Friday, 28 October 2016

Nissan: The Shape of Things to Come

Watching Jon Snow present the C4 news yesterday evening was a delight.  What the hell's going on here, he blustered - GDP up!  and Nissan investing!  - but, but, ... how can this be?  It's supposed to be all doom and gloom - the government is obviously cheating!!

Jon-boy, this is war.  Whatever the government did or didn't do for Nissan, there'll be many a dark deed done on the road to a successful escape from the clutches of the Commission.  It gladdens the heart to see that some proper pragmatists are settling down to their three-year-long task of doing Whatever It Takes.  Perhaps the wretched remainers in the ranks of the Civil Service are being brought to heel.  Or side-lined.  Whatever: they'll get the message if it's relentlessly reinforced at every turn.  Johnson / Davis / Fox maybe up to the task after all.

The EC will get the message, too.  You won't talk to us?  You hold out nothing better than 'Britain must be punished'?  Why then, we'll cut our deals somewhere else.

Altogether more annoying was the spectacle of Hammond studiously avoiding any sign whatsoever of pleasure at the news.  He has every right to be cautious: but his sour, pessemistic line went beyond prudent management of expectations.  Being charitable, he must have signed off on whatever 'deal' was done for Nissan, which is the main issue on the practical side. 

But rhetoric matters, too.  Churchill, who never failed to give his listeners a blunt understanding of just how tough things were going to be, also never failed to give them a vision of ultimate victory, with a credible display of his personal conviction and determination.

He wasn't much given to toleration of obstructionist attitudes, either.  Get with the programme, Hammond - this is entirely do-able.  


Thursday, 27 October 2016

Trouble in Baluchistan is Real Trouble

Scanning the news on return from a nil-by-wifi holiday, I read of dreadful deeds in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan.  Which awakens some 30-year old memories.

Back in the '80s I did some soldiering in Oman, a country with which we have very longstanding relations going back to when that part of the Arabian coast needed patrolling against Sinbad-the-sailor pirates making raids on our India-bound shipping routes.  The Omani army was run quite efficiently thirty years ago (and probably still today) mostly by British NCOs and Pakistani staff officers, and was a smart little affair.  I strongly imagined my father would have recognised it from his Indian Army days a generation before.  One day I will root out the photos and do a post on it.

Anyway, the average Omani soldier (native) was a pleasant chap, touchingly loyal to the Sultan and probably brave enough.  But there wasn't much of what we might think of as a serious martial tradition.  

Nonetheless, there was sporadic fighting to be done.  The relatively heavy stuff of the '50s (Jebel campaign)  and '70s (Dhofar) was over but there was a simmering border conflict with Yemen in the south west, not finally settled until 1992.  And this pleasant average Omani was not really the chap to creep up on an enemy observation post and make with the cold steel.

So they employed two battalions of Baluchis, in much the same way the British army has long retained the services of the Gurkhas.  And, much like a Gurkha, your taciturn Baluch tribesman is exactly the sort of chap for creeping around the hillsides with the cold steel at the ready.  In fact, they were some of the best soldiers I have encountered.

If Pakistan has troubles with Baluchistan, I'd guess they could be very problematic indeed.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Goldman Sachs is scaling back - in New York

Remaoner scaremongering is becoming a thing of legend. Endless stories of horror, few or indeed, any, yet to come true.

The classic one led by the odious British Bankers Association is that all banks are preparing to leave London before Xmas.

The thing is, every single company in the UK, EU and US is using Brexit as a perfect event excuse. Cut salaries - Brexit
Cut costs by firing staff - Brexit
Ripping off Customers - desperation, caused by Brexit.

It is the universal excuse and will remain so until 2020 at least.

Just for balance, here is an article about how Goldman Sachs, said to be considering 2000 jobs in London and whether to 're-locate', is anyway firing 500 odd people in New York. No doubt because of Brexit.

Unfortunately, you can never prove a counter-factual. Goldmans is getting rid of people because its business is changing and the environment is changing. Whether Brexit related or not, the answer will always be Brexit because it suits all management to blame someone or something else other than themselves.

The wider point is that Banking is changing massively, really massively, the internet is fast disintermediating humans from the process of banking and the likes of Blockchain are only going to accelerate this trend. The big bank model is likely on the wane and there will be a big shift in moving to FinTech companies and a more diverse supplier base of services. It is just that as this happens, every job loss will be blamed on Brexit when actually something more interesting, more dynamic, yes...more capitalistic, is occurring. Which will also be more fun to write about than fact-checking remoaner lies.