Blair: batten down the hatches

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My thanks to the wonderful @smithsky1979 for her #blairroll

The spectacle of Tony Blair as an apparently sincere penitent – albeit one still laden with his predictable list of hubristic justifications –  doesn’t surprise me at all, at this stage. The very first post on this blog, back in 2010 was about Blair’s apparent search for atonement in the truest sense. At that time I was confidently expecting Chilcot to report within the next year. It does surprise even me though, that Blair has ended up in quite such an abject state, when seen from the perspective of 1997.

A little context. Back in the time of  John Major’s government in the early 90’s, the UK was doing quite well. After Major’s appallingly selfish and ideological pursuit of the deutschmark (a folly which doubled my mortgage briefly, in 48 hours, not that JM cared about such things), the economy was booming, relatively. It was to be a golden inheritance for Labour, the exact opposite of the scorched earth bequeathed by Brown in 2010.

In about 1993 I began to notice Blair as an unctuous and slightly cocky Shadow Home Secretary, popping up on the TV. I’d seen Gordon Brown in action at the Commons as Shadow Chancellor under John Smith, and for all his faults, he seemed then a far more substantial figure than the glib Blair. After Smith’s death it became rapidly apparent that, under the youthful Blair, Labour were going to win the next election, irrespective of the economy.  I remember on election day in 1997 sitting in the operating theatre coffee room saying that Blair appeared to me to be a flighty and unserious chancer, albeit an ambitious one. The uniform response was “you can’t possibly want the Tories back in”. Nobody except me seemed to have any concerns about Blair**.

That election night I stayed up till two watching it unfold,  and by then the enormity of Blair’s majority was already apparent. He would clearly be in power for years. The phrase that kept going through my head was “batten down the hatches, this will take a long time to get through”. The next day at work everyone was delighted that the groovy young Tony was in and everything would be fine.

My concerns, which were pretty much completely borne out, related to the very clear message that this administration would intentionally change the social, cultural and moral fabric of the country, and eventually, through the timeless expedient of spending money they didn’t have, they would wreck the economy too.

I  usually date the completed initial phase of the first of these malign objectives to the release of the worst film ever made, Love Actually ( I’m serious), in 2003, which was basically a New Labour 90’s zeitgeist epic of the worst kind. The second objective was apparent by the financial crisis of 2008. It took them 11 years to destroy a booming economy, but they managed it. In case anyone is still spinning the line that it was all secondary to American subprime mortgage lending (Brown’s favourite excuse), then I would direct you to a prophetic book by two British hacks – the esteemed Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson – called Fantasy Island, which was published in 2007. If you don’t believe me, read the synopses (1, 2 and 3). Truly the Blair/Brown government was a disaster on a huge scale, despite their aggressive and largely successful debasement of the government spin apparatus under the enduringly loathsome Alastair Campbell, which subjugated an already enthralled media.

So I wasn’t remotely surprised by all this, it was obvious to me when I first set eyes on Blair, and I took a lot of shit for it. The endless supply of people all willing to slag Blair off now, and over the last few years, are mainly the people who voted for him in three general election victories, a point made eloquently by James Kirkup. What a bunch of hypocrites.

That said, I never thought he’d become the crazy and infantile warmonger, which role has now, finally, skewered him.

Which is why I have to laugh at the endless bleatings (eg: 1, 2, 3) from Guardian writers and others now, post-Chilcot, who spent the period from 1997 to 2008 drooling over Blair and Brown. I don’t remember too much genuine opposition from them to the Iraq debacle back then. Jeremy Corbyn, Ming Campbell, the late Charlie Kennedy and Robin Cook all take credit for their stance at the time. A special mention goes to the routinely reviled George Galloway (see below), the only person who predicted in detail the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. Their  reasons for opposition varied, but they have the moral high ground today.

Max Hastings neatly outlines the stage on which Blair played out his monumental and ego driven disaster: “What took place was only possible because in 2002-3 Blair was an immensely popular Prime Minister with a personal dominance that enabled him to persuade or conscript the rest of Westminster and Whitehall to support an Iraqi adventure overwhelmingly driven by his own hubris and moral fervour.”

