Monthly Archives: April 2010

Ian Holdsworth

I never realised I was such a hard-hearted brute until I tried out the online “deficit-buster” on

It allows you to play chancellor and simulate the UK’s next three-year spending review. You swing the axe – and the deficit-buster tells you all the gruesome consequences in terms of human discomfort.

Before I knew it, two million families with an income of more than £24,400 had lost a benefit worth around £1,000. And all because I thought “means-testing” child benefits was an easy option.

James Mackintosh

I am sad to say I will be leaving this blog, as I will shortly be starting a new role as Investment Editor, writing a daily column on financial markets. Thank you to all readers and commentators.

There will be a pause of a few weeks on the blog until my successor takes over as Comment Editor, running the blog and the comment page. Please bear with us.

From the FT’s comment section:
Philip Stephens: Britain’s election debate is rewriting the political rules
Samuel Brittan: The sad return of state worship
George Soros: America must face up to the dangers of derivatives
Chris Huhne: Voters should not give in to Tory blackmail
Gerald Curtis: Japan’s leaders must show leadership
Jurek Martin: South Carolina Tea Party fails to take off
Editorial: Obama moves on financial reform
Editorial: Korean tensions
Editorial: Counsel of despair
Global Insight: Tony Barber, EU architects survey cracks in monetary union
Market Insight: Gillian Tett, Challenges to Goldman are still kept to a whisper
Notebook: Robert Shrimsley, Ash clouds,human tides, pointless panic
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

James Mackintosh

Nick Clegg’s newfound twin status as political wonder boy and hate figure of the Tory press seems to have made the British Liberal Democrat leader even more popular with the Twittering classes. The second-most popular topic on Twitter right now is “#NickCleggsFault“, mocking the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Spectator for their rabid attacks on the previously-ignored politician.

My current favourite, from a long list, is the last of these three:

@BarneyRonay: In tomorrow’s daily mail: clegg thrashes oap with stick. Drunken clegg vomits on diana memorial. And clegg: my squirrel porn shame

The question is whether voters will like Clegg more because he’s under attack, or like him less because they buy the Mail’s (nonsensical) likening of him to a Nazi, the Telegraph’s assault on his expenses and political donations or the Conservative attempt to take on his policies and character.

Early indications are that the Twitter parody is already having an effect: the Telegraph has been put on the defensive, with Benedict Brogan denying orchestrated efforts by the press to “smear” Clegg. (EDIT: Just come across the Daily Mail-o-matic headline generator, further parodying the paper’s attacks on Clegg by producing random but intelligible Mail-esque Clegg headlines.)

At the very least, the ad hominem attacks must raise his stature. Ken Clarke, Tory former chancellor of the exchequer and now shadow business secretary, wrote in the FT today that Clegg “is a perfectly nice chap but he is not a prime ministerial candidate”. The fact that the Tories have to unleash one of their few remaining Big Beasts to deny that Clegg could be prime minister is extraordinary: even after beating the Tories in some polls, Clegg presumably doesn’t have such delusions of grandeur.

Much of the sudden bounce in the polls must be down to the public finding that actually they rather like Clegg once they see him – for the first time, the televised debate let him make his point directly to a big TV audience, and he did it well. But equally, a 10-point jump cannot be sustainable; he’s bound to slip back, and some of the mud thrown by the Tories will stick.

Any slippage in the polls will be seized on by the media as the bursting of the Clegg bubble (a classic newspaper strategy: build him up, knock him down). But all the Lib Dems need is to take 25% of the vote, well below the 30% they are polling, and they will be back to their 1983 highs (they scored 22% at the last election). That would be a phenomenal outcome for the Lib Dems. Still, some in the party must have fingers and toes crossed in the hope that the bubble lasts to May 6 and the party tops the popular vote; even then, though, the Lib Dems will probably come out third in number of MPs, and Clegg certainly won’t get to be the first Liberal prime minister since David Lloyd George.

From the FT’s comment section:
John Gapper: Greed is not good for Goldman
Kenneth Clarke: A hung parliament would be a tragedy for Britain
David Pilling: Tokyo wobbles on the American alliance
Ed Clark: It is time to press on with bank reform
Michael Pettis: Bad loans could take their toll on China’s growth
Claire Fox: Politics as talent show does nothing for informed debate
Editorial: Prepare for the next ash plume
Editorial: European Union is no blessed plot
Global Insight: Chris Giles, IMF needs no sympathy over bank taxes
Markets Insight: Marek Belka, Why we need a resolution authority for Europe’s banks
Notebook: Jonathan Guthrie, The name’s Bond, Junk Bond     
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

