Daily Archives: October 27, 2011

Jim Pickard

Lady Thatcher, the former Conservative prime minister, has claimed more than half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money in the last five years, it emerged on Thursday.

The 86-year-old Baroness benefited from the public duties cost allowance available to former UK premiers. Between 2006 and 2011 she claimed a total of £535,000.

The system was set up by Sir John Major in 1991 to reward former incumbents of No 10 for work including answering letters and attending public events. Yet Baroness Thatcher is rarely seen in public and suffers ongoing health problems.

The public duties cost allowance was capped at just £52,760 a year in 2001 but has since risen sharply.

The allowance has cost taxpayers more than £1.7 million in the past five years supporting Baroness Read more

Jim Pickard

Tony Blair made clear in his memoirs how he thought that introducing Freedom of Information was one of his biggest mistakes.

“You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.”

That view is shared by Jonathan Powell, in his excellent book “The New Machiavelli“, where he admits that New Labour ministers found FOI the bane of their lives.

This dislike of transparency appears to have remained with Mr Blair in his post-government years. The final few pages of “A Journey“, his fascinating political memoir, describe what he is up to after leaving Downing Street.

The former prime minister says “my new life takes me around the world” on a multitude of worthy causes, including his formal role as quartet envoy to the Middle East, his Faith Foundation, his work in Africa and finally his Climate Group.

He does not mention his creation of Tony Blair Associates, a sizeable private business headquartered in a luxury office block in Mayfair, with several large clients around the world. Blair does not discuss his work with clients such as JP Morgan Chase, the government of Kuwait and with Mubadala, an investment vehicle in Abu Dhabi. You can read more about his activities in our article from two years ago: “Inside Blair Inc“.

Earlier this month we heard that Mr Blair was involved in a new contract to advise the government of Khazakstan, an authoritarian state in Central Asia. Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. In the early hours of the morning, eurozone leaders emerged from their summit in Brussels with a deal designed to stem the sovereign debt crisis. The markets seem pleased but big questions on the details remain. We’ll bring you reactions, news and commentary as we get it throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

17.28: Over to Athens, where Kerin Hope, the FT’s Greece correspondent, listened to the was at the finance minister’s press conference.

“Evangelos Venizelos has broken a week-long silence on the new Greek haircut much to the relief of Athens businesspeople and bankers. Flanked at a press conference by exhausted-looking advisers, the finance minister gave a few pointers on the benefits to Greece of Thursday’s deal:

  • A €8bn slice of Greece’s first bail-out loan will be disbursed by mid-November, just in time to avert a funding crunch that would have delayed payments of

 Read more

A few, initial head-scratchers at pixel time.

First, the Greek debt deal:

1) Greece’s debt will remain 120 per cent of GDP a decade hence, even under the 50 per cent bondholder haircut. (As the debt sustainability analysis by the Troika warned.) Does that look like a safe number to you? Say, providing a good buffer to any external shocks that Greece might face over that period? Does it look like it rules out subsequent bondholder haircuts?

2) The huge disparity between haircuts and actual debt reduction is a creature of Greece’s reliance on official loans (plus the ECB’s getting made whole on its Greek bond holdings). This deal will chuck another €100bn on the fire. Again, if

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

Lord Justice LevesonThe inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson into media rules in the wake of the phone hacking scandal is massive. It is supposed to run in two parts, one looking at the specific allegations around hacking, and another looking at the broader issues of media regulation and ownership.

When David Cameron announced its remit, many people were surprised by this breadth. One of those, it seems, was Leveson himself – at least according to John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee. Read more