Enamoured of Carla Bruni?

Sark-astic Britain

As Mrs Miggins said of the fleeing French aristos in Blackadder the Third: “ooh la la and an éclair for both of us!” The visit of diminutive French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his glamorous other half has caused a stir in Westminster this week, but bloggers saw cracks in the gloss. Iain Dale has not yet been won over by “France’s Thatcher”. Sensing demagoguery in his eyes, he also fears a lack of focus:

“While he appeared to have clear plans for France, he has allowed himself to be distracted from the main task of reforming France's stagnant and centralised economy.”

And Eutopia asked whether Sarko has stitched up Gordon Brown domestically, by hinting that he’s acted to get Europe “moving ahead”. He wrote:

“Sarko seemed to be suggesting that Gordon’s done something pretty major to ensure that the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. Pretty major like following Sarko’s lead and refusing to hold a referendum? Or was there some other agreement made behind the closed doors of the Council?”

The sceptics won’t like that.

Meanwhile the fragrant Carla Bruni was getting ratty over the sale of an old pic of herself in the buff – while on a more sensible note, Edis Bevan provided some interesting historical context to these suddenly rosy Anglo-French relations.

Musical Youth

The week saw the launch of Liberal Youth, the new organisation for young Lib Dems. Your intrepid blogger showed up late at its launch party on Tuesday night and missed the free booze. Andy Mayer, a self-declared decrepit old hack from its predecessor organisation, was highly impressed. He enthused:

“I have to say much has changed since the early 1990s. For starters the event was heaving, overflowing the main venue into two side rooms and an outdoor terrace. Possibly around 250-300 people. Further everyone was frankly rather normal. This was not 30 socially awkward policy geeks stuffed into a cold gymnasium in Hull discussing abolishing the monarchy while agonising whether or not the cheesy nibbles were vegan.”

Perhaps irked at http://www.order-order.com/2008/03/party-that-dare-not-speak...">not receiving an invite, Guido complained that the group’s new website has a “Top of the Pops circa-1974 feel.” What a grump!

What have we learned this week?

That the epic abortion row between Nadine Dorries MP and blogger Unity looks set, as they say, to run and run

Across the Pond

Like many of the shriller US bloggers Michelle Malkin is unhappy with John McCain’s recent use of leftist rhetorical tactics – such as nuance. Media Lizzy is more impressed though, and thought McCain’s foreign policy speech this week hinted at an ability to win over Democrats.

Video of the week

The must-watch video of the week is a contribution by ‘Kev Livingstone’ to the London Elects site. An impression of Ken Livingstone doing an impression of Boris Johnson as a stuck CD. Post-modern!

Quote of the week

“Personally I think this is all pretty timid stuff. I would prefer to see him strung up from a lamp post by his fingertips, next to Jack Straw and Ed Balls. That's not really anything to do with beer taxes, though. It would just be for fun.”

Greenie blogger Paul Kingsnorth on the online campaign to bar the Chancellor from every pub in Britain.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.