Saturday, February 28, 2009

The real stories.

Been catching up with the weeks news - from a Welsh Conservative perspective that is. There have been two big stories - neither of which won the media coverage that they warranted. Both were overshadowed by other issues, important but of lesser significance. The issue of secondary importance was the Conservative Assembly Group reshuffle. I was receiving calls about it from my 'snout' Edna from teatime on Thursday. There was a comprehensive reshuffle of the official opposition taking place, and it was hardly being covered at all. No more than a passing reference on BBC Wales' flagship political programme, Dragon's Eye - which went out several hours after the BBC's journos knew about the reshuffle. And the reason? The Beeb had invested money in an opinion poll about attitudes to devolution which was almost exactly what most of us would have predicted - and they wanted to make that the main news item.

But the truly astonishing issue of the last week was the latest attempt by Gordon Brown to persuade our banks to begin lending money again. I hesitate to comment on the Asset Mnagement Scheme, having no specific expertise beyond common sense, and no experience beyond that of a small businessman. The sheer madness of what was done this week, the sheer scale of taxpayer's money which our Prime Minister (and I think we can personalise this) has potentially given RBS is beyond belief. I cannot believe that losses leading from the decision to guarantee RBS's 'toxic' loans will not lead to huge damage to our public finances and services over future years. This is probably the biggest financial story to hit our country during my lifetime. And yet, the Government managed to pull off a 'spin' that let it slip by almost unnoticed. I cannot believe that the terms of Sir Fred Goodwin's pension arrangements were not leaked at a time to coincide with the announcement about an Asset Protection Scheme, and confine the big news to the inside pages. OK, so Sir Fred's pension arrangements are grotesque - but it does not compare with the importance of the Asset Protection Scheme. And to make the Government's 'spin' operation even more irritating, we have Labour politicians on our screens expressing outrage - despite there having been a Government Minister in on the pension arrangements when they were agreed.

Which brings me to the other hugely damaging aspect of this 'spin' operation. In order to deflect responsibility, Gordon Brown has sacrificed the authority of 'government'. We have had the utterly pathetic sight of a Government Minister claiming to be 'innocent' (because he omitted to ask the right question) - and then carrying on in office as if nothing untoward has happened. And we've had to watch the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom asking an individual to repay a pension previously agreed by one of his own Minister's - and being told to get stuffed. Its unbelievable, and greatly diminishes the authority of government. The 'spin' may have worked like a dream this week, but it doesn't change the reality, which will come back to destroy Gordon Brown's premiership.


"Your correspondent" from "DC" said...

It's kind of funny in a non-funny way - RBS have been running a lot of adverts here on how good they are at staying out of trouble - didn't RBS just make the biggest loss in UK corporate history?

The other big development on this side of the wee pond is the UBS ("You and Us") situation. This Swiss bank has offices in the USA and is in a spot of bother for 'helping' American clients put money into Swiss bank accounts.

The US Federal authorities want UBS to give up the names - I can't imagine that Obama's people will not get on top of this and help UBS out of a pickle - who knows who exactly in government/political positions who have a/cs with UBS. It could turn into 'career killing fields' fiasco or could come to nothing if UBS is let off the hook.

penlan said...

It's worse than that.As taxpayers we are now responsible for the megadebts of the Dutch bank Amro,which was even more profligate than our own.In hindsight,the Govt should have made a guarantee to depositers and put RBS into an orderly administration.It was so heroically bankrupt that it was never the case that it was"in a rough patch"and needed a bit of help .That what an old fashioned bank manager would have said.

Instead these debts will be a millstone on us for decades.

So much for"things can only get better."

Anonymous said...

Do you think you could perhaps stop using the quasi nationalist term "Welsh Conservative" and just say "Conservative". We are unionists, after all.

Anonymous said...

i thought there was a elsh conservative tree lauched by our leader!

Glyn Davies said...

Anons - I have some sympathy with your point here. I rarely use the term 'Welsh Conservative' - but its so widely used that I sometimes drift into it. I am a very 'Welsh' Conservative - but for me the word Weslh is an adjective rather than part of a noun - so to speak. Its actions that matter - not the addition of a word.