Tag Archives: hedge fund

While others suffer, this friend of Boris Johnson has made a fortune from the coronavirus

Crispin Odey: This supporter of Boris Johnson bet that coronavirus would crash the stock markets – he is profiting from your misery.

Hedge fund tycoon Crispin Odey has made £115 million from betting on a stock market crash due to the coronavirus.

He told the Mail on Sunday he predicted a crash, and has spent the last three weeks cashing in on it.

What a charmer.

He’s the Brexit supporter who reportedly wagered £300 million on a post-Brexit crash.

Some have said that he lost out because the markets hardly blinked when the UK Brexited at the end of January.

But the real hit is yet to come and we won’t know whether he was right until the transition period closes at the end of 2020.

How do you feel about the fact that this tycoon is picking up a pretty penny because of others’ misfortune?

Source: Hedge fund tycoon Crispin Odey makes £115million from this month’s coronavirus stock market crash – Internewscast

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The hedge funds that supported Boris Johnson to undermine prosperity are making a fortune – but you won’t

Crispin Odey: This man supports Boris Johnson in the belief that his Brexit will crash the economy – and make him a fortune.

It seems Facebook has taken a dislike to This Site – some say because Vox Political has been too ready to reveal the facts about Boris Johnson, his backers, and the ways they may be undermining us in order to enrich their selfish selves.

Now, I have no idea why Facebook would want to hide that, but the shadow-ban hasn’t materially harmed This Writer, so here’s some more, courtesy of Beastrabban.

He has quoted a Private Eye article from August that shows up another Johnson lie.

“The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts,” boomed Boris Johnson in his first prime ministerial speech. In fact the betters-against-Britain are the only true winners in Brexit Britain – as the new PM should know.

One big beneficiary is Johnson’s long-time supporter and funder, hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, whose latest gift was a £10,000 cheque for the leadership campaign last month [July] and most of whose funds are domiciled in, er, Ireland.

Odey was public about shorting the pound last year as the process hit Britain’s currency, then earlier this year reversed his position as the market bought into the idea that a no-deal Brexit would be avoided. (Odey’s funds are also profitably shorting major British names including Royal Mail, AA, Debenhams, Autotrader and shopping centre-owning Intu – hardly a vote of confidence in UK plc).

Now that Johnson’s “do or die” Brexit policy and outright rejection of the Irish backstop has sent the pound tumbling again, the short-sellers can cash in once more… In the days before Johnson’s win, and with his coronation looking secure, hedge funds’ bets against the pound rose to more than $6bn worth, according to Reuters. The ensuing fall will have benefited them to the tune of more than $100m.

Somebody’s certainly losing their shirt – but it’s not those betting against Britain.

There’s an update in the current Eye:

Last month the Byline Times added up the sums bet against UK stocks by hedge funds that had donated to either the prime ministers’s leadership campaign or to Vote Leave. Its finding that there was an “£8bn bet on no-deal crash out” was roundly pooh-poohed – with some justification, given the crudeness of the calculation and the host of other reasons for shorting shares. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t nefarious motives in the cross-over between short-selling and political influence, as non-conspiracy theorists ex-chancellor Philip Hammond and now ex-Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson have observed.

“Mr Hammond is right to question the political connections of some of the hedge funds with a financial interest in no deal,” tweeted Macpherson last weekend. “They are shorting the £ and the country, with the British people the main loser.” Alas, as the Eye put it last year, “there may be rules against rigging the financial markets, but not if the move is big, brazen and political enough.”

Nor is it possible to find out who is placing bets through currency trades, where the political/economic link is most direct. Post-financial crisis, significant share short-sales are publicly disclosed, but currency trades remain secret. Surely time to change this, and for more disclosure of the real financial interests behind those filling Boris Johnson’s boots.

And these things have knock-on effects. In case you haven’t noticed, the UK economy took a dive in the last quarter – that’s because investors are losing confidence.

You can be sure this is because Boris’s backers have been betting against Britain.

And you can also be sure that he won’t get the blame.

He is, after all, their own private “magic money tree”.

Source: Private Eye on the Hedge Funds Supporting Boris Against British Prosperity | Beastrabban\’s Weblog

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Corruption scandal makes it easy to believe Johnson has sold us all out over Brexit

Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri: If an inappropriate relationship with her is proved, should claims of another inappropriate relationship – with hedge fund-owning backers who have bet on the disastrous effect of a “no deal” Brexit – also be investigated?

