Sunday 28 February 2010

Just Vote Labour

Don't blog angry!
That's the rule. You will only regret it.

Well the teeth marks are still fresh in the tongue they have been biting into to prevent making a scene at the dinner party. I haven't lost my temper at someone else's gathering since I was a young adult. But I'm home now and don't feel any better so I'm afraid, unless I delete before the end, the temper and migraine must be unleashed.

What triggers this annoyance is the floating voter. Rightly known simply as floaters among MPs. Not just the floater but the "I haven't yet made up my mind" crowd. "I am unconvinced by the arguments."
Really? You really haven't been able to form an opinion yet? What are you waiting for? What is the big sign in the sky that's going to do it for you? A personal invitation to participate in the next cabinet? A bunch of flowers? Free car? Banning all cars? What do you need, because the time is almost up.

I had "I feel let down about the Tories no referendum policy." Fine. So the answer is vote UKIP. It has to be. But someone was saying they feel let down so they are thinking of Labour. How could that be? What is the similarity between the positions. Only one party was in a position to grant a referendum, said they would, then didn't. Yet this person though he might vote Labour.
Someone else said that they weren't persuaded by the economic argument.
Well vote Labour then. Don't faff about dithering and saying 'My mind isn't made up.' Just vote Labour. Because if you cannot make a grown up decision after 13 years on whether the country is better, worse, or about the same then you have to vote for the status quo because you haven't been affected enough to want change.

It is really very very simple. If you believe that the economy is better, spending is within a manageable amount, services have improved, taxes are acceptable, crime has gone down, health care has gone up then vote Labour. If you approve high duties on motoring and alcohol and also believe 24 hour drinking has had no effect or a beneficial one on the country then vote for Brown.
If you feel that unlimited immigration has bought nothing but social and economic benefits to the country, that two wars were necessary, however they were started, to combat terrorism in this country, that wind farms should be the cornerstone of our energy policy,public transport and transport provision is at a high, that education standards have improved dramatically and that society is generally a fairer, better safer place than 13 years ago then vote Labour. If you feel that the regulation of smoking,drinking,parenting,having contact with any children, hunting or demonstrating is rightly policed by the government then vote for the socialists.
If you are too young to remember anything before 1997, and you think that your education has left you prepared for work, or that your university education was both beneficial and a reasonable cost then there is your answer.
If you believe that MPs themselves have enhanced the office of state with their behaviour from everything on selling peerages to mortgage flipping to whipped voting then vote for the government that made it all possible.

But don't ponce about saying you're not yet convinced because all the information you will ever need is only a click away on your laptop. All the benefits or otherwise are just a stroll down your local high street, a visit to the health centre, school or a tour of your workplace.
If you think that Dave is a lightweight and you're unsure then vote for Brown. The Lib Dems or any of the smaller parties are not going to win power. It is red or blue.

The choice my floating friends is painfully simple. If you are happy with what you have, then stick with it. If , like me, you think that five more months, let alone years, of the Prime minister will result in the UK becoming an"abandoned fairground for all" then vote for Cameron and at least the hope of something different..
But stop kidding that there is some magical word or phrase that would swing it all around. You either like it as it is or you want a leap into the unknown and whatever that brings with it.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Mr Brown Borrows From All Our Futures

Reporting on the UK's stellar 0.3% GDP growth in 4Q 2009, The Times identifies

... concerns that this growth had been “borrowed” from the first three months of 2010 as shoppers brought forward purchases to beat the rise in VAT at the end of last year. Economists said this increased the possibility that figures for the first three months of 2010 could be worse than those for the end of 2009

Borrowing from the future ? This is Gordon Brown's entire modus operandi !! - from PFI in the good times, to wholesale pre-election book-cooking on a monstrous scale.

Will Darling feel able to blow the whistle in his final budget ? Your final act in politics, Alistair - what's it to be ?


Politics is lies - and no one cares.

A reader emailed..{the gist}

This is a question for Bill, or perhaps a suggestion for a post; why aren’t political parties more answerable for the promises they make in the run up to elections?

Mr X

Lots of reasons really.

1} The lack of any choice in alternative parties similar to a voters beliefs, means voters remain committed to a party even when the party does the opposite of what the voter wants.
So Cameron has had to admit to no Eu-referendum. The CWU union continues to fund Labour, despite Labour being committed to privatise them out of existence. But where can those unions go? Vote Tory? The Lib Dems won't win power for a decade or more even with the full support of all the unions.

2}Follows on that it is extremely difficult to create a new credible party in the UK, and even harder to gain any traction with it.
At a time of unprecedented immigration the BNP are a fringe party. Even with Lisbon and EU law precedent, UKIP has got nowhere. There has been a Green agenda since the CFC scares of the 'caring' 90', for 20 years reaching almost religious belief today. Green MP's -Zero.

3} The media rarely revisit. Gordon Brown as chancellor announced free laptops for the poorest in his 1999 budget. Where are they? He felt confident to announce it again in 2008 and yet again just a few weeks ago as an election bribe, knowing no one questions it. Even on a supposedly hard hitting program like Newsnight or the Today show, a Politico knows that if they can just hold their nerve for 5 miutes its off to another topic. 24 hour rolling news. It just rolls on.

4} Politicians lie. They deny complete U-turns until everyone gets bored with talking about them. Look at Lisbon. Labour categorically deny that they have done anything different to their manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the constitution. They maintain that today. And the Tories can't really keep on about it as its a difficult area for them also.

5} And, voters don't really care. By that I mean millions marched against the Iraq war - years later just hundreds turned up to heckle Mr Blair at Chilcot.

