Office officials are deliberately excluding specific journalists from key briefings and engagements. [This] sends a worrying signal about the state of press freedom in the UK.”
Strangely, however, Guardian hacks were actually invited on the trip… their reporter just happened to fall ill right before leaving.
Even so, the Guardian is now donning tinfoil hats and claiming the Home Office rejected replacement hack, home affairs editor Rajeev Sal, because he might ask tough questions. They also claim the Home Office have deliberately rejected Sal from briefings before, something the Home Office tells Guido is “rubbish“. If Sal is such a tough interviewer, it does beg the question of why they didn’t submit him for the trip in the first place…
Guido’s departmental co-conspirator says the whole row is “silly“, as they can’t offer tickets to everyone, everywhere, at all times. They also point out how both the BBC and PA were on-hand throughout the entire trip – so those that couldn’t attend could get straight wire copy. In fact, even the picture used in the Press Gazette report came from PA…
The New Statesman’s political editor, Stephen Bush, has announced he’s leaving the magazine to join the FT as a weekly staff columnist and associate editor. He’ll take up his new post in early 2022, having worked at the New Statesman for over six years. Commenting on the move, Bush says:
“I’m thrilled to be joining the FT, a newspaper I’ve read and admired since my student days. It’s the best newspaper in the country bar none. From its peerless Africa coverage, Lex, Sarah O’Connor’s columns or the work of its fantastic Westminster team, I always start my day with the FT and am incredibly excited to be joining.”
Only yesterday his soon-to-be ex-editor said of Andrew Marr’s hiring that he’s finally bringing “in some big hitters and more experience”. Presumably Stephen had secured his next gig before Jason Cowley’s comments…
This email has just gone out to FT subscribers:
To help the news industry weather the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, a long-awaited decision to remove value added tax (VAT) from digital news sites was brought forward by the UK government and implemented in May this year.
This change brings the tax status for digital news in line with that for physical newspapers, which have been VAT exempted for decades to promote informed public debate through quality journalism.
Your payment due on 03/07/2020 will remain at the price of GBP50.4, with the new 0% VAT reflected in your invoice.
So corporate subscribers who got reimbursed the VAT paid will see a 20% hike in the price they pay. That is daylight robbery…