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Archives for October 2011

Daily View: Does it matter if Occupy protesters' demands aren't clear?

Clare Spencer | 09:42 UK time, Monday, 31 October 2011

Occupy London protesters

Amid accusations of the Occupy protests being unfocused, commentators ask if that means they can be ignored.

Douglas Murray warns in the Spectator that the lack of aims may mean slow progress for the Occupy movement:

"A week may be a long time in politics, but it is no time at all in protest. As the inhabitants of Parliament Square have demonstrated, even a decade is as nothing so long as you have a constantly morphing cause, a council with no balls, and a small but steady stream of acolytes."

In the New York Times Bill Keller compares the Occupy movement to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption protests in India and finds Occupy's anti-politicians stance lacking:

"I understand that it is not the job of a protest to draft legislation, to elect candidates, to agree on a 10-point plan for fixing what ails us. But that does not mean the job of fixing what ails us is any less urgent or admirable. At some point you need the unglamorous business of government, which entails not consensus but hard choices and reasoned compromise. The job of protest is to mobilize a mood - but to mobilize it with purpose."

But the Guardian's Madeleine Bunting supports the vagueness of demands and resistance to join panel discussions:

"The alternatives they are looking for are not something written up in a Google doc. They live them, modelling new forms of organisation and democracy. 'Watch us, learn from us, join us' is the tactic. Who knows who is learning what from this experiment, and if that knowledge may feed into radical new ideas five years down the line? If it sounds vague, just consider how concrete literalism has boxed us into a very tight corner of the theory of TINA (There Is No Alternative), for a generation."

Times columnist Matthew Parris is coming round to the idea that maybe the Occupy protesters may have a point about capitalism's bad points, albeit inarticulately made. And he thinks middle England may be starting to see it as well:

"You can say that regrettably the British public do not really understand capitalism and probably wouldn't approve if they did; and that they go along with market economics only because (and while) it keeps making them richer. But if the market stops making them richer, beware. They may then turn on its unfairnesses, find themselves suddenly indignant at its moral disfigurement and make the market the scapegoat for their woes.
"Whichever you prefer, be ready to side with the mob rather than the scapegoat. For every protest junkie in a tent outside St Paul's yelling: 'Down with global capitalism' there are a thousand middle-income householders in Bromley, Bletchley and Barrow, studying directors' pay and muttering: 'It just isn't right.'"

Support for the protesters continues to come from unexpected places. Former investment banker Ken Costa says in the Financial Times that the City should heed the "discordant voices" at St Paul's:

"When such a wide range of people are singing a tune perhaps discordant to a City worker's ears but seemingly in tune with the global view that the market economy has failed to deliver growth, jobs, and hope, we need to listen. The cure is not more legislation, or increased regulation. It is the pressing need to reconnect the financial with the ethical.
"Free markets may be free in the sense that they permit uncoerced transactions between individuals but they do not exist in a moral vacuum. For markets to work freely, they need somehow to be nurtured and sustained by a moral spirit. This is not the box-ticking morality with which we have become familiar but somehow, improbable as it may seem to the many critics of the City, by a desire to do well, by doing good."

Finally, the Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is concerned the protesters may be losing their civil liberties:

"When economies are atrophying, the powerful turn even more hyperactively repressive. Anxieties about jobs and cash produce anger, endanger the settled order, which, however iniquitous, must be protected. The establishment understands that duty. The camp outside St Paul's Cathedral by activists who want a fairer deal for all is winning public sympathy. Can't be allowed. They will be overcome, defeated by any means necessary. What about the right to peaceful protest? Yeah, what of it? Hard times need hard leadership."

Daily View: Is the euro still at risk?

Clare Spencer | 10:02 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

Euro sign


After an announced bailout plan, commentators spell out the possible pitfalls still present for Europe.

Mary Dejevsky predicts in the Independent that the Franco-German alliance - key to Europe's stability for more than 60 years - is starting to crack:

"One of the most telling, and the one that caused something akin to panic in both capitals, was the rumour that France might lose its AAA financial rating, even as Germany kept its. In the event, this was avoided, and the risk may vanish permanently if the eurozone deal is made to stick. That the downgrading of France was in the air, however, was no fantasy, nor was it malevolent. It reflected the two countries' relative economic performance and their banks' relative exposure to risk."

The Economist wonders what could go wrong if China was brought in to lend money:

"The euro's crisis boils down to this: national treasuries do not have enough spare cash both to guarantee outstanding debt and maintain their own credit ratings. Even mighty Germany cannot stand alone behind the whole euro zone.
"Some hope that more money can be found from non-European creditor countries, such as China, by convincing them to invest in SPVs. Or perhaps the IMF could do more, particularly if China increases its contribution to the fund. But even if the Chinese were game, this raises a serious political question: does the euro zone want to be so obviously in hock to China just as it is fretting about Chinese firms buying up European ones?"

Simon Jenkins points out in the Guardian that the issue of central control of the European economy will continue to cause tension among the eurozone countries:

"Merkel spoke yesterday of what is needed to realise and entrench the rescue package. It was yet more Lisbon-style fantasy. She talked of imposing German überwachung, or political discipline, on the Greek public sector. How? When she and Nicolas Sarkozy smirked over Italy's inability to curb its spending, the message was clear. Something must be done about Italy. By whom? Merkel rejected a proper European central bank to bolster the single currency, but as France pointed out, how can a currency function without one?
"... There is no way a drastic increase in the central control of the European economy will gain support from national electorates. Nor will they accept that the European parliament offers sufficient accountability. People will not be further divorced from those who run their lives and fix their taxes."

The Daily Mail's Mary Ellen Synon warns that it isn't yet certain if banks will actually write off 50% of Greek debt:

"We won't know what kind of a deal the bankers actually cut with the eurozone until we know what the changes in coupons (the annual interest rate) and maturities (how quickly it will be paid off) will be. And these things haven't been decided yet. It could be that there won't be much of a haircut at all.
"In fact, there may be a far smaller haircut than if the banks were just left to suffer default by market forces...
"But if the banks and other private sector investors aren't really going to drop half the Greek debt, why were Mr Barroso, President Sarkozy and the rest selling this as yet uncalculated haircut so hard? Because they had to present something to pretend that Greece could be on the road to solvency. Yet it is not, and it won't be, not as long as its economy is tortured by the EU austerity programme and not as long as it stays in the eurozone."

On a more optimistic note, the US President Barack Obama writes in the Financial Times that he's confident Europe has the economic capacity to meet this challenge, albeit with conditions:

"This week, our European allies made important progress on a strategy to restore confidence in European financial markets, laying a critical foundation on which to build.
"Given the scope of the challenge and the threat to the global economy, it is important for all of us that this strategy be implemented successfully - including building a credible firewall that prevents the crisis from spreading, strengthening European banks, charting a sustainable path for Greece and tackling the structural issues at the heart of the current crisis."

Daily View: Is the eurozone crisis solvable?

Clare Spencer | 10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy


Ahead of the EU Brussels summit to come up with a eurozone plan commentators try to identify the cause of the crisis and if there is a solution.

The New York Times' Paul Krugman spots a flaw in the solutions offered so far:

"All the various proposals for creating such a fund ultimately require backing from major European governments, whose promises to investors must be credible for the plan to work. Yet Italy is one of those major governments; it can't achieve a rescue by lending money to itself. And France, the euro area's second-biggest economy, has been looking shaky lately, raising fears that creation of a large rescue fund, by in effect adding to French debt, could simply have the effect of adding France to the list of crisis countries."

Hamish McRae says in the Independent that main conflict is over how much of the debts governments will take on and how much they will expect bankers to take:

"The dissonance is that the political pressure is on governments to impose as much as possible of the burden on private holders of Greek debt, the 'make the banks pay for their stupidity' argument. The problem is that the greater the loss the greater the premium those holders will impose when making new loans, not just to Greece but to any even slightly suspect eurozone country. Either way, the taxpayers pay more."

