Speccie v Staggers on Communism and Circulation

speccie-v-staggers

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:

Relative Trends

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…

The Blair Delusion

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 RentoulYes, Oui, Ja, and most of the rest of the Islington chattering classes are agreed:  Blair should be president.eu-blair

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

Assinder's Dark Unsubstantiated Hypocrisy

HypocriteOn 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.

Who said

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 Says "No Bank Collapsed"

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…

See also The Case for Elite Politics and Not Listening to the People, Steve Richards: Fails Numeracy Test and Steve Richards : “Voters Aren’t As Clever As Me”.

Jackie Ashley, Tory Strategist

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:

jackie ashley

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.

The High Pay "Problem"

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?

*Well not Guido in the case of the BBC, he refuses to pay the telly tax.

Ding Dong and a Gong

debateLast 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 Rabidly Pro-Politics

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?

See also : The Class Contradictions of Polly, For the Love of an Older Woman and a philosophy of life that is anti-politics.

Candid Polly's Contradictions

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.

Errrm…

N.B. Want to see Richard Littlejohn’s classic bitch-slap of Polly again? The video is here.

Over Three Million Hits for the Blog You Love and They Hate

April saw a total of over 3.6m pageviews from 1,382,879 visits by 347,994 visitors making 2,995,765 pageviews plus 680,207 views via RSS feed readers.  Not bad for one guy with a laptop, Blackberry and a penchant for Guinness. With traffic averaging over 100,000 pageviews daily this blog puts traditional political publications like the New Statesman in the shade, forcing the likes of the Indy’s Steve Richards (no fan of Guido: “neither daring or clever”, the feeling is mutual*) to admit that  nevertheless yours truly

is in my view one of the most influential figures in the British media. One day this week I heard five items on the Today programme that followed up his stories or his observations. Politicians have not learnt how to cope with an individual who has as much impact as entire newspapers.

How that growing realisation must really burn Polly, Aaronovitch, Yasmin, Jenkins, Sir Michael and the rest of the commentariat’s mediasaurs.  Like acid.

Examine the front page media agenda last month: Smeargate, Snouts in the Trough, MPs’ expenses and of course the developing “Gordon is bonkers” meme, all topped off nicely with a round of mea culpas on the inside comment pages from the shamed copy takers in the Lobby.  Not forgetting the Damian McBride coup de grâce and resignation tributeWhose acid house tunes were the media elite humming?

Many thanks to you the readers and the advertisers who make this blog more profitable than both the Guardian and Independent combined.

*See also Steve Richards: Fails Numeracy Test and Steve Richards : “Voters Aren’t As Clever As Me”.

Grand National Tip

Guido got a call yesterday from the Spectator

Speccie : Who are you tipping for the Grand National?

Guido : No idea, when is it?

Speccie : An Irishman who knows nothing about horses?

Guido : I know one thing, don’t take any tips from Peter Oborne.

On the basis of Peter’s tips Guido would consider laying (betting against) Brooklyn Brownie and Golden Flight on Betfair.  Oborne has finally got the full measure of Gordon Brown.  His demolition of Gordon’s G20 boasts is fantastic; Hubris, hoopla and claims that were false, cynical and very, very dangerous.

Hard to believe that Oborne was once Brown’s last commentariat fan.

Potty Mouthed Populism is an Antidote to Political Spin

Just noticed (via the ASI Blog) that David Aaronovitch fears the populist influence of “potty-mouthed right-wing bloggers on some political journalism”.   His Times colleague Daniel Finkelstein credits Guido with helping to focus mainstream media attention on the sleaze and petty corruption of politicians.  The raison d’etre of this blog is to foster an anti-political atmosphere by encouraging popular scepticism about politicians and their client media.  This is because Guido wants to de-politicise more areas of human action, increasing the non-political space in our society and culture, for which a necessary pre-condition is the discrediting of politicians by exposing their venal, self-interested behaviour.  Aaronovitch is right to fear.

He is wrong on one thing, and Polly Toynbee makes this mistake as well, Guido is not the “potty mouthed” author of profanity on the blog.  The readers comments however are a different story, there the anger is allowed to let rip.  If it tells our political masters anything, it tells them they are hated.  It may not be polished prose, but it is genuine anger.  They read it, they know it is real and it stings them.  David Miliband, Peter Hain and Ed Balls will, if you ask them, tell you how much they despise this blog.  Yet they still read it, just as Caesar listened to the baying mob at the circus.  You can’t spin the booing of a crowd.  Politicians should consider the blog’s potty mouthed comments a free and unfiltered focus group.

