The leadership of Charles Kennedy

Jun. 29th, 2017 09:12 am
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Posted by Duncan Brack

As nominations open for the sixth leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Democrat History Group’s meeting next Monday takes a look back at the record of its second: Charles Kennedy.

In many ways Kennedy’s period as leader, from 1999 to 2006, was a success. His opposition to the Iraq War – heavily criticised at the time by both the Labour government and the Tory opposition – proved entirely justified and in the 2005 general election he led the party to its highest vote since 1987 (22.0 per cent) and its highest number of seats since 1923 (62). He was a popular figure with the public, appreciated for his quick wit, self-deprecating manner, and careful understatement in an era when respect for mainstream politicians was rapidly eroding.

His tragically early death, less than a month after losing his seat in the SNP’s Scottish landslide of 2015, triggered an outpouring of grief and sadness seldom accorded to politicians. As Paddy Ashdown, his predecessor as leader, commented: ‘In a political age not overburdened with gaiety and good sense, he brought us wit, charm, judgment, principle and decency.’

Yet in many ways he remained an enigma. From early adulthood, as he progressed from student prodigy to precocious parliamentarian, he had been tipped as a future leader. Yet when the crown was his, he wore it uncertainly: flashes of his youthful brilliance as an orator and debater only seldom emerged. He appeared uncomfortable with the limited authority it yielded, often unhappy with the pressures it brought. Whether this was the consequence or a cause of his alcoholism – publicly admitted in January 2006 – can never be known. Although his electoral record was good, whether the party should have done even better in 2005 – against a largely unpopular government and main opposition, and in sole command of a popular issue – is, similarly, one of the great what ifs of recent Liberal politics.

The Liberal Democrat History Group invites you to discuss Charles Kennedy’s record as leader with Greg Hurst (author, Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw) and Lord Dick Newby (former Chief of Staff to Charles Kennedy). Chair: Baroness Lindsay Northover. The meeting take place at 6.30pm on Monday 3 July, in the Lady Violet Room, National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE. More details can be found here.

* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.

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Posted by Mike Smithson

One of the features of living in a super LAB-CON marginal less than an hour from London that regularly changes hands is that you get a lot of attention at general elections. Corbyn’s first big outside visit after the election was called in April was to Bedford which was a regular port of call by David Cameron and earlier LAB leaders at GE10 and GE15.

So what was striking about TMay’s GE17 campaign is that it was almost invisible here until the final few days and we were not graced with a visit from the leader herself even though the CON incumbent had a majority of just over 1k. My guess is the the seat was seen seen as a certain CON hold right from the start and the PM could focus her attention on Labour’s heartlands where, if some of the polling was correct, she was well placed to make serious inroads.

That this didn’t happen both a PM visit and that the Tories actually lost seats like Bedford was one of the remarkable features of the campaign. This was a massive shock.

Nobody really knows what actually happened and why a party with double digit leads right to the end fared so badly. There’s going to be a lot coming out in the next weeks and months which might illuminate us.

A really interesting analysis is by Ed Smith in today’s issue of the New Statesman in which, amongst many things, he writes about CON Remain supports who, while opposed to Corbyn, didn’t want TMay to get her landslide.

“..When the election was called, initially it seemed like another pragmatic masterstroke; the Tory party, which understands power better than any other party in the world, was doing what it does best: reorganising itself to benefit from the new political reality. Yet there was a different kind of shy Tory during this election: not the shy Tory who doesn’t want to own up to Toryism, but the shy Tory who sought a modest win. Many Conservative supporters I know wanted May to win the election but not too handsomely. They feared a landslide would lead to a resurgent Europhobic Tory right. Far from the original spin that the election was needed to create a bulwark against the hard Brexiteers, Tory-Remain voters feared the opposite. And when lots of your own potential supporters don’t want a big win, you scarcely win at all..”

Quite how these shy Tories voted I don’t know. My guess is that some abstained and that some others actually voted Labour.

Mike Smithson


Erm

Jun. 29th, 2017 07:51 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Dr. Keith Crainshraw says:
June 29 2017 at 8:05 am
In Europe again? Your wife must be very understanding (or wondering who the strange person in the house is at the weekend 🙂 ). Your dedication to the cause with all this travelling is to be applauded.