I doubt that there will be any article written in the aftermath of Chilcot that expresses the tortuous hypocrisy  of the British public and media in all this, than Brendan O’Neill’s, in Spiked. As he rightly puts it:

The important, humane task of understanding the history and politics of that calamity in 2003 has been sacrificed at the altar of allowing a needy elite the space in which to say: ‘Blair is evil, and I am good.’

I can already sense a neat dividing line developing when considering Blair’s legacy: Iraq bad/all else good. For the purpose of clarity – and going back to where I began this post – I would refine that to: Iraq bad (Blair sort of penitent)/most of his other stuff also bad (Blair unrepentant).

The criticism rightly heaped on him for Iraq, and on his many, many aiders and abetters  should be spread around on most of his other endeavours too. A messiah complex unburdened by caution and intelligent reflection is unlikely to come good at any point. This was a truly awful government, lead by a figure who since then has become more and more unhinged.

I should leave the last word to the hated yet prescient George Galloway, confirming what Chilcot meant when he pointedly said “We do not agree that hindsight is required.

 

** as Stephen Glover puts it ” Only a hard core of widely disbelieved critics saw him as an untrustworthy fraud”

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Vote Nicola and die

The best of Scotland...(Edinburgh 1920, by Alfred Buckham)
The best of Scotland…(Edinburgh 1920, by Alfred Buckham)

Five years ago, just after the last election, The Knife posted a piece called Vote Labour and Die. It actually became my most viewed piece, simply because it got highlighted by Guido. It resulted from a paper in the BMJ, on Public Health (which is purely the specialty’s name, it doesn’t necessarily mean the actual health of the public). Written by a leftie (as are many PH docs, see Prof Ashton), published in a leftie journal, it noted that in Labour voting areas, you were more likely to die young. This was the fault of New Labour, and by extension, wicked Tories etc.

It was an observation, rather than cause and effect, although the two are regularly conflated, both by the Daily Express and by ‘top doctors’ on a mission.

Fast forward to the imminent general election. Here is Scotland’s First Minister:

‘The Tory/Lib Dem government’s plan to further increase the state pension age is a worry to people across the UK who are planning for their future, but the failure to take Scotland’s specific circumstances into account is particularly unfair. SNP MPs will reject any plans for a further increase in the state pension age Our comparatively low life expectancy rate is an issue which I will do everything in my power to change but in the meantime it would be completely unacceptable for people in Scotland who have paid in to a state pension all of their lives to lose out. That is why SNP MPs will reject any plans for a further increase in the state pension age.’

Note that phrase ‘Our comparatively low life expectancy rate is an issue which I will do everything in my power to change’. Ms Sturgeon, in case anyone had forgotten, was Scottish Health Minister from May 2007 to September 2012. Much of that time was spent bossing hospitals about arbitrary targets. The Scottish life expectancy remained dire in the usual areas of the country. Despite her careful phrasing, Ms Sturgeon’s schtick is quite clearly that we’re dying young, give us the money now. There is no meaningful attempt to rectify a serious social issue. The answer is certainly not more dependency, more welfare state.

Basically the SNP now regard Scotland as a block vote client state, to do their bidding. It is likely that one day their emerging capacity to take the populace for granted and avoid genuinely improving their lot will rebound on them. How do I know this? It is because it is exactly what Labour did for years, with their Scottish block vote, and for which they are about to pay a very high price. The absolute high priest of that movement was Gordon Brown, now a broken figure, despite his referendum swansong. His prolonged bribe of the Scottish electorate has utterly failed.

All of this begs the question, what is wrong with the Scots? Why do they lurch from one unambitious greedy socialist regime to another?

Most commentators invoke the Enlightenment, and the spirit of Adam Smith as the example of Scotland at its best, what it could still be. The truth is there has been no thinking of that kind, no figure of stature in power or influence in Scotland for a very long time. The country actually did pretty well in many ways under the bogey figure of Thatcher, but such a claim doesn’t suit the narrative of either Labour or the SNP, for whom droning on about misreported events of thirty years ago is almost a form of prayer.

Here is one person, Chris Deerin, who gets it:

Scotland has become a soft and sappy nation, intellectually listless, coddled, a land of received wisdom and one-track minds, narrow parameters and mass groupthink. It slumbers, like a once-feared dragon now hidden away in a mountain, dozily coiled around its ancient, pointless treasures, interested only in its own welfare…..The Scottish Labour Party, now perilously close to oblivion, has only itself to blame. For decades, it has gleefully demonised the Tories, blaming them for all of Scotland’s ills even as it made a pig’s ear of running the Edinburgh Parliament. This cheap tactic, aped since the 1980s by the then newly left-wing SNP, created a sense of otherness, of moral superiority, in relation to England….

