Wednesday 31 January 2007

ID Fraud TV

There was a programme on BBC One tonight on ID Fraud.

All the usual scare stories and real stories about how easy it is to lose your ID. Try as they might I thought this weakened the case even more, were that possible, for ID cards. The fraudsters are too good.

On the other hand, who will steal my ID? You could have my mortgage, credit cards, overdraft. Please take these things away, your theft will make me much happier!

Tuesday 30 January 2007

Post Office update

Having spoken to a few Post masters I have discovered that there is no official documentation on the Post Office closure after the May Elections. However the consultation process has been set to end in March with a central government review to take place after this. An announcement then to be made in early May?

Just Fancy That.

The other news from Post World is that Labour M.P.'s are being briefed on the financially strong offices that will remain open. They can then sponsor local campaigns to save these particular establishments and hey presto, they will be successful.

Welcome to a perfect world; new Labour Britain 2007.

Sunday 28 January 2007

A thought for Sunday

Mr Reid, our esteemed leader in the Home Office has been faced with some serious problems this week.

Notsaussure, has the best in-depth pieces that I have seen this week.

However, with prison places hard to come by, paedo's on the streets and a feeling of general anarchy descending from the media to the whole populace I can see only two clear options for 'JR':

1 - Bring back hanging, this is much cheaper than long-term jail costs and is also a proven vote-winner with those all important voters, Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Wade and Paul Dacre.

2 - Impose martial law until the crisis is over. If a resident of Number 11 Downing Street finds his passport cancelled while abroad or finds himself sitting rather too close to the door of a Hercules in the next couple of months, then it may be lost in the maelstrom of the news agenda.

Two easy solutions JR, which one for the media grid this week?

Friday 26 January 2007

Darling Behaviour

Many stories in politics and business this week, but all are covered better elsewhere (see my many links for better coverage than the MSM).

I have 3 themes to which have often returned to over the past 6 months. The pension crisis, the inflation fallacy of the government and its poor economic management and the risk to our economy of unregulated private equity.

There is another to add, linked to the pensions crisis. This is the closure of 2500 post offices by the government.

This is a theme I will build on from now until May, it is bound up with many other issues and so there is much depth to the story.

However, the main accusation I make is one of pure political cynicism on the part of the government. They know this is a hot potato and very controversial so when have they decided to announce these closures? After an extended consultation...which happens to be the day after the Local Elections on May 3.

After the heat maps scandal of last year, we should expect no less. What a an indictment of the government's confidence in itself that it has to behave in this way.

Oh, Darling how could you!

Referral to a better place

Jeremy Jacobs is taking action in response to tragedy and sorrow. If more of us had this sort of courage and commitment the world would be a better place:

I urge you to see this and take part in your own way.

Thursday 25 January 2007

Watch this!

Far be it from me to encourage watching the goggle box. However, tonight at 9m Jeff Randall looks into the UK pension scandal on ITV1.

Jeff is no friend of the government and I look forward to him telling it how it is.

If you watch put your thoughts in the comments for a quick debate....

Tuesday 23 January 2007

Which Business section should you read?

Many people rarely pick up the business sections of the Daily or Sunday newspapers unless it is to look at personal work related issues. Nothing wrong with this but I also know that most of us choose a newspaper and then stick with it. Below in short I give my opinion on the business sections of some of the Daily's as a guide for you.

If anyone is interested I can do the Sunday's at a later time, need time to peruse a few more though. It has taken a couple of weeks to prepare for this post.

Feedback on my views appreciated as ever.


The Times; Actually quite weak, there business news rarely sets the agenda and it has to be said that the Murdoch agenda is never far from the news. Very much of the focus is on corporate news. Good for jobs though, still leads the others.

Telegraph: Easily the best of the daily's a whole section devoted to business news and led by editor-at-large Geoff Randall it has the ability to cover, corporate, national economic global issues.

Guardian: This is a pleasantly surprising business read given the political slant of the paper. Often the focus is on people in business, but this can add good depth to stories and overall I would place the business section just behind the Telegraph. Good for media as you would expect. Best for Media and Public sector jobs.

Independent: Not bad, but a very wide range of topics covered as you would expect. No real star's amongst its leader writers and often too little depth to the stories. heavily skewed towards personal finance.

Financial Times: You would expect this to come out highly, but I just can't rate it. Of course the depth is there/ Where though is the accessibility to its audience? Also has a terrible habit of printing press releases from corporate and using that to fill space. Even the famous Lex column has become a disappointment. Rather like reading the economist, you know what it will say before even reading the article. Poor for jobs outside of high finance too.