Guardianista Accuses Boss of Too Much Testosterone

Sorry to bore on about Guardianista hypocrisy, but it just keeps coming. Jackie Ashley (Mrs Marr) writes this morning under the headline To Chop City Bonuses, Start by Cutting the Testosterone. Leaving aside the casual sexist stereotyping, is it really true? After all her boss the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Carolyn McCall, was paid a package of £827,000, comprising a salary of £424,000, plus a bonus of £385,000 and benefits in kind of £18,000.

Does she have too much testosterone?

Guardian’s Tax Hypocrisy is Ridiculous

The multi-millionaire columnist Polly Toynbee is this morning ranting against tax dodging corporations in the Guardian. The paper has even set up a campaigning website with fancy interactive graphics. According to the their own annual report Guardian Media Group made £306.4 million before tax. Using astute tax planning and legal manipulation of the tax laws; such as the use of an equity owning trust and a Caymans Islands offshore corporation to avoid stamp duty, they managed to only pay get a rebate of £800,000 in tax last year. That is less than they paid the Guardian Media Group’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, she got a package of £827,000 whereas so the media fat cats got paid by HM Revenue Commissioners a mere £800,000 in corporation tax. Unbelievable isn’t it?

Here it is in black and white:

 

GMG P + L

The hypocrisy of the Guardianistas is just beyond satire, they are starting a campaign to get corporations to pay more tax, just like they campaign to undermine private education yet themselves went to private schools, they rail against City bonuses yet pay the editor and CEO hundreds of thousands in bonuses. Media fat cats attacking City fat cats is just laughable. Polly says “it’s time to rattle and bang in protest at this outrage”. Quite. Guido has tried to mention this on the Guardian’s Tax Gap campaign blog to no avail…

UPDATE 11.55 : Richard Brooks from the Guardian’s “Tax Gap” blog emails to say they are going to explain the Guardian Media Group’s situation using the same approach they used on the FTSE 100 corporations. Incidentally, before anyone points it out, this blog is published by an offshore corporation owned by an opaque charitable trust, in a remarkably similar way to the Guardian set-up. However, crucially, this blog takes an editorial line which is hypocrisy free, Guido is opposed to most forms of taxation in principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

UPDATE 12.09 : As some have pointed out, that looks like an £800,000 tax rebate, rather than a payment. Even worse. No wonder the Guardian can afford shiny new fancy offices…

UPDATE 16.50 : Note amendments and strike-throughs, also note that the Tax Gap blog has now let Guido’s comments through. They also cite Richard Murphy as a tax expert who approves of GMG’s tax strategies. Richard Murphy is hardly independent, he is a regular writer for the Guardian. The Cayman’s dodge was tax neutral they claim. Except when, in the future, it comes to capital gains tax of course.

Polly Should Look at Her Bosses’ Fat Cat Bonuses

The Tuscan redistributionist friend of the down-trodden, the three-house-owning, multi-millionairess toff, Polly Toynbee, is ranting against undeserved bonuses. With the colourful prose that earns her £117,000 basic (before book royalties, media fees and advances) she lays into the worth of “performance-related pay” and the bonus culture that sees loss making Northern Rock bosses get a 10% bonus.The loss making Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, got by on a total compensation package of a mere £544,000 up from £473,000 last year. A 15% increase as a reward for losing £26.4 million – no belt tightening for him. His boss, the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Carolyn McCall, was paid a package of £827,000, comprising a salary of £424,000, plus a bonus of £385,000 and benefits in kind of £18,000. An eye watering 90% bonus.

Handy having your friends, rather than shareholders, decide your pay isn’t it? Guido has said it before and he will say it again, Polly merely dislikes the “wrong type” of rich people.

Incidentally, GMG have always been adept at using the Scott Trust and other dodges to minimise tax charges. Guido congratulates them on achieving an effective tax rate 4.99% last year. Remember that the next time Polly Toynbee calls for higher taxes and everyone to pay a fair share.

Clearly Blurred

More profound insight from Steve Richards in the Indy this morning:

“The dividing lines between the parties remain blurred.”

