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All hail Olli Issakeinen, the Finnish fib-watcher on Osborne’s case

Posted on 5 January 2011 | 9:01am

It is one thing to have a following for writing a blog. Far more impressive, surely, is to have a following for being a regular commenter on a blog.

Yet that is what is clearly happening to our Finnish friend Olli Issakeinen, who pops up here often with very sound views on politics, the economy, and particularly the lies that Tories tell. I find it genuinely impressive that someone from another country is so well-informed about our political debate.

‘Is Olli AC?’ someone called Pam (no surname always makes me a bit suspcious) asked yesterday after Olli yet again demolished the Tory claim that all the difficult decisions they are taking have been forced upon them by the so-called mess they inherited.

Pam’s little posting casts doubt on the integrity of both of us but I will let that pass. I think if I were to post under a pseudonym I might choose something a bit closer to home.

Anyway, Olli has been saying consistently for months that the Tory claims for their current actions are based on a set of economic and political deceits now posing as a thought through economic strategy.

He referred yesterday to one of my golden rules of communication – that when political journalists become tired of hearing something, and the politicians tired of saying it, that is the time the point is just beginning to enter the public consciousness.

The Tories have had a good run with ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’ and ‘all we are doing is clearing up their mess.’ Both are lies. It is not all Labour’s fault and the Tories are now making choices which are political as well as economic. Good to see Alistair Darling out last night, pointing out that far from ‘the books’ being worse than expected when the Tories took over, in fact they were slightly better.

Despite my never having met him (oh the joys of the internet) Olli is hereby appointed economics adviser to alastaircampbell.org and I look forward to more of his calm, dispassionate and superbly argued postings getting up the noses of all the Tories who come on here.

Olli is also a Burnley fan. He has never explained why but no doubt one day he will. He will understand why today I am off to Enfield for the funeral of the wonderful player that was Ralph Coates. The club called me yesterday and asked if I would represent Burnley fans unable to go, and I am honoured to do so.

Meantime, to save you going back to yesterday’s blog here is the comment Olli posted yesterday.

One of Alastair Campbell´s cardinal rules is that a message can only be assumed to have been heard by ordinary voters when the political journalists are fed up with it.
A lot of journalists now understand that the “mess” can only partly be blamed on Labour – if at all.
According to Larry Elliott the mess of Britain´s finances was caused by weaker than expected tax receipts during the boom years, depth and duration of the recession and by the help for the unemployed. The economic crisis was, of course, caused by banks.
No one should believe the claims made by the coalition that Labour caused the biggest economic crisis the world has faced since 1930s by overspending on public services. There is not a shred of evidence of it.
Britain´s debt will peak at 70% of GDP creating no big problems. Interest payments on debt are not a problem as long much of the debt is owned by Britons.
The Tories are not competent on the economy. Britain was not bankrupt in the spring of 2010 as George Osborne said. Governments are not like prudent households because they can print money and tax people.
There is no economic rationale to cut £81bn. No economic theory supports cuts on this scale.
The Tories are using the deficit as a pretext to shrink the state. About £30bn of cuts are ideological and completely unnecessary – as a matter of fact they are harmful as they shrink the economy.
The debt was taken to save banks, jobs and homes. Alternative would have been depression with banks collapsing and people losing jobs and homes. Labour and Gordon Brown prevented this disaster from happening and now get blamed for it!
The Tories opposed fiscal stimulus, QE and bank nationalisations which helped to prevent depression.
There is a rise in VAT so that the Tories can cut corporation tax.
Ed Miliband is playing a long game. He has a clear plan which will work. Patience!
Big structural bear markets take 19 years on average and have four recessions. We have had just two. So the danger if far from over. Eurozone problems will affect also Britain in 2011.
The coalition believes that it will wipe out the deficit and then win in 2015 by cutting taxes. But its reckless approach condemned by Nobel-winning economists will not work.
It is time now for the general public also to understand that Labour did not create the worldwide “mess”. And that the cuts are ideological because they will not be reversed when the books have been balanced.
All is fair in love and war, but not in politics. In 2011 the coalition must stop telling lies!

And just for good measure, here is a recent comment he made about the Tories’ partners in crime.

