Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Queasy Kwarteng – Not a Diversity Hire, But a Member of the Tory Hard Right

October 2, 2022

I’ve got a few interesting remarks from some of the great commenters on this blog about a piece a put up about a video by Simon Webb of History Debunked about Kwarteng. Webb wondered if the man now doing his best to trash our economy was a diversity hire, whose sole qualification for the job was his skin colour. Mark Pattie and Jim Round have pointed out that he isn’t. He was appointed because he was another Old Etonian willing to implement the programme of the Tory hard right.

Mark wrote

‘Kamikaze Kwarteng was *not* a diversity hire. He may be of Ghanaian descent, but he was Eton educated (hence probably why he got the Chancellor job). Suella Charlatan got the Home Sec job because she was more right-wing than Patel, and James Cleverley got his role because of his many years in the Army. Unlike the rest, he seems to be one of the very few (ten or so) genuinely decent Tories I’ve any respect for. It’s a damn shame he didn’t run for the leadership.’

And Jim commented

‘As with quite a lot of Simon Webb’s videos, it is what isn’t said rather than what is.
It isn’t mentioned that groups like The Taxpayers Alliance and The Institute of Economic Affairs had a major influence on this “budget” (Tim over at Zelo Street has covered this)
Also remember that The New Culture Forum, who Webb has been a guest of are based there.
They think that this is a “Conservative” budget but it is unknown whether they thought that the markets would react so badly.
Also not mentioned is the fact that Kwarteng is highly likely to be a millionaire, as well as attending Eton.
But no, let’s feed the narrative that he is only there because of the colour of his skin.’

The Taxpayers’ Alliance tends to turn up on BBC News programmes to give their views on economic policies. They are always presented as if they are a politically independent organisation, but their leaders are all members of the Tories. The Institute of Economic Affairs have been demanding hard-right economic policies since before Thatcher. I don’t think Kwarteng’s a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but this shows that the people at the Arise Zoom meeting on the Tory minibudget were absolutely right: he’s a Thatcherite true-believer, working for arch-Thatcherite think tanks, and so shares the same grotty mediocre views as his leader, Liz Truss. I should say that I haven’t watched Webb’s wretched video, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a section of the Tories is now trying to make him a scapegoat for Truss’ abject economic failure.

Richard Chester Explains How He Came to Prefer Starmer against the Tories

October 2, 2022

Richard Chester posted this piece, ‘Kier Starmer and Labour are not perfect but the UK needs them in power before the country goes insane’ on his blog. It explains how he came to support Labour and specifically Starmer after voting Tory against Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. He begins by describing how he was touched by Starmer’s description of his grief at losing his mother to Piers Morgan. He didn’t believe that Corbyn was an anti-Semite but was concerned that he wasn’t doing enough to root out anti-Semitism in his party and didn’t like his defence policy. But he was turned off the Tories by Tweezer, then Boris and now Liz Truss. Here are his views on Labour versus Kwarteng’s tax cuts:

‘And now with Truss as PM, if the last two weeks have shown anything, it’s that we find ourselves in a position akin to the months leading up to the 2010 election. We have a political party in charge whose welcome has been outstayed, whose status and delivery has become tired and whose policy fails to read the room, coincidentally led by someone who didn’t get elected via a general election.

The YouGov poll last week that projected a 33-point lead for Labour, which the Electoral Calculus suggested would result in the Tories being left with just three seats, may have made for good reading but seemed like a pipe dream given the unlikelihood of such a scenario. But what it does show is that there is a healthy appetite for change given the public mood towards the Tories and a Labour government under Starmer has perhaps already been accepted, even if some still have a sense of trepidation.

A tax cut of 20p to 19p may be sound and the scrapping of the rise in National Insurance mark positives of Kwarteng’s mini-budget but the cut in 45p tax for the biggest earners doesn’t do favours in dispelling the belief amongst some that the Tories have a softer spot for the rich.

Now we should not put down those who are very rich who do pay the right amount in tax here and provide well-pad jobs and have earned their keep, but a cut from 45p to 40p does feel like an act of lunacy, given it feels a fair way of meeting in the middle to avoid even a slightly too-high 50p tax.

