Sunday, 31 May 2020

Weekend Reading: Spare Capacity vs Efficiency - continued ...

Further to this long-running occasional C@W theme, here's an apposite Graun piece. 
Coronavirus is our chance to completely rethink what the economy is for
And split an infinitive or two.  By someone called Bull [sic], a professor of cunning History of Art [sic] and Ideas at Oxford University, it's very scrappy.  No particular thesis that I can discern.  But it throws a few, errrr, ideas into the pot.

There you go.


Friday, 29 May 2020

We're Saved - The Unions Are Coming!

The signs are everywhere: t'unions reckon their hour of revival is arrived.  Well, the heroes of the hour are Key Workers and they are all unionised (well, errr, some of them), and lionised, and recognised, belatedly, for how important they are.  And the economy needs to be rebuilt, and the unions definitely need to be consulted about that.  And the Labour manifesto promised to make the new green future fully unionised ... etc etc etc.  Why, L'il Owen Jones has even changed his moniker!

Many of us hereabouts don't routinely think about unions, have anything to do with unions (pace, E-K), nor expected ever again to be troubled by unions.  Last time I personally dealt with a union delegation, was when they were begging (I think that's the word, really) to be allowed to come onsite at a shiny new plant I was responsible for in the North East in the '90s.  Rather cruelly, I replied: why would we?   All our non-managerial technical staff had been recruited from traditional unionised backgrounds in the locality, and were delighted to be under training to be multi-skilled.  As they (our staff) would tell us, if you'd volunteered to become multi-skilled in their previous employment "the union guys would break your legs".

Anyhow, it would be foolish not to recognise that there's a bit of a seachange underway, if only in the morale of these dinosaurs.  Here's some disparate thoughts on a union resurgence.

1.  They're actually a bit nervous

Well, after the beatings they've endured over the past 35+ years, wouldn't you be?  And they are of course deeply cognisant of how dependent they are on the policies and handouts of our dynamic new Covid Chancellor, who has basically "outflanked them on the left", moving faster and further than they were even asking for!  They'd like to be telling him what to do: but they are also pretty grateful for the substantial crumbs cascading from his table.  Could we please, errrr, just have a seat at this table?  Please?  They know where all the initatives are coming from.  And the £££.  And who's in charge for the next several years.

2.  Green Deal to be unionised - really?

Now Rebecca's "Green Deal" was for a fully unionised new industrial revolution, of course - and it was green in name only.  The noteworthy central plank of this policy was the "just transition", which meant, well, anything really, provided unionised industrial jobs were front and centre - new car factories, plastics factories, steel works, you name it.

I'm sure we can easily envisage Boris going for a massive Keynsian splurge.  And cars, steel & plastics may well feature - along with even easier quick-wins like roadbuilding and infrastructure renewal.  He may even call it a Green Deal, to steal Labour's thunder and give the pudding a bit of a spurious theme.  But: unionised?  No more so than normal-for-2019, I'd guess.  The big advocates of this kind of green Keynsianism, all the way to Ed Miliband (remember him?) are quite keen to be non-partisan (see 'nervous' above).

3.  Unions & Starmer: is he particularly keen?

Some say not, nay, they fear not.  You could see why.  What's less attractive than Unite, the Union and bad-boy McCluskey and his bad-old-days fixer reputation? 
Keir Starmer is pivoting Labour away from the support it has given to trade unions in recent years ... leading figures in two Labour-affiliated unions – the Fire Brigades Union and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union – released statements condemning Starmer’s favoured [and of course successful] candidate, David Evans, for party General Secretary as “divisive.” The former Blair-era fixer is deeply unpopular with many of Labour’s affiliated unions and seen as likely to diminish their influence
And never mind Starmer and his pivoting: there are plenty on the purist Left who despair of the undemocratic, unrepresentative machinations and general corruption (not to mention conservatism) they see amongst the ranks of the dinosaurs. 

4.  Good news for the rest of us

However, it is I think to be expected that they do elbow into a few more seats at a few more tables in the coming months and years - including various organs of the Peoples Party.  The great thing about this is, they are really incompetent.  Any board or body with heavy union influence is going to be that much more dull and leaden-footed, not to mention conservative - at a time when agility and sharp-sighted radicalism is what's needed.  The best you ever get is when some relatively bright union research-department wonk comes up with a load of incredibly well-researched, detailed, earnest, but essentially wrongheaded "roadmap" which may accidentally contain a nugget or two, but which nobody ever reads (case in point: Rebecca's bizarre 2019 energy policy which I believe I might be the only person on the planet ever to have gone through to the very end).

Boris has always been lucky.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

V shape recovery on the cards?

With the Corona Virus in the UK seemingly evaporating at the moment, we may see a V shaped recovery for the economy. This would be amazing news as I have been thinking for a long-time that the recession we see will be awful. However, the virus is seemingly petering out much faster than the Government thought, just as it spread much more quickly than the Government could adjust for.

They key will be whether the Government, under intense media pressure, will have the confidence to say that things are more or less back to normal by July and as long as we wash hands and stay alert then everything can go back to normal. It seems a brave call, but there are 40 odd districts now corona free and that list gets longer everyday - July is a long way off from here at this rate.

Too optmisitic a take?

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A cure at last!

It has been hard with Lockdown to get to grips with the virus. It creeps up unseen, an invisible enemy as President Trump says. You don't know who has it, it could be your spouse or close family, your neighbours, even as we have discovered, the Prime Minister.

It is a nasty virus to if you catch it. Some people do seem to be able to wear it lightly and get by, but for other the symptoms get worse and worse. Fever seems to be one of the maing signs, and the lying around lethargic with the odd peak of howling rage.

I am of course talking about social media addiciton virus, which is a curse of our age. All of our political and media class suffer hugely from this debilitating disease. With it, they lose most sense of reason and all sense of proportion. The current ridiculous and confected issue with Dominic Cummings is the latest example.

It proved for me though a release, having watch some loopy lady on Sky insist that he was patient zero for the North East and could be prosecuted for murder, enough was enough. Already I had been recovering (a nice email from a regular reader here helped too), but slowly I was looking less at Twitter, ignoring the daily briefings and generally getting on with a bust job and life. Now was the time for the big switch off.

I feel a lot freer for it, to limit the interaction with 24 hour news is good for the soul. One or two bouts a day for 10-15 minutes will keep you in the know but not consumed by it. The nature of the Corona virus impact and how much it changed our lives nescessarily made following the news a key element in all our lives. But now, as lockdown ends, perhaps the height of super tension will reduce too. Sadly, I fear for the media it is far too late, in their desperate search to keep up with free news, they have reduced themselves to the same level as those whom they used to criticise for sensationalism,