Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - how was it for you?

This is the mean version. So if you are a Democratic, Liberal Remainer, look away now.

For everyone else, especially those who turned me from 'meh' about the referendum before the vote, to a true Brexiter after, with all their carry on,here is 2016.

Sorry lefties.

Just wasn't your year.



Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 New Year predictions review...

Here were the questions from last December....


1. Will there be a referendum on the Britain leaving the EU in 2016? YES!
2. Will Hilary Clinton be elected President of the USA? NO!
3. Will EU sanctions on Russia be Lifted? NO!
4. Will the oil price end up over $40 by the end of the year? YES!
5. Will Jeremy Corbyn still be leader of the Labour Party? YES!

Well, well no one person of 26 guess managed to get the right order. Luckily I did not answer myself. The bet I can say is I pretty well nailed the right issues at least!

The nearest two soothsayers were BE and Electro-Kevin...well done to you both!

 

 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Tax doesn't have to be taxing - a public service reminder from C@W



Good Capitalists obviously try to reduce their tax burden where legal (and morally appropriate). One easy way to do this is to file your tax return on time and avoid a surcharge! Back when Greg Hands MP was a fan of a small state and lower taxes (he once drove a steam-roller to the Tory party conference waving a placard demanding FLATTEN TAXES NOT THE ECONOMY!) he used to say that taxes should be paid all in one go just after Christmas, so people would be metaphorically writing their cheques straight after finishing the turkey. The idea was that it would make people notice how much they were really paying and maybe increase the democratic pressure for reductions. Ancient history, of course: they are all Butskellites now.

Anyway as is the annual tradition, the BBC recently ran a fun article, no doubt supplied with a neat press release from HMRC, revealing some of the excuses that have been given for late filing of tax returns - presumably hoping that the excuse would reduce the fine.

My personal favourite: "My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for 10 days."

I am sure that our esteemed readers have heard, or perhaps even used, excuses for not having done something they know they should have done. What is the best our readers have heard/used?

BE usually does his tax return early, as the "real time" PAYE system doesn't seem to be able to take into account his SIPP pension contributions, and he is invariably owed a refund by HMRC each year.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The turning points of 2016



http://bitcoinist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016-predictions-930x527.jpgWhat were the two key moments of 2016?

The two pivotal events that possibly tipped the balance one way or another. 
There were an awful number of events in 2016. It is going to be a historical year.

In the UK the key events that occupied the media and politicians, and so also the public, were;

The mass resignations of Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet. If events had gone just a little differently it is possible that the labour party might have split into factions.

The Independent became another casualty of the shrinking newspaper market. Much media talk of how could one their favourite papers could be so unpopular. The Indy was such a favourite that it continues to be treated as a serous print paper, even though it isn't. At the time it was speculated that whole groups of newspapers would follow and go online only. 

Terrorism was rampant. Bombs at Brussels airport.The Nice truck attack. German Christmas market. A host of failed plots. Any one of the weekly 'a number of people have been arrested in Bradford after the security services raided three properties..' could have been instead a tale of death and destruction in one of our city centres.

Brexit: It could, and, by all the predictions, should, have gone for Remain. But it didn't. 
Was it the bus? Was it the Gove / Johnson defections? The poor deal from the EU? The alleged Queen backs Brexit headline? The government's ever growing hysteria. Jo Cox's death? Did this event have any impact on the campaign as it was predicted to do?

The Trump election. What was the key moment in a long line of moments? The Emails? The FBI's unhelpful reopening of a closed case. The Pussygate scandal? Beyonce's intervention?

The Prime Minister's resignation{from his mad decision to become leader for Remain, against all the advice, including our own here}. And the following backstabbing of all candidates until only one woman was left standing?

The UKIP meltdown following the resignation of Nigel Farage? The lost opportunity to take on Labour in the power vacuum following the Brexit euphoria in northern seats coinciding with a pro-EU labour fighting its own anti-EU leader?

For me, the two moments that I thought showed something was up. The moment when it looked like the expected outcomes might not be as straightforward as it all seemed were these.






http://pbs.twimg.com/media/CaPm98kWYAEJ45i.png

The Sun, staunch conservative paper, showed that they weren't going to be backing the government on Remain. The Daily Mail was also very critical. The two biggest papers were going to be leavers.