What is Boris Johnson’s Brexit really about?

It has been alleged that he is in cahoots with a number of ‘City’ financiers who backed his campaign to become Tory leader – and prime minister – on condition that he push the UK through a “no deal” Brexit that would enrich them (and, by connection, him).

The claim is that these hedge fund bosses have bet heavily on what’s known as “shorting” – and stand to make £8.3 billion if the pound plummets and inflation skyrockets after the UK crashes out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

It’s what Mr Johnson’s own sister has been saying – and also former Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Such a claim is extremely damaging to BoJob’s reputation as it implies that he is working, not as a servant of the public, which is the reason he draws a publicly-financed salary, of course – but in the interests of a shadowy group of self-motivated mobsters who are quite happy to endanger the entire UK economy for their own gain.

And, of course, to satisfy his own personal greed when they pay him off for his services.

Is there any evidence to support the claims? I don’t know. Mr Hammond and Ms Johnson must have reasons for saying what they have, otherwise they have put themselves in a very actionable position.

But what makes them believable to the public is the fact that Mr Johnson has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over allegations that he overruled his own officials to give favourable treatment – thousands of pounds in sponsorship grants and places on trade missions – to his friend Jennifer Arcuri when he was Mayor of London.

It is potentially a criminal offence – made worse by the fact that, as London Mayor, Mr Johnson would also have been Metropolitan Police and Crime Commissioner.

Of course, if the IOPC decides Mr Johnson’s behaviour towards Ms Arcuri was inappropriate, it makes it easy to believe that he is in collusion with these hedge fund bosses to rig Brexit – against the best interests of the UK as a whole.

The BBC – in its apparent role as propaganda arm of the Conservative Party – has run a story in which Downing Street has claimed the Arcuri allegations are politically-motivated, as it was timed to happen days before the start of the Conservative conference.

If that were true, why were the allegations published in the overtly pro-Tory Sunday Times, rather than by a news organisation that opposes Mr Johnson’s party, like The Guardian or The Mirror?

It seems clear that Boris Johnson will have to work very hard if he wants to make sure this mud won’t stick to him.

And what if the claims are true, but he fails to deliver the “no deal” Brexit these hedge fund bosses want?

Will they not be annoyed? And won’t they want some kind of compensation?

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RBS shares go to hedge funds – quelle surprise

RBS

This Blog was saying hedge funds would be the main beneficiaries of George Osborne’s cheap and tacky share sale – how sad (in this instance) to have been proven right.

Perhaps someone can remind us all of how well that worked in the case of the Royal Mail?

The Guardian reports: “George Osborne has tried to justify a £1bn loss on the first sale of shares in Royal Bank of Scotland in the face of criticism from politicians and City analysts by saying it was the right thing to do for the British taxpayer.

“The chancellor sanctioned the first sale of the stake in RBS, announced on Monday night, to cut the taxpayer shareholding from 79% to just below 73%. Slightly more shares than expected were sold after the stock market closed on Monday, crystallising a loss for the taxpayer after £45bn was ploughed into the bank to rescue it amid the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

“Around 60% of the shares were bought by hedge funds.”

The shares were sold at 300p – 37p less than they were worth at the close of business yesterday (Monday). The total loss, if all shares were sold at this price, would be £15 billion – £2 billion more than predicted previously – meaning that Osborne really is determined to pile the burden on the taxpayer while rewarding – apparently – the bosses of hedge funds.

Didn’t hedge funds play a part in the financial crisis that forced the UK government to buy most of RBS in the first place?

The sale also comes at a time when share prices are at a low point. Comparisons with Gordon Brown’s sale of the UK’s gold reserves – much-lambasted by the Conservative Party because the price of gold was low at the time – should be inevitable.

Anybody who doesn’t smell a rat probably has their proboscis rammed up their posterior.

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Tories are trying to buy the election with ‘quiet’ candidate spending hike

141214torydonations

Candidates in the general election will have 23 per cent more money to spend after the Tories slipped the increase through without debate. This only applies if any candidates other than Tories actually have that much money, of course.

The Observer has reported that, under the new limits, the total amount the candidates of each political party can spend has increased from £26.5m to £32.7m.

In March, the Electoral Commission recommended there should be no such increase in spending limits for candidates over the so-called “long campaign” period between December 19 and general election day on May 7.

