Friday, October 03, 2008

Brown Keeps Enemy Close As Mandy Moves In

Arch Blairite, uber plotter, architect of New Labour and all round bad egg, Peter Mandleson, is back in the cabinet after a few years plotting behind Brown's back in Brussels and making sure his man Tony gets the top job of the EU presidency.

As Brown rearranges the Titanic's deck-chairs  with a cabinet shuffle, Mandleson's appointment to a beefed up business job, comes as a shock and much of the media, including Murdoch's Cameron supporting Sun, and the Mandy bashing Daily Mail will have a field day. 

With 'Mandy' Mandleson, it's a case of Brown keeping his friend close but his enemies even closer. But he should watch his back.

There's no love lost between Brown and the Prince, now Lord of Darkness, who was plotting behind the scenes and out in the open, in the Blairite leadership challenges to Brown. Brown even tried to prise Mandy out of his EU commissioner job, only to be told he had no authority to do so. 

To ease the pain of Mandleson and as a sop to the Party, popular left-winger, Jon Cruddas was at one time being spun as tipped for 'promotion'. 

But Cruddas, who wowed delegates at the Labour Party conference and is seen as one of the few true Labour voices that could mount a serious challenge to the New Labour gang, has been kept out of the loop.

It's third time lucky for Mandleson, as he said himself this afternoon but third time unlucky for the rest of us. The disgraced minister was in and out of Blair's government like a yo-yo. He held two cabinet posts before quitting over dodgy dealings and was finally given the plum job as EU trade commissioner.

The feud between Brown and Mandelson goes back years, ever since the odd couple fell out, when Mandelson backed Blair for the Labour leadership in 1994.

Elsewhere, most of the cry babies in the cabinet look to have kept their top jobs after threatening to quit en masse if Brown tried to move them. And Ed Miliband, tipped here as a possible chancellor, is climbing up the greasy pole, heading up a new energy and environment super-department. 

A tinkering at the edges sees a few other insignificant changes of insignificant faces as Brown tries to head off the increasingly powerful challenges from both within his own government and from the Conservatives and SNP.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

PC Blair Plods Off At Last

Publicity-seeking politically correct policeman, Sir Ian Blair, had a ball playing politics and that was his downfall. He's quit but the Force won't go with him.

Since he was shoe-horned into the top job by his namesake, Blair has been instrumental in helping the Met become just another puppet of the New Labour propaganda machine. 

The dislike for Blair in the Met was widespread and rampant. The only real question is why did it take him so long to be forced out. 

Announcing his resignation after three years in the job, Blair said he would stand down "in the best interests of the people of London and the Metropolitan Police Service". Add to that in the best interests of democracy and he would be getting closer the mark. 

Blair became just too political, cosying up to his government masters and making quite a few gaffs and enemies on the way. He just got too big for his policeman's boots. Everyone saw him as Blair by name and Blair by nature. Secretly taping conversations with the attorney-general was just a bit too Nixon.

That may be fine in a banana republic where the police and politicians are one of the same but it not the function of the police in a modern democracy.

Blair was fingered for his handling of events surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. And was at the centre of a very public spat over a racism row involving the Met's most senior Asian officer.

On top of that, he is at the centre of an inquiry into awarding contracts to one his pals. 

The silly man is still playing politics. Blaming it all on London mayor, Boris Johnson, saying he'd lost his backing, is a pathetic and lame excuse for his own aloof arrogance. Johnson had the guts to stand up to him. 

Now he's going to quit, the question is who is going to replace him. It's time for a copper's copper, someone who will try to put some clear blue water between the police and the politicians, not the Watergate tapes guy in the cartoon.


Where's A Post Office When You Need One?

Savers were scouring the country today, looking for an elusive Post Office to fully guarantee their nest egg. But with the government bent on closing them down, they're a bit thin on the ground. 

Save our Post Office has become save at our Post Office with savers switching to the Post Office, which is run by the Bank of Ireland, after the government there guaranteed 100 percent of their savings would be safe. 

Here, only nationalised banks Northern Rock and National Savings offers the same protection. But now Brown's BBC reports Northern Rock has cut its savings deals to new customers to stop any competitive advantage.

What spoil sports. First the government closes Post Offices, ripping the heart out of local communities, then they force savers to use only the banks run by their greedy pals in the City. 