I can't begin to go through the tabloids, suffice to say they all play to their political agenda and I can't recall seeing any breaking news in any of them, except the The Daily Mail which broke the Pearson rumors first recently. Please ignore share-tipping advice and anything else you see here; You will have as much luck looking at the horoscopes.

One final mention though for free sheet The Metro in London. Excellent graphics, good accounts. It only has a page but does more with that than any of the other tabloids.

Overall, if you have time read the Telegraph, failing that the Times or Guardian. For pure summary pick up The Metro if you are in town.

Sunday 21 January 2007

Emergency! Red Alert! Diversion!

John Reid has come out yesterday saying that the Home Office should be split into two groups, Security and Justice. Yet another crisis is looming from this minister of Public Woe. He certainly is not a good news man, is he?

Even toady Lord Falconer, not to be titled prospective minister for Justice, has defended this idea on Andrew Marr's show this morning.

Yet, I cannot understand it. Why do you need to break the Home Office up? After all the only real reform here it to add ministerial interference by increasing the numbers of politicians wading in.

If the organisation has poor chains of command and leadership then it should be re-organised internally with new reporting structures. This is what companies like GE, Hanson, TUI and other conglomerates manage all the time.

So the issue will not be resolved by a split, only by a change of management. This whole idea is then a red herring.

I wonder why? Perhaps Guido, Iain, Praguetory and others can help enlighten us as to why the government is currently engaged in such large smokescreen initiatives.

Friday 19 January 2007

Gordon: New World Order

Broon is in the news today giving some sort of foreign policy speech. I say sort of because it is a mish mash of vague ideas rather than anything concrete in terms of realistic policy.

Talk of reforming major international institutions is in my view pushing it for a man not even yet elected leader of a mere 5% of the world's GDP and 1% of it population.

However, what really struck me as odd was that the speech seemed to be based on a classic H G Wells novel, also titled New World Order.

In this book (skim it, it is free, short and here), Wells speaks of the horror of the world being slowly ruined up by an expanding global bureaucratic government. He writes brilliantly of class hatred basis of socialism. He was referring in the aftermath of the 2nd World War to the UN, Bretton Woods agreement and so forth. He saw socialism and collectivism as the death of Britain and the world as we know it, at the hands of dangerous revolutionaries.

Yet this is what Brown, in his vague way, is also suggesting. Clearly he wants the end of Britain than even I had thought. I think he may even have read Wells and as a socialist drawn the opposite conclusions.

Except Brown thinks world government expansion is all a good thing. More EU interference and more UN action. He says:

"you cannot meet the challenges of the future by simply building the present in
the image of the past."

What about failure of the UN at Kyoto, over Iraq, during the cold war, in child abuse scandals, the list of goes on. As for the EU, what are its great successes? How are either of these institutions in any way democratic and able to represent the wishes of British people?

But these institutions are to be our future governors, not all this messy democracy and representation that he has to put up with now.

A dangerous man is Gordo; statist, anti-democratic and without positive vision for the world. How sad I will be when he becomes our Prime Minister.

Wednesday 17 January 2007

UK Skills & productivity - Leitch Review

Sir Digby Jones, the new ambassador for Skills in the UK was on the Today programme this morning to discuss the Leitch review.

The Review was published last December as a review of the way skills are developed in the UK. Overall there it takes a dim view of our achievement to date. We have 5 million adults who cannot read even the yellow pages and 11 million who could not count their change in a shop properly.

Interestingly the report notes how adult education is critical to learning, as we will in future have fewer graduates and school leavers due to demographic change.

My view is that our educational failure is the main cause of our low economic productivity relative to competitor countries such as the US, France and Japan. Also the report notes we spend about 1% of GDP on higher education, with 2% spent as the OECD average (see here how poorly we do in the various tables) . Also in China and India much greater store is set by learning and education.

I hope Digby, always outspoken in his career, will lead the charge to improve the situation. No doubt government will take a nannyish role; especially with the weak Bill Rammell in charge.

We need to get our population to want to train itself, have the self-motivation and even be willing to pay for their own training. Sadly, I cannot see a Labour government and associated quango's being able to change the mentality that all your education is courtesy of the state and finishes when you leave school. I hope the Tories can come up with some better policies in this crucial area.

UPDATE: Ian and Newmania have rasied good points in the comments section.

Tuesday 16 January 2007

More bad economic news

Many economists wrote earlier this week that the decision to raise interest rates would mean a peak of 5.25% or 5.5% at most (here).

Not me, even though not a 'real' economist, it is painfully obvious that the macro-economic situation has tipped.

Today the ONS, whom are not as neutral as they say they are, have released their inflation figures (here). These make for poor reading, CPI up to 3%, RPIX up to 4.4%. This means inlfation has taken hold at the highest level since the disastrous peg to the Mark (see ERM) in 1991.

