Saturday, September 08, 2007

Simon Heffer, economics illiterate

Today, Simon Heffer tries his hand at economic analysis in his column in the Telegraph, and demonstrates to all and sundry that he knows nothing whatsoever about the subject. He sets the tone thus:
We need not blind ourselves with the technical details of the liquidity crisis enveloping so many financial institutions.
Then having made a virtue out of ignorance he sums up the global economy in one incisive sentence:
We are saving too little and borrowing far, far too much. Not just in Britain, but around the world, we have gone on a spending spree.
Right, well unbeknownst to Simon, when people spend money it does not evaporate, rather it passes to some other party and is further utilised, spent, invested or whatever. What he is actually saying is that the problem is that there has been too much economic activity, which is absurd unless you genuinely think it is better for people to be poorer. What is actually going on is that it has become apparent that some types of financial instruments cannot be accurately priced, which means that the risk of lending to institutions with the things on their books cannot be gauged. The dodgy assets are based on packaged up mortgages from the US which has seen an unsustainable property boom and a great deal of mis-sold mortgages as a result. It is one of the glories of the globalised economy that bad loans from Iowa can end up in Stuttgart but there you are. Having ignored the 'details' Simon gets on with pointing the finger, and in a complete departure from his usual form, he says that it is Gordon Brown's fault:
Much of this problem domestically is the fault of none other than our Prime Minister. When Chancellor, he set the inflation target for the Bank of England, and he set it too high. The supply of money in the economy has for years grown at an unsustainably high rate.
What this means is that Simon thinks that UK interest rates have been too low. He doesn't explain what on earth this has to do with a credit crunch caused by a US property crash, though. Anyway, his central point is that it is all going to end in tears because there is too much personal debt, and he harks back to the Victorians as an exemplar on how things should be organised. All I would say to that is why stop there? Maybe iron-age Britain had a few things to teach us too when it comes to managing international finance in the 21st century? It is also interesting to read a supposed admirer of Margaret Thatcher effectively trashing the concepts of free markets and personal freedom with gems like:
Those sensible Victorians used to lock people up for debt...
It might not be a bad idea to lock up a few reckless lenders as well...
That is economics by a committee of Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe and Lenin. Does anyone still believe that Simon is a Conservative?

Later on Simon returns to more familiar ground in attacking David Cameron, this time for going up in the polls by espousing the sort of Right-wing policies that Simon pretends to endorse. So in Hefferworld no one is right, except for Simon of course.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Basildon Emergency Control Room opened

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. That is a pretty good maxim for a Local Authority like Basildon District Council, so we have put a deal of time of energy into emergency planning. This now includes a high-tech control room to manage the sorts of things that we hope will never happen. Unfortunately the occasionally do, for example we had a very bad fire in Billericay at a workshop site in January that led to an evacuation of local residents. From an emergency response perspective at least it went very well, and the same team that ran that situation are now even better equipped.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jihadi terrorists in Germany

Al Qaeda is back, or at least one of its affiliates. Three men have been arrested in Germany for plotting suicide attacks on against a US military base in Ramstein and Frankfurt airport. Of course, it wasn't the buildings they were after, it was the people and this time at least the terrorists have been cheated of their grim bonus of death. Interestingly, it seems that two of the arrestees are Islamic converts, illustrating once again that there is a political Islam that is sweeping up all of the nihilist sociopaths that once killed in the name of revolutionary Marxism. So, a good day for civilisation you might think. Well, there will almost certainly be some who don't agree. The same strand of illogic that thinks that the terrorist attacks of the 11th of September were a put-up job doesn't even believe that Islamic terrorism exists except as a cat's paw for some shadowy global conspiracy led by the governments of the West. They will certainly dismiss this latest news as disinformation because it clashes with their paranoid worldview and the danger is that if this meme were to get anywhere then somone's guard might come down and people might end up dead. At the very least this sort of nonsense is an effective vehicle for separating the credulous from their cash for all sorts of paranoia-focussed products.

Of course, this is a good day for civilisation, and that is both Islamic and Judeo-Christian. The nutcases will just have to deal with it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Simon Heffer thinks the Tories are self hating and gloats about it

There is another hatchet job on the Conservative Party by Simon Heffer in the Telegraph. His position is that though he disagrees with Gordon Brown, the man is a fantastic politician who should use his spike in the polls to call an election sharpish before it all goes wrong. Meanwhile, David Cameron is a lefty who hates his own party. This last is based on Cameron supposedly disliking people who would ‘cut taxes, control immigration, and lock up criminals’. No actual evidence is presented for this, because actually there is none, and Heffer hilariously illustrates this later on in his column by criticising the Party for ‘talking tough on crime and immigration’. Which is it Simon? They can’t both be true. One substantive issue is that George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, has stated that an incoming Conservative government would maintain the same general level of spending as Labour. Simon froths at this, and pretends that this means that the Conservatives would spend the money on the same things, and perpetuate government waste. No-one has said that except, well, Simon, but he gets very excited about it all the same.

