Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Fred Goodwin

When Lord Myners allegation about Fred Goodwin is shown to be an infantile fabrication will the noble Lord do the honourable thing and resign?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The nuclear option

Let's go back a couple of years and take a look at the text of the final report by the STUC and CND which was co-authored by Labour's new convenor, Claudia Beamish.

From the intro there is this point which should be borne in mind:
The report assumes the continuation of the Faslane Royal Navy base for non-nuclear weapons functions in line with government projections.

The report referred to was the Review of Naval Bases, commissioned by Des Browne, which indicated that Faslane should be kept and that its operations couldn't be removed to one of the other two naval bases (Plymouth and Portsmouth). Clyde is responsible for ammunition supply to all of the UK's submarines, Portsmouth is home to two thirds of the UK's surface fleet and Devonport refits nuclear subs. Devonport is suffering cutbacks under the Marine Change Programme with destroyers being moved to Portsmouth and routine maintenance on all surface warships also being removed to Portsmouth (Clyde does routine maintenance on the subfleet).

How many jobs would be at risk from cancelling the Trident renewal? Far fewer than are currently being lost in the recession - page 5:
936 civilian jobs directly dependent on Trident would become redundant between 2022 and 2027. The main skill groups would be MoD police and security (400), outfitting and steel work (240), technical and supervisory mainly in shipbuilding related areas (70) and clerical (70). If, however, Trident was decommissioned early to coincide with the build up of Astute class nuclear submarines at Faslane to a total of six by 2018, and thereby avoiding the need to increase the workforce to service ten submarines between 2018 and 2022, the level of job losses could be reduced mainly to security staff between 2016 and 2018. Few Scottish manufacturing jobs are likely to be jeopardised by a decision not to build a new Trident submarine – at most 150. The number of potential Scottish job openings at risk, civilian and military, direct, indirect and induced, from Trident cancellation in 2022-2027 is estimated as 2,191. The number of civilian jobs would be 1,891.

Let's put that job count into perspective, though - page 6:
Over 40,000 Scottish defence-related jobs have been shed since 1990 without significant government intervention to ensure the provision of alternative employment.

What are the costs of this weapon system that has been branded "no bloody use" by General Sir Hugh Beach? Page 9:
“we went through an exercise recently to make sure that we were identifying as accurately as we could the costs that were associated with our nuclear weapons system and that caused us to revise information that previous governments may have put into the public domain.”

Leading to costs of around £1.63bn a year (2007 prices) on annual in-service costs - 5% to 6% of the UK's defence budget, according to the MoD.

The White Paper gives procurement costs of £15bn to £20bn which the UK Government intends to spread over 15 years (but it won't allow the Scottish Government to spread the costs of the new Forth Bridge) on top of which the Atomic Weapons Establishment will have a £12 billion capital spend over 12 years and will take up another 3% of the defence budget - £850m a year. Then there's future costs like decommissioning costs and the storage of nuclear waste.

And all for a weapon that we keep getting told will never be used.

The report estimates a £153m a year cost to Scotland if Trident is replaced - money that would be better spent on renewing Scotland's economy and helping set us up to recover from the UK's recession.

How many employees are there on nuclear weapons duty? Page 15:
810 Trident crew members
530 Marines to guard Trident.
1146 shore based personnel to serve the 3 Trident vessels and the 10 other vessels at Faslane which don't carry nuclear weapons.
A civilian workforce of 3,180 between Faslane and Coulport.

Then there was this Parliamentary Answer on 21 Feb 2005:
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate how many (a) direct and (b) indirect civilian jobs in (i) Scotland and (ii) the rest of the UK rely upon the Trident programme. [214416]
Mr. Hoon: The number of civilian jobs which directly rely upon the Trident programme is estimated to be 936 in Scotland, with an additional 6,640 in the rest of the United Kingdom. The number of civilian jobs which indirectly rely upon the Trident programme is estimated to be 300 in Scotland and 5,700 for the rest of the UK.

So 1,236 civilian jobs might be less secure, 810 crew would be affected, perhaps 100 onshore service personnel, and the 530 Commanchio Company Marines (away with that terrible new name).

