Thursday 28 February 2013

Question Time : East of Eastleigh edition

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Eastleigh, {surely the residents are sick of politics by now? Bet you its a studio full of slogan inspired activists} the former seat of disgraced ex-MP Chris 'speedy' Huhne and now the site of a fierce by-election battle between the coalition partners. 

The panel includes minister for crime prevention Jeremy "Stonewall" Browne, Labour's shadow leader of the House Angela 'Where beagles dare' Eagle, Conservative MP for Devizes Claire 'pointy' Perry, {I cannot disclose why she's known as pointy, for sex pest reasons, former Conservative MP and now a member of UKIP's national executive committee, Neil "Cash for Question time" Hamilton and the film director Ken " I'm not Hollywood "  - no. And it shows - Loach.

+1s in place for ND, kynon,Dtp.

Planning meeting tonight, so will get mine in now. this does NOT count as first {ok BE?}

rough scoring guide

bang on,as the script, right answer - 3 points
Close enough for government work, right answer -2 points
in the right ballpark - 1point
witty comments - 1 point
sole entrant to guess a question asked - 3 points
guessing a 'catchphrase/bandwagon/party message' spoken , accurately - 1point 
Only choosing 4 questions out of a possible 5, and only 4 are asked  - 1 point.
Posting first - 1 point
Predicting correct colour of Dimbleby's tie - 5 point {must guess before 9pm.}

This tournament is sponsored by Timbo 614
Week 7:

DtP 55
Botogol 55

BQ(MP) 51
kynon 51
Timbo614 51

 GSD 47
Measured 47 
 ND 46
Hopper 46

Malcolm Tucker 39

Budgie 32

Blue Eyes 22

Idle 22

Taff -10
CU 8
James Higham - 7
BQ guesses
1. After all the revelations about groping Peers, confused deputy PMs and a speeding, cheating, lying MP. Why are the people of Eastleigh so attached to the fib dems ? 
2. UKIP - disguised as the Italian election question. Is there any hope for Italy ?
3. AA Arrrghh! It was vitally important to keep before we lost it, but now it doesn't matter.
4. special groping question - Should women just 'toughen up ?'
5 Cardinal resignation. Time for a New World Pope ?

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Beppe Grillo answers

“He is going to put 3,000,000 unemployed to work. He will make the first million paint the Black Forest white.  The second million will build a one-way road to Jerusalem, and the third million will cover the Polish Corridor with linoleum.”

Popular 1930's joke about Hitler's vague, ill defined, yet endless promises to end unemployment.

From earlier: Can you pick the Benito quotes from the Grillo ones?

  1. "We stand for the sheer, categorical, definitive antithesis to the world of democracy…"
  2.  "You have to participate actively in politics: change your habits: eat, travel, think in a certain way,"
  3.  "There is no democracy; I decide everything. I'm a democratic dictator."
  4.  "Dissent is inconceivable within the Movement."
  5.   "It's finished! Give up! You are surrounded!" as banners waved  "We want to get out of the darkness."
  6. "I want to use economic power to politically reshape the Italian state to fit our ideological outlook."
  7.  "We are a religion"
  8. "Every anarchist is a baffled dictator"

 Mussolini's were 1,6,7 & 8.

 Everyone got 2 right. Populist slogans can fit any mantra. Especially if selectively edited.

Although, to be fair to the five star movement the few policies they have ever mentioned lack the brutal and war demanding calls of the Blackshirts. There is no suggestion that they want to take over the country and transform it with some new forceful ideology.

Before WW2 war, Mussolini was believer in state intervention to beat the depression. He was quite New Deal. Low cost housing. Endless new sports stadiums and public buildings. Irrigation projects. Land reclamation. Road and {the first} motorway building.Railways and railway stations.
The fascists bought stock in the failing banks and failing corporations and invested heavily in shipbuilding and the necessary coal and steel companies to build them and upgrades and modernisation to ports.

It all sounds good. But much of what was attempted didn't work, or made little difference to the average person, whose wages continued to fall, along with their diet, savings, prospects and liberty. And of course it all ended tragically.

Italy was just to poor and too indebted and too agrarian to deal with the depression. It had missed out on the pre-Wall street crash boom that the rest of the world enjoyed. 
The Blackshirts proved that its impossible to revive an economy on National will and the cult of the leader alone.

So 1 extra QT point to ND, Kynon & DTP.


Sterling, Silver

On Monday CU offered us a contrarian punt on Sterling, so here's a different view.  I don't much like the look of any of the major currencies right now, what with talk of competitive devaluation and every currency-bloc having its own compelling tale of woe. I took to billing in EUR again 6 months ago, which has served me well, but now I find myself unable to judge.  Is it all hopelessly relativistic ?  I am no macro-economist.

But there is always bullion to consider as a possible reference-point for paper money.  Readers will know I am a long-term holder of gold (strictly physical) which has been a one-way bet for several years now.  There have been some lurid commentaries on the precioussss just recently but I am unmoved: and quite by chance (Moody's having inexplicably failed to tip me off) I decided at the end of last week that we had reached a bottom.  So I went long silver, which I haven't held for ages now, and is by far the more volatile of the two traditional PMs: but I expect to be at my desk for a bit now, and able to watch the screen.

