Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Mandy Quit EU To Move In With Brown

Mandelson just quitting his cushy job with the EU to cosy up to his new best friend Brown didn't make sense. Now the reason is becoming clear. The net was closing in on Lordy Mandy and Brown couldn't afford such a dangerous loose cannon on the loose. 

Just two weeks ago, when Brown surprised everyone by putting out the welcome mat for his arch-enemy, the Orange Party reckoned Brown did it to keep his friend close but his old enemy even closer

But even that told only half the story. Brown had tried to prise Mandy out of Brussels when he first took over as PM, only to be told he didn't have the authority. 

Journalists placed bets on who would be first to bring down the master of spin. They didn't need to. Old habits die hard. He was doing it all by himself. Where Mandy goes sleaze is not far behind and often it's the other way around. 

Mandy had been in their sights for months, with his links to a dodgy billionaire Russian mafia character, Oleg Deripaska.

Deripaska is banned from the US, sued in London by a fellow Russian and pursued around the globe by investors.

Getting close to the fabulously rich and enjoying all the fun of the £80m yacht off Corfu is all part of the Brussels way of life. 

But while, with one hand being asked to investigate this Russian guy and with the other, smoothing the way, as EU trade commissioner, to cut aluminium import duties to secure huge aluminium contracts for his pal, that was too much even for Brussels to stomach. 

The Mail reports: "Deripaska benefited to the tune of up to £50m a year from decisions to cut European import duties on aluminium, taken in 2007, also while Mr Mandelson was at the helm in Brussels." 

Just booting out Mandy would result in one almighty sleaze row and Brussels likes to keep that sort of thing under the carpet. And he would have lost all the pensions, perks and pay-offs. With a leadership challenge from the Blairites just on hold, Brown couldn't risk this bitter Blair buddy trying to stab him in the back. 

So strike the deal. Mandy leaves with his head up, sort of, and keeps the fat pension and pay-offs. Brown takes in public enemy No 1, on a promise he'll keep his head down and not cause trouble. 

One of the first things Brown did when Peter took the peerage was to strip him of the anti-corruption portfolio that went with the business secretary cabinet job. If he trusted him so much and there was no whiff of sleaze following him from Brussels, why this odd move?

Mandelson and Brown may think their new love-in will have a happy ending. It well prove to have a happy ending for Brown. Without the safety net of Brussels, he can now just boot him out. That would mean third time unlucky, total disgrace and total political oblivion and no longer a threat.  

No one - not the Mail, Telegraph or Times is finished with Mandy yet and no amount of spinning will get him off the hook. 


Brown Has Lost The Plot And Should Go

What fool would drone on about global emissions after coming up with a crackpot plan to get jobless off the dole lagging lofts, while the country's economy crashed around his ears? Our illustrious leader has lost the plot. And Cameron has taken the gloves off.

Brown must be taking leave of his senses as time and again he harks back to his pet subject of global this and that, oblivious to what's going on in the real world and real economy, promising to "do what it takes". And the sad thing is, his shallow ministers follow him like sheep, while he just "gets on with the job".

As unemployment hit a record high, Brown came up with a lofty lunatic plan to solve unemployment by getting everyone to retrain and insulate lofts. How on earth can you expect two million people to just climb around all day in dirty attics? 

Then it was off again with his EU chums and a lot of hot air on climate change and cutting global emissions. Someone should come and take him away. There's a good job going at the IMF if he fancies it.

Who gives a stuff about lofts and global emissions, when they're faced with losing their jobs, being booted out of their homes, scraping a living on a meagre wage or pension, while struggling with mounting debt? Global warming can wait for another day.

Only his ministers and hangers-on, Brown's BBC and the guys who write the propaganda on his personal No 10 website are on his side.

Brown clearly has a thing about loft insulation. Not too long ago, his cunning plan to cut gas bills was to lag the loft and draw the curtains

And before global emissions, it was world poverty, when he turned up in Japan telling people not to waste food. He must have a problem with wind. 

Brown's ministers and the not-so-merry band of New Labour MPs only snuggle up to him because they are scared of losing their cushy jobs. 

And they put trust in a man who handed over billions of taxpayers cash and borrowed billions, in a vane hope of solving the stock market and bailing out his pals in the city, while ignoring the twin evils of unemployment and inflation staring him in the face. 