Why this was pivotal, was at the time, the government and the PM thought they had done pretty well with their EU deal. They had campaigned hard and had won a number of concessions from all the EU leaders. The whole referendum campaign for Remain was built upon selling the deal that the EU could best be reformed from within. Cameron's team have all written at how surprised they were that the press was so very hostile to the hard won deal they had obtained on future in work benefits and in the future the slowing of child benefit being sent abroad.
https://www.xaniatube.com/uploads/thumbs/c039d06de-1.jpgIt shows just how unprepared they were for the reforms that people expected and what could actually be delivered. The response to their great deal of "is that it?" forced Remain to ditch EU reform and fall back almost solely on, 'Don't risk it..leap in the dark..' 
PROJECT FEAR II

 This one I wrote about on here as it occurred. Hillary said she wouldn't want people like Trump to be President and he said "Because you'd be in jail.'

The media at the time generally reported this as another reason why Trump shouldn't be President. He was not only an idiot. He was darned rude too!
At this debate Clinton was far the better performer. Far more assured. Far more in control throughout. But it also highlighted that she had absolubtely no credible response to why she had had, and then deleted, all those emails. It was so glaring that even though she still looked like a comfortable winner, it was clear she was extremely vulnerable on the issue of honesty and trust.
Within weeks, to the horror of the MSM, the 'lock her up' chanting began. . She never did resolve the email issue and in the final weeks it came back and bit her hard enough to knock her out.

Those are my two for 2016.

As you digest all the turkey and mince pies, tell us yours.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Blogging will be light(er)

No doubt we will manage a few posts next week but for the next 10 days I think our output, world events that need our comment notwithstanding, will be a little lighter.


Best wishes to all our readers and I hope you all manage to get at least a few days off with family and friends.



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Reading Assignment. Spoiler Alert - Not Festive

Time for a bit of theory to temper some of the heated comments that are flying around BTL recently here at C@W.  Ordinarily these things are for the Weekend Reading slot - but not this time, Scrooge, not this weekend.

Rather sobering, this review of an edifying and salutary thesis that links social media with some of the fundamental dynamics of society: inward-directed violence and how it is subliminated; sacrificial victims, scapegoating, monarchical regimes, monopolies, Trump, Twitter ...

Told you it wasn't for the weekend!

ND

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Terror in Berlin

It is very sad to see a Christmas market attacked in Germany, but we can expect little else from certifiable lunatics brainwashed with the crystal-meth of extreme Islamism.


Of course, it is sadly inevitable if you let one million refugee claimants in that some will turn out to be wrong-un's - worse still if you decide not to vet them at all.


The sadder part is with Schengen these people have been free to roam around Europe should they so want, as we saw with Brussels links to the Paris attacks. So no potentially all of Europe is infected with these few crazed terrorists - great leadership, Germany. #Sad!


And yet, amongst the carnage I can't ignore that whilst Germany is trying to come to terms with what has happened, their leaders are happy to keep suggesting that UK citizens might be expelled post-Brexit and can offer no guarantees; and nor should we vice versa despite our PM offering that deal a while ago to the EU. It was Merkel that said nein.


Does cynical nature of European politics knows no boundaries

Monday, 19 December 2016

RMT - DESTROY CAPITALISM

Well, in news to no one, the papers over the weekend have finally exposed what the RMT is up to with the Southern Rail strikes, here is The Times:


A militant union leader behind the rail strikes causing chaos for millions says unions are co-ordinating action to “bring down this bloody working-class-hating Tory government”.
Sean Hoyle, president of the RMT, declared that “rule No 1” for his union, whose members have held a string of strikes on the beleaguered Southern rail network, was to “strive to replace the capitalist system with a socialist order”, telling a meeting of hard-left activists last month, “if we all spit together we can drown the bastards".

(Note the terrible Grammar, in The Times....)