Around 1.2m people have more than £35,000 in savings and around half more than £50,000.

The government argues that it won't raise its current guarantee ceiling of £35,000 (up to £50,000 in a couple of months time) as that would result in unfair competition. Since when has this government been bothered about fairness? 

What was fair about closing the Post Offices? What was fair about letting the banks get away blue murder for all those years, duping the public to get deeper in debt?

And, if you've saved up a few bob or had a bit left from Aunt Maude, you'd put your money where it's the most safe.

Spread the risk says the government. But who wants to give their hard-earned cash to the greedy bastards who caused the financial mess in the first place. 

Savers are thankful some of the luck of the Irish is rubbing off on them. 


The Sun Shines On Cameron

Brown might as well start packing his bags - it's all over bar the shouting and the voting - the Sun has called it for Cameron.

In a fiercely worded editorial, Murdoch's newspaper has finally nailed its Cameron colours to the mast after a conference speech which received (almost) universal acclaim.

The Sun leader chimes with many of the views expressed here yesterday, that Cameron does indeed have a plan to be prime minister and is ready to govern.

But while many still suspect a vote for Cameron is a vote against Brown and New Labour, the Sun is in no doubt that Cameron is the man to lead the nation. 

And it would be the nation - there is no way Cameron's Conservatives can make any inroads in SNP Scotland. 

But the Sun has no such doubts - he's the man and he's ready, willing and able:

"This was a powerful, coherent speech, addressing hard economic questions with sensible solutions ... Far from looking like a “novice”, Mr Cameron delivered the most confident and compelling speech of the political season ... But with this nail-hammering performance, he showed he is more than qualified to give it a try."

You could see it coming. Sun leaders and editorial comment have been getting more and more fiercely critical of Brown and his government.

But this is not about Brown or any of the smug arrogant prats that make up his government. They deserve derision. Any leadership challenge from anyone, except Cruddas, would make no difference to this doomed Party.

The mythical 'man on a bus' is replaced by 'Sun readers' but the outcome is still the same. Anyone who thinks the Sun doesn't matter is either naive or too blinkered with Party loyalties. 

Murdoch was the man who boasted he clinched it for Blair when the newspaper finally came out in support in the 1997 landslide election and Blair left us with his hand of history on our shoulders. Just pray the Sun doesn't make that same mistake again. 

But for many voters in England, with the Sun and the Times, it will be a case of follow my leader.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cameron, A Man With A PM Plan

Cameron is a man with a plan, striding forward, looking backwards. The Tory conference threw up a rare beast - a politician who spoke with conviction, spitting out his disgust at the government which has wrecked the economy and people's lives. He's hungry to govern. But did he convince voters he's the Chosen One?

This was a very different Cameron from a year ago, a Cameron who then persuaded the Tories to ditch their old ways and put on a caring face. Here he was not afraid to praise the old guard of Howard, Duncan-Smith and of course Thatcher.

Cameron didn't feel the need to have the young turks behind him - Osborne and Hague were all he needed. And here was someone who acidly pointed out that even when Brown gets it right - he also gets it wrong. If nothing else, that was a clap-line most of the country would agree with.

And someone who, at last, managed to cast off the heir-to-Blair image that has haunted him. He could barley hide his disgust for Blair as a man of all style and no substance. 

It was time to reassure voters about the slogan 'Plan for Change'. He had a plan, not a Blair "miracle cure", to mend the broken society and finally get to grips with the economic mess of years of New Labour. His was a government-in-waiting.

The Party faithful of course lapped it up. But in the streets, in the pubs, in the shops and around the water-cooler, they are the people who he has to convince. He thinks he's ready to govern but do they?

One striking fact came across from today's conference speech. Voters may not agree with all the broad brush stroke policies and a manifesto is some while off - but you could trust him to deliver - with passion. 

In the pub, after watching the conference speech, a lefty bloke remarked: Well, I'd vote for him. Anything is better than the smug arrogant bastards we have at the moment. And that's from someone who would spit on Thatcher's grave. And that probably sums up the mood of the country.


A Bad Case Of Economic Fatigue

There's nothing like a world economic crisis to get the heart a-throbbin' and the brain a-tickin' and this was nothing like the economic meltdown we were led to believe as today everything is looking hunky dory, according to the BBC.