John Kay says in the Financial Times that today's summit is a red herring as the solution isn't to be found in Europe:

"The eurozone's difficulties result not from the absence of strong central institutions but the absence of strong local institutions. A miscellany of domestic problems - rampant property speculation in Ireland and Spain, hopeless governance in Italy, lack of economic development in Portugal, Greece's bloated public sector - have become problems for the EU as a whole. The solutions to these problems in every case can only be found locally.
"But many interests converge in supporting the demand for collective action. An elite in Brussels and some other capitals takes the view that whatever the problem, the answer is more Europe. Another reason is the pleasure European leaders take in holding international crisis meetings. Nicolas Sarkozy will not forgo any opportunity for public grandstanding, while the representatives of smaller European states exploit the crisis to acquire a profile they would not otherwise achieve or, in most cases, deserve."

Jeremy Warner says in the Telegraph that whatever leaders come up with, it will create as many problems as it solves:

"What is plain is that the debt crisis is spiralling out of control and may already have moved beyond the capacity of Europe's political elite to fix it by ramming home fiscal and economic union...

"Saving the world from immediate disaster has to be the priority for now, but there will come a time in this unfolding crisis when more radical thinking is called for. The single currency cannot survive on the present policy mix. Britain must prepare to switch tack."


Finally, in Der Spiegel, Carsten Volkery reminds us that one vital party is missing from the summit - the banks:

"It's questionable whether an agreement can be found by Wednesday. Nor can the banks be forced into a deal, given that the ratings agencies have said they would view that as tantamount to a Greek insolvency, with incalculable consequences. If the banks don't play along, though, the entire rescue package could be imperilled."

Review round-up: Is Steve Jobs' biography accurate?

Clare Spencer | 13:37 UK time, Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Steve Jobs' biography

Walter Isaacson's authorised biography of Steve Jobs details the life, times and legacy of the co-founder of Apple who is regarded by some as the greatest entrepreneur of his generation. But reviewers are questioning whether it is a true representation of the man.

Joe Nocera says in the New York Times that the biography doesn't hold back at showing Steve Jobs' "incorrigible bullying, belittling and lying". However, he says it doesn't question Jobs' notion that this conduct was a way of getting the best out of people. That may be, he says, because Walter Isaacson was too close to his subject:

"Part of the problem, I think, is that the bond that developed between subject and writer made it nearly impossible for Isaacson to get the kind of critical distance he needed to take his subject's true measure. He didn't just interview Jobs; he watched him die. There is a moving scene near the end of the book, with an emaciated Jobs, lying in bed, leafing through photographs with Isaacson, reminiscing. How can one possibly get critical distance about your subject when such moments are part of your experience of him?"

On the contrary, ABC News's George Stephanopoulos thinks the book reflects Steve Jobs' complexity:

"The author pulled no punches in this book, describing Jobs as a charismatic and inspiring leader but also as a man who could be very tough, even mean. Jobs told Isaacson that he and his team at Apple could 'have a rip roaring fight and that brutal honesty' in meetings, telling Isaacson that he didn't know how to have a 'velvet glove' touch."

Michael Rosenwald says in the Washington Post that the biography showing a messy private life, abrasive leadership and an innovative mind, can be read in several ways:

"It is on the one hand a history of the most exciting time in the age of computers, when the machines first became personal and later, fashionable accessories. It is also a textbook study of the rise and fall and rise of Apple and the brutal clashes that destroyed friendships and careers. And it is a gadget lover's dream, with fabulous, inside accounts of how the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad came into being.
"But more than anything, Isaacson has crafted a biography of a complicated, peculiar personality - Jobs was charming, loathsome, lovable, obsessive, maddening - and the author shows how Jobs's character was instrumental in shaping some of the greatest technological innovations of our time."

The Telegraph's Matt Warman says that Steve Jobs deserved a biography from the man who had previously written about Albert Einstein:

"It's the sense of relentlessness about Steve Jobs' ambition, expressed through iPods, iPads and iPhones, that comes through Isaacson's book. He dropped prototype iPods in fish tanks to prove that there was air inside, and consequently space to make the device even smaller, for instance. It may be difficult to hold Jobs the man up as the person everyone should aspire to be - but he made Apple into the company every businessperson aspires to run. For that alone, he is worthy of Isaacson's treatment."

Finally, Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly judges the book by its cover (and its paper quality):

"My only quibble is a small one: Though the jacket is gorgeous (perhaps because Jobs himself had a hand in it), the book's interior feels cheaply done, with thin paper and an unremarkable font. As I hefted it, I thought, If only it measured up to Jobs' exacting design standards."

Daily View: What now for Britain in Europe?

Clare Spencer | 09:30 UK time, Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Following MPs' vote against a public referendum on EU membership 483 votes to 111 commentators ask whether this is the end of the debate on Britain's involvement in Europe.

George Eaton says in the New Statesman that a referendum wouldn't have been right as the public are indifferent to Europe:

"Tomorrow's headlines will be dreadful for David Cameron but, in my view, he was right to whip MPs against the motion. Britain might be the most eurosceptic country in the EU but the public care less about the subject than some imagine. Polling by Ipsos-MORI shows that just 3 per cent of voters regard Europe as one of the most 'important issues' facing the UK. As the economy continues to struggle, Tory MPs obsessed with Europe risk appearing eccentric to the electorate."

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan says in the Telegraph that among the 483 MPs who voted against a referendum there are some who broke a pre-election pledge:

"There is one set of MPs, though, for whom absolutely no excuse can be made: those Liberal Democrats who fought the last election on the basis of an unequivocal promise of an In/Out referendum. They were lying, and they knew it at the time. Shame on them."

But Conservative MP John Redwood points out in his blog that Conservatives also weren't sincere in their voting:

"The heart of the Conservative party is Eurosceptic. Last night more showed their heart. Many of the remaining Conservatives who voted No did so whilst they saying they wanted less EU government, and wanted a referendum at some other time."

In the Spectator's Coffee House blog James Forsyth predicts debate on Britain's membership to the EU is far from over:

"This should be a wake-up call to David Cameron. He needs to develop a proper policy for repatriating powers from Brussels, change his style of party management, and reform the Whips office.
"This rebellion will encourage the hard-line Euro-sceptics to try again and again. They will reckon, rightly, that as the parliament goes on the number of potential rebels will grow. If they can get this number of rebels in year two of the parliament, imagine how many they'll attract in 2014 when a whole bunch more MPs have been passed over for promotion. The idea that this vote has lanced the boil, or dealt with the issue of Europe for the parliament is for the birds."

And if this debate does continue, Mary Riddell says in the Telegraph that David Cameron has to start selling the EU more:

"As everyone, not least a chastened Left, accepts, Europe is deeply flawed. Waste and bureaucracy must go. But in a multilateral world, trade, diplomacy and influence are collective issues. As Mr Alexander has said, some of the best arguments for British membership of the EU are found not in Brussels but Beijing. The PM, he now adds, has been "marooned between the rhetoric of opposition and the reality of government.
"That limbo is no longer at his disposal. Yesterday, David Cameron set himself up not only as an iron prime minister, but also as a dedicated European. Now, with Eurosceptics baying at his door and the eurozone shuffling towards catastrophe, he has the hard, if not impossible, task of proving that he means it."

Finally, in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee says the small rebellion tells us nothing new:

"The Tory rebellion tells us nothing we didn't know: even among those voting with Cameron, fanaticism over Europe runs through the party like a stick of rock. Mouth-foaming eye-swivellers abounded in today's debate. Cameron was never in peril once Ed Miliband saved his bacon with the honourable pledge to vote for what most Labour MPs know to be true: being in Europe is our destiny."

