Hutton & Polly v Mises & Milton

Listening to Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee you would think they were actually monetary economists when in reality they are just soundbite savvy talking heads spouting the latest fashions of the metropolitan media elite. Both property millionaires in their own right, three-houses-Polly and Hutton have substantial family stakes in the property market. If they had such great economic foresight would they have got so badly caught out? Rumours circulate as to the viability of Mrs Hutton’s extensive property portfolio.

Toynbee has now realised that Gordon is staying and that her flirtation with David Miliband was just a passing fancy. Her tune has changed, now saying (once again) that Brown is the man for our times when only weeks ago she was telling the cabinet they were spineless not to get rid of him. Laughable.

Polly’s advice and economic genius is as suspect and as reliable as her loyalty to whichever politician she is championing this month. At the beginning of the year she was still loyal to Gordon and chiding Cameron for his new year message which she claimed

smacks of callow point-scoring, with his five repetitions of “Labour’s hopeless” – and it will look even thinner in retrospect in a year’s time if Brown has steered through economic rapids without most voters feeling any adverse effect.

She was confidently predicting

A minor slowdown with neither inflation* nor unemployment rising will see Brown’s old “no boom or bust” boasts triumph this time next year.

Guido suggests we leave Polly and Will to their studio soundbites and ignore their siren voices – they have been advocating their brand of redistributive social democracy as the solution to everything for decades. If policy makers are looking for guidance on avoiding a depression (alas a recession is upon us already) they should dust off the works of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman – Mises wrote the seminalThe Theory of Money and Credit. If this book had been read by more central bankers outside the Bundesbank we would not be in this mess. Guido once listened to an LSE lecture by a Bundesbank board member speaking in reverential tones about Mises’ thinking. He is the high priest of monetary theory.

If history is not to repeat itself then reading Friedman’sThe Great Contraction, 1929-1933should be a priority. If you think this is irrelevant to the state we are in you should note that the current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, pays tribute to this work and is quoted in the introduction to the current edition. Whereas Mises is heavy going, Friedman and Schwartz are essential reading.

Guido can summarise the primary policy response to the situation we are in succintly : cut interest rates, to lessen the pain of the inevitable reckoning.

Guardianistas Frozen Cash

The Guardian Diary mocked the Daily Express for recommending investing in Icesave last week on the very same day that the firm collapsed.

Those in ice-houses should be careful, for only a fortnight earlier where was the so smug and told-you-so financial pages of the Guardian telling readers to put their hard earned savings?

Harvey Jones picked ten of the best places to put your cash, guess which was his number one destination?

Do you need a clue? You’re getting colder….

Where Have All the Capitalists Gone?

Cameron’s Conservatives seem to be fair weather friends of capitalism, even the FT’s in-house free market philosopher, Martin Wolf, has abandoned free enterprise for banker bolshevism. Besides Guido only Heffer in the papers remains a strident capitalist tool, managing to quote Ayn Rand approvingly this morning.
Ruth Lea, once a Thatcherite free market scourge of wet Conservatism, seems to have taken a surprising turn for the worse in the last few months:

 

The Class Contradictions of Polly

Polly is whining again about the verbal kicking she gets after almost every column:

…my most constant hate-swipes on Comment is Free and in rightwing political blogs is for being middle class.

Guido frequently questions her judgment, but he has never accused her of being middle-class, for the simple reason she is not. Mary Louisa Toynbee is in fact part of the rarefied metropolitan media elite, she has a comfortable six-figure income and a villa in Italy to go with the London townhouse and house in the country. She is not middle-class by any stretch of the imagination.

Her income is not middle-class, it puts her in the top 1% of earners.

The great grand-daughter of the Earl of Carlisle was privately educated (Badminton), went to Oxford (St Annes) and on to the BBC. A classic metropolitan elite career path. Toynbee is the daughter of the literary critic Philip Toynbee and grand-daughter of the famous historian Arnold J. Toynbee, his uncle was the philanthropist and economic historian Arnold Toynbee after whom Toynbee Hall is named. She was born into three generations of metropolitan elitists.