Seeing millionaires and billionaires get a reduction in tax each month, some of whom likely are happy to pay 45p tax, that dwarfs whatever is saved by middle-income earners shows that Truss’s use of unpopular plays as an understatement. That Labour have already said, highlighted by Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson on Question Time this week, they will reinstate the tax back to 45p to fund free school meals for primary school children screams volumes for one instance why Labour should be elected at the next election, regardless of whether we should have low taxes all round.

There’s probably not been a time in this country’s history where the desire for a new party in power has been as strong and broad, perhaps more than 1997 in advance of New Labour.

Looking at the current frontbench of the Labour party, it does feel like the strongest and most convincing set of ministers for many years, even if there is some concern about the direction some ministers may take.

An Yvette Cooper Home Office is likely to be more sympathetic to migrants crossing the Channel and open to more asylum seekers, ignorant of those who, for whatever reason, would have concern about such arrivals in their communities, adding more pressure on services. And there is of course how Labour will go.’

To read it all, go to: https://opinionoftheday650548878.wordpress.com/2022/10/02/keir-starmer-and-labour-are-not-perfect-but-the-uk-needs-them-in-power-before-the-country-goes-insane/

Lobster’s Robin Ramsey Explains Why Thatcherism Didn’t Work as Claimed and Why Truss Will Fail

October 2, 2022

In my last piece I said that Lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsey, has a background in economics and that he said in one of his pieces for the magazine that the Tories recognised long ago that trickled down economics didn’t work. They still wanted to cut spending and punish the poor for being poor while giving lots of more money to the rich. They just had to find a better pretext for it. So they started arguing for their wretched policies on grounds of morality. Now Truss has gone back to the old trickle down argument. In the recent issue of Lobster, 84, Ramsey has a piece in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, ‘All Trussed Up’ explaining why Thatcher’s economics policies didn’t work in the way she thought they did, and even despite her best efforts, and why this means Truss’ policies will fail. He writes

‘On the day that Prime Minister Truss made her announcement about dealing with the energy crisis here, The Times (8 September) briefly mentioned (on p. 39) that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was off to the City to discuss ‘Big Bang 2’ – further deregulation of the financial services sector. Centrally, I would guess, will be a change to the rules introduced after the financial crisis of 2007-9 which increased the amount of capital the banks had to keep in reserve. In other words, financial gambling is going to be encouraged again. The central question with this new government is this: do they really believe that this warmed-over Thatcherism will work? My guess is that they do; that they have spent too long in a free marketeer intellectual ghetto to understand even the Thatcher years. They have failed to grasp that Thatcherism didn’t work on its own terms: it did not ‘cure’ inflation and did not produce more economic growth than its predecessors. Mrs Thatcher’s ‘reforms’ were possible because her government had North Sea oil revenues to pay for mass unemployment; could sell off chunks of the public sector; and, despite her best efforts to kill it, had a manufacturing base three times as big as it is now. The new government has little oil revenue; a much diminished manufacturing base; and not much of the public sector left to be sold. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to grasp that the horse they are enthusiastically flogging is dead.’

For further information, go to https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/article/issue/84/the-view-from-the-bridge-47/

Rachel Reeves Tears into Tory Economic Policy

October 2, 2022

I had this mass email from Reeves ripping apart Queasy Kwarteng’s wretched minibudget. As much as I despise her as a true-blue Blairite, who vowed Labour would be harder on the unemployed than the Tories, she is right. Especially about trickle-down economics. Robin Ramsey, the head honcho of conspiracy site Lobster, has a background in economics. He pointed out that the Thatcherites had cottoned on to the fact that trickle-down economics was rubbish, and so were trying to justify their vile economics policies with arguments about morality. Trickle-down economics was recognised as bunk long ago, so it shows how threadbare Cheeselab Truss’ policies and ideas really are. And as terrible as I find Starmer, I’d far rather have him in No. 10 than Truss or another Tory.

‘David James, last week, the Tory government laid out their budget. 