Aren’t divorces fun?

Jun. 29th, 2017 06:43 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

But almost six years after their £12million fairy-tale nuptials, Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Petra is divorcing her husband James Stunt in what could be the biggest settlement in celebrity history.
….
Questions have been raised before around the source of Mr Stunt’s money, with the businessman known for keeping his life extremely private.

There’s a prenup in place.

My assumption, one which could be entirely incorrect of course, has always been that he’s not actually got any – or perhaps not much – money of his own. He’s been spending her inheritance in my opinion.

But the joy of a contested divorce like this is that we’ll all find out, won’t we?

So just why is Africa poor?

Jun. 29th, 2017 06:19 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Why is Africa so poor? You asked Google – here’s the answer
Eliza Anyangwe

As you might have guessed, it’s tax avoidance, private companies and slavery. This is The Guardian after all.

The actual answer is “Because they’ve not had an industrial revolution yet.”

The only thing we know of that makes the people rich is an industrial revolution. In the absence of one the people will be poor.

QED.

Don’t think so really George

Jun. 29th, 2017 06:03 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Should the EU referendum result be annulled? For the past year I’ve been arguing that this would mean defying a democratic decision – even if it was informed by lies. Democracy is not negotiable. But what if this was not a democratic decision? What if it failed to meet the accepted criteria for a free and fair choice? If that were the case, should the result still stand? Surely it should not.

The complaint is over £425,000 sent through the DUP.

OK, I have no knowledge at all about this but say it was dodgy.

Next, how much did the EU funnel and coordinate on the other side?

Bueller?

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Nepotism, word-of-mouth employment practices and the widespread use of unpaid work experience have created a “pandemic lack of inclusion” in the British film industry, a report backed by movie producers Barbara Broccoli and Kathleen Kennedy says.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Given the wide nature of his expertise the Infinite Monkey should be able to manage something.

Co-operative Bank will cut its historic ties with the Co-operative Group and impose heavy losses on retail bondholders as part of a £700m rescue deal with its US hedge fund owners to avert a collapse.

Perhaps the insistence that it was just fine for people with no knowledge of banking to run a bank could be rethought?

This latest plan, which will be voted on by all the lender’s investors, will see £250m of new equity injected into the bank and at least £443m raised from a debt-for-equity swap, helping to shore up its capital position.

It will deal a blow to retail investors, who will receive cash from the deal. Those holding less than £100,000 in bonds will only get back 45p in the pound of their initial investment, with the total payout capped at £13.5m.

However, institutional investors will suffer even heavier losses and will receive roughly 15p in the pound in shares, although they will increase their equity stakes in the bank.

Possibly there could be a reconsideration of bond investments in nice local and cuddly projects as a manner of financing pensions?

What opportunities to explain the new economics there are here!

For example, if banks simply create money then how did this one run out of it?

Trussell Trust food bank report

Jun. 29th, 2017 05:41 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Over one-third of households were currently waiting on a
benefit application or benefit payment they had recently
applied for. While some had only recently filed their
applications (i.e. 20% had made their application within
the past two weeks), for the majority, it had been 2-6
weeks since their initial application. Most were waiting on
decisions or payments for ESA or JSA. The fact that they
needed to use food banks during this time highlights the
economic vulnerability of households who are waiting for
benefit payments to arrive.

OK.

The financial vulnerability of households using food
banks was clear when we looked more closely at their
financial circumstances. Household incomes in the
past month were very low. After income equivalisation
(Department for Work & Pensions 2017), most households
reported incomes in the range of £100 to £500 per
month; the average income of the sample was £319.43.
About 16% of households reported having no income in
the past month.
For over one-third of households, their income in the
past month was less than it had been three months prior,
indicating a recent income shock. The most common
reasons reported for income losses were: loss of a benefit
(21%), benefit sanction (17%), benefit transition (16%),
change in benefit allowance (15%), or job loss (14%).

Those are actually subsequent paragraphs. And we might well be tempted to add two and two together there. To reach the conclusion that the State is shite at reacting to income changes and getting the benefits system to swing into action.

