James Moore: Should we really care what Paris Hilton thinks about our party?
Outlook The fact that the UK has so far escaped any hint of a credit downgrade has long been cited by the Coalition to support its preferred combination of spending cuts and tax rises to deal with the budget deficit. For goodness sake stop complaining about your hospital closing: Britain's still a AAA nation (Aa1 or somesuch in Moody's speak).
While others are hit with downgrades, good old Blighty stands alone, and it's all because the Gentleman's not for turning. Oh dear. It looks like Moody's has gone and spoiled the party.
Its decision to put the UK on negative credit watch has prompted a fresh round of agonising about the economy, already in the midst of a dangerous dance with the dreaded double dip.
But beyond giving Ed Balls the excuse to flash one of those smiles that frightens small children, what has Moody's action actually contributed to the debate?
Ratings agencies like Moody's are the Paris Hiltons of the economics world. Just like the talentless socialite, when they come out to play a huge fuss is created. Their pronouncements are hotly debated and analysed to the Nth degree. Economics commentators queue up to pronounce on their actions, just as the fashion press queue up to pronounce on La Hilton's frocks.
Yesterday, they included no less than the Institute for Economic Affairs, as well as Mr Balls, sundry other economists and some (pained) Treasury sources insisting that it will be worse for Britain if it fails to stay the course.
They are all getting terribly hot under the collar about something that is, in reality, essentially meaningless. Like Paris, really.
You would think, by now, that people might have woken up to this. Moody's and its competitors, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, proved beyond all reasonable doubt that they were wearing the emperor's new clothes during in the run up to the credit crisis. That was when investment grade ratings appeared to be available to any dodgy mortgage-backed security which had the involvement of an investment bank with a fancy name somewhere in its creation.
Bond investors certainly appear to be of this view, with gilts suffering only a mild correction yesterday despite the unexpectedness of Moody's move.
The only worry, in fact, is that while the markets have largely woken up to the weakness of the rating agencies' case, politicians still seem to set a certain amount of store by a country's rating. Mr Osborne fell into the trap yesterday by trying to say that Moody's actually strengthened the arguments for his policies. It did nothing of the sort. He would have been better to take his cue from the bond markets and leave Paris, Moody's and their friends to their own devices.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 3 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
iJobs Money & Business
£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...
£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...