She is perfectly entitled to point to the toffs on the Tory front-bench, but Guido is not going to let her pretend to be middle-class. She is the enemy of the aspirational middle-classes, the high priestess advocate of taxing them to pay for her social democratic utopia.

N.B. See also this for an example of Polly’s consistency, prescience and judgement over Gordon Brown. This “rightwing blog” must have got under her skin…

Polly : Get Rid of Brown or the Labour Party Will Die

Once he was Polly’s “towering intellect” and the greatest politician of our time. A year later and now Unseating Gordon Brown may be Labour’s last chance.

Polly says Guido is no good at writing about politics because he is unsympathetic to politicians. Perhaps, Polly, being over-sympathetic to a politician blinded you to his faults. Good to see you completely coming round to Guido’s point of view on the Prime Mentalist at last.

UPDATE : “Bogeyman” reminds us in the comments of Polly’s consistency and prescience:

St Polly of the Towering Intellect, 29 June 2007:

“But then, as they stepped into No 10 yesterday, here was as decent and clever a team of ministers as ever graced the cabinet table. Two Milibands, Ed Balls, Jackie Smith, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Douglas Alexander, Peter Hain and Hilary Benn – with the likes of John Denham and Yvette Cooper in attendance – present a good front. It’s certainly the most genuinely united government in living memory.”

St Polly of the Towering Intellect, 6 September 2008:

“The smell of death around this government is so overpowering it seems to have anaesthetised them all. One bungle follows another and yet those about to die sit silently by… The ineptitude of Brown’s Downing Street worsens by the week. The shrinking band of those he trusts are now his old rottweilers, who shred what’s left of their leader’s reputation. This week when they mauled Alistair Darling for telling an obvious truth (his actual words much exaggerated in the reporting), they attacked one of Brown’s few truly loyal friends and a decent man. This is the sign of an inner cabal out of control… A cabinet of minnows and spineless backbenchers include many – perhaps most – who want Brown gone, but lack the nerve to act.”

For those who want to savour Littlejohn bitch-slapping Polly again, watch it again here.

Harsh Headline

So he has written a few bonkers articles recently, lost the TV job and missed out on the editorship of the New Statesman. Still think the headline this morning was a little unjustified.

Gold Medal for John Major, Nil Points for Richards

Steve Richards is supplanting Polly Toynbee as Guido’s favourite comedy commentator. Today he has a piece not quite as good as his genius three word summary of Brown in four words. Nor is it up there with his only stupid people will vote for Boris. Whereas Guido can guess and probably even write a Polly column, Richards is so much funnier than Polly, his ideological eccentricities are unpredictable.Today he makes the claim that Britain’s gold medal tally at the Olympics proves that we need higher government spending. Does it?

The Fabians took the lesson of World War II and the centrally controlled state war machine’s victory and drew the wrong conclusion. They thought a centrally controlled economy and centrally planned health and education would triumph. Ignoring that it was the free market economy of the U.S.A. that was the arsenal of democracy which brought victory over the totalitarian and rigidly controlled Nazi war economy.

Higher investment in sports training has brought results. The money raised was raised without resort to taxation, did not end up in Whitehall or in the hands of state bureaucrats. John Major loved sport and it is his strictures that have produced the golden results. Higher spending on education and health will produce better results, but not productively if the spending is made in state controlled schools and hospitals. Blair realised that eventually, the Tories single best policy is to encourage Swedish-style “Free Schools“. That policy will do for aspirational parents what council house sales did for aspirational tenants – free them from the failing clutches of the state.

Richards’ tax and spend thinking would not result in gold standards, just more government waste.

UPDATE : John Major has just made the point on the Today show that the government has been diverting money away from sport towards New Labour’s pet projects.

Don’t Know About Guardian Polling

Fresh from underestimating how much their editor makes (the paper reported Alan Rusbridger making £143,000 less than £544,000 the annual report stated) they have just reported the polling intentions of 101% of the population.

Ladies and gentlemen, the ever reliable Grauniad…

For the Love of an Older Woman

Polly is the most influential member of the commentariat according to the punditocracy, so it is worth noting that she has transferred her affections to Miliband with a public declaration of adoration.

It is also noticeable that as she gets older she has become an ever more promiscuous patron of politicians. The objects of her desire retain her affection for less time as she has become more impatient.

