A selection of the writing, wittering and viewing that has caught our attention over the past week.
We must apologise for our absence throughout much of October. We got ourselves so over-excited during the party conference season that we had to go and have a quiet lie-down in a darkened room to recover. Now we’ve ventured back onto the internet again…
► Sam Leith in the Evening Standard kept us abreast of the government’s ‘tough new crackdown’ on ‘extremists’:
Hurrah! At last, what we’ve all been waiting for: a crackdown on Preachers of Hate. It has been nearly five months since the crackdown they announced in May; and the one in March is but a distant memory. Some members of the hate preacher community, I daresay, still recall with fondness the September 2014 crackdown.
► Ross Clark on the Spectator website excoriated the government’s deal to get the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station up and running, and did so in terms that cheered those of us who remain of the ‘Nein Danke’ persuasion.
Osborne can claim to be a pioneer in one regard: no other country has found a way of making nuclear power cost anything like £92.50 per MWh. Two years ago … one of the world’s largest energy consumers agreed a price guarantee on a French nuclear power station of just £32.60 per MWh. Austerity-struck Britain may be about to produce the most expensive energy in the world.
► Also for the Spectator Boris Johnson gave us an account of his recent visit to Japan. His Worship the Mayor was on fine form:
If you want proof of the rule that nobody knows anything, look up a 1988 bestseller called Yen! Japan’s New Financial Empire and its Threat to America. It was by Daniel Burstein, an American financial journalist, and the gist was that the yen was about to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve currency; that Japan was buying up key American assets and flexing its muscles, with a frightening martial revanchism, with a view to taking over the world. As geopolitical prophecies go, it is hard to think of anyone who has ever written such total and utter balls.
► Earlier in the month, in the world of respected financial journalists, Anthony Hilton was on top form in the Evening Standard, tearing into the proposed mega-merger of Belgian brewing giant AB InBev and Anglo-South African brewer SABMiller. Here’s a taste of what he had to say:
It is the ultimate merger that reeks of size for size’s sake – a deal to satisfy management egos which gives all the wrong signals to everyone else outside the worlds of investment banking, broking and public relations. They think it is wonderful because they will garner riches beyond belief for putting this noxious combination together.
► The passing of Denis Healey, on 2 October, was the occasion for some excellent, and arguably timely, reflections on the career of one of Labour’s brightest and best. Our own Dan Atkinson considered the source of the left’s antipathy toward him, but for those seeking a more comprehensive obituary we recommend Michael White, writing in the Guardian.
As for an assessment of Healey’s place among Britain’s post-war chancellors, why not visit the website of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), a London-based think-tank for central bankers and others. There William Keegan, veteran economics commentator on the Observer and, in a past life, a Bank of England official, has offered his own appreciation of the late Major Healey.
► One of our favourite blogs is Musings of a young Londoner, which featured a couple of weeks ago a nice alternate future history, in which David Miliband wins the 2020 election as leader of the newly formed Progressive Alliance, and surprises commentators with his first appointment, announcing:
that the former Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, who joined the Progressives after he was defeated by Theresa May in last year’s leadership battle, would be returning to Number 11 Downing Street. The move will raise eyebrows with some of the Alliance’s supporters, but Miliband defended the decision saying: ‘for much of the last 10 years, George has been a champion for British industry and one of the few people in British politics to recognise the need to seriously re-balance our economy, creating regional powerhouses that can compete for talent and investment with the capital.’
► And talking of fantasy prime ministers, here is some wonderful archive footage of Labour leader George Lansbury, in 1932, explaining that the Parliamentary Labour Party must be guided by the wider movement:
Although for the moment we are down and out, apparently, on the floor of the House of Commons, we will nevertheless in that place take our stand for the principles and the ideals that the Party outside stands for.
► And finally, a reminder of one of the more memorable contributions to the general election campaign earlier this year, the song ‘Neela hai Aasma’ – a Hindi tribute to our prime minister.