The relationship between business and the Government is comically bad, beyond a few pro-separatist oligarchs.

We have become a land peppered with conspiracy theorists who believe in secret oil fields and MI5 plots and rigged polls, all of which is tacitly encouraged by the Nat government. If anyone on social media – especially, God forbid, a non-Scot – dares to challenge these ludicrous myths they are descended on by the ‘cybernats’, a swarm of angry oddballs who refuse to read the ‘mainstream media

Deerin references another Scot, Bruce (the Brute) Anderson, who in a very eloquent piece, correctly entitled ‘Never before has Scotland been quite this deluded‘ spells it out:

The Scottish public mood is extraordinary. Over the past few months, millions of Scots have been baying at the moon. The most bizarre fantasies have not only circulated; otherwise sane people have given them credence….How can this be happening? The Scottish Enlightenment represented the triumph of rationalism, always in a calm and restrained fashion. Its philosophers and economists believed in using reason to improve the human condition, not to reshape human nature. They virtually invented free enterprise; they elevated Scotland to the intellectual leadership of Europe. In a splendid setting, the Castle on one side, the sea on the other, their contemporaries laid out the New Town. Calm, rational and beautiful buildings: it is the Enlightenment as architecture.

While it would be absurd to claim that every Scot has read Adam Smith, there were grounds for believing that Enlightenment values had influenced the Scottish character. Keynes poked fun at so-called practical men, dismissive of theories, who were actually in thrall to some long-dead economist. If that economist had been Scottish, the thraldom would be benign.

…(after Thatcher) there was a quarter of a century of demonisation, which drove economic common sense out of Scottish public debate. By the end, many young Scots had come to believe that Scots’ values were superior. Scotland stood for social solidarity, and indeed socialism. It stood for the public sector, not for private enterprise. Mrs Thatcher and her English capitalist friends hated the Scottish ethos, which is why they had set out to destroy the Scottish economy. This brainwashing explains why Nicola Sturgeon will have earned huge applause in Scotland for attacking Ed Miliband from the Left. Scottish Labour helped to sow the dragons’ teeth, never expecting that the dragons would turn on them. They ken the noo.

Not since the Thirties has a once great nation been in the grip of so many delusions. This is malign thraldom

So there you have it. One day, probably sooner than anticipated, Sturgeon et al will meet hard reality. I do not believe, even if there is another referendum, that the result will be any different. No Scots Nat has in living memory produced a coherent plausible argument supporting an independent economy, and the country knows that. However, as long as Labour and the Tories continue to assuage lunatics like the SNP with large tranches of public money, and no real responsibility for obtaining it, the current ‘malign thraldom’ will continue.

In the meantime, vote SNP and die. Just make sure you get your pension early, it’s what the First Minister wants.

…and the worst. I find this picture unsettling

People who underestimate George Osborne, again (from The Sun)

Ages ago, in 2011, The Knife invented PWUGO, in response to DUEMA (look it up).

I think I was right, and here, from behind the Sun paywall, is the august Trevor Kavanagh‘s take on it all, worth reading. I have already put money on the GE2015 outcome. It doesn’t involve Ed as PM.

HERE we go! This is the week that will decide if Mystic Trev got it right by predicting a Tory election victory on May 7, perhaps even with an outright majority.

My new year prediction was seen quite reasonably as “wishful thinking”.

How could David Cameron hope to win with all the electoral arithmetic so stacked against him?

Even in the good times, governments struggle to increase their majorities, so it was impossible to imagine the Conservatives grabbing the lead after five years of austerity.

But even those pollsters who studied their charts and muttered about marginals are now beginning to see daylight between Dave and Red Ed.

My friend Peter Kellner, whose YouGov poll appears daily in The Sun, thinks Labour is flagging at the most dangerous time.

The clincher comes on Wednesday when George Osborne’s Budget breaks the opinion poll deadlock and allows the Tories to kick up a gear.

“If the Chancellor’s budget goes down well, his party could gain enough extra support to govern in its own right,” says Kellner.

“Its prospects of an overall majority remain slim, but David Cameron might be able to lead a minority government for a full five-year term against a splintered opposition.”

True. But I believe the Tory lead over Labour will yawn wider as the election race gets into its stride.

Key to it all is the “splintered opposition”.

It is not just Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson who have given up hope. A third of Red Ed’s own Shadow Cabinet believe he’s a loser.

Rivals are already jockeying for succession.

This has nothing to do with bacon sandwiches or Ed’s many kitchens, although these images are being picked over and debated as much by leftwing papers as by the Tory press.

The party is split from top to bottom — trade union dinosaurs versus despised Blairites.

Thanks to Gordon Brown, it faces wipe-out in Scotland and may be fighting for its life as a viable political force South of the border.

The vacuum is filled by the opportunist SNP, shameless Lib-Dems, shambolic Greens and protest parties like Ukip who seem to have run out of puff.

George Osborne is a lucky Chancellor.

Thanks in part to falling oil prices, the economy is in better shape than he dared dream barely a year ago. But to be fair he has made his own luck.

He has been criticised both for doing too little and too much to slash spending and borrowing.

But his famous long-term plan, cobbled together along the way, is working.

The UK recovery, once derided as “flat-lining”, is now hailed by global experts as entrenched and robust.

Economic growth is surprisingly strong.

Unemployment is amazingly low, half the European average with jobless EU citizens stampeding across The Channel to join in.

Earnings are outstripping the cost of living.

Low-paid workers can earn more than £10,000 – close to a living wage in some parts of the country – before paying any tax at all.

That threshold will rise still further.

As tax revenues start to exceed government spending, the Chancellor finally has room for manoeuvre.

This week, he will tempt voters to give the Tories another chance.

There will be more help for the low-paid, a fairer deal for middle-earners, a boost for the crucial “grey vote” by ending rip-off pensions and the loathed inheritance tax on homes.

Broadband investment will fuel the boom in small business start-ups.

New rail links should boost the Chancellor’s dream of a “Northern Powerhouse”.

This will be a “feel-good” budget, a package of silver linings set against Labour’s cloud of despair.

Mr Osborne insists there will be “no giveaways, no gimmicks”. But he likes to leave his supporters asking for more.

It will be surprising if there is not a surprise.

And a few cheers when the Chancellor skims a penny or two off a pint — as eerily foreseen in The Sun on Sunday’s crystal ball yesterday.

This blog began in the build up to the 2010 election, and I didn’t quite predict the outcome then: Cameron as PM, yes, but coalition seemed unlikely. Economically I doubted we’d be where we are now, it always looked like it would take two terms to right Gordon Brown’s (and the two Eds) many wrongs. This time I’m going for Cameron as PM, UKIP/DUP coalition or ‘arrangement’, probably marginally a minority government. Which, given the alternative, would do just fine.

Ed Balls: resigning from DUEMA and PWUGO
Ed Balls: resigning from DUEMA and PWUGO

Why are these thieving thieves trying to thieve from me?

This article, by Andrew Lilico, is so good it should be a mandatory read for any school pupil studying economics, philosophy, history, politics, sociology, psychology, the lot. It cuts to the very heart of nearly all political debate and manoeuvring in the UK (and elsewhere).

It’s not a long piece, and I’ve just pinched the first couple of paragraphs for an accurate taste of Lilico’s clear-sighted argument:

It appears to be all the rage to have opinions about how wealth is distributed, debating for example whether billionaires should ‘get to keep’ their money. I consider that impertinent, offensive and sinister.

Your wealth (and note carefully that I am discussing wealth, not income here – the issues with income are slightly different) is your property. Property is private. Your house, your car, your TV, your share portfolio – they are yours, just as much as your hair or your intelligence or your skill at tennis are yours. Suppose someone said: “I believe the distribution of hair is unfair, so we are going to take some of your hair away.’ You would think that a monstrous violation of your personal liberty, of your privacy. But would it really be any different if someone said: ‘The distribution of toys is unfair, so we are taking some of your children’s toys away’ or ‘The distribution of televisions is unfair, so we are confiscating yours’?

This is not really party political, as they all get this fundamental issue wrong at times, but clearly Ed Miliband’s entire economic policy, if you can call it that, is based on taking other people’s wealth, and the Lib Dem’s ludicrous ‘mansion tax’ is another fine example.

