Friday, 23 January 2009

The Today programme and "Brownies"

Once again the BBC Radio 4 Today programme has picked up one of my articles, this time a quote appears as the lead "REACTION FROM AROUND THE WEB" to Gordon Brown's 08:10 interview. The quote is
"[The Prime Minister] stuck rigidly to his script and refused to answer the key questions. Actually, if you don't really know what mistakes Gordon Brown has made, it might even have sounded convincing and that's my fear - that the public might fall for the Brownies again."
Not my best or most incisive line and I wonder if the casual reader would know what "Brownies" are. In case you are wondering; in this context I am not referring to young Girl Guides, or delicious chocolate comestibles but to Gordon Brown's skilful habit of answering a question by using a dodgy statistic to not quite answer the question he was asked but one more to his liking.

I think it was either Boris Johnon or Fraser Nelson who first coined the word Brownie in this context. Here is the earliest Boris Johnson call for the public to document such "falsehoods". I like Boris's writing so here's his call to arms in full:
"You may have seen the disgraceful suggestion by Gordon Brown in Prime Minister’s Question Time that I want to cut the Metropolitan Police budget when the reverse is the case. It is high time we stopped putting up with his falsehoods, and exposed them for what they are. So I would like you to help me, and Coffee House, form an online intifada against the little lies we are fed every day by this Prime Minister and his kindred spirit Ken Livingstone - whom I very much hope the Londoners amongst you will help me dislodge in May. The aim is to collate examples of all the porkies these two peddle. You can help, by adding below this post, in the comments, any example where either have sought to mislead. Then we will devote a little corner of cyberspace to setting the record straight."

Here is a fine piece by Fraser Nelson on the top four "Brownies" in the PMQs of Wednesday 16th July 2008. I won't repeat all four here, but do go and read them for yourself. However the Debt Brownie, the Inflation Brownie and the Jobs Brownie do bear repetition and the next journalist to interview Gordon Brown should actually do some research beforehand so that they have this sort of information to hand when Gordon Brown puffs out his cheeks and launches into one of his pre-prepared "Brownies" (Evan Davies are you reading this?):

"2. Labour inherited debt at 44 percent of GDP and reduced it to 38 percent of GDP. This was his response to Ken Clarke. One can set aside Brown’s vast array of Enron-style debt concealment vehicles and look at debt under the Maastricht definition (a definition he can’t tweak). Annex 62 of the OECD World Economic Outlook (data released a couple of weeks ago) shows us that Brown inherited debt of 50.6 percent which was fast falling and hit 47.4 percent (mid-98). It is 47.1 percent of GDP now. As his scorched earth policy gets underway, this debt will soar up to 49.5 percent next year. Let’s remember that Brown had 11 years of growth, which prudent governments use to pay off their debts. Denmark took debt from 60 percent to 22 percent over this period, Ireland from 54 percent to 28 percent. In Western Europe, only Germany and France join Britain in the ignominious club of countries that increased their debt during the boom years – and, of course, for these basket case economies there were no boom years.

3. Labour inherited rising inflation, which Brown had to bring down. Even by his own CPI measure, the inflationary dragon was slain in the early 1990s peaking at 8.5 percent in April 1991. By January 1997 it was 2.1 percent and by May 1997 it had fallen to 1.6 percent. This is what he inherited from Ken Clarke. And did I mention that CPI is now 3.8 percent? For more on inflation, our original Brownie, click here.

4. Three million jobs as a result of this Labour government. Or, to state it more accurately, as a result of this Labour government’s policy of paying 5 million Brits to stay on benefits and importing a new, cheap and dedicated workforce: the Statistics Commission tells us, 81 percent of the new jobs are filled by foreign workers. Brown also includes in this figure pensioners returning to work, and even then he rounds it up from 2.8 million. Strip out pensioners, immigrants and the public sector and there would – scandalously - be fewer people in work than in 1997."

There was an excellent article by Fraser Nelson, again in The Spectator, that I quoted from last November, here's that quote again:
"Whatever you may think about Gordon Brown, he does deserve to be recognised as a master of his art. I can’t think of a more accomplished confidence trickster ever to enter Westminster. And he’s ready to unveil a whole Potemkin Village tomorrow, the climax of his life’s work. It will be built out of non-sequiteurs, exaggerations, half-truths and Brownies. His interview on the BBC1 Politics Show gave a preview as to how he will conduct himself. He is in full election mode, talking as if he’s in the heat of an election campaign—which, in his head, he is."

You can read Fraser Nelson's full article here.

For even more "Brownies", take a trip over to The Spectator and prepare to be amazed and disgusted. As the UK economy fails and the public get angrier with their failure of a Prime Minister, it is my hope that the word "Brownie" becomes a well known word in common parlance.

I must add that I have always felt that a person who can not admit when they are wrong is not a person that I would choose to have as a friend or employer; Gordon Brown is such a person.

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