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Archive for the ‘spectator’ Category

Rod Liddle in the Speccy has quoted a first class Charles Moore piece to help him emphasise his own refreshing and welcome disdain for the direction the BBC has been taking for the past decade or so, especially as regards its squandering of the licence fee tax on overpaid and highly over-rated “talent”. He points out that Moore illustrates the contradiction that lies at the heart of the BBC’s funding-spending model and the dishonesty in senior managers’ constant attempts to deflect our attention away from it. Liddle writes:

Charles’s diary in the last edition of the magazine put far more succinctly, and clearly, the point I was trying to get at in my blog about the BBC a few items down from this one. I talked about the BBC’s moral cross-subsidisation (which is never publicly admitted by the corporation) and how this is increasingly difficult to justify. Charles puts it better, with this exposition of what lies at the heart of the “endless contradiction” which the BBC exploits

Excellent, sure, but then he goes on to quote Moore:

“When you complain that it is funded in a privileged way, it says that it does things which no one else can do. When you complain that it spends its unique funding on enormous contracts with stars, it says it has to do so in order to behave like its rivals. The truth is that the concept of the star……….is incompatible with the Public Purposes expressed in the Charter of the BBC.”

Brilliantly put. What I know is that the corruption at the centre of the BBC, and its cause has seldom been more eloquently articulated than it is by Moore here, must be challenged and the corporation reformed, broken-up or abolished altogether.

Until then, for instance, more than a quarter of all criminal court actions will continue to be licence fee-tax related. People will continue to go to jail and/or be fined extraordinarily punitive amounts in their tens of thousands simply because, as is often the case, they cannot afford to fund the lifestyle of people like Jonathan Ross.

That is unacceptable, and this government had better do something about it in this parliament or be viewed, at least by this blogger, as a failure.

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Iain Dale and others are reporting that David Laws has gone. One thing: if true, it is important to establish the precise reason for his ‘resignation’ (sacking by Cameron). Having said that, it is also important to establish what were not the reasons too. For instance, certainly not the reason would be the one David Blackburn has just supposed in a uncharacteristically shoddy and pretty wrongheaded piece for him:

According to Con Home and several other sources, Laws has resigned. This is hugely regrettable as Laws is a star performer and I feel he has been the victim of a media gay-hunt that belongs to a bygone era. The sums of money involved are slight in comparison to some, and there are arguments that other ministers should resign for having committed similar or worse offences and for having shown markedly less contrition. But it is refreshing that a minister would resign over a personal transgression with haste and dignity.

This is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. First, Laws has had little or no chance to demonstrate he was a ‘star performer’. He was starting to look promising and seemed to be grasping the wisdom of the Tory policy on the debt and structural deficit. Well done for that, but stardom it hardly warrants. Second, to ‘feel’ that he was the ‘victim’ of some mythical ‘media gay hunt’ is arrant nonsense. His sexuality had nothing to do with it, aside from the fact that he was clearly embarrassed about it and this provided him with a motive for being so incautious with his expenses and then concealing this potentially damaging fact from his new boss. There was and is no ‘media gay hunt’. Outrage about his public/private hypocrisy, yes – bigotry and prejudice, no. That is in Blackburn’s imagination and, I think, was uttered because of some kind of personal disappointment rather than any genuine understanding of the sequence and significance of events [like I have, lol]. Again, I’ve got to say that I find that surprising from this writer.

Third, and most significantly, Blackburn makes some sort of point about the relative scale of previous incidences of irregular expenses arrangements with a frankly childish ‘they didn’t so why does he?’ argument. Well, if he thinks that that false equivalence will wash with anyone then he hasn’t understood idea-one of what’s been going on here. Cameron stood on a ticket of cleaning up parliament and being tough with his ministers if they step out of line in principle. The amounts involved (and 40k seems like a lot to me) are not important. The way the money was channeled is. Laws bent the rules in a deeply suspicious way, far more even, if we are to entertain Blackburn’s relativist argument for a moment, than your average trougher who simply took advantage of those rules but did so by the book, i.e. without adding their own, personal interpretation that advantaged them, or, indeed, a loved one, even more.