So if the post-Moody pound is to weaken against the dollar, I shall be even more glad of the decision.  Then again, CU may be right and Sterling may bounce, which would take some of the shine off it.  

As always, just MHO, DYODD etc etc.


Update: and now there's this - 
"Sterling is winning the currency wars, having overtaken the yen as the world's worst-performing major currency this year, although economists suggested the pound's biggest falls could be behind it"

Victory for the anti-establishment

Among the blogging sites much joy at Beppe Grillo's unexpected 25% vote share in the Italian elections.  Nothing the internet likes more than giving politicians a good kicking. Unless its giving bankers a good kicking. And the Five Star Movement does that too by causing bank shares to fall across Europe following Italy's inconclusive election. So he is welcomed as a new libertarian force, smashing in the old, stale ways. Booting out lazy, incompetent, partisan politicians. Expelling the corrupt, the criminal and the charlatans from government and bringing a fresh start for politics. A rebirth. A whole new way of doing politics. No left. No right. just "the people".

So, good for him and his movement.

However, populism and personality cults have a way of going bad. Very, very bad. The history of the world, from Caesar to PerĂ³n, from Danton to Castro and from Lenin to Mao shows they have been bloodbaths. 

Beppe Grillo may not be a dictator in the making. He may be another Gandhi. Or a William Peffer. Italy may be just right for a major shakeup.

As CU posted earlier, the real problem is Grillo has mass appeal but no real ideas. He has managed to get the young and disillusioned to vote, without knowing what they are voting for. A protest party isn't a real party. Its a protest. Very hard to run a country on a protest. Especially hard when the country is in a crisis. 5* are going to have to do a deal. Will certainly be very interesting to see what is agreed and how long it lasts.

Benito Mussolini had three main platforms and goals for Italy.  

1.self-sufficient rather than greatly relying upon foreign imports
2. Increasing the population
3. Strengthening the currency

The battles for births, lira and grain.

If only he'd thought to add free broadband for all?
8 quotes below -4 from Grillo and 4 from Benito

 Can you pick the Benito quotes from the Grillo ones?
{no googling now..just have a guess. Put the 4 Benito numbers into the comments. + Have changed some words as the 80 year old vocabulary gives it away.}
  1. "We stand for the sheer, categorical, definitive antithesis to the world of democracy…"
  2.  "You have to participate actively in politics: change your habits: eat, travel, think in a certain way,"
  3.  "There is no democracy; I decide everything. I'm a democratic dictator."
  4.  "Dissent is inconceivable within the Movement."
  5.   "It's finished! Give up! You are surrounded!" as banners waved  "We want to get out of the darkness."
  6. "I want to use economic power to politically reshape the Italian state to fit our ideological outlook."
  7.  "We are a religion"
  8. "Every anarchist is a baffled dictator"

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Italy Election: could it ever happen to the UK?

The markets across Europe have taken sharp falls following the announcement of inital results from the Italian election. The incredible Senor Silvio Berlusconi has come back from allegations of impropriety that would surely have finished him off in almost any other democracy. The Left have appointed a former communist in Bersani and then there is the new protest party of Bepe Grillo - none of them have enough of the votes to be in Government or lead a majority Government. Mario Monti's centrist party got just 10%.

What this tells me is that Italians are deeply frustrated with their politicians, not that surprising perhaps. The Austerity of Mario Monti has proven even more unpopular, hence his terrible electoral performance.

The main party who led with a austerity-light continuity set of policies was the Left coalition, oddly and in many ways they lost badly. Instead, Berlusconi came back to win huge support on the back of offering massive tax cuts and Bepe Grillo's campaign has some great points about transparency, press freedom and getting rid of convicted politicians; however, there are plenty of loopy ideas too about a green economy and free wifi - demagogic appeals to the young to all intents and purposes. Certainly nothing approaching a manifesto on which you could run a real Government.

So what next for Italy - who knows, perhaps t'was always thus for them.

The interesting piece to me though is the power of the promise of free stuff has made such an impact. Berlusconi with his tax cuts, Grillo with his greenery. This is allied with a powerful rejection of austerity as a political or economic solution.

In many ways the UK is in the same boat as italy, public spending is considerably in excess of revenues and taxes are already high. There is not much real choice but austerity in the long-term, the only argument really is about how quickly or slowly to do the deed.

But politicians in Italy are deluding the public that there is some kind of choice, and winning. The Labour party here skims around the concept of no austerity, but frequently Milliband pulls back and says at least some of the cuts must stay. The real Italian like threat comes perhaps from UKIP - a party able to make promises and with no history of breaking these to ruin, nor experience of the electorate to know not to tust them. Perhaps too the desperate Lib Dems may start to take highly populist lines pre-election in a desperate attempt to save their seats - this will be less credible given their poor track record in Government.

Also the UK has been drifting to a more multi-party state for a long time now, SNP, Plaid Cymru both of these parties plus the Northern Irish ones have plenty of seats, even the Greens got a seat.

With hatred of Labour for wrecking the economy in 2008 and the Tories for the austerity since, could an Italian style political situation yet develop in the UK?