From the FT’s comment section:
Martin Wolf: The challenge of halting the financial doomsday machine
John Kay: How our leaders get to grips with a scare story
Peter Clarke: Britain’s third party looks to history
Jacob Rothschild: Europe is getting it wrong on financial reform
Arvind Subramanian: China is the key to unwinding global imbalances
Christoph Meyer: The dangers of excessive air safety
Editorial: IMF fastens the policy tightrope
Editorial: Sudan’s election
Editorial: A rotten borough
Global Insight: William Wallis, Polls raise fears for Sudan democracy
Market Insight: John Plender, When clever insiders are pitted against naive outsiders
Notebook: Sue Cameron, Mandarins have that sinking feeling
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

From the FT’s comment section:
Gideon Rachman: Anger erupts for a volcanic exile
Philip Stephens: Clegg snatches Cameron’s winning card
Michael Skapinker: We need bold action to slow obesity’s march
Roger Altman: America’s disastrous debt is Obama’s biggest test
Editorial: A more measured reaction to the ash
Editorial: Lib Dem bounce
Editorial: Swaps showdown 
Markets Insight: Mansoor Mohi-uddin, Beware the impact of a resurgent greenback 
Global Insight: John Paul Rathbone, Brazil’s faces barrier to UN security seat
Notebook: Brian Groom, TV debates we would have loved  
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

From the FT’s comment section:
Clive Crook: America and Europe meet midway
Wolfgang Munchau: Greece’s bail-out only delays the inevitable
Frank Partnoy: Wall Street beware: the lawyers are coming
Michael Lind: Hysteria that plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden
Editorial: Garzón at bay
Editorial: Thailand’s silence
Editorial: US over the moon
Global Insight: John Gapper, Google ripple effects rock net generation
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

From the FT’s comment section:
Philip Stephens: Pope Benedict has turned his back on a church in crisis
Martin Wolf: Growth is the fix for British finances
Jamie Bartlett and Richard Reeves: Ridicule is a weapon against terrorism
Charles Emmerson: What Moscow wants in the Arctic
Nancy McLernon: America’s unfair double taxation
Editorial: China must steer – not slow – growth
Editorial: Europe evolves
Editorial: Iceland’s revenge
Global Insight: Haig Simonian, Mood shifts against Swiss banking secrecy
Market Insight: Gillian Tett, Mathematicians must get out of their ivory towers
Lex: The agenda-setting column on business and finance

James Mackintosh

Nouriel Roubini built his reputation, and that of his Roubini Global Economics consultancy (RGE), on his gloomy, but accurate, predictions of financial doom. He isn’t always right though; and the decision by RGE to publish a call for a military overthrow of the democratic Brazilian government is clearly a mistake.

Ricardo Amaral, a Brazilian economist, pulls no punches in an article on the RGE web site (EDIT: RGE has taken the post down. Here’s the Google cache of the article):

I am suggesting that the military should seize power again in Brazil through a coup d ‘état, because we all know that this massive crime problem that is devastating the Brazilian population can’t be solved under a democratic system of government, and because of the actions that have to be taken to bring peace to all neighborhoods in Brazil. It is time for a benevolent military dictator to take power in Brazil and get the job done.

Mr Amaral even recommends General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, commander of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, as a possible candidate.

This comes after hagiographies of the last three “benevolent dictators” of Brazil, who he credits with laying the groundwork for Brazil’s economic success.

Under the dictatorship of a civilian politician, and later under the dictatorship of the military important economic changes were adopted and implemented in Brazil that planted the seeds for long-term Brazilian economic prosperity.

So who is Mr Amaral? It turns out he’s a direct descendant of José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Brazil’s “patriarch of independence” – and Mr Amaral’s first example of a benevolent dictator, although technically he was minister under the then Prince Regent. Mr Amaral wrote a book about him: “Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva – The Greatest Man in Brazilian History”.

Would Mr Amaral take a post in a new military government? No idea. But here’s what he says in his biography:

Mr. Amaral is a member of the two most politically influential families in Brazilian history the “Andrada Family” and the “Souza Queiroz” – The “Andrada Dynasty” in Brazil is still alive and well, and in the last 200 years we had more than 50 members of our family who were Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers, Secretary of various branches of government, state Governors, Mayors, Attorney General, various Ambassadors, and so on.

It is worth highlighting that RGE explicitly distances himself from anything written for its Economonitor web site, which aims to reflect different views; a sort of online op-ed page. From personal experience I can say it is often hard to convince readers that opinions expressed on the FT op-ed page are not necessarily the opinions of the newspaper; it will be harder still for an economic consultancy to pull that off. One has to wonder how welcome Mr Roubini will be in Brasilia from now on.

FT dot comment

FT dot comment is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Politics, economics, high finance and morality – this blog addresses the issues being considered by the FT’s comment team, and their thoughts.

FT dot comment: a guide

Christopher Cook is an FT editorial writer. Before joining the FT in 2008 as a Peter Martin Fellow, he worked for three years for the Conservative party.

Lorien Kite is deputy comment editor, a post he took up in 2009 after four years as a commissioning editor on the analysis page. He joined the FT in 2000.

Ian Holdsworth became assistant features editor in 2009 and was previously chief production journalist for the features pages.