As to his mention of ‘other ministers’, who, I wonder, does he mean? Cameron? Labour ministers? Cameron can hardly fire Labour ministers who’ve already lost their jobs, for heaven’s sake, so what on earth does he mean? Your guess is as good as mine. Suffice to say, it’s the most muddled-up post of his I think I’ve ever read.

So much for the Blackburn gay witch-hunt theory. The real reason why Laws had to go is because Cameron is keeping his word. He has always understood the scale of anger at the expenses scandal. He also realised that Laws could not be talking about painful cuts in public spending one second and defending his own venality another. That’s called an ‘untenable position’.

In other words, the only thing Laws’ sacking has demonstrated to me is not that he is dignified – I’m sure he is – but that David Cameron really does mean what he has says and that, dear readers, is the really ‘refreshing’ thing about this new government and about this incident.

But what follows is crucial. A sound, imaginative replacement must be found. Blackburn says, alarmingly, that it might be the lunatic Huhne. That would be a disaster not just for this government but for the entire country and Cameron must intervene to stop it instantly.

The only man with the gravity and intellect for a job like CST in a time of economic trauma and dislocation is John Redwood. Whether the Prime Minister likes it or not, Redwood is the right man for the needs of this country at this parlous point in its history.

What the Libdems want simply doesn’t matter.

Update:

Well, they’ve got it badly wrong and given Danny Alexander the job according to ConHome. That is a disastrous decision and it will come back to haunt this coalition. You cannot compromise on the economy for the sake of the coalition and certainly not with someone as wet behind the ears, untested and lightweight as 37 year-old Alexander (yes, I know, he’s been bigged up over the past few weeks because of the negotiations. Big deal).

Too many Tories are going to be too pissed off too quickly with any more appointments like this one. This may even be the one that tips them over. I think this is the first real sign that this coaltion cannot and will not last long. For one thing, unlike the corrupt Labourists, as amply demonstrated by Brown, Conservatives do not believe in the idea of clinging on to power at any price. The coalition could soon be toast.

Quite frankly, after the promotion of another Libdem lightweight to a cabinet role for which he is most certainly not qualified, especially at such a crucial moment for the British economy, I’m not sure how I feel about that prospect yet. Maybe, after all, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

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Polls during this general election campaign, and before it, for a variety of reasons have been more frequent and less helpful than at any time before. The idea that simply doing more and more polls and then ‘weighting’ them with a series of arcane, largely untestable methodological tricks, usually hidden from the public (though Mike Smithson, among others, has helped to correct that state of affairs) is one that I think is simply an extremely expensive waste of time carried out by self-styled professional psephological gurus happy to take the cash. The YouGov “daily tracker” is probably the worst offender being, as it is, about as reliable as a Met Office long term weather forecast (see the Daily Telegraph from a few days ago). But it is by no means the only one.

The media loves it, of course, especially if these dodgy measurements of voting intentions suggest a close call – and a hung parliament. Big News! Sells papers and sucks in viewers. So they drive that narrative, using these non-statistics as evidence. The hung parliament trope has become the most popular recently, much to the delight of the MSM, but not, it seems to me, to the Labour party, who have been largely silent on the subject. Why? Certainly not because they are confident of winning. The more-likely reason is that they have about as much faith in these exercises in statistical soothsaying as I do.
Not so the media, however, with a new ICM poll out about key marginals, commissioned by Murdoch rag the News of the Screws and faithfully advertised by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson. Taken at face value, Nelson’s argument that the ‘extensive research’ that took place to produce this poll might seem to make sense; that the Tories are going to need a hell of a lot more than the 5% swing they think they need because, so the poll allegedly shows, they aren’t performing as well as they thought, with the LibDums nicking votes from them left, right and centre.
Aside from the fact that Nelson also works for the Screws, and therefore Murdoch, and the fact that it’s the parasitic Murdoch media machine, particularly Sky News, that is pushing the hung parliament story at every opportunity (complete with a misleading poll ticker appearing 24 hours a day on their rolling news channel), scratch beneath the surface and you see that this earth shattering poll in nothing of the sort. It’s hardly more reliable than a complete guess. Just look at the size of the sample, as mentioned in the small print:

Here’s the small print: ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1001 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 7-8th April 2010. Interviews were conducted across the 96 (new boundary) constituencies which are held by Labour where the Conservatives require a swing of between 4 percent and 10 percent to win the seat.

As commenters on the blog have quickly pointed out, 1001 people over 96 constituencies?! You have to be kidding. That’s about ten people per constituency. As I said, they might as well have saved themselves the thousands it cost to do that and just thrown a dart at a bunch of numbers pinned to the wall for all the use a poll like that is. But Nelson still banged on about it as though it was remotely meaningful, proving once more, at least to me, either that he is compromised by his connections to the News of the World, or that he’s just not as smart as I thought he was, or that he just as much a fully paid up luvvie member the fourth estate as every other hack and hackette infesting this country, ‘blogging’ or no ‘blogging’.
The point? The point is that my hunch – that the Tories are actually miles ahead, but that people simply aren’t ready to admit that yet, or that these polls are so flawed, they would never reflect the reality – is worth just as much, if not more, than the polls themselves. And so is yours, dear reader. So the Tories do not need to develop poll paranoia. They certainly don’t need to “panic”, as Nelson helpfully suggests in the picture accompanying his dishonest/incompetent article.
The only danger is that all this hung parliament speculation, regardless of the flakey, fake stats that’s driving it, will become a self-fulfilling prophesy, thus handing Labour an unexpected lifeline – and selling the country down the river. No wonder the Tories kept Murdoch’s empire at arm’s length when it turned coat again and came out for them. With friends like these. In addition, it’s plausible that poll paranoia will catch hold in the Tory party itself, again making the whole thing self-fulfilling.
Nevertheless, despite the media’s attempts to drive the outcome of this election, I firmly believe that the damage that’s been done to Brown Labour, and that it’s done to itself (not least by allowing Brown to become leader unopposed in the first place) is so grave, not even corrupt media organisations and shockingly crap pollsters can save them now.
Have I gone too far? I’ll tell you on May 7th. Or someone will tell me, no doubt. What I suspect, though, is that on May 7th, Britain will have a Tory government with a comfortable, if not large, majority – and an awful lot of pollsters and tame journos, once the noise from the celebrations have died down, are going to have an awful lot of egg on their collective mugs.

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Springtime for Britain and Cameron

The Spectator’s David Blackburn has written this revealing piece on the recent so-called Tory “wobble”. Now, I didn’t see it quite like that. Admittedly, there were some mixed messages over cuts, but ultimately, at least to me, it was not so much of a wobble as the inevitable backlash from the vast, almost universally leftish mainstream media when Cameron finally came out fighting on policy in January. The “right” media, that sees itself as some kind of torch-bearers of what they imagine to be “real” Conservative values, enjoyed fanning the flames, too: the ridiculously conflicted and editorially rudderless Telegraph does it from both sides at once these days. (It’s quite novel, that.) But they – people like Simon Heffer – just don’t like Cameron, and never will – mainly because he’s not Margaret Thatcher, I assume. But he never will be Maggie. There’s only one Margaret Thatcher – and Cameron, at least, knows that.