Daily View: Should the Occupy London protests continue?

Clare Spencer | 09:38 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011


Protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral


As anti-capitalist protesters continue to camp outside St Paul's Cathedral commentators ask if they have a point or should move on.

Libby Purves says in the Times that the protesters should clear up and go home because their demands are unfocused:

"Plenty of things need fixing, but protests have lost their focus. The Jarrow marchers, Aldermaston CND, Vietnam protesters and Greenham women all had clear demands, and it was obvious to everyone what would have appeased them. Even the student protesters against fees were reasonably well-focused: it was a limited policy they were hoping to reverse. The trouble with UK Uncut and the idealistic, self-righteous campers of Occupy London is that it is impossible to think of any clear, feasible action by an elected government that would satisfy and shift them."

This criticism that the goals are unclear is taken up by two of the protesters in the Guardian. Naomi Colvin and Kai Wargalla say it is intentional:

"Not having a set programme for people to 'buy into' is deliberate - we're choosing a different way of going about things. Our response to systemic failure is not to propose a new system, but to start making one. We're in the business of defining process, and specific demands will evolve from this in time...
"What is it we want? We have common concerns about the relationship between government and the financial system. But, in a way, the core message of OccupyLSX (and the Occupy movement in general) is about the way we, as individuals, understand democracy."

Melanie Phillips argues in the Daily Mail that the protests don't signify a legitimate grievance but instead show a "profound moral discombobulation" in general society:

"Accordingly, what the 'Occupy' protests across the world tell us is that - just as some of us have been warning for years -the erosion of democratic legitimacy and the steady disintegration of moral authority across the board will inevitably give rise to the fracturing of social order.
"From the windows smashed by anti-globalisation protesters to the torched city neighbourhoods of Britain to the occupation of the approach to St Paul's, we are witnessing the rise of mob rule by the spoiled children of the very society they are so determined to destroy."

Others focus on the role of St Paul's Cathedral in the protests. In the Independent Peter Popham is fiercely critical of St Paul's Cathedral shutting its doors this weekend:

"The protesters outside St Paul's are demanding an end to the reign of naked greed over our lives. It is a proposal in which one would expect Christians of conviction to play an active part. By turning them away, St Paul's has indicated that, whatever the church's spiritual message, for those who run the place its fabric is more important. That's a bureaucratic way of saying, yes, God is dead."

Meanwhile the editorial of the Anglican newspaper the Church Times suggests that the cause of anti-capitalism will require the protesters to bed in outside the cathedral for a long time:

"It is by no means clear, however, that the capitalist system is capable of reformation over any short time-frame. The journey from the gold standard to the recent banking crisis is an epic one... the capitalist system, being both highly interconnected and motivated by profit, seems bound to display inertia in the face of attempted reform.
"Nevertheless, the international character of the present movement may help it to galvanise action. But it seems probable that the London protesters, if they decide to hold on until they see reform, had better get in some warm clothes and look forward to enjoying the bells of St Paul's for a long time."

Daily View: Dale Farm evictions

Clare Spencer | 09:43 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

Burning caravan


Following the eviction of Dale Farm travellers' site, commentators ask whether is was the right thing to do.

Roxy Freeman says in the Guardian that as a gypsy child she faced "countless" evictions. She says more compassion should have been shown:

"For the residents of Dale Farm, and Gypsies and Travellers all over the world, their worst nightmare was finally coming true. 'They're breaking the law,' I hear many of you cry, 'It's green belt land.' And you are right: it is an illegal camp, and if we want to live in a civilised society we must all uphold the law, no matter what background or culture we come from.
"But the law is not black and white, and these people have certainly been let down by the system. Legal wrangling aside, the reality is that hundreds of human beings are about to be dragged from their homes and forced on to the roads."

But the Daily Mail editorial argues that the travellers have already received special treatment:

"As for the travellers' claim that they've been wronged because of their ethnicity, this is the opposite of the truth.
"Indeed, had they not belonged to a minority, they would have been kicked off the land without ceremony ten years ago. As it is, they have been treated with huge tact and patience - often to the immense distress of their neighbours, whose lives they have cruelly disrupted."

In a similar vein, the Times editorial says the community didn't benefit from living outside the law. It argues the eviction was inevitable:

"Travellers do not thrive through their separation from the wider population. Quite palpably they do the reverse. Similar communities, most notably Gypsies from Europe, have been the victims of unspeakable persecution in the past century. A wariness of ever appearing to echo it is both understandable and desirable, but when any section of society is allowed to exist outside the rule of law it is they, ultimately, who suffer most."

The Independent editorial agrees with the Times that the eviction was foreseeable but argues against the way it was carried out:

"Inevitable though it might have been, however, what happened at Dale Farm yesterday - the massed ranks of police, the batons, the riot shields, the Taser-strikes and the bulldozers, and on the other side, the stone-throwing, the iron bars, the fires and the obstruction - also constituted the face of a multiple and egregious failure. While it is unarguable that the law must always be allowed to take its course, this dispute should never have been drawn out as long as it was. Every new delay gave the Travellers additional hope that they might yet prevail. For them, the 10-year fight only compounds the bitterness of the denouement."

Looking at the police's methods used at the eviction, David Allen Green says in the New Statesman that they should be questioned but can be justified:

"Our society not only tolerates the sort of people who want to wear uniforms and want to use weapons against civilians, it actually employs them to do so. And today some of these people may well be using Tasers against travellers at Dale Farm...
"The more openly critical we can be of those who have the power to coerce us, the better. And the more the police can explain their decisions and justify their actions, the better. After all, they can have nothing to hide; even the ones wearing paramilitary uniforms and using weapons at Dale Farm."

Daily View: How to solve the eurozone debt crisis

Clare Spencer | 09:55 UK time, Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Following the G20 countries' order for the eurozone countries to solve their debt crisis this weekend, commentators give their suggestions.

Martin Wolf says in the Financial Times that while the eurozone may be able to manage this emergency, it is inconceivable that they'll get to the underlying causes:

"Inside the eurozone, adjustment of imbalances remains essential. But it is also vastly difficult, because the exchange rate has gone. In its place, comes adjustment via depression and default. A currency union with structural mercantilists in the core now threatens a permanent slump in the periphery. Solving that is the true cure. Can it be done? I wonder."

But Anatole Kalestsky goes a step further in the Times and says the eurozone could be saved if it was made a full-scale political federation, with power to borrow and veto member countries' tax and spending decisions:

"With each successive crisis, eurozone leaders come closer to admitting openly that there must be joint responsibility for national borrowing and spending, so national governments must be brought under centralised control. After staring into the abyss of a euro break-up this summer, the German and French political and business elites have now prepared themselves for the leap that full-scale federation involves."

Kaletsky continues to recommend that Britain should fund a federal Europe in return for more power.

In a piece about the new Commons debate about a referendum on being in the EU, the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan says British politicians are making out the UK is immobilised in the crisis:

"There is nothing substantive that the Government can do, they say, to generate the level of growth that would come if Europe simply got its act together and resolved its problems. Individual supply-side measures already announced, such as making it more difficult to take an employer to a tribunal, help at the margins but no more. Only when Greece is allowed to fail in as orderly a manner as possible will the markets find certainty.
"There are plenty who in turn are frustrated by what they dismiss as this counsel of despair."

The Economist's leader says the euro can be saved, if eurozone countries concentrate on growth and restructuring debt instead of "austerity and pretence":

"Europe must make an honest judgment about which side of the line countries are on. Greece, which is unambiguously insolvent, ought to have a hard but orderly write-down. The latest, inadequate plan for a second Greek bail-out, agreed at a summit in July, should be thrown away and rewritten. But all the other euro members (and on present numbers Portugal is just about in the solvent camp) should be defended with overwhelming financial firepower. All the troubled economies, solvent or insolvent, need a renewed programme of structural reform and liberalisation. Freeing up services and professions, privatising companies, cutting bureaucracy and delaying retirement will create conditions for renewed growth - and that is the best way to reduce debts."