The crew and the Marines could, no doubt, be redeployed, given the current stretch in armed forces. The onshore service personnel and the civilian jobs would require more effort, although 1,050 of them are MoD police - many of whom could be redeployed and some, I presume (though I can't say for sure) could join the civilian police (especially given that the SNP Government is expanding the numbers).

Addressing job losses
The report goes on to examine cases where bases have closed in the past - including Holy Loch - and shows that, where the closure has been planned properly, the impact on employment is massively reduced.

As the report points out, Jackie Baillie made up the 11,000 figure:
It has been widely claimed that Scotland would suffer economically as a result of job losses if Trident replacement does not proceed[1]. This report demonstrates the opposite to be the case.
[1] Scottish Parliament’ Report, Debate on Trident Renewal, 21 December 2006, Jackie Baillie, MSP West Dunbartonshire: ‘11,000 P45s would be issued to hard-working people in my area and to thousands more throughout Scotland’ if a decision were taken not to renew Trident.. Such claims have frequently been repeated in the press.

The money that is currently being pumped into maintaining Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Clyde that successive Governments insist is just a deterrent and not to be used, and the money that is projected to be wasted in the future is massive. The reports authors, including the new convenor of the Labour party in Scotland, claim an 8.5% share of that spend for Scotland (I assume on some population basis) and point out that spending that money in a fiscal stimulus would provide more jobs - and productive jobs - than Trident currently supports.

So, according to Labour's convenor, the jobs argument that Labour keeps using is plain wrong. I think that there's another aspect to be considered, however, as I wrote in an answer to a comment on an earlier post:
[T]he banning of corporal punishment in schools led to a reduction in employment opportunities for people who had made the tawse - should we insist that teachers go back to beating children so that these employment opportunities can be restored? Think of all the soldiers demobbed at the end of the Second World War - should we return to a European bloodbath to provide employment? Should we have agitated for the Accudyne jobs instead of banning landmines? I believe that children used to be employed in the cleaning of chimneys, manual labour in mills and even underground in mines. Do you think we should send them back? Think of the jobs ...

We've got what it takes to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons, you know.

Mind how you go!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Labour - split on nuclear weapons

Not the usual kind of split - Iain Gray, Labour's leader in Scotland, at FMQs this week claimed that cancelling Trident would cost 11,000 Scottish jobs.

His party's new convenor, Claudia Beamish, is opposed to nuclear weapons and has argued that the 11,000 figure was made up by Jackie Baillie.

Geoff Hoon said it was a tenth of that.

David Milliband wants to get rid of nuclear weapons - without any concern for lost jobs, apparently.

All over the place! Mind how you go.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Gurkhas

The Gurkhas - you may have heard of them. You may even have heard of the Gurkha Justice Campaign.
If, like me, you heard today about the conditions being attached to the right to live in the UK of those who served in the UK's armed forces, your reaction may have been the same as mine - spluttering disbelief. A disbelief made worse by the comments of the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas:
With their dependents you could be looking at 100,000 people.
Ignorant oaf that he is. I agree completely with Dhan Gurung, the ex-Gurkha who said:
"If they want Gurkha soldiers, they should treat them equally."
Gordon Brown insists these rules are fair. That, surely is an indication of the galloping incompetence of his administration and the incredible contempt in which it holds anything and anyone not of them and in agreement with them.

I note with some horror that one of the conditions for settlement is serving 20 years - something which only officers will have done. Labour favours officers over ordinary soldiers and I'm not even surprised.
I can only wonder what flash of inspiration drove some true genius to suggest that this was an adequate or sensible way to treat anyone. I don't expect to be enlightened.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

How much was that budget in the window?

Always remember to say "thank you, Darling"...

Sterling has sunk under the burden of the budget, the pound now worth $1.4440 or €1.1127.

