The Thick of It


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Can a recession ever be a good thing? Richard Bacon show discussion

Yesterday Andrew Lansley, Tory Health Spokesman, was forced to withdraw a blog entry stating that "Interestingly on many counts, recession can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend time at home with their families." Last night I spoke from the panel on Richard Bacon's BBC Radio Five Live show about this. Saying recession is a bad thing. David Kuo said it can be.

Lansley was both misguided and insensitive. It shows that many of the Tories haven't changed. At the 1997 election the Tories said of the harsh economic climate a few years earlier "yes it hurt, yes it worked." Their premise is that job losses are a price worth paying for a stronger economy. Kou agreed, saying that many jobs are worthless. I disagree.

Our economy is based on work providing enough to pay for our living costs. Without that most people's lifestyles will fall apart. We saw in the 1980s that many families and whole parts of Britain never recovered from the closure of industry.

I accept that many people naively thought the economy, house prices and the stock market would grow continuously. This is clearly not the case. However, a recession will be bad for families, under financial pressure and facing the threat of losing their homes and jobs.

The side effect of recession is poverty, often higher crime, family breakdown, higher alcoholism and drug taking.

Of course there will be some positive side effects of recession. People will become more frugal, use less energy and waste less. This is a good thing. However, this is a nasty lesson to learn and one most people would rather avoid. I'd like to have the same discussion in a year's time and see whether the callers to the show still agreed that recession would be OK, once they'd had to suffer the effects.

You can listen again to the show here and clicking on Wednesday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre-budget report

My first thoughts on Alistair Darling's Pre Budget Report are that it clearly presents the country with clear water between Labour and Tory.

Labour has put together a package that at the very least seeks to stimulate the ailing economy. This is set against a Tory Party that cynically states the solutions won't work. The Tory solution is minimal action because they don't believe in government as the answer to problems. The Tories have retreated to their ideological home ground of minimal government and laissez-faire economics.

It is simply not acceptable to allow banks to go to the wall or to leave the poor and low earners without any help when help is available. Labour is certainly trying. Peeling back the surface and starting to look at the details and the picture becomes a little murky. Clearly high levels of public borrowing will have to be paid for over many years. Borrowing increases to levels higher than in previous recessions. However after previous recessions, such as in the 1990s, the government of the day didn't seek to stimulate the economy like this. The economic threat globally was not as great. Darling has sought to make higher earners pay for the borrowing, in future years. This could work and is certainly fair, however is dependent on Labour winning the next election.

Brown and Darling have taken a huge political gamble. It was one worth taking because it offers a glimmer of hope at a time when the Tories have offered nothing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time for a change in Islington?

With chaIsli A

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ken launches Progressive London

Ken Livingstone was never going to go quietly. Not content with a regular slot on LBC radio and newspaper columns, Livingstone has now formally set up Progressive London.

The stated aim of Progressive London is to keep together the coalition of anti-Tory votes that Livingstone sought to keep him in office. Uniting politicians and activists across party lines is ambitious. There will be some who see this as Ken's declaration of candidacy for the 2012 elections. Mobilising a campaign for 2012 it might be, mobilising a campaign for Ken, I'm not sure. Ken might want that, I don't think it is that feasible. Labour will need to make a new choice and do so in two ore three years time.

For any alliance to work will require a common enemy. Boris Johnson will therefore need to keep antagonising those who didn't vote for him. Increasing transport fares in January will help, as will the bungled handling of Sir Ian Blair's stepping down as head of the Metropolitan Police. If BJ hadn't exercised powers he didn't hold in making Blair's position untenable, there would be no row over how much he is being paid to quit. I'm confident that the common enemy will remain, however an alliance also needs common solutions.

Common solutions stem from a shared vision. So far Ken's alliance looks like one that can run. It should do because so far the backers are predominantly Labour, with a smattering of Lib Dems and Greens. I'll be interested to see if the alliance can really take on a cross party feel. If it does, it will stand a chance of being listened to as something more powerful than simply Ken Livingstone's mouthpiece.

Further reading:
Pippa Crerar's Evening Standard blog
Tory Troll: one of the speakers at the Progressive London conference in January
Dave Hill
Liberal Conspiracy

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Is Andrew Gilligan sockpuppeting?

I'm amused to see the blog "furore" over suggestions that Journalist of the Year Andrew Gilligan has been posting comments on blogs both anonymously and under other names. Whenever I've written any post mentioning his name, or to that matter most posts about Boris Johnson, I get at least one hit from Associated Newspapers.

After some posts about bendy buses and transport fares in London "anonymous" commented on my blog. The timing of the comments coincided with a hot on my blog from the Associated Newspapers IP address. "Anonymous" had used a Technorati blog feed with the key words "Andrew Gilligan" as the search terms. Coincidence? During the Mayoral election I frequently got hits from the same IP address and with the same referrer. The use of language by "anonymous" also bears great resemblance to Gilligan's writing, using terms such as the "Ken Livingstone fan club."

On a personal note I've never been an ardent fan of Ken, though I came to believe that on balance, London was a better place after eight years with him in charge than if someone else had won.

I used to ban anonymous comments for this very reason. I'd much prefer an open and honest debate where people can agree and disagree. I don't see what there is to hide. Not least from a high profile journalist when his views are well known. I'm also quite prepared for people to point out if I am wrong, though I'd rather never be wrong...

Read on:
Media Monkey
Dave Hill's blog
Tory Troll's current discussion. Previous accusations, including mention that Gilligan was up to it in 1995 as a student can also be found.