Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ten Years of C@W!

Hard to believe, but ten years ago this month our good host Mr CU - who is too modest to sing his own praises - kicked off the mighty C@W with this deathless piece ...



... the first of 3,876 posts!  And millions of hits.  Yes, it certainly got motoring once he hit his stride and found his natural (and rather eclectic) audience with its highly congenial hardcore of opinionated frequent-flyers.

Wow.  Where would you all be without a regular spot of C@W, eh?

In many ways, 2006-ish was the heyday of good old amateur blogging.  Guido, Dale and ConHome were showing the way and not so much trying to make money from it, even if they had their agenda.  The Left was nowhere to be seen.  There were our old mates Croydonian and Newmania and Dizzy and Alice Cook and Hatfield Girl and Tuscan Tony; and Mutley the Dog, and Idle, and the Hitch ... remember them? - and the dirty Devil busy in his Kitchen; and Scotton Pinkney was flourishing.  We'd get a link on Peston or Robinson at the Beeb and thousands of hits would come deluging in (before they black-listed us, the bastards! And who reads Pesto now?)  Egad, one could reminisce for a whole coffee-break.

Or maybe over a beer?  It has been known.  Watch this space.

Anyhow: a big hand for Dom, the founder of the feast - and Many Thanks to All Our Readers, without whose fine retorts and brilliant banter we would never have kept it up.  (How those tumbleweed bloggers keep going is beyond me.)  Keep coming, keep contributing, and we'll try to keep you entertained.

ND

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

£13 billion fine for Apple for Irish Sweetheart tax deal

A big fine, worth around €3250 to each Irish citizen.


The US are already unhappy because Apple plays as little tax as possible in the USA and is now daring to pay some in Europe too. Not that Apple will mind, might be quite a relief given the huge cash they have built up and limited investment opportunities open to it.


What of Ireland though...the EU is clearly stepping in, rightly, to stop a sweetheart deal in an economic zone of freedom of capital movement. Other companies may be dissuaded from signing such deals and moving there in the future.


Which all makes sense in the EU zone. It does present an opportunity for the UK; attract Apple with a low rate sweetheart deal and get them to base in the UK post-Brexit. Exactly the kind of mercantilist policy Germany has been using for years via the EU.


Interesting choices for Ireland coming up,  its corporate back taxes, it should go to Ireland, but no doubt the EU will try and claim it as a fine for the EU coffers.


All this on a day when France followed Germany in pulling out of TTIP trade negotiations with the USA too. Brexit shares still moving up, EU ones down.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

UPDATE: Chief EDF Frog Back on the Case!

Well blow me, if it isn't the Chief Frog, right on cue!  The Telegraph is obviously hoping for another run of EDF radioactive-turd ads because they have given him a clear run at the propaganda slot: and what rot he is spouting. 
"The Government said it will take a short time to consider the project. That is understandable and I fully respect the decision ... 
... and have just this week been released from three weeks in the clinic after a major attack of apoplexy: now, I'm back in action to threaten you with Chinese Displeasure.
"China’s participation is much more than £6bn of inward investment. It brings the benefits of a 30-year partnership between EDF and CGN in nuclear construction in China, a country with the largest civil nuclear programme in the world"
Sounds nice - for EDF, at least.
"We know and trust our Chinese partners. Beyond that, the UK independent nuclear regulator has only granted Hinkley Point a nuclear site licence after being satisfied that security has been properly addressed. All staff on nuclear projects are rigorously vetted, wherever they come from. As is standard practice, the control systems at Hinkley Point C will be isolated from IT systems and the internet"
Touching stuff.  Hope it's all as secure as the works entrance to Hinkley Point (photo). Writing as someone who has frequently been on the inside of utilities with this approach to IT, I can safely say that any contractor who has access to those 'isolated systems' (which would be quite a few, over the years) has ample opportunity for mischief.
"Once the new-build nuclear industry is restarted, costs are expected to fall for future projects"
OK mon brave, you can come back when you don't need a subsidy and we'll be pleased to see you.  Bon courage with that.

ND

Friday, 26 August 2016

Silly Season Over: Energy Troubles Ahead

I am not one to shout "the lights are going out" too readily, because the government will always make the Grid do whatever it takes, however costly & stupid, to keep homes and hospitals supplied.  But while everyone has been marvelling at Olympic success /  Corbyn lunacy / mass drownings on the beaches of Britain, over the summer we have been tipped off that there could be some real problems for power and gas supplies this coming winter.

On the power side, the pace of closures of coal-fired power stations this spring really caught the authorities by surprise.  We were always going to be down to about 1% capacity margin in the depths of next winter, and now it's going to be negative - even after the Grid has bribed a couple of the coal generators to stay open for just one more season, which is the only thing they have come up with.