The point is that I certainly didn’t feel that there was any improvement whatsoever in Incapability Brown’s performance in January. Besides, even if there were some kind of progress made on his part, it was, past experience teaches us, bound to be torpedoed by his unmendable and all-encompassing shortcomings sooner or later. It was sooner. Having said that, in the end it was really Conservative policy that cut off his little dead cat bounce, and that should be a cause for celebration. Blackburn sums it up quite well:

The sudden devastation wrought on Labour by the Tories’ co-operative policy is evident in James Purnell’s waffling riposte. The validation of Tory economic policy, such as it is, from 20 leading economists and Sir Richard Branson provides a substantive alternative to the voluble, brilliant but wrong incantations of David Blanchflower. Cameron has returned to form at PMQs and Gordon Brown is reduced to giving lachrymose interviews to his friend, Piers Morgan. Resigned to defeat and ideologically exhausted, ministers hurl bland invective at Conservatives via Twitter. And even a Com Res poll indicates that the Tories are on the up, polling at 40 percent with an 11 point lead. The Conservatives were truly awful in January. They awoke to the New Year as staggering drunks; it’s mid-morning now and their hands have stopped shaking.

It looks like the “Conservatives were truly awful in January” idea has now become received wisdom. It doesn’t matter, though and I suppose I can live with this little Mandelsonian propaganda triumph if I have to – mainly because January is over. The world and David Cameron have moved on. Only the bankrupt parliamentary Labour party and its dwindling numbers of diehard supporters don’t seem to have grasped that. They still think it’s Burns Night. Meanwhile, the Tories are resurgent, which is good news for everyone in the long countdown to the most important general election since 1979.

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David Blackburn has just put an excellent question in his Speccy blog, concerning the case of Elliot Morley, one of three Labourist MPs (so far) now charged with stealing from the British taxpayer.

Sky’s Jon Craig’s asks one of those questions you wished you had posed: wasn’t Elliot Morley suspended already? Yes, he was, on the 14 May 2009 and with immediate effect.

As Blackburn reminds us, Morley was suspended from his party on 14th May 2009 “with immediate effect”. It looks like he was reinstated on the sly, however – hence the necessity to “re-suspend” him. Never mind the sneakiness of this – and contempt for public opinion that it shows – asks Blackburn: in the Labour party, what on earth do you have to do to get expelled!

There are three main points to make about this total, Brown-inspired fiasco, and Blackburn implies the first two. First, this Brown U-turn represents an unequivocal triumph for David Cameron, who has been steadfast in his leadership all through the expenses scandal and has gauged the mood of the British public quite deftly. He’s acted decisively throughout, and bravely run the risk of severe unpopularity among his own MPs as a consequence by forcing the worst Tory offenders to give up their seats, despite their not having broken any law per se. I still think he could have gone further and forced Brown into a general election last year. A still-bolder leader would and could have, but I guess that’s all water under Westminster bridge now.

Second, it further demonstrates just how useless, witless, rudderless and basically clueless Brown is when it comes to offering any kind of leadership on this serious issue (or any other, for that matter – but that’s just me, I suppose). That he’s been forced to climb down so humiliatingly and bow to Cameron’s pressure is very telling, coming so soon as it has after last week’s drubbing at the hands of Cameron at PMQs.

Third, there are these explosive Independent revelations by Andrew Grice three days ago, emerging from his coverage of a new book by another Labourist insider. The article’s title, in the context of today’s Morley mayhem, “Brown ‘didn’t care about expenses – only himself”” more or less says it all: all, that is, in the sense of what we need to know about why the Labour Party has been in such a God-awful, tail-chasing, directionless, perfidious mess from the start of the whole, sorry affair. The blame lies squarely at Gordon Dithering & Self-Obsessed Brown’s door. If you haven’t read it already, then I would suggest that you do. A taste:

Mr Price paints a picture of despair within the Brown inner circle at his failure to recognise the seriousness of the expenses scandal. He accuses Mr Brown of creating a climate of distrust within Downing Street and being cut off from the concerns of voters.