You know, maybe?

Anyone with any bright ideas about how to get a centralised bureaucracy to act more efficiently might like to send them, on a postcard, to No 10 Downing Street.

Piss ups and breweries come to mind

Jun. 29th, 2017 05:23 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

The absence of the ability to organise them that is:

The Government’s austerity policy descended into chaos today as Downing Street suggested it was ready to abandon a 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, only to insist hours later that the cap remained in place.

The “U-turn on a U-turn” was blamed on the ongoing “war” between Theresa May and Philip Hammond, after the Treasury reportedly demanded a retraction of the announcement. It led to speculation that the Chancellor had been intending to claim credit for the policy change at his next budget.

Three Cabinet ministers appeared to have been briefed that the pay cap was coming to an end as they openly talked about the need to consider lifting it, and Sir Oliver Letwin, the influential backbench MP, even went into detail about how taxes would have to be increased to fund it.

Why not actually have the balls to speak the truth?

Everyones’ wages have gone down, why shouldn’t public sector pay stand still?

Desert Island Discs – I

Jun. 28th, 2017 09:57 pm
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Posted by loveandgarbage

The Desert Island Discs list: plenty of us have one, ready to go, just in case the call arrives, “We’ve run out of celebrities, and famous scientists, and diplomats, and broadcasters, and authors, and artists, and musicians, and most of the nonentities have had a go already, and following the introduction of a lottery system based on close scrutiny of the electoral roll we’re delighted to say that you [insert name here], yes you have been selected as the next castaway on desert island discs.” And so lots of us have a list, a putative list, comprising records we love or that remind us of certain things and certain people and certain events.

And then you start thinking about it, about trying to explain the choices and suddenly feelings kick in other than sheer enjoyment – sentiment, love even.

I started writing a variant on this some time ago, my list a series of audio dramas and comedies with a couple of pieces of music primarily because that’s what I listen to, and yet trying to explain I found other pieces shifting to the front of the list – pieces with stories, pieces accompanied by the gentle melody of memories. And so this list, the list that follows, is no longer the eight favourite pieces it was originally intended to be. It’s more and it’s longer than it was meant to be – so it’ll be a bit spread out over a few posts.

“…and your first record please?”

Well Kirsty, we didn’t have many records in my house when I was growing up. My mum and dad had a collection of Christmas albums – Andy Williams, Perry Como, Mario Lanza – and an eclectic range of other records. There were the soundtracks for various musicals (South Pacific and the King and I) and some Scottish ceilidh music (light on the fiddles, they weren’t keen on fiddles). But they weren’t played, at least not as I remember it. Perhaps when we children went to bed the strains of “Shall we dance?” reverberated around the living room. But the only records that I recall being played in the house were the Christmas records for a period of a few weeks annually, coming to an end on twelfth night.

So music was not something that I heard much in the house, and when I remember growing up I don’t remember music. But what I do remember is listening to comedy shows. The local library in my home town had various cassettes from comedies. There was a Yes Minister cassette, both series of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Not the Nine O’clock News, Hancock, The Goons. As time went on I bought each of these, but in those teenage days I recorded them – a bulky tape to tape radio cassette recorder sat fat and squat on my window ledge. I played some of them so much the tape was chewed up by the cassette player, a pencil of just the right diameter sat on the window ledge in an Argentina World Cup 1978 pink glass ready for recovery procedures.

I’d remembered my mum and dad watching Not the Nine O’clock News when I was in bed in primary school – laughter coming from the room beneath my bedroom. I am not sure on first listening whether I understood the political content, but the National Wealth Service bidding for the hospital bed, the General Synod’s Life of Monty Python, Gerald the gorilla, the trucking song, the Moseley song these things made me laugh – even when I had no idea what was being satirised, what songs or song styles were being parodied. And I learned the scripts, practised them, tried to get the voices right, tried – most important – to understand the spaces, the beat in the delivery that converted a line that made you smile into a line that made you laugh. The first choice then takes me back to those years: the Not the Nine o’clock News album, Kirsty. And I’d like to hear Gerald the Gorilla from that.

“..and your second record?”

Another time, Kirsty. Soon, but another time.