The change to the law on candidates’ election spending, passed without parliamentary debate, was made despite a direct warning by the commission against “excessive spending” in order to “prevent the perception of undue influence over the outcome of the election”.

Ministers changed the law through a statutory instrument, the terms of which were not debated in the Commons, which is used more properly for consensual changes in the law. A Labour source said the move had not been spotted by them at the time, so they missed the chance to force a vote in the Commons.

It’s too late for that now.

We know the Conservatives have much more moolah than any of the other parties – let’s face it, they have spent all of their period in office changing the law to make it possible for the extremely rich and big businesses to donate increasingly ludicrous amounts to Tory Party funds, and this is the reason.

For example: In the past four years, 27 per cent of the £78,010,807  the Tories have raised – £21,072,508 – has come from hedge fund donors. George Osborne’s 2013 budget abolished stamp duty reserve tax on funds, a £145m giveaway to those very same hedge funds. That’s just one example.

The Observer states: “With the Tories having amassed a £78m war chest over the past four years, they can now funnel huge amounts of cash into key seats.”

We know that the Tories won more seats than anyone else at the 2010 election by throwing ridiculous amounts of Lord Ashcroft’s money at marginal seats and by lying about their policy intentions. This undemocratic move – there was no Parliamentary debate and one can hardly say it has been announced loudly; did you even know this decision was made in the summer? – clearly states their intention to repeat the same grubby, underhanded manoeuvre next year.

And we know that David Cameron has made this decision against the advice of the Electoral Commission – meaning that it should be plain for all to see that this is yet another corrupt decision by the most corrupt government of the last century.

What else are we to think of this? Lucy Powell MP, Ed Miliband’s election strategist, had a few well-chosen ideas on that subject. Writing in The Guardian, she stated:

“With only a record of failure to run on, David Cameron’s campaign is reliant on smear, fear and fat cats’ chequebooks. This is a party flush with big money backers but without the empathy or ideas the country needs, so they are rigging the rules of our democracy in their favour.

“When he was first leader of the opposition, David Cameron said he wanted to take the big money out of politics. He promised to address the ‘big donor culture’, arguing that we should ‘cut what is spent on a general election’. Yet he has now cynically changed his tune. Desperate to hang on to power, the Tories have quietly changed the rules to allow them to spend big in the runup to the election. The changes would allow them to spend millions more than they’re presently allowed, paving the way for Tory propaganda to flood constituencies.”

Opponents of Tory tyranny cannot match the Nasty Party’s spending power. All we have are our own voices and the facts.

That’s why next year – more than ever before – we have to put the message out to protect the public against the next wave of lies and ‘spin’.

The Tory Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act means we can’t spend any appreciable amount of money doing this, but they can’t stop us talking and they can’t stop us publicising the facts.

It’s up to us – all of us – to show the Tories that money isn’t everything.

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Don’t believe the critics – Labour’s plans are good for Britain

What do you think of the Labour Party conference this year? It’s a loaded question and one that is bound to elicit loaded answers.

The propaganda machines of the other parties have been working overtime to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition, with Scottish people who wanted independence (the minority, let’s remember) claiming Labour lied to them, UKIP supporters adamant that the party is full of child abusers (based on a BNP propaganda website, which should tell anyone with a brain all they need to know), and of course the Tories doing what they usually do – blaming all the country’s problems on the last Labour government while stealing the family silver.

You never hear ‘No’ voters saying Labour lied, do you? You never see UKIP supporters complaining about racism in their own party. You never see Tories calling for genuine reform that helps the 99 per cent, rather than the tiny minority that they represent.

So let’s look at what Labour is proposing. Let’s make a list – because, you know what? Mrs Mike was watching coverage of the conference yesterday, and even she tried to tell Yr Obdt Srvt that Labour wouldn’t keep its promises. If we have a list, we’ll be able to check the promises against what they do, after a Labour win next May.

So let’s see what Ed Miliband promised. He outlined six “national goals”, and he called for 10 years in which to hit them. You may very well ask: Has he been reading Vox Political? Recent comments questioning Labour’s intentions have been answered with the simple observation that it takes time to change the direction in which a country is travelling (or in the UK’s case, lurching), and Miliband’s words echo that sentiment. He can’t do everything in one day. It does take time. Let’s look at those goals.

