Stupid White Women 18


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.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/18/ghana-economy-imf-polly-toynbee

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.


18 thoughts on “Stupid White Women

  • KevinB

    Well said Craig.

    I have avoided reading her lumpen tributes in support of New Labour for years.

    I just think you have been a little bit……..um, how can I put it……too kind…..in this article.

  • anticant

    I knew Harman when she was Legal Officer of the NCCL [now ‘Liberty’] and I was on the executive. Patricia Hewitt was General Secretary. Us old hands called it the Pattie and Hattie Show. Their most lasting achievement there was to acquire husbands for themselves. Patricia, as always, couldn’t open her mouth without sounding patronising – and when she moved on to become Neil Kinnock’s bag carrier she became too grand for words and has remained so. Harriet was a pretty dim number then, and has remained so. Neither of them had any deep concern for civil liberties, as their subsequent careers in the Blair and Brown governments abundantly testifies.

    What IS it about these New Labour women that so gets up one’s nose?

  • subrosa

    ‘Toynbee is fighting the IMF of ten years ago – perhaps understandable at her age.’

    Oh Craig, you do older women a disservice. Madam Toynbee is stuck with her paymasters. Most of us mature women got rid of such baggage years ago.

  • John D. Monkey

    Bristle

    You beat me to it!

    I’ve met la Toynbee a few times, admittedly several years ago, and found her then well-informed and a thoughtful debater, open to the views of others.

    What’s gone wrong with Polly? I have watched with growing despair her descent into being Blair and Brown’s sycophantic cheer-leader and an apologist for him and all the New Labour women, who she seems to champion just becasue they are women not because they are good at their jobs, which the clearly are not.

    Thanks to the internet and the bloggers like Craig and Guido Fawkes we now have a much brighter light shining on all this cant and corruption. A decade ago we would probably have know jack shit about any of this, because the media would not have given Craig and Guido a voice…

  • Susan Boyle

    ‘..perhaps understandable at her age. . .’

    Doesn’t matter, can she sing?

  • Jon

    Craig,

    I would like to hear Polly respond to this, especially given your experience and knowledge of the region, but fear that the less than charitable language may put her off. I generally regard responding to journalists directly a good idea, but regard the advice of Media lens as appposite: “maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone”. I suspect a debate would shed more light than a slanging match 🙂

    On most of the points of fact, though, I suspect you are right. Your positive presentation of the IMF (and speaking ill of references to conditionalities) surprised me, though. Has the IMF, which has done so much to destroy the necessary elements of the welfare state around the world, really changed, in your view?

  • Vronsky

    Craig, you’ve written about 800 words on Toynbee without using a four-letter expletive. No-one else has ever managed this – I think you have set a record that it will take a long time to break, a sort of Bob Beamans’s long jump of comment.

  • Jon

    Craig: I shall have to do some research on that. I come from the Naomi Klein school of thought; I think her criticism of the IMF and various other supranational financial institutions was excellent in The Shock Doctrine. But if the IMF has truly reversed its neo-conservative and Friedmanite perspectives, as you seem to be suggesting, why are they not shouting about it from the rooftops?

    I confess to being a cynic, and witness that leopards don’t often change their spots.

  • Jon

    (There may be a blip in the machine, or that may have been Craig pressing the wrong widget – but the answer to my own question above was not from me ;o)

  • Pat Bernstein

    Craig; as a fan of your posts, and a hater of Tonybee, New Labour and Harman especially, I am disappointed.

    Your post makes too many assertions, without proper evidence or references to sources. As much as we all enjoy Harman/Tonybee bashing, this was not up to your usual standard.

  • Anonymous

    Pat,

    This question of sources has come up several times lately.

    Blogging has in fact developed into a much stricter discipline than print journalism, because unlike journalists the convention has grown up for bloggers to reference all their facts, usually by links to authoritative sites.

    But those bloggers by and large sit at their computers doing their research. I don’t operate like that. In the last three weeks, for example, I have had long conversations with the Ghanaian Finance Minister, the Ghanaian Trade and Industry Minister, the immediate past Ghanaian President, the immediate past Chief of Staff, representatives of the IMF office in Ghana, representatives of the Volta River Authority, etc. I am myself viewed BY GHANAIANS as an authority on the Ghanaian economy – ask one. I have just published a book on the country.

    So my view is, I am an authority – I don’t need to quote references from people who know less about it than I do. If you don’t like that, stick to ordinary bloggers with their second hand sources of knowledge.

  • Jon

    (Think the above post on references/authority was from Craig.)

    Craig,

    I have to say I am impressed with the amount of time you dedicate to research of this kind, and am left wondering how you can afford the time and lack of income? Or – please forgive my curiosity – have you found employment that involves having the above discussions and research anyway?

    Were it that the rest of us could dedicate the same amount of the working week to causes of our own – the world would undoubtedly be a different place.

  • Jon

    You guessed right – I get some small income form it. I chair a number of Ghanaian companies at the request of Ghanaian friends. Expenses and honoraria.

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