It was scary but it's all over. You can come out from behind the sofa. What do you mean it wasn't real? You should have read the warning. This was fantasy violence with some strong language and no sex. Everyone had a headache and now a bad case of economic fatigue. 

Traders were shouting frantically on the floor and those computer screens turned red. But that's what market traders do - shout and make big bucks for their clients. And red, why red, danger? If you had a wad of cash you'd be looking out for the gorgeous red bits to buy up and make a killing. 

But Bush and Brown said this was really important. Important for them maybe. Still, two losers on their way out,  making a mountain out of a mole hill, is better than starting a war to boost the poll ratings. 

What started out as a 'rescue package' soon turned into a 'bail-out', despite the best efforts of the Bush administration and Brown's BBC to keep everyone on message.

'Rescue package' just doesn't have the same cute ring about it. A bail-out, handing a fat blank cheque to Paulson, does and it's more accurate. 

Democrats and Republicans were spitting blood - well, spitting at each other. With an election around the corner and some of their seats up for grabs soon, who can blame them for making some capital out of it on Capitol Hill. 

And it couldn't have been all that bad - they all skipped off on holiday yesterday.

Elton John would be proud. Stock markets crumbled but Wall Street didn't tumble - they're only made of clay. But the love-in between the government and the City is here to stay. 

Journalists had a field day. Was this the worst time since Black Wednesday, the Great Depression or the South Sea Bubble? And how do you spell Armageddon?

A chance to make up some good headlines though. Though nothing can beat "Bush's Bummer Bail-out Bill Bombs" - that's because it won't happen again.

Did we get the Great Depression? The only people depressed were the public having to listen to all the crap night after night. Still, we got a wartime spirit going with Cameron's call for a coalition government. 

And the political big wigs were summoned to Downing Street for a summit. Only they forgot to invite Vince and he was left out in the rain and made it late. That's a shame. He's the only one worth listening to and the only economist. 

And the media? TV personality anchors were summoned to Brown's bunker - how could they refuse in a time of global warming - to suffer the Great Man droning on and on. Then they had to spoil it all and broadcast it on TV news. 

Still it did give everyone a chance to catch up with some bedtime reading. JK Galbraith - now there's a smart guy, a bit of a liberal economist but worth reading.

Let's face it, no-one on Main Street or the High Street gives a bugger. Soaring prices, rampant inflation, debt coming out of your ears, looming unemployment - now you're talking. 

But a bunch of fat cats who are just getting their comeuppance after years of living on the back of other people's misery and a couple of so-called 'world leaders' who just sat back and let it all happen, now that's something to make your blood boil. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brother Bush, Can You Spare A Dime?

As Bush's $700 billion bail-out bombed and stock markets took a dive, Democrats and Republicans were quick to point the finger of blame at each other

With an election round the corner, few want to get too close to Bush and his years of letting the Wall Street fat cats get away with it. And no-one wants to hand Bush and his treasury secretary a blank cheque.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been inundated with outraged voters telling them bluntly, they don't want the cash going straight into the pockets of Wall Street.

Bush's bail-out strikes deep at the heart of the elections, with both sides making political capital out of Capitol Hill.

It must be hard for the Republicans to change the habit of a lifetime. But voters know Bush lied over Iraq, so why should they trust him over this.

And this is America - the Land of the Free - Enterprise. If you can make a fast buck you are a hero. If you screw up, brother Bush, then no one will spare you a dime.

Democrats can sit pretty. It's not their fault. They're in opposition and knocking the administration is their job. The stock market may crumble, Wall Street may tumble but as long as Main Street doesn't squeal too much, they're happy to let Bush sweat.

Ever since US treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, unveiled the bill, as a 'rescue package' it helped buoy financial markets. But it was quickly seen as a bail-out and that would go against the grain with an unprecedented government intervention in the private sector.

And all sorts of deals, buy-outs and fundings have been earmarked in the bill, to give political advantage. 

House Republicans blamed the bail-out failure on Democrat House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, accusing Pelosi of being too partisan and “poisoning” the Republicans in a pre-vote floor speech, where she blamed the economic crisis on years of Republican economic policies, saying: "It has created not jobs, not capital; it has created chaos."

As the House of Representatives sent the historic bill packing, the stock market went into a tailspin and added to fears that the US will nose-dive into recession, unless the legislation is revived.