And on the gas side, the UK's only really big gas storage facility (the large offshore Rough field) has run into serious problems of old age.   Centrica (the owner) is nursing it back into a few more years of reduced operations, hopefully in time for winter: but we know of old what happens in a cold snap when Rough falters - it's at very least a peaky spot-price spike.  We just about got away with it during a cold snap three years ago.  Next winter, anything much more than a week's worth of extreme cold and we may be (a) completely reliant on some fortuitous LNG cargos becoming available in the Atlantic (= not so cold in Spain + Eastern USA), or (b) stuffed.

[Rough isn't the only large and ageing provider of gas flexibility in winter we won't be able to rely on in future: the mighty Groningen field in the Netherlands, Europe's biggest for over 50 years (sic), and the very large Norwegian Troll are both ailing.  In the Dutch case, the hammering of Groningen for decade after decade is now causing fairly noticeable earthquakes.] 

The real killer will be winter 2017-18.  This game of keeping coal plant on life-support cannot be repeated indefinitely: it's in the nature of large capital assets of the steel'n'concrete variety that once they've been fingered for closure, discretionary maintenance work stops and the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Recall also that back in 2008 the EDF Chief Frog said that by 2017 we'd be cooking Christmas lunch on Hinkley Point C electricity, because otherwise the lights would be going out.  Well, he lied about HPC but otherwise he knew that of which he spoke.

Yes folks, it was broadly forseeable way back then (which was when we started blogging about it!), but neither Labour nor the Coalition did anything serious about it.  Takes a while for those plump Xmas turkeys to come home to roost, but they are on the horizon - and they may escape the lunch table altogether.

ND

Will anything happen with Hammond as Chancellor?

I am hearing that the new Chancellor is not planning to do much with the Autumn statement. Really as a new Government in fact, one would have expected quite chance of doing something radical to show a difference to Osborne's non-austerity austerity.


Instead, there is a huge problem with Heathrow where Theresa May is very exposed in her own constituency of Maidenhead, who are deeply anti-expansion. Yet Gatwick seems to be off the menu as BAA have been so successful with their lobbying for Heathrow or bust.


In terms of the economy, it desperately needs some change of tack from the low-rates, low-savings, low growth model created by the Cameroons.


The chance is to boost growth by raising infrastructure spend and relaxing planning laws further. Also to end the pensions triple lock which is denuding many areas of Government of any cash.


However we are likely to get further tax cuts for business, which have so little impact on business investment when personal taxes are so high (most business are privately owned, the personal tax always ends up being key for 99% of people).


Then there is the long overdue review of both public sector pensions provision and the personal tax code including NI. If not now, when?



Wednesday, 24 August 2016

TrainGate two - Choo choo.

Labour really miss Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson in their PR roles..
They used to have the very best. But these days, no one of any use at all..

The pink bus, possibly the most ill conceived political idea of the century, was actually topped by rushing round to have a Yoof Vlog with Russell Brand. Much too late in the cycle to have any impact that wasn't going to be negative.
Incredibly, even that disaster was bettered. By the Ed Stone. Which became the symbol of the whole, horrifically badly orchestrated Miliband election campaign.

Modern politicians need the best spinners, and the best image makers available.

Many years ago, my highly respected PR company girlfriend, came with me as I was doing the BBC's clothes show. 

{Who remembers that show? I did it 3 times! .. none of you remember it? It was the One Show of the 1990s.}
She had heard a radio bit I had done the week before and was very critical of it. Critical, but professional. She did the "This is you...This is what you want to convey. This is what you said..and why you sounded like a jerk...here's how to avoid that in future." 

She really was very good. Headhunted by two top firms before she was 28. And she didn't start in PR until she was 25.
 
If this ex-girlfriend was advising Corbyn it would have gone.

- Why are we on this train? This is a long distance train. We don't want a train that has booked seats.
We want a commuter train. 
We want a Southern Trains commuter train. We might get lucky with a cancellation. 

Don't get on yet. Get an establishing shot. Show the packed platform. Film in tight. Get the staffers around you Jez. Tighter than that..Good. Look packed..

Hey? You!..Why are you filming this on an iphone? He wants to be the next Prime Minister. He's not uploading to Instagram for his mates like he's on the school bus? Get a proper camera..You don't have one? I'm sorry..who are you? You're the Comms chief ?..And you didn't think to bring a decent video camera?..Ok..I see its going to be a tough day..  
http://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/scalefit_600_noupscale/57bc85961600002800bfde39.jpegThis train isn't packed..pull the plug now..what? You want to go on?

 These are ticket booked trains..this is going to come unstuck quite easily? Ok, if you insist.. 

..Then find the most packed carriage. Why are you sitting here? ..what's that you said..? "Sitting on the floor makes you look like you can't find a seat?" No..It makes you look like a beggar at a cash point. .. Don't put your legs out..you look like you are hogging limited space..Don't pull your legs up - that look isn't for you. And take your jacket off. Its creasing and making deep shadows and looks untidy. And comb your hair..This is a film to explain some political point? Then try and reach out. The true believers don't care you look like a disillusioned teacher a week before retirement. You need to reach the ex-libs and the now going over to UKIP, former socialists.
Otherwise you might as well just send a tweet to the echo chamber.