And a judge ruled that politicians can't be held to manifesto promises. Even ones printed on laminated cards and held up by John Prescott as some sort of success at every opportunity.
Or it may simply be that the dancing show is on the telly and that's more important.

There is some evidence in the polling of a government lying and not getting completely away with it. Labour have lost support from the middle classes for promising education/education/education yet kids can't read. Health service 'envy of the world', yet the dead pile up to meet targets. Students, unbelievably really, turn away from leftie causes when the economic cost of university lands on them. More 16-20's are polling for Dave than Gordon. But in the main Labour get a solid 30 -35% of votes whatever they do and the Tories a 30 - 38% and that is how its been for a long time. What happens when people disbelieve the garbage they are told is they don't vote at all. 80% turnouts now around 60%.

It was a good email and a very valid question. Why don't politicians face real scrutiny ?
So if you have any other reasons why we knowingly let the leaders get away with it please post them.

Friday 26 February 2010

The Ghost of revisions past

Given I am moving house today, this post has been pre-prepared; very unlike me to do any such planning. However this morning the ONS revisions of the UK GDP Q4 2009 will be announced. I have been reading that the insiders in the City reckon it will be revised up to 0.2 growth. The less optimisitic think it will be revised down to 0% growth (as our the Lord Chancellor is fond of saying).

My hunch is for the downside as retial sales were very poor and although manufacturing was stronger it does not look good for the economy.

However, before I get side-tracked into the minutiae, the overall point is that this is a class A disaster fot eh UK public finances. The overall fall of UK GDP will still be something like 6% - even Mervyn King has admitted this in the House of Commons. Also this result is far worse than Alistair Darling predicted in the last budget, he was told by Balls and Brown that growth would be strong at the end of 2009 and through 2010.

Turns out of course that it wil be nothing of the sort. So now the deficit will be even worse than the cataclysmic predicitions that were made in April 2009. Oh dear, not a good day for the UK.

UPDATE: Revised up to 0.3% horray for the UK - still pretty poor though considering all the money poured in to try and kick-start the economy! (back to moving for me)

Thursday 25 February 2010

Question Time

David Dimbleby will be joined in Cardiff by Peter Hain, Dr Liam Fox, Elfyn Llwyd, Nigel Farage and Janet Street Porter.

Farage has been sounding off about the uselessness of Van Rompuy.
JSP is good for sexuality and social media stories...

BQ predicts...

  1. Hospital deaths and trusts
  2. Bullying Brown + Badger baiting
  3. Sexualisation of Jordan's children
  4. Argentina / UK oil
  5. School committees

Forces Of Hell Closing In On Brown

Seems that Brown can feel the Hand of Destiny on his shoulder.

And the by-line is Shipman ...

Yup, it's all closing in on Gordon.


RBS and Lloyds Report 2009 earnings

Wednesday 24 February 2010

At my command - Unleash Hell

remember last years Blockbuster. - Drama - promises - Plots -Tears - Conflict - Destruction -Debt ...


The story of a general, reduced to a slave by a cunning, unelected, tyrant emperor.
Maximus Snoozimus Alistus becomes the greatest hero in Rome when he turns his back on the domineering dictator.

Commodehead - "You are truly a great counter of numbers..Almost as good as myself..What is your name slave?"

Alistus - "My name is Badgiator" {He partially turns his back on the despot}

Commodehead - "How dare you not support me with 100% loyalty,despite all the briefing I've done against you. Tell me your name!"

Alistus - "My name is Maximus Snoozimus Alistus, commander of the public sector workers of the North, General of all the benefit Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Antonius Blarus. Father to a murdered economy, husband to the bankrupt treasury . And I will still be chancellor, at this budget and the next. "

Commodehead - "No you won't! Ballsus, McBrido, Watsum - At my command, Unleash Hell"

Why the IMF are wrong

The IMF have come out today with a report suggesting that Advanced Countries do not end financial stimulus (this is what our Prime Minister is addcited too, remember?) before 2011 for fear of causing a double dip recession.

No doubt the bullying left wing cheerleaders will say the Tories are wrong again. Where to start? Well firstly Dominique Strauss-Kahn who is the Frenchman who runs the IMF is a marxist and so will always think state spending is a good idea.

Secondly, George Osborne had a good phrase at the start of the crisis "You can't borrow your way out of a borrowing crisis." This is even more truwe today, even with sclerotic growth in the economy, piling up debts on top this shaky foundations is simply not the answer.

Thirdly, all this so called stimulus and Government spending is not economically beneficial. Quantitative Easing has been used to boost the bond and equity markets (good for those who foresaw this), which has bailed out the banks but done nothing to increase demand in the real economy. The Government spending on diversity counsellors, bullying hotlines and regional quangos' is of dubious value except to those who collect the paychecks. It would be much easier to scrap the lot of these jobs and then raise unemployment benefit by 80% of the savings made.

Finally, a double dip - where is the evidence in the UK that we have even exited recession? The UK is in a far worse position thanks to Labour overspending in the boom than France or Germany. We are simply not in a position to spend more of our children's money so frivolously.

So where do we get too? Well a sensible Chancellor would start cutting the fat off the public sector straight away, at least 5% a year for the next Parliament should do it. Quantitative Easing should not be re-started as it only piles up future losses. If the banks need more money they can raise it in the market like they did last  year.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Gazprom Capitulates: Now The Fun Begins

What a difference 4 months can make ...

