Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Trading Post - Squandered

In the latest episide of the Spectator TV show I've been producing - Trading Post - I spoke with David Craig, who's book 'Squandered' brilliantly skewers Gordon Brown. David is a really interesting person to speak to. He's a very quiet, slightly nerdy, former management consultant who has made a specialism of taking apart the madness of a tidal wave of government spending. His anger is all the more effective for being very quiet.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Ken for Labour Leader

I'm straying off the usual topics of this blog here, but no one seeems to have mentioned yet the possibility of Ken Livingstone as the next Labour leader. Here's the scenario in which it happens. Ken gets beaten this week, and attacks Gordon Brown for losing him the election. He finds himself a safe Labour seat for the next election. After Gordon leads Labour to its inevitable defeat, they will be looking for a new leader -- and preferably one not tainted by the whole Brown/Blair era. Labour doesn't have any other substantial figures - so why not Ken? He certainly has the ego and the charisma. Right now, he hardly even figures in the odds. Ladbrokes have him at 100-1, the same as Hazel Blears . That might well be worth a flutter.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Bank of England

Speaking of the Bank of England and its rescue plan, Mark Gilbert on Bloomberg is a must-read today.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Mervyn King

Mervyn King is erudite and articulate and sometimes quite funny. But it still seems to me that he is getting an extrordinarily soft ride from the media for his handling of the credit crunch (probably because everyone is too busy beating up Gordon Brown). He spent most of the autumn lecturing evryone about moral hazard, suggesting that he wouldn't bail out the banks. Central banks, he said in September, should only act when there are "economic costs on a scale sufficient to ignore the moral hazard in the future." And yet in reponse to house price falls of, at most, 1% or 2% he's decided to start swapping gilts for mortgages. Whether its a good or bad idea, its certainly not consistant with what he was telling the markets a few months ago. So why should anyone believe the bank again?

Friday, 18 April 2008

Trading Post

You can catch the latest episode of the Spectator Business TV show I'm presenting here. Interviewing John Meadowcroft was particularly interesting. We get a constant clamour in the media calling for things to be banned, so it is good to open up some space for the contrary argument to be heard.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Credit Crunch

My Bloomberg column is also running on the Telegraph website this morning. There is endless discussion about how to bring in new regulations to stop another credit crunch. None of it seems wothwhile, however. If you live in a free market economy - and its a lot better than any other system - then you have to expect a certain amount of volatility. People experiment, create new markets, then test them to destruction. The debate should be about how to mitiagte the impact of that volatility -- not about how to stop it from happening.

Saturday, 12 April 2008


There's a fascinating article on The First Post about the pros and cons of military intervention in Zimbabwe. The sequal to Death Inc which I am working on at the moment plays around with that very issue, although in the guise of a thriller. The arguments would actually be pretty good: there is no doubt that an outside army intent on disposing Mugabe would be welcomed by the people there. The trouble is, the Iraq war has so discredited the idea of military intervention, there would never be any support for it.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

British Economy

The forecasts for the British economy are still far too optimistic. In my Bloomberg column today, I quote Lehman Brothers as saying there is a 35% chance of a recession. I think that is too low. A combination of a housing bubble, a currency bubble and an immigration bubble have kept the British economy going. People have factored in the end of the housing bubble. They haven't started thinking enough about what happens once the currency starts falling and the East Europeans start going home. That's when it will start to get painful.