I don't get the impression that Mr Hoyle and myself would get on all that well, but you never know. The thing it makes me realise is how detached these people really are. The UK today is a long-way off my idea of a Capitalist paradise. We live in a highly-regulated, state-led, welfare based economy with a crazed socialist approach to money printing to boot.


In no way are Philip Hammond or Theresa May right-wing nutjobs either. They have taken large parts of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls' prescriptions for the Country and implemented them - as did David Cameron and George Osborne before them.


Only if you subscribe to the idea that Venezuela is a suitable economic model would you get to the place where the UK would be viewed as a 'hard right' country. Yet, to the left wing in this country this is where we are, it is why they elected someone like Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour party.


As amusing as this is, the effect on the Country is becoming a heavier burden. Strikes aplenty this week, the train services from the Sussex coast in meltdown for no real reason being the worst case. All to achieve nothing. The anger that this generates is something that the Left seem to thrive on - not seeing that the true backlash to their nihilism is the rise of UKIP and the abject surrender of the Labour Party.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

So help us God

Sajid Javid has said that he is warm to the idea that holders of public office (however that is defined: with 40% or so of the economy under direct state control, and 100% being regulated) should swear their allegiance to British Values before they are allowed to take up their position. This comes around every few years. And every few years people laugh at it, poke holes in the reasoning and then it goes away again. 

Unless an oath of allegiance is considered a binding contract that one could be held to have breached, then it seems fairly pointless. Will there be a new criminal offence of saying you tolerate the views of others when you don't really? The people who Mr Javid presumably wants to bar from having important responsibilities in public life are, one presumes, exactly the people who would have no problem making the required oath whether or not they agreed with a single bit of it. It would be seen simply as part of the "game". 

I have always seen oaths taken elsewhere as a sign of institutional weakness - of tin-pottery. The US President has to swear that he or she will uphold the Constitution. Cannot the Constitution uphold itself if the President tries to drive a coach and horses through it? How confident were the founding fathers that it would all stay upright? Not very, perhaps. 

I once had to sign a UK government form (it was pink, and asked all sorts of silly questions) with a declaration at the bottom that I would uphold the values of Parliamentary Democracy. As I was signing I wondered whether there weren't perfectly defensible viewpoints which might be contrary to that, which sensible people could hold without being terrorists. What happens if Parliament goes against a democratic choice, what do oath-takers do then? Will Mr Javid be making people swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen? That could exclude an awful lot of Liberal Democrats. Maybe that is the point.

And we haven't even got onto the question of what these British Values might be. Mr Javid says that he does not want to see a "government-approved, one-size-fits-all identity" where everyone "drinks tea, watches cricket and bobs up and down at the Last Night of the Proms". Which is lucky in a country where football is obviously the national sport.

One of the key British values which has stood the test of time is that of eccentricity and the tolerance for the eccentricity of others. Try incorporating that into an oath, Mr Javid.

"I, Blue Eyes, do swear and attest that I will uphold the British Values of fair play, hard work and an eye-wateringly expensive welfare state, of freedom of speech unless it offends anyone, and the right to be a little bit weird but not too weird. I will uphold the right of everyone to hold at least one petty grudge, to get apostrophes wrong every single bloody time, and to have no more than three topics which should not be discussed in front of them down the pub. So help me Beckham."

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Sacrifices of Paul Mason and Michael Sheen

This gave us a winter's evening laugh at Schloss Drew:
Michael Sheen to swap acting for activism against 'populist right'
It will be a big change for how people relate to me,’ says the actor who was galvanised by his hometown’s vote for Brexit ... “Once I’m in, I’m fully in, and this is big.  It will be a big change for how people relate to me” ... He has been based in Los Angeles for the past 14 years ... Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election put “massive urgency” into a decision to go home ... Port Talbot, which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in the June referendum – a result that initially left the actor “sad and frustrated” but then determined to fight back.  “How can I be most effective?” Sheen said.  “What am I going to do?” as he jabbed himself in the chest.
Sheen said he was not signed up for any future acting projects. 
Cause or effect, Michael?  Don't worry, people will know exactly how to *relate* to you.

In other news: having just joined Momentum, Paul Mason is threatening to leave!  [I am not making any of this up.]  Make yer bloody mind up, man!