Monday 25 February 2013

Wherefore the Pound now?

Now here is an excellent article. The world of forex trading is relatively alien to me. Everyone I know who does it professionally seems to work on the basis that you need a few millions to punt with and then try and take a tenth of a percent a day here and there and somehow make your self rich. It always sounded remarkably hard to me - although I am yet to meet a poor FX broker which suggests there know something I don't.

Also FX Trading lends itself well to technical analysis of charts - which is all very well and good but not one of my stronger points; my strategies in trading tend to be more focused around event driven moments.

However, as the link shows, perhaps now is one of those moments. With the AAA downgrade likely to have an impact on economic prospects, the most obvious suggestion is to say that the pound will fall further.

However, a glance at the various charts proves this to be unlikely, the fall has already bee fairly precipitous and the idea that somehow the Euro is a long-term stronger option that the Pound must be ludicrous given the contradictory strains present within the European Union.

The entire markets too are long on the Norwegian Kroner and Aussie Dollar (tipped here years ago as the place to be, of course), which will be positions unwound one day along with the Swiss Franc.

So there we go, everything in place for a contrarian bet and the pound to make a steady recovery...anyone buying this?

Sunday 24 February 2013

AAA donwgrade will bring the Rally to a halt

The loss yesterday of the UK’s AAA rating, in this instance a downgrade by Moody’s to Aa1, will have some very predictable effects. Firstly, both the other main agencies are likely to follow suit as the UK is presently on negative watch and its public finances are deteriorating. This means there is more short-term bad event news to come in the next couple of weeks.

The graph below shows the sovereign debt reactions of other countries that have suffered the ignominy of a downgrade and so anyone who thinks the UK is going to keep record low gilt yields is in cloud cuckoo land. As real rates rise this will have a negative impact on the Governments plans – it may perhaps result in more QE, but the long-term trend is set for a reversal in low bond yields. The overall macro impact will not be good.

Even the politics is bad - if the downgrade further reduces the chance of a Tory re-election and instead a return of the crazed Ed Balls, then the markets will be even more sombre…

However, there is an even better reason to sell the FTSE and that is because it is nearly March. In each of the last three years, human optimism has kicked in for a Santa Rally and then a mad January and February as everyone wants to believe that this time it is different – this year will be the year that the effects of the financial crisis start to leave us blah blah… And of course, each year disappoints as the debt overhang is simply monstrous.

The script usually goes - Q1 GDP numbers start to disappoint, we realise that the Euro area is still in trouble and the UK is still not having any meaningful impact on reducing its debts despite the austerity programme.

Then. by the mid-year as the usual suspects line up, the summer months of low volume provide the stabilisation period before we build up to a Santa rally again.
Given the historic economic reality that it takes 7 years to recover from a financial crisis, together with overbought markets and modestly stretched valuations, the chances of a March correction were high anyway – with the UK debt downgrade, it is, in my opinion, now baked in.

Tin Hats all round.

This post is sponsored by

Saturday 23 February 2013

The Moody Blue's Chancellor

UK loses top AAA credit rating

 "Moody's cited the "challenges that subdued medium-term growth prospects pose to the government's fiscal consolidation programme, which will now extend well into the next parliament". It added that the UK's huge debts were unlikely to reverse until 2016"

Are we surprised?  Well, a little bit. Because it should have gone a while back and thought maybe they had forgotten about us.

Does Cameron now regret that 1st year 'cuts holiday' where the government sounded tough, took the political pain, but didn't do very much? 

 We did warn you.

Does a loss of borrowing capacity strengthen or weaken  Ed Balls' calls for more spending, more borrowing? Or does a chop make that strategy look even more kamikaze?

Or should George Osborne have been super radical and actually cut taxes, taking the Moody's hit early whilst going for growth,  rather than later, after years on an austerity path?

Friday 22 February 2013

Big 4 Accounts: Lobbying mission accomplished

Everyone hates banks or says they do; its the zeitgeist they have replaced estate agents as the recipients of loathing from the common and not so common man. The only lifeform lower is the politician, who makes great efforts to join in banker-bashing in the vain hope of bringing them down to their own lowly status.

However, far above the fray, lie the professionals, those lawyers and accountants. Well paid and respected, they have not only escaped most of the opprobrium from the Financial Crisis but remain with much of the pay and rations intact in a time when the wider City has been taking a haircut.

Moreover, there has long been justifiable criticism of the Big 4 accountants. Where were they when Lehmans was lying? Where were they when Northern Rock was juicing its balance sheet?

The reaction from the UK regulators and Europe was to talk about some very serious changes to the cosy world of audit appointments. There was talk of splitting non audit business, active rotation, appointment of non-Big 4 firms and reporting to shareholders rather than executives.

I know the Big 4 were scared as they have made some quite big structural changes to their businesses to prepare for this. But hooray for them, their hard lobbying has paid off. Today it is announced there are some concerns about their actions, but little meat. More frequent audit changes are a small price to pay and given that PWC audits 55% of the FTSE100 there is only one firm that can lost in a major way from more frequent rotation of auditors. Even the EU has given up on any grandiose ideas of reform.

So roll on accountants, keep your money and your cosy world - all is not lost for ye.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Question Time - Kate's a slag edition.