There are few downward trends, with the Government having to hope fuel costs fall back significantly and that clothing falls in price. The first is unlikley given the political instability of Iraq, Iran and Venezuela.

The second is unlikely as the sales and Christmas are over, meaning retailers will move away from discounting to selling full price summer ranges.

So be prepared for 6% interest rates this year.

If all that does not convince you, read this article by the investment strategist at Goldman Sachs, courtesy of the Telegraph.

Monday 15 January 2007


normally I avoid these things, but sometimes you need to exception to prove the rule:

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

All so good, all so predicable given my Irish ancestry!

Although the drinking everyone under the table bit is an aspiration rather than a trait.

Sunday 14 January 2007

..and this is surely some sort of sick joke

First they tried a computer system for the CPS and it did not work. So then they tried the CSA, more money; still with no progress. So they thought perhaps let's try something bigger and designed an IT system for the NHS. This too failed, but seemingly only inspired ambition amongst government ministers and their consultant IT architects.

So they thought up ID cards; but still their appetite is not sated.

So now they are floating this....

They have no shame!

2007 predictions update

Many people seem keen that we have an election this year. I am too, but this really is very wishful thinking. Slicker is sticking by the prediction that Brown will remain in character as a coward.

I note to the information here, that says that Cameron has raised £20 million for the Tories to fight a campaign. At the same time Labour is so in debt that it would rely entirely on the Unions to fund a an election fight; in itself likely to be hugely controversial and negative for the party when seeking middle class votes.

So, sadly, there will not be an election this year unless Brown has a sudden desire to commit political suicide.

Thursday 11 January 2007

Stagflation, anyone?

The Bank of England have raised interest rates to 5.25% today. Although the MSM will say this is a shock; it is nothing of the sort.

(A small digression here, most of the predictions you read in the papers come from Nationwide, Halifax and so on. As big mortgage lenders they always say interest rates have peaked, they want more customers after all. Trust only statements from independent economists or institutions that don't have some skin in the game.)

Indeed, my many posts and others on "Labour Inflation Lie's", show that real inflation is much higher; to curb this we need higher interest rates.

However, growth the past 2 years has been financed by cheap debt. The government has expanded spending by printing more money and the consumers have borrowed on credit cards and mortgages.

So a rise in interest rates will hit us all hard (Slicker included!). More rises are on the way and this will cause a general slowdown. However, the government spending goes on printing money (see here) and there is no other growth in the economy. So we have a low growth economy with high inflation. if House prices crash, a possibility, though not a likelihood.

This is known as Stagflation.

Well done Gordon, you have matched my expectations of dragging the economy back to the 1970's. Shame that nice Tory economy you inherited meant you got 5 years extra to achieve your dream, but he-ho.

Now, where's my passport?

Seriously though, make your job secure. The government will be forced to cut the money supply and so reduce demand. Unemployment has already been creeping up and will be forced up further by the cut in supply.

Tuesday 9 January 2007

Playing FTSE

So rare I get a good headline. Today the London Stock Exchange has rushed out its latest trading report. This is to try to defend itself from a hostile takeover bid by the American NASDAQ.

Why hostile? Well the LSE decided against a friendly merger last year. Instead the US firm has built up a stake of 26% in the LSE. However, the shareholders of the LSE seem reluctant to accept the bid.

The reality of the situation though is that the LSE should let itself be bought by the NASDAQ. With the NYSE/Euronext tie up, the other two big players in the US/EU are already going to be in a strong position to undermine London. With NASDAQ the LSE would be a stronger long-term company.

Independence is possible for the LSE, but why? Shareholders will do better to have a share in a larger firm with better prospects. Better still a tie-up with Dynamic NASDAQ as opposed to the sclerotic European exchanges should mean that LSE/NASDAQ wins in the long-term.

Today is the day when shareholders in LSE reveal their first thoughts on the bid. I hope they accept.

Sunday 7 January 2007

Private Equity Update

I have posted numerous times on the Private Equity business (here, here, here and here) and the threat it has to our economy. I notice that commenters' here are split as to whether this is true or not.

I understand the view that this is merely a working of capitalism in market form. However, what is missed is that an unregulated market has allowed distortion to grow. huge finance has been raised to buy poor-performing companies that have turned out to be not so easy to turn round, see here in today's Sunday Times.

So what I hear you ask? The only people losing money are the City capitalists? This is the devil though, as if these companies go into administration they may well use the pension pot for the staff or even if no buyer can be found, go bankrupt. Now they are only going to go into administration because they are so heavily indebted. Money the venture capitalists have already taken out in profit.