ND

UPDATE:   h/t commenter Andrew Z - it may turn out the Sheen story is bollocks!  That's the Graun for you.  I look forward to Mason updating us on his part in the Momentum saga 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Innapropriate Christmas gifts

http://legacy.ezytees.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/greytescojumper.jpg

Well...we can't avoid it anymore . Christmas is here. Kids have finished and its the seven day shamble. Thursday and Friday have been disappointingly quiet. That either means that Monday will be unbelievably frantic...or its all over already.

So ..Christmas weekend comments please. BQ Industries has carried out our office poll of the most inappropriate or unwanted Christmas gifts that you have received or, worse, given out.

These aren't unwanted items. Or rubbish present or well meant crap such as a can of Harmony Hairspray or a tomato scented bath bomb from a small child. These are just ..well.. no one knows why anyone thought they might be suitable..

There is no doubt that men are particularly, indeed almost exclusively, insensitive to the desires of their spouses and girlfriends at this time of year. 
Struggling to think of anything whatsoever that their partner wears, uses, does, or says, men reach into the distant memory for something; anything that they can remember their loved one saying they ever wanted or needed.

And that's where the trouble starts.

Gifts for women
- A roof rack
- A hose for a vacuum cleaner
- A chopping board - {not a fancy one either - No Cox&Cox/White Company/Lakeland stuff here - all bog standard Asda/B&Q we are talking for all these items}
- A toilet roll holder - plastic.White with stick on pads. 
- Soap {again - just to reinforce here..its- not Jo Malone - we are talking Dove.}
- Sex toys {opened in front of the in-laws - classy}
- Plastic washing bin
- Ironing board cover
- incontinence pads.
- tea towels and dishcloths {legion stories abound} 
- Electric mop
- Floral, cardboard, desk tidy
- Bathroom scales
- Travel Iron {OK- that was me.}

Gifts For Men
- 200 flannels for wiping hands {like in an Indian restaurant}
- Gel Nails
- Pink foot exfoliator
- box of crackers
-  A javelin {he had no idea why.}

Anyone top that ?


Normalizing Mister Trump

As we know, the most horrifying prospect for all lib-lefties is that Trump and Brexit become *normalized* in everyday life and speech.  Not least, they fear they'll be prey to this themselves.

Well tough titty, chaps, because nothing gonna stop it happening.  Exhibit A:
Nicholas Stern:"Donald Trump may not be as bad for the environment as feared"
Exhibit B:
Brian Leiter: "Trump chooses retired Marine General Mattis as Secretary of Defense - I view this as a good development ... Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Trump's likely choice for Secretary of State ... a businessman and someone who is on friendly terms with Vladimir Putin growing out of past business dealings.  I view the latter as a positive ... I also note that when Tillerson was head of the Boy Scouts of America, he was instrumental in lifting the ban on openly gay Scouts participating."
This is heavy-duty coat-turning, because these people are *Intellectuals*, with serious public platforms upon which they perform to large audiences.  Leiter is a prominent and impeccably lib-lefty US philosophy professor (and prolific blogger), who before the US election wrote many times that Trump's candidature was preposterous and without doubt destined to fail, justly and ignominiously. ("Even though the malevolent narcissist Trump is going to lose the election in a few weeks ...").   I am guessing you know who Stern is.

And it's been all of - five weeks!  Lesser lefty mortals will also be normalizing furiously in their own little corners - because everyone always does (back to our friends the Vicar of Bray and the Common Man).  See, they never really believed Trump was Hitler, all along ...

ND

Thursday, 15 December 2016

End of the bond boom, mind your pension

The US has finally raised interest rates from a measly 0.5% to a paltry 0.75%.


As ever though with these things is it the direction of travel that matters. When Japan tried this after wrecking its economy of with excessive quantitative easing it realised that it could not longer raise rates fare before inhibiting any real growth. The Country has remained moribund ever since.


With the USA, there is more hope than Japan, the economy has several inflation generating activities (like shale oil and gas) which also boost growth at a low cost. If the Fed makes this rise stick then European Bonds and UK gilts are in for a sharp price drop.