Where do we get these people from?

They used to hang you for robbery in this country
They used to hang you for robbery in this country

Mandela and me (part 2,564)

I hate to admit it, but both Tony Blair and Bonio can indeed legitimately claim to have been pally with Nelson Mandela. Megairritations though they are, it’s fair enough.

Not so most of the others desperate to share their ‘friendship’ with Madiba, today bringing us a delightfully nauseating attempt by the man who never knows when to shut up, John Prescott, or Gordon Brown’s baffling but hilarious claim that Nelson taught him ‘courage’. Yes, that Brown.

All these desperate attempts to get a photo opportunity with a demented amiable old man who has zero interest in who you are culminated in Dave’s particularly egregious effort, shown below. Thank God Cleggy wasn’t with him.

Who are you again?
Who are you again?

Which brings me to The Knife’s sort of Mandela link, tenuous though it is. I used to work for a very charismatic and gifted surgeon, who was a South African jew. He had a glittering career lined up in SA, but he hated apartheid, and chose to work in the townships, notably at the enormous Baragwanath in Soweto.  When he came to the UK, effectively as an exile, he had to start again from scratch. This admirable man often mentioned Desmond Tutu as an “amiable little fellow” who’d been at the hospital. The social worker was a different story, Winnie Mandela, who even then (mid 1960’s) was apparently milking the fact that she was the first black social worker there, and had a very famous imprisoned husband. However, every time my ex-boss brought her a problem – typically a father of three, severe assault, head injury, would never work again – her response was the same “these blacks are hopeless, you can’t do anything for them“. A true story, and an inkling of what kind of monster Winnie later became. No wonder Nelson got rid.

My boss was part of what might have been the first medical diaspora from SA – principled, talented people who just couldn’t stomach the regime. He lived to see Mandela’s release, and the subsequent ANC stranglehold on power. That is what led to the second diaspora. By the mid-90’s established consultants were leaving SA en masse, giving up lucrative practices, and inevitably depriving those left behind of some very gifted doctors and surgeons. The reason was the ultraviolence in society, that has yet to be fully dealt with.

One distinguished academic colleague told me that he essentially was living in a gilded prison (perhaps not unlike Nelson, in the years after Robben Island). If his daughters were out socialising, he had no idea if they would make it back. It was that bad. These people are now heading for retirement from their NHS jobs, and very few of them – native South Africans all  – want to go back, much as it was their home. It’s not as if they love the British weather.

Mandela never denied resorting to terrorist violence, his great achievement was renouncing that and displaying a rare gift of forgiveness, and talking to one’s former enemies.  If you want to be truthful though, he has left a pretty mixed legacy, more than 20 years on. The ANC is so power crazy and dysfunctional, that it’s only had one good leader – Mandela. When an avaricious moronic thug like Jacob Zuma is running the show, then you know that something’s gone badly wrong. Likewise, despite an OK World Cup, South Africa is a very dangerous place, not just for affluent whites like me, but particularly for the black population. Lastly, Nelson promoted unfettered abortion. You don’t have to be Catholic to think that this might have major adverse consequences, and was hardly a priority in a country that has many many serious problems.

The Africans with whom I work are all convinced that Nelson had been kept alive – just – on a ventilator, until the most propitious time of death for the ruling elite in SA.  As a number of people have pointed out, not least The Knife, given the current OTT response of politicians and media, we must also keep Bonio alive for as long as possible.

Knifonomics (part 34): history made simple

*
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The repercussions of the Great Financial Crisis continue to cause all sorts of effects: on policy, on households, on political posturing, mortgages, pensions…you name it. A certain group of leftist commentators find it handy to blame it all on American mortgages – no doubt a significant factor – in order to exonerate Gordon Brown, if that was possible.

Well, to use Zhou Enlai’s famous cliche regarding the effects of  one of the French Revolutions “it’s too early to tell”.

Having said that, Allister Heath, in City AM, provides a very neat one paragraph summary:

…the Gordon Brown years where the state and banks signed a Faustian, if implicit, pact, where they financed his public spending and he encouraged them to grow: that era was characterised by moral hazard, a safety net of taxpayer bailouts combined with incompetent supervision, with the discipline of markets and the fear of failure removed – a bizarre combination of misregulation and government intervention, socialised losses and privatised profits

Worth repeating, I’d say.