How shortsighted to think that just throwing money at a problem will make it go away, when he helped cause the economic mess in the first place.

They pinned their hope on Superman who just could not help being Clark Kent all the time, even eluding to Brown as a new Churchill. 

Churchill went on to lose the election. Like Brown, he'd misjudged the mood of the people. 

With the real economy on everyone's minds, Cameron's Conservatives have today unleashed an attack at last. The LibDems should too, if only Cable would inject a human angle into his dry, sensible economics. Both, with disillusioned true Labour MPs, could force a vote of confidence. The mood of people is now with them.

But both must come up with clear, workable policies, so voters know exactly what they are letting themselves in for. 

Meanwhile back in the loft. It's a dirty, cramped, back-breaking job. Just right for an out-of-work MP. How many of them will retrain as loft laggers, when they're out of a job at Westminster?


Murdoch Uses Brits For Obama Campaign

The once respected Times has the audacity and arrogance to presume to speak with the voice of the "British people", using UK readers to sway American presidential voters, as Murdoch urges the US to do it his way.

Murdoch's Times has called it for Obama with the boss clearly deciding to put profits before reasoned argument and use those 'British people' as part of his campaign. 

Murdoch has made no secret of putting his backing where it will sell more papers and now it's a case of 'follow my leader'. 

With Obama riding high in the polls it was to be expected. Murdoch thinks he's on a roll with this one. 

But instead of coming out with a deep and thoughtful analysis, The Times leader reads more like a free puff for its favourite brand of soap powder and its leading article, which has not been written for UK readers, is clearly aimed at an American audience. 

It is a blatant attempt to try to use its UK readership base to influence people on both sides of the Atlantic. 

"Some Americans wish to know how their election appears to many British people," it begins. "The Times, reflecting upon an American choice, hopes that the outcome will be an Obama victory." 

Murdoch's media tentacles stretch far and wide on both sides of the Atlantic and no one should underestimate his influence either in the media or politics. 

He's a global player but at heart, he's a newspaper man, driven by advertising and profits and what sells newspapers. And Obama is flavour of the month. He'll now use any means to manipulate public opinion for his man.

Murdoch has made no secret of calling it for Blair before the 1997 general election because it would sell more papers, nor of his support for Obama for the same reason. 

At one time the nation held its breath as The Times pronounced on an important issue of the day. The Times leader thundered with authority. It was the voice of the establishment and could bring down governments. Not any more - it just takes its place with the other tabloids on the news stand. 

But in the US, some people still think The Times counts for something. 

Murdoch's influence is everywhere in the media. But there are many more respected newspapers and TV news stations out there which are not part of his global empire. There too, the political blogsphere, which cannot be controlled, is independent, sophisticated and influential. 

The Times lost its authority when it switched from a broadsheet and was forced to elbow for space on the news stand with the other tabloids. It lost its respect when it started coming out with free puffs like this one, for one of the presidential candidates and trying to use the "British people" as part of its campaign.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe The Plumber Wins Final US Debate

Joe the Plumber won last night's crucial TV debate, as McCain and Obama got up close and personal and McCain tried to remind voters, yet again, that he wasn't George Bush. 

McCain kicked off the final debate, accusing Obama of waging a class war with tax increases that would "spread the wealth around" and led to a constant battle about what's best for Joe the Plumber, that shaped the debate and could decide the result of the election. 

McCain at times looked angry and got under Obama's skin. Obama tried to keep his customary cool, calmly sipping his water but the unflappable mask and charming smile slipped on a number of occasions. 

It was McCain, not Obama, who needed to win last night's debate and launch a political comeback. 

McCain finally had some fire in his belly as he brought up Obama's relationship with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers

He demanded to know the full extent of Obama's relationship with Ayers, a violent 1960s terrorist and the Democrat's ties with ACORN, a liberal group accused of violating federal law over registering voters. But he allowed Obama to parry the Ayres attack without driving his point home.

McCain then accused Obama of not levelling with the public over his decision to forgo public financing for his campaign in favour of raising his own funds.

"He signed a piece of paper earlier in the campaign pledging to accept federal financing", McCain said, adding that Obama's campaign has spent more money than any since Watergate. Obama let that one go.