Finally, chief executive of Next, Lord Wolfson, hasn't come up with a solution but is prepared to give away £250,000 of his own money to the economist who does - whether it means ironing out the problems of integration or managing a transition to the end of the euro. He explains in the Times why:

"The unplanned disintegration of the euro would endanger the financial stability of sovereign states and the world's banking system, along with the savings and jobs of millions. The damage could take a generation to repair...
"Currently there is only one plan: deeper fiscal integration that gives EU central authorities greater control over tax and spending in member states. But this does little to cure structural deficiencies in the eurozone. At best it trades short-term disaster for longer- term stagnation, putting off, though not averting, the day of reckoning."

Daily View: Who are the Occupy London protesters?

Clare Spencer | 10:01 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Occupy London Stock exhchange protesters camp outside St Pauls Cathedral

As Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters have set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, commentators ask if there is merit in their protest and who they represent.

The Times editorial argues the protesters misjudge the causes of the financial crisis:
"This protest is wrong-headed and there is little purpose in being polite about it... The protesters think that they are standing up for the little guy; in fact their mish-mash of proposals makes for a muddled charter of stagnation in which he would suffer most. The fact is that economic liberty enables the little guy to stand up for himself."

In the Independent James Harkin dishes out a scathing attack of the protesters:

"Any protest is better than nothing, but if there's one thing that's shocking about these demonstrations, it's how weak and inarticulate they were. Fine to speak up against greedy bankers, but without any other political arguments - who needs arguments when you have Facebook? - it rather seems like you're damning the millions who lived off their loans in the first place. And why would they want to do that?...
"Unless these new anti-capitalists find a way to hitch their demands to the interests of the rest of the population - the 99 per cent they claim to speak for - they're stuck in a self-righteous bubble. And until they do so, their tirades against greed reek of the worst kind of Victorian self-righteous puritanism. It used to be that workers occupied factories, but now these sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie have seen fit to occupy the space outside a church. If there's a spectre haunting capitalism today, it's nothing more than its own self-loathing."

But the Guardian's Polly Toynbee disagrees, saying that most people would have the same opinion as the Occupy protesters:

"Is it a finely worked out plan B? No, but no one else has much of one either. Labour's five-point plan is at the other end of the spectrum, small, timid and unlikely to stir popular enthusiasm."

The Guardian's editorial also disputes the idea in the Independent that the protesters are not from the general public:

"What is different this time is not so much the quantity as the quality of the protesters. Last time around it was largely long-hairs and scrumpy-fuelled students. It's a more mixed bunch today, including some who have never protested before, and others recently shunted out of respectable jobs. The argument of this diverse crowd is drawing support from equally diverse quarters."

Also suggesting the majority of public opinion is supporting the protesters is Mark Donne in the Huffington Post:

"We all kind of know they are right, the protesters I mean, even if we cannot quite bring ourselves or our lives make it impossible to express it on the same, devoted scale. Opinion polls published today show public approval percentages in the high 80's.
"Not all agree of course, but recall the tree-dwelling 'swampy' of the 1990's, of how initially he and his kind were derided for their activism, and slowly but surely the green movement grew, entered all of our homes and minds and is now hard wired into government policy, domestic planning and common behaviour."

Swampy is also brought up by the Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn, but in a less flattering light. Littlejohn argues that he isn't against the protests, just the protesters:

"Friends of mine who run their own companies say they spend half their life trying to keep government off their backs. So it would be understandable if the crowd demonstrating outside St Paul's was entirely comprised of self-employed small businessmen and women.
"Predictably, though, it was the usual gormless rent-a-mob you always find on these anti-globalisation demos - Toytown Trots from Mickey Mouse universities, social workers, lecturers, full-time mature students and Swampy wannabes."

Finally, Anne Applebaum argues in Slate that the global Occupy protests may actually threaten democracy rather than strengthen it:

"Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary, and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul's cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue St. Martin in Paris... Protesters in London shout that 'we need to have a process!' Well, they already have a process: It's called the British political system. And if they don't figure out how to use it, they'll simply weaken it further."

Daily View: Regulating the lobbyists

Clare Spencer | 09:58 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

Liam Fox and Adam Werritty


As the Liam Fox affair widens into a debate about regulating lobbyists, commentators look at the lobbying industry.

Political blogger Stephen Newton explains in the Guardian how he first uncovered Adam Werritty's lobbying in 2009. He says the people funding lobbyists aren't motivated by money but influence. This, he says, has its own dangers:

"Democracy's success depends upon voters being well informed. Achieving that goal demands transparency both of intention and relationships. Multimillionaire businessmen may believe they are working in society's best interests, but it is for all the people, not just those with money, to decide what utopia looks like."

Conversely the Independent's Andy McSmith says there is big money in lobbying, something that needs to be uncovered:

"Where this £2bn-a-year industry becomes a target of suspicion, and a potential source of corruption, is when its practitioners operate in secret, either by pretending that they are motivated by beliefs when in fact there is money involved, or by trying to disguise the fact that they are lobbyists.
"The most effective way to prevent 'in-betweeners' from bending the rules would be to force them, by law, to come out from any dark corners where they may be hiding, say who they are and who is paying them to do what. It should not be difficult to get legislation through Parliament. All it needs is the political will. If the Government suddenly finds the will, we can thank Adam Werritty."

The Telegraph's Matthew d'Ancona warns David Cameron not to get fooled that Liam Fox was just a minister mesmerised by an outsider. This, he says, is a problem with the system:

"For a reforming Government such as this one, labouring night and day to prevent a global economic catastrophe, legislation of this sort doubtless seems a fairly low priority. The Fox Affair should be persuasion -if further persuasion were needed - that regulation of lobbying ought to be granted government time in Parliament as soon as possible. Why did Adam Werritty behave as he did? Because he could."

Andrew Pierce suggests in the Daily Mail that the relationship between MPs and lobbyists may be hard to untangle:

"No fewer than 19 of 143 newly-elected Conservative MPs worked as lobbyists before entering Parliament.
"So perhaps the Prime Minister shouldn't be surprised that a lobbying controversy has cost the career of one of his ministers. The question is: will he at last do something about it?"

Nick Deynes points out that David Cameron said in 2010 that lobbying was the next big scandal to happen. But in the blog for Conservative organisation Platform 10 he warns against a block ban on lobbying:

"Lobbying will always be a part of politics, in the same way advertising will always be an integral part of capitalism. Without it our leaders would not be exposed to a plurality of ideas. It would not be healthy if politicians just listened to those they wanted to or solely interacted within the limited circle of those they know. But the business of lobbying needs a good dose of sunshine directed onto it."

Daily View: What's the fuss over NHS changes?

Clare Spencer | 09:15 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

NHS protesters - September 2011

After the House of Lords voted against blocking the Health and Social Care Bill, which would put GPs in control of buying care, commentators ask why it is so controversial.

Steve Richards says in the Independent that the idea power will be devolved is a principle that just doesn't work for the NHS:

"The House of Lords might have voted for the NHS proposals yesterday afternoon, but the debate that preceded their tame verdict highlighted a single, forensically expressed concern. No one argued that the health service was a perfect model as it currently stood, or that it could not be much more efficient, but former health ministers, surgeons and the rest outlined their alarm that the new lines of accountability were dangerously unclear and that the envisaged responsibilities of the Health Secretary were extremely limited.
"...Indeed that is the objective of the reforms, in theory a noble one, to take power away from the centre and, ultimately, to empower patients. But the theory is tested at every stage by practicalities, so much so that already a policy aimed at reducing the number of bureaucrats looks like increasing the mediating agencies with no one knowing who is in control. This has not happened by chance. No doubt the coalition seeks to save money, but the ideological dimension is absolutely clear, the centre cannot and should not be held responsible for the delivery of local services."