They were:

Halve the number of people in low pay by 2025, raising the minimum wage by £60 a week or more than £3,000 a year.

Ensure that the wages of working people grow with the economy (something that is glaringly missing from the Conservatives’ ‘economic recovery’, meaning that – for the vast majority of us – it isn’t a recovery at all). Miliband said: “What’s amazing… is that statement, that goal is even controversial. It used to be taken for granted in our country that’s what would happen.” He’s right – look at today’s article from Flip Chart Fairy Tales that Vox Political re-published.

Create one million jobs in the green economy – neglected by the Conservatives – by 2025, committing to take all the carbon out of electricity by 2030; start a Green Investment Bank; devolve powers to communities to insulate five million homes by 2025, saving energy and heating costs

By 2025, ensure that as many young people will be leaving school or college to go on to an apprenticeship as currently go to university. It really is as though he’s been reading Vox Political. A long-standing gripe of this blog is that governments have concentrated on academic achievement while neglecting the education of people who have more practical aptitudes. This is a very welcome change.

By 2025, be building as many homes as we need, doubling the number of first-time buyers in the UK. Vox Political would prefer to see far more social housing; perhaps this will come as well but it wasn’t part of Miliband’s promise. Nevertheless, the pledge to build 500,000 new homes should make housing more affordable again for people who aren’t spectacularly wealthy or don’t have wealthy family members.

Finally, to create a world-class 21st century health and care service, funded by a clampdown on tax avoidance including tax loopholes by hedge funds that will raise more than £1 billion, proceeds from a mansion tax on homes above £2 million, and money from tobacco companies. Total: £2.5 billion (per annum, it seems). Some have said this is not enough when the NHS is facing a £20 billion shortfall but we must remember that this deficit only appeared recently and could be the result of Tory scaremongering, or the private companies introduced by the Tories leeching money out of the system to fatten their shareholders. More details were due from Andy Burnham today (Wednesday).

Oh yes, you see Andrew Lansley’s hated – Yr Obdt Srvt really cannot find the words to show how vile this diseased piece of legislation really is – Health and Social Care Act will be repealed by a Labour government. If you don’t care about any of the other measures, you should vote Labour for that reason alone.

So those are his six goals. But what’s this?

“It is time we complete the unfinished business of reform of the House of Lords so we truly have a Senate of the nations and regions.” Considering the way Cameron has been packing it with Tory donors, rather than people of any expertise (as it is intended to contain) this can only be a good thing.

“And it is time to devolve power in England.” What a blow against the Tories who have been claiming Labour want to delay or destroy such a process! Miliband is talking about “devolving power to local government, bringing power closer to people right across England”. That seems to be an indication that he wouldn’t create a new, expensive English Parliament but would give power back to the current councils – power that has been leeched away from them by centralising Conservatives and the previous, neoliberal, incarnation of Labour.

There’s more. He wants constitutional reform. But unlike David Cameron, who wants to impose changes from above, so that they only benefit people who are already rich and powerful, Miliband wants to make it a matter of public discussion. Those who can’t be bothered to take part will only have themselves to blame if they don’t get what they want.

There were promises on foreign policy – to stand up for the UK in Europe, in contrast to Cameron’s strategy which Miliband blasted: “When David Cameron comes calling, people don’t think he’s calling about the problems of Britain or the problems of Europe. They think he’s calling about the problems of the Conservative Party. And here’s the funny thing… If you’re elected the Chancellor of Germany or the Prime Minister of Italy or the President of France, you don’t really think you were elected to solve the problems of the Conservative Party.”

More solid was the promise to recognise the state of Palestine and actively seek a solution to the problems of that part of the world we might call – in an attempt to be fair – the Holy Land: “I will fight with every fibre of my being to get the two state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side.” Many detractors have wrongly claimed that Miliband is a Zionist, determined to support the Israeli government’s use of vastly superior firepower to eliminate Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank; they had better think again – and look very hard at David Cameron, whose government has done as little as possible to protest at what has been happening.

And Miliband also said he wanted Labour to fight discrimination against same-sex relationships around the world. That may not seem as important to some people, but in some places it is just as easy to be killed by homophobia as it is to be killed because of your religion. Personally, Yr Obdt Srvt finds same-sex relationships unattractive – but it takes all sorts to make a world.

That makes six more goals! Double the value.

These are all good aims. All of them, if seen through, will be good for the UK.

