Daily archives: April 18, 2009

Ayesha Hazarika Embodies the Sickness of New Labour

Ayesha Hazarika is the epitome of New Labour’s contempt for the taxpayer. This former professional comedienne and PR specialist is being paid £53,882 pa by hard-pressed taxpayers to be Labour Party “Special Adviser” – or spin doctor – to Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equalities and Leader of the House of Commons.


That is just the comedienne’s slary. There are substantial expenses too, like the recent jolly of Harman and her delegation, including Hazarika, to look at gender issues in Ghana. If we accept that Harman needed the taxpayer to send her to look at gender issues in Ghana – which arguably has better gender equality than the UK – did Harman really need to be accompanied by her Private Secretary plus Hazarika plus her constituency secretary? How much did this jolly cost the taxpayer?


What benefit did the taxpayer get from the jolly in general and from Hazarika’s participation in it in particular? Is Harman going to claim her constituency secretary’s fares in her MP’s expenses?

Why does Harman need not just one but two female Labour Party hacks as Special Advisers in highly paid non-jobs funded by the taxpayer? The Foreign Secretary, for example, only has one position, split between two people on a job share. Harman has Hazarika and Anna Healey – any relation?

Salaries alone for Labour Party “Special Adviser” hacks like Hazarika and McBride come to over £6 million a year in salaries alone. That is up from £1.2 million under John Major, which was bad enough already.

They do nothing for the taxpayer. Their job is to burnish their masters’ image, and they are pretty lousy even at that.

New Labour takes the view that the taxpayer will fund unlimited numbers of these hack. We will keep people like Hazarika in her highly paid useless non-job as special adviser to Harman, who herself has a useless non-job. That is an example of just how out of touch New Labour really are. They care for nothing except their own power, positions and patronage. Which is why we do not care for them.

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Stupid White Women

Taking a break from patronising the working classes here, Polly Toynbee and Harriet Harman flew to Ghana to patronise some black people. Toynbee’s hack piece – which could have been churned out before leaving, being the standard rant against IMF conditionalities – is printed in today’s Guardian.


Those who have read The Catholic Orangemen of Togo will know of my deep love for Ghana. Indeed, I was there last week. Among other things, I spent a delightful evening with my old friend Kwabena Duffour, now the new Finance Minister, and his extremely intelligent and well-informed family. We talked over the macro-economic situation in some detail.

Plainly Toynbee has not read “The Catholic Orangemen” or her article would not contain so many basic errors.

The first thing to say is that Ghana’s revenue base is very strong. In fact, contrary to what Toynbee says, the “credit crunch” has had very little effect on Ghana so far. It had little exposure to toxic debt and, unlike ours, its economy was not based on a series of Ponzi schemes.

Toynbee is right to note the problem of high inflation, in particular in world food prices, but quite wrong to link this to the credit crunch. Third world food inflation has been an escalating problem for at least four years. The credit crunch may actually ameliorate it. Of course falling demand in the World economy and lack of availability of commercial credit must start to show some effect. But Ghana, unlike the UK, should not go into recession.

There is no structural problem. The rather sad fact is that the Ghanaian government is facing a liquidity crisis due to what may be politely described as fiscal racklessness, but I would more bluntly describe as looting, by the outgoing government.

I say that with a heavy heart because President Kufuor and several senior ministers were good friends of mine, but they seemed unable to control corruption in the last couple of years – which is generally agreed to be a major factor in why they lost the election.

I agree with Toynbee absolutely on the question of water metering for the poor in third world countries. I rail against it in The Catholic Orangemen and it was a Malthusian example of the neo-con control of the IMF. But actually we won that one a few years ago. Still, an easy Aunt Sally for Toynbee’s lazy piece.

It is worth noting that Toynbee will have been paid more for her turgid outpourings in the Guardian just this week, than the ladies of the credit union she touchingly describes will see in ten years.

Toynbee is simply wrong when she writes that “The IMF wants subsidies for electricity removed, again hitting the poorest hardest”. Ghana provides electricity to all its users at below the cost of production. The situation has got worse as the availability of hydro-electric power reduces due to climate change. Electricity is subsidised by the Ghanain taxpayer. Taxation in Ghana falls most heavily on the poor: – it is not very progressive, with VAT the major contributor. So the poor are paying for the subsidy.

But the poor use very little electricity. The electricity subsidy is probably worth no more than a few dollars a year to the ladies she patronised with their cash in a biscuit tin under a tree. By contrast, the US Embassy, with its two vast office buildings, Ambassador’s Residence, compound, school and scores of staff houses, receives an electricity subsidy of over a quarter of a million dollars a year from the Ghanaian taxpayer.

Electricity subsidy disproportionately benefits the rich at the expense of the poor. The solution is a social tariff to help the poor, not the continuation of blanket subsidy. Toynbee is fighting the IMF of ten years ago – perhaps understandable at her age. The IMF in fact has a pretty open mind on the matter. I have discussed it with them directly – unlike the lazy Toynbee.

Toynbee is a dull New Labour hack, an apologist for war criminals, and a well-paid patrician from a wealthy family who likes to cluck around showing how sorry she is for the poor. Just like Harman, in fact. Neither of them know anything about Africa. They do as much good for Africa as the stunts of Madonna.

Toynbee thinks she can fly in for a few days and suddenly become an expert on Ghana. Yet she has cheer-led for New Labour for twelve solid years without noticing they have been a disaster for social mobility, education, civil liberties and international law.

Polly Toynbee, self-appointed guardian of the poor of the world – and stupid muddled-headed old bat.

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In Praise of Malcolm Rifkind

This will annoy those who occasionally accuse me of being a closet Tory, but I have long been a fan of Malcolm Rifkind. He was the first junior minister I worked to in the FCO when I was on the South Africa desk. Apartheid was in its last throes and we were trying to kill it off. Rifkind was genuinely horrified by apartheid. But South Africa was high on Thatcher’s personal agenda and to say she was uncommitted on apartheid would be kind to her. She insisted, for example, that the ANC was a terrorist organisation. Rifkind worked away beneath her in a way that can only be described as cheekily subversive, under the benign soggy shield of Geoffrey Howe.

Anyway, I have remained a fan of Malcolm Rifkind. He made some of the best speeches on the Iraq War. I debated notionally against him at the Cambridge Union a couple of years ago, but I don’t think either of us disagreed with a word the other said, and we had a very pleasant couple of glasses of champagne together on the train back to London.

He has now made a thoughtful speech on nuclear weapons reduction, bits of which are reproduced in the Telegraph.


If we are to succeed in stopping the ridiculous and massive waste of money and resources on Gordon Brown’s obscene determination to replace and upgrade the Trident missile system, we need to make common cause with the growing number of Tories and senior military men who see the stupidity of it.

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