But this is one show that could run and run until everyone has had their two cents worth.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Cabinet Throws Its Toys Out Of The Pram

Brown's cabinet cry babies are threatening to throw their toys out of the pram, if he tries it on with a cabinet shuffle. Faced with a botched-up job on the Bradford & Bingley buy-out and the Blairites in open revolt, it seems Brown has been outmanoeuvred and nowhere left to turn. 

The Daily Mail reports that Brown's plans to shuffle the pack were "in turmoil last night as senior ministers threatened to resign if he tries to move them."

"Sources said they expect the Prime Minister to put off a major reshuffle amid fears it could prompt all-out war at the top of the Government."

The list is growing longer by the day, after Kelly jumped ship or was thrown overboard and then promptly nailed her Miliband colours to the mast

Hoon says he doesn't was to go to Brussels. Miliband and Johnson want to stay in their job, or have Brown's job. Purnell and Darling reckon they are quite comfy. 

What a smug, arrogant lot they are. 

The move comes as news of the government's B&B buy-out was leaked to the BBC's Robert Preston. A double edged sword.

In the heady days of Brown's big moment, he tried to scupper the Tory conference with an election that never was and a troop withdrawal from Iraq that never was. 

The timing of the B&B buy-out wrong-footed the Conservatives and left Cameron and Osborne  frantically having to rearrange their notes and speeches. 

And for the Blarites, any whiff of a major reshuffle now would look like closing the door after the economic horse has bolted. 

Now it could be a tinkering round the edges but a reshuffle that never was. In the cunning world of Brown anything is possible - it just takes him a little while to get round to it.


Borrowing Brown's B&B Botch-Up

The government's decision to buy Bradford and Bingley's dodgy mortgage side of the business, leaves taxpayers saddled with the debt, the country more bankrupt than it was before and Brown's economic policy in tatters. 

The deal adds another staggering amount to the government deficit and busts Brown's own golden rules on borrowing. 

But eleven years of smug arrogance has left the government doing what it wants, when it wants. 

Bush's much-vaunted $700 billion bail-out deal, using taxpayers cash to pay off greedy banks and executives, caused outrage in the US. 

Here, the government ignored the taxpayer's voice. Where was the assurances and checks to make sure it was the right thing to do? 

Taxpayers wouldn't stomach another Northern Rock. So the buy-up was leaked to the BBC as a done deal. 

Government deficit will balloon. The government will need to try to borrow more, which will destroy confidence in the UK economy. 

But will anyone want to continue to lend to the government under such circumstances? Who wants to throw good money after bad? 

Predatory Spanish banker, Santander, takes over B&B's savings business and branch network and £21 billion deposit book for £612m.

However, government control of the bank's £50 billion in mortgages and loans means taxpayers are now more exposed to B&B's mortgage debts.

B&B relied on the buy-to-let market and self-certified mortgages to make fat profits and is just the latest casualty of the false economic boom. The buy-up is the latest in a string of government measures to dig itself out of a hole.

When the cash to prop up the toxic debt side of the business dried up, the bank looked to its pals in government to help it out, leaving the government and the taxpayers with the toxic 'bundled' bad debt side and the defaulters.

Board members are entitled to a pay-off equivalent to their annual salary. And with greedy City slickers and arse lickers - that's a lot of cash. Northern Rock chief executive Adam Applegarth left with more than £1.1m.

Yesterday it was asked here just how far is this government prepared to go, to mask its economic incompetence and keep its pals in the City sweet? 

Government borrowing is at a record high. Official figures showed the budget deficit soared to £24.4 billion in the three months to June, its highest level since records began.

Brown will have to borrowing billions more as the economy faces a housing slump, soaring inflation, record unemployment and recession.

Brown set himself the golden borrowing rules way back in 1997 as a guarantee to the City that he would not overspend and overborrow, preventing its total debt mountain climbing above 40 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). 

But with crafty PFI deals to mask the true cost of borrowing, public finances are in a mess and, forced to nationalise Northern Rock, those rules are being ditched. 

The B&B fiasco shows time has run out on the UK economy. It is bankrupt. It will need to rely on the charity of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the IMF will demand the government cuts expenditure. 

Brown has sat back and allowed both consumers and his own government to borrow much more than they can afford. 