So there’s your checklist, with 12 – not six – goals on it. If you support Labour next year, you’ll be able to check Miliband’s progress against them and you’ll have a chance – halfway through his 10-year plan – to stop him if he’s not making it happen.

Alternatively, you can say to yourself – as Mrs Mike did last night: “He doesn’t mean it. They’re all the same. It’s not worth voting,” or any of the other things the Tory campaign chief Lynton Crosby would like you to believe, and you can sit on your thumbs at home. That would be a vote for the Conservatives to carry on raping your country and ripping you off.

If Labour win in spite of people like that, then they will still benefit from the changes Miliband wants to introduce, along with the rest of us. If the Conservatives win because of those people, then we will all lose – apart from a miserably small band of super-rich, super-selfish, super-arrogant and entitled exploiters who tell Cameron what to do.

Framed that way, it isn’t really a choice at all, is it?

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What would YOU ask David Cameron in Public Prime Minister’s Questions?

Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.

Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.

Ed Miliband engaged in a particularly compelling piece of kite-flying today (July 27) – he put out the idea that the public should have their own version of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, he said such an event would “bridge the ‘mile-wide’ gulf between what people want and what they get from Prime Minister’s Questions”, which has been vilified in recent years for uncivilised displays of tribal hostility between political parties and their leaders (David Cameron being the worst offender) and nicknamed ‘Wednesday Shouty Time’.

“I think what we need is a public question time where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays,” said Mr Miliband.

“At the moment there are a few inches of glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons but there is a gulf a mile wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister’s Questions offers.”

What would you ask David Cameron?

Would you demand a straight answer to the question that has dogged the Department for Work and Pensions for almost three years, now – “How many people are your ‘welfare reform’ policies responsible for killing?”

Would you ask him why his government, which came into office claiming it would be the most “transparent” administration ever, has progressively denied more and more important information to the public?

Would you ask him whether he thinks it is right for a Prime Minister to knowingly attempt to mislead the public, as he himself has done repeatedly over the privatisation of the National Health Service, the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, food banks, fracking…? The list is as long as you want to make it.

What about his policies on austerity? Would you ask him why his government of millionaires insists on inflicting deprivation on the poor when the only economic policy that has worked involved investment in the system, rather than taking money away?

His government’s part-privatisation of the Royal Mail was a total cack-handed disaster that has cost the nation £1 billion and put our mail in the hands of hedge funds. Would you ask him why he is so doggedly determined to stick to privatisation policies that push up prices and diminish quality of service. Isn’t it time some of these private companies were re-nationalised – the energy firms being prime examples?

Would you want to know why his government has passed so many laws to restrict our freedoms – of speech, of association, of access to justice – and why it intends to pass more, ending the government’s acknowledgement that we have internationally-agreed human rights and restricting us to a ‘Bill of Rights’ dictated by his government, and tying us to restrictive lowest-common-denominator employment conditions laid down according to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a grubby little deal that the EU and USA were trying to sign in secret until the whistle was blown on it?

Would you ask him something else?

Or do you think this is a bad idea?

What do you think?

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Rising tide of protest marks start of Tory conference

Falling on deaf ears: The chorus of protest against the bedroom tax is unlikely to be heard at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where delegates will be discussing how to bribe the electorate into supporting them in 2015. [Picture: Matthew Pover in the Sunday People]

Falling on deaf ears: The chorus of protest against the bedroom tax is unlikely to be heard at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where delegates will be discussing how to bribe the electorate into supporting them in 2015. [Picture: Matthew Pover in the Sunday People]

Does David Cameron have any new policies that are big enough to silence the rising clamour of discontent against him?

He’ll need something big – Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats managed only a tax on plastic bags (an idea stolen from the Labour Welsh government) and a few weak cries of “Please let us stay in government after 2015”.

The married couples’ tax allowance isn’t it. It seems this is how the Tories plan to spend any money saved by imposing the bedroom tax, and people are already naming it as an election bribe – albeit a poor one at £3.85 a week.

He has set aside £700 million for the scheme, which is more than the government would have spent if it had not imposed the bedroom tax.

A brand-new ComRes poll is showing that 60 per cent of voters agree with Labour’s plan to abolish the bedroom tax – which hits 660,000 households. And one in five Liberal Democrats could vote Labour in protest at the tax.

