Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Travel in 2021

 As readers will know, I have been pretty bearish on the hopes of the travel industry for next year, much more bearish than the forecasts made by the market participants. 

However, getting 3 working vaccines in the space of a couple of weeks is a real game-changer and much better than expected. Surely, by the middle of next year, the scourge of covid will be at an end. 

I want to know how you will travel yourselves though. I can see myself working back in London again nearly full-time from around March, maybe earlier and also travelling for business by then. All sorts of things about travel, like vaccine passports, will have to be worked out but the industry will be keen to do so. 

For now I have no intention of travelling by air, two weeks quarantine or even five days quarantine is enough to put one off. With a vaccine passport though, it should be easy. What will you all do - if your boss tells you to go abroad (domestic boss  counts too..) then historically you did it, will it really be so different in 2021?

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Corbyn's Big Provocation Revisisted

Three weeks ago I surmised how Corbyn had arrived at being suspended from the Labour Party.   The saga has progressed very nicely.  But if leftie-watching is not your favoured spectator sport, then click off now ...

The thesis was, on EHRC day (identified months in advance to be a pivotal moment) his people wanted to make a maximal provocation that was still defensible within the terms of the game, in order to set the baseline for Corbynite recovery within the Labour Party as far away from humiliating abasement as possible.  The provocation took the form of a blatant non-apology (which is in any case Corbyn's style) coupled with a factional message, designed to slip neatly inside an EHRC let-out clause.  It didn't quite work as hoped, because Starmer's people, knowing their man, had seen it coming a mile off and set a bear trap for him, into which he duly fell.  Somewhat aghast at his suspension, his team immediately moved into tactical withdrawal, planning to negotiate / cajole / bully their way quietly out of it.  My concluding suggestion was, this would need to include the most self-abasing, unequivocal apology from Corbs**, abject to the point of severely demoralising his own faction.

What's happened since?  By way of a displacement activity, Corbynite outriders spent their time banging on about due process: but the real action was clearly behind the scenes, with McCluskey evidently feeling a deal was available, and that a modest apology would work the trick.  Meantime the Party hierarchy had (a) come down hard and heavy on Labour members having the temerity to pass motions about the affair in their covens; (b) been a bit taken aback by the due-process criticism and set up a review panel - which, hilariously, reinstated Corbyn!  His outriders declared victory; out came the apology, modest in the extreme; McCluskey reckoned he'd pulled it off.   

Starmer, however, reacted fairly immediately (some say, because the Jewish lobby forced his hand) by removing the Labour Parliamentary whip, supported loyally in public (however unhappily and disingenuously) by senior Shadow Cabinet members.  Cue uproar, because this particular turn of events, essentially PLP-based and no longer a Party matter per se, has left Party members feeling completely free to pass condemnatory motions until they are blue in the face.  And so the weekend begins: what will the Sunday papers make of it all?

I say the Sundays, because right now, aside from the letters page the Graun has nothing whatsoever about it dated later than Thursday evening!  Boy, that tells us something.  So, for an 'authoritative' leftist view, I recommend (again, only for afficianados) a few minutes watching Novara media's account.  

Their explanation is, in a sense, an inversion of mine.  Novara reckons the provocation is Starmer's! - on behalf of the neo-liberal establishment, the BBC and the dark powers, naturally - but I think we can accept that as just the flipside of the coin I have been presenting.  Summarising their account (see particularly from 12:50 mins in): 

The neo-lib establishment is appalled by a particular development.  Prior to Corbyn's becoming leader of a mainstream political party, 'revolutionary' stirrings had been confined to broadly ineffectual extra-parliamentary movements like Occupy.  With Corbyn's accession and his near-miss in GE2017, there was the clear possibility that a genuinely leftwing government might be achieved.  Since the very notion of this must be expunged from everyone's consciousness, Starmer (the chosen agent of the neo-libs, carefully installed in the leadership) must find a means - any means - to expel Corbyn and his followers.  They are using the EHRC as an opportunity, and confecting a provocation to facilitate his eviction; and with him, the left.  Nothing else matters to Starmer in 2020 because he has 4 years to build towards an electoral pitch.     

Aside from the silly conspiracy-theory aspects I don't find this in any way contradictory to my earlier version.  Both sides in the Labout Party view the stakes as extremely high - viz, the potential leftist capture of the Labour Party and ultimately government - with EHRC a pivotal moment, being exploited ruthlessly.  It's a pure win-lose arm-wrestle, no holds barred.

Where does it go from here?  The Novara types reckon (hope?) Starmer has really screwed up tactically, potentially precipitating a leftist-driven uprising within Labour.  The total silence of the Grauniad, and what they identify (surely correctly) as a very Starmer-friendly treatment of all this by the Beeb, is all of a piece.  But they must also fear that Graun + Beeb + almost all of the PLP is actually quite a dead weight on their hopes.  Lurking in the background is always the fear (for them) of a breakaway new leftist party: so they'll hope that passing incendiary motions at the grassroots level is sport enough for their followers.   

Meanwhile, Covid and Brexit march on, and Boris has stolen their Green Industrial Revolution ... but what do they care?  Too young to bother about Covid; half of them Lexiteers anyway; climate crisis, what climate crisis?  Fratricide is much more fun.    



**  Amusingly, Gordon Brown has said pretty much the same 

Friday, 20 November 2020

Bullying is rubbish in any work place - Friday View

I have worked in quite a few organisations, big and small. One thing that has always led me to leave is a horrid, bullying boss. I have had my fair share of them and luckily, my fair share of inspirational bosses who really helped me to learn and kick on. 