The Guardian's Zoe Williams says the interesting thing about the campaign against the bill was that campaigners targeted lords after being frustrated by MPs:

"We should look at the defeat of the Owen-Hennessy amendment not as a failure but as the beginning of something - the beginning of a process in which Lords are lobbied directly; in which they take public opinion seriously but aren't so cravenly people-pleasing that their debates sound like EastEnders; in which the taint of being the unelected chamber is offset by the fact that nobody voted for the other lot's policies either; in which they might be pressurised by their party but a good proportion of them can withstand it."

Baroness Bakewell outlines in the New Statesman how she intends to continue to campaign against the changes:

"So the Bill now goes to its committee stage, a time when a cascade of amendments will be tabled, each one argued to death and perhaps significant changes brought to this unwieldy and unwelcome bill. We face hard days ahead, but every inch gained will be worth it. We all know that the British public want the NHS to survive as they know it, only better."

The Telegraph's editorial says the "war of attrition" by Labour peers such as Baroness Bakewell is a depressing prospect as a report on the lack of care shown towards elderly patients puts into focus that reforms are needed:

"What the NHS now needs is clarity and certainty about its future. True, the Bill, heavily revised to accommodate Lib Dem objections, may well produce a more bureaucratic regime than currently exists - if the Lords can remove the measure's top-heavy structures, it would perform a valuable function as a revising chamber. But peers would be wrong to undermine the Bill's ambition to create a more effective and better-managed NHS."

Finally in Camilla Cavendish's Times column she argues that the whole bill should be abandoned because there is nothing in it which requires legislation:

"Competition and GP commissioning were not invented by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary; they began under Labour. The most successful GP consortium I have visited, in Bexley, started in 2007. Competition was unleashed by Alan Milburn's 'any willing provider' policy in 2000. When the coalition took over, the NHS was spending £1 in every £20 on services from the private sector or charities. A private company was shortlisted to take over Hinchingbrooke NHS hospital in Cambridge before this Bill was even dreamt of.
"You wouldn't know any of this from the current hysteria. By presenting these ideas as new and creating a Bill that needs parliamentary assent, Mr Lansley has given vested interests the perfect platform to complain about "a secret plan to break up the NHS". So all the old arguments about the internal market that were made about the Clarke reforms of 1990 and the Milburn reforms of 2000 are now being replayed unnecessarily, in stereo."

Daily View: What Liam Fox's story says about politics

Clare Spencer | 09:17 UK time, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Liam Fox

Commentators reflect on what the ongoing questions about the nature of the friendship between Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Adam Werritty tells us about the state of politics.

Daniel Finkelstein says in the Times that it is right for David Cameron to wait until the situation is clearer before acting. But it goes against what is expected of a leader - to act decisively:

"In these scandals you are expected to move decisively, taking a clear position. Anything else is weakness, dithering, tolerating sleaze. But often you can't honourably do so. You don't know the whole truth. You may never know it. And you can't really act without knowing it, because that's not fair on the accused.
"The result? You end up breaking what is possibly the most important rule of politics. The rule that says that you must always seem to be in control of circumstances."

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland asks why Liam Fox appears to think saying sorry is enough:

"Only in politics is the mere act of saying sorry deemed to be sufficient punishment. You don't see rioters walk away from court simply because they had the grace to put their hands up. Nor can they evade a jail sentence by regretting that they had allowed 'the distinction between legal and illegal to be blurred'. Even Wayne Rooney gets a three-match ban for blurring the distinction between his studs and an opponent's leg.
"But somehow politics is placed in a separate, more convenient, category. In politics, a quick mention of the s-word is meant to close the matter, enabling everyone - including the culprit - to move on, as if simply saying that you take responsibility is the same as taking it."

David Hughes says in the Telegraph that opposition questioning of Liam Fox highlights how politicians lack the skills to interrogate:

"Their questions were either over-elaborate or designed to show how smart the questioner was, or a combination of both. The question that was screaming out to be asked was: 'What was Mr Werritty doing at those meetings?' That, surely, is what we all want to know. Why didn't anyone ask? It's not the first time that MPs have missed the obvious and it won't be the last. The short, sharp and pithy question is a valuable weapon in the Chamber yet is seldom used"

In a similar vein, in the Financial Times Jim Pickard also lists the questions about Adam Werritty that still need to be answered:

"What is Werritty's source of income. According to one MoD source he has 'private clients'. Who are they? What do they do for him? Will the government ask him who they are? And if he tells them, will they publish a list?"

Finally, moving away from the politics, in the Independent Matthew Norman jokes about how Liam Fox and Adam Werritty's friendship has made him question whether his own friends are putting in enough effort:

"Had you asked me a few days ago, I'd have told you that my friends were one of the best things in my life, and that I wouldn't change them for the world. Then along came Adam Werritty to redefine the nature of friendship, or at least raise the friendship bar to an unreachable zenith, and now I want to sack the bleeding lot of them.
"This is why I resent Dr Liam Fox, who at the time of writing remains Defence Secretary, though this is ridiculously unfair. Is he to be demonised for being the kind of chap who inspires a level of devotion that beggars belief? When loyalty, the platinum of human resources, is among the scarcest and most precious commodities known to humanity?"

Daily View: Liam Fox's fate

Clare Spencer | 09:24 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Liam Fox and David Cameron


Commentators continue to speculate about the fate of Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

Former Conservative MP Paul Goodman says in the Guardian that investigators should follow the money to determine Liam Fox's fate:

"Downing St is asking two key questions: has Adam Werritty made any money out of defence since May 2010 and if so, did the defence secretary know about it? If the answer to the first question turns out to be yes, Fox's troubles are not yet over. His critics will proclaim him a knave if he knew and a fool if he didn't.
"This is what the Fox hunt comes down to: neither the niceties of the ministerial code nor the number of private meetings with Werritty. They come down to cash, and if his friend hasn't profited then the mistakes Fox has apologised for don't merit resignation."

But the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan thinks there are a few other questions that need to be answered:

"This is the exposed flank: what has Mr Merritty been up to in his patron's name that his patron doesn't know about but should have prevented?
"Mr Cameron believes he has positioned him as best as possible: if Dr Fox survives, he owes the PM for his support; if he goes down, Mr Cameron can tell the Tory Right that he did his best. For the moment, though, it remains an argument about judgment, and that's a grey area."

Rachel Sylvester predicts in the Times that Liam Fox will be protected because he is a traditionalist:

"Mr Cameron is worried about upsetting Tory rightwingers. Dr Fox, who describes himself as a "free marketeer, Unionist, Eurosceptic and Atlanticist", is now the Cabinet's most vocal representative of his party's traditionalist wing. When Mr Cameron declared, a few months into his leadership, that the British "don't do flags on the front lawn", his one-time rival made clear to sympathetic MPs that, actually, he did."

In the Independent Steve Richards also thinks David Cameron is reluctant to get rid of Liam Fox but says that is because he is loyal, creating an admirable stability:

"The advantages of ministerial continuity are immense. Above all, ministers need time to acquire an authority within their department. Senior civil servants tend to regard their departments as personal fiefdoms visited fleetingly by precarious cabinet ministers. The officials are there for much longer, and security of tenure gives them a power that mere elected ministers can only dream of... an inherently unstable political context highlights the needs for more stable government. Whatever happens to Fox, Cameron has set an example for ministerial continuity and his successors should follow it whether they lead a coalition or not."