She first fell for David Owen’s good looks and silky social democratic ways and even stood for the SDP in the 80s before they fell apart. It took some time for her to get over that until she was then seduced, like so many others, by Tony Blair’s charm and third way. It was quite a while before she fell out of love with him and got so sniffy she told us to wear nose-pegs. She switched her affections and cosied up to Gordon, stroking his ego and boosting him in her columns, praising him as an intellectual colossus, master-strategist and political titan. Like so many woman before her, she was blinded to a man’s faults by her hopes for him.

That fling has now come to a bitter end and she has nothing but scorn for Gordon for deceiving her. Young Miliband has now set her 62 year-old heart a flutter with hisbold adrenaline shot of optimism. Summer is here and love is in the air again. How long will her affection last this time?

An Apology

Guido would like to apologise for calling the Brown bottom and doubting Labour would lose Glasgow East. The SNP won a fantastic 22.5% swing against Labour in what was a rock solid safe seat. Gordon Brown remains in free fall…

John Mason(SNP): 11,277 votes (43%) Majority: 365

Margaret Curran(Labour): 10,912 (41.6%)

Davena Rankin (Conservative): 1,639 (6.3%)

Ian Robertson(Liberal Democrat): 915 (3.5%)

Gordon has no mandate, he is the most hated PM in polling history, dragging Labour to electoral destruction. Gordon goes to Coventry today, he really needs either to go to the country or his own party needs to change leader. Guido knows not a single Labour supporter who wants Brown to remain in charge, plenty of Tories however want Brown to lead Labour to annihilation.

UPDATE : Pundits last night showed their worth again:

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…

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.

Pink ‘Un Euromania is Unhinged

Like many in the City, Guido reads the FT for the markets section and the excellent arts section. The political commentary however is often woeful – it is like the Indy in pink. This morning the leader castigates Cameron for a lack of hard policy positions. Fair enough. It also has this barking Europhile non-sequitur:

Mr Cameron has rightly said he wants to tackle global challenges, such as climate change and migration. To succeed, he must work closely with the European Union. This will be difficult if he is also pandering to the eurosceptic right of his party by pledging to pull out of the EU’s main centre-right grouping.

What difference does it make to global warming if the Euro-Tories agree their line with the French centre-right party or the Czech centre-right party? Mad.

Rupert Murdoch has bought the Wall Street Journal, if the European edition of the WSJ sources more editorial content locally, many in the City will switch, since the FT has already become the preferred journal of record for the Brussels bureaucracy, the WSJ could become the preferred reading of the Square Mile and the business community, which is overwhelmingly wary of Brussels. The FT’s centrist establishment tone alienates more readers than it pleases, many of whom feel they have to read the paper on sufferance. Somehow Guido doubts Murdoch’s WSJ will be Europhile…

UPDATE : ConservativeHome reminds us that Dan Hannan described the FT as the Eurocrats paper.

The Worst Blog Prediction Ever

Sion Simon MP, Labour Party Conference 2007, Blog for the New Statesman:

Perhaps the magnitude of the moment we face is too great for us collectively to bear. Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its majority, and in so doing utterly shatter the glass paradigm of cyclical politics which has contained us for the century since 1906. This ought to herald another decade of strong, confident, consensual Labour government. Which will finally and irrevocably transform the nature of politics and civic life in Britain.

That is a frightening responsibility. The young princes who now stride the parade ground with the confidence born of aristocratic schooling can never be afraid. They never have been. Like latter day Pushkins drilled in the elite academy of Brownian blitzkrieg, they are bursting with their sense of destiny. It’s not the Milibands, the Ballses or the Burnhams who are unconsciously nervous. This is the moment for which they were created. They are ready.

But for the rest, the officer class as much as the rank and file, it’s a daunting inheritance. The decade to date has been a long march to sustain. Those who led it have changed and re-changed, been shuffled and sidelined, died and retired from the field. But we – the poor bloody soldiers – are still here. Our boots are fresh and our uniforms re-supplied. We are rested and invigorated. Morale, if it anywhere was, can only be high. Yet still it’s a decade since we have been home. As we prepare to strike out again from our camp, we don’t wonder which army will triumph, but begin to ask what we will do if this march never ends.