In some ways, the bas bosses, who I generally experienced earlier on in my career taught me the most. They taught me that fear works in terms of driving short-term performance and can lead them to their own promotions. Long-term, it does nothing for the organisation or the people in it. Bullying and picking on individuals might push you to avoid being the target, but no one is happy and less value is created. 

Interestingly, the worst bully bosses I have ever had are all female. Maybe it is fluke or random error, but certainly just as there is an alpha-male type of boss who is a nightmare to work for, there are plenty of women whose own insecurity is taken out on those below them. 

I learned much more from the political and bullying bosses - it taught me how I did not want to be when it was my turn later in my career - not taking credit for things I had not doe, not randomly hauling people over the coals because I was having a bad day, not coming up with petty ideas just to trip people over, not getting angry over presenteeism and not trying to turn the team on one another - all great lessons. 

Not to say the good bosses did not help, making time to speak to people in your team, encouraging them and trusting them even when you know they will make mistakes. To me the companies that do this best always end up succeeding the most in the long-term, even if the bullying ones can do better in a hit and run type market. Personally, I certainly know which ones I would rather work for. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Green Industrial Revolution re-launch

I have a flashback to 2010, then we had a Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who was trying to overcome the huge challenges of the Financial Crash, whilst watching his popularity decline. 

Today it is Boris, struggling with the Covid pandemic, trying to maintain his now tarnished popularity.

Let's have a re-launch the advisers say, something fun and that appeals to everyone, with a suitably long enough time frame that we don't have to do anything now, but will win some Brownie (see what i did there?) points for vision and strategy etc.

And lo, we are presented with the Green industrial revolution. An idea stolen from Rebecca Long-Bailey of the Labour party no less. The benefit to this is there is hardly any meat here to worry about or initiatives that will cost too much when they meet reality. A downfall meme on this is surely only hours away. 

The idea of greening the economy itself is a good one, just ill-suited for 4 year parliaments to really implement. 

However, I am going to defend one stand-out idea. That of phasing out sale of petrol and diesel in ten years. This to me is exactly how Government should regulate. A simple goal to understand and the technology already exists to make this possible. The private sector is left to steer the ship the right way. 

This way is way more efficient than say setting up our own green car company or legislating like the Green party want for everyone to have a free bus service. 

As for the rest of it, tomorrow's chip paper. 

Monday, 16 November 2020

Jack Ma & China's Capitalist "Regulatory" Regime

There are several ways of looking at the mighty hiccup just suffered by the great Jack Ma's corporate empire as the Chinese authorities thwart the epic IPO he had scheduled for Ant Financial Services.


1.  One in the eye for Chinese dreams of FinTech domination

Not really.  Theirs is a specialist domestic financial sector, and it doesn't depend on Ant, or Ma's other corporate vehicles having free rein.  Word is, the authorities are toying with transition 100% to a virtual currency.  Now that's the big development to be watching for.  (Can it be done?  Much like Xi's Social Credit dream: easy to conjure up over a beer, and to recognise the advantages that would accrue to the CCP - if they could make them happen.  The practical difficulties, however, are legion, and they advantages almost certainly not what they think.  Law of Unintended Consequences looms very large.)

2.  See, the Chinese can't do Due Process

Errr, I think we knew that.  The CCP is quite explicit: it recognises no higher authority, in this world or the next.   So (a) there will always be a lot of business China will never get, for this very reason.  

Then again (b) neither can several other countries do Anglo-style Due Process, e.g. Germany! - as we've discussed here before.  HOWEVER, no end of western companies "who should know better" kow-tow for Chinese business like there's no tomorrow (and I chose that simile with precision).  Marxists always scoff at this: the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will string them up!  Haha.  Yeah, always gets a laugh.

3.  So it's just like Russia, then?

Sort-of, but slicker.  Yes, after a few nervous years in office, Putin got to the point where his terms for the oligarchs were - remember, мои друзья, you cannot overstep the mark I lay down.  The CCP built the whole of its capitalist regime - or rather, stood back and watched its capitalist regime develop spontaneously under the freedoms they rather prudently granted - on the same clear understanding from the very start.  Mr Ma may have been wondering whether he might just be big enough to think otherwise; but ... 

4.  At least no blood was spilled

Now we're getting closer.  How much more civilised, how virtual (virtuous?) to put a spoke in the wheel of an IPO, than to put a bullet in the back of the head.  (But we do know that's in the toolkit too.) 

5.  OK, but not a proper capitalist regime at all

Can't agree.  Capitalism is the human economic activity that thrives whenever and wherever there is space for the ordinary person to profit personally from their own ideas and keep enough of the proceeds to represent personal capital.  No implication whatsoever of unlimited licence.  Works best with Due Process, but works pretty well in less 'formal' frameworks, too.  As the Chinese have proved magnificently over the past 30 years.

6.  Any lessons for us?

Not really; because in both the paradigm economies of the Anglo capitalist model (US and UK), private businesses ultimately operate under the possibility of direct governmental intervention, often with very little resemblance to Due Process.  A brief engagement with the history of the nuclear power sector since it was supposedly 'privatised' will leave you in no doubt on that one: and very many more examples could be adduced.

Oh, and many folk heartily wish our government would also intervene against Due Process earlier and more often.  When it suits them, naturally ...