Barwell given a lesson from economics professor on Twitter

Well that’s an entertaining start to the weekend, with a local MP being chastised by a world-renowned economist as “idiotic”, “clueless”, and out of his depth on matters of the national economy.

The OECD figures which Professor Blanchflower used to teach Gary Barlow an economics lesson

The OECD figures which Professor Blanchflower used to teach Gary Barlow an economics lesson

Gary Barlow, the little-recognised MP for Croydon Central, went on Twitter at breakfast time to take issue with Professor David Blanchflower, the former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, now a lecturer in economics at a college in the United States.

Barlow, who is also sometimes known as Gavin Barwell, had taken issue with the professor’s claim that the ConDem coalition government had presided over the worst recovery in 100 years. The professor presented as evidence figures from the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Barwell presented… not much, and this was where it got really interesting.

Blanchflower called Barwell “clueless”, describing his defence of Chancellor Gideon Osborne‘s austerity policies as “Tory amateur hour fails again”.

“You really shouldn’t mess with the big boys,” Blanchflower told Barwell.

Much has been made in the past week or so by Osborne and his appointee as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, that there is a recovery going on. This coincides with there being a general election in 18 months, although this may be entirely coincidental.

Blanchflower – who like Barwell is known by a nickname, after a more famous namesake, “Danny”, the former Spurs and Northern Ireland footballer – has long put forward the hard economic statistics which demonstrate that following the global recession of 2008 which was caused by the bankers of Wall Street and The City, by May 2010 the British economy was already experiencing some recovery and growth.

"Danny" Blanchflower: unimpressed by Barwell's grasp of economics

“Danny” Blanchflower: unimpressed by Barwell’s grasp of economics, or lack of it

Blanchflower’s view, backed up by independent statistics provided by the OECD, is that the austerity policies introduced by Osborne’s and Barwell’s coalition government killed off that recovery, and that the UK economy is now in a worse position than the ConDems inherited.

We are experiencing the “worst recovery in 100 years with studies showing GDP 3% lower than it should have been due to Osborne,” Blanchflower tweeted to Barwell, “and you have the nerve?”

Blanchflower had put forward graphics showing Gross Domestic Product – what we as a nation produce, the usual measure of economic activity – set against per capita of population.

In Quarter 2 of 2010 (when Osborne moved into No11 Downing Street), GDP per capita in the UK was 5971. By the equivalent period this year, the UK’s GDP per capita was 5957, so we are “worse off – austerity failed”, the professor noted. “Coalition had worst economic performance in 100 years,” Blanchflower said.

The Twitterspat between an economics professor and an MP who doesn't know the price of a loaf of bread

The twitterspat between an economics professor and an MP who doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread

He is also sceptical about the current “recovery”: “…’growth’ now coming from consumer borrowing on back of a government-inspired house price boom”. Where economists are wary of this house price boom, it is usually because it is very similar to the fast and loose financial practices of the banking sector that led to the economic crash in 2008.

Osborne, he said, “inherited an economy growing nicely after a global recession – evidence is he lowered GDP by 3 per cent”.

For those unfamiliar with the life and works of Barwell, he is a former aide to Lord Cashcroft, the well-known Belize resident and tax expert. Barwell also sits on the governing board of Croydon’s largest local charity, the Whitgift Foundation, and is a strong advocate of the £1 billion redevelopment scheme proposed for central Croydon by Westfield and Hammerson on property owned by the Whitgift Foundation.

Barwell, the private school and Cambridge-educated MP who doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread, had clearly had his feelings hurt, and snapped back at Blanchflower, who complained of the MP’s rudeness. Barwell said, “So far you’ve called me ‘idiotic’, ‘clueless’, ‘amateur’, ‘not so esteemed’ and ‘out of my depth’. Now I’m being rude?” Poor lamb. Of course, Sanderstead resident Barwell has never been rude to anyone on Twitter. Never. Ever. Apart from calling a constituent a “loon”.

Blanchflower had explained to Barwell: “I presented a graph countering the idiotic statements you have come out with defending the indefensible.”

Blanchflower advised Barwell: “If you don’t like the economic heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Last time we checked, the twitterspat was still on-going…

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3 Responses to Barwell given a lesson from economics professor on Twitter

  1. davidcallam says:

    I’m not an economist either, and they do have a reputation for having more than one opinion each and for getting things badly wrong.

    But if you’re asking me to choose between an eminent economist and a party political spiv, need I say, I prefer the view of the economist.

    Even George Osborne, who has more gravitas in his little finger than toady Barwell can muster overall, is banging a party political drum. He is no more an expert on the economy than Jeremy Hunt is an expert on health.

    Treat them both as second-hand car salesmen of the Arthur Daley variety and you won’t go far wrong.

  2. You do not need to be an economist to know that the UK housing market is unbalanced and is causing all sorts of problems:

    * house price inflation;
    * over-rewarding landlords (particularly of poor quality lets) vs over-charging tenants – hence causing a shift in wealth from the poor to the property owners;
    * using tax-payer subsidies to prop up a failing housing market;
    * housing shortages, particularly in affordable homes.

    This situation has been made massively worse by the huge influx of population from surrounding boroughs.

    The housing market is driving inflationary pressures and producing apparent increases in wealth. But there is very little real increase in production of actual goods and services – hence the recovery is an illusion. It is unsustainable because it is credit driven and there are no signs of rising wages to pay off the credit.

    In Croydon the poor are experiencing not just a fall in the purchasing power of their pound (inflation), but also a fall in real wage rates at the same time as many of them experiencing increasingly insecure employment.

    After the 2011 riots Croydon needed strategies to stabilise the society. Economic policy is a key component of any such strategy – it is vital that local MPs understand how the economy impacts on the town.

  3. Andrew Leng says:

    A well respected and eminent economist or a fly by night self serving, opportunist Tory politician? I know who’s side of the argument I am on.

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