Back in October when we started reporting on the cloak-and-dagger Gazprom contract re-negotiation saga, we had the friendly gas giant stating categorically that, notwithstanding the 're-opener' clauses in Continental European gas contracts, nothing needed to change. In November we had them denying that spot markets (with prices running at half those of the oil-indexed gas contracts) had any relevance at all. Last month we reported that Gazprom had started trading the spot markets good and proper: and now, finally, they've conceded not only price-levels, but also indexation in their re-negotiations. There will be (some) gas indexation in their big long-term contracts henceforward, as well as a downward adjustment to the absolute price level right away.

"The spot market is playing a certain role and we have taken this role into account in our contracts" the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.

We've been predicting (well, hoping for) this for quite a while and it has enormous significance.

1. It will open the sluices on the long-constipated German spot market - which (as well as lowering gas prices still further, and potentially by a noticeable amount) provides the missing piece in the European gas market jigsaw, needed to provide security of supply for the UK. This should have happened 5 years ago but better late than never: it is Unqualified Good News.

2. It will have a monster impact on the internal Russian energy market. Russian policy (strongly advocated by Gazprom) is for subsidised internal prices of gas to be allowed to converge, over time, with their export prices (on a netback basis, i.e. correcting for transportation costs). Firstly, this is made much easier with lower export price levels, so it will happen sooner (and will compensate Gazprom somewhat for lost export revenues). This will quickly work to reduce Russian gas demand - which has long been wildly inefficient based on ultra-low prices (and often no metering!) - freeing up more for export: another win for Europe.

Secondly, Russian industrial electricity prices are pegged to fuel prices, also on a netback basis: these will consequently fall in the short term (giving Russian industry a much needed boost) but in the long run will be more convergent with European market prices, at a discount based on the netback. The long term ramifications could be profound.

(As you can tell, I'm quietly excited, folks ...)


UK House prices trend to fall

I am moving at the end of this week, so this latest bit of news is not good for those of us hoping to get rich out of living in our houses (this comment is aimed at winding up Mark Wadsworth).

Effecitvly the rate of mortgage lending, always low at this time of year, has fallen to an eight and a half year low. Always remember with an expanding population and more houses being built every year this is quite a reduction in real terms activity.

So what does this point to falling prices? Well logically it suggests there are not too many people either wealthy enough or confident enough to want to move house. Whilst this holds up supply of houses (and oddly, boost listed housebuilders who benefit from providing the supply trickle) and provides some temprorary suport to prices; long-term it suggests the market is still too high. Last year's recovery trend is running out of steam.

The saving grace that will stop another 20% correction is the low interest rate environment combined with 3.5% CPI inflation. This means that saving is not for anyone, as I have blogged recently and so investing in housing, althought illiquid, has some appeal. That, plus a possible fall in Sterling, makes it hard to predict where house prices will end up in nominal terms this year, in real terms I expect a 10% drop.

Where is the recovery though from the recession? Business seems to be picking up to a sustained level, but as these figures show, there is no real growth, just bumping along the bottom.

Monday 22 February 2010

I'm Mandy. Lie, Me ?

How edifying to hear the fragrant Lord Mandelson strenuously asserting that bullying isn't tolerated, full stop.
Back in the '90's I worked in an office in No.4 Millbank, where the MSM have their Westminster studios, and NuLab had a pied-à-terre. One day in the corridor I saw Mandy berating a small group of young-ish folk, whom I took to be either Party functionaries or junior broadcasting hacks. He was assuring them, quietly but in the most menacing terms, that if whatever-it-was were to reoccur, he would personally ensure they never worked in London again.
Perhaps this was not bullying, but merely a statement of fact. It did seem to be having a profound, not to say diuretic effect. There isn't a political journo in the land who couldn't tell similar tales.
But things have moved on and today Mandy is a different person. How times have changed, eh ?

Workplace Bullying: How to handle it

Watching the Government decide today to go for Mrs pratt, the head of an Anti-Bullying Charity is pretty gruesome. The left as ever live up to their lofty ideals only when it suits them. I can't imagine how splenetic their froth would be were a Tory team slagging off a belvoed and unarmed third sector worker.

Anyhow, time will tell if 10 downing street have pulled the pin on the greande or succeeded in distracting from Andrew Rawnsley's unchallenged allegations.

From my perspective I have personal experience of being bullied at work, working int he City for large organisations it is hardly a rarity I assume. One thing I have learned though is to stand up to it. In the past 3 years I have twice had bosses who tried to bully and lie their way to get me out. Neither was successful. With one I was forced to go to external counsel when the company took his side. That had the nice effect of making everyeone have a little re-think about te facts and in the end the whole situation was resolved most amicably. When I was younger I don't think I would have had the stamina or confidence to take such a course, but it proved the right one.

Having to stand against a huige organisation and its management make me recall just how stressful a time that was. I hope Mrs Pratt can continue to stand up for what she has said against the Government bullying, it is the only way in the end; you can't win by running away as firstly the bullies chase you down and secondly your own confidence is so knocked that it will be hard to come back phsycologically.

I do wish our Government would desist from media witch-hunting in packs, but with 24 news and social media, I don't think this is ever going to change back now.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Time for a second look, and a fifth listen

Give Labour a second look.
Why not, we've heard it all repeated more than once.

New week
New Relaunch
Same outcome

Some of Gordon's forgotten relaunches..

Friday 19 February 2010

Collective nouns

Weekend diversion

Collectivism is in the air.
So a collective noun theme this weekend.

What is the correct term for a group of politicians? A stab of politicians? A trough? A Chump? A weasel?

