Diplomacy, crisis and the rebirth of the Tories
So. This banking crisis. What s it all about? As I understand it, our banks have lost huge bundles of cash but it s OK because the bankers will all get their bonuses anyway so we can all keep calm and carry on as if nothing has happened. Oh – and Iceland
So. This banking crisis. What's it all about? As I understand it, our banks have lost huge bundles of cash but it's OK because the bankers will all get their bonuses anyway so we can all keep calm and carry on as if nothing has happened. Oh - and Iceland's so broke apparently it's changing its name back to Bejam (one for the teenagers there...)
But seriously, kind of, last week there was a banker on the news moaning about something or other and threatening to move to Switzerland if he wasn't paid oodles of cash to carry on being rubbish while living the life of Riley. Now I looked at my wife, and she looked at me, both of us with expressions which said 'well go on then. You can indeed go to Helvetia in a handcart for all we care'.
Which set me thinking (like most people the words 'and now the banking crisis...' have my mind drifting off quicker than a cup of Horlicks and a potter's wheel). Why does it matter? Why have we spent billions upon billions of pounds keeping a handful of badly run businesses afloat while simultaneously consigning thousands of well-run small businesses to the proverbial dustbin of history.
Well enter Vince Cable and the paperback edition of The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What It Means (Atlantic, �8.99).
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Fully revised and updated (unlike our bankers) the book allows Cable to explain the crisis - why it happened and what we should do. He shows that even though the problem is worldwide, it was the British government's complacency which made it worse here than it needed to be.
So if, like me, you'd really like to know what's going on, buy The Storm. Rory Bremner described Cable as "the man who gives politicians a good name" so you can safely give him a few quid. And if you don't get on with it, you can always claim it back on expenses.
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Here's an interesting trivia question for you. What do Prime Minister in Waiting David Cameron and former Tory cabinet member Douglas Hurd have in common? Yes - quite a lot, I expect, as they're both Tories but specifically, they both represented Witney as MP - Hurd from 1974 (when the constituency was Mid Oxon) to 1997 (when he retired). Cameron picked up the Witney baton in 2001 and will no doubt be there for many years to come.
I mention this because Hurd - or Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC, to give him his full title - has a new book out. The jacket of Choose Your Weapons (Orion, �25) features both a pen and a sword, but which is mightier? Drawing on his own experience (Hurd was both Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary during the Thatcher and Major governments) he joins the debate that he says has always fascinated him: the argument between the interventionist approach and the diplomatic approach. It's an argument that's run for two centuries and is still at the heart of heated discussion today.
Another political book about to hit the book stores - next Monday, which is also Douglas Hurd's 80th birthday funnily enough - is Back From the Brink by Peter Snowdon (Harper Press, �14.99).
In it, journalist Snowdon lifts the lid on how the Tories went from the political wilderness after their catastrophic 1997 election defeat to the verge of power today. Based on more than 120 original interviews from a range of subjects (from grass-roots level to the Shadow Cabinet) it's a candid account that sheds new light on a dramatic renaissance.