Friday, October 31, 2008
Incidentally, the Evening Standard's Paul Waugh provides a first class, clinical analysis of the Galpin interview here.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
London not only offers crony capitalists Michelin-starred restaurants, security guards and discreet bankers. Our authoritarian libel laws also attract the rich. Editors think once, twice, 100 times before crossing them. They know they must contend with libel judges and Law Lords unfit to hold office in an open society because they won't stand up for freedom of speech.
Anyway, it's good to note that the old Harrovian driver of the car will only be charged for drunk driving, and not possession of the illegal substances which his mate managed to stash away before the police arrived!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The story of potential donations is not, whatever the Tories would like us to think, a non-story. It has murky depths and there were clearly discussions about getting donations from an extraordinarily inappropriate source. But this aspect remains vague at present, stuck in the realm of speculative conversations and rather dream-like 'what ifs'. What is much clearer is the remarkable lack of political judgement of a man who is sometimes seen as the Conservatives' co-leader, and the narrow, rarefied, world that our political elite sees fit to move in.
First, the judgement issue. George Osborne has made several mis-steps here. He took an ill-advised visit to the yacht of a dodgy Russian billionaire (and yes, ALL Russian billionaires are dodgy, given the creation of their wealth out of the rush for state assets following the fall of communism!). Also,at a time when the Conservatives should be trying to distance themselves from the perception of free-loading that was such a weakness of Tony Blair's, Osborne takes a free holiday from a multi-millionaire hedge-fund manager. Just reflect on last summer for a second - a summer when Gordon Brown was anxious to be seen as taking a modest British holiday in Suffolk, and David Cameron paraded the joys of west country beaches (before, less publically, jetting off to Turkey!). This need for modesty from political leaders clearly passed Osborne right by. Then there's Osborne's extraordinary action in leaking the comments made to him by Mandelson at a private dinner hosted by Rothschild. Here, Osborne was trying to enter Mandelson territory, and has been badly burned, just as the malicious Mandelson himself was burned as a consequence of using such tactics over many years. To call Osborne a fool and a charlatan in this respect hardly does him justice.
Second, the world of the political elite. Whatever the ins and outs of the donation question, the stench of unmerited wealth and privilege that emanates from this story almost overwhelms it. The whole thing is like one of the less savoury scenes from Brideshead Revisited. Osborne and Rothschild were fellow members of the Bullingdon Club - the ultimate haunt of spoilt, wealthy upper-class vandals with no respect for anyone who doesn't come into their rarefied circle. Andrew Feldman, the Tory fund raiser, and now chief exec., who was asked by Osborne to join him on the visit to the Russian billionaire, is another member of the narrowly based Oxford circle - a mate of David Cameron's, himself a member of the aforementioned Bullingdon Club. The unsavoury Russian billionaire, and the thoroughly tarnished EU Business Commissioner add to the sense of unreality, and this heads into overdrive when you realise that Rupert Murdoch, owner of the newspaper which has just published Rothschild's letters, parked his yacht near to the Rothschild estate and dropped in for a visit too. Was Osborne really wanting a nice holiday, or was he attracted by the presence of media and financial star power?
In Britain today, hundeds of thousands - potentially millions - of households face losing their jobs, or homes, or both; they face increasing hardship as the economy heads into slow mode; ordinary families wonder what they will have to leave out of the weekly food basket; people young and old seek shelter on our street; our cities house increasing levels of crime, much of it lethally violent; the downward social spiral occasioned by greater drug and alcohol abuse engulfs more and more people; and George Osborne and Peter Mandelson between them offer us a glimpse of a faraway political world that seems ever more spoilt, ever more insular, ever more incapable and ever more irrelevant. From such nonsense the seed of political revolution is often sown.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign can take a little comfort from the unravelling of the the Joe the Plumber story. Having cited the 'ordinary Joe' - a figure who challenged the Democrat candidate on the stump a few days ago - no less than 20 times in the last presidential debate, McCain may wish his people had done a bit more fact checking (not one of their strong points - look at Sarah Palin). Turns out that Joe the plumber isn't licensed and is a bit of a charlatan all round.
To her credit, Montague pushed this point and Osborne, lamely referring to some very ambiguous stands he may have taken in the last general election, was left reeling on the ropes. A classic case study of how to stuff up when in opposition at a time of crisis.
I've always thought Osborne was over-rated and in over his head - he continues to sound a bit like a smug public schoolboy who has absorbed one or two bits of political ideology but never really fought for anything substantial in his life. Oh, wait a minute, George Osborne IS a........
UPDATE: Jeff Randall, not exactly a cringing leftie, has this negative view of Osborne's recent performance in the Telegraph today.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The main party spokesmen, incidentally, steered well clear of direct responses.
The Telegraph is reporting that David Dimbleby is thinking of quitting Question Time if the BBC inists on moving its production to Glasgow. Iain Dale's blog had a poll for his putative successor - Andrew Neill just beat Paxman in the result.
Conservative Home's Centre-Right blog finds that you can blame Bill Clinton for the credit crunch.
In the new Standpoint magazine, American sociologist Charles Murray suggests that not every child really needs an academic education, and we are wasting our resources providing it.
"Fifty per cent of children are below average in linguistic and logical-mathematical ability. Being below average means that they are limited in the things they can do in reading and maths. It is no more remarkable than being limited in the things one can do in sport or music."