In Europe there is no sign of a recovery similar to that of the US, bar the UK and Germany. The EU central bank is still pumping the QE poison merrily into the system in the hope that it will soothe all the ills. Like gambling addict, the result is the constant doubling down of all bets.


If you have a long-term pension it is possible to see this turn (which is immense after nearly 10 years of one way bets) as a positive in that lower bond prices beget higher yields. But if you bought those bonds at high prices your actual investment hit will be as bad or worse than any income accumulation.


Bizarrely, this will juice the stock market instead, which is already quite fully priced.


Reality needs to return to economic to try and save the Western world, that does not mean the road will not be bumpy, mind.



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

UK Unemployment at new unsustainabe low

So on the one hand, with UK unemployment dropping to 4.8% #despitebrexit, there is yet more amusing grist to our collective mill of laughing wildly at the idiotic remoaners who are spending so much time saying how stupid Liam Fox et al are; whilst being simultaneously wrong about every forecast and every prediction they have made for, er, well it starts to feel like forever...


For no real reason, here are the current unemployment rates across the EU:


Greece: 23%
Spain: 19%
Italy: 11.6%
France: 9.7%
EU: 8.3%
Germany: 4.1%


As we can see, the UK is the pure outlier here, only marginally behind Germany in the creating jobs stakes. A real basket case, though the basket in question may be more like a Harrods hamper.


There is a big however though, due to the nature of the modern economy, any unemployment rate under 5% is probably not that sustainable. It does suggest that there is strong pressure on labour.


Interestingly in the UK, we have still not seen that much upwards wage pressure, there maybe lots of reasons for this - such as illegal immigration is much higher than registered thus the jobless rate looks artificially low compared to people who really are competing for jobs.


Or the quality of jobs created is very low and thus even some wage pressure makes little difference to the overall numbers  (as compared to say, when Bankers were getting 5% pay rises on seven figure incomes in 2006, 20p an hour extra to your sprouts pickers is not so impactful at a macro level).


We need to know the answers to this as it will mean the future Government will have to consider how much immigration to allow  - undoubtedly on prima facie evidence it would appear from an economic standpoint that reducing immigration will reduce the growth capacity of the UK at this point. Of course, there is more to it than this and creating low wage jobs in the UK for people from Latvia is not really an economic model to be envied.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Inflation Horror, and Other Shocks to the System

Now we're in trouble.

In other news:
  • OPEC nudges oil price above $50, saves US shale industry
  • Trump's team asks 74 awkward questions of the US energy regulatory establishment
  • bottom drops out of high-end London mansion-market
  • bottom drops out of Labour Party
Discuss.

ND

Monday, 12 December 2016

#becausebrexit

#becausebrexit




The FT, a key read of  mine everyday for work, is nonetheless the most irritating paper to have to deal with, much like the Economist which is the only serious macro economics monthly, yet wrong about virtually everything, always.


Today the FT has led with the article below:


https://www.ft.com/content/37500b78-be0d-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080


It leads with companies expecting a downturn in business because of Brexit. If only they had looked back to the same time last year:


https://www.ft.com/content/db2c96c4-9d8b-11e5-b45d-4812f209f861


Here they had conjured the same sort of answers, only then 70% of Companies thought Brexit would be terrible. This year, 2016, we are down to 54% thinking it will be bad. So a big net improvement in sentiment overall.


Also last year only 2% thought it would be good for their company, the general view was it would be very bad economically. This year, they could only find one company that was actually looking to move its HQ abroad in the FTSE350. To counter this we already have several large companies moving their HQ's to the UK, BE wrote about McDonald's here just this last Friday gone.


As ever, the press as a whole are going with the #becausebrexit we are all screwed approach for 2017. Of course, actual insight is hard to match to the preferred ideological position, but no matter, as ever. And yet the mainstream media complain about fake news....


I have no doubt there will be a market bump at Article 50 or in anticipation of it. However, much like this year, it will prove short lived and will be an opportunity for trading not to be missed.


2017 will have plenty of interesting events, Trump's takeover, elections across Europe, continuing strife in the middle east and the slowdown in China. Brexit, as this year, will be one of many interesting and impactful stories.