Finally, the Telegraph's Mary Riddell says the story has to be put in to perspective against the economic crisis:

"Such momentous times demand politicians who can be both masters of the universe and servants of the people. Instead, we are witnessing a re-run of the pygmy politics that brought the system into disrepute and convinced the public that the governing classes are dominated by self-serving figures neglectful of the public good. As the eurozone crisis intensifies, Mr Cameron urges other EU leaders "to take a big bazooka" to their problems. Meanwhile, the dominant story back home is whether the PM might, even now, take a big bazooka to his Defence Secretary. While the Fox hunt is hardly insignificant, it is little more than a Whitehall parlour game in comparison with the economic tsunami bearing down on Britain."

Daily View: What now for Liam Fox?

Clare Spencer | 08:50 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Liam Fox


Ahead of an internal inquiry today about the working relationship between the Defence Secretary Liam Fox and his friend Adam Werritty, commentators mull over what will become of Mr Fox.

The Guardian's editorial focuses on what this debacle will mean for the Prime Minister David Cameron:

"After the past week's bluster and half-truths from his defence secretary, Mr Cameron faces a tough call on Monday morning. Whatever the interim reports from Dr Fox's permanent secretary and Sir Gus O'Donnell contain, the minister's reputation, and that of the coalition, has been tarnished. Dr Fox has some protection: there is no obvious alternative to him as the architect of demanding and unpopular budget cuts."

Oliver Wright suggests in the Independent that David Cameron has motivation to keep Liam Fox close to him:

"Mr Fox is the highest profile rightwinger in the Government. As a minister he is bound by collective responsibility, but if he were to leave office he would be free to speak his mind and emerge as the de facto leader of the anti-Coalition movement inside the Tory parliamentary party. That would spell trouble down the line for the Government."

Meanwhile, Benedict Brogan says in the Telegraph that the fiasco is "a bit weird" but not worth resigning over:

"The easy charge to make against him is foolishness, for involving his best man in his professional life, and allowing Adam Werrity to parade himself as his Commons adviser (note, not his ministerial adviser). He was overindulgent, and unwise, certainly. As he said in his apology, it 'gave the impression of wrongdoing'. And - let's say it - there's something a bit weird about allowing your mate to hang around the office. But I can well imagine Dr Fox being oblivious to the problem. Labour have successfully got up the idea that national security was in some way put at risk, when plainly it wasn't."

Also defending Liam Fox is Conservative Home's "the Lurcher" who says his acts are comparably OK:

"In terms of what's next for Fox, he deserves to be treated in the same way as other government members this parliament. At its worst, he agreed to attend a meeting at the request of a friend and was accompanied by the same friend on an unofficial trip. That seems to be significantly less harmful than Cameron's decision to take his friend Coulson into Downing Street despite receiving warnings about his activities at the NOTW. It also seems less severe than Vince Cable's foolish bragging about his war on Murdoch which led to him losing ministerial responsibility and the restructuring of two government departments."

Finally, the Times' Libby Purves says the saga prompts reflection on a wider, less public, but increasingly common dilemma about personal friendship:

"Real profit and advancement is regularly traded between 'friends' in this age of approved networking. Little courts, almost medieval in the unspoken pecking order and the need to ingratiate, are forever forming: I do not think they are subject to sufficient ridicule and distaste from the rest of us. Invisible glass walls can include and exclude with equal efficiency, and a seemingly innocent multifamily barbecue may solidify a political, business or media opportunity."

Daily View: What will creating £75bn do?

Clare Spencer | 09:59 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011


Commentators ponder whether it is a good thing for the Bank of England to create £75bn and put it into the financial markets - also known as quantitative easing.

Andrew Lilico says in the Telegraph that the Bank of England's action implies they think the banking system is about to collapse:

"QE isn't being introduced for British domestic reasons. Instead, we face the fallout from a banking sector meltdown and multiple sovereign defaults in the eurozone. If that induces collapse in certain British banks, we might soon face a collapse in the money stock even greater than the one we faced in 2009."

The Times editorial says the plan isn't extreme but could lead to inflation:

"In pumping more money into the economy, the Bank is demonstrating its concern to support demand. Under QE, which has already injected £200 billion into the economy, the Bank creates money with which to buy government and corporate debt. The hope is that an expansion of the money supply will ease credit conditions and cut the cost of borrowing...
"If the Bank hesitates to sell the bonds it has bought under QE, it may stoke fears of sharply higher inflation that will be difficult to damp down again. Inflation may then become self-reinforcing and undermine Britain's long-term recovery."

However, in the Daily Mail Alex Brummer says if the new money does create inflation it is people with pensions who will feel the pain:

"The launch of a new £75billion programme of quantitative easing is designed to ensure interest rates remain low for the foreseeable future, cash machines do not dry up and banks have plenty of money to lend...
"QE2 will be harshest on those who have spent their lives saving. Not only does it keep interest rates low - the return on UK government bonds fell to its lowest level in a century in latest trading - it also eats away at nest eggs eroded by inflation."

David Boyle argues in the New Statesman that new money created won't create economic growth because it will get stuck in the banks:

"Instead of ambitious projects to direct new money where it is needed, we have quantitative easing - a hands-off, labyrinthine scheme for buying government bonds from banks, which they then use for bonuses. All the evidence from Japan over the past generation is that this form of quantitative easing doesn't work. It seems unable to kickstart the zombie banks into life.
"But perhaps that is hardly surprising, because it is so indirect. Why have we lost our faith in our own ability to roll up our sleeves and make things happen?"

Finally, the Independent's Hamish McRae warns that the problem with trying to predict whether this extra money will create growth or inflation is we don't know the effects of the last cash injection:

"The trouble is we don't really know what would have happened had they done nothing and it is at least possible that the relationship was the other way round: the policy added more to inflation than growth."

Daily View: Verdicts on David Cameron's Tory party speech

Clare Spencer | 08:57 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

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Political bloggers give their verdicts for Prime Minister David Cameron's speech to the Conservative party conference.

The New Statesman's Samira Shackle calls the speech "distinctly average":

"Cameron looked tired and sounded hoarse, which was unfortunate given his emphasis on 'can-do optimism'. There wasn't much here in the way of policy, simply an attempt to encourage positivity - a tough call in the face of inconvenient facts, such as the news today that growth figures are being revised down."

Faint praise comes from James Forsyth in the Spectator, who simply says "Cameron does enough":

"Cameron's delivery wasn't his best but it was still enough to best the other two leaders. He did, though, occasionally move up a gear, like when he explained why what the coalition was doing with the economy was the equivalent of laying foundations. Overall, it wasn't a great speech or a vintage performance. But it did, broadly, what it needed to do."

Praise comes from an unlikely corner. Shamik Das says in Left Foot Forward unlike Ed Miliband, David Cameron appeared as a global statesman:

"Having been wholly omitted from Ed Miliband's leader's speech last week, David Cameron put foreign affairs at the front of his conference speech today. On Libya, international development and the Arab Spring, he made the case for an international, interventionist policy - putting himself at odds with many in his own party but on the right side of history...
"On foreign affairs at least, plus points for Cameron, room for improvement for Miliband; there's still a way to go before he can be imagined bestriding the globe receiving a hero's welcome in Benghazi."

In Tory Diary Tim Montgomerie says he quite liked the speech but asks if David Cameron should have talked about economic growth:

"A Belgian bank has gone bust. Italy's being downgraded. American politics is in gridlock. I hoped this Conference would give us much more on growth. It didn't (although I may be underestimating the importance of credit easing). Perhaps the Liberal Democrats vetoed any big announcements, insisting that any fireworks are owned jointly and not used to get good reviews for the Tory Conference."

But, the blog Political Scrapbook points out, when he did talk about the economy, he got into hot water:

"The only British company to be namechecked in David Cameron's conference speech has donated more than £4 million pounds to the Conservative Party in the last ten years, figures reveal. After citing a string of American firms based in the UK and alluding to manufacturing sectors, the only UK company to be mentioned by name was heavy vehicle manufacturer JCB."