His big point is that apart from European Constitution issue, which he tries to play down, there is no reason to vote Conservative. Simon is not really exercised about the state of the country. He goes through the motions of criticising the Labour government, but he only gets really animated when bashing the Tories. The tactic is to supposedly position himself on the Right so that his criticism is even more telling, but where is he really coming from? Anyone who really cared for our country would be angry at soldiers returning in body bags for want of equipment, angry at a welfare system that makes it rational for poor families not to work or save, or even stay together, and angry that our once fully-funded pension system has been wrecked. These aren't just the fault of the Labour government they are the specific fault of Gordon Brown, but Simon glosses over details like that. For him David Cameron is the root of all evil and his successive columns have read like a broken record on the subject. Well, Simon isn't any kind of Conservative I recognise. We care. Simon is too impressed with Gordon Brown, and himself, for that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labour slips, election off

An early election was always going to be a bit of a punt. Brown gets in and polls well over the summer and suddenly the press is a fever with talk of an early date. The Telegraph went so far as to advise the Prime Minister to go early on the basis that the economy might deteriorate and all might be lost. Now summer is over and a bit of sanity is creeping in. The polls show Brown’s lead slipping, and that he is doing even less well in the marginal seats. This has brought home to some commentators what a risk an early election would be. It might work, but then again it might make Brown a contender for the shortest-serving Prime Minister in history. Nothing about the man suggests that he is a risk-taker of this magnitude, and those pumping out the free advice won't be the ones derided in the history books if it all goes wrong. Most senior politicians are serious men who don't regard politics as some sort of elite sport. Brown is certainly a serious man, and he will hope and believe that his policies can make a difference to our country and so garner the sort of support that does not making the timing of an election subject to a sudden spike in the polls. Actually, I think he is wrong about that, but it is not what I think, or what the press think, or even what his entourage thinks, it is what he thinks that matters.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wickford Town Centre Planning Application

In parallel with the search for a development partner for the redevelopment of Wickford Town Centre , Family Mosaic and Basildon Council have put in a planning application that will serve to scope a part of the area covered by the Wickford Master Plan.

This is the press release:


Ambitious plans for the multi-million pound regeneration of Wickford town centre have moved a step closer.

A planning application for the first phase of the £120m scheme has been submitted by Basildon Council, along with the developers Family Mosaic.

The proposals could see the development of 48 new homes, along with a new swimming pool, health centre, library and public square in Market Avenue and Market Road.

Council leader, Malcolm Buckley, welcomed the blueprint, saying it would breathe new life into the town.

“This is the next stage in our plans to regenerate Wickford town centre and instil a new pride in the town.

“If they are approved, the plans will provide new high quality homes for local people and better access to modern health, leisure and community facilities.

“This is an exciting opportunity to meet the aspirations of Wickford residents for better homes, shops and public services.

“We are delighted that the plans are on the table and will be considering them through our normal planning process.”

Under the plans, 48 new homes could be developed on the former sheltered housing scheme at Willow Court.

Wickford health centre could also be transformed into a modern clinic with specialist

The blueprint includes further plans to redevelop Wickford swimming pool on its existing site, build a new library and create a public square.

Local residents are being invited to have their say on the plans during two forthcoming consultation events.

They are taking place on 22 and 29 September in Wickford Community Centre from 12.30pm to 4.30pm.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rumsfeld was incompetent over Iraq, er, we know

There is a bit of a furore over comments in the biography of the former head of the British Army, General Sir Michael Jackson, that the US in general, and Donald Rumsfeld in particular, got it wrong in planning the post-war period in Iraq. It is astonishing that this even constitutes news, much less causes excitement. Everyone knows that the invasion and its aftermath were badly planned at a strategic level and that war-fighting and reconstruction were not joined up at a tactical level. The manifest failures of then Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld have been itemised and dissected, from his obsession with airpower and so-called 'light' ground forces, to his refusal to put more troops on the ground. The complete absence of realistic post-war planning and the creation of a security vacuum by disbanding the Iraqi army and police with anything to replace them are matters of record, not revelation. That anyone thinks General Jackson's views are particularly significant at this point in time is a surprise. It was a screw-up, we know, and while there is always some virtue in historical analysis, this is not adding much to the public body of knowledge on the Iraqi war.

General Jackson's book is being serialised in the Telegraph, and I look forward to reading the bits where he agreed that disbanding infantry battalions while the army was fighting two wars was a good idea or where he allowed the army's transport helicopter support to shrink down to the current derisory level. Maybe he can explain why our troops are still using landrovers that were designed for Northern Ireland in Iraq and Afghanistan when those vehicles offer almost no protection against modern weapons.

Rumsfeld was certainly incompetent, but he wasn't the only one.