China: our new friends in the East

..and who is this other man, Mr Cameron?
..and who is this other man, Mr Cameron? What does he do?

George n’ Boris have been fannying around China, and of course, the newest answer to the energy crisis in the UK is to get all these rich Chinese to build a nuclear power station. Makes sense up to a point, but it would be better had we done it ourselves, years ago.

For that we can probably blame Tony Blair,  at which I am an expert. Previous governments are culpable too.

However, this whole “isn’t China great?” thing is now being criticised by a few commentators, for example, the estimable Iain Martin:

Osborne seems to have been completely carried away in the excitement and forgotten that China is not a free society. In awestruck tones he said that China has a can-do culture. Yes, I suppose it does. The Chinese government certainly has a can-do culture. The government can do what it likes.

Am I alone in being deeply uneasy about some of what was announced last week? Should the British government really be gleefully selling off the UK – its infrastructure, land, houses and so on – to China? Is this wise?  Now the Chinese will even be allowed to own stakes in nuclear power installations in Britain. This is a country that spies on the UK, a lot.

Well, yes, agreed.  Matthew Norman too:

The nominal purpose of this trip, planned long ago by Boris and far more recently by George, was to prostrate themselves before the new Chinese Empire, and snaffle some dosh (in the form of loaded Chinese students given visas to spend their renminbi here, and energy firms capable of doing what this country cannot by building nuclear power plants). This they both did splendidly. We may not have seen such elegant sycophancy to a repressive regime by a Western democracy since Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad, long after the gassing of the Kurds, to tell Saddam he was a force for modernity and a dear, dear friend – though Mr Tony Blair’s bear-hugging of Colonel Gaddafi will have its fans as well.

It is also pointed out that China is a terrible sort-of communist dictatorship, that does things like forced abortion, currency manipulation, bullying its neighbours and exploiting its working class. In fact the latter is the key to its economic success, such as it is.  Who would have thought a communist state could behave like this? In fact Dave himself is currently infra dig, because he dared to meet the twinkly eyed old hippy that is the Dalai Lama. Good for you Dave.

Which brings us to where this appalling grovelling by the Brits really began, an event that seems to have been a little forgotten by all concerned.

In October 2008, so five years ago, Britain took the official view, for the first time, that China rightly owned Tibet, a historically independent nation, much of which has been wrecked by the Chinese invasion, particularly Lhasa and its historic buildings, now more than 90% destroyed.

Who took this decision, for ignoble financial ends? Who else, but the second worst Prime Minister ever, and his close colleague, possibly  the worst Foreign Secretary ever.  That was the day that we gave up the moral high ground when dealing with the world’s biggest tyrant state. George n’Boris are a mere detail.

Anyone who has read Heinrich Harrer’s fantastic Seven Years in Tibet will realise just how grim things are for the Tibetans, under Chinese rule. Remarkably, the Dalai Lama who fled the country in 1950, having befriended Harrer,  is still the Dalai Lama, now condemned to endlessly touring the world as an exile.

The utterly pathetic Alex Salmond also caved in to Chinese pressure, being desperate for some infertile pandas. Brown, Milband (D), Salmond, Osborne….the usual suspects. There is one mystery, though, pointedly phrased by Matthew Norman:

Now that China has purchased Africa, the relevance of begging-bowl-carriers from a broke little island with no mineral resources must be minimal.

True. Perhaps they want to buy Buckingham Palace.

Fat, eats continually, lives in Edinburgh, won't breed etc
Fat, eats continually, lives in Edinburgh, won’t breed etc

Quote of the day ~ Adolf Brown

“…it would be in the worst possible taste to compare Brown’s character with that of the Nazi dictator”

Well, quite. Shocking.

On the other hand, Dominic Lawson, the author does make a valid comparison:

One of the mysteries of history is that no documentary record exists of Adolf Hitler ordering the extermination of the Jews of Europe. This led some historians to question even whether the Nazi dictator really knew about the Holocaust.

Twenty years ago, Britain’s most acclaimed biographer of Hitler, Sir Ian Kershaw, addressed this question in a now-celebrated essay, Working Towards The Fuhrer. Kershaw argued that Hitler’s aides, seeking to gain his approval, would initiate actions which corresponded to what they knew to be his wishes and interests. Thus it was not necessary for the Fuhrer to write to Himmler, the head of the SS: ‘Dear Heinrich, please could you gas the Jews, every last one of them. All the very best, Adolf.’