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from St Paul's Cathedral in London. On the panel are business secretary and Liberal Democrat Vince "I am Incapable !!" Cable MP; Labour shadow health minister Diane 'tax the sodas' Abbott MP; former deputy prime minister Lord " One EU Nation" Heseltine; Rev Giles "of course you can come in..will you be staying long?" Fraser, who resigned from his position at St Paul's in 2011; and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter "fur flying" Hitchens.
This is the first time Question Time has been hosted from St Paul's. The debate takes place directly under the Cathedral's iconic dome.{bless}

Enter your guess for what you believe the audience will ask the panel. Maximum of 5 guesses allowed. Various special rules apply ;

rough scoring guide

bang on,as the script, right answer - 3 points
Close enough for government work, right answer -2 points
in the right ballpark - 1point
witty comments - 1 point
sole entrant to guess a question asked - 3 points
guessing a 'catchphrase/bandwagon/party message' spoken , accurately - 1point 
Only choosing 4 questions out of a possible 5, and only 4 are asked  - 1 point.
Posting first - 1 point
Predicting correct colour of Dimbleby's tie - 5 point {must guess before 9pm.}

  DTP correctly guessed the Dimbletie last week - well done him.

Remember - an Englishman/woman's  word is their bond. {Scotland and N.Ireland included for purposes of QT game. Welsh standing yet to come back from the international Question Time ruling committee}

This tournament is sponsored by Timbo 614
Week 6:

DtP 48
Botogol 45

BQ(MP) 45
kynon 44
Timbo614 43
Measured 41 
 ND 40
GSD 40

Hopper 31
Malcolm Tucker 33

Budgie 25

Blue Eyes 21

Idle 13
CU 7
James Higham - 3

Tuesday 19 February 2013

There was a young woman, who lived in a shoe...

We don't normally tread on Daily Mail demonisation of the Chavs territory on this blog. But today the story of Heather Frost, 37 year old  mother of eleven, who is moving soon into a brand new, taxpayer funded purpose built house for her and her off spring, caught my eye.

And already its dog whistle time. The Daily Mail presses those middle class buttons so well. 'The purpose built house'. Well, all social housing is purpose built. Just not normally for eleven kids. 

Her TWO current council houses are too cramped ! - well, they would be. Thirteen or fourteen people living in them. That's at least two to each bedroom. And having to serve meals in a kitchen made for 3-5 people. 

And the pictures of her rubbish strewn, neglected,  back garden don't actually specify that it is her garden. Just 'the properties' in that street. And even if it is her garden, from the front there are skips and it looks like some sort of clearout going on.

The images have set off the comments. Some 3000 comments just today, on the Mail Online, world's most popular media website.  {That is actually an incredible statistic when you think about it. More people read the Daily Mail webpages, than read the BBC News, which is put together with a giant slice of Beeb funding. Some £120 million. Some of the comments on the mail online have been 'approved/disapproved by up to another 8-9,000 readers. Astonishing.}

As is to be expected most can't believe that this family of non workers, never workers, has been given a brand new house to live in. A nice house, not the usual council seconds.  Many can't believe that the father's are nowhere to be seen. Others that the council has gone mad building a new house.  

And I have to say I agree.

Not with the attacks on the council, who have no choice. They have, by statute, to adequately house their tenants. Nor with the attacks on the mother, who having been a fourteen year old pregmum, has no hope of having a good job, and has been bringing up a football team sized brood ever since anyway. Nor with the large number of comments complaining about having to pay a large mortgage while Mrs F pays about nothing. Your own mortgage has nothing to do with the government. You choose what you can afford. And the comment making the headlines, that 'she will inspect the new house to see if she's satisfied with it, or she won't move in' sounds suspiciously like an out of context remark.

What is making me more than angry..furious, is that this situation has been allowed to happen in the first place. 

I am stunned that over the last fifteen years no one has explained to the mother that people have responsibilities, and she has to  live within her means. If she wants to have eleven kids or eleven hundred its up to her. But the state should not be the provider.  If she had a child at fourteen and wanted to be a mum, well..that's her life choice. 

But it should have been made very clear that the maximum benefits allowable are 'X, irrespective of the number of dependents and that if the family was unable to cope, children would be taken into care.. That the maximum sized house is x bedrooms and that she must be aware that its necessary to live within those rooms, or rent / buy her own place.

That rents may rise and that energy bills, food bills, clothing costs may too. That benefits may rise or may not. That her tenancy will be a five year renewable agreement, subject to revision, and not for life. That anti social behaviour would not be tolerated. That the children are expected to attend school each school day and are suitably clothed and fed.
That unemployment benefits are paid on a decreasing scale and in order to receive them, after x months/years, voluntary work will be required to be undertaken, if no suitable jobs exist.

In short.. she should have been told that she was damn lucky to have got one of the limited stock of social housing in the first place, that the state spends more money than it actually has,  so don't take the proverbial.

I'm not claiming that Mrs Frost's children ARE ASBO street kids and she is a feckless parent. They might be model pupil, high achievers for all I know. What I am suggesting is that future households planning to have 10 kids will be aware that their are limits to welfare and that benefits to suit circumstances are not an automatic right.  The minimum 1 bed flat on the top floor of a tower block is a right. Everything else must be earned, and may be withdrawn.