But one thing I am sure about, it will still be blamed for everything, along with the horrid people like me who wanted it.....



Sunday, 11 December 2016

Boris Speaks Truth Shock: Redux

"The world's grown honest.  Then doomsday is near"  -  Hamlet

Dunno how many readers of Friday's post bothered with the i-player, but I have indeed transcribed the identified couple of Newsnight minutes for posterity.  (Obsessive?  If you like - it's just that I am genuinely interested in this *post-truth* thing, if thing it be.)

Seems that many of Friday's commenters broadly agree with the "isn't it refreshing" theme.  I have me doubts - and not just on Rutter's rather pedestrian grounds of it makes government a bit difficult.   Towards the end she says that more honesty (soi-disant) "would actually improve the quality of public debate enormously".  But - if we again ignore her mundane point - this conveniently overlooks the fact that Joe Voter ultimately likes his political leaders to look the part, to have thought things through, and to seem to be in charge, in control.  Turning up and indulging in a bit of "it's all very difficult", however commendably honest, is the Jimmy Carter trick and it don't work.  Honest flannelers - Corbyn take note, if you ever listen to anyone - will always suffer the same fate.
  
Some other comments of mine in square brackets.  It's a huge topic and this is just by way of an input, one among many that could be mustered.

ND
= = = = = =
Newsnight, 8 Dec 2016.  Emily Maitlis in the chair, Sean O'Grady (Inde) and Jill Rutter ("Institute for Government", whatever grandiose self-appointed conceit that may be).

Do recent events mean we have entered a new age? - Maitlis asks.

O'G:  People fairly obviously over the last year or more have got very tired of politicians mincing their words, not saying what they think; there was a lack of authenticity in political life, and I think what’s happened with the Brexit vote and Trump and what’s happening on the continent of Europe in some cases, for various reasons, and sometimes it’s the radical right, and sometimes it’s the radical left who benefit from this - people are looking for politicians who say what they mean, and mean what they say; ... and I think that if the politicians then choose to make a populist appeal, so much the better for them and they’re benefitting from it; and there’s a huge sort of global peasants’ revolt that’s happening at the moment 

M:  There’ll be plenty of support for that, won’t there?  A politician who sees it, says it as it is, and is admired for doing so.

R:   I think you really need to differentiate a bit between politicians and government ... I think Sean’s right – people do want politicians who are prepared not just to spout sort of ‘lines to take’ and things like that; but I think it’s a bit different when you’re talking about things like government and government positions ... No.10 have ... been spending the last 3 or 4 months clarifying a lot of their ministers – quite often a minister goes out and free-lances a bit and then ... No.10 says well that was their position, it wasn’t the government position.  It may be a considered view that actually it’s better to foment a bit of debate and there’s only one person who really authentically speaks for the government and that’s Theresa May, and everybody else is doing their own thing – but it does get a bit awkward, we’ve had one area, on Heathrow, where they formally suspended collective responsibility but I’m not quite sure if this is designed or accident ... What does Boris J do now? … stick with the BJ line - does he stick with the UK government line? 

O'G … What BJ has done is which is very important in terms of government is he’s brought ethics into foreign policy just like that, and nobody’s noticed, but we’ve now got a liberal foreign sec in effect operating an ethical foreign policy.  [Oh yeah?  I seem to recall the sainted Robin Cook trying that ...]

R … think about being on the receiving government, you’ve got somebody coming, are they speaking for the country for which they come or are they not? - and I think that’s where it gets really, really complicated.   So in a sense you’re almost devaluing a foreign secretary’s visit because effectively you’re saying it’s not the government. 

M:  … Theresa May says all those things in private to the Saudi government anyway, so all he’s doing is taking that out of the shadows, if you like, and putting it into the public sphere?

O'G … the point is, for 50, 60, 70 years diplomats, the Foreign Office, what people unkindly call the 'camel corps', those people have been doing quiet diplomacy, behind the scenes diplomacy, they’ve been talking and lobbying in secret things and then when they go to the banquets and so forth they are very polite: and at best, you have a coded message.   [Just 70 years?  Don't be wet - that's diplomacy since time began.] 