Guido is moist-eyed with laughter. Sion Simon really does have exceptional judgement.

Hat-tip : Dominic Fisher

Who’s Miserable Now?

Polly is moaning about the Daily Mail, The Sun and “the dominant voices of the blogosphere” being malicious pessimistic miserablists. Is she having a laugh?

Guido miserable? Has she seen the polls? Labour polling the worst since polling began, Gordon the most hated Prime Minister in history with the most negative ratings ever? If Quentin Letts and Richard Littlejohn fancy coming out to lunch we would probably all die laughing… (don’t get your hopes up Polly).

UPDATE : According to a co-conspirator Polly said on Radio 5 this morning that she earns £117,000 for her column.

The Case for Elite Politics and Not Listening to the People

Fresh from telling people that if only they were as clever as him they would vote for Ken Livingstone, Steve Richards has a pricelessly revealing piece in The Indy this morning. It reveals a core trait shared with many fellow pundits who are fully paid-up members of the political class – an elitist contempt for democracy.

Richards accepts that a referendum on Europe would be lost in Britain, he blames this rightly on “distant bureaucrats that run the EU, apparently incapable of producing documents that are comprehensible to voters. We cannot hold these officials to account if we do not know what they are doing or supposed to do.” Does he accept this signals that Europe needs to be reformed? No, it means a referendum should not be held.Bizarrely he goes on to argue that politicians “are so in touch with the mood of voters they are fearful of their own convictions… Party lines are already blurred because leaders fear the voters too much. If they became less neurotically attentive, politics would become more interesting and, I suspect, more progressive.” There we have it. In print. If only politicians ignored the voters, the policies he favours could be implemented. If only the voters weren’t in the way…

The arrogance and contempt for the will of the people that Steve Richards shows again is breath taking, he makes no bones about it, he wants a progressive tyranny run by people who think like him. He knows the voters do not want the same, so he thinks politicians should ignore the voters. He laments that this is “unfashionable”, on the contrary, it remains a core belief of many members of the political class in the Westminster Village and in Brussels. Is it any surprise that an anti-politics culture is growing as people and politicians become disengaged?

Johann Hari : Not Bananas, Just Drugged

Johann Hari has an article today in the Indy arguing that since Gordon Brown is going to lose the election anyway, he might as well go down with all guns blazing. Liberated from the need or indeed possibility of winning an election, he can swing madly to the left. Hari reckons Gordon should apologise for Iraq to the Iraqis and in doing so shame the Americans. Then Gordon should put up tax rates to 60%, price big family cars off the road, and as a finale, fly in Iraqi refugees from Syrian and Jordanian camps. Hari advocates all this political Hari kari for Gordon with the cheerful words “If you are going to lose, Gordon, lose with style”.

Gordon will no doubt be chuffed to bits with the, errrm, sensible advice Johann offers. This follows on from Hari’s article last Thursday; Why bananas are a parable for our times, in which we learnt about the CIA’s use of the banana to fight communism. On Sunday Hari wrote an article entitled;Are GM bananas the answer? Apparently if genetically modified they will overcome “the current bananapocalypse” caused by mega-corporations because “we have to muddle through now as best we can, trying to keep six billion people alive.”

Guido is a teensy weensy bit concerned and called Hari to ask – “Are you on drugs?” It turns out that he was but he is alright now. He was necking Modafinil earlier this month, a stimulant cognitive enhancer that is a “wakefulness promoting agent” used to treat narcolepsy, depression, schizophrenia and fatigue related conditions.

We touched on Xanax use – which he pops before hopping on a flight – Guido suggested that based on his own experience some drugs seem positively subtle at first but manifest themselves in ways not immediately recognisable by the user, but easily identified by others. No, no, no says Hari, with Modafinil he “was just able to glide into a state of deep, cool, effortless concentration.”