 There aren't many people in Mrs Frost's situation. But there are some 40,000 families, out of work with 5 or more children.  And it had been on the rise since 2008, because benefits were not capped.  How many are long term and how many recent recession victims isn't known. But surely even 1,000 families of 5 children, where no family member has EVER worked, is 1,000 too many.

Ian Duncan Smith's reforms are attempting to prevent these extreme cases occurring.   The nasty party wants to impoverish the poorest and most dependent in society. They have been widely condemned by many as Victorian era poor laws.

But they aren't . They are trying to bring some sanity back to a system that has gone absurdly wrong.

Energy, but at a price

Mr Drew is away, taken from us by mistress work to do his penury in far away places. And just as it seems the public is finally about to glimpse the coming disaster of an energy crisis.

A brief reminder of where we are. Ed Milliband as Energy minster, amongst 11 others over a few short years of Brownian rule, made broad and glorious speeches about the renewable future, Carbon Capture and other fanciful whimsies.

Sadly Milliband has been replaced by the equally useless Chris Huhne and now Ed Davey, both besotten with precious windmills and eco-platitudes to the gods of demagoguery.

And low, it has come to pass that we have now seriously started switching off the power stations in the UK and yet not a single new gas plant is under construction. They don't take too long, but none have been started. We face moving to a place where there is 5% capacity overage on the Grid, from 15% today.

Will it mean blackouts - probably not as those Frenchies with their vast nuclear power supply will be only to will to help out Perfidious Albion - they may though sense the potential of a rather large commercial opportunity for themselves. Similarly, that lovely Gazprom company from the land of Uncle Vladimir will surely help us too with much needed gas, for a small price.

So, here we are, blackouts of 20%-30% increases in prices - all without any increase in renewables or really reducing our carbon footprint (exporting the problem elsewhere surely doesn't count even for a Lib Dem?)

It says little for our democracy that long-term planning by Government in this space has become impossible - I don't fancy the chances of the Government that is charge when these particular chickens come home for a roost.

Monday 18 February 2013

National Grid: An Interesting Prospect

A few weeks ago there was one of those silly outbreaks of the bleedin' obvious whenMr Quango's colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee 'discovered' that developers of the infrastructure needed to implement the UK's mad energy policy - in this case, power grids for offshore wind-farms - are being heavily subsidised, underwritten, and given guaranteed returns:
"We are talking about returns that are exceeding PFI - and we thought that that was a licence to print money"
said an apparently surprised Jackie Doyle-Price (Cons, Thurrock)

Yes indeed - and it's not just these offshore developments, it's the whole panoply of state-mandated energy infrastructure investments.  Can we all join in, please ?

Well, maybe.  Some of these types of development are not always easy to invest in for the private punter: but National Grid is the biggest single listed UK company involved in the whole mad business, and Ofgem lets it - nay, forces it (kicking and protesting, I expect) - to invest huge amounts on these infrastructure projects ... at RPI-linked returns.

Now:  as of last week the BoE is famously going to, ahem, *tolerate* higher RPI for a while ... and NG borrows at a tad under RPI ... and most of its other costs don't rise with RPI (labour is only 10% of its cost-base) ... did someone say 'licence to print" ?

No investment advice here, naturally; you're on your own - and one cannot but observe that NG's fortunes are riddled with regulatory risk.  He who lives by the subsidy, etc etc.  But it's kinda interesting for all that.



Sunday 17 February 2013

Tax has to be taxing these days!

Ed Milliband speaks to Vince Cable
Is it just me or has the UK gone totally potty? Years ago, not that many, there was a consensus that you could tax the rich, but pushing it too far would be counter-productive. Now we just have more outrageous proposal after more outrageous proposal - with all the Political parties joining into say how much the rich should pay.

Think of the poor people on benefits they say - what of them. The thing is, its the maths that sticks in my craw. Say one earns £500,000 a year, a princely sum for a banker. and sadly, a few multiples of my own hard earned crust. Already this is taxed at over 50% in its entirety. So take home is somewhere near £250,000, but not quite.

Now if you have this kind of income you could have thought about buying a house at 4x your earnings at about £2 million. You may even have been able to rent your pre-richness property too, or bought a small place in Spain. Now the proposal is to tax this at £20,000 a year, maybe even £100,000 if the plan really is to raise £2 billion (OK so this is an uncosted Labour gimmick, but here we are they are nailed on to win the next election).

Plus you would have bought your house, paying a whopping 7% or £140,000 in stamp duty. Then you have council tax and your rather expensive £1.5 million mortgage at say 5%, so a mere £80 thousand a year in outgoings and upkeep.

So worst case scenario and even on £500,000 a year you could not live in a £2 million house. Even then a well paid FTSE100 executive could not do it. You would have not money left to live or feed your family. Even with a mere £20,000 tax your actual take home is going to be £10,000 a month - is loads, but blimey, its getting on for a total tax rate of 80% - this is before VAT, APD, Insurance taxes, MOT's etc.