So the Venture Capitalists have lost their own money and possibly the livelihoods of the companies too. You may say these companies were doomed anyway; but the unsustainable level of debt they have been burdened with won't have helped, will it?

Earlier this week, Little Chef, was a near victim of this, being bought out at the last minute. This kind of Private Equity failure will hugely increase throughout this year due to crazy deals that have been completed in the last couple of years finally collapsing.

Don't expect 3% GDP growth for the economy this year.

Friday 5 January 2007

Labour's Inflation Lie, part 2

Inspired by an excellent article in The Telegraph today, I wanted to draw your attention to a gimmick they have which is actually quite useful. They provide a calculator in conjunction with Capital Economics (the hawkish one of the professional economics houses) that calculates your inflation based on your spending, here it is.

My rate was 5.8% for November 2006, an increase of 0.3% over October alone. Sadly my pay review is based upon the RPI rate of 3.2%.

This calculator at least can give one a reckoning of the real costs increases they face. It also shows up the flaws in CPI. The CPI basket is now deeply flawed as a tool for estimating inflation. So bad that the ONS is going to bring our a similar calculator to this one (great, more public money spent where private money has already provided a solution).

One final key point that arises from this is that it occurs to me, not only that the working, property owning, family raising people are most affected by inflation (along with property owning pensioners); but that as usual the feckless who have no rent, possibly no job and spend their money on short-term material goods are rewarded with a near deflationary environment. Where is their incentive to change behaviour?

How galling it is that government policy come to be so skewed to traditional Labour voting classes, even in what should be a neutral system of calculating inflation. Don' t just blame the EU for inflicting CPI on us; the ONS chooses the basket and has done a terrible job (see previous posts in the archives).


I have been tagged by Ellee with this meme. I have to tell you five things about me that you would not know. Hopefully as a anonymous blogger this means I should be able to say almost anything!

1. I don't actually work in the City, geographically speaking.
2. I have never owned any shares.
3. The animals that scares me most are mice and any other type of rodent.
4. As a drinking lightweight, I would easily lose to a small teenage chinese girl in a drinking competition.
5. Without doubt I am the least witty member of my family (2 bro's & sis) and regularly get taken to pieces at any family dinner event.

In turn I nominate Croydonian, mainly because I know he hates these things. And pour encourager les autres, I nominate a new blogger.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

Countdown clock

I have added a countdown clock (see side bar) to a day when I hope Blair will be gone as our PM. My hunch is for the day after what will hopefully be a disatrous set of local elections should do it.

For a rewarding time, set up your own clock (very easy, here). I think a bottle of bubbly from Slicker to the blogger who get's closest is in order.

Honour system though, no resetting your clocks!

Slicker reviewed

The excellent Tom Paine, a blogger of better repute and quality than me by far, has completed a review of my site for the sake of Blogpower.

I am grateful for this and in turn urge you to look at lastditch in return. It is one of the two top Moscow based blogs, the other of course being James Higham. There is much excellence to be found , as his comment and discussion on the Simone Clarke controversy, shows him at his thoughtful and intellectual best.

Blogpower too is proving a great success, showcasing many excellent blogs (excepting mine of course!). I commend you to the many links on my blogroll, excellent bloggers all and capabale of opening your eyes to events and issues the world over.

New Year, New Template

and I don't seem to have destroyed anything major in the process!

Tuesday 2 January 2007

Hope for Sanity yet

You may not know this, but today is one of the busiest days of the year for booking a holiday. A cure for the Post-Winterval blues no doubt. The Holiday companies are also engaged in a price war and are offering some good discounts.

Also last week saw a timely announcement by Thomson (owned by TUI AG) of an end to a silly business practice. They announced that they are to end the fuel surcharge on holidays. This at last makes them compliant with EU regulations which state that prices advertised should be the whole price and not just a headline.

No other Tour Operator does this, and most of the major airlines too add fuel surcharges as an extra. This always makes it hard to compare prices, especially online at places like cheapflights or dealchecker.

So I applaud Thomson's for being the first to make this move. However, what is given with one hand is often taken away by the other. The new trick, by First Choice this time, is to reduce the baggage allowance to 15 kilo's. Your average holiday bag weighs in at 19 -20. Now you have to pay the £10 for the 'extra' luggage. So this is just a surcharge by another name.

If you are looking to book somewhere soon, take all these factors into mind as they can make £30 -50 difference per person and so make a big impact on your holiday spend.

For once too I want the companies to follow EU regulations, you don't get surcharges at Petrol stations or on your sprouts at a supermarket; there is no need for this sleight of hand by Tour Operators and Airlines either. Ryan Air of course is the leader in this as per usual.