When we face mounting debt, the only answer is to cut back. So too with government. A wind of terrible change will have to blow through the economy. That is the price of reckless borrowing. We can weather the economic storm, but not with borrowing Brown and his New Labour gang at the helm.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Taxpayers Saddled With B&B's Bad Bits

Taxpayers look set to be saddled with Bradford & Bingley's bad debts, as it emerged the government is planning to nationalise the ailing bank. B&B is just the latest casualty of the false economic boom, relying on the buy-to-let market and self-certified mortgages to make a fat profit. 

Now the cash to prop up the toxic debt side of the business has dried up, the bank is looking to its pals in government to help it out. 

With no chance of anyone buying up all the whole of bank, bad debts and all, the cunning plan would be to use billions of pounds of taxpayers cash to buy up the bank, then sell off the profitable savings side of the business to a predatory buyer. 

That leaves the government and the taxpayers with the toxic 'bundled' bad debt side and the defaulters.

The BBC's Robert Peston, who seems to be moonlighting for the treasury these days, reports that the bank will be nationalised using special legislation the Treasury put through when it took Northern Rock into public ownership earlier this year.

But the public have no appetite for another Northern Rock which made huge profits during the good times, leaving customers saddled with debt. Taxpayers won't stomach taking on the liability of Bradford & Bingley as well as the Rock.

In the US, Bush's much-vaunted $700 billion bail-out deal hit the rocks when voters reacted violently to the thought of their tax cash being used to bail-out bank shareholders and executives, while millions suffer under the sub-prime housing misery. 

Few would begrudge the government for protecting the savings part of the business and cushioning the blow for lenders faced with unrealistic debt. 

But the buy-up move is the latest in a string of government measures to dig itself out of a hole, after creating the false 'booming' economy. 

Buying up B&B and just selling off the best bits will leave people asking just how far is this government prepared to go, to mask its economic incompetence and keep its pals in the City sweet. 


Cameron Must Come Up With Hard Policies

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's Tory saviour, Supercam, who has flown into Brum, needing a few hard policies in his pocket if he's to convince the public he's ready to govern. 

As top dogs and lapdogs lap it up at the conference jolly, don't expect much meat on the bone and Brown's attack-pack could be plotting to rain on the parade. 

For Cameron's Conservatives, the task isn't as easy as last year, when he wowed the crowds. Now voters and the Party faithful, buoyed up by the polls but now starting to slip, are looking for some meat to get their teeth into. 

There'll be something to try to grab a headline, a sound-bite and a nice picture but this is probably neither the time nor the place for a detailed manifesto. 

For too long, the Conservatives been happy to sit on the sidelines and watch the government self-destruct. Recently, they changed tactics, to expose the misleading spin of government announcements. That will continue - after all, it is a public service. 

But now the public will want to see evidence of a government-in-waiting. The Conservatives will have to come up with some hard-headed policies that will strike a chord with voters and let them know where they stand.

The slogan is: "Plan For Change", similar to Obama's campaign message but it's fraught with danger. Sure it rips the government even further but people are wary of change, it makes them feel uneasy and insecure. 

As Obama is finding out, it also begs the question - change to what? 

For the old guard, there'll be something on law and order, defence and school discipline. For the newbies, something to show the caring Conservative side, along with a fudge on green credentials and a move to wrong-foot LibDems over tax cuts. 

What is clear is that the economy must and will take centre stage. People will be looking for something more than knocking the government for the economic mess. They want evidence of a sound economic recovery plan and assurances to reign in the banks and the City and that will be down to Osborne tomorrow.

Cameron has already told the Shropshire Star he'll bring forward a “comprehensive plan” based on “good housekeeping” at the conference to help cure the economic ills.

Meanwhile, Brown and the selfish band of New Labour opportunists, who are a dab hand at spoilers, could try to scupper the Tories.

Last year Brown put the nation on tenterhooks with the election that never was and popped up in Iraq to announce a troop withdrawal that never was. He could try a cabinet reshuffle and another relaunch that never was. But more likely is a major economic or financial move, to steal the show.

The hardest task falls on Cameron on wednesday to try to pull it all together. He can't try the speaking without notes routine again, getting his wife to introduce him has been done before and, the economy aside, he won't want to be pinned down too much on detail. 

Most politicians prefer to speak with forked tongues - it gives them wriggle room for later on. The Conservatives are no different. Even if there isn't much meat on the bone, success will depend on whether voters in England like and, more importantly trust, what they see and hear.