L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 April 2007 Blog Home : April 2007 : Permalink

The State of British News

So I'm back from my Blighty trip and able to have access to the internet - my dear parents do not have the internet in their fine establishment. In addition, since most of my trip was spent with the family, I did not purchase a newspaper but we did of course listen to the wonderful BBC Radio 4 news now and again.

In the both British and American parts of the blogosphere, the torygraph and the mail, one major story seems to have been the report that some schools have decided not to teach their pupils about the Nazi holocaust. [In the interests of full disclosire, it has to be said that I was never taught about the Holocaust when I was at school but I suspect that was due to my giving up history ASAP in order to concentrate on other subjects.] However despite this coverage I only learned about the scandal once I got back to France because the BBC seemed not to be giving the story much prominence. Possibly I'm doing the BBC a disservice as they do have it on their website but it certainly seemed that way.

On the other hand the BBC was all over the "Gordons Great Pensions Raid" story. I'm not sure that they did a good job of explaining why the tax change caused such a problem but they did at least let Kenneth Clarke explain that this was a stealth tax rise and the provide this long background piece which explains what the problem is. I don't think I agree with the entirety of the article which seems to think that taxes are good but it does sum up the problem well:

Or to put it another way, if the chancellor put an obstruction in the pensions road, he might have put a warning notice up, so unwitting drivers knew what to face.

But as it happened, anyone listening to his account of the tax change - and indeed, even the account given by Ed Balls this weekend - might have been forgiven for thinking it was simply designed to remove some technical distortions prevailing in the tax system.

In this the BBC is far better that Polly Pot who, as Tim W notes, seems to have forgotten the fact that the £5B taken was £5B per annum not just in 1997 and thus, given the magic of compound interest, means that over the last 10 years we are looking at about £100B of money the government has spent rather than the pensions industry. Now it is true that we all could have compensated for the chancellors grab by saving a but more, but in order to do so we would have had to not spend the £5B (more like £7B in 2007 terms) on other things like home improvements, holidays and all those other things that make the economy grow. My back of the envelope calculation is that £5-7B/year is 0.5% of UK GDP and thus had we saved enough to counter Mr Brown's stealth tax rise we would have seen UK GDP reduced by that amount each year. That is to say instead of the 2-4% GDP growth rates recorded we'd see 1.5%-3.5% GDP growth rates, rates that mean no real growth in GDP because they are about the same as the inflation rate.

Then there is the Iranian hostage crisis. Again it seems like the best and most original reporting comes from the blogosphere, in this case primarily the EU Referendum blog which has detailed one cock up after another bit also all sorts of people who have noted that Iran is violating the Geneva conventions, something that the BBC seems remarkably unwilling to draw attention to....

All in all I think it is fair to say that "could do better" would be the most optimistic way to grade recent performances

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin