Friday, January 30, 2009

Geoffrey Robinson: Labour IS to Blame For Recession


For those of you who didn't see the Daily Politics, there was an interesting exchange between Anita Anand, myself and Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson. At the start of his interview Anita asked him how Gordon Brown could possibly claim, following the IMF report, that Britain was best placed to withstand the economic recession. Robinson replied (and I am quoting from memory here) that "Gordon hadn't particularly said that". I burst out laughing at that point. Anand then put it to him that I had found that remark bizarre and he naturally came back and said "the recession was nothing to laugh about."

Anand then gave me the chance to explain my laughter. I said that in every interview or speech he made Brown had used the phrase and that it was laughable of Geoffrey Robinson to pretend otherwise, especially in light of the IMF report. Robinson then said that (and I will get the exact quote when the programme is on iPlayer) the government were at least in part to blame for the recession because they had failed to impose proper regulation on the banks, and they were to blame in other ways too, and that he's surprised the Daily Politics ComRes poll wasn't worse for Gordon Brown.

I then latched onto this and killed him with kindness (as is my wont) by saying that it was so refreshing for Geoffrey Robinson to be so characteristically honest and admit that Labour were indeed to blame for much of what has gone wrong, and if Gordon Brown did the same he would win a lot of kudos with the electorate. Instead ok keeping stumm, Robinson dug himself even deeper into a hole and said that he was sure the Prime Minister would do just that at an appropriate time. Hopi Sen reckoned hell would freeze over before that happened. He's right.

The reason this is moderately interesting is that Geoffrey Robinson isn't just some random Labour MP. Not only was he Paymaster General in the Treasury in the first two years of Blair's government, he was also Gordon Brown's paymaster in Opposition. He is as close to Gordon Brown as you can get, even now. So perhaps he will do what good friends should, and encourage Brown to come clean about his own culpability for what has transpired.

The 6 minute clip is HERE - scroll in two minutes. The full programme is HERE.

Here's the Robinson part of the transcript...

"People are trying to pretend that Gordon Brown doesn't realise that a good part of the responsibility is with the Government because of our inability to have regulated the banks to anything like the tight extent that we should have done. I think that has been a failure on our part."

Asked if the Prime Minister would accept any blame, former Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson said:

"You're not going to get the Prime Minister to concede anything in the yah boo politics of Prime Minister's questions time. There will be a considered statement of the situation in due course."

37 comments:

Shamik said...

I watched on my laptop with one eye on the Daily Politics and one on the tennis!

I'm pretty sure Gordon's mantra over the past 18 months has been something along the lines of "I'm not to blame, this is a global problem, it's all America's fault; and there is no recession anyway", "Britian is the best placed economy in the Western world to withstand the downturn" and "I never said them things about boom and bust"...

The man's a national joke, an embarrassment to the Labour party and a complete and utter disaster as Prime Minister.

Hopi Sen said...

Cor Iain, I am well impressed with your speed 0 I get back to the office, and you've already got a big post up on the show!

For the record, I don't think Gordon will apologise, because I don't thing he should - the idea that this crisis has been caused by British under-regulation is ludicrous on its face, and doesn't seem to be supported by any evidence. While there have been some bad business decisions (ABN amro, for example) we've not yet seen the kind of fraud that's been shown under the very tight SEC regulation in the US

Of course, the question of "cause" is a seperate question to whether we should heave regulated more tightly anyway. There might well have benefit to that, but the capital flight that we'd have seen at the time would have been very damaging to the economy - as Conservative spokesmen pointed out every time the subject of Financial regulation came up.

The Penguin said...

Tony Bliar, International Man Of Peace, War Monger, Socialist Multi-Millionare and Pretty Straight Kind of Guy was asked if he had any regrets.

"Well, you know, of course, otherwise I'd really be sort of weird. The thing is, to be frank, that you have to ask yourself if what you did was justified. And of course, in a way, that is very important to me. Now, when you get right down to it, the thing I regret most is that I didn't sort out even more redistribution of wealth.

But I'm making up for lost time on that one. I mean, why should I have to go cap in hand to the likes of Cliff Richard to get the use of his villa in the Caribbean, it makes much more sense to be able to cut out the middle man. That's why I am sorting out a few holiday homes here and there.

Oh, you want to know about Iraq? Well, you know, when it comes right down to it, the thing is, as I said to Cherie, if I don't go along with George on this, we can kiss goodbye to all that wonga from the USA after we let Porky take over. And you know what? I was right!"

The Penguin.

trevorsden said...

Mr Sen - of course this crisis has been caused by under regulation.

Can you explain how RBS can rack up losses of £28 billion (!!) without the regulators knowing - IF they were doing their job properly? IF they had been set up properly by pone G.Brown?

'the capital flight we would have seen ... would have damaged the economy' !!!

Just what state is the economy in NOW then?

The capital flights we would have seen then would have damaged Browns credibility. SEVERELY!
Ergo sum no G.Brown s prime minister.

Wake up Mr Sen.

Martin Day said...

Labour Labour Labour - Out Out Out!

Nick Drew said...

In my blissful ignorance I had assumed "Hopi Sen" was a fiction of the creative Mr Newmania's fertile, and sometimes fevered imagination

is he for real - can it be true ?

stranger than fiction ...

Hopi Sen said...

Nick - I get that a lot. Once when I applied for a credit card, the woman asked me my full name, which I gave: "Hopi Newmoon Sen".

She paused, said "yeah, right, and I'm Donald Duck" and clicked the phone off.

I felt quite a bit of sympathy for her...

word verification: veswe - "veswe can", said the German Barack Obama .

John said...

@Hopi Sen
"the idea that this crisis has been caused by British under-regulation is ludicrous on its face, and doesn't seem to be supported by any evidence."

You are kidding? The economy was openly overheating, with growth far sharper and bigger than could ever be sustained. There is only one conclusion to such an event - a deep recession at best and an outright crash at worst.

People earning £15k were accumulating £50k+ of debt. Banks were throwing money around like water and openly betting their futures on house prices never going down again. It fueled an artificial boom that built an economy on borrowed money, and as the Tories said years ago, an economy on borrowed time.

This was all put to Gordon Brown as chancellor years ago btw, and he responded with "I have always been right, and you have always been wrong". Quite how this hasn't been made to come back and haunt him I don't know.

Labour sat on it's hands while the economy openly overheated. They should have cooled the dangerous boom to avoid the inevitable bust, but that would have been unpopular at the time, even though it was the only responsible course of action. So we are now all suffering for Labour's shameless self interest years ago.

Labour are to blame. Absolutely NO question.

Mr Mr said...

Gordon is truly mad.

How can he reconcile "British jobs fot British workers" with "the difficult birth pangs of a new global order".

Unsworth said...

@ Hopi Sen

So who's been in charge of the economy for the last decade or so?

Of course Brown should apologise. All this testicles about 'prudence' etc. He has no foresight whatsoever - and no competence. There were enough warnings around well over a year ago. And Brown put the regulatory system in place, it was his choice and his design. He should do more than apologise - he should resign.

And you say you don't think he will apologise because you don't think he should? Well now, is he really answerable to you? Judging from his actions I guess he might well be.

Oldrightie said...

Excellent work from Iain. Robinson is an oily gigolo and came over as such. Too many incompetent people at the heart of Labour. Always was, always will be. Dogma before decisions every time.
Mind you this turmoil keeps old Jack Sraw off the front pages!

not an economist said...

"You're not going to get the Prime Minister to concede anything in the yah boo politics of Prime Minister's questions time. There will be a considered statement of the situation in due course."

But its not just in the context of PMQ's. Its whenever he is asked - be it by an oppo MP trying to score points or in an interview with the Labour friendly BBC or even Sky News.

And the cause of the boom was not just a lack of regulation. It was a criminally insane inflationary monetary policy that held interest rates too low for too long and so encouraged banks to set off an unsustainable lending spree. And their solution to the crisis? Set off another lending spree with virtually zero interst rates. "If you're in a hole dig deeper" seems to be the motto, even at the risk of burying yourself and your country.

Unsworth said...

Predictable and cretinous comment from Robinson - "recession nothing to laugh about". So rather than address the point he would - as usual - seek to put words in your mouth. How typical of the NuLab apparatchik that he is. Still, if he's beginning to admit that Brown has been a disaster there's hope for him yet.

Bryan said...

He was also very close to Robert Maxwell - obviously a man of judgment and minisiter material

Daniel1979 said...

Gordon Brown in his own words here.... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7689182.stm

"It's a financial global recession everybody knows it started out of America, we are having to deal with the fall out. We are better placed in Britain than we have been in the past and are better placed that many other countries"

Lola said...

Look Iain, the next time some labour plonker goes on about 'not enough regulation' hit him/her over the head with this:

http://fsahandbook.info/FSA/html/handbook/

(Print it out firdt of course).

We have had an excess of prescriptive regulation. That's the problem.

an ex-apprentice said...

Hopi, me old mate, you still need to get out more, smell the roses.

"the idea that this crisis has been caused by British under-regulation is ludicrous on its face"

No-one has suggested under-regulation to be the sole cause, apart from you in setting up your straw man. What is unarguable, even by such a slavish Labour devotee as your goodself, is that the extent of our exposure to the crisis has been made far worse than it need have been, had our financial services industry been properly and competently regulated and supervised.

As an example, look at Banco Santander, who have this week announced that profits for 2008 have fallen by a massive 2%, and are only $12 billion.

"Of course, the question of "cause" is a seperate question to whether we should heave regulated more tightly anyway. There might well have benefit to that"

There "might" have been benefit? What planet on you on? And the question is not whether we should have regulated more tightly, but whether we, in fact, had any regulation whatsoever. There is certainly no evidence of any.

In any case, you make the usual labour mistake of thinking bureaucracy is the answer to everything. What was most important was not regulation, but supervision, which was the other aspect good ole Gordon totally f****d up.

"as Conservative spokesmen pointed out every time the subject of Financial regulation came up."

You disappoint me Hopi. Sheer desperation. In the last resort, say it's all the Conservatives fault. Pathetic.

What Conservatives like John Redwood and others actually warned of many times was the fact that Brown personally designed and implemented a system that was heavy on box-ticking and bureaucracy, expensive and cumbersome to administer, but totally ineffective in quantifying or guarding against risk.

Time has proved him right, hasn't it? Or do you share Brown's pathological inability to admit fault?

cherami said...

If Mr Robinson is as close to Brown as that, for God's sake can't he get together with a few chums and persuade/force Brown to resign?

The man is a delusional menace.

gordon-bennett said...

You did well under the circumstances in that anand put you in the regulation beeboid lock by using robinson and sen as bookends for each topic. This meant that the egregious left wingers got first word and last word each time and you couldn't do much more than wriggle.

Lord Allesley said...

Mr Robinson is Browns mentor for contradictory statements.

As a Coventry MP and ex Chief Exec of Jag, Geoffrey should be fairly knowledgeable on the Automotive industry.

Prior to this weeks government moves on the automotive industry.
Robinson had joined the "Back the Jag" campaign with the Coventry Telegraph. This is asking for Government support.

However LA has discovered an interview on the Today program made on November 19th last year where this Coventry MP in a debate with SMMT says that the UK automotive company should not receive government assistance!!

He is adamant that as most manufacturers in the UK are foreign owned and they should sort themselves out.

If such an influential MP as Robinson is saying one thing on one day, and another the next,is it any wonder faith in government is lost.

It is also one of the greatest U turns and pieces of cynical politicking LA has ever witnessed. LA wonders if his constituents are aware.

Here is the link to the interview.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7736000/7736870.stm

LA

Hopi Sen said...

I have to admit i'm surprised by the passionate calls for both tighter regulation from John and unsworth and for looser regulation from Lola and "an-ex apprentice".

You'd barely know you were all on the same side...

John - "They should have cooled the dangerous boom..."

Who is this "they?" of whom you speak. The only way to "cool" in the way you speak is interest rate increases. "Taking away the punchbowl before the party really gets going" as the US Fed once put it

Are you saying the government should have overruled the MPC to repeatedly increase interest rates? Seems an odd argument, and certainly not one the conservatives were pursuing at the time.

Ex-apprentice - The debate a few years back was that if you put too high a burden of regulation on the financial services sector, they would go and set up in the Turks and Caicos or some such.

Do you think people wouldn't have bought US mortgage debt if the UK government had put in place a tighter regulatory system? Also, exactly how should the government make decisions about what private companies should and should not be able to do with their money. Should the government have forced RBS not to buy ABN, told banks not to offer credit default swaps to insure against their loans?

As the Banks argued then this were private contracts between consenting adults. Does the State get to stop that- and even if they do, what to prevent people from making that dead somewhere where they don't get spupervised?

I'm pleased that there has been such a mass conversion to state intervention in markets on the right, but do you really want the government telling you what to do with your money? If so..

well, welcome comrades!

Malcolm Redfellow said...

The art of the opposition politician is that of Kelvin MacKenzie's “reverse ferret.” One moment the talk is of the nanny-State and over-regulation. Then, with a single bound, our boy is free; and gatling-gunning with the blame culture.

After a dozen years, some Tories, such as I.Dale, esq., are getting the general idea. Give them another decade or so in Opposition and they'll be pretty well perfect.

The true masturbatory self-indulgence of this tactic is that it's never necessary to relate to others, to real solutions or a credible alternative.

Grim Reaper said...

As the Grim Reaper, I'm looking forward to the day when I get to meet Geoffrey Robinson. But I digress.

The crisis was caused by moronic and greedy banks lending to people who couldn't afford to pay it back. Not just the poor, either - the middle classes. They're the ones who bought the "OMG, everyone's like gotta buy a second house right now!!!!" message from Kirsty Allsopp and that bald git on that programme. They could have easily said "sod that", but they didn't. Nearly all of us are culpable in this, and that includes our PM. He'd like to pretend he only just miraculously appeared in June 2007 on the political scene, but we're not that stupid.

On a side note, you were looking very well today, Iain.

Savonarola said...

On the subject of culpability finger pointing will continue for a number of years.
Too little or too much regulation. We will come to the conclusion that the regulators were governed by a 'tick the box' culture. Too many forms too little common sense.

As to the politicians. Cuo bono test points to Brown. I know about BOE/FSA/etc etc.
But what of the self evident nature of the 60 quarters of growth - consumer expenditure on an unprecedented scale, with home owners using the home as a piggy bank. Leveraged. The criminal activities of NR/B+B force feeding the penurious with 125% self certified mortgages. A Chancellor basing his tax receipts on the expansion of the consumer society. UK individual non mortage debt atX3 the Euro average.
I have 50% of Brown's IQ but I could see along with millions that an unsustainable bubble was being created.
Could Brown have called in Eddy George/King. Yes.
Why not. Cuo Bono.
He got hooked on the standing ovations at Lab conference.
Its always human weakness and not lack of brains that causes our downfall.
Brown needed the growth at any cost. His corrupt political nature required him to surf the Enron boom. Soft landing for him with a gold plated pension which my grandchilren will contribute to.
We have seen nothing yet.
What follows is a decade of low/no growth. High taxes, high unemployment, rising suicide rate,collapsing pension schemes, rising crime, declining public services and a rising tide of emigration by our talented people and those folk with cash.
Blair/Brown have vandalised this country.
My advice is to tell your children to emigrate. Australia or Far East. Canada.

an ex-apprentice said...

"I have to admit i'm surprised by the passionate calls for both tighter regulation from John and unsworth and for looser regulation from Lola and "an-ex apprentice"."

Hopi, you still don't get it do you? I repeat, and READ IT this time;

What Conservatives like John Redwood and others actually warned of many times was the fact that Brown personally designed and implemented a system that was heavy on box-ticking and bureaucracy, expensive and cumbersome to administer, but totally ineffective in quantifying or guarding against risk.

Calling for better and more effective regulation and, most importantly, supervision, is NOT calling for looser regulation.

"The debate a few years back was that if you put too high a burden of regulation on the financial services sector, they would go and set up in the Turks and Caicos or some such."

What debate? Brown didn't debate, or even consult, before scrapping a system that had stood the test of time and proven its worth. Such was his peculiar combination of ignorance and arrogance he never even considered asking others; after all, what would be the point, no one could possibly be as clever as the cleverest boy in Scotland, could they?

"Do you think people wouldn't have bought US mortgage debt if the UK government had put in place a tighter regulatory system"

That's precisely what I think. More than that, it's what the people of this country have a right to demand from the system of financial regulation and supervision the then Chancellor, now unelected Prime Minister, insisted, in an act of monumental stupidity, in putting in place. Otherwise, what's the point?

You're flogging a dead horse, Hopi. Brown has, at long last, been well and truly sussed.

There's no escape. You're DOOMED, DOOMED I TELL YE!!

Tom said...

I don't know about how it would affect Gordon's ratings but it would certainly do Britain a lot of good. By denying all culpability he makes it look like it's the fault of the British, and that the UK government has no control over the UK economy. And blaming it on America is just a diplomatic disaster.

Unsworth said...

@ Hopi Sen

Exactly where did I call for 'tighter controls'?

The only 'tighter control' I want or need is on my bowels.

Comes of reading too much NuLab garbage.

But then, I'd expect you to attempt to put words in my mouth. Are you a Labour supporter by any chance? Certainly seem to have that style about you.

Oh, and don't make assumptions about 'sides'. I know that's how the hard leftists view the world - but it's politically myopic and rather stupid. You see, labelling people does nothing to further debate, it merely reduces any discussion to playground name-calling - but you knew that already, didn't you?

Gareth said...

Low interest rates were political gold to Chancellor Brown. It is only recently he has refrained from his security blanket of blustering about 15% interest rates under the Tories.

Such was his desire to best the Conservatives the MPC were given a narrow job to target inflation, relying on data that specifically excluded housing costs. The MPC were never going to stop the boom in credit. Brown did have the power to over rule the MPC though he chose not to employ it.

Brown should have seen this coming. For years the Government have waffled on about the need for affordable houses. Seems to me their answer was easier credit rather than cheaper homes.

If Brown didn't realise what was happening he never deserved the job of Chancellor.

If he knew what was happening and did nothing to negate it he doesn't deserve the job of PM.

Newmania said...

Hopi is right .It is not reasonable to have expected Gordon Brown to have understood that his boom was illusory when tribes of economists paid to say ‘super’ and ‘great ‘did just that. It is however quite unreasonable for him to have reaped the political dividends for years and then when his luck ran out to blame it everyone else
We are agreed then , Brown had no idea why the economy was doing so well he was just a plodding chancellor who road his luck .

Given that his only selling point was his reputation as a Chancellor and he was loathed when that was intact I am not sure Hopi is genuflecting quite as oleaginously as he ought . If I were paid to honk and clap like a demented seal whenever Brown cleared his throat I would be trying to claim he was not bobbing like a cork for ten years .

The strange thing is that while economists paid to say what their bosses want to hear ( and that goes for the MPC ) did so , almost everyone else did know there was something wrong . Every time we were told we had a Service economy everyone else thought “ Servicing what ?”. Every time we swapped a small house for another one and received £100,000 out of thin air , we thought “ Is that right ? “. When we went through a small town to see ten financial advisory shop fronts and little else we though….”mmmm”, and there were many many people who said so all the time .


Many of us have experienced the clown show that is the FSA . In this hysterical prat fall of an organisation people who knew little charged fortunes to check the radio worked when the car was going at 150 Mph down a single lane road. The right kind of regulation was certainly not available ( oh yes there was lots anf lots of it ) but nonetheless I think it is optimistic to imagine a Conservative Government could have avoided the trap anymore than a Brown would have avoided the ERM debacle. I seem to recall there was deal of hay made by Labour over that when they were demonstrably keener . Brown was still darkly referring to it only month s ago

Where we can really blame Brown however was that by running deficits and raising every year after Tory spending plans were ditched he created an ants nest of public sector sinecures who are dragging us down now . Furthermore during this wonderful boom , many people actually did not have much money . A typical married couple had very little more to spend after their mortgage . So where did the boom go ? It disappeared into the state and its parasitical empire is the answer. During this boom , for which we are now paying most of us had our pensions stolen and the National debt went up every year. Education health and Law and order did not perform well given the cash sprayed at them and as for the Services were actually starved . Taxes crept up and after ten years of supposedly enjoying the fruits of tomorrow’s work today we wonder who actually ate the fruits

Now our children are mortgaged out services will have to be cut our homes and jobs at risk I think, above al,l we can say this about Brown. He squandered , he made the economy inefficient , he kept the fat cows for his chums but he is sending us the skinny and vile remnants for supper .

What I `d like Hopi to tell us how exactly he could have got it any more wrong ? How could he have made maters even worse ? it’s a tough one I know but I feel he is up to it

Sixxstring90 said...

Does anybody else have a crush on Anita Anand? I think she's very cute and adorable!

Blue Skinned Beast said...

Are you kidding ? She's got a chin like Fenella the witch.

Yak40 said...

Further discussion is pointless, the solution to "New" Labour's decade of incompetence and treachery is quite simple.

Steven_L said...

Iain, get rid of the long tie, it makes you look a bit of a knob.

Other than that, good show!

Simon Gardner said...

“The reason this is moderately interesting is that Geoffrey Robinson isn't just some random Labour MP.”

(Who he?) Nope, you exaggerate. He’s indeed just some random Labour MP (albeit a rich one) and it isn’t interesting.

Thatsnews said...

I saw this on the repeat.

Hopi Sen seemed a bit out of his depth.

And was Geoffrey Robinson laying the groundworks for a "goodbye Gordon" moment, somewhere down the line? Or sending him a signal to pull himself together?

neil craig said...

Constitutionally if Brown is going to make a statement of the level of importance that he had been wrong when he told the House there would be no more boom & bust & that we are indeed in a bust now shouldn't he make it to the House rather than release it to the media as Robinson promises. I know such constitutional niceties are increasingly ignored but they shouldn't be.

Nick Drew said...

Newmania: It is not reasonable to have expected Gordon Brown to have understood

disagree, that's his problem, he does understand some of this stuff (and I confidently & gleefully assume he has very lurid nightmares about what he's done)

I'd say his instincts were initially more abstemious, but he got bounced into opening the sluice-gates by Blair (who didn't understand) - recall the 'aspiration' to bring NHS spending up to 'European levels', made up on the TV sofa by Blair and deposited on Brown's desk

after which, no doubt, Brown became intaxicated by the whole adventure

I have seen (and probably you have, too) conservative managements who have recoiled instinctively against undisciplined business practices, but have been shown the bonus-apple by some snake mouthing the words "it's what everybody does" - and have joined the party

I've never met a senior risk manager who isn't all too aware of where the true risks lie in the portfolio under their auspices. But they are paid to keep their own counsel by the dealmakers who rule the roost: nothing is allowed to get in the way of deal-flow and bonus