Negative TV ads and accusations are all part of the cut and thrust of any US presidential campaign and the jury's out on whether they sway the undeciders or just harden the views of hard-line Obamakins and McCanines.

The economy dominated the headlines before the debate even started and dominated the debate. The election will be decided on who best to trust with that withering economy. 

Struggling to escape being tarred with the same brush as Bush, McCain ran with the line and sound-bite: "Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. ... You wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago."

With parallels to the Nixon-Kennedy TV debate in 1960, if you didn't listen to the words, Obama, on the whole, just looked much better than McCain and he came across again as a better debater. 

Obama leads in the national polls and surveys in many battleground states, since the economic crisis gripped the nation.

McCain has a steep hill to climb. But he needs now to stop freaking people out about their jobs. Harping on about Joe the Plumber's small business problems won't help in the final days. McCain needs a game change. Obama, just to keep his cool and a level head.

Obama holds a 7.3% lead in the Real Clear Politics polls average but the latest Gallup tracking poll reveals there are nearly twice as many undecided voters this year than there were in the last presidential election. 

The financial crisis has taken an enormous toll on the McCain campaign over the past month but Obama hasn't closed the deal yet. 

In the campaign's final days, it will be that vast swathe of millions of undecided voters, not the already committed, who will take a last serious look at both presidential candidates and finally make up their minds. 

The outcome of this race isn't cast in stone yet, as much of the media desperately hopes and would have us believe.

And what did Joe 'the plumber' Wurzelbacher make of it all?

He said Obama's reaction on the tax question left him feeling uneasy. "I didn't think much of it the first time I heard it," Wurzelbacher said, adding that he still thinks Obama's plan would keep him from buying the business. About McCain: "He's got it right as far as I go."

And which candidate would get Joe's vote on November 4? "That's for me and a button to know," he said.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brown's Labour Isn't Working

People struggling in the real economy took another battering today as unemployment is set to hit the two million mark by Christmas. There's little hope for anyone on the horizon, apart from the banks, as experts warn the devastating impact is only just beginning.

The number of people "out of work" rose by another 164,000 between June and August, to 1.79 million, according to government figures, the biggest rise since 1991.

This is despite the best efforts of the government to manipulate the easy target of unemployment figures and mask the true number of people not working who do not claim benefit.

Unemployment is now set to climb above two million by Christmas. Some forecasts put it at three million the year after. 

Even New Labour union sympathiser, Brendan Barber from Unite, reckons, "There can be no assumption that the people who are losing their jobs will find it easy to get new ones."

Today's figures come as inflation soared to a record 15 year high of 5.2 per cent, even using the government's discredited CPI index, following sharp rises in fuel and food prices.

After leading the way with the £500 billion bank bail-out and pseudo-nationalisation, experts predict the UK will now "lead the way" into world-wide recession.

Meanwhile, Brown is having praise heaped upon him from money-men around the world, as they rushed to join him and throw two trillion pounds of taxpayers cash and unrealistic borrowing to prop up the world economy, according to the Daily Telegraph

But there's little praise in the real world of the real economy, where people are worried sick about losing their jobs, getting work, facing crippling food and fuel bills, while trying to make ends meet struggling with spiralling debt.

Cameron's Conservatives and Salmond's SNP are right to attack the government's past economic record, creating the false boom and then the real gloom of the real economy, which directly affects people's lives. LibDem, Vince Cable, would do well to do likewise or face being labelled Mr "Has Been".

There are few words of comfort from Brown, who said the government would do "all it could to create work and help people maintain their jobs. Unemployment and redundancies are something that we wish to avoid wherever possible." 

Brown should get out into the real economy and the real world a little more often instead of coming out with the same tired old platitudes.

The Saatchi Tory Party 'Labour isn’t working' poster, which helped the downfall of Callaghan and the rise of Thatcher in the 1979 election, came at a time when unemployment stood at a paltry 1.4 million. Those were the days. How times change.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick, Slip In Another Climb-Down

42 days, secret inquests and Sats. The climb-downs are coming thick and fast along with soaring inflation. With ministers thinking they're on a roll after Brown bankrolled the banks, it's a good time to bury bad news for the government but good news for schoolkids and civil liberties.

