We all know the Guardian is going broke. Following decades of sloppy management, it is now unable to fulfil its hubristic dreams of digital dominance. The editor is thinking of moving the offices to Manchester to save money (and certainly resignation letters would flood in from over-paid bores across Islington). Meanwhile, its website neither gives away its content – unashamedly relying on advertising and click bait – nor erects a pay wall. Instead it pleads for donations, as if it were a genuine Good Cause.

This desperation is presumably behind its latest wheeze: running articles paid for by a narcissistic billionaire hiding behind a front organisation. Or to quote the nib at the end of a piece about the tobacco policy of the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘funded, in part, by Vital Strategies’. What’s left unsaid is that Vital Strategies is a campaigning body set up to combat lung disease and paid for by Michael Bloomberg (he of Bloomberg News). And what do we know about the Big Bloomer? That when he was mayor of New York City, he destroyed its social life by banning smoking indoors.

Now, violently opposing smoking is fine if that’s what you want to do. And, actually, the WHO’s new demand that African countries increase their ‘sin taxes’ is not totally wrong-headed. True, the highly-rewarded executives might do better to urge proper implementation of existing tobacco laws and more usefully try to provide clean water for poor Africans. Granted, they don’t take enough account of the correlation between rising duty and rising organised crime. But at least reasonable taxation is more effective at discouraging smoking than plain packaging.

So why is this intervention by ‘Vital Strategies’ irksome? Because a) people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and Bloomberg is putting no less pressure on foreign regimes than the multi-nationals he condemns; and b) his intervention smacks of the same lofty elitism that characterises so many of the new plutocrats, whose social liberalism stands in stark contrast to their contempt for any government that dares challenge them.

People like Bill Gates, who also donates £18 million a year to the WHO’s war on baccy. (It does seem to be a thing among narcissistic billionaires.) People like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the new owner of the Washington Post, a virtue-signalling smugfest that chooses to ignore its proprietor’s far-from-public-spirited tax arrangements.

And maybe there’s the clue. Like the Washington Post, the Guardian is stuffed with savants who believe they deserve a decent living for espousing unpopular and impractical views. Since the begging bowl isn’t working, maybe they’re hoping for a big strong businessman to keep them. Step forward, Michael Bloomberg?

by Julia Dixon