Test your skill and ingenuity at finding the collective terms
for the following..

  • Politicians
  • G-20 members
  • Economists
  • Bankers
  • Environmentalists
  • Journalists
  • Quango members..

Your entries into the comments.

Note* All entries judged on a fair and equal basis by an independent and regulated body. We are an equal entry competition. Comments cost Op at peak rate and Op at all other times. Comments left from a mobile may be charged at the operators excessive rate. All prizes are non refundable and non exchangeable. Humor and information content may go down as well as up.

Its Bafta night so here are the winners of the Collective noun awards for the following categories.

Politicians - A Flush {Demetrius}
G-20 members - A Deficit{CU}
Economists - An Assumption {HG}
Bankers - A Wunch {Graeme + SL+ 007 1/2}
Environmentalists - A Hoax -Budgie {late entry}
Journalists - A Column {Janet Strugnel+ David}
Quango members - a Surplus { anon@9.30}

C@W would appreciate suitable Oscar winning style acceptance speeches from the deserved winners in the comments..

Stolen passport scandal hits UK Government

Today the Government has been sent reeling by the new that impostors have 'cloned' british passports and used them to enact a plan to ruin the Country.

Seemingly the passports of 6 ordinary Scottish and English men were taken and used by impostors. Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Ed Balls, Jack Straw and Liam Byrne all claim they are innocent and the victims of this terrible scam.

The attacked on the UK, which was well planned and has lasted for 13 years, involved the highest levels of penetration into the Government. Once there these imposts - knonw now as NU Labour and campaigning for a marxist dictarotship - proceeded to rip out the levers of state, lay waste to the economy and border controls.

An investigation is now underway but it is hard to say if the men will ever be brought to justice or if the good names of those so besmirched will ever be cleared.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Questions Question Time

David Dimbleby will be joined in Middlesbrough by Roy Hattersley, Rory Stewart, Lynne Featherstone, Ruth Lea and Tom Conti.

Tough one again this week as there doesn't seem to be a central news focus.
BQ is going for

  1. Mossad, false beards and passports.
  2. Crying Brown. Cynical manipulation or a genuine desire to inform the public?
  3. Unemployment figures down, benefits up. Is this good or bad?
  4. Should BBC producers be allowed to kill their lovers. Doctors allowing death.
  5. Afghan surge. Is it a success.
Your best guesses, as ever, in the comments by 10.30pm.

"Saving: Just Say No" says Govt and Bank of England

Hopefully amongst the readers here are those who do not live by taking out endless credit card debt to pay off the last loans; or perhaps I am being optimistic.

However, assuming there are one or two of you who don't spend every penny of income it is a hard decision today to decide what to do with it. After all, CPI is now at 3.5%, it will fall back later this year, but it means that the best savings accounts only manage to offer to meet inflation for you. So by saving your money you are not adding to your wealth in any sense, merely storing it. This is before the taxman decides to take his share, pushing you into a loss.

Worse, the Pound is down 25% agains the Euro and Dollar and not likely to show any market improvement over the longer term. So now any savings measured on global basis will be well down over the past two years.

The Government is continuing to conspire against savers - so what to do?

Well, my choice is to long and short lots of shares in the market and this makes for quite a good return but requires concentration and is risky if there is a big downturn again - which is not that likely, but might still make the probable list.

So this leaves funds, perhaps Real Return funds the best of which do about 10% a year and don't drop too much except in cataclysmic crash. Or perhaps emerging market funds which buy shares in companies not in £'s but dollars and also in coutnries not suffering from the oppression of insane Government like the UK. As these can be put into an ISA you can even avoid tax on the shares and dividends.

Other choices are paying down debt like mortgages and any other debt and this would certainly be top of my list. However whatever happens don't save in a Bank acccount; it will only make you poorer as that is the Government's wish.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Benefits Claimants up by 25,000 Q4 2009

Not hearing that on the news; something about a 3000 drop in unemployment.

Those actually not working and claiming some form of benefit is very all-time high I think?

Monday 15 February 2010

Always beware the Spanish Inquisition

This story today is hilarious. Apparently the Anglo-Saxon media are in cahoots to talk Spain down for their  own benefit.

This is a great example of many games Government like to play:

- Start by shooting the messenger
- When that fails; tell everybody the messenger is a horrible foreigner anyway.
- Keep distraction going by whipping up Xenophobia and not discussing 45% youth unemployment in your own Country and said causes.
- Try and get a facebook campaign going too, to show your are modern, with it and therefore not incompetent.
- Get the security servcies involved and start threatening your critics with....

The sad thing is, the UK's Time-in-the-Sun of the Bond markets may not be far away, so I will use this post as a memo to check of Peter Mandelson's statements at that time.

Please delete your cache on Internet Explorer or Firefox now, I don't want the Spanish Secret service calling round to your houses.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Economists line up with the Tories

Yesterday I asked if there wold really be another budget under Alistair Darling, many of you seemed to think not. Regular readers here will know that here at C@W we are in awe of the power of markets. Who could not be after htis latest financial crisis has pushed the world into its worst economic period of 2 generations?

This letter today though to the Times shows that those in the City are starting to get nervous about a Tory victory. For with Labour lie and spend approach the country will be begging from the IMF before the year end if they win an election. I don't say this because I want to scaremonger, it is just an analysis of where the country is; 13% deficits are simply unacceptable for another yearor two. Even a plan to get it down to 6% over 4 years is a below a bare minimum requirement. Just look at Greece this past fortnight if you want to see where a country gets too when it faces-off against the Market.

