Author Archives: Jonn

The refusal of British business to accept any responsibility for the state of the economy is something I’ve ranted about before over at my place, but it’s an issue that continues to bug me.

The British business community complains, pretty much constantly, that the tax-and-regulation-happy policies instituted during nine years of Labour government are risking our national competitiveness. That jobs, capital and rich people alike are going to start flooding out of the country in a nigh apocalyptic panic because Gordon Brown wants to spend more money on spurious stuff like schools and hospitals. That if the government doesn’t buck its ideas up sharpish, it won’t be long before the population of Bradford will be working in call centres and attending training sessions involving Bollywood movies, while the population of Mumbai and Bangalore panic about outsourcing. Read More

When Tom Watson MP, political blogger extraordinaire, signed on as an assistant government whip in September 2004, there was some cynicism about whether he’d be able to hang on to his reputation as an independent voice. After all, how can someone whose job it is to enforce the government line possibly provide retain their freedom to express themselves? The Guardian‘s Ros Taylor went so far as to produce her own extracts from Watson’s future posts:

If you could out someone as a treacherous hypocrite on this blog, would you?
That’s what I was asking myself on the fast new train from Worcester Shrub Hill to London this morning. (Thanks, Darling!) Can’t wait, really.
Posted by tomwatson at 05:45PM | Comments | TrackBack. Read More

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? – John Maynard Keynes

If you wanted to encapsulate in a single incident the reasons why the voters in just about every major democracy are losing faith in their politicians right now, you could do worse than to go back to Washington University, St Louis, on October 8th 2004. There, during the second of the three presidential debates with Senator John Kerry, President George W. Bush was asked what his three biggest mistakes as President had been.

He couldn’t think of one.

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Anyone else get the impression that it’s take out the trash day?

On a day when Labour fundraiser Lord Levy has been arrested and Israel seems to have declared war on Lebanon, David Cameron looks to be quietly dropping the one policy pledge he’s actually made.

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The British left has always felt vaguely uncomfortable with the whole notion of patriotism. The US’ vision of itself as a bastion of democracy and equality means that both liberals and conservatives can well up at the sound of the national anthem. The French left can believe passionately in the ideals of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ and the superiority of the French social model (not to mention French food, the French language, and just about anything else you’d care to name).

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People are shit at stuff.

This is the key axiom of political economy, which you forget at your peril.

It explains, for example, exactly why free markets generally work while attempts at state control tend to end in breadlines, cost spirals and well meaning bureaucrats scratching their heads and wondering where their car industry went. And it also explains why we are witnessing the agonizing slow-motion political death of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Read More

The July 7th reports were greeted with a chorus of disapproval about their refusal to assign blame – but the demand for easy answers misses the point.

Last week’s reports on the July 7th bombings were cautious, ambiguous, and very careful to hedge their bets. The same can’t be said of the reaction to them.

The Times managed to get the word “whitewash” into paragraph three of its preview. The BBC’s Paul Reynolds wrote an analysis under the disappointed heading, “Missed chances but nobody blamed,” and unflatteringly compared the reports to the rather more gung-ho American investigation into 9-11.

The Guardian went one better, ending a blog post (“Playing the blame game“) with an invitation to readers to tell the world, “Who do you hold responsible for the failure to prevent the attacks?” Read More

Over the last nine years, it’s become a pretty standard rhetorical trick to compare the progress of the Conservative party with that of Labour’s years in wilderness during the 1980s. David Cameron bangs on endlessly about the party’s need to come to terms with the modern world, while pundits endlessly debate whether the party has yet had the “clause 4 moment” that will symbolize its break with the past. “Oh, I think Cameron was a mistake,” someone said to me the other day. “They’ve chosen a Blair when they needed a Kinnock.” Read More