The issue has prompted shadow Work and Pensions secretary Liam Byrne to say something with which this blog can actually – for once – agree! He said: “It is the worst possible combination of incompetence and cruelty, a mean-spirited shambles. It’s got to go.”

He added that the bedroom tax was likely to cost more than it saved – a point made by this blog many months ago.

Another hopelessly unpopular Tory policy to come from Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions has been the work capability assessment for sick and disabled claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. It seems one of the first things the Tories did was alter this test so that it became almost impossible to accumulate enough points to be found in need of the benefit.

The result has been three years of carnage behind closed doors, where people with serious conditions have been forced into destitution that has either caused their death by worsening their condition, or caused the kind of mental health problems that lead to suicide. Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – have died.

Now, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral has written to Cameron, urging him to end the assessments which, he wrote, can “cut short their lives”.

The Very Reverend Dr David Ison, who presided over Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, signed a campaign letter entitled ‘The Downing Street Demand’, which claims Government policies force some of the most deprived members of society to “shoulder the heaviest burden of national debt created by the super-rich”.

Some might say this is typical of broad Conservative policy: Taking from the poor to give to the rich.

The harshness of such a policy, as outlined in the letter, is appalling: “In 2010 you said, ‘I’m going to make sure no-one is left behind; that we protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society’.

“The reality of the austerity programme is the opposite.

“Since your Government came to power, cuts have meant that disabled people are paying back nine times more than non-disabled people and those with the highest support needs are paying back nineteen times more.”

Dr Ison said: “It’s right to stand in solidarity with people from many different organisations to draw attention to the needs of some of the most deprived members of our society.

“Many disabled people feel desperate facing possible cuts in support, the bedroom tax, and in particular an inflexible and failing Work Capability Assessment scheme which can blight and even cut short their lives.

“The Government needs to respond by enabling disabled people to live with dignity and security.”

Against this background, what is Cameron doing to make his party more attractive?

He’s bringing forward the second phase of his government’s Help to Buy scheme, that helps people in England to get 95 per cent mortgages on properties worth up to £600,000 – a scheme that has been widely criticised for setting up another debt-related housing bubble.

Cameron denies this. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning (Sunday), he said that outside London and the South East the average price of homes has only risen 0.8 per cent.

But the BBC reported that, during September, house prices rose at their fastest rate in more than six years – and a report from Nationwide Building Society showed the rise was “increasingly broad-based”.

Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce (which is normally supportive to the Conservatives), said: “With all the concern expressed about Help to Buy – rushing into it seems less than responsible on part of government.”

It is, therefore, under a barrage of scorn that the Conservative conference begins today. How is Cameron planning to rally his troops?

He would be ill-advised to use the economy – as seems likely from a BBC report today.

He wants the country to believe that “We have had to make very difficult decisions… These difficult decisions are beginning to pay off and the country’s coming through it.”

Even here, the evidence is against him. George Osborne’s economic theory was based on a very silly spreadsheet error, as was proved several months ago by an American student. Attempts by this blog to ascertain whether he had anything more solid on which to base his policy proved fruitless – all the evidence he provided was underpinned by the same discredited document.

No – we can all see what George Osborne’s policies did to the British economy: They stalled it.

We spent three years bumping along the bottom with no growth worth mentioning, which Osborne, Cameron and their cronies used as an excuse to impose policies that have hammered those of us on the lowest incomes while protecting the rich corporate bosses, bankers and hedge fund investors who caused the economic crash.

Now, it seems more likely that the economy is picking up because it was always likely to. Commerce is cyclical and, when conditions merit it, business will pick up after a slump. That is what is happening now, and this is why growth figures are “stronger than expected”.

It has nothing to do with Conservative economic policies at all.

That won’t stop Cameron trying to capitalise on it. Ever the opportunist, he is already trying to pretend that this was the plan all along, and it just took a little longer than expected. We would all be fools to believe him.

And he has rushed to attack Labour plans for economic revival, claiming these would involve “crazy plans to tax business out of existence”.

In fact, Labour’s plans will close tax avoidance loopholes that have allowed businesses to avoid paying their due to the Treasury.

Besides, Conservative policy – to reduce Corporation Tax massively – has been proved to do nothing to make the UK more attractive for multinational businesses; the USA kept its taxes high and has not lost any of its own corporate taxpayers.