And with it, they crashed the economy by handing enormous, unfunded tax cuts to those who earn millions and the very richest companies. 

Because of this, working people will be paying higher prices and higher mortgage rates for years to come.   

This isn’t some global issue – it happened as soon as the government stood up last Friday. They’ve damaged the UK’s reputation for good. 

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have no one to blame but themselves. This was a crisis created entirely in Downing Street, a direct result of this government’s reckless decisions.

Labour is urging the Prime Minister to bring Parliament back as soon as possible and reverse their disastrous budget.

I have been clear: there should be no return to the failed idea of trickle-down economics – the theory where you make the rich even richer and hope that somehow, some of it trickles down to the rest of us.

Labour knows that growth comes from the talents and efforts of millions of people and thousands of businesses across our country. 

As a government we will make different choices. Just this week, Labour set out our plans to deliver economic growth with our Green Prosperity Plan to guarantee a fairer, greener future for all.

After 12 years of the Tories lurching from one crisis to another, Britain deserves better. 

Labour is ready to deliver it. 

Thank you,

Rachel Reeves,
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer’

Kwasi Kwarteng – Diversity Hire, or Just Another Member of Truss’ Government of Mediocrity?

October 2, 2022

It’s been a few days since I commented on a video by Simon Webb of History Debunked, so here’s one now. A few days ago, he put one up questioning Kwarteng’s qualifications for office as Chancellor of the Exchequer and wondering if he was only chosen because he was Black. Was his appointment simply a case of Truss giving him a job in order to show how diverse her government was? Given how disastrous the minibudget is, Kwarteng does not strike me as a brilliant economist. But then, neither does Truss herself, who strikes me as another absolute mediocrity. The same with Therese Coffey, who I wouldn’t trust to run a corner shop or local whist club. As for Jacob Rees-Mogg, I think he’s cleverer than the rest in that he has clever people working for him and is sufficiently slick with his patrician diction and general demeanour to conceal his absolute incompetence from much of the public. But none of them, absolutely none of them, strike me as intellectual powerhouses. Quite the opposite.

Readers of this blog of a certain age and taste in comedy will remember Glasgae toon’s guerrilla philosopher, Rab C. Nesbitt, and his biting view of Scots politics and the treatment of the poor and the underclass from the bottom of a pint glass. In one episode, Nesbitt crossed paths with the local Tory politician, a political nonentity looking forward to great things because Tory prime minister John Major was in office, and ‘this is the age of the mediocrity’. Ah, how that was the joke at the time! John Major was the grey man, a boring, uninspiring individual following the all-too vivid figure of Margaret Thatcher. Major himself wasn’t economically deft or competent, as his privatisation of the railways and the collapse of the pound during Black Wednesday showed. But compared to Truss and her crew, he was statesman of positively Churchillian proportions.

A week or so ago I went to an online meeting where members of the Labour left, like Richard Burgon and members of the TUC responded to Truss’ minibudget. They pointed out what a right-wing nightmare it was, along with her highly authoritarian attempts to strangle the unions with fresh legislation. Truss was promising nothing to the British working class except more poverty while massively cutting taxes for the rich. But the panel was also encouraged by the fact that people were determined to resist, and mobilising strikes and protests up and down this Sceptred Isle. And as for Truss and the rest of the minions, they saw them as the last of the Thatcherite True Believers. Thatcherism has run its course. It’s now looking threadbare. People are abandoning it. And Truss and co are the last of the market fundamentalists, more right-wing than Thatcher herself. And that’s saying something, given how she was a fan of real Fascists like General Pinochet!

If I read what the Labour people were saying rightly, this means that, as the last of the true-blue Thatcherites, Liz, Kwarteng and co are the scrapings from the bottom of the Tory barrel. In which case, Kwarteng didn’t get his post because he’s a diversity hire. He got his job because he shared the views and the same lack of ability as Truss and the rest of her followers.

And unfortunately, that means we’ve got to suffer his and Truss’ doctrinaire incompetence.