After the Lords booted out 42 days detention, Brown couldn't risk sticking to his guns nor could he lose face and throw in the towel. So up popped home secretary, Jacqui Smith, with the odd 'bill but no bill' solution. Totally bizarre - but Brown fudge won the day

Then the government dropped plans, in the same counter-terrorism bill, to order inquests to be held in private using the old chestnut of "on the grounds of national security."

The Oxfordshire coroner was clearly getting up the nose of the government as time and again he publicly blasted the MoD and ministers for equipment failures during inquests into Iraq and Afghanistan troop deaths. 

The solution was simple - just keep them all secret then no one would be any the wiser. 

42 days and the secret inquests have bitten the dust for now. But neither will go away for good. Popping the champagne is too early. It should be put on ice, which is what's happening with these deeply unpopular measures.

42 days will return in some form or other when the government feels there is a politically less risky climate. Another bill is already in the pipeline. There are plans to include those secret inquests in a bill on coroners reforms.

Now, instead of scrapping himself, schools minister, Ed Balls, is to scrap Sats tests for 14 year-olds in England, following this summer's marking shambles.

All this on a day where, back in the real economy, inflation today hit home above the 5% mark, even using the government's own manipulated CPI figures.

What next to get buried in the dust?  How about ID cards? 

The government was playing politics with people's civil liberties the first time round and is just doing it again. Burdening children with a testing culture was playing with young people's minds. Masking the true rise in inflation, is playing with the effect on the real economy 

As has been observed elsewhere, it's all leaving a nasty taste. 


Meanwhile, Back In The Real Economy...

Brown's big bank bail-out came down with a bump today as, back in the real world, inflation hit home at above the 5% mark. Bailing out banks with taxpayers cash keeps the stock market happy but people are asking, what's in it for us? For the moment, not a lot. 

As the focus switches to the fall-out from the bank bail-out, even the government's much loved and discredited Consumer Price Index (CIP) is now weighing in at a hefty 5.2%, up from 4.7% in August. Now the highest in 15 years.

A better indicator, the Retail Price Index (RPI), ditched by New Labour in 2003, was already at 5% last month. 

The CPI may be a less effective measure of price rises than the old RPI, but it's much easier to manipulate. But even the spin can't halt the upwards march.

Even these official figures mask what's happening in the real world and tell people what they know already. Food prices and, in particular those obscene gas and electricity bills, are going through the roof, while Brown borrows billions of pounds to pop up the banks and get us all deeper in debt. 

The UK's annual rate of inflation rose to 4.4% in July, up from 3.8% in June, as measured by the CPI. That was the biggest monthly change in the annual CPI rate since records began in 1997. And it's just getting worse. 

The annual rate of inflation for energy and other household bills has now reached 15%.

It will be this real economy of jobs, inflation, mortgages, small businesses and meagre wage rises which will determine Brown and the government's future.

The recriminations have already begun. Cameron and the Conservatives have started to focus on that real economy and at the same time hit home on the decade of Brown's incompetence and the false boom years which got us in this mess in the first place. 

Voters have short memories. Brown's bounce will be short-lived. It is inflation, unemployment and spiralling debt, trying to make ends meet, which is the bogyman for the government, not the banks. After the boom, the gloom.

The nitty gritty of life determines the success of governments and whether they survive, not hugely expensive quick fixes for the City.


Monday, October 13, 2008

42 Days Later, The Fudge?

The Lords have flexed their muscles and come down on the side of civil liberties, throwing out the government's much derided 42 day detention bill. Does Brown stick to his guns and risk the wrath of back-benchers, throw in the towel or fudge the whole issue? 

Brown got his way with the 42 day bill with some neat footwork and hefty bribes. It scrapped through the commons by just nine DUP votes in June, with 36 Labour MPs rebelling. This time round he won't be so lucky. 

The government can use the Parliament Act to steam-roll through the legislation. But Brown and the government's position is too precarious to play ping-pong. When the dust settles and the spin of the obscene bank bail-outs are seen as for what they are, there's nowhere left to hide. 

Few but government ministers want this draconian law. Brown staked his political reputation on getting the bill through the commons, sacrificing civil liberties for political power.

Whatever way ministers tried to spin it, this was 42 Days Detention Without Charge or Trial. The most serious threat to our traditions of civil liberties since before the signing of the Magna Carta.