The economists realise this and they also realise the unsaid truth; unsaid by any party. That there are plenty of cutbacks, on pay and pensions and on non-jobs that would not add substantially to the lowering economic productivity. On the negative side, even Ken Clarke has talked about tax rises, but where can the UK go from here, we are already one of the highest taxed economies in the Western world?

Perhaps this intervention will have the effect of concentrating minds of voters in the UK; lying labour may say all the right things an the Tories are not perfect by a long way, but given the choice only one is a vote for gauranteed economic crisis.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Darling announces March budget

Well that beat my expectations. I really did think that he would not have one. On the other hand, this makes a May election much more likely.

The budget is going to go down like a dose of swine flu; no more stimulues and plenty of cuts to be set out, with possible tax rises too. The Government is going to need as long as possible to get over this disaster, so that makes May more likely for the General Election.

Having said that, perhaps this is a pump-fake and instead an election will be called in March so that the budget gets canned?

I need some good tea-leaf reading here...what do you all think?

Friday 12 February 2010

KDD trading update

KDD is a small one of my holdings and one of the more exotic. A company in Africa that owns a large diamond mine but does not really have the money to start it up on its own and get it going. The Diamonds in the mine are estimated to be worth well north of a $1 billion dollars though. Analysts have the share priec fair valued at 37p - current price is under 14p.

This week there has been an statement saying that they are in early takeover talks. Rumours say the offer could be 22p. The price of KDD has shot up on the news and then fallen back.

This morning there is a good timing opportunity to buy in at this low price. The chance of a bid at 22p leaves a 50% profit possible within a few days, yet also the downside from 14p if nothing happens is unlikely to be more than 3p - not great, but still a good long-term bet. Of course, trading short-term and ending up with long term holds is the way lots of people get poor share trading. Still, this is a clear opportunity.

Cash for Gold

Remember those reports of why Cash for Gold companies are shockingly bad value?
In some cases just 6% of the product value was offered. In others a rejection of the companies first offer led to a big increase on their second offer.
But there was one firm in particular that has been preying on misguided and gullible individuals to part with their jewelery and then receiving very, very little in return.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Question time quiz.

Heavy news week. Going to be very tough this week to guess three of the top five questions. Coming from Belfast and having Shaun Woodward on the panel should give us some clues.

BQ says- 1} Death Tax for care
2} Northern Ireland peace deal and iris
3} MP's being charged
4} Crying 'Comical Ali' Campbell

Miss CD chooses
1} Cadbury/British jobs
2} AV and its effect on NI politics, if any.
3} 'Comical Ali' Dizaei.
4} Attempted torture cover up by HMG

Over to you..

Russian Bear Tackles Bug-Bear: Gazprom vs Windfarms !

Followers of the energy wing of this blog will have tracked Gazprom's slow rehabilitation from flailing dinosaur to market respectability (sort-of). Now their redemption is complete, as they tackle head-on the great energy bug-bear of C@W:

"Scrap UK's Wind Farm Plans, Says Gazprom Boss"

Good man Alexander Medvedev! And this is no-holds-barred stuff.

"If we do not want to see the authors of the 2020 strategy decapitated in a public square [Ed Miliband this means you] I do not think they can forget about gas," he said.

Actually, Sacha old chap, public relations doesn't quite work like this, because one of the reasons some folk like windfarms is, they reduce our reliance on, err ... you ... *coughs*.

Nevermind, you'll get the hang of it. And - keep up the good work, we know your heart's in the right place! PS - please swing in behind the German spot market; then you'll really get some good press around here.


Wednesday 10 February 2010

Luvvies and Tobin Tax - Laughable, Actually

Here's an interesting one for Gordon Brown. Through the autumn he was letting it be understood he favoured the introduction of a Tobin Tax - though he has been studiously non-specific, falling back on an arm-waving conflation between this and various other (more respectable) levies on banks that have been mooted, such as bailout insurance, or contingent capital adequacy. Indeed he has been at it this very afternoon in answer to the final question of PMQs.

His reasoning on this isn't hard to fathom. All manner of misty-eyed, woolly-thinking saps reckon Tobin sounds like a great idea, and Brown would very much like their votes. On the other hand, it is opposed by, well, everyone else really. So when Brown is amongst grown-ups and this is drawn to his attention, he can sidestep by saying the exact details of a bank levy have yet to be agreed internationally.

Now the luvvies have swung into action on YouTube, led by the bard of soft-brained feel-good comedy, Richard Curtis and his main man Bill Nighy. (Cue jokes about
Vicar of Drivelly, Gordon Brown - Edge of Reason, Mr Has-Bean ... fill in your own favourite Curtis scripts here.) They want a lovely fluffy Tobin Tax ! Billions and billions for all their favourite causes, painlessly prised from those nasty bankers.

Gordon, whatever are you going to say ? There will be so much disappointment when you level with the luvvies ...


January retail figures worst for 15 years

Like for like sales fell by 0.7% on the previous year {rise of 1.1%} reports KPMG BRC retail.
The cause was primarily the weather which shut down the tail end of the January sales and ended an latent desire for consumerism.

Even food, which had a bumper start to January with panic buying, fell away once the heavy snow came. Clothing and footwear made a partial recovery, people finding that summer shoes and T/shirts are far from ideal winterwear but understandably homewares and furniture were poor. The figures are also inflated in £ terms by being a 17.5% set vs a 15% VAT last year, which appears to show higher sales, but actually only shows higher tax.