If this really gets discussed seriously it will certainly hammer house prices at the top end. What gets me is that two public or private sector workers on good salaries of say £60,000 each are going to be are going to be taking home a total sum per month of about £8,000 a month.

I have long considered leaving the country, but have not managed to find the right role in the right country as yet, this finishes for me though if I ever succeed in my ambitions, why be successful in the UK - the marginal taxes will be so high that it just won't be worth it. It's scary, the 1970's were supposed to be history, not a roadmap to the future.

The final nail for me is that I have yet to see anyone on the gogglebox try and correct this nonsense, everyone just lies and says they don't have any money and screw those who do. I have my doubts these well paid journalists and politico's have all done so badly; but they dare not speak out against the zeitgeist.

Friday 15 February 2013

qt update



Questions asked:
First Q : Who is to blame for “horsemeat scandal”? Is it supermarkets, food industry regulators or consumers?
 Q2: Should the 10p tax be reinstated?
 Q3: Should people on benefits be made to work somewhere like Poundland to justify receiving their money?

 Q4 :{odd question}  With public scepticism towards MPs, similarities between major parties and decrease in party membership, is party politics dying?
 Last Q5: Where should Richard III be buried – Leicester, Westminster or York?
 Gsd - 8
Hopper - 6
Botogol - 7
BQ - 6
ND - 6
Timbo 614 - 8 +1 for funnies =9
CU - 6
DTP - 5 {+ 5 for the Dimbletie} =  10
Measured - 6 + 1 bonus = 7
Malcolm Tucker - 6
Idle - 7
Kynon {ok -no one watched it anyway } - 5

This tournament is sponsored by Timbo 614
Week 5:

DtP 44
Botogol 40

BQ(MP) 39
kynon 36
Timbo614 36 
 ND 34
GSD 34
Measured 33
Hopper 31
Malcolm Tucker 30

Budgie 23

Blue Eyes 16
Idle 13
CU 6

Horsemeat Sweepsteak....

Ok, so that phrase is a little unfortunate, but its Friday after all!

This horsemeat scandal is about to get a lot worse according to various reports for at lunchtime today over 1000 product tests will be revealed and who is to know where horsemeat has entered the food chain.

Let's be clear, I would be delighted to find out for example that kebabs, a rare, drunken 'treat for me were to contain horsemeat - I mean they look like they are made of anything and frequently taste the same, so really to have high quality racing nags in them would be good news.

Surely to, this must be a boost for the pot noodle industry, those famous vegetarian beef and tomato flavour soup-things look wholesome by comparison with many types of fresh meat products now.

So what do we think, who is going to come last and what will be the most shocking revelation? I am going for some frozen mince to be found to be 100% horsemeat at a less than classy supermarket. I think too at least one Waitrose product will be caught out, causing anguish in the home counties.

The only surefire winners are Linda McCartney products.....

Thursday 14 February 2013

Question Time : former friar to retire, edition

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Leicester. On the panel are: secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Maria "Shut down blogs"  Miller; shadow environment secretary, Mary "no added Shergar" Creagh; Liberal Democrat peer Susan "I never win elections yet I always get a job" Kramer; Respect MP for Bradford West, George "If you thought Goebbels went over the top, listen to this.." Galloway; and editor of the Spectator, Fraser  "just say NO ! {to corporation tax} Nelson.

Tonight is valentine's so I shall be out doing something more romantic. Is pizza hut romantic?
Anyway ..scores will be taken from the BBCQT# twitter feed.
+ the Dimby-tie scoring has been increased as,  a commenter noted, he really does root through the Jon Snow cast off bin.
Enter your guess for what you believe the audience will ask the panel. Maximum of 5 guesses allowed. Various special rules apply ;

rough scoring guide

bang on,as the script, right answer - 3 points
Close enough for government work, right answer -2 points
in the right ballpark - 1point
witty comments - 1 point
sole entrant to guess a question asked - 3 points
guessing a 'catchphrase/bandwagon/party message' spoken , accurately - 1point 
Only choosing 4 questions out of a possible 5, and only 4 are asked  - 1 point.
Posting first - 1 point
Predicting correct colour of Dimbleby's tie - 5 point {must guess before 9pm.}

This tournament is sponsored by Timbo 614
Week 5:

DtP 34
Botogol 33
BQ(MP) 33
kynon 31
 ND 28
Timbo614 27 
Measured 26

GSD 26
Hopper 25
Malcolm Tucker 24
Budgie 23

Blue Eyes 16
Idle 6

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Monetary defeat for the UK?

When the Bank of England is in such a terrible corner, mainly of its own making I may add, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

For today, with ts Governor actively wringing his hands, the Bank announced that inflation will likely stay at over 3% for a year or two more. Not much we can do, says the Bank, the Pound is sinking and we can't raise rates as the economy won't be able to hack it.

What a disastrous situation to have ended in. Anyone who thinks we are nearly through the recession and the pain needs their head examining on this evidence. We are so anaemic in terms of GDP growth that even adding in nearly a year's worth of free GDP money in the form of QE has not revived much, if anything and in addition it has weakened the currency which is now sinking against the might QE powered Dollar and wasted Euro.