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Posted by Mike Smithson

The big question is whether there’ll be a contest or will TMay hang on

So TMay got her Queen’s Speech through the Commons with a majority of 14 thanks to the DUP and that probably reduces the immediate pressure on the PM.

But without a majority it looks set to be an interesting time ahead. Unlike the CON-LD coalition the DUP obligation to vote with the Tories is limited to very specific issues and the chances are that there’ll be regular Commons defeats.

As long as there are no by-election losses or defections they should just about manage for the short term.

One thing that is likely is that the situation will be very draining on ministers and CON MP who are going to have to be at the Commons for much longer periods than normal. Labour could spring an ambush at any time and will do.

All this makes it less likely that we will see an early CON leadership contest provided that TMay’s health holds up.

Mike Smithson


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Posted by Sal Brinton

You can tell that we are in the middle of a Leadership Election. All the Lib Dem social media forums are buzzing, rumours abound, and there are plenty of discussions going on about the next Leader of the party.

As President I have to remain completely neutral in any Leadership contest because I represent all 104,000 of you to the Leader. I am very aware that many thousands of you will never have been through a Leadership Election before, so I thought it might be worth an attempt at explaining our processes.

Any candidate has to get at least 10% of our MPs to support them by 5 July, and thereafter get nominated by 200 paid up members from at least 20 local parties or official party bodies (Specified Associated Organisations such as Young Liberals, Lib Dem Women etc ‘SAOs’). These nominations must be submitted by 20 July when nominations close.

At the moment, the nomination forms have only just been circulated to the MPs, so anyone planning on standing is now going to have to come out to the membership to get your nomination.

Any candidates will have teams round the country asking for your support, so don’t be surprised if you get a request. 200 nominations doesn’t sound a great number, but speaking as someone who has had to get those nominations in twice for the Presidential elections, it isn’t as easy as it sounds! Remember, you can only nominate one candidate. 

There will be a series of official Leadership hustings around the country (they are currently being arranged, so watch out for details near you), as well as some online or streamed events. In the last Leadership Election these hustings were very popular, as well as the SAOs who may also have social media Q&As with the candidates.In the event that there is only one nominated candidate we will discuss with them continuing with some of these dates as Meet the New Leader events.

There has been some comment about some of our MPs deciding not to stand. Standing for, and being Leader of, any political party is an all consuming job which has to be run in tandem with their role as a constituency MP, let alone any family commitments. Please don’t be too critical of those who decide not too run, not matter how much you want them too. For example, both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson have been very clear about why being Leader is just not right for them at the moment, especially as they have young children. I can remember juggling with being Mum to primary age children, holding down a job and being a parliamentary candidate in South East Cambridgeshire – and all of those were within 10 miles of each other! Our Leaders have to give up much more than any of us can imagine, and travel frequently at weekends all over the country as well as being available for the media day and night.

Finally, there are rules about the candidates and their teams not denigrating their opponents. In a party that stands for tolerance and openness, I think that should apply to us too. There’s fair questioning and criticism where you disagree. I’m not talking about that. It’s the sort of abuse that we’ve all seen on social media. I believe that none of us should attack other members for their views about the leadership. Let’s disagree well.

I’m looking forward to working with whoever our new Leader is, and to hear their vision at our Autumn Conference. See you there!

* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

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Posted by Mark Pack

Here’s the new deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson:

She rightly highlights the importance of Britain remaining in both the Single Market and the customs union (with, of course, the easiest way to do that to be a democratic decision to remain in the European Union).

The Lib Dem failure to garner more political support for that viewpoint in the 2017 general election is of course one of the key lessons for the party to work out. Part of the reason was Labour’s success at bolting on the support of a large number of ardent Remainers to a party led by a Eurosceptic in Jeremy Corbyn.

In amongst my fairly accurate pre-election predictions was this clunker:

A scenario in which Labour has a pro-Brexit general election manifesto would both attract a lot of media attention for its policy – and also cause a lot of internal dissension in Labour ranks. The idea of a left-wing Labour leader insisting his party must support a right-wing Conservative government on the major issue of the day is so at odds with the usual widespread Labour line of ‘Tories are evil and don’t have anything to do with them’ (see coalition years, passim) that it is hard to predict how the fractures would play out. But they do therefore point to the risks for Labour – and opportunities for the Liberal Democrats … Polarising politics around Brexit may finally trigger the long-talked about realignment of British politics.