Why are you sitting in front of the toilet? Your back is against the bog door. No one sits back against a door that might open. looks like you didn't realise. Or worse, don't care about others needs. Is that Private Eye you are pretending to read? Oh! you ARE reading it? You brought it along for the train journey..I see...well put it away. Get the Guardian..Who's got a copy of the Guardian among Team Jez, please? No One? Seamus Milne? You work fat the Guardian FFS! ,.You say... Its become a capitalist-imperialist-Blairite propaganda sheet? Mr Corbyn..This may be picked up by foreign media ...

 http://pbs.twimg.com/media/CqjpMBuW8AAltGp.jpg
Look..You're not reading Private Eye..Reading Private Eye is an invitation that gets you on the cover of Private Eye? Go down this "packed" train and get a Guardian or a Metro..or Angling Times. In fact ..forget that..Don't get anything..You are addressing the camera..you don't need any media..certainly not 'old media' Jeremy..You need to sort your legs out. You have them knees together and flopped into a corner. And this cretin is filming from above. You look like a Casualty actor, playing a disabled victim who's fallen from a wheelchair. 




Why are you still filming this on a phone? We can't hear what he says..He's on a moving train, in a corridor. And you are trying to get his words on a phone?

Jeremy..There is no such word as ram-packed..Its either Packed. .. Rammed... Jammed, or Jam-packed. Do it over.. 


Bend one knee up, put one leg half under you. Then rest..CASUALLY REST.. one arm on the knee..on the up knee Jez..Ok..Why are we filming this here. Either get in the bog and say this was the only seat and make a joke about Waterloo. Or film by the carriage door so over your shoulder the packed train interior is visible. Then you are standing up and don't look so homeless and tramp like. Spare £3.50p for a bottle of Virgin Trains Elder-flower, guv'nor?


You are concerned that diminishes the message, Mr Milne? What message is that?
The one that tells people  that trains are quite full?
 That since 1991 you have needed to book in advance for a journey? 
That the reserved seats empty after the first station?
That if you move along you may find an empty seat?
 And if you don't ask the train crew.

Everyone knows this already. This isn't news. It isn't policy. Its just a message of the bleedin' obvious.
If you want to show the merits of nationalisation, go on a nationalised, efficient train in Europe. If you want to show a bad service, go to London Bridge any Friday night. 


Then say
 "This is shite..we will fix it by doing XYZ and it will cost ABC and take PQR amount of time"  

..Right ..this is my stop. I'm off..oh..Milne..its really the end of the line for you too..Luckily you didn't give up the day job..so long..chumps.."

Ahh, she was good. She was earning £60,000 when she was 28, back in the 1990s.  The following year she gave it all up to have a baby and quit for good. Never went back. Women in the workforce..
but that's a post for another day.

Choo-Choo - Silly Season continues.





I was reading the obituary of Sir Antony Jay, masterly creator of Yes, Minister this morning


It made me think this morning that the really challenge of any comedy is to make it funnier than real life, or at least appear so.


Following  Yes Minister we had 20 years later the brilliant The Thick of It - reflecting the coarsening tone of public discourse and also the hectic madness of a 24 hour news cycle.


But yesterday we have a brilliant show, one of the world's best PR experts in Richard Branson against one of the world's worst, in Jeremy Corbyn. For anyone else, pictures of him walking past empty seats to made a little film about packed trains would be a resigning issue - after all it suggests complete lack of judgement and nous.


Oddly though, his opponent is in fact we find a comedic character, Owen Smith, who is actually worse as a public performer than Corbyn. Not as bad, or so, but actually worse. For example today, he passionately said he is opposed to Brexit and will make Labour do everything possible to stop it. Then, having besmirched democracy he calls Jeremy Corbyn a lunatic whilst on stage.


I mean, FFS, how can you do this? How can you be so bad. Literally, a man off the street could put in a better performance than either of these two.


Jim Hacker is a titan by comparison.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sadiq Khan Becoming a Major Player

... and Greens, LibDems ... anyone with a vote, really
Sadiq Khan has long been someone to watch.  Happy to play the Muslim card, but basically a pure power-player, very much open for business.  Voice of Labour In The Wilderness;  Top-Ranking Elected Labour Politician;  Friend of the City in Brexit Negotiations;  Deliverer of the Multi-Culti Vote; Kingmaker for Owen Smith ... - makes Corbyn look like the side-show pygmy he is.

Looks like it's Khan vs Momentum-McDonnell for control of the Labour Party.

If, as several of us have mused, a primary scenario for the fate of Labour is to become the Muslim Party of England, Khan is obviously in the mix for years to come.  They'd struggle to find a leader who could better minimise the electoral oblivion that would ensue.  A messy triple negative, I realise - but you probably see what I mean.

ND  

UPDATE - Will Sadiq Khan be the next Labour leader?  - well there's a thing!  