Chocolate coins are a safer bet than sterling:
A company that peddles chocolate coins, in other words, is currently deemed a better credit bet than the British Treasury itself.
Although Darling predicts economic shrinkage in the order of 3.5% this year, the IMF said today that it will be 4.1%:
From the BBC (yes, I've selected the bits I want to highlight):

The Budget projections look like a triumph of hope over experience. Despite having to drastically downgrade his forecast for growth this year, the Chancellor still expects the economy to rebound over the next two years.
the STUC believes a golden opportunity has been missed to introduce a timely and targeted fiscal stimulus to save current jobs and create new ones.
These measures are not nearly enough to tackle the desperate crisis in housing which sees nearly half a million Scots on housing waiting lists, and a stalled construction industry. It is doubly disappointing after the Scottish Government had committed to putting any extra funds it received from the budget towards new build affordable housing.
the fuel duty rise will make it particularly hard for rural and other essential business road users to keep moving during the downturn.

we are deeply disturbed by the further rises in duty on alcohol and on fuel duty. The additional taxation on spirits and alcohol will make it harder to argue for fairer taxation on Scottish exports in overseas markets.

Today was their last chance to keep their promises that they made a decade ago and they have failed to do that

A duty increase during a recession is a real blow and follows last year's duty rises on Scotch, the largest since the 1970s.
And what about Labour's First Minister in Wales?
First Minister Rhodri Morgan has told BBC Wales that he cannot guarantee that there will not be cuts to services and job losses in the public sector as a result of the announcement.

We're heading for a £1.4 trillion public debt
The unprecedented borrowing programme sparked warnings that a generation of British workers face higher taxes to pay off the debt, and raised doubts about international investors' willingness to go on lending to the UK.
The final figures could be even higher, since Mr Darling based his borrowing plans on an assumption that the UK economy will start to grow again later this year and rebound sharply by 2011.

79% of GDP as debt - mummy, daddy!

Martin Wolf didn't miss and hit the wall:

Only Alistair Darling, most emollient of politicians, could manage to make this
Budget boring. He is telling his country that its prosperity was as fraudulent as a collateralised debt obligation, that Gordon Brown’s boasts of “no more Tory boom and bust” are a joke, that the forecasts he gave only last November were nonsense, that the public finances are deteriorating at a rate never seen in peacetime and that, to cover these failures, he is indulging in populist attacks on the highly paid. To make this feel boring is an achievement.

Another fine mess they've got us into, but are they ready to say sorry'?

Claudia Beamish - an interesting Labour choice ...

The new chair of the Scottish Labour Party is Claudia Beamish, daughter of Sir Tufton Victor Hamilton Beamish, also known as Baron Chelwood, who was wounded during the retreat from Dunkirk; rowed (along with seven other men) away from Singapore as it was falling to the Japanese forces (to Sumatra which had also fallen, forcing them on to Ceylon); served with the Eighth Army in North Africa and took part in the invasion of Italy before leaving the army at the end of the war. He followed his father into the Commons and served as a Conservative MP for 29 years - turning down offers of Ministerial positions. He inspired the Private Eye character Sir Bufton Tufton and wrote a book, Half Marx, warning against the rise of the left in the Labour party.

His daughter is made of similarly stern stuff - a primary school teacher, she's topped Labour's list in the South of Scotland for the last two Holyrood general elections and is currently a Labour candidate (taking on David Mundell, I think) for the Westminster election. She's not shy and retiring, and she's not afraid to put forward her case. As an activist in the Socialist Environment and Resources Association she spearheaded a campaign to remove David Milliband because of his support for nuclear power - which she and others in Labour's 'green wing' oppose.

She's not afraid to speak out publicly either, authoring submissions to consultations which make clear her opposition to nuclear power (and the opposition of other Labour members) and her interview with the BBC before last year's Labour regional conference hints at an intelligent and thoughtful woman (yes, there are one or two in the Labour party). She was on the CND/STUC working group that reasoned that getting rid of Trident would increase Scottish employment prospects and she's described nuclear power as a "dangerous irrelevance". She has had a wee bit controversy here and there, but nothing too scandalous.