And Bill Jones reflects on Gordon Brown's astonishing resurrection...it's the stuff that makes politics exciting!
Monday, October 13, 2008
PoliticsConsidered: Explaining the Banking Crisis
He has a summary version on his blog here.
I suspect that such optimism is mislaid. The real impact of the financial crisis has yet to hit the homes of most ordinary voters, and when it does, in the form of family budget crises and rising unemployment (The Observer carried a prediction of 2 million by next month when the crisis squeezes the real economy) there is unlikely to be much electoral sympathy for Gordon Brown. The policy of nationalising the banks may or may not work - and not every country has had to go through this extraordinary rescue plan, notably Australia and Sweden - and the long-term consequences of nationalised banking have yet to be properly weighed up, but for the crisis proper, Gordon's rescue plan is still obscure. In these circumstances, the Tories merely have to sound credible - I agree, something they are still struggling with - but they can take some comfort from the fact that no-one rewards governments that preside over a general economic stagnation. Once the banking crisis has disappeared from the front pages, what will be left will be a huge expenditure of government money, and a lot of people wondering why their jobs can't be saved in the same way as the banks. Whatever rational explanation there may be for that conundrum, it does not add up to any good electoral figures for the incumbent government.
Further Links (UPDATED):
Guido Fawkes on Brown's delusionary beliefs
John Rentoul on why it's game over for Brown.
Paul Krugman's view - the Nobel prize-winning economist praises Brown's actions - see the comments on this.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Another example of economic silly season also seems to be hitting the web paper First Post, whose self-styled Westminster insider "The Mole" reported that Gordon Brown might consider inviting Vince Cable to be Chancellor if things don't improve!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
(courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog).
Incidentally, best line of the afternoon probably belonged to Nick Clegg - "When a ship is sinking you send out the lifeboats, you don't argue about who steered it into the iceberg."
The Huffington Post reports another instance of Obama's middle name being used as a crowd inciter at a rally with both McCain and Palin.
Alexander Cockburn in the First Post finds the most recent debate a clear case of 'imbecilic tedium', but has harsher words for Obama - as the self-proclaimed candidate of change, he has offered no new ideas says Cockburn.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on Sarah Palin's 'terrorism' accusations against Barack Obama - a gem, again!
Danny Finkelstein in the Times' Comment Central suggests that Obama will win, not least because he is massively outspending McCain on television spots.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
"In London the Cabinet meeting broke up after about an hour and a half. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, emerging from Number 10, said: "These are very serious times. We take them very seriously."
Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon echoed his comments, saying: "It was a serious meeting."
Monday, October 06, 2008
And, while we're on it, Palin's debate performance against Joe Biden was execrable. She gloried in her ignorance, tried to suggest her utter lack of national preparedness was basically about being a 'maverick', and performed the whole debacle as if she were a star-struck loser who had just been allowed on a local talent show through a sympathy vote. Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey has achieved considerable fame by sending up Palin's ludicrous persona, and got it right again with her take-off of the debate performance. And to think some Republicans seriously thought Palin had quashed the doubters.
The Tina Fey debate spoof on SNL is here, while her take-off of Palin's Couric interview is here, given added spice by being placed alongside the actual interview. Gems both; if only it was Fey who was running!
Friday, October 03, 2008
“Today’s reshuffle demonstrates a stunning failure of judgement by Gordon Brown. In bringing back Peter Mandelson – the man who created Labour spin – he has broken his promise to govern in an honest and open way. You can only conclude that his appointment was designed to distract from the changes he should have made. By leaving in place a Chancellor who has failed and a Foreign Secretary who has undermined him at every opportunity Gordon Brown has also been exposed as weak. With this bizarre reshuffle the Prime Minister has achieved the impossible and made the Government even more dysfunctional.”
Thursday, October 02, 2008
That the Met Commissioner didn't have the confidence of the new Mayor speaks only favourably of the mayor. Blair has presided over some truly appalling errors - the killing of Jean Charles Menenez being merely the most tragic - and has, moreover, shown little sign that he really appreciates this. He may agonise about his public persona, but he has agonised precious little about where his wretched leadership has been taking the Met. To maintain the capital that this act has given him, Boris doesn't need to suggest a political appointment to succeed Blair - he merely needs to engage the services of a good copper who understands the job.
As for the Cameron speech, it evinced in many ways the problems that still beset the man himself. Much commentary has centred around its style - that it was delivered from a lectern, and with notes this time, that it was soberly given - rather than the distinctly absent content. Cameron is selling himself, rather cornily, as 'the man with a plan', but the plan is no clearer now than it's ever been. Indeed, while Cameron seeks to deflate hopes of tax decreases in his speech, his shadow chancellor made the only eye-catching announcement of the week in his determination to freeze council taxes. While there is such schizophrenia over the party's tortuous central message, what hope is there for all of the other bits?
David Cameron still looks like a man who can win, but this week has shown, if he didn't know it already, just how fragile that look is, and just how quickly political tides turn. He is a long way from the dominance that Tony Blair was achieving in the run-up to the 1997 election, and that must surely be continuing to give him cause for concern. Man with a plan? The Tories must be hoping that plan includes a winning strategy somewhere along the line.