Archive for January, 2016|Monthly archive page

A bit rich coming from Lynton Crosby

Lynton_Crosby_Political_Strategist

So, according to Lynton Crosby, the architect of the Conservative’s 2015 election campaign, the Labour Party demonstrates an arrogance in the Beckett Report into the causes of the election defeat. Let us get this straight, Crosby said at a rare lecture for the Centre for Opposition Studies last week: “They [the voters] weren’t saying that Labour overspending caused the failure of the global financial system. What they were saying is that Labour overspending meant Britain wasn’t well equipped when the financial crisis hit.” In addition he said, “[t]he point is, the voters have spoken and they have made their judgment – not once but twice – and in a democracy their view is the most important”.

First of all, the Conservatives did not win the election in 2010. They governed in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Second – and I am no apologist for a reprehensible Labour Government – when the financial crisis hit, the Labour Government bailed out a series of rotten banks that deposited a huge “debt” on the country’s balance sheet. It was the Labour Party that had the gumption to rescue these banks (and probWrecking ballably the British banking system more generally) from collapse. The head of the Government at that time was the long-serving former Chancellor, Gordon Brown, regarded even by Conservatives as competent. The Cancellor was Alistair Darling. That took quite a bit of courage and the state of the public finances before the crash which – let us be reminded, no one predicted – is seemingly irrelevant. Moreover, even if his statement is correct, it is a myth that the public finances are in such a parlous state. The debt is manageable, it does not in itself warrant wholesale budget slashing and the contraction of the state. That is the ideological response – an opportunity to privatise the public sector.

PocketFinally, the Labour Party does not need lessons from a man who mis-informed and lied his party to victory.  Crosby’s character assassination of the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, represented a new low in negative politics. Readers may recall, Michael Fallon, the Conservative Defence Secretary is quoted as saying 10 days before the election “Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.” That was Crosby at his mendacious worst. And maybe we may not see a Labour government in the foreseeable future because decent and honourable politicians do not stoop that low. Näive, I know.

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Lucky Strike for every bag

20160121_194708One for the women, maybe? So you are going out all dressed up and fit for an evening of gossip (Tratsch) only to find that your cigarettes will not fit into your clutch bag. What do you do? Thank goodness for Lucky Strike. Those wonderfully innovative people who work there have found a way of making them smaller – or ‘resized’ – perfect for your clutch bag. With added flow filter, of course. Death does not get better than this.

L&M advise on home contents disposal

20160118_073103Well here is the latest L&M advertising masterpiece. Couple sat on the floor in a room with no furniture. An open fire and mantlepiece with a couple of glasses of wine on it have been sketched in using some insipid brown colour for some reason.

It looks to me that the couple have sold all of their possessions in order either to feed their nicotine habit or, as is more likely, they have some terminal illness which means possessions are superfluous. They fondly think about the good times before L&M.

Should I admire Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Mhairi_BlackLast week I was driving to work listening to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Jenny Murray, the programme’s avuncular anchor, was interviewing the 21 year old Scottish MP, Mhairi Black (left). It was a general discussion about policy, life, MPing, etc. She made her maiden speech in parliament on 14 July 2015 and was roundly lauded for it, despite having broken the protocol that maiden speeches should be largely apolitical.

It transpires, however, that Ms Black is an admirer of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset. This is not someone that is at the top of one’s list for admiration. I find him extremely divisive and not a little annoying. But listening to the interview a seed of doubt was implanted in my brain. Ms Black said that although she fundamentally disagreed with him he was a) very polite to her and b) articulate such that he would always give a reason for his position (something which I would have thought was true of all MPs, but seemingly not).

Oh dear! Should I now reconsider my feelings towards Mr Rees-Mogg (below right)? Fortunately, to the rescue, came today’s edition of the Radio 4 Sunday morning magazine programme, Broadcasting House, for which he was a guest newspaper reviewer (along with former Business Secretary, Vince Cable and Hon_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_MPShelagh Fogerty, a radio presenter in London). They were discussing privatisation, and in particular the privatisation of Channel 4 Television. Cable argued that privatisation would undermine its public service ethos, particularly its flagship news programme, Channel 4 News.

And so Mr Rees-Mogg did what he does best, plausibly lie. First, he said that there are many private-sector news outlets that have high journalistic integrity. Hence Cable’s argument was not valid. He must have been thinking about Sky News and the integrity of Rupert Murdoch’s unimpeachable global news empire. He then went on to say that there should be a management buy-out; seemingly the best of both worlds, a privatised broadcaster with the existing management’s public service broadcasting ethos.

Now I have spent a good part of my life studying privatisation (UK bus and rail industry). In both of these cases, management buy-outs were seen as good options. Many of the former national bus company regional operators were transferred to the private sector by means of management buy-outs. The same is true of railway franchises. But where are they now? The bus and rail industries in the UK are dominated by large – increasingly international – conglomerates. One of the exemplar management buy-outs in the rail industry, Chiltern Railways (operating trains out of London’s Marylebone Station) held out for 6 years before finally succumbing to corporate ownership. It is currently owned by Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway operator. A few bus companies still hold out. In my home town of Hull, East Yorkshire Motor Services remains stubbornly independent. I cannot think of many more.

The point is Mr Rees-Mogg, management buy-outs are simply a means for corporations to access strategic assets at probably a little more than they were originally purchased by incumbent managements. The best way to protect strategic assets from corporations – if this is a desirable objective – is to keep them publicly owned. In this I include housing (wholesale transfer of public housing and right to buy). Mr Rees-Mogg is deliberately specious. He needed to be challenged on his plausibility. He was unfortunately deemed to be presenting a plausible argument. Speciousness is a deeply unadmirable trait.

Pics: Mhairi Black – SNP (through Wikipedia)

Jacob Rees-Mogg – LadyGeekTVFlickr