That country, along with Germany, adopted a policy of investment alongside a tighter tax regime and has reaped the benefits with much greater growth than the UK, which has suffered from a lack of investment and a tax policy full of holes (because it is written by the architects of the biggest tax avoidance schemes).

So what’s left?

Historically, at this time in the electoral cycle, Tory policy is to offer Middle Britain a massive bribe.

If they try it now, they’ll risk wiping out any savings they might have made over the last three years, rendering this entire Parliament pointless.

This blog stated last week that the Tories seem to want to rewrite an old saying to include the line: “You can fool most of the people, enough of the time.”

We know that millions of people were fooled by them at the last election.

Will we be fooled again?

To the devil with the details – axing the bedroom tax is the right decision

Costed and credible: Ed Miliband announcing Labour's plan to end the bedroom tax. [Picture: BBC]

Costed and credible: Ed Miliband announcing Labour’s plan to end the bedroom tax. [Picture: BBC]

The SPeye blog makes a good point.

Labour doesn’t need to justify scrapping the bedroom tax beyond stating the fact that it is an unjust measure designed to inflict misery upon the lowest-earning citizens of the UK while conferring no discernible benefit on the state.

Therefore Ed Miliband’s insistence on pandering to the Coa-lamity government’s narrative by trying to say where he would find the money to make the move possible may be seen as a mistake; there is no evidence that the bedroom tax has saved a single penny and every reason to believe that it will be a greater burden on the taxpayer in the long run.

Labour failed to attack the claim that the bedroom tax was saving money and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.

He should have pointed out that the Coalition government’s claim – that the tax negates differences between social rented accommodation and the private sector – is nonsense and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.

And he should have pointed out that the Coalition’s claim – that the bedroom tax and other changes would cut the cost of Housing Benefit by £2 billion – is also nonsense; that bill was £20.8 billion in 2010 when the claim was made so, with the current cost at more than £23 billion, the bill is now £5 billion above the Coalition’s target without showing any signs of coming down. We should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail, also.

Or rather, he should question their wisdom.

There will be a time for that, but this isn’t it.

Those arguments don’t matter right now.

The fact is that he said the bedroom tax is unfair and a Labour government would end it – and he said it after a United Nations investigator made exactly the same claim. Labour has brought itself in line with UN findings and now the Coalition has been cast as a rogue government, acting against legally-binding international agreements which Labour would uphold.

But let’s just have a look at that mistake again. Labour said it would be able to axe the bedroom tax because it would save money by other means – ending a tax break for hedge funds and cutting short the new shares-for-rights scheme currently being thrust at company employees by the Treasury.

These are things that Labour would do anyway. The bedroom tax is just an excuse – in the same way that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats put up an excuse for inflicting it on the poor, the sick and the disabled in the first place. It’s basically Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party offering the Conservatives and their little yellow friends a taste of their own medicine.

That gives them credibility.

And, if these measures really can boost public funds by £2 billion, then Labour will have found a way to do what the Coalition could not, because the bedroom tax was always likely to cost more money than it saved, for reasons well-discussed in the past.

Hedge funds are a rich seam of cash, ripe for mining by politicians because they aim to make money whether the market is moving up or down. The means by which they do this are extremely questionable and can artificially engineer collapses in company share prices, so it is right that a punitive tax regime should be imposed upon them.

That means that Labour’s plan really has been costed in a reasonable way. Costed and credible – just as Miliband claimed.

And the Treasury knows it. Look at its response – an unfounded, nonsense claim that Labour would tax pensions and borrow more money to fund the change.

Sajid Javid came out with this rubbish on the BBC’s news website. His credibility is already shaky and his claim has done nothing to improve that situation for him.

Business minister Matthew Hancock also got in the ring, but flailed wildly around with another nonsense claim that ending the bedroom tax would lead to higher taxes and higher mortgage rates.

He doesn’t matter. Javid doesn’t matter. A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said something as well, but that doesn’t matter either because nobody believes a single word those people say.

The Guardian is currently running a poll asking members of the public to vote on whether the bedroom tax should be scrapped. A massive 91 per cent of voters want rid of it.

Labour has promised to get rid of it.

That is all that matters.

Lies, lobbying, Lynton – and a last insult before the long summer break

Taking instructions: Who's on the line, Lynton? Your boss David Cameron, your bosses at Philip Morris, or one of your many other clients?

Taking instructions: What’s that on the line, Lynton? Your boss David Cameron, your bosses at Philip Morris, or one of your many other clients? Or maybe your job?