Their colour is immaterial. All that matters is their grotesque hatred and victimisation of the poor to benefit the extremely, obscenely rich.

Get them out now!

Request from Megaphone UK for Volunteers for their Leafletting Campaign

October 2, 2022

I got this from the left-wing canvassing organisation, the Megaphone earlier this morning. I’m afraid I can’t volunteer, because I’m simply too ill. It’s not just the myeloma, I’ve also come down with a stinking cold. This is one of the reasons I haven’t posted much over the past few days. Despite my inability to join the campaign, I’m putting the message up here for any readers of my blog who would like to.

‘David,

Cutting costs, keeping the heating off, and doing without essentials: the cost-of-living crisis is already stretching people to the limit.

That’s why the Prime Minister’s budget announcement was so disappointing. The budget delivered tax breaks for bankers and big business, when we need real support for families.

On November 2 in London, we’re going to lobby our MPs and demand a better deal for workers. 

But first, we need to get the word out.

Will you sign up to organise a leafleting event in the next fortnight at a train station near you?

I will hand out leaflets

We know that between work, family, and other responsibilities, people already have a lot on their plates. 

But it’s important for MPs to hear directly from as many of us as possible. 

By leafleting our community, we can spread the message that only working people can deliver change and pressure the government to actually listen — and act.

Last June, we leafleted 92 places around the country. This time, we’re trying to hold even more events to reach half a million people. Will you organise one of them?

Yes, sign me up

Don’t worry if you haven’t done this before — organising a leafleting event is pretty simple and rewarding. 

You’ll join hundreds of other people who are stepping up and speaking to their local communities. 

Sign up here, and you’ll receive everything you need to get started.

Hope you can join us,

Anthony, 

Megaphone UK’

38 Degrees Internet Petition Calling for Scrapping of Mini-Budget

October 2, 2022

I also got this email and petition through from internet democracy organisation calling for ‘Cheeselab’ Truss and ‘Queasy’ Kwarteng to scrap their wretched mini-budget. I’ve had absolutely no problems about signing it. Please feel free to do the same if it frightens and appals you as much as it did me.

‘They’ve driven us off a cliff, David.

Markets in panic, pensions on the brink of bankruptcy, rising interest rates, the pound crashing. [1] It’s taken Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng just 6 days to tank the economy with their ‘mini-budget’ – and put OUR livelihoods on the line. [2] Mini-budget, maximum chaos.

This is about the money left in our pockets at the end of the month. Rising interest rates send mortgages skyrocketing. [3] A weaker pound makes clothes and food more expensive. [4] This budget has plunged us into even more chaos, just when we needed urgent help to get through the cost of living crisis.

Millions of us across the country are enraged by their decision to borrow billions to give to the rich – and tank the economy in the process. [5] International financial institutions, the Bank of England and even Tory MPs have savaged the plan. [6] There’s only one option: rip up the budget.

We need to show where the British public stand today. So, David, will you add your name right now to the open letter calling on Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng to RIP UP this disastrous mini-budget? Clicking the button below will add your name automatically.

ADD MY NAME

NO, I DISAGREE

Here’s the open letter:

To Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng,

RIP UP your “mini-budget” and replace it with an urgent rescue plan to save our economy, save families during this cost of living crisis and save our public services already on the brink.
Signed,Thousands of members of the public 

ADD MY NAME

NO, I DISAGREE

Thank you for being involved,

Angus, Mike, Ellie, Tom and the 38 Degrees team

Notes:
[1] BBC News: Treasury rejects U-turn on mini-budget despite turmoil
[2] The Guardian: Kwarteng scraps top 45% rate of income tax and cuts stamp duty
The Daily Mirror: Mini-Budget 2022 summary: £45bn tax cut announcements at a glance and how they hit you
[3] The Guardian: Homeowners warned of ‘significant’ rise in UK interest rates
The Times: Prove you can afford 7% mortgage, borrowers to be told
[4] The Telegraph: How the tumbling pound is pushing up prices
Metro: Why is the pound falling and how does it affect me in the UK?
[5] The Guardian: ‘A budget for the 1%’: government accused of huge tax cut for super-wealthy
[6] BBC News: IMF openly criticises UK government tax plans
Reuters: Bank of England moves to calm bond market rout after tax cut storm
The i: All the Tory MPs who’ve publicly objected to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget

Starmer Announces Some Great Policies – But Can We Trust Him?