Here's the question, though, with Labour's new Scottish convenor agreeing with the SNP on nuclear power and nuclear weapons, are we about to see a Labour volte-face to support the eminently sensible position of the SNP? Will Labour in Scotland have the courage of Claudia Beamish's convictions and will Labour in Scotland now oppose the unwelcome positions taken by Gordon Brown and his cohorts on nuclear power and nuclear weapons?

This could be most interesting. Mind how you go!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A wee shame

There's a wee problem facing Labour in a London constituency by the name of Erith and Thamesmead - ballot box in Labour HQ broken open and postal votes destroyed for one thing, allegations that something is not right about postal votes for another, much moaning many grumbles. Could the real reason for much of the disquiet be that Georgia Gould, daughter of Philip Gould, is running a better selection campaign using all of the advantages she has - including her contacts?

It's an interesting wee insight into how Labour's selection works - the SNP selects by postal OMOV (everyone gets a ballot paper through the post and returns it by post) and I understand that the Greens do the same - but the over-riding impression is of a party in turmoil. I've been a bit of a cad in the past, suggesting that Gordon Brown is Labour's John Major, but that may be a bit harsh, Major arrived in the office almost, it appeared, by accident; Brown has plotted, planned and salivated over his ambition for years. You might have thought that someone who had so long coveted the office would have a long list of things they would like to achieve. It would seem not, and perhaps I was a tad unfair to John Major.

Perhaps Gordon Brown's Labour is more akin to Lloyd George's Liberal Party - the destruction of the core of the party, the splitting apart of the principal players, the aftermath of war, the abandonment of long-standing principles, and a lack of direction. Of course, his predecessor had his own Lloyd George moments ...

What remains to be seen is whether Gordon Brown will lead Labour as Lloyd George led the Liberal party - into oblivion. It may seem a bit far-fetched but - is Gordon Brown Labour's last Prime Minister?

Mind how you go!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Red Rag

The proposed Labour attack blog known as Red Rag has had a fair bit of press recently - you may have noticed - but no-one seems to be questioning the right of Mr Charles Whelan and his cadre of conspirators to use Unite's resources for such purposes.

If you were paying your union dues into this union and it was abusing your resources in this manner, would you not be slightly irritated?

Ochone, ochone, it's a terrible to-do!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

An interesting thought

If you were to survey Labour party members just now about who they thought was the worst ever Labour Prime Minister,who do you think would be the most popular (for want of a better description) choice? Just a thought.

Mind how you go!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It's not a gate, it's a political scandal story

I dislike the now common habit of adding 'gate' to a word to indicate a political scandal - the latest being 'smeargate'. I wish it would stop - or that someone would create a scandal about a garden ...

Anyway, I can thoroughly recommend the blog which has caused all the fuss:

Excellent writing, fine prose, eloquence at its very best.

Mind how you go!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Opinion polling

As we hear rumours of Gordon Brown considering an election this year, I wondered what may count against it in Brown's mind, so I looked at the most recent Yougov poll and thought "what if you remove the Scottish figures?" I reckon it gives you these figures:

Conservative 43%
Labour 33%
Lib Dem 16%
Others 7%

I may be wrong but I think, even allowing for Labour's over-representation in Scotland and disallowing the seats that we're about to take from them, that those results would give Cameron a working majority.

I think Brown will lose whenever he calls the election - too many mistakes made, too much of a mess left - but I think he's also hanging on and thinking "events, dear boy, events".

Ah, Callaghan

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Oh, that terrible world crisis!

Who’s for a wee wander then? Excellent, follow me. Gordon Brown, in an interview on the Jeremy Vine show, insisted that the banking crisis was a global problem. It’s not.

The Australian banks haven’t melted down and haven’t needed a bail-out, nor have the New Zealand banks. When the Australian Government made a commitment to guarantee all deposits in an attempt to quiet troubled markets, the Australian Bankers Association was quick to emphasise that it wasn’t a bail-out and that the deposits were safe in any case.

Australia’s Treasurer, Wayne Swan was emphatic when he announced liquidity funding:
"Whereas the US Treasury is being forced to issue debt to invest in existing troubled mortgage assets, such as securities backed by subprime mortgages with high default rates, the [Australian Office of Financial Management] will invest only in newly issued, prime, triple-A rated RMBS that meet strict criteria in relation to the quality of the underlying mortgages".