The news that online sales were significantly up was a slight surprise. There was expectation that online bargains and wished for items that hadn't appeared in the stockings would drive sales.
What was a surprise was that Royal Mail was very badly affected by the snow. Much more so than during the recent strikes. Guarantees were suspended for days on end and mail backed up in depots, in stranded lorries and undelivered in mail centres. That must have put a dent into those figures that could have been even better. Maybe CU, currently in Moscow, could see how the Russians manager to deliver mail at -20* ?

The Telegraph is one paper using the figures to ponder whether a double-dip is now much more likely. That may well be the case but it would foolish to consider these figures without allowing for the exceptional weather effects that led to them.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

So, Farewell Then, Hector Sants

So Hector Sants is 'unexpectedly' stepping down after his 3-year tenure as Chief Executive of the FSA - not sticking around to see whether it has a future at all after the General Election.

The Grauniad reckons he's in the clear, sort-of:

"He joined the regulator in May 2004 as the managing director responsible for wholesale and institutional markets which allowed him to avoid direct criticism over the supervision of Northern Rock"

As we've said before, anyone in a senior FSA post can have been expected to clock the extreme dangers inherent in NR's sui generis business model and done something about it, if only to put it on a closely-monitored watch list. The 'wholesale and institutional markets' had the Crock marked down as being in Big Trouble before ever 2007 dawned.

The pyramid of blame has one Gordon 'race-to-the-bottom' Brown squarely skewered at its pointy apex: but the senior ranks at the FSA pre-2007 are close to the top on the executive side.


Monday 8 February 2010

Sad Al Campbell

TV tears from Campbell ? Well, he is trying to sell his book to women readers ...

How's the economy coming along now the recession is over

A quick look over the first few weeks of 2010 retail sector is not encouraging.

SRG, which operates retail brands such as Suits You, Young’s Hire and Racing Green is looking for a Company voluntary arrangement. they want 60% for 18 months.

Blacks are looking to raise about £20 million from the city. Readers may remember Black's did its own CVA in November closing around 90 stores.

Abercrombie & Fitch has posted a 19% decline in December sales at stores open at least a year, with sales at its Hollister division down by 25%.

Hugo Boss saw a 7% 2009 sales fall.

Shop Direct Group to make call centre redundancies did cause concern as they were very profitable just a short while ago, but it seems its just phone sales that are down and the switch is to online. Bad news if you are in the call centre, not so bad for the business.

WH Smiths released a bubbly and opimistic statement but was still 4% down. Yet they were right to be pleased. The book sector is dire and Waterstones have a real problem. 9% down over Christmas even though rival Borders had already shut up shop for ever.

Adams childrenswear collapsed into administration again a few weeks ago. Online ethical fashion specialist Adili asked for its shares to be suspended "pending clarification of the company's financial position".

Its not all gloom of course. John Lewis had genuinely good figures as did the gardening Centre group, formerly Wyevale. TJ Hughes was considerably up again as was McDonalds.
But at the moment the start for 2010 is pretty shaky.

Sunday 7 February 2010

April Fool Election

I love this story today in the Mirror..apparently because the Tories have fallen 1% in the polls the game is now on and an election should be held; The Tories are allegedly in disarray.

The truth is only exposed in the last paragraph. 'Allies' of Brown are so fearful of a budget and the horrendous news it will bring that they won't have one before an early April election.

It is so pathetic..look where is Gordon Brown now with his "I saved the World rhetoric."

Anyway, I hope it happens the sooner we have an election the soonere we can start the path to recovery.

And with that I am off on business for a few days to freezing (-20oC) Moscow, so may be light blooging from me. Hopefully BQ and ND can keep you informed and entertained.

Friday 5 February 2010


Mr Quango told us about the board-games popular with his Parliamentary pals. In between making outrageous expense claims, they like playing cards, as well ...

: a favourite of politicians, you just make it up as you go along, the more extreme the better

2-card Clegg: for small parties, when you are a card or two short of a full deck

Strip-Jack-Naked (aka Man of Straw): one player tries to conceal cards up his sleeve and the others have to find out what he’s hiding. It is rumoured that the little community of Chilcot intends to hold a public Strip-Jack-Naked tournament shortly

Beggar-my-neighbour: originated in Northern and Scottish constituencies but now popular throughout the land. Players must declare ‘I have a bad back’, and demand that everyone else hands over money in perpetuity. Game is over when only one player is left who hasn't declared

(There is a variation on Beggar which is not played in polite circles)

Stud poke 'er: for two players and a small private office: John Prescott considers himself a master, but the real champion is Steve ‘Shagger’ Norris. John Major was sometimes known to indulge

Find-the-lady: guess which of three, each in a face-down position, is in fact a lady. Increasingly rare in UK politics: Blair's Cabinet was the first since 1929 where it was not possible to play this game, and Brown's has been just as bad (though some players keep calling out 'Harriet Harman', based on a misunderstanding of the rules)

Any others you know of ?


That Ofgem Report In Full

I may a bit more forgiving towards Ofgem than CU, and as part of our usual service to readers have read their Project Discovery document which confirms everyone’s worst fears about the looming electricity shortfall.

It’s a bit like the Butler Review – a lot of good stuff but as knee-jerk civil servants they’ve felt obliged to encrypt it & we’re supposed to decode for ourselves. It’s even quietly subversive in places:

If [sic] reductions in carbon dioxide emissions domestically is seen as important …(4.21)

If !?! What official body has dared to question the received wisdom like that in the past ten years ? And by way of further heresy, they register the point (albeit obliquely) that wind-power is getting too easy a ride, suggesting that price signals for balancing and peaking problems should be ‘sharpened’ (= greater penalty for intermittent output). Also this:

"The risk is that more generous subsidies are required … in order to stimulate the desired low carbon investment. Should carbon prices subsequently rise, low carbon generators may enjoy super-normal profits at the expense of consumers." (3.21)

We should be grateful these things can still be said, if only in code.