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Hold on a second:

“It’s taken a recession for Brown to be candid about what it takes to make a fairer society. Suddenly the dividing lines in British politics are vividly clear.”

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Still, it fills the space, here as well as there.

VAT Charade Shows Politicians in a True Light

Gordon’s dithering now appears to be the official government macro-policy stance. We all remember the introduction of the 10p tax rate, the disastrously implemented abolition of it, then Gordon being forced to compensate losers he denied existed. We can see with this inadvertent release of the Treasury document on the implementation of the immediate VAT cut and the planned subsequent VAT hike, how Gordon’s government really operates:
  1. He isn’t able to tell the voters the truth.
  2. He dithers: clearly the intention is to hike VAT later to recoup the revenue lost from the VAT cut now. They were planning to announce that. Cowardice got hold of them and they backed away from admitting it at the last moment.
  3. Incompetence: they hastily re-jig the Pre-Budget-Report to hide this intention, but neglect to delete the truth from all the documents released and fail to fully recalculate the figures. The numbers now don’t add up and there is a £100 billion black hole unexplained. The suspicion is that other tax hikes are being hidden.
These are indeed serious times, so this kind of low political maneuvering is not just politically dishonest, it further damages confidence. It also shows politicians in the worst light, Guido would argue it actually shows them in a truthful light. World weary columnists like Michael White and Polly Toynbee say that Guido’s political analysis is flawed by his hostility to politicians. Guido argues that the public interest is ill-served by pundits who are too sympathetic and close to politicians.

Well here is a chance for them to demonstrate their superior powers of political analysis of this fundamental dishonesty with the voters. Go on Michael/Polly, stop sneering in the margins, explain how this is in the public interest and not narrow party electoral interest. Go on, for once: justify this behaviour.

Kaletsky v Tories

The Cameroons should take heart from Anatole Kaletsky’s condemnation of their approach to economics. Kaletsky’s heyday is long past as Mister-E-Man notes on Nick Robinson’s blog

The same Anatole Kaletsky who in January of this year, in his Times articleGoodbye to all that: the worst is over for the global credit crunch, predicted that…

…conditions are not nearly as bad as the headlines and market pundits suggest. In Britain, there seems to be almost no chance of economic and financial disasters comparable to those suffered from 1990 to 1992. …I believe that the global credit crisis, far from taking a turn for the worse, is now almost over…. There will be no US recession. …Stock markets around the world will rise in 2008.

Shock horror – Cameron must be devastated not to have this prophetic economic genius on-board…

Anatole Kaletsky is long and very wrong.

Glenrothes : Punters V Pundits, Round II

Over at Politicalbetting.com Mike Smithson is encouraging the punters to vote on who they think is going to win the Glenrothes by-election – Labour or the SNP?
  • As of 0900 this morning the punters (after 200 votes) are splitting 61% for the SNP and 39% for Labour.
  • Over on PoliticsHome the PH100 Index “daily tracker of uk insider and expert opinion” is calling it 61% / 31% for Labour to win. Strikingly inverse proportions.
Over on Betfair the punters are putting their money where their mouths are and making the SNP odds on favourites. Back in July the punters made fools of the pundits over the outcome of the Glasgow East by-election. The pundits are as fickle as teenage girls, the punters are more calculating.

The London based punditry are out of touch, they talk too much to each other. Our old friend Tom Watson has been briefing the press that Labour will win Glenrothes and this will be a great victory for Gordon. He has convinced Gordon to stake what little political capital he has on a Glenrothes comeback campaigning in the constituency. However, as Ben Brogan has detected, so chronic is the shortage of local activists and supporters Labour are press-ganging English Labour MPs and Northern CLP activists to trek past Hadrian’s Wall to help in the constituency. Not exactly a sign of a forthcoming resounding victory.

Guido thinks the punters not the pundits are right, again. Gordon’s personal visit should, if the curse of the one-eyed son of the manse still holds, have doomed Labour’s candidate. Labour are throwing the kitchen sink at this, heck the 10p tax bailout cost a few billion during the Crewe by-election, this time the bailout of Scottish banks cost tens of billions for this by-election. It will be close…

Wrong Kind of Rich?

Is Guido the only one who finds it a bit of a cheek that Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee are media millionaires who make their money out of condemning other rich people? They both have homes in the country and in London?

[…] Read the rest

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