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Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Freudian slip

Peter Wilby has a must-read piece in the new edition of the New Statesman:

One of the architects of the Tories' "work programme", announced at their conference in Manchester, is Lord (David) Freud (pictured above).

Freud's talent for inventing ways of getting skivers into useful work is misdirected. For 20 years up to 2003, he was an investment banker, eventually for S G Warburg. His activities included floating Railtrack at far below the market price, losing UK taxpayers far more money than they will ever recoup from getting a few people off Incapacity Benefit. Warburg, with Freud still working there, later became part of UBS AG, one of those Swiss banks that help rich folk avoid taxes in their home countries. It was heavily involved in sub-prime mortgage investments. Freud has said that he worked for a "piratical industry" which made up rules as it went along.

Given this knowledge, perhaps Freud could devote some of his time to getting bankers into useful work, weaning them off the dependency culture that leads them to expect the rest of us, as investors, savers or borrowers, to finance their annual bonuses and, as taxpayers, to continue paying them when things go wrong. The £7.6bn that, according to the Office for National Statistics, bankers received in bonuses between December last year and April this year (the peak period for handing out bonuses) is more than half the annual ­Incapacity Benefit bill. That's in hard times: they got £13.2bn in the equivalent period of 2007-2008.


Gregor said...

'His activities included floating Railtrack at far below the market price, losing UK taxpayers far more money than they will ever recoup from getting a few people off Incapacity Benefit'

Pretty gruesome. Still, that I did not know this despite reading 'leftist' papers until I read it as an aside in a diary column is itself a demonstration of how poorly organised the 'left' is.

Whilst I would like to do more to help the case of social democracy by letter writing, it seems we have few facts and statistics at hand.

On that note, whilst there are interesting posts at the Campaign for Public Ownership, I do think that it would be better as a website with core statistics based articles.

Neil Clark said...

Gregor: good point. I'm afraid sections of the British 'left' prefer to spend time attacking the wrong targets- like the Pope, instead of international capitalists like Freud. Our focus must always be on attacking neoliberal global capitalism and highlighting the way it destroys communities and human solidarity- and not on attacking
irrelevant targets.

Thanks for your feedback re CPO website.

Gregor said...


Maybe he has rather less gravitas than the Pope, but this Guardian attack on Clarkson sums up why I find a lot of ‘liberal left’ media plain stupid (

Despite the headline, Clarkson did not say TV ‘obsessed’ with hiring ‘black Muslim lesbians’, but made a joke that executives try to pair strange couples.

They frame this within a debate about Strictly Come Dancing (vomit) where someone did make a racist comment to imply that Clarkson’s comment was also bigoted.

Given this, I do not blame Clarkson for his frequent digs at ‘Guardian readers’, but the strange thing is he is not as right wing as he is portrayed. He has voiced sympathy for Palestinians, opposed war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and criticised the Tory obsession with privatisation (even giving muffled praise to some of Tony Benn's ideas).

The strange irony of all this is that Neo-Liberalism is as much a conservative disaster as it is a left-wing one. I suspect that Clarkson, through travelling and seeing the better infrastructure in Western Europe, actually suspects this. Yet for many Middle Englanders the neo-liberal Tories are appealing purely because the left is largely represented by political correctness whingers rather than those who want to make reasoned arguments about public services.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Gregor:
totally agreed. the left needs to jettison pc and get back to economics.
Britain suffers from having too many narcissistic 'lifestyle leftists' who think that being in favour of extreme socially liberal positions and attacking socially conservative figures like The Pope (and religion in general), is more important than supporting public ownership.
Johann Hari is a case in point.