September 28, 2022

I got this email from the Labour leader yesterday, along with the inevitable request for a donation. There are some great policies in there, such as a publicly owned energy company. The problem is that Starmer’s got plenty of previous on making promises he has no intention of keeping, and of watering down his proposals when he starts thinking he’s getting near power.

‘David James, if this year’s Conference has proved one thing, it is this: 

Labour will deliver a fairer, greener future for working people. 

Here’s how we’ll do it:

In my first year as Prime Minister, Britain will start its journey to becoming a clean energy superpower by setting up a new, publicly owned company: Great British Energy. 

Publicly owned British power. 

Creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, growing our economy and protecting our country from being held to ransom by dictators like Putin.

British power to the British people.

Clean hydrogen energy in South Yorkshire, in the East of England, across the river in the Wirral. Offshore wind in Scotland, Teesside, East and North Yorkshire. Solar power, growing rural communities, in the South East, South West and Midlands.

David James, to achieve this, Labour must win. 

Will you chip into the General Election fund today, for a fairer, greener future tomorrow?

I’ll donate

While the Tories lurch from crisis to crisis, Labour’s green prosperity plan will deliver an economy that works for everyone.

Labour will:  

  • Freeze energy bills now with a windfall tax on oil and gas producers 
  • Keep bills down long term by insulating 19 million homes 
  • Secure energy independence with GB Energy 
  • Create one million new jobs by investing in new green industries 
  • Safeguard nature and our children’s future with a Clean Air Act 

Britain deserves better than Liz Truss’ trickle-down fantasy.

Britain deserves a fairer, greener future. 

Labour is ready.

Thank you, 

Keir Starmer 
Leader of the Labour Party’ 

Giorgia Meloni – Conservative or Fascist?

September 27, 2022

I’ve been watching some of the videos posted by members of the British and America right about the new Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. Meloni is head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, or to give them their Italian name, Fratelli d’Italia. I think ‘Fratelli’ means ‘little brothers’, but if so, then someone decided that it’s not impressive enough for the English translation of their name. She and they have been accused of being Fascists, and arch-conservatives like Matt Walsh, Simon Webb, the Lotus Eaters and Piers Morgan have rushed to defend her. Part of the controversy about her concerns her party’s slogan ‘God, family and nation’. She is proudly Christian and determined to defend the faith. She also stands for the traditional nuclear family and is against adoption and surrogacy for gays. She also rejects the modern ideology she believes is threatening motherhood as an identity, along with national identity, in order, so she says, to reduce people to anonymous consumers. And she is also anti-immigration. For the above pundits, these are all Conservative policies, not Fascist. The problem is that they were also Fascist policies. Her slogan ‘God, family and nation’ sounds like a reworked version of the old Fascist slogan, ‘Family, Faith and Fatherland’. Mussolini was anti-clerical atheist, but he made a deal with the Catholic church that allowed Roman Catholic religious education in schools in return for papacy recognising Italy as a nation, something the church had refused to do following Garibaldi’s forcible incorporation of the Papal states into the new Italy during the Risorgimento. The Italian Fascists were also determined to protect the traditional family against attack from Marxism. Marx and Engels had made it clear in the Communist Manifesto that Communism sought to abolish the family. This attitude was shared by some of the sociologists and ideologues that denounced marriage in favour of cohabitation and free love in the 1960s and 1970s and it continues in the programme of Black Lives Matter, which seeks to replace the nuclear family with a communal raising of children. There was also a huge uproar in Italy a few years ago when an Italian minister, a Black African woman, declared that she wanted polygamy legalised.