In fact, Australia’s four main banks are pumping money into a new liquidity scheme in partnership with the Government. Ah, liquidity rather than propping up bankruptcy, properly regulated banks, oh the delights of old-fashioned prudence!

Then there’s Japan – it’s banks are struggling a little and are getting a dose of Government help but it’s nothing like a bailout or nationalisation. In the latter part of last year, Japan’s banks began buying up parts of failed US banks - which might be why their credit ratings may take a wee dunt, depending on whether their internal business models have stacked up properly. Japan’s banks, of course, are recovering from having their own problems a while back and learned the lesson a while back – it’s a pity our regulators smirked instead of learning.

Canada’s banks are closely regulated, meaning that they have come out shining and squeaky clean – drawing admiring glances from the US President (I imagine a few Canadian bankers sipped their drinks and muttered “it’s like 1812 all over again” with a wee smile). In fact, Canada’s banks have done so well that the Canadian Prime Minister fancies a bit of hunting, encouraging them to attend the US fire-sales - they feel disgruntled by annual profits sinking to ‘only’ $12bn while banks here would be delighted to restrict their individual losses to such an amount.

Indian Banks are doing so well that their share prices are on the way up and the banks themselves are starting to fund airlines’ new plane purchases. Indian banks are increasing their lending while our banks are shrivelling.

Russian banks (I’ve no idea what the regulatory system in Russia is) have not yet needed any bailout but might need help in the later part of this year since the Russian banks survived much longer than ours, can we judge them better or did it just take longer?

It’s not a global problem, it’s a problem caused by poor banking regulation in those countries which allowed it. Gordon Brown’s tenure as Chancellor puts him right in the frame.
Gordon Brown went on to claim that he had warned about the financial crisis for years. Hmmmm….

Let’s have a look at a speech that Brown gave on the Global Economy at the Reuters Building on October 1st 2007:

In the last 10 years our commitment to stability has been tested again and again, in the Asian crisis in 1997/8, the Russian crisis, the American recession, the trebling of oil prices, and of course in the last month with a wake-up call for every financial system round the world, a wave of turbulence that started in America, then Germany, has impacted on all countries and tested the stability of our own system. I believe it is because of the resilience of the system that has been built in the United Kingdom - Bank of England independence, the Financial Services Authority, the tripartite system we now have - that we are able to steer a stable course.
Yup, those regulators had it just about spot on, eh?

In any other decade but ours a trebling of world oil prices might have caused a recession but I believe the world economy showed itself flexible enough to adjust. Double digit price rises in housing in the United Kingdom in other decades have sparked downturns, but we have been flexible enough to be able to adapt. And I believe that because of the changes that have been made worldwide and then the changes that we have made in Britain, we are sufficiently flexible to adjust when events threaten our growth. And we will certainly continue to take all measures that are necessary to ensure that we are in future even more flexible to deal with events as they arise and to steer a course of stability.
Oh, aye, just so. See those warnings about the impending financial crisis just shining through?

In the days ahead we will continue to respond with the same calm vigilance. It is time however to recognise that there are changes in the financial system globally as well as nationally that do need to be made. Of course some of the wisdom we need is to refuse, even in the wake of difficulties, to make unnecessary changes. When Enron and WorldCom happened we did not in Britain respond with heavy-handed regulation. I believe that was the right decision then and in the same way we will not make that mistake now, but we will take measures that are necessary.
See how he insists on building us a buttress against the coming financial crisis?

You know better than me how we are and can continue to entrench our position as a world leader in business and financial services, but from the point of view of the government we insist that we will continue to implement our new risk-based light touch approach to regulation, we will make our planning system more flexible and responsive and of course we will work together on infrastructure to invest in our long term priorities. And I believe that that is an important part of London retaining its position as the pre-eminent financial centre in so many sectors.
Whoops! With a liability as Prime Minister is it any wonder we’re in difficulties?