Well that’s not doing any good in Yemen, and BJ is completely right, everyone knows it, that there is a proxy war going on in Yemen between the Iranians and the Saudis and in other parts of the Middle East as well, and if we don’t call them out as BJ has done then you go along with that spin and you just get nowhere, and people suffer as a result ...  there wasn't anything that BJ said that was actually rude, he was just telling them what they know already, it is like telling the king he’s got a beard. 

R:  … if there’s sort of an explicit strategy, that you want to ... have a sort of pincer attack and the foreign secretary saying one sort of line and the PM taking a different line, and that’s agreed in advance, and they know, and the foreign secretary knows that the PM might distance herself slightly from him, then I think that’s fine.  If actually what you’re getting is two people sort of shooting off in slightly different directions, whatever they’re saying, privately behind closed doors, I think that makes for a policy incoherence, I don’t think it’s terribly helpful, I don’t think it helps advance British interests.

M:  Do you think he did it deliberately ..? 

R:  …  He’s relatively new to a very senior cabinet position.  As mayor of London it was actually OK to say things on your own account, in the same way actually as Donald Trump can say things on his own account. Once you’re a very senior government minister you are expected to be able to talk for the government … 

M:  On one level it’s just not very collegiate – he is used to being the BJ figure, is there a little bit of megalomania coming into this? 

O'G: … He’s someone who’s not necessarily a very good team player; it’s not helped by the fact he’s a journalist – we journos like to tell the truth every so often as you know, and I think that he’s not one of those people who is inclined to follow his leader always in every word. 

M:  … the bigger question is perhaps … bluntly, the world has failed … in the Middle East, it’s failed to solve a war, and diplomacy as we know it, doesn’t work – so, does something new need to happen, even if it comes from a strong statesman? 

R:  … I think there is a very good case for saying actually we need political leaders generally who are prepared much more to level and expose the real choices that they face and have a much more honest conversation, whether it’s on foreign policy or on domestic policy, with the population.  Whether actually the events of this year have shown that there’s a real public appetite for that or not, I’m not so sure I would read it necessarily that way, but I think there are lots of areas where there’s almost a sort of conspiracy of not asking difficult questions between the political class which means that actually there’s a divorce from reality and I think actually there’s a general move towards having more debates in public and actually being prepared to admit you don’t know things, that some things are difficult, that sometimes you’ll make the wrong choice, would actually improve the quality of public debate enormously.  I think that’s different though from shooting off in different directions because it seems like a good thing to say at the time, I don’t know whether that’s what he was doing or not, but I don’t think you can really run government on that basis.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

#McBrexit



Terrible news: McDonald's is moving its non-US HQ to the UK. So not only will the original global corporation and face of American cultural imperialism be bringing yet more of its disappointing beef patties and sugary bread to our shores, it will bring misery to those who said that business would collapse moments after a vote for Leave was announced. George Osborne even went as far as predicting that bankers would be fired within hours of a Leave vote being declared. I wonder if he experiences embarrassment?

Sorer still are those who said that a Remain vote was vital for our service sector as a single EU market in services was just around the corner, meaning that Britain would be able to take its advantages and multiply them as we conquered formerly-protected French and German professionals. Services have been enjoying their strongest growth in a decade. Maybe David Cameron's "bomb" was a transcription error.

Having decided to leave dodgy old Luxembourg, McDs could have gone anywhere: Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam and so on.  They will have wanted two main things: a place where contracts are readily made and enforced and a reasonable tax regime. Their business must surely be based hugely on legal rights and contracts. After all, the megacorp itself runs very few actual restaurants. The UK is therefore a good place to be based because our lawyers are for the most part excellent, our courts are trusted and we have competitive corporate tax rates. 

We can of course do much better. The courts could be more efficient and more available to small firms. Our tax rates could be simpler and lower. We could make sure that more people have the education and skills to take advantage of the opportunities that the McDonald's and the Facebooks and the Googles can offer. Now would be a good time to revisit our competition regime.

If other awful reports are to be believed it seems as though the trade deficit has been narrowing due to a nasty combination of higher exports and lower imports. Who would have predicted that? Worse still, the boom in export orders appears to be coming from non-EU countries. How can this be?