Friday, 19 August 2016

Things you really should not say out loud...weekend thread

"I will negotiate with ISIS" Owen Smith

"I won't go to War in honour of NATO Commitments" Jeremy Corbyn








These two are obviously playing a very funny summer game 'double-down' where you compete to say the most silly things and see if you can get away with it. It is like a political version of the world's dirtiest joke...


So - where do we go from here - what is your political double-down to join in the fun?


I will start with:


"We need to help more Syrian refugees - open borders are the only correct moral choice"

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Minimal Brexit economic impact...will it last?

Coming as no surprise to readers here, Brexit has yet to have any meaningful impact on the economy.


There was a 2 week heart attack in June/July after the scaremongering panicked everybody on the result. However, since then we have seen retail sales are up, inflation up slightly, a weakened pound has powered tourism and employment has continued to slightly fall. The FTSE is hugely up for good measure.


However, much as it is fun to point at the increasingly more desperate remainiacs and their howls of outrage, we won't really see the impact over the short-term. When article 50 is enacted, when the fate of EEA or not is decided, then bigger decisions about UK investment will be made. Of course, in the meantime things carry on and in and of itself this will protect the UK against the longer term threats. Companies already here are going to get stickier as time progresses and they see the effects of Brexit taking years or decades.


So perhaps Remain are right, 6% less GDP potential by 2030, I cant see how that will ever really be noticed.


As a bet, I can see growth for the 3rd quarter coming in at 0.5% or better, when the doomsaying remainiacs are saying it is nailed on shrinking and recession.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Smith says time to negotiate with ISIS

I promise to do this piece without breaking Godwin's law.


In another ridiculous Labour leadership hustings today, not much light was generated.


However a true blow was struck, challenger Owen Smith revealed himself to be a worse candidate than Jeremy Corbyn.


Corbyn, as everyone outside his cult knows, is just an old fool. Full of old, disproven ideas and charmingly convinced by them. He is useless, in a sort of Tim-Nice-But-Dim way.


Owen Smith, new to the political scene, has found himself out quite quickly. A right wing Labour man who is spouting any old left-wing guff to get elected.


Including the corker today of saying it is the right thing to do to negotiate with ISIS. I mean really, you first Owen, I'll buy your ticket to Damascus and hire a cab to take you to Raqqa, let me know how that works out for you?


This the day after he revealed, that the Tories still have a secret plan to destroy the NHS, eat babies and Harry the North....


It is incredible, where do they find these people. The guy has not one clue about anything at all and has managed to make the worst leader ever look like he is only the second-worst option.


Truly, we are in the summer silly season.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Elitist Olympics defeats ideological left





I am not usually that obsessive about the Olympics, but this year some very interesting things are happening to make GB sit second in the medal table and likely to finish 3rd yet again:


a) Since Lottery funding in 1997 started, GB has rapidly progressed up the medal tables at each competition. Basically, money for training, coaches and equipment makes a big deal when allied to raw talent.


b) The money though could have been splurged, instead, led by Tory Lord Coe, the money is focused on winners' and winning teams. Events where GB has no chance get no funding, medals win more money. It is a capitalistic form of financial support.


c) A huge crackdown on drug taking has taken place over the last few years. As such, you now see US, UK, and EU countries all in the top ten, whilst Eastern European countries have fallen away.

This tells me in an unfair fight, state socialism was able to game the system to their advantage - plus they also realised the importance for national pride a lot sooner than the Western countries. However, once the stage was made fairer, the application of money in the right way has allowed the Western countries to re-emerge as the leaders.


However, as we well know, money can be spent very badly indeed,  it is a credit to the system in GB that elitism takes prominence above all else and thus we have the winners we desire. There is a nice parallel here with bringing back grammar schools and the false arguments against them raised on the left.


How galling it must be for the Labour party, stuck in an endless leadership muddle, to also see a global event which undermines the ideology underlying most of their potential policy ideas.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

To holiday in the UK, or overseas

  • Families hit with a £250 holiday tax and a triple whammy of stealth fees
  • Air passenger duty, VAT and insurance tax have soared by 40 per cent 
  • Hidden car hire extras, currency scams and credit card fees add to pain
Said the headlines today. The pain of holiday.
This summer, the great debate of Overseas-all-in, versus, UK-All-to-Come took place in the BQ household. The cost was the big BQ factor. The sun was the Mrs BQ factor.Even though her pale, Irish skin can burn if she sits under a florescent tube.  Kids - Well, they just want to have fun.
Having only very, very recently got into the all-in, I am a convert. They were nothing like the chav, heavy drinking, fat face stuffing, Hi-de-Hi event I imagined. They are just for families on holiday. Doing family on holiday things. My 18-30 days clouded my judgement.
But, we do go to Cornwall sometimes too. Not camping. I couldn't put up a poster. And Mrs Q won't be further than 10 meters from a hairdryer. But cottage stay or resort huts thing is great.

