Tuesday, 13 October 2015

300 Lawyers

300 'senior lawyers' wish us to know that the government's policy for a programme of 20,000 Syrians over 5 years is too little.  Even the Grauniad reckons this lot have overstepped the mark, and John Humphreys didn't take too kindly, either, not to mention the Telegraph and Mail.

Not sure how much comfort we take from this high-minded journalistic disapproval.  The legal profession - judges in particular, of course - have it in their power to create severe practical difficulties for a policy they don't like, especially when it needs to be implemented case-by-case in the thousands, as will be inevitable when individual migrants are involved.  Long ago, when myself involved in a commercial litigation, it was explained to me in chambers that our case ran counter to a current strand of activist legal position-taking and that we would be in trouble if we ran into 'the South African tendency'.  

The what?  Apparently, during the apartheid era the liberal South African legal fraternity took it upon itself to interpret the law in such a way as to work consistently against government intentions - as expressed in the law - and carefully built up precedents etc to get their way, which was to thwart apartheid whenever they could.  Interestingly, significant numbers of these activist legal luminaries didn't subsequently choose to pursue their careers in Mr Mandela's wonderland, I wonder why, but came to London instead where some of them rose to positions of great prominence, numbering amongst the Law Lords.

Well, I keep away from the courts wherever possible and only know what I'm told.  And what I guess is that hundreds of activist lawyers and judges with what we might call a common purpose, could spell trouble for the government going way beyond silly letters to the Times.  Corbyn's newly radicalised front bench will be stirring it, too (oh how quickly the 'new reality' takes hold).  This one will run and run.


Monday, 12 October 2015

Stuart Rose is a poor choice for Remain leader, as Business people normally are for political roles

It is a strange fact of life that business people make for awful politicians and often vice versa.

I met a long time ago Archie Norman - a fantastic businessman who was responsible for building the UK arm of Wal-Mart (ASDA). He really knew how to stick it to Tesco and Sainsbury's as well as building a really good team and office around him. ASDA by all accounts was even quite a good place to work and still is.

So when he became a Tory MP there were high hopes. But they were dashed, shadowing the Government was of little interest and he soon returned to Industry and is now Chairman of ITV plc.

The thing is, in business when you are the boss people do what they are paid to do. bad ideas, good ideas, all are acted upon as directed. In politics, the media, the civil service, your pesky voters; all get to comment endlessly but also, with Unions, have a direct impact on what you can do. After all the Civil Service is the delivery platform but ministers cannot easily sack civil servants.

So a common mistake made by politicians entering into politics is that the energy and insight they bring will serve them well. Stuart Rose will be a case in point. Firstly, he now leads an in-campaign when he used to be fa more equivocal about Europe (you would be as M&S CEO, always a mess there for them...).

Then they will try to order around people and the 'convicing' element is somewhat lacking. After all in the office, you need people onside but they are going to do what they are told overall. This lack of ability to connect and actually persuade people is a hard skill; few politicians are good at it. CEO's mistake their workers for voters at their peril.

Finally, in business you have a good team, especially if you have worked your way to the top of a big and successful company. Those around you are talented and money is not a worry. Again, a political campaign like this EU Referendum one will be challenging and the friendly-fire level will be high.

As a Leave voter I am very pleased a Businessman has been chosen to campaign for stay; let's just  hope the Leave campaigns make some better choices.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

More Weekend Reading, or: Malthus shrugged

How much effect does domestic policy really have? Some would argue: quite a lot. Governments and regulators can certainly influence inflation, productivity, how much is spent on public services vs left in our pockets to consume, and so on. Duncan Weldon discusses the bigger picture.

The working-age share [of the population] rose strongly for the 40 years to 2012 and the fact it is now falling (a fall driven by both rising longevity and the past impact of a falling birth rate) could have a major impact on the shape of the global economy.
In the long run, demographics matter hugely to the economy and that long run may arrive quicker than we think it will.
The 1970s and 1980s saw the advanced economies enter what demographers have called a "sweet spot" as the post-war baby boomers entered the workforce and declining fertility rate reduced the number of dependent children. The working-age share of the population rose strongly.
That trend was then turbo-charged by the entry of China and the former Soviet bloc into the world economy. The global workforce available to firms roughly doubled in two decades.
In other words, for roughly four decades (and especially so in the last two) "labour" has been in broad supply. But if the global glut of workers is set to end - driven by both slowing population growth and a falling working-age share - then that could have major impact on global economics.

In January this year, the final report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity (ran by the Center for American Progress and chaired by Ed Balls and Larry Summers) found that low and middle-income workers in countries has diverse as Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the US had all seen a multi-decade wage growth slowdown.
These are countries with vastly different tax laws, vastly different financial industries (in terms of their size and structures) and radically different trade unions (in terms of laws, coverage and raw size).
All have seen the same broad trend and that perhaps is a clue that something bigger has been going on in the background.

Do read the whole thing.