The time of this YouGov poll, which prompted that comment, feels a long time ago:

As it turned out, Jeremy Corbyn was very successful at putting together a coalition which contains a wide spread of views on Europe and with a large chunk holding strong views which are very different from his own.

If (and given that success, it should be added it is a big if) the Liberal Democrats can drive a wedge between Corbyn and many Labour voters using opportunities such as votes on the Single Market in the Parliament, then the Lib Dem recovery in this Parliament could be substantial. If.

I approve of this

Jun. 28th, 2017 07:16 pm
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Posted by Tim Worstall

In the video, the Arkansas Capitol dome can be seen lit against the night sky as the Dodge Dart accelerates to 10, then 20 mph.

“Oh my goodness,” a man says as he flicks on the car’s lights. “Freedom!”

The vehicle speeds up the hill, and the last thing that comes into view before a crash is a large, newly installed monument.

Authorities say the man in the video is Michael Tate Reed, an alleged serial destroyer of Ten Commandments monuments.

He was arrested by state capitol police officers at the scene early Wednesday, according to Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state. Reed is charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief and defacing objects of public interest.

The laddie, as they say, seems to have some issues. Issues amenable perhaps to a judicious does of lithium. And yet, and yet……..

Sure, it’s the destruction of someone elses’ property, that’s bad. But it is property, not people, and he seems to be around for being punished for it. Leave aside that lithium issue and regard it instead as an extreme free speech one. Boy’s got the right to make his view known, as long as he’s willing to take the consequences of doing so. As I’m just fine with Banksy doing so–as long as he is willing to pay the damages.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

US President Donald Trump (L) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (C) listen to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (R) during an American Technology Council roundtable at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has shown himself to be slightly behind the times here, he has accused Amazon of not paying internet taxes–by which we all assume he means collects sales tax upon online purchases. That is entirely out of date, it used to be true that Amazon was entirely happy in not doing so but it has changed its mind. Not only does it now itself collect such taxes everywhere they apply it backs measures to make sure that every online seller does so as well.

The really interesting part of this is what has changed to make Amazon change its mind–and no, it’s not some outburst of altruism. It’s that Amazon’s structure has changed, meaning that under current law it pretty much has to collect sales taxes everywhere. That being so why not support a law that makes all those who wouldn’t have to under current law do so?

Trump’s tweet is here:

As CNBC points out, Amazon does in fact collect sales tax in every state that it applies:

Amazon, the online retail giant, is collecting sales taxes nationwide on purchases. President Donald Trump seemingly took a swipe at the internet juggernaut suggesting otherwise on June 28.

As of April 1, Amazon began collecting sales taxes on purchases across the country, with the exception of states that don’t have a sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Montana and New Hampshire.

So, the President’s a little out of date there. But what’s changed is this:

It’s also possible that Trump is referring to internet sales taxes in his tweet. For years, Amazon’s stance that it shouldn’t have to collect sales taxes for purchases in states where it doesn’t have a physical presence was a hot-button policy issue. But that’s old news. In its quest for ubiquity, Amazon has decided it needs to open distribution centers everywhere. It now collects sales tax in every state that has one.

And that’s the interesting bit about the story. For it most certainly used to be true that Amazon backed the basic law of the land. You only have to collect sales taxes if you’re selling in a state where you’ve a (usually substantial) physical presence. Thus when Amazon only had such presence in a few states it quite merrily didn’t collect. As the system has rolled out so that it does have presence in near all states then collection in all of them became the policy. So far so good, just a company obeying the law. But as I’ve pointed out before it doesn’t stop there:

So what brought the turnaround, to where Amazon is arguing that there should be sales tax on all internet sales? That “physical location” thing above. You can only get away with not charging sales tax in a state if you’ve no physical presence in that state. If you’ve got one, say a warehouse, then you do have to charge that sales tax. This is very clear in law, very clear indeed. And Amazon is building out its network of stores to the point that it now thinks that imposing the sales tax on everyone is a good idea. Presumably the calculation is that they’ve now got warehouses in enough states that they’re going to be collecting a lot of sales tax anyway. Their price advantage in many markets has gone. And worse, those who are smaller and still selling from only one or two locations, in perhaps one state or two, now have the price advantage over Amazon. So, start to argue that everyone should be collecting sales tax so that Amazon loses only the last vestiges of the advantage it once had but most of its online competitors lose the advantage they have over Amazon.