A family of 4, 1 week to the med, all inclusive, first week of children's holidays was looking at about £3,500 last minute. That's a lot more than last year since all the terror outbreaks put Turkey and North Africa off many people's lists. 
A cottage in Dorset, £1100 rent for the week.But with zip included. Toilet roll and a welcome half pint of milk.

I was leaning to overseas. The UK sun had yet to come out. Instead being muggy with cloud. Sweaty and grey - So No UK - You cannot be trusted. With just your 4 weeks of good sun a year. And those weeks could be anytime from March-December.
The water park was free? {free entry - still have to pay for the stuff inside- that's not very clear in the brochure}. The beach was near. The food was 3-4star. The ice cream included. All the soft drinks the children could want. Wifi in areas? {probably the reception - not a lot of use} And the temperature - warm to boiling. Great.

But then the terror kicked off again in Nice. And I said lets go UK. Just so we wouldn't get stuck somewhere because there was a deadline involved.

http://www.yellowtom.co.uk/managed/bournemouth/bournemouth%20beach.jpg
Picked that lovely week when the sun was finally out in the UK. The drive to Dorset is about 90 minutes. The stress free aspect of home holiday can't be emphasised enough. Its worth a few hundred quid just to be able to drive to holiday. Park the car. Unload. And that's it. No airport parking fees. No ten hours in airports. Waiting and checking and stamping and loading and queuing and eating and queuing and dropping and forgetting and arguing and panicking and so on.  
Mrs Q had taken a few meals with her. {And had brought the shopping? Despite my best efforts, she seemed to think Dorset was like Belarus and they would only have strangely labeled tins of dubious contents. - They do have Sainsbury's , you know? I KNOW! ..{but she didn't really believe they would.}
WIFI included. TV and DVD all their - Books /games/ / garden/ It was really, very, very nice. Beach a stroll away. Water parks and adventure stuff and lots to do. It was a great holiday.
On balance, the cost is about the same between UK and over there.. Meals for 4, even only once a day, in the UK, is expensive unless its fast food. Attractions are really expensive. Any kid over 10 is an adult. Drinks out and ice cream  is costly. Parking, is costly. Boat trips etc ..all costly.
I think the UK trip probably came in about £300 less than the £3,500 all in. No more than £500 less. 
Of course, its possible to do it for much less if you just live like you would normally and not as if you were on holiday. Lunch from a meal deal at a supermarket. Only go where your national trust card will allow you. Use the vouchers and offers. Skip the treats. But where's the fun in that?
The trouble for the UK is that despite very significant advantages of a UK holiday, is that the weather cannot be relied upon. And that is a very significant factor in very many people's holiday plans.

Tax on a flight to the sun would have to rise quite a lot more to make the UK the first choice for most.


Friday, 12 August 2016

More aggressive taxing of UK business

The UK Valuations Office has slipped out a corker during the quiet summer period with the Olympics on.

From January 2015 (yes, retrospective) occupants of any building that does not have direct access between floors will be separately rated rather than treated as one joint rental. This leads to a much larger tax bill. Even if you rent and office and use the common parts, stairs/lifts etc, it won't count.

And this is retrospective. Helpfully, businesses wont knowhow much they owe until the VAO gets around to telling them.

Honestly, what a shoddy way to approach tax collection. It is highly aggressive in the extreme.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Australia shows the way

Obligatory Sporting Vague Link


It is hard to fathom really how the UK is still even thinking about going ahead with Hinkley Nuclear Power station. The facts have simply changed beyond all doubt since its inception, before we even get to the pathetic deal that was negotiated.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have made noises about how unhappy they will be if we pull out. This is really code for if you don't buy French, then buy Chinese direct. I think they are onto a loser with that line of thinking.

In a nice twist, the Aussies have today decided to stop China buying their power grid. Nice as the Chinese are they do have this rather well earned name for massive cyber attacks and economic cyber crime. I would agree that selling them the kit that runs a country is not such a good idea.

Sadly in the UK we have long since sold all key industrial backbone abroad, albeit we retain National Grid (it is a listed company though, so vulnerable). I am less worried by the French and Germans though as state entities.

So with the Aussies bravely clearing the way, perhaps Mrs May can do the decent thing and put Hinkley out of its misery and get on with fracking/gas alternative which won't be as cheap or as quick as we need, but is a lot better than the current impasse.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Emotive statistics

The Daily Mail reports a shocking survey that reveals that a full THIRD of working families have not enough savings to cover a month of rent or mortgage, if a job is lost. If true, that is extremely worrying both on a human level and on a macro level - if a third of people may stop paying rent or mortgage payments if the job market turns down it does not bear thinking about.

But is it true? The survey was commissioned by Shelter, of that breed of political activist organisations which also does some charitable work. Their numbers do not stand up to much scrutiny: the THIRD of working families actually totals three million rather than a third of households as such (there are about 25 million households in the UK). Three million is still a lot, but it is clearly nonsense to say that three million is a third of households. Their definition of a "working family" must narrow the numbers quite significantly. It probably means "people with young children at home". 