Her party’s flag has also been cited as further evidence of fascism. It contains a flame, which is supposed to refer back to the flame on Mussolini’s tomb. From what I saw, the party’s flag was the tricolour of Italy with the flame in the middle. It reminded me very much of the Tricolour Flame, the name of a ‘post-Fascist’ party which emerged after the break-up of the Missimi, or Moviemento Socialie Italiano, the Italian Social Movement, the main neo-Fascist party after World War II. Another party right-wing descended from the MSI was the Alleanzo Nazionali, led by Pierluigi Fini, which claimed to be centre right rather than far right. From this you could conclude that Meloni and the Brothers of Italy were Conservatives, albeit descendants of fascism and just a little further right of the majority of contemporary European Conservative parties. Their defence of the traditional nuclear family and rejection of some gay rights certainly contrasts with the socially liberal wing of the Tories and Dave Cameron’s introduction of gay marriage.

But some of her rhetoric certainly had my alarm bells ringing. In one of her speeches, she’s supposed to have referred to the Great Replacement, the belief that non-White immigration has been deliberately encouraged in order to replace the traditional White European population. And she’s also denounced financial speculators trying to destroy the nation state. Superficially, this sounds innocuous enough with an element of truth in it. Britain, Ireland, America and many of the European countries were hit hard by the banking crash of 2008, a crash that was caused by rampant, unregulated speculation of the type Liz Truss would like to return. As for the hatred of the EU, I was told by an Italian lady while I was at Bristol uni that when her country joined the single market, prices shot up. This caused massive anger to an extent that when she went back there, she didn’t feel safe. And after Italy’s economy collapsed, the European ‘troika’ took control and dictated the country’s economic policy. But it also sounds like the coded rightist nonsense about George Soros, whose various pro-democracy organisations in Hungary and elsewhere have been accused by Viktor Orban and others like him of seeking the destruction of traditional society. More sinisterly, it recalls the vicious, blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracies about international Jewish bankers.

Her rhetoric denouncing the reduction of people to consumers also needs analysis. At one level it recalls the left-wing concerns about the rise of consumerism and the destruction of traditional values that were voiced during the emergence of the affluent society in the ’60s and ’70s. But it could also reflect another aspect of fascist ideology – the celebration of humans as producers. After Mussolini broke with the Italian socialists he gave his paper, the Popolo d’Italia, the subheading ‘the paper of workers and producers’ to reflect the corporatist ideology which promoted both workers, management and proprietors.

As she stands, it looks very much like she is a centre-right conservative with elements of Fascist ideology. I haven’t yet seen anything about her followers marching about in black shirts and jackboots, nor about the proscription of other parties and a rigid control of the media. But then she’s in coalition with Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party. Much the same was said of him when he had Italy under his libidinous rule. There was evening a book written about it describing it as a form of fascism, written not by someone from the liberal media, but by a Times journo, as I recall. Talking about his book on Radio 4 one Saturday morning, he said that the reason Berlusconi didn’t have the authoritarian, paramilitary trappings of fascism was because he didn’t need it. For example, Berlusconi owned much of the private Italian media, and dictated the direction of the state-owned broadcaster so that all of the Italian media was practically in his hands.

Meloni may not be an overt fascist, but there’s enough fascist ideology in her conservatism to be of real concern.

Protest Against the Cost of Living in Northern Ireland

September 26, 2022

There have been marches against the cost of living in London and Ireland. There’s foorage and discussion of the marches against it in Dublin and Cork on YouTube. I found this video of another such protest in Belfast. The protesters carry placards demanding the nationalisation of the energy companies and also attacking the tax cuts for the rich. One of the speakers, a man, attacks the Stormont administration for not passing the measure that would help out ordinary working Ulstermen and women. He also talks about the £300 payment that some people in the province will receive. He doesn’t begrudge anyone getting the money, but as inflation is running at over 1000%, people should get a thousand pounds instead. A female speaker attacks the tax cuts and points out that it will be working people that end up paying.

This comes from the Daily Mail, who must have had to restrain themselves at the sight of working people protesting in favour of nationalisation and against the rich getting tax cuts. But the speakers are absolutely right. Bravo and respect to them, and everyone across Britain, Ireland and Europe who’s protesting against such policies.