The proposal had been criticised by not only Conservatives, LibDems and backbench Labour MPs, but also the director of public prosecutions, the former attorney general and the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner. It didn't stand a chance of getting through the Lords. 

Times have changed and so has the mood of the country. Most of the alleged terrorists have either been rounded up or gone into hiding. 

Brown cannot risk a suicide note, unless ministers have become so smug and arrogant they think they can ride rough shod over people's basic rights once again. But he cannot risk what will be seen as a climb-down and leave him open to attack. 

Brown's answer maybe to do what he has always done in these circumstances. Hide in the bunker and hope it all goes away. 

42 days could be just put on the back-burner or more likely spun away with an almighty fudge. Unless of course, the government ministers are so buoyed up with a false sense of security after the bail-outs, they think they can get now away with anything.


Brown's Bulimic Bail-Out Makes You Sick

Another day, another eye-watering bank bail-out. This has little to do with helping people and everything to do with saving the City and Brown's skin. Not a penny is being used where it really matters. Another bulimic bank bail-out and it's enough to make you sick. 

Today we were forced to sit through the same obscene spectacle, with another taxpayers bail-out which crept up throughout yesterday from around £12 billion ending today at around £37 billion

This is no Northern Rock nationalisation. This is pseudo-nationalisation. There's little accountability. City shareholders not parliament still call the shots.

Schools, hospitals, old people's homes, small businesses, obscene gas price rises, capped and meagre wages are left to rot.

The government thinks it's riding high on the crest of a wave with the unsinkable Gordon Brown. But look through the looking glass and you see a very different picture. 

Announcements are being timed for political advantage and to wrong-foot the opposition. Spin doctors and plumbers are working overtime to paint the boss in a good light. 

Billions of pounds is being begged and borrowed and thrown around like confetti. Meanwhile people are worried about jobs, gas and food bills continue to rise, no one gives a bugger about UK manufacturing and people are being forced to live on a pittance and struggle with debt on a meagre income. 

Attention has switched slightly to what's laughingly called the "real" economy. Jobs, prices, small businesses, pay deals and the like. If that's 'real' then what is going on at the moment is unreal. But it's more than that, it's surreal. 

Some things just won't work because they can't. Try striking a match on a bar of soap. The amounts of cash being thrown at the banks is so staggering it beggars belief. 

Some have warned this is the end of capitalism and globalisation. It is the opposite. What we are witnessing is the triumph of the banks and the City, not their downfall. 

October 13, 2008 will go down in history. The time when the money men finally took over politics and parliament now plays second fiddle to the City.

You cannot change the bad habits of a decade overnight. The illusion of wealth is a delusion too entrenched in our psyche. The decade of debt now part of the disillusioned aspiring lifestyle. 

Anything other than bowing to the pressures of the banks and handing them our cash means Brown would have to admit his handling of the economy has been flawed and incompetent from the start. 

Taxpayers cash is being used to prop up the banking system to get them all off the hook. Secret bank and government meetings exposed Brown and Darling as either weak and being used as the democratic front men to get their hands on the cash or they were willing partners. Probably a bit of both.

Brown's much vaunted 'rescue plan', now touted around Europe as a cure all for all economic ills, is laughable not laudable. Use taxpayers cash or get the country deeper in debt with more borrowing. That's not a plan that's a recipe for disaster. 

Bank nationalisation is being spun as some kind of monster lurking around the corner. The rantings of sad old socialists. But is it really that worse than freely handing over wads of cash with few strings attached? 

If politicians can't hack it or screw up they are booted out by voters, instead of being rewarded for incompetence with fat bonuses and payoffs. 

Full public ownership brings accountability back to parliament. It imposes checks and safeguards. It brings a clear chain of command back to people. But even that just scratches the surface. 

All people want to know is that their savings are safe and no bastard is going to come round and repossess their home. Both measures could have been achieved by a government which puts people first and without all this fuss. 

For the moment, most politicians seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet but some searching questions are starting to be asked by Conservatives, LibDems and true Labour. And there are growing calls for Brown to be called to account for his actions.

For Brown and his ministers, it's the same old song. The words have been written by bankers and orchestrated by the City. Any pretence of putting people first has become a sick joke.