Fine. Still a lot of people struggle to make ends meet and we shouldn't belittle that.

The Mail article doesn't give any more detail, but it does give a platform for Shelter to demand more welfare benefits for its favoured groups, with the stark figure that for 48% of "families", housing is the "biggest drain" on their budget. 

That people spend a high proportion of their monthly income on the most important priority should hardly be news. What the Mail/Shelter article does not mention is that for around 50% of all households (at least some of which must surely overlap), tax is the biggest single drain on budgets. 

Instead of campaigning for more housing benefits - which often just feed through to even higher rents - perhaps Shelter could campaign for more building to be allowed, for lower taxes, for "families" to save more for themselves, and for a generally more dynamic economy?

Corbyn silly season ad infinitum

Well a week away does not seem to have changed much for myself, thanks to BE, ND and BQ for keeping up the production line - no August shut downs for us.

(On that note, I was working with an Italian Bank this week and even they shut the office in August, its the only way the Owners can get the staff to take their paid holiday apparently, otherwise they just turn up for an hour a day here and there for the month....).

Anyhow, Mr Corbyn I am starting to find really rather intriguing. For a man who has held the same views all his life he appears to have come up with no policy ideas at all - everything is a protest. Worse, the Labour party have decided to put up an even greater fool against him in the form of Owen Smith. he also has no policies or indeed, ideas or, sadly, charisma.

So now, after some usual technical and legalistic skulduggery (funny how the anarchist left is always so keen on using bureaucratic powers to get their way?), Corbyn is totally nailed on to win a second Labour leadership contest.

I can only guess at his plan, which must be to hang in there until for some unknown reason the Tories come a cropper and he magically becomes Prime Minister. Or maybe no, perhaps the UK descends into 1970's and worse style strikes and social disorder and there is some sort of left-wing Coup.

Anyway, this is all very unlikely indeed. The more pertinent, and hilarious, issue is what do the Labour moderates do. Their party is gone, soon they will face deselections and see the end of their rebellion. But my hunch is they don't have the cahoonas' to go full SDP2 and leave as they have no voter base to work with - trying to steal some of the Lib Dem's 8% does not look good and they HATE the working class who now vote UKIP (Emily Thornberry as the stand out example).

So they perhaps will resile to their fate and seek jobs at charities and such like or back in PR and Schools whence they came. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh. Key tip for next time, don't invite vampires into your house, it never ends well. At least they will have time to watch some movies.

The gaiety of the nation is ensured for at least 4 more year with Corbyn ensconced as leader of the opposition and that bit is at least good news for all.

What this means for politics in other parties in the UK, is for another post.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Trooble at UKIP Mill

The occasional glimpse of goings-on down UKIP way remind one of nothing so much as a particularly hyperactive and foetid Students Union.  How Michael Crick can bother himself to figure out what's happening is beyond me.  

Conventional wisdom is that it's all part of Theresa May's miraculous legacy: the only cohesive force she faces is the SNP.

But hang on: doesn't UKIP have a vital role over the coming few years - finishing off Corbyn's Labour in the North, and disciplining any back-sliding Tory MPs - ?  

One of the big lessons of the last 120 years of British politics is that we are (were?) naturally a two-party state.  If UKIP can be reckoned on to self-destruct (and they are evincing that rather effectively), one can see Owen Smith's vision rather clearly.  And indeed John McDonnell's ...  May rather needs these two and their respective camps to wreak their own acts of fratricide.

ND

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Funny story

In this ongoing debate we have here at Capitalists @ Work, we "youngsters" are often told that we are rich in gadgets and gizmos but poor in other (more important, according to the declinists) areas. I am still not completely sure about this, although I am sure the more friendly of our commenters will tell me I am totally wrong in the least pleasant way possible. Of course, my generation have fewer housing opportunities than some older folk, my input into this conversation has never denied that. There has been a massive property super-cycle, especially in London. London's success did decline post-war, with the population hitting rock-bottom in about 1983; after which it started its current surge. 

Anyway, I am also fairly sure that my generation and younger have other opportunities which the older did not have when they were young.

Apologies if you have heard this story before. Towards the tail-end of a two-week holiday to Japan, I was outside the Emperor's palace in Tokyo, taking a photo of it. This one, probably. 


An old-timer came up to us and started chatting amiably. He wanted to know where were were from, and was excited to learn that we were Brits. He said "you are using a Japanese camera!" and seemed to be very pleased about that. I mumbled something about there probably not being any British cameras these days, and weren't almost all the main brands Japanese? Anyway, he wasn't interested in the camera any more, he wanted to tell me his anecdote. He said "do you know how I know that the British are very rich?!". OK, now I am interested, because the whole time I had been in Japan I had been marvelling about how shiny and modern and clean and efficient everything was compared with old England. If you haven't been, Japan is what the future is going to look like (unless the future is like Brazil). Anyway. The chap told us that he used to work in an office building that overlooked the British embassy in Tokyo. He said "every day at 5.30, I see them coming outside and drinking gin and tonic in the garden! British so rich you only work until 5.30!".