The Lib Dems are a minority party in a centre-right coalition. The coalition is about to dismantle the welfarist social democracy created in 1945.
Mr Clegg has placed the future of the coalition above the future of his own party. The “Maoist revolution” of public services will be hard to reverse.
The Lib Dems have a new identity. They are now a party of individualism and small-state liberalism.
Social liberal tradition and social democratic inheritance have been abandoned.
The pain of being in a coalition is not equally shared. The Lib Dems are now down to 8% in the polls.
There is no more much talk of pacts or mergers. Only about one in five Tories want the coalition to go on and on.
The Lib Dem brand has been tarnished. Cleggmania has gone with the wind. Speculation on the new leader has already started.
More than 70% of the Lib Dems´ supporters think themselves as on the left.
The Tories´ free ride must end in 2011. Labour did not create the deficit by overspending on public sector. Tens of billions of cuts are ideological aiming at smaller state. The Tories do want to cut!
Big Society will not work.
As Jackie Ashley wrote in the Guardian, main cause of the economic crash was global. And last government´s record was not as bad as the coalition propagandists claim.
According to British Social Attitude report public satisfaction under New Labour increased a lot when it comes to health and education. Thanks to New Labour investment.
Support of the coalition is down from 59% to 43%. The cuts are too fast, too deep and unfair. Poverty and inequality will result. And unemployment.
Labour must come up with CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE for growth, jobs and tax justice.
Labour´s narrative must be that not all cuts are necessary and that banking crisis caused the “mess”.

All hail Olli.


  • Danny_buck

    A superb and outstanding Blog today, a pleasure to read.

  • Amy

    “Governments are not like prudent households because they can print money and tax people.”

    Agreed. It was one of the most absurd similes I’ve ever heard. For one, it trivialises and the matter to a preposterous degree and more than that it just doesn’t work as a comparison.

    Something else David Cameron said in a similar vein about the country being like a woman sorting out household finances and realising that they needed to cut down on spending was equally idiotic. Mainly because it makes it see like the only option is to stop spending money, but also because it just sounded patronising.

  • Besarta Kedjui

    Finns have a good record in my two areas of particular interest, athletics and international affairs. Lasse Viren was the greatest ever athlete in my view, and as you record in The Blair Years (for which thanks) Maarti Ahtisarri (Olli can correct my spelling on this one but I don’t have book to hand) was an important player in the process that led to victory in Kosovo (for which also thanks)

  • Jenny Murphy

    Hi Alastair, thanks for highlighting Olli’s great posts – always well worth reading and very illuminating, although my basic knowledge of economics sometimes means I get lost in the middle somewhere.

    Go Olli!

  • Mal Henderson

    I get the feeling that the public are running out of patience with the coalition ‘let’s blame Labour’ approach. I too enjoyed seeing Mr Darling back on the screens. He was so much more impressive than the Tory minister, something Greening, who was on Channel 4 News against him last night. All day the Tories had been saying Mr Darling would also have put up Vat. I rather liked the way he said he wanted to but didn’t and couldnt because Labour went for NI rise instead

  • Peter Mason

    Good blog, AC, because it shows you read and take seriously (at least some of) the contributions to your site. I too have been impressed by Olli’s comments in recent weeks. Good to see Labour finally beginning to follow some of your and his thinking

  • Well said. I am totally fed up with the Tories saying ‘it’s not our fault’. You’ve got to hand it to them, they are clever when it comes to getting the message across. We’ve go to be cleverer, and at the moment I don’t think we are (the message isn’t not coming across anyway). And all the icesave ex-customers forget who got their money back for them – Iceland didn’t do it!

  • Teresa

    Alastair and Olli, you are two highly intelligent people who are always spot on, we need you to keep letting us know the facts, so we can pass them on. So many people I know aren’t aware of the real facts at all, please keep informing us 🙂

  • I would just add that while Labour should oppose this extraordinary level of cuts, it should also do two things:

    1) Propose alternatives. This does not have to amount to a full budget (doing so would just leave you open to counter-attack), but should be credible enough that Labour can tire out political journalists with it.
    2) Labour should not lose sight of its legacy of public sector reform – in other words, opposition to cuts cannot be an excuse for going back to Old Labour style politics of defending the practices of the public sector to the hilt.

    Labour is best when it is boldest, as you might have put it Alastair.

  • Jacquie R

    The late and lamented Peter Cook used to pose as a Norwegian fisherman on a late night radio phone in programme so I suppose it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you might have taken on a Scandinavian persona, Alastair!

    But, to be serious, the amazing Olli is always clear, logical, convincing and wise. He’s given a few hints about his background, but I would love to know more about him and how he has come to have such an incisive view of British politics. Any chance of this, Olli?

  • Laurapayneuk

    The economy question always annoys me. Gordon Brown did a great job of what was a global catastrophe – the banks were completely f***d and so was the world and we all danced while they played a game of smoke and mirrors. It was a huge game of poker bluff with most hands bust. I am surprised that the US banking system has got away so lightly without world condemnation for what they did. The trouble is that the naive commentators then say… ‘well, the government was meant to be regulating what was going on the UK – so it is their fault’ …However leading global finance players know that they can play off one country against another by the very fact that money is global and the regulatory authorities are very regional! No country wants to lose investment so is fearful of tackling their might and the real financial muscle knows that. Unless there is a global regulatory authority this will never change.