They shy away from the actual infeasibility of government targets: the coded statement is ‘There is a need for unprecedented levels of investment to be sustained over many years’ (a point I first made to the DTI in 2006 but they weren’t amused). This is a pity as a knock-down proof of outright infeasibility can be given.

Ofgem satisfies itself with worrying about a range of things including, most tellingly, the ‘risk of prices being greater than necessary’. Yes indeed - particularly if the 'possible policy measure' of reinventing a central energy monopoly/monopsony is adopted, Heaven help us.

We've cracked the code. Prices greater than necessary. And super-profits for the subsidy-wallahs. Yes indeed.


What did QE do?

It seems that the support for asset prices thesis was about right, that is quite a drop in the FTSE. The AIM and FTSE 205 is even worse and these track more closely the UK economy:

AIM taking it hard today,
FTSE250 above-  a reflection on the real UK economy this year...

Thursday 4 February 2010

Question Time. With Galloway and Short.

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme comes from Coventry on Thursday 4 February.

The panel are the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Theresa May MP, the former Labour and now Independent MP Clare Short, the Respect MP George Galloway and the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips.

BQ guess q's

1.Blair/Claire Chilcot special for posturing Galloway and Ms Short

2. Climategate emails and faulty data for melanie to froth over

3. Expenses for MPs

4.Toyota should recall all cars.

5. Defence budget cuts by the former Chancellor

John Terry if there is time.

Miss C.D.

1. Claire Short's testimony
2. Dementia care
3. MP expenses
4. Gilts/QE = end of recession
5. GP out of hours cover -

Pope's visit.

Your best 3 guesses in the comments.

End QE, but not because of Inflation

Surveying the blogs today there are some sound and not so sound commentys. Guido is keen that we end Quantitative Easing today. Rightly, he points out that is is impossible to tell if it has really done anything. I can see a recovery in the stock market and a Government able to spend as a result, so it has done something. Whether those two things are worth £200 billion is another story.

Here I am torn becuase personally I saw QE was going to put the market on rocket fuel and invested accordingly. Taking a wider view, removing £200 billion of future spend to help the election today is pure theft and a con on the public who do not understand the trick. That the Tories do not explain what is being done is shameful.

Without QE demand may have fallen further, but with a floating currency the UK could have gotten through with a lower value Pound. With the end of QE it seems as if the pound will fall further in any event; Perhaps it was all for nothing?

Finally, John Redwood, the most sound Tory on economic policy, agrees with Guido that the threat now is inflation. I don't see it myself, inflation is a backwards looking indicator not a forward one. There is too much unemployment for wages to be pushed up, Government spending is going to fall, VAT tax rises are netural because they put up the price of goods but they reduce demand, income tax rises reduce demand. The one factor pushing inflation is the fall of the Pound - unless that is catastrophic we are not going to have inflation over 3% or 4% for years. We won't have the GDP growth either, sadly, instead it looks more like a Jpan style form of low level stagflation as compared to the 1970's. The effect is the same though unfortunately.

End QE, but not becuase of inflation, but becuase there is little evidence it has revived the private sector or achieved much apart formget us further into debt and call our Soverieng rating into question - it has only succeeded in propping up our discredited Government.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Britain's Future

Get used to it, as my co-author here Nick Drew has often warned, there has been far too little infrastructure development in the UK of recent years to sustain our power system. Today even the useless quango that is ofgem has twigged that it is now too late to stop a wave of power cuts in this decade. Instead, money has been wasted on idiotic wind sytems and other green wibblery that has left us without power. How much do you think the French are going to chareg when we ask them to top us up?

Time to buy shares in companies that make generators and make preparations for your energy bills to triple from where they are today.

Is there anything a new Government could do, well it could faast track some efficient gas powered stations unless the Nukes arrive for the end of the decade, this might work, but I am not confident given our planning system and the marxist resistance of greenies who long for man to go back to living in eco-friendly caves.

Short Measure from Chilcot ?

I was once involved in a commercial court case. One of the witnesses on our side was the plant manager at a major energy facility – graduate engineer, unpolished but very sharp, and the absolute expert on the matters he was questioned about.

He spoke in much the same way as Clare Short before Chilcot yesterday: bluntly, informally, sometimes with passion, and with much colloquial turn of phrase. Every factual statement he made was true – and plainly-spoken, too.

He made a dreadful impression on the Court, the judge describing him (to his utter and unconsolable dismay) as an ‘unreliable and unconvincing witness’. The smooth liars we faced on the other side received no such censure. The case went against us in the High Court, but was overturned by the Court of Appeal, I am pleased to say. The Appeal judges, of course, were ruling on the basis of written material and never met our engineer, which perhaps helped.

Smooth lying is the order of the day. Will Clare Short’s performance yesterday be equally off-putting to Chilcot and his colleagues? Whilst every word of her account rang true (IMHO) the delivery was not of the polished Civil Service variety. I fear it is discounted accordingly: but we should suspend our own judgment until Chilcot delivers his.

Let’s see if they can skewer Straw on his second time around. No applause from the gallery for him.


Osborne's 8 pledges

At last one of the UK political parties has come out with a strategic direction for the economy. I note that the other two parties have massively laid into this; also the FT is against them as setting the bar too low. With this kind of agression, they must be a good idea.