I simply cannot believe that Brown or Labour can possibly recover from this. It is the one issue that cannot be brushed under the carpet, or masked with the pathetically desperate fig leaf of a twelfth hour (and utterly wrong-headed, dishonestly motivated) referendum on the Alternative Vote system.

As Cameron said in what looks like an increasingly prescient PMQs last week, “It’s back to the bunker with that one…”

It also means, however, that Brown will now drag out this Parliament to the bitterest of bitter ends. Fair enough. It’ll just make victory in finally turfing out the worst prime minister this country has ever had inflicted upon all the more sweet for the waiting.

The collective sigh of relief exhaled by people up and down Britain the day after we are rid of him will be audible in France.

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If you don’t vote for this guy, you’ll have five more years of Brown. The horror!

I’ve been slightly bewildered by some of the coverage of the recent outbreak of electioneering, especially from what might be termed – loosely – the ‘right’ media. You have the Telegraph suffering from its now familiar identity crisis, with nonsensical, Brown-loving, left wing articles from the likes of Mary Drivell popping up every week to hammer David Cameron for things he hasn’t done yet – or ever even promised to do, for that matter. And you have the ghastly Mail, with its endless, dumb assaults on Cameron from the likes of Littlejohn and, less frequently these days, Peter Hitchens, presumably for not being Maggie Thatcher. Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised about these papers’ confused, convoluted editorial stances; they’ve been that way for some time now after all – rather like some sort of right wing Guardians, and just as muddled-up.

No, the bewildering source of vitriol, at least since Cameron launched the Tory campaign to save us from five more years of a trainwreck, catastrophic, final incarnation of a long-dead Labour government, has been the Spectator, an outlet I had hitherto imagined was one of the last sensible political commentary providers extant. Not so. In an extraordinary editorial volte-face, its new(ish) editor, Fraser Nelson, who, in 2009, managed almost single-handedly to force Gordon Brown to admit that he had been planning public spending cuts all along and had been deliberately misleading the country about his real intentions, has turned on Cameron in true, spiteful Daily Mail style. A couple of articles spring to mind, but this one in particular, originally written a couple of days ago by Nelson for the News of the Screws, apparently (it does read like a bit of a plug, actually). It contained a lot more than a mere expression of disappointment at what he regarded as Cameron’s failure to be ‘bold’ enough in what everyone seems to think was his campaign launch, it contains a bizarre personal attack on the Tory leader himself in which Nelson describes last Sunday’s speech as ‘vapid nonsense’ (it was not).

Well, this evening we have finally been given at least some form of explanation for Nelson’s sudden change of direction by one of the Spectator’s better writers, David Blackburn:

Ok, Coffee House has given the Tories short-shrift in recent weeks, but this is a reaction born of frustration. The election should be a walkover. At their best, the Tories have the radical policies, and to a certain extent the team, to rescue Britain from its current Labour-inflicted quandary. Yet the party remains tentative, fearful of its own shadow.

It should not be. Labour deserves to lose, and not only in retribution for its record: the governing party has embarked on an open internecine war and is completely unelectable in consequence. Rachel Sylvester describes the paralysis:

‘Lord Mandelson is advocating a campaign based on aspiration, public service reform and fiscal rectitude, Mr Balls would prefer to pitch Labour investment against Tory cuts, with a liberal sprinkling of Eton-bashing. It’s essentially the difference between a “core vote” strategy and an approach designed to appeal to “middle England”. Although it is too simplistic to define it as old Labour v new Labour, it is a struggle for the soul of the party that will only intensify if it loses power.

Gordon Brown is torn. With his head he knows that he should side with Peter, but in his heart he agrees with Ed. The tension was all too clear in his media appearances on Sunday. In an Observer article, he called for an “age of aspiration” and referred to “new Labour” five times. Then in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr he emphasised tax rises for the rich, refused to discuss spending cuts and defended his class war attacks as “a joke”. No wonder the electorate is confused. Labour’s message is inconsistent because the leader is trying to follow two paths at the same time.