Any move to raise interest rates is considered insane, locking in further the zombie economy that we have now (and baking in the next financial scandal, when people got nuts as rates rise and they lose their houses in 2015-2017, this will be all the fault of rapacious bankers).

Is there another answer, it is hard to see now given the terrible position already created. Surely rates do start to need to rise a bit though, even if only 0.5% over the course of this year. Higher rates will mean better returns for investment which has been pathetic over the past few years. It will also spook bond buyers and push allocation of finance into more productive areas of the economy.

No chance of this though I fear, as the Bank accepts its defeat. The only hope is that Bank is always wrong, so we are in fact probably set for a nice period of deflation!

Valentine day - you've still time {just}

Valentine's day tomorrow.
The US retail trade body,   the National Retail Federation (NRF), says Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion this year. 
but then they, like our own BRC, take the highest figure they can find for headlines.

Valentine's will probably be flat sales for the US, where it is still a big day for flowers, chocolates etc.

Here, well, its long been a non day. Brits don't go big on expressions of mutual adoration. Its been a declining sales day and the corresponding retail space allocated has got smaller.
This year BQ industries bought in just 10% of what they had in the mid 2000's. Agency SOR make up the rest, but even they have delivered the smallest ever stands of the red stuff this year.

Valentine's suffers from being a fixed date. Easter and Mother's day are always Sundays. Difficult for suppliers to deliver on, but good days for us, as its easier to remember,
This year Valentine's falls very badly. Mid week, in a wet, windy and cold month, during a teetering, triple-dip recession.

 I would be very surprised if its going to set any records.

{Having said that, we in the Quango household usually make an effort. I have already sent the flowers, got the chocs, and card. And, even better I won some more roses on Guido's competition. So they are being delivered tomorrow. Question Time may well have to watch itself !}

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Bamboozling Britain on Energy Bills

I don't know if anyone's noticed but the government has recently overhauled its many websites into a fairly uniform GOV.UK set-up.  They were pretty anarchic before, it must be said.  Now, the gov-site I go to most often (DECC) is more difficult to navigate - but it does look a bit cleaner.

At the same time, I detect they have seriously decided to get their presentational act together.  In the case of DECC (and, I've no doubt, lots of others too that I am unable to judge) this means systematically dissembling on the impacts of its ridiculous policies.  Perhaps, following Galbraith's famous 'bezzle' coinage, we should call it the 'boozle'.  And it's a biggie.

Yes, when it comes to lying about the future policy-driven costs of electricity, the government has long ago decided to Tell A Big One, summarised briefly as "OK, your bills will go up a little bit in the early years, but later they will fall (relative to what we say they would have been without our policies, fingers crossed)".  It's worth unpicking exactly how they get to the numbers in this jolly chart, which greenies everywhere have really taken to, but which contains several questionable numbers and one massive, entirely fraudulent sleight of hand.
DECC's  Boozle
We've mentioned before that, as DECC have admitted, this argument completely falls if gas prices fall.  But let's look at some of the detailed components of their asserted 'saving' of £93.

Costs they acknowledge:  as a first pass, we can probably assume most of the elements of the '+£280' are tolerably good estimates, but there are some important points to add:  (1) 'EMR support' is planned to rise significantly after 2020, as the supposed new nukes start claiming whatever is to be their grotesque subsidy, and the capacity mechanism bites.  So +41 is only the start.  (2) Personally I don't envisage doing a 'Green Deal' at Schloss Drew, so I can ignore the +20 of loan repayment.  (3) Just look at the transfer payment represented by the biggest single number, +70 for ECO support (a scheme "to subsidise energy efficiency measures for low income households") - this is you and me paying for social policy in a way the government hopes we won't notice. (4) Some estimates of the cost of smart metering etc are a lot higher than +3

Savings they claim:  this is where the boozle really gets motoring.  I don't know enough to challenge the -158 'Products Policy' and -89 'previous efficiency policies', but boy, those are big numbers.  And - they are also in the bag already !  Sunk costs, so to speak.  Nothing to do with avoidable policy-costs going forward.  We could stop now, and these gains (whatever the numbers should be) would still be ours.

Additionally:  (1) the Drew family won't qualify for -53 'ECO / Green Deal' or -16 'Warm Home Discount'.  (2) -37 'smart meters' sounds pretty optimistic.  (3) -20 'wholesale price impact of EMR' etc is flaky to the point of being an outright punt, it could easily be a net cost.

So: I could re-frame these same numbers for my own circumstances and the -93 diminishes to -49.  I could - indeed, I do - diskard utterly the -20 as the flake-job it is.  I could add 20 (or more) to EMR support for the years after 2020.  I could inject another 30 of modest skepticism on smart meters, etc etc.  And then I rightfully ignore the already-captured policy-gains of 158+89, because that's in the past.  You can do the mournful maths for yourself.

So - going forward, The Current Policies Are Going To Cost Me Much, Much More!  You too, I'm guessing.  And the government itself acknowledges I'll have been paying more between now and 2020 anyway ...

Damn them and their wretched boozle !


Monday 11 February 2013

Darling or Osborne?

It's come to a pretty pass that we can even think about having a debate about who is the better Chancellor of the two chancers named above.