Steve Jobs: World media react to his death

Host | 02:08 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

On the news of the death of Apple's chairman and co-founder, here is a roundup of the reaction to his death in the world's media:

In an obituary, The Economist says Mr Jobs was a man ahead of his time during his first stint at Apple

Computing's early years were dominated by technical types. But his emphasis on design and ease of use gave him the edge later on. Elegance, simplicity and an understanding of other fields came to matter in a world in which computers are fashion items, carried by everyone, that can do almost anything.

BBC Monitoring's Saeed Barzin says that in Iran, the death of Steve Jobs is one of those rare occasions when an icon of US culture has been treated with warmth and humanity by a variety of commentators, even conservative social-network users.

Many praised the man who, in their words, symbolised the dreams of the modern age and brought the world closer together. Similar feelings of sympathy were shown after the 11 September attacks in the US when young Iranians went out on to the streets and lit candles for the victims.

Adrian Hon, writing in the UK's The Telegraph, compares Steve Jobs to the great architect Sir Christopher Wren.

Like Wren, who had interests in astronomy, biology, and physics, Steve Jobs was not "only" a computer engineer or a programmer, but he had a deep love and appreciation of the importance of design and the humanities when it came to making objects that real people had to use. Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph at St Paul's Cathedral was si momumentum requiris circumspice (if you seek his monument, look around you). Steve Jobs more than earned those same words to describe his legacy.

Russian internet guru Anton Nosik praised the Apple co-founder's legacy (in Russian).

Steven Paul Jobs died at the age of 56 years, six months and 10 days. Most of us would not manage to achieve what he has achieved even if we had dozens of lives. Rest in peace.

In France, the daily Le Monde described Steve Jobs as "one of the inventors of today's world" (in French).

The co-founder of Apple changed the world. More than many big heads of state, his actions have changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

In China, social media such as the Twitter-like Weibo microblogging platform and the Facebook-like Renren network have been filled with tributes to Steve Jobs, BBC Monitoring reports. Both sites have set up special pages.

Weibo users have written more than 36 million tweets on the news. "Zhang Xiaojie" wrote: "Thank you for changing our world, Jobs." On the same site, "Shrek-Wong": said: "Many Chinese are mourning Jobs. I think, even if one of our state leaders dies, there won't be so much spontaneous mourning."

On the technology news site Mashable, Lance Ulanoff describes Steve Jobs as the tech industry's one true icon and a magnetic figure at Apple product launches.

Jobs relished the stage, I think, because it was the place where he could share his delight in the new. I always believed Steve Jobs was truly in love with his own products. When he unveiled the iPad, Jobs was smiling from ear to ear. Granted, he had some really good stuff to show off. To this day, no other tablet has surpassed (or even come close) to the iPad - or its market share.

Steven Levy, writing in US technology magazine Wired, says that although Steve Jobs had little interest in public self-analysis, he would occasionally drop a clue as to what made him tick.

Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. "I'm a big believer in boredom," he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and "out of curiosity comes everything." The man who popularised personal computers and smartphones - machines that would draw our attention like a flame attracts gnats - worried about the future of boredom. "All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too."

Australia's Adelaide Now writes that Steve Jobs's contribution to communications technology was staggering.

In death Jobs's influence on the history of technology is already being compared to names such as Edison, Bell, Gates and Da Vinci. He took the concept of portable mass communication from the pages of science fiction into the palms of our hands.

The Montreal Gazette, in an editorial, said Steve Jobs was far more than a corporate leader.

He was a visionary, a perfectionist, a lover of great and beautiful technology and of great and beautiful design, and an entrepreneur who wanted to get us to buy that gorgeously designed technology. Which he succeeded at, spectacularly. When what you have to sell is unlike anything that has been seen before - and so much better to boot - people are going to buy. He changed the world and made it more fun. You can't say that about very many people.

Ciara O'Brien in the Irish Times says Steve Jobs leaves behind "some shoes that are almost impossible to fill".

It's hard to escape Jobs's influence, even if you aren't a Mac fan or have never picked up an iPhone. His fingerprints are everywhere. His keynotes were watched avidly; his departure from the company something that had investors understandably nervous.

Writing in the UK's Guardian newspaper, Dan Gillmor said that when historians look back at the life of Steve Jobs, they will chronicle a man of contradiction and genius.

What set him most apart from his peers was an exquisite sense of product design and the ability to intuit what people would want, and use. Combined with his leadership (and salesmanship) skills, he was the most formidable CEO of recent times.

Writing for the New York Times, Nick Wingfield remarks on Steve Jobs' reputation as the life force driving Apple's success as a company:

Rarely has a major company and industry been so dominated by a single individual, and so successful. His influence went far beyond the iconic personal computers that were Apple's principal product for its first 20 years. In the last decade, Apple has redefined the music business through the iPod, the cellphone business through the iPhone and the entertainment and media world through the iPad. Again and again, Mr. Jobs gambled that he knew what the customer would want, and again and again he was right.

Patricia Sullivan at the Washington Post says that his particular genius was not just in designing the product, but in selling the appeal of it to his customers:

He knew best of all how to market. "Mac or PC?" became one of the defining questions of the late 20th century and although Apple sold a mere 5 percent of all computers in that era, Mac users became rabid partisans and dedicated to Mr. Jobs. Mr. Jobs was the first crossover technology star, turning Silicon Valley renown to Main Street recognition, and paving the way for the rise of the nerds such as Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

At CBS News, Dan Farber says Steve Jobs created a new mould for fellow innovators:

He was not an inventor in the classic sense, tinkering with program code to create the Worldwide Web or tinfoil to reproduce sounds on a phonograph. Jobs was more of an orchestral conductor, charismatic and dictatorial, assembling the people and pieces of existing and emerging technology to craft an object of desire that reflected his personal aesthetic and vision for how people and machines should interact. It was an expression of American individualism, buoyed by the kind of self-confidence that insists on pursuing a personal vision regardless of the risk.

While at the Wall Street Journal, Yukari Iwatane Kane and Geoffrey Fowler note that Steve Jobs had an impact beyond his own company, redefining the hi-tech industry he was part of:

Mr. Jobs transformed Silicon Valley as he helped turn the once sleepy expanse of fruit orchards into the technology industry's innovation center. In addition to laying the groundwork for the high-tech industry alongside other pioneers like Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, Mr. Jobs proved the appeal of well-designed products over the sheer power of technology itself and shifted the way consumers interact with technology in an increasingly digital world.

Brandon Briggs, writing for CNN, comments on Apple's unique trajectory as a company, and notes Steve Jobs as a crucial driver in the success story:

He also built a reputation as a hard-driving, mercurial and sometimes difficult boss who oversaw almost every detail of Apple's products and rejected prototypes that didn't meet his exacting standards. By the late 2000s, his once-renegade tech company, the David to Microsoft's Goliath, was entrenched at the uppermost tier of American business. Jobs' climb to the top was complete in summer 2011, when Apple listed more cash reserves than the U.S. Treasury and even briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil as the world's most valuable company.

Daily View: What should Cameron's message be?

Clare Spencer | 09:26 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

David Cameron

Ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron's speech to the Tory party conference, commentators suggest what they think should be in it.

Daniel Finkelstein suggests in the Times that David Cameron should drop his Big Society concept:

"Most people see the Big Society policy that you can be the leader as suggesting that they will be asked to put in even more. Not just pay taxes, but run their local swimming pool. I've got a job, they say, how would I find time? I am going to put you in charge, says Mr Cameron. Hang on, reply the voters, the point is that we put you in charge...
"Mr Cameron has moved back and forth between offering to provide leadership and offering to hand over leadership, even though, politically, the latter offer will never work. When he speaks today, the Prime Minister should try to resolve this tension. The best way would be to pick leadership over the Big Society. Bet he doesn't though."