Ach, woe is me, I’m aff to have stovies. Mind how you go!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

They'll bet on anything

It comes to my attention (courtesy of a political betting website) that betting has started on Scottish Independence. Not being the type of chap who bets with a turf accountant, I found it strange that there was enough betting on politics to support a betting website, and it never even thought about crossing my mind that a bookie would be taking bets on the outcome of the Independence referendum next year. Surprised? You're goodling right I was surprised. Surely those odds aren't right though ...

Mind how you go!

Frank Ellis

I was saddened to hear that Councillor Frank Ellis has died. Frank was a good councillor, a good servant of the people who elected him (a fine joiner too) and one of life's decent human beings.

He was a guy who would always help if he could, and a committed and dedicated nationalist. He'll be missed.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick

The rallying cry of the MacCormick was always a thunderous belly-laugh and the trademark was the joke that carried on far past its normal life because the teller of the joke was laughing too much. Neil MacCormick was a man of enormous good humour, fantastic generosity of spirit and deep humanity. He was liked and respected on every road he travelled.

He was loved and respected in the SNP, highly regarded as one of the towering intellects who made the philosophical and jurisprudential case for Scottish independence, his extensive knowledge and deep understanding of the concepts and principles of constitutional law giving a solid underpinning to the party's positioning on constitutional matters. As the son of John MacCormick Neil would have grown up learning all sides of the debate in the family home and he made contribution to the cause which was substantial in every meaning of the word - a contribution which, it could be argued, was greater than his father's. Many party members have been privileged to witness excellent and well-argued tea-room debates at conference (honest, they weren't in the bar) between Neil and other members of the party with a similarly deep philosophical take on nationalism - people like Neil's friend Dr Allan McCartney who preceded him as an MEP and into that last campaign.

Neil was one of those few people who could excel in more than one field and it is a measure of his ability and his modesty that those of us who knew him mainly or entirely through politics have little appreciation of the scale and scope of his achievements in academia and those who knew him from academia have little appreciation of the regard in which his political abilities are held on this side of the fence. One chap who knew Neil on both sides of the fence described his lecturing technique in these terms:
He didn't use notes, he wasn't delivering a prewritten hour, he was more in the realms of calling it down from the heavens.

Fellow academics at Edinburgh University held him in high regard as well, one (who is no laggard himself) described Neil to me as 'the outstanding legal intellect of his generation'. He was sought by Ivy League universities but turned them down, preferring to stay in Scotland, and his contribution was marked when Edinburgh University took the unusual step of granting him an honorary degree (universities don't usually give those to their own academic staff) - one of the seven honorary degrees bestowed upon Neil during his career. John Swinney made sure that his diary was free for that afternoon so that the party was represented by one of our most senior members at the ceremony, indicating the regard in which the party held Neil - although personal friendship would also be playing a part in John's decision. The scale and the importance of Neil MacCormick's academic exploits can be seen in the Biographical details held on Edinburgh University's website.

Neil had one dark secret - when at Oxford University he helped Lord James Douglas Hamilton to pass an exam. Lord James had turned up with footwear which would not have been acceptable in the exam and Neil loaned him the shoes which Neil was wearing so he could sit his exam.

It's perhaps illustrative of the character of Neil MacCormick that he was an internationally known and respected academic and he was one of the leading intellectual lights of the SNP but that he always found time to talk to whoever sought him out for advice and that his favourite stories which he told 'on himself' were not about his achievements but about things like the Burns Supper where the catering arrangements went wrong and the local chipper was pressed into service for haggis suppers. He had discoursed with scholars and reasoned with fools but still had the humility to hand credit which belonged to him on to others who deserved it less. SNP members all across the country can tell stories of how Neil MacCormick helped them out, helped them up, gave them advice, and then changed the subject when thanks were proffered.

Even in his final illness he looked ahead to a better Scotland, regretting that he wouldn't be around to see independence but that, like his father, he was a staging post in the long march to independence and along the way he had improved some things around him. In a Sunday herald interview he said his great sadness was that he wouldn't have a long retirement to enjoy with Flora and her philosophical take on his illness spoke to the support she always had for him. She said we are all in life's departure lounge but that Neil had a better idea of his departure time than most of us.