  • Stuart Litobarski

    A tad bit of post-Xmas frugality may well be quite healthy for one’s constitution. A right-wing coup, funded by foreign donations would be quite another. It will be many years beyond 2011 that the repercussions of a ‘shrunk state’ fully impact the UK economy. How many of us can remember the past recessions of the early 70’s and 80’s? There were family dole queues by the million, and disintegrated communities. The Historians will speak of the 2011 changes in years to come.

  • Chris lancashire

    I completely agree that the Tories are setting out to shrink the state. Just two little awkward facts though. Brown was running a £50bn annual defect 2 years before the banking crisis – oh I forgot, it was because tax receipts weren’t high enough – nothing of course to do with spending. Secondly, the banking i.e debt crisis happened on Brown’s watch. Did it just happen, or should someone in government or that wonderful tripartite regulation set up by Brown have noticed what was happening?

  • Janete

    ‘Is Olli AC?’
    We could put it to the test. Could AC cycle 3.7 kilometres in -36C?

  • Mabozza Ritchie

    At the risk of trivialising the matter, I think the identity of super Olli needs further investigation. A quick look at Olli’s name yields an anagram of:
    ie. Ali – Neil K’s son.

    Given the closeness of Al and Mr Kinnock, I would humbly propose the identity as being Welsh rather than Finnish.

    Now you know how conspiracies begin.

  • Sarah Dodds

    All teachers will testify that nothing makes the blood boil more than the spolit, arrogant brats who blame everyone else while whinging “but Miss it is not my fault, he/she made me do it!”
    George Osbourne beware.
    And can Olli please be my economics adviser? I’m desperate for some legitimate excuses for continued girlie shopping trips despite a rising deficit problem…..

  • Pam

    “Pam’s little posting casts doubt on the integrity of the both of us but I will let that pass”.

    You certainly will have to let it pass Alastair! You can’t have me sacked like you tried to do with Adam Boulton.

    And…try not to be suspicious of no surname – most posters on here only give first name.

    And as far as casting doubt on your integrity – that was the intention.

    Pam ………….

  • Richard

    You guys are amazing. You think Olli is God, Al, but all he does is make a series of bald statements which immediately have the force of fact….because he says so.
    “One of Alastair Campbell´s cardinal rules” —–AC says so.
    “According to Larry Elliott” —— Larry Elliott says
    Britain´s debt will peak at 70% of GDP, others say 80% or 90%, so what?
    “The Tories are not competent on the economy” says Olli, the International Guru.
    “There is no economic rationale to cut £81bn”, or to cut the annual deficit by 50% over one Parliament.
    “There is a rise in VAT so that the Tories can cut
    corporation tax.” Says Olli. Der?
    For so many unsubstantiated opinions to tickle your palate is amazing, Al.
    Most of them could come from a Daily Mirror “List of 100 things you do not like about those rotten aweful Tories”.
    It is time you re-read the plot, Al.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Excellent blog. I could not have written a better one myself!
    Had the same unreal feeling reading it as when I received a spoof newspaper from a Burnley-supporting pen-pal from Buckingham stating that I had signed for Burnley! (I guess these papers are available in Blackpool.)
    But seriously speaking the coaliton can only get on with its cuts programme if the majority of British public believes that there is some sort of economic state of emergency caused by Labour. All of this is, of course, nonsense.
    As Seamus Milne wrote in the Guardian, Cameron and Clegg have shown they are for turning. It is still possible to deliver the biggest U-turn of them all before permanent damage to Britain is done.
    The truth about the cuts is now out there. Let´s force a U-turn before the external economic conditions compel one.

    Ps. There appears to be a computer problem , so I hope this post comes through. My computer is not writing full-lenght on this site. Full text is also not shown at the same time.

  • Janete

    Well I much prefer Olli’s intelligent, well informed, factual, evidenced comments than the pointless, nonsensical, childish name calling we get from some commentators.

    One of them even ends almost every comment with ‘Geddit?’ and refers to AC as Al. What do you think Dick?

  • NickSmeggHead

    Richard,

    All Tories are apara and pilu! Maybe Olli can translate it for you.

  • Anonymous

    Like most doubts cast on Alastair’s integrity yours comes across as entirely ficticious.
    I recently suggested Alistair Darling for Chancellor and Olli for Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I think I’ll appoint AC as Prime Minister — tho’ I doubt if he’ll want the job with his knowledge of what it entails!
    Best wishes to all three.

  • Quinney

    Olli, fancy standing for parliament over here? Gisela Stuart who’s German has been a Labour MP since 1997. Go on, you know you want to!

  • Pam

    Well said Richard!