“It was as if I had opened a window in my brain and all the stuffy air had seeped out, to be replaced by a calm breeze… The next morning I woke up and felt immediately alert. Normally it takes a coffee and an hour to kick-start my brain; today I’m ready to go from the second I rise. And it continues like this for five days: I inhale books and exhale articles effortlessly…”

Not at all bananas…

The Guardianista Class

guardian logo

Ever wonder why it is that the Guardianistas are against grammar schools? A co-conspirator points out that this post keeps getting mysteriously deleted from the Guardian’s CiF comments:

Editor Alan Rusbridger (Cranleigh); political editor Patrick Wintour (Westminster); leader writer Madeleine Bunting (Queen Mary’s, Yorkshire); policy editor Jonathan Freedland (University College School); columnist Polly Toynbee (Badminton); executive editor Ian Katz (University College School); security affairs editor Richard Norton Taylor (King’s School, Canterbury); arts editor-in-chief Clare Margetson (Marlborough College); literary editor Clare Armitstead (Bedales); public services editor David Brindle (Bablake); city editor Julia Finch (King’s High, Warwick).; environment editor John Vidal (St Bees); fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (City of london School for Girls); G3 editor Janine Gibson (Walthamstow Hall); northern editor Martin Wainwright (Shreswbury); and industrial editor David Gow (St Peter’s, York).

If only Guido had had the advantages they did…

UPDATE : A school chum draws attention to Seumas Milne who is an Old Wykehamist (Winchester College) and at Balliol, Oxford, another mentions the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley – Rugby School and Cambridge University.

The Sheep With The Wool Pulled Over Her Eyes


Janet Daley’s stunning insights into the character of Gordon Brown in her Daily Telegraph column last year caused disquiet with many on the right because she is seen to be of the right. She firmly bought into Gordon’s project, thinking that he would be intellectually firm in the face of the shallow flim-flammery of Cameron.

She wrote immediately after the Glasgow terror attack:

Mr Brown made a terse and perfectly judged statement. For all its brevity, it conveyed the essential message of calm resolution and national unity: “I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong.” This was High Seriousness delivered in the old-fashioned way, with spare wartime urgency and without sentimentality.

He even became to her a great, non-neurotic TV performer:

Again, yesterday, in his interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Brown did not put a foot wrong … Interestingly, these were the first television appearances I have seen in which there was no sign of his peculiar nervous mannerism of rolling his tongue inside his mouth that is so beloved by satirists. Has he been trained out of it, or has he been transformed by his role and the state of national emergency? Either way, its absence helps to remove the impression of neuroticism that would not have inspired public confidence.

So no more laughing at Gordon the Great. The next month in August 2007 she contrasted Brown’s biblical strength to the effete Dave. Gordon had, in Janet’s view, the strength to withstand the trials of power:

First the terror attacks, then the floods, now the pestilence. Gordon Brown seems to be undergoing the trials of Job. But in this case, it is not so much his faith that is being tested as the country’s in him. And, my goodness, isn’t he rising to the challenge?

Once again he has appeared on our television screens within hours of terrible news, not just to assure us that he personally is taking charge of the foot and mouth crisis but to thank the authorities in affected communities for their cooperation and competence – to make it clear, in other words, that he is in command but also deeply respectful of people on the ground who must deal with the problems over which they have singular expertise.

Wow! Will this guy ever put a foot wrong?

Gee, Janet, who knows? Your psephological predictions suggested not: What the voters will look for is not a leader who bangs on about how things look, but one who can cope with reality.

Reality struck Janet hard in September :

Can Gordon pull it back? This week is the true beginning of the Brown era, as opposed to the fag end of the previous one. With the Queen’s Speech and the first Brownite legislative programme we should get the answer to the political question of the moment: was the New Brown a figment of our imagination, the most transitory illusion ever to capture the imagination of the Commentariat, or was there really something there worth grasping?

Almost a redemptive mea culpa.

The Commentariat collectively, Janet in particular, wrote in the summer of 2007 with all the considered judgement of a herd of sheep. They however would have you believe that they possess valuable insights and good judgement based on their intellect and access to the key players. They have opinions just like everyone, no better, no worse. They merely express them better than most. More often than not their access and close proximity to the subjects they write about clouds their judgement. Mostly their opinions are not worth the chip-wrapping they are written on…

Is That Legal in Scotland?

According to Andrew Alexander in today’s Daily Mail:

“The head of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, is married to Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander.”

+ READ MORE +



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