How nice to see that concerns raised on this blog about the undue influence exerted on MPs by their other interests have been raised in Parliament, along with a Bill to publicise attempts to influence MPs by lobbying organisations.

What a shame that the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill was introduced on the last day before the Parliamentary summer recess in order to prevent anyone complaining about what it contains, is a load of self-serving rubbish that isn’t worth the paper it has been written on – and as such is a symptom, not only of the state of the current government, but of modern UK politics in general (I blame whoever runs the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford).

As Unlock Democracy – the campaigning group for democracy, rights and freedoms – puts it, the new bill “is not a statutory register of lobbyists, which the government committed itself to in its coalition agreement; it is a statutory register of lobbying consultants. That simple change has, at a stroke, exempted more than 80 per cent of the £2 billion lobbying industry from having to comply with the register.”

This means the bill does not address the problem of lobbying at all. UD director Alexandra Runswick said: “The problem with lobbying is not the respectable lobbying consultants who abide by a code of practice and already work in a relatively transparent way; the problem is the more underhand activity, whether it is employed by consultants, think tanks, law firms, in-house lobbyists or private individuals.

“By establishing such a gaping loophole, the government will simply drive business away from lobbying consultants and into the arms of less reputable agencies.

“This bill is the next big scandal waiting to happen.”

The organisation has published its own draft bill, that seeks, in the words of Green MP Caroline Lucas, “to deliver real transparency over who is lobbying whom, what’s being spent and who lobbyists are working for – if a special adviser is also working for a tobacco company we need to know about it.” Step forward, Lynton Crosby – the next big scandal.

Mr Crosby, who is David Cameron’s election strategist, works for a company of ‘campaign specialists’ called Crosby Textor, that advised private healthcare providers on how to exploit perceived “failings” in the NHS, according to The Guardian, and of course also works for tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

This is, of course, a huge conflict of interest and Messrs Cameron and Crosby had only themselves to blame when a political row erupted after the government suddenly dropped its much-publicised plans to remove all branding from cigarette packets.

Hugo Rifkind sent up the situation on Radio 4’s The News Quiz (Friday, July 19): “Lynton Crosby… is a strategist for the Conservative Party, and also a lobbyist on behalf of tobacco companies, and there’s an outrageous suggestion that this whole thing about plain packaging on cigarette packets could be somehow linked to his other role… Lynton Crosby is obviously a fine, upstanding man, he has obviously done nothing wrong. Obviously he has completely compartmentalised these two parts of his life and I’m really amazed we’re even talking about it.”

In an interview, David Cameron said he made the decision to U-turn on cigarette packaging at the kitchen table in his Downing Street flat.

But the flat is accepted as being territory that is not recognised as a place for meetings with anybody – lobbyists included – and the comedy Prime Minister did not say whether Mr Crosby was in the room (or had been) when he made that decision.

So what we see is a weak show of willingness to legislate, completely undermined by a strong demonstration of the hold that corporate lobbyists have over their servants in politics – including, in this case, the British Prime Minister. It seems he is working for them, not you.

Michael Meacher’s blog provides a handy list of other inadequacies in the Lobbying Bill:

It allows professional lobbying firms to keep their clients secret, provided they limit their meetings to special advisers and mid-rank officials; they will only have to reveal their clients if they meet ministers or permanent secretaries.

The register of lobbyists it will set up will exclude companies whose lobbying activities constitutes only a small part of the business.

It also discriminates against trade unions even though they are campaigning organisations, not lobbyists.

The bill limits the amount trade unions and other registered ‘third parties’ can contribute directly to general election campaigns by three-fifths, from £988,000 to £390,000. And it proposes that unions will be forced to undergo annual audits on the size of their membership.

Neither measure has anything to do with the bill’s main purpose and both should be struck from it before it is allowed onto the statute book.

And, as Mr Meacher notes, there is “not a word about the £25bn a year the Tory party get from hedge funds and the banks which makes them the biggest lobbyists of all”.

Perhaps those who drafted this nonsense (it is sponsored by Andrew Lansley, who was responsible for that other great travesty, the Health and Social Care Act 2012), should take time during the summer recess to consider withdrawing it altogether and replacing it with something fit for purpose.

With this government, that would be a refreshing change.

The petition for REAL MP accountability – proposing that they be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest – is at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44971

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)