    But the problem for Mr Campbell…….is that he has been rumbled…..so
    no one would believe him, even if he said the Pope was Catholic…. only the gullible.

    Pam

  • Dave Simons

    I look forward to you practising what you now preach, Dick. It’ll make such a refreshing change from previous one-liners and fact-free gut reactions.

  • Dave Simons

    I just want to clarify these points. You keep quoting the £50 billion deficit two years before the banking crisis. The latter happened in the UK in October 2008, so can we agree that you are talking about 2006? Would you also agree, by the way, that Team Cameron were promising to match Labour’s public spending plans at that time, right up to late 2008, and that fact does have some significance in relation to subsequent policies? Also can we agree that the deficit you keep referring to is the structural deficit, to be distinguished from the debt incurred by the bank bail-out?
    On the second point Vince Cable certainly expressed concern about what was happening in the unregulated financial sector some years before 2008, but did anyone in the Conservative Party notice what was happening to its creation of the 1980s, and if they did notice did they say anything?

  • Chris lancashire

    Dave, the Conservative Party wasn’t running the economy in 2008 – Brown was. By the way, Brown ran a defecit every year from 2002.

    I know, I know – it’s really annoying when facts get in the way of deeply held prejudices.

  • Dave Simons

    Which is why I was trying to extricate some facts from you. It’s hard work but I’m sure we might eventually get there! I was trying to pin down the structural deficit to 2006. If that’s agreed it can be compared with other years and other relevant figures. Just quoting £50 billion by itself is no use whatsoever – it’s a lot of money to you and me but not to governments (or even some individual members of the present Cabinet). Here’s a comparable figure from Gordon Brown’s new book:
    ‘We can now detail in the most precise of terms the cost of excessive remuneration at the expense of adequate capitalisation. We now know that, if British bankers had paid themselves 10 percent less per year between 2000 and 2007, they would have had more capital, some £50 billion more, to help them withstand the crisis. The extent of the undercapitalisation of our banks was £50 billion, and was exactly the sum put up by the taxpayers for the emergency stabilisation of our banking system’ (‘Beyond the Crash, ch. 3, pg. 106, pa. 2).
    Note that I’m offering this as a comparable figure to yours, and am not confusing the bank bail-out with the structural deficit to which I think you are referring.

  • Chris lancashire

    Well if it’s quotes you want, here is Tony Blair (remember him? Brown’s boss):
    We should also accept that from 2005 onwards Labour was insufficiently vigorous in limiting or eliminating the potential structural deficit. The failure to embrace the Fundamental Savings Review of 2005-6 was, in retrospect, a much bigger error than I ever thought at the time.’

    And if it’s figures you want, there’s a great graph over on the Spectator at http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6593458/unpicking-milibands-deceits.thtml#comments

    Even you should be able to understand the graph.

  • Dave Simons

    Thanks Chris. I’d already seen the Spectator article, making the usual allowances for a Conservative journal. The ensuing blog is interesting, and I hope the author of one contribution doesn’t mind me lifting it:

    ‘In 1997 the structural deficit was at an unusually low level in comparison to most of the last 40 years. Using that year as a starting point for your graph probably doesn’t provide enough historical context.

    If you follow this link:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hmtreasury/5260056945/

    You’ll find another graph (also taken from the Treasury) showing the structural deficit since 1973 as a percentage of GDP. As you can see, the structural deficit before the financial crisis was not exceptionally high by any means.

    You refer to enormous public sector expansion being “unsustainable even without the global financial crisis”, but then you go on to use the post-crisis public sector debt figure of £893 billion.

    It would be more appropriate to compare with a pre-crisis year and use percentage of GDP: In 1997, public sector net debt was £351 billion (around 40% of GDP), this increased to £415 billion in 2005 – a relative decrease to roughly 35% of GDP. In 2007 public sector net debt was £497 billion, 37% of GDP.

    True, my comparisons aren’t as shocking as yours, but they do provide a more accurate picture of what was going on before the financial crash’.

    I’d also read the Blair quote from his book and I think he was as wrong on this as he was on fox-hunting.

  • Gilliebc

    I was hoping someone would take a look at the name of Olli Issakainen, from an anagram perspective and you’ve made a good start Mabozza.
    I wonder if anyone else can come up with any other suggestions?
    There’s no doubt O.I. makes very good posts, but I always find them a bit like the weather forecast, i.e. something I know I should pay attention to, but I can’t seem to summon up the necessary attention or concentration that his posts take to read and properly comprehend. Or, to put it more flippantly, life is simply too short. Fortunately, the number crunchers out there love that sort of post, so O.I.’s expertise in this particular area is well appreciated.

  • Chris lancashire

    The graph starts at 1997 and I note, yet again, you don’t like facts or quotes when they don’t fit your prejudices.