As it turns out Amazon is on exactly the opposite side of the argument than that indicated by Donald Trump. Personally I think that’s actually the worse position but that’s another matter.

Update: Just to clarify, as this seems to be causing some confusion in the comments, Amazon collects sales taxes in every state which has them on its own direct sales as of April 1 this year. Third party sellers may or may not do so.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Donald Trump is really quite certain that America and Americans have lost out from the rise in trade with China. The argument is that imports from China have risen and therefore, because that’s a bad thing, Americans are somehow poorer. That’s where the logic fails of course, for the very fact that there was a significant rise in imports is the very thing which shows that Americans have become better off. If my local supermarket has a sale on orange juice, so that I must pay less for my morning glass, am I better or worse off? I am better off, of course, I now have that glass and money left over for something else. So it is with imports from China, or indeed imports from anywhere at all. I now get the thing I wanted plus I have money left over for something else.

Some will point to the fact that American suppliers went bust as a result of that competition from China. Indeed so, and that’s the very measure of how much better off we’ve been made by the competition. If inefficient suppliers die off, to be replaced by more efficient, then we are made better off, this is an important channel by which trade makes us richer.

As this paper points out:

Chinese exports post WTO entry

Chinese exports post WTO entry

Most certainly there was a vast jump in China’s exports to the US. That’s exactly the very thing which shows us how much richer the US became:

US consumers gained from China’s WTO entry through lower prices on varieties of manufactured goods that Chinese firms were already exporting in 2000 and continued to export in 2006; and through access to new varieties. We take account of both these components in constructing US manufacturing price indices for each industry. Our results show that the aggregate US manufacturing price index fell by 7.6% between 2000 and 2006 due to China’s WTO entry.

Decomposing this total effect into a price and variety component, we find that two-thirds of the aggregate effect comes from lower prices. All of this price effect is due to China lowering its own input tariffs, which results in lower prices of Chinese goods exported to the US and also lower prices of competitor firms in the US, both foreign and domestic. These lower competitor prices arise due to US firms accessing cheaper intermediate inputs from China, which lowers their own marginal costs; lower markups of competitor firms due to competition from China; and due to exit of the more inefficient firms that were unable to compete with China.

Showing that American firms went bust as a result of trade competition from China doesn’t show us that the imports are a bad idea, that’s the very evidence which shows us how much richer the trade is making us.

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Posted by The Voice

Christine Jardine made her maiden speech this afternoon. The text will follow when it is available.

Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for choosing me to make my maiden speech in this debate, which is of such crucial importance to our nation’s future. It is a pleasure to follow the entertaining speech of the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart). It is a particular honour for me to have the privilege of representing Edinburgh West 20 years after the late Donald Gorrie first won the seat for the Liberal Democrats. He was a great servant to the area, first as a councillor, then an MP, and then an MSP. He was succeeded by John Barrett and then Mike Crockart, who was replaced two years ago by my immediate predecessor, Michelle Thomson. I am sure that her powerful, moving speech on International Women’s Day, in which she revealed her own teenage trauma, was an inspiration to many.

Now it is my privilege to serve the communities of Edinburgh West. I know that each of us is confident of our constituency’s uniqueness, but few sights can compare with the majesty of our three bridges across the Forth. Whether arriving in Edinburgh West by land, rail or air, those three bridges seem somehow to encapsulate the essence and history of British engineering and its success. From the stark red girders of the 19th century Forth bridge, now a world heritage site, to the distinctive 1960s architecture of the road bridge, to the striking 21st-century sleekness of the soon-to-be-completed—we are promised—Queensferry crossing, all were created along the route of Queen Margaret’s 11th-century crossing, from which the community in their shadow takes its name: South Queensferry. It is just one of our many socially and culturally diverse communities, which include, in the west, Newbridge, Ratho, Ratho Station, and Kirkliston. Then there is Branton, Cramond, Muirhouse, Davidson’s Mains, Blackhall, Drumbrae, Drylaw, Corstorphine, and Murrayfield, whose stadium is of course home to Scottish rugby union, where we look forward to greeting the other nations of the United Kingdom—often with trepidation.