So while I am sure that most of my age group and younger would like "More Housing" - after all, who wouldn't? - I think we do pretty well on other counts. Mostly we work in clean, safe environments. Most of us can at least vaguely direct where our careers go - we generally don't just lump it with whatever is available. We get plenty of paid leave. Flights to other continents are affordable and available. There are plenty of countries which are welcoming and interesting to visit. It is very common for people from ordinary backgrounds to go travelling for long periods if they want to. Brits go and work abroad on a scale which must surely dwarf that of my parents' generation, but not because the domestic economy is crap but because they want to.

It is not all entirely negative.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Let's make some money

 When its the school holidays my children are sometimes found in my workplace. Playing Ipad and drawing and watching TV.  Usually its auto default is to Sky News.

My boy, who is 7, asked,

 "Did that man just say he was going to print some money?"
"Yes..I think he did."
"Wow ..that is an awesome idea.."

And he set himself to work, following the best advice of the financial experts of the BOE.



He copied a tenner, and added a dose of inflation.

"This is Queen Elisabeth the 2. She owns all the money in the country"
"Great ..Who's that on the back?"
"That's Charles Darwin. He invented the turtle. And he's Santa's dad. Because he went to Christmas island. And you can tell because they have the same beard."

"I see .. And can we use this Killien pounds in the shops? To buy lots of things?"

"No..that would be a crazy idea. "

I hope you're taking note, Mr Carney.

Also ... I don't think I ever got my £10 back.

Plain Speaking in the FT - For Once

Newspapers in thrall to advertisers are very rarely a good source of writing on the failings of corporates.  The way the FT berated itself (after the event, of course) for having failed to finger the Enron thing brewing was pitiful to behold.

And I'm by no means a fan of the FT's Nick Butler: but for once he has written plainly and truthfully.
Nuclear safety ...  yeah, right
... the experience of Hinkley Point demonstrates that civil servants and ministers are not well equipped to negotiate complex commercial deals against corporate entities with highly developed skills who are able to employ every device, including slick PR techniques against them. On Hinkley the UK negotiators were rolled over.
There will be few projects as large in scale as this one but there are several — including HS2 and the third London airport — where huge amounts of money are at stake. The failure of the Hinkley negotiations, which is commonly acknowledged now in Whitehall, has encouraged the new leadership of the civil service in their desire to develop much higher levels of expertise in key disciplines cutting across their outdated 19th-century structure. They deserve complete support from Mrs May and her ministers. These skills are needed now more than ever because of Brexit ...
We could have done with a bit more of this three years ago - the Telegraph was the worst, seemingly a paid mouthpiece of EDF around that time  ("slick PR techniques ..." - yes, and totally unsubtle advertising cash).  But they've all come over from the Dark Side nowadays.  Better late than never ... 

"On Hinkley the UK negotiators were rolled over" - ain't that the truth.  And his Brexit point is the right macro-conclusion, too.

ND

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Helicopter money

Of course, the main news outlets will generally concentrate their reportage on the cut in the Bank of England base rate. It is easier to explain than the other policy changes announced today. There are three other measures which will probably have a bigger impact and which are much more interesting to talk about. First, the Bank is going to buy corporate bonds in the market. This is a super-charged version of QE because yields are generally higher than for gilts, and people are more likely to reinvest the cash into other higher-yielding assets. The Bank expects corporate bond buying to provide a stronger sugar rush than for gilt based QE.

Second, the Bank is going to provide cheap loans to banks to lend out to the private sector. The loans will be contingent on them being re-lent, so stockpiling should not happen. This could lower market interest rates.

Finally, more QE Classic. Are we returning to a world in which monetary and fiscal policy support each other? The government's borrowing costs should remain low for a bit longer and this should enable the Chancellor to announce some big infrastructure projects in the autumn.

I would favour Crossrail 3, perhaps running between Gatwick and Stansted via central London. This could open up Stansted's existing spare capacity as well as spur much-needed housing development in the  outer parts of London in the route. Also, maybe the required roads and rail projects to allow Heathrow to be expanded could be underwritten..

In the North, inter-city and regional rail could be expanded.

Your pet projects, valued readers?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Declinism



An extended quote from Robert Tombs' The English and Their History: The First Thirteen Centuries. I hope he will not object, especially if it comes with a recommendation to buy and read the whole thing.

...declinism, ignoring the experience of other countries, focuses on a deeply pessimistic view of postwar England's weakness contrasted with a grossly overblown image of its earlier power. Victorian hegemony, real though it was, always had its limits - there was something in the complaint that Britain had been a third-rate power with a great empire... 