He's departed now, and Neil will be missed, missed sorely by those who knew him - and missed sorely by the SNP.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Gee-Whizz on the G20

So, the G20 has concluded its intricate deliberations and has issued a communique or two to tell us all what we should believe has been achieved. I'm deeply, deeply moved...

Gordon Brown celebrated the end of the Washington Consensus, hailing a "new world order" (I know, I know - another one). The Washington Consensus was a term coined by economist John Williamson in 1989 to describe what the international institutions based in Washington thought would be good economic policies for Latin America! It has ten strands:
Fiscal discipline.
A redirection of public expenditure priorities toward fields offering both high economic returns and the potential to improve income distribution, such as primary health care, primary education, and infrastructure.
Tax reform (to lower marginal rates and broaden the tax base).
Interest rate liberalisation.
A competitive exchange rate.
Trade liberalisation.
Liberalisation of FDI inflows.
Secure property rights.

Leaving aside the fact that the Consensus was about Latin America, let's look at what Gordon Brown would be pleased to see the end of:

Fiscal discipline
In essence, fiscal discipline comes down to running the country's finances properly - not having too much debt, that kind of thing. Should the Prime Minister really be celebrating the end of that?

Redirection of public expenditure
Gordon, apparently, doesn't think we should be spending money on healthcare, education, building infrastructure, income redistribution, and so on...

Tax reform
He doesn't believe in reducing marginal tax rates (there are arguments on both sides for that one) and doesn't believe in widening the tax base - he must think that the tax system is fine and doesn't need changed at all.

Interest rates
Not in favour of interest rate liberalisation? I don't think I am either - there's some argument that financial liberalisation has been partly to blame for some of the financial crises.

Exchange rate
Against a competitive exchange rate? Oor Goggsy? What happened to the neoclassical non-endogenous growth theory?

Trade liberalisation
Here's Brown calling for an end to trade liberalisation at the same time as he argued that we must shy away from protectionism.

Liberalisation of FDI inflows
Gordon Brown now opposes inward investment?

Well... I'll leave it to the economist John Williamson:
My own view is that privatization can be very constructive where it results in increased competition, and useful where it eases fiscal pressures, but I am not persuaded that public service is always inferior to private acquisitiveness as a motivating force. Under certain circumstances, such as where marginal costs are less than average costs (for example, in public transport) or in the presence of environmental spillovers too complex to be easily compensated by regulation (for example, in the case of water supply), I continue to believe public ownership to be preferable to private enterprise. But this view is not typical of Washington.


Secure property rights
Surely Gordon Brown doesn't oppose secure property rights? Well, except for Scottish building societies, that is...

So, who thinks that Brown really seeks the end of the Washington Consensus - which was, after all, nothing more than a point of view, an opinion? He couldn't be talking about the end of neoliberalism, could he?

Mind how you go!

Thursday, 2 April 2009


As a scurrilous rumour monger, I feel obliged to poke a little fun.

Buy a T-shirt from Kezia - what's the connection?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Thank you Darling!

What a couple of days I've had! There I was in the wee shop round the corner (picked up a few wee groceries, including the delectable smoked mackerel pate, lovely it is), just standing at the till whistling a charming little ditty to myself when it reached my turn and the young lady rang up my purchases.
Well, I say purchases, but it never quite got that far, it got as far as her saying "that'll be £11.52 please" and me reaching for my wallet to discover that it wasn't there - I'd left it in my house. Jings, crivvens, how embarrassing! I had to explain that I'd have to nip back and get it and could she just hang onto my stuff for me and I wouldn't be long. Then I turned round and explained to the guy behind me what had happened - that was a big mistake.

The guy behind me turned out to be Alistair Darling - Chancellor of the Parish. He shoved me out the way, paid £23.04 for my messages, seized all my assets and publicly disclaimed me. I've asked him to justify his actions but he just tells me that I'm the author of my own misfortune - funnily enough, I thought he was the author ....
Mind how you go!