However, Edinburgh West is also home to one of Scotland’s most celebrated couples: Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas. Some Conservative Members may be relieved that, since the general election, they are no longer outnumbered in Scotland by the pandas. I reassure them that I sympathise; they are not alone.

The constituency is also a key driver of the region’s economy, which is dependent on European trade and European citizens who work in the health service and other sectors and who now find that they are under threat from Brexit. Edinburgh airport—a key link between Scotland and the international market—the royal highland show, which is crucial to agriculture, the RBS headquarters and a new bottling plant for one of the world’s leading drink companies all represent an economy now tensely awaiting the outcome of the next two years of negotiations.

Although we are an area that benefits from being home to many such companies, our communities are not without their challenges. They are challenges that are common to many across the UK: pressure on public services, rising household debt and overstretched health and welfare services. There are also local issues, such as the controversial proposed new flightpath into Edinburgh airport, the threat to our green belt, and the pollution along St John’s Road.

I intend to dedicate my time here to working with groups that take on those challenges, such as the award-winning Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse, the Corstorphine community, which is currently working to rebuild its historic public hall, and many others who campaign tirelessly to improve the lives and welfare of their neighbours. I promise to be their voice on the issues that affect their lives, their livelihoods and their health. I will work on their behalf for the open, tolerant society I believe in and that offers opportunity for all and protects our human rights. And I will remain true to the promise I made on the doorsteps of Edinburgh West last month, to stand up for the constituents’ view, as clearly expressed in two referendums and the recent general election, that although their overwhelming preference is to remain at the heart of the EU, they will have no truck with independence, and are determined that that will be as part of this United Kingdom.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

The idea that underpins this suggestion is that neither the state or private sector is inherently better than the other. It is obviously the case that to get the best out of the economy you need both. The cappuccino is a metaphor for this this.

The state is the cup. The economy exists within it for the purposes of this example. (Of course it extends beyond it but that is for another blog; just think about the coffee shop if you want to anticipate the direction travel).

The espresso on the bottom is the government. It shapes and moulds the whole thing. If it is good, then pretty much the whole thing will be, and vice versa.

The frothy milk is the private sector that builds on the foundation of the state.

And on the top is some chocolate or nutmeg which is the thing we all see, and because in real life this represents the frivolities that feature in Sunday colour supplements we think that the private sector, that almost always produces them, is the source of the fun things in life when in fact without the state, and the mundane functions of the market, they would not be possible.

The reality is that in practice a cappuccino stands or falls as a whole. It’s hot frothy milk without the espresso. It is just an espresso without the milk. Both are acquired tastes for some. Many think the compromise – with the fun bits on top – is best. But most importantly, when drunk you can’t tell the component elements apart.

OK. Fine in fact.

My aim is for a cappuccino economy: one where state and private sectors both flourish because each is allowed to do what it does best. We’re a long way from being there right now.

I agree.

And in my opinion that’s because the espresso is too weak right now. We need an extra shot.

Ah, no, that’s where I don’t. This is also where Ritchie’s complete absence of any economic hinterland shows. For the idea is some 240 years old:

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

Entirely true that we need that espresso of decent governance. But it’s strong stuff, we only need a little.

Well, no, not really

Jun. 28th, 2017 03:29 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

This is utterly bizarre. What Carney is saying is that if business tries to improve UK productivity, or if it tries to increase employment, or if it tries to deliver growth then he will snub it out. The economic idiocy of making inflation the highest economic priority is apparent again. And remember, the greatest beneficiary of this policy are the best off because low inflation preserves the real value of the debts the wealthiest are owed by the very many who owe them.

Those who really benefit from low inflation are those who own bonds. You know, those bonds which we should all invest in because Spudda’s Green Plan will make us do so?

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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