The result is incoherence. One week Lord Mandelson waves the axe over universities, the next Mr Balls lavishes more cash on schools. Labour accuses the Conservatives of having a £34 billion black hole in its spending plans but it has no credible explanation for how it will fulfil its own promise to halve the deficit over the next four years.’

Skirmishing intensified today. Very publicly, Lord Mandelson told the Standard:

“It (a core vote strategy) certainly does not represent Labour thinking or our strategy. Of course, we want to retain the vote that is most loyal to us but we are not going to win the election on that basis.

“We have to reach out to the whole of the New Labour coalition that brought us support in the last three elections and without which we will not win the next.”

The similarities with Major’s stricken party are palpable. That the Cabinet has turned on itself testifies to the depth of Labour’s affliction and the vacuum at its heart. Annihilation should be a matter of course.

Is that it? I mean, I can understand there might be some ‘frustration’ at the Tories’ failure so far to get the message across, sending Labour to sub-zero in the polls (I even share it – who doesn’t!). But hang on a second, we are five months away from the election. Do Fraser Nelson and his new underlings want an entire Conservative manifesto, complete with full costings, immediately? It seems so. Well, right now Cameron should ignore them and get on with hammering Labour – and Brown particularly – for their – and particularly Brown’s – appalling record, for their incompetence, for lie after lie after lie, and for the deep misery they have inflicted on a country they have managed once again to bust. That’s priority number one. The manifesto should be months away.

It seems I might be the only one who thinks Cameron and co. are basically driving the news agenda now and are doing a pretty good job of it, admittedly with some errors (which is to be expected). The way he and Osborne dealt with the Treasury’s smearing, “dodgy dossier full of lies,” a Ballsian Labour creation enabled by the abuse of access to impartial civil servants, turning them into little more than politicised smear-slaves, was impressive. (No wonder Darling looked uncomfortable about it all, but he’s still going along with it, so no sympathy from me.)

However, that individual policy decisions have not yet come fully into focus should not be any cause for alarm or hostility from what has become a ravenous journalistic class with a lot of column and blog inches to fill. They’re getting well ahead of themselves, of the process – and doing their readers a serious disservice into the bargain. The policy issues will be resolved weeks and days before the election, not months before it, for heaven’s sake.

Suffice to say, people like Fraser Nelson should know better. I had thought he did. Seems I was wrong.

PS: Iain Dale wrote something very interesting yesterday on the subject, among others, of the dangers of premature electioneering and the Tories’ domination of the news agenda. Read it here.

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Al-Megrahi: the convicted Lockerbie bomber might still not be dead as all the Labour stooge doctors and this Labour government ghoulishly promised everyone he would be (he’s a full five days overdue now), but he’s still about to come back and haunt at least one of them. Yes, you guessed it, the King of Sleaze himself, Lord Mandelson of Tripoli.

Incidentally, this partridge shooting party thing of Lord Rothschild that Mandelson attended with, among others, Saif Gaddafi – I can’t help but wonder whether there is any connection between this and today’s “Supreme” Court ruling enabling banks to continue legally to steal however much they like from customers that their extortionate, punitive charges turned into debt slaves in the first place. After all, at least one of the judges was a Rothschild banker.

The point is that wherever you look there’s some sort of Labour shadiness going on – or has been going on- so often with Mandelson right at the very heart of it. Be it Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, the banks, education, health, PFI, Europe – the list is seemingly endless.

If and when we kick these ruinous crooks out, the Tories will have to uncover anything and everything about Labour’s record of betrayal and deceit, however damaging it might appear potentially to be to the reputation of the country. Hiding it will only cause the rot to creep ever further. Revealing the truth about these long years of Labour corruption and sleaze is the only way gradually to draw Britain out of shadows into which it has been cast by the worst government it has ever had inflicted upon it.

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