'Badger' Darling presided over the most excessive boom and bust this Country had seen in generations, even putting the Great Depression to the test. Bullied by the politically driven insanity of Gordon Brown to spend as much money as possible, raise taxes and allow the Banks to do anything as long as they paid large tax revenues, Darling oversaw total catastrophe in 2008. Up until that time he made as far as I can see not one a single good decision. After the Lehman collapse, and the hubris that smashed the Government, Darling became much better. He took the big decision to save RBS and HBOS to prevent financial meltdown. The decision on Northern Wreck and other secondary institutions was less good. His final budgetary plans to push through consolidation in the fiscal expenditure was with hindsight not a bad plan at all.

Osborne started with a broken trainset, so his challenges were far worse to deal with. With events also moving out-of-control for the first two years, little that he did would really matter beyond the first austerity budget. This successful, tough fiscal consolidation bought the Government breathing room to work on more basic reforms of the economic system; sadly, the key area which is the over-complex tax system, has remained untouched. Added flexibility to the workplace is great for employers but was already a success in the UK. Worse, the fall in Government spending was barely matched by private sector expansion. As tax receipts continued to fall, the public finances and size of the state have become worse, not better. By the second budget though reducing of the top rate of tax was used to slaughter the budget. Osborne has never been the same since, hiding where possible and having a much lower public profile.

So there we go, the last 2 men at the helm? Who do you think has done the better job? There is a poll on the sidebar running until Friday.

(It's not got so bad that we need to ask whether Cable or Balls should be included, neither of them are within touching distance of sanity).


Friday 8 February 2013

The Week Just Gets Better

It started well, and isn't it building up nicely !  I'm under no particularly rosy illusions, but as headlines go, these are the ones you want to see. 
Victory for David Cameron as EU budget faces cuts for first time in history
Yes, throwing up all the Euro-cards is going to yield the who-knows-what benefits for quite a while to come, if Cameron plays his own hand well.

OK, a big 'if', and I already said I'm under no illusions - but we gotta work with what we have.  So - here's hoping for a cracker at Landsdowne Road.  Have a great weekend !


Thursday 7 February 2013

Question Time - Envy of the world edition.

David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Stirling.{uhh ohh..that's my list out the window}
 On the panel: Scottish Secretary and Liberal Democrat Michael Moore MP; Humza Yousaf MSP, Minister for External Affairs in the Scottish Government; Lord Falconer, former Justice Secretary; Mary Macleod MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth; and Sir Brian Souter, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group.

Enter your guess for what you believe the audience will ask the panel. Maximum of 5 guesses allowed. Various special rules apply ;

rough scoring guide

bang on,as the script, right answer - 3 points
Close enough for government work, right answer -2 points
in the right ballpark - 1point
witty comments - 1 point
sole entrant to guess a question asked - 3 points
guessing a 'catchphrase/bandwagon/party message' spoken , accurately - 1point 
Only choosing 4 questions out of a possible 5, and only 4 are asked  - 1 point.
Posting first - 1 point
Predicting correct colour of Dimbleby's tie - 1 point {must guess before 9pm.}

This tournament is sponsored by Timbo 614
Week 5:

DtP 34
Botogol 33
BQ(MP) 33
kynon 31
 ND 28
Timbo614 27 Measured 26

GSD 26

Hopper 25
Malcolm Tucker 24
Budgie 23

Blue Eyes 16
Idle 6

Huhne: Ad Hominem, Ad Feminam

In polite society of all political and intellectual shades, it is jolly bad form to argue ad hominem - playing the man not the ball, don't you know.  And exceptional men are, well, exceptional and to be treasured for it - so why shouldn't we expect them to be a bit unusual in their extra-mural dealings as well ? 

So, for example, these chaps writing in the Inde reckons that Chris Huhne's services to climate change handsomely outweigh his misdemeanours.
"Lest we forget: Huhne saved the international climate change negotiating process virtually single-handed at Cancun in Dec 2010
"Huhne ought in the end to be remembered for his public achievements rather than private sins. Exceptionally bright, he took a strong first from Oxford. He was then an acclaimed Business Editor of The Independent, a brilliant entrepreneur in the City, a brave and principled MEP, a diligent and popular MP, and universally recognised as one of the most effective ministers in government ...I still feel an overwhelming sympathy for this brilliant man ... Adulterers JFK, Martin Luther King, Gandhi – went on to score great victories for humanity ... Our public life has lost a distinguished servant"
Actually, our public life has lost a very determined and aggressive liar, bully, and all-round reprobate; so let's reverse the logic and give a moment's thought to what that might tell us about his 'public achievements'.  Yep, that's ad hominem for you, but an eminently logical thought-process to boot.  Why shouldn't we wonder whether his aggressive lying, bullying and general immorality were deployed more widely than towards his nearest and dearest?  Might he have been lying about one or two other matters ..? 

And to supplement the a priori reasoning, let me chuck in an empirical observation.  The only person I have known personally who sought to offload speeding points to wifey (and had the gall to obtain written legal advice before doing so) was a man who, upon his unexpected demise, was found to have been in possession of multiple mistresses and a large quantity of embezzled cash.

Y'see, coincidences are there to be considered carefully.  Now, let's go back to that list of achievements ...