Without wishing in any way to imply moral equivalence between mass murder and New Labour’s dirty tricks, I propose the same theory to explain the central question raised by the Daily Mail’s serialisation of Power Trip, the extraordinary political memoir of Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor, Damian ‘Mad Dog’ McBride.

That question is: did Brown know of or authorise the vicious briefings McBride gave to the press, trashing the reputations of any and all who were perceived as threats, first to Brown’s ambition to become Labour leader in place of Tony Blair and then later to his remaining in charge.

Nicely put.

For those in need of light relief, here is one of Gordon’s many Downfall videos. Uncanny really.

Unfortunate positioning...it's a genuine pic!
Unfortunate positioning…it’s a genuine pic!

Knifonomics (part 33): PWUGO redux

Everyone loved George's new suit
Everyone loved George’s new suit

A  couple of years ago, in a rip off of Iain Martin’s perpetually faltering DUEMA campaign, The Knife started PWUGO – People Who Underestimate George Osborne. It’s got lots of members, in fact, most UK citizens are in it.

However, the membership may now be dropping. This is nothing to do with George’s dubious personal charms, but more with the fact that the economy is looking up. Modestly perhaps, but still.

Not everyone agrees. On the right, acting as devil’s advocates, are Fraser Nelson and Allister Heath:

In other areas, however, the pace of change has been glacial, preventing the supply-side, market-driven economic renaissance that Britain so desperately requires. We still urgently need more competition, fewer regulations and improved incentives; more airports, roads and a proper energy infrastructure; and to embrace shale gas while ditching our outdated obsessions with costly, job-destroying renewables. We need a sustainable retirement system, business-friendly universities, a radical reform to our health system and sharply reduced levels of tax and spend. We need the City to start growing again.

Until all of this happens, we will remain mired in an unbearable New Normal of mediocrity, zombie firms and households, squeezed banks, stagnant living standards, unaffordable levels of consumption and artificial, debt-fuelled “growth” masterminded by increasingly absurd interventions in the credit markets. None of the economy’s structural flaws have been fixed and we still face a major crisis when interest rates go up. Sorry to disappoint but, despite the Royal baby, the present recovery is a false dawn.

Hmm…fair points, but a little pessimistic.  On the left, however, try today’s Guardian, primarily the piece by Larry Elliot, who is not only relatively normal, but also partly predicted Brown’s nemesis –  the Crash of 2008 – in the strangely underpublicised Fantasy Island (still worth reading):

Labour’s position will be yet more difficult should the economic news remain even modestly good. Osborne wants to go into the next election with the following message: we inherited a right old mess from the last lot; that mess has taken us longer than we expected to clear up; we stuck to our plan when the opposition told us to change course; the benefits are now coming through; so don’t hand power back to the people who screwed up in the first place. He doesn’t need the economy to grow at 1% a quarter to construct this sort of political narrative: 0.6% or so a quarter will do fine.

The government’s message will lack potency if the 2015 election approaches with real incomes still falling and fresh public spending cuts on the horizon. It will be blown out of the water if the economy stalls again between now and the election, something that currently looks unlikely but cannot be entirely ruled out. There will be a reckoning for the economy but that looks likely to be early in the next parliament when the Help to Buy support for the housing market is removed, interest rates start to rise and austerity continues for a sixth and seventh year rather than over the next 18 months.

In the meantime, Osborne, who looked like a dead man walking three months ago, is very much back in the game.

Well, those of us who never joined PWUGO never thought he was out of the game.

However, George isn’t always easy to like, and in an attempt to capture why this is so, I recommend this blog.

 

 

It’s always worth repeating

Credit where it's due..
Credit where it’s due..

Sometimes it’s hard to cut through the fog of politics, current affairs etc. For example, is it still reasonable for Dave to blame the economy on Broon (and Balls)? What we need is the pithy phrase, the short sharp summary. Here it is (thanks to Allister Heath):

Gordon Brown fostered an unsustainable private sector credit bubble, grabbing a large chunk of the proceeds as tax. When the music stopped, the economy collapsed and the public finances were left with a gaping hole.

Obviously there’s more to say, none of it favourable to Broon, but that’ll do for now.