Reaction to these pledges set out yesterdayday:

1)    Ensure macroeconomic stability
·         We will safeguard Britain’s credit rating with a credible plan to eliminate a large part of the structural deficit over a Parliament. Our fiscal policy will seek to help keep interest rates lower for longer.
·         The independent Bank of England will continue to target 2 per cent CPI inflation and will use its new role in prudential supervision to preserve financial stability.
2)    Create a more balanced economy
·         We will create the conditions for higher exports, business investment and saving as a share of GDP.
3)    Get Britain working
·         We will reduce youth unemployment and reduce the number of children in workless households as a key part of our strategy for tackling poverty and inequality.
4)    Make Britain open for business
·         We will improve Britain’s international rankings for tax competitiveness and business regulation.
5)    Ensure the whole country shares in rising prosperity
·         We will raise the private sector’s share of the economy in all regions of the country, especially outside London and the South East.
6)    Reform public services to deliver better value for money
·         We will raise productivity growth in the public sector in order to deliver better schools and a better NHS despite a tight spending environment.
7)    Create a safer banking system that serves the needs of the economy
·         We will reform the regulation and structure of the banking system to ensure lower levels of leverage, less dependence on unstable wholesale funding and greater availability of credit for small and medium sized businesses.
8)    Build a greener economy
·         We will reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions and increase our share of global markets for low carbon technologies.

So what do we think, ideologically they are quite sound - reduce the public sector, run a sound fiscal policy. It is a good start. No doubt he busted flush that is Labour will decry them - but they don't even have a strategy, let alone a policy!

Tuesday 2 February 2010

The Pope "Harriet Harman...violates the natural law"

He comes very close to saying that, which of course would be incitement to racial hatred of people of the Harman genome.

Slightly less light-heartedly I am in a difficult position of wanting to defend free speech and freedom despite my hatred ofa ll things Harman; but does this mean the Church has a right not to hire homosexuals as priests?

I find it a difficult topic, on balance I lean towards not changing things for the sake of them and to unecessarly antagonise religous groups, but as usual Peter Thatchell provides a stout defence in that link.

Monday 1 February 2010

A question from a reader. Is this worse than 1979

From commentator Scan. Is where we are now comparable to 1979 and what did Thatcher do (don't mention the miner's, I'm from Wakefield! Ooh err!) and did it take 'til the mid-nineties to get back to a surplus?

OK. One part at a time. Lets leave MRs T out of it for now.

Is this recession worse than the 70's and 80's and early 90's ones? I suspect the answer lies in where you are located and the situation you were in when in it began. If you were at RBS, Corus or Saab then probably not well. At BQ industries, which is a privately owned business reliant on public sector contracts, we slightly increased the workforce over the 2009/10 period. I expect 2010/11 to be tough and 2012 to be possibly ruinous depending on how it goes and who gets in.

Obviously in debt terms and global collapse its a bad one. Banking failures haven't occurred like this since the 30's. But, there isn't the energy crisis that caused fuel rationing in the 70's and the sky rocketing inflation that went with it. There haven't been the great interest rates rises. {In 1980 in the USA the rate went up to 21.5%}. Militant unionism in this country prevented successive governments taking action. Unions held the country in their grip and the above inflation wage demands, fuelled ever higher prices to pay the workers, who demanded more to afford the rising prices.

In this recession its probably true that basic lessons had been learned. Workers and management quickly decided on the best courses of action. Shorter hours, less wages,temporary shut downs and this has probably what has kept the unemployment off the 3 million mark. The £ was quickly allowed to devalue this time 25-30% which is now reportedly paying off as export orders rise. Both the UK and USA could have done without a costly war making everything worse. QE has prevented a depression. Slashing interest rates {but lets not forget we were begging the government to reduce them several months before they did.} And the government lost control of the banks very early. Lowering interest rates that the banks didn't follow and now the huge disparity between lending and borrowing. An unsecured loan is around 12.5%.
A savings rate of 2% is considered generous
. The actual bank bailout and forced mergers has probably been the worst part of the governments actions. Unfortunately also the most expensive. The bill for all this has yet to be paid and the recessions end seems a long way off. The inflation genie poked its ugly head out of the bottle only last month. We shall see if the world has really found a better way of managing bust.

Meantime,can anyone help Scan. Is this recession worse than the 1979? Did this government get it right?
It would be interesting to read your individual global meltdown 08/09 accounts and views on how it was handled and how it was handled in 1979/83/91 bust cycles.

Another Round in the Subsidy-Fest

Here we go again: today the feed-in tariffs for micro-gen electricity were announced by Little Ed - and already the subsidy-wallahs are on the move.

"Green energy firms fear new feed-in tariffs will be too low - campaigners fear government's cashback offer for microgeneration will not be enough to stimulate renewables industry"

For campaigners, read lazy businessmen. Why do a hard day's work when you can go lobbying instead ?

"Andrew Melchior ... setting up the Horizon energy co-operative in Manchester, said his business was only viable because of an EU grant. The feed-in tariff would not be enough, he warned ... 'We must provide a decent incentive so that the public begin to accept the concept of economically viable solar energy in the UK'."

Decent incentive ? Economically viable ?! ROFLMAO

Meanwhile, where the big boys play, Serious Stuff has been going down, so we may hope the Tories (who are quite keen on feed-in tariffs) have their eyes on the right energy-ball, rather than Li'l Ed's silly games. Time to update the Drew energy manifesto soon, methinks.