The fact is the the power of the empire, real when it could be mobilised, had been mostly taken up by defending itself...
If we take a longer view, distribution of power and wealth in the modern world has been remarkably stable. When Britain emerged as a significant force, after the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, it was the smallest and yet most global of the world's half-dozen or so most powerful states, alongside China, India, Russia, Germany (the Holy Roman Empire) and France. It occupies a similar position three centuries later. The change in the world has not been the decline in Britain, but the post-1941 rise of America, which in wealth and military power outdistanced not only Britain, but every other state. 
Nor has England declined economically: by the late 1950s and 1960s it was of course richer than ever. The change has been that a few other countries have caught up. This is not a quibble, but a fundamental difference of analysis, as catching up with the pioneers is a normal feature of economic modernization, as developing countries attract foreign investment and import the latest technology. England remains, as in 1713, among the richest countries in the world - in 2008, among populous countries, the United Kingdom was second only to the United States in gross per capita income. 
Declinism has been our national narrative for several generations, a chorus of lamentation in a lucky country where life is safer, longer and more comfortable than ever in history. What would happen to our view of the past, and the present, if we abandoned this historical fit of the vapours? Surely it would permit a calmer, more rational analysis of our situation and our needs.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

#GoodTimes

AEP reports in the Telegraph that the world appears to be emerging from the doldrums. Money growth is healthy in the major currency zones. Global growth seems to be coming, just as plenty of people were concerned that the Brexit vote may damage confidence around the world.

At the same time as monetary growth takes off, the US and Europe are slackening off their public-sector "austerity" policies.

China, according to AEP, is pressing Go yet again, and putting a lower priorty on longer-term  structual reform. AEP is always worth noting especially on China issues, as he seems to have a better eye for what is happening there than some other leading commentators.

Japan is loosening again after its counter-productive fiscal retrenchment in 2014.

Oil prices are low and apparently staying low, as the US is now a swing producer able to extract at ever-lower marginal cost.

What does this mean for the UK? Well the timing could be perfect for the much delayed rebalancing of the UK economy. The pound's fall against major currencies and an uplift of general global demand could boost our overseas sales in a way that has been tough in recent years. We have already seen a boost to inward investment, and this ought to continue: the UK's attractiveness ought not be diminished by the Leave vote.

Inflation is low, and the panic price increases pencilled in by Project Fear do not seem to be materialising. Employment is strong. Money is getting cheaper.

All of this points to a potential decent couple of years ahead of us in Britain and elsewhere. 

Reasons to be cheerful, and perhaps some breathing space for our new government to start to address some of our entrenched and longer-term challenges such as housing, transport and education.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Copying the USA election

Following on from Blue Eyes and electoral methods, what would the UK look like under the United States system?

 

The USA has 50 states that are allocated electoral votes on a mostly by population system. The more populous the state, the higher number of electoral votes each state has. Each state totals up the votes and whichever candidate has the most votes, wins those electoral college votes.
Its FPTP with a twist. 

There are a number of anomalies with voting by district. And some underpopulated states such as Alaska and Hawaii are hugely over represented, but these minnows they still only have 3 votes per state. Once a hopeful presidential leader amasses 270 votes, they win. Unless its Al Gore.

The UK has 64.1 million people. Taking that as a basis each region of the UK has a number of people within each of the 9 English regions and the 3 of the nations that make up the UK. 
The South East region is the most populous with some  8,634,750 people. The smallest region is Northern Ireland with 1.8 million people.

 2015UKElectionMapEngland.svg

The UK has about 20% of the USA population. {which is pretty amazing if you think about it. The UK is around 60% of the size of California.  But has 1.5 times the population. Wyoming has 10% of the population of Scotland.}

Taking 20% of the total people of the USA x 20% gives {with some fiddling because I could only find 2008 data} and we have an electoral college of 106 to allocate. We add one because the USA got itself into a right mess by having an even number of votes.

107 with 54 needed to win.

 By Region - number of EC votes
South East - 15
London - 14
North West - 12
East of England - 11
West Midlands - 9
South West - 9
Yorkshire and the Humber - 9
Scotland - 9
East Midlands - 8
North East - 4
Wales - 4
Northern Ireland - 3


South East - 15 {con}
London - 14 {lab}
North West - 12 {lab}
East of England - 11 {con}
West Midlands - 9 {con}
South West - 9 {con}
Yorkshire and Humber - 9 {lab}
Scotland - 9 {snp}
East Midlands - 8 {con}
North East - 4 {lab}
Wales - 4 {lab}
Northern Ireland - 3 {dup}

Con - 52
Lab - 43
SNP - 9
DUP - 3

So Nothing much changes. The Tories need DUP to win. Labour need SNP and DUP to win. West Midlands is the only region likely to change from Con to Lab. Still not enough without SNP.

Under USA system that wouldn't happen anyway. If neither had more than 54 votes then each region would have one vote each to elect a Prime Minister. If it was 6 each then, I have no idea..

So what does this tell us?
Scotland and the rise of the SNP stops Labour winning.
London is growing faster than the South East. London has three times as many people as the North East does.

 Not a lot then..

Except we really, really, really don't need anything like 650 MPs.