£375bn Reasons for George to be Cheerful? Behind the smoke and mirrors of government borrowing.

There is one number virtually no-one* has mentioned in all the coverage of the Budget – £375bn.

£375bn is the amount of government debt (bonds) held by the Bank of England. Part of the reason for Mr Osborne’s perpetual smirk may well have something to do with this £375n number.

These government bonds were purchased – from ‘the market’ and private sector financial institutions – as part of BoE ‘quantitative easing’ program. It was their way of pumping ‘created’ money into the financial system by buying up Government bonds.

(We’ll leave aside the fact that as these bonds may well have been owned outside the UK it meant a lot of the ‘quantitive easing’ went straight out of the country).

At the moment this £375bn represents around a quarter of all Government bonds – or put another way, about 1 in 4 of every pound of the national debt is owned by the Bank of England. Continue reading

The Two Jeremy’s: Hardy, Corbyn and jokes about mental health – why does it matter?

The comedian Jeremy Hardy has been making jokes about the mental health of Kevan Jones, the Labour MP who Ken Livingstone also famously made disparaging comments about in the same vein. Jones has committed the ‘crime’ in their eyes of supporting renewal of Trident. He has also, and very publicly and bravely, said he has had mental health problems.

Livingstone eventually, grudgingly apologized. Hardy on the other hand has refused.

What made Jeremy Hardy’s “jokes” into more of an issue was because they were made as part of his set in the so-called “JC4PM” tour, organized to support Jeremy Corbyn (although apparently without any involvement by the other Jeremy).

When I tweeted about this – and demands Jeremy C disown Jeremy H – a colleague emailed me to ask why I was so down on Corbyn when Cameron regularly says vile things and gets away with it. This did make me think – so here’s an [slightly edited] version of what I wrote back: Continue reading