In the Spectator Philip Blond goes one further and says Big Society has already died - something he thinks is a shame. Now, he says, the focus should be on tackling the excesses of those at the top:

"Unless we rein in the rapacious elite at the top, we cannot tackle criminal dysfunction at the bottom. We need a new form of social conservation and a properly distributive economics. We need, in short, Red Toryism.
"If David Cameron is to fulfil his considerable promise, he has to assume the mantle of leadership and offer clear intellectual direction. He governs through friends, but he needs to lead through followers. To attract supporters for a political project, a strong central and conceptual leadership is required, one that ensures that everything that is done is carried out in the name of an overarching vision."

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland says the only thing people will be listening out for in David Cameron's speech is his thoughts on the economy:

"Those Tory professionals paid to be anxious fear they could lose either way. If Britain plunges into a double-dip recession, with the gloom persisting till 2015, the governing parties will be punished. But if things are righted, the Tories could also lose out: some strategists fear the voters will inflict on David Cameron the fate they meted out to Winston Churchill in 1945 - thank him for his work in fending off disaster then turn to Labour to perform the sunnier work of renewing society...
"As a result Cameron will surely use his speech on Wednesday to insist that he regards deficit-cutting as a means, not an end in itself; that Tories do not suffer from debt monomania and this government will yet have a second act not fixated on the nation's balance sheet. That will mean that, at some point, he will have to declare victory in his war against economic crisis, but when? His electoral planners need it to happen before 2015, yet some colleagues warn it might take a decade."

In the Telegraph, the one question on Tory Lord Tebbit's mind is what Mr Cameron will say about Europe:

"Now it is up to the Prime Minister to describe a European policy that is neither abject surrender nor ineffectual pleading for the return of our right to govern ourselves."
According to the Daily Mail's Sandra Parsons, the most important task in Mr Cameron's speech is to "woo back women":
"The Conservatives might like to consider that women are fearful for our own and our children's futures - and we don't see politicians helping. So what I profoundly hope is that David Cameron does not try to fob us off today with a long list of his future ambitions. What he should do instead is give us a metaphorical hug and show that he's listened to what we have to say."

Based on the conference so far, one thing the Financial Times' Jim Pickard predicts he won't hear in speech is any Lib Dem bashing:

"Now at the Tory event in Manchester there is the reverse; a mood of benevolent (if slightly patronising) friendliness is emanating from senior Conservatives towards their allies. There is the occasional dig; George Osborne pointed out that the Liberals, in the late 19th century, opposed attempts to stop people sending children up chimneys. But otherwise it is all bonhomie, and references to 'Nick' and 'Vince' and so on."

Daily View: Verdicts on George Osborne's plan for the economy

Clare Spencer | 09:20 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

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Commentators make their judgements on the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's speech to the Tory party conference.

Fraser Nelson says in the Spectator's Coffee House blog that George Osborne has a convincing leadership style, important for when "hell breaks loose":

"Slowly, we're moving away from the unanswered question of 'where's your growth strategy?' to a new message: 'Fear not, I will guide you through this period of global economic uncertainty.' Osborne is a brilliant political strategist, and has chosen 'leadership' as the theme for the next few years. Given what we saw from the Labour and Lib Dem conferences, that's pretty solid ground for the Tories."

But in the New Statesman George Eaton isn't so impressed. He calls Mr Osborne's response to the growth crisis feeble:

"There were few signs of a change of gear. Osborne's response to the growth crisis? A re-announced £805m council tax freeze that will do nothing to cancel the damage wrought by his £12bn VAT rise."

Similarly Matthew Engel suggests in the Financial Times that any confidence Mr Osborne displayed was misplaced:

"If the government has a plan to save the country from recession, no one seems able to explain coherently what it might be. Including Mr Osborne. But he exudes such total confidence in his own righteousness and such contempt for the doubters that one begins to think he really must be right. Naked? No, no, that's just a flesh-coloured suit."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph's editorial welcomes the policies in the speech including the announcement of business loans:

"He has instructed the Treasury to explore a strategy for credit easing, which will see the Government underwriting loans to small- and medium-sized firms. Will this leave a Conservative-led government picking winners in the fashion of 1970s Labour? We trust not, and await the small print with interest. If it helps generate business confidence, it will be worthwhile."

Finally, the Independent's Andrew Grice proposes that the decision to stick to cuts may be politically motivated:

"The Chancellor's official line is that moving to a Plan B would spook the financial markets. There is another reason: it would amount to an admission that Plan A was wrong and attract the biggest U-turn headlines since last year's election, dwarfing the changes to the NHS reforms and sale of England's public forests."

Daily View: Predictions for the Tory party conference

Clare Spencer | 09:21 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

Party leaders' backs looking at the conference stage

Political commentators look ahead at what the Conservative party conference should bring this week.

The Guardian's Julian Glover says that for policies on economic growth, inconsistency and incoherence is perhaps the best the government can hope to achieve:

"A sharper, marketable growth strategy is fools' gold. There is no such thing. At best there is a range of competing contradictions and variations from which the government is being begged to choose. Jump too far in any one direction and the reputation for reasoned steadiness, which is Cameron's and the coalition's strength, would be lost...
"In the wildest of economic circumstances, the party's best hope is to be dull this week. There are shocks enough elsewhere: the government, by contrast, must be a convincing and unshakeable shelter from the storm."

Conversely, Janet Daley says in the Telegraph, the current coalition makes it even more important the Tories are clear about what they stand for:

"Here is the dilemma for the Tory front bench: until we can unpick their true identity from the deliberately messy, interwoven knot that is the Coalition, we will have very little idea of what they would do if they got the chance to govern in their own right. And most potential Tory supporters would have no clear conception of what they were voting for in a general election. So if the Conservatives hope to win an outright victory next time round (and we will assume for the sake of argument that they do, though even this has been a matter of ambiguity and contradictory briefing), they must start right now - this week - making the case for it."

Conservative Lord Ashcroft says in the Daily Mail that policies to bring cuts
combined with growth should be at the centre of the conference:

"When it comes to policies for running Britain's economy in a global crisis, the complexity of the problem is such that many voters would admit they barely understand the questions, let alone the answers. People find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to hope the Government knows what it is doing.
For now, this works in the Government's favour - not least because most undecided voters do not think Labour offers any credible alternative. But many people would feel rather more reassured, and rather more inclined to back the Tories, if they felt that tackling the deficit was part of a bigger plan to boost the economy and improve life in Britain."

Libby Purves makes a plea in the Times that whatever policies come out of the conference, people should resist criticising based on class:

"As the Tory conference rolls down the slipway, we shall observe an interesting atavism: the last sneering, generalising discrimination permitted in our liberal land. It is not the rough-and-tumble of combative politics, not healthy ideological disagreement. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to witness Britain's last unpunishable hate crime: toff-bashing Toryphobia.
"Automatic toff-bashing is boring, bullying and dull-witted. If the Conservatives talk nonsense at their conference, tell them so. But honestly."

But in the Independent Philip Hensher picks up on the personality politics. He advices that politicians should stop attempting to be normal:

"If voters find Ed Miliband a strange and unfamiliar sort of human being, one wonders what they think of David Cameron. Now, whatever you think of the Prime Minister, it is perfectly pointless to pretend that most of the electorate have ever met anyone much like him. He represents a very small caste indeed, and some of his colleagues represent no one but themselves.
"Rather than demand that politicians stop being weird, let us realise that "weirdness" is simply a quality of the exceptional, regarded with hostility. We may or may not admire the politician; some are both exceptional and atrocious; and some, of course, are very much weirder human beings than others. But let's not pretend that any of them are remotely normal. The politician who leads us, in the end, out of the current mess will, as a human being, probably be as weird as we can conceive."

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