So the bits of the economy which have been doing pretty well "#DespiteBrexit" are also the bits which aren't dependent on the single market and the customs union. Our non-EU exports come under either bog-standard WTO rules and tariffs (e.g. UK-USA) or an existing EU-third-party agreement (e.g. EU-Korea). The word on the street is that the government is taking advantage of the hiatus in anything actually happening to make exactly the sort of continuity agreements with WTO members that we were told were utterly impossible by certain groups just a few months ago. Meanwhile services were never properly IN the single market, so how can they really be more OUT after we leave it? Are the French going to ban their firms from entering into contracts with British providers? It would be fun to watch them try.

So in summary:

- A more sensibly-priced pound is boosting trade and rebalancing the economy, especially towards countries with which there will be at worst no change in trading arrangements when we Leave.

- The sector which forms the bulk of our economy is growing at its fastest rate in years.

- International companies are choosing to relocate to Britain because of the rock solid reputation of our institutions, our skills base and our competitive tax system.

- All the bankers are relocating to Paris, which is where they are all from originally anyway, solving London's housing crisis and enabling Canary Wharf to be turned into a theme park.

This Brexit thing SUCKS. What's for lunch?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Slapping Down Boris

Boris pass, or Boris arse?  Some interesting issues here, as Boris feels able to blurt his opinions on the Middle East at exactly the time the boss is making the rounds, and May feels able to 'slap down' (but not fire - yet) her foreign secretary.  To clear away some of the undergrowth first:
  • In all walks of life most people, even of ordinary intelligence, quickly figure out the broad lines of what is considered sensitive / unsayable / taboo in whatever regime they are labouring under (see, for example, the Common Man in A Man for All Seasons, not to mention the Vicar of Bray, sir) and speak / don't speak accordingly.  It's called basic survival. 
  • Buffoonery notwithstanding, there's always been an underlying theme that Boris is incredibly ambitious, ruthless and pretty clever, to boot.  Under this thesis, He Knew What He Was Saying: and as such, we wonder whether he is on manoeuvres.  Seems unlikely he thinks he can put the skids under May any time soon; so maybe he's discovered being foreign secretary isn't as much fun as he throught, and being sacked would be quite congenial to him?
  • Or maybe he's just an incontinent blurter, and hasn't previously been in roles where this matters.
  • Either way, there's at least the possibility he's not long for the the world of *diplomacy*.
All that said, there was an interesting exchange on Newsnight yesterday (not something you catch me saying - or indeed watching - very often).  It will be here on i-player for a couple of weeks.  There's an interview with some Yemeni politician, then (starting @ 14 minutes in) with a run-of-the-mill political correspondent, who suggests the Boris camp (a) accepts the phrase 'puppeteering' may have been a bit OTT and (b) believes we are in a new world in which saying truthful stuff is OK.

The good bit follows that: two worthies come into the studio to dilate on point (b), which they do quite intelligently (starts 16:20).  The obvious point is made first - sensibly, and at some length - that it isn't easy to run a ship in international waters when the admiral is publicly stating that the captain's sayings from the bridge are not to be heeded.

Then they discuss the 'truth' thing.  These days many people seem to think we live in a 'post-truth' world - indeed, that's the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year.  And here are commentators musing over whether actually there is a new premium on senior politicians saying the unsayable, and opening up debates where heretofor it had generally been understood politicians should tiptoe around without saying things everyone knows to be the case.

This seems so implausible that I find the topic irresistable.  Au fond, there are some quite philosophical themes here.  Anyhow, have a listen.  Give the ephemeral nature of i-player, if I have a bit of time over the weekend I may even transcribe some of the best bits for blog-posterity.

ND

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A post where I worry for remainers...just a little.

There has been recently the odd article in the UK press where many of the people who voted Remain seem to be moving on to the new stage of acceptance. Not of course with still pouring bile over those who voted Leave, but still, progress.


However, now they have a touch more clarity to their anger they have started to piece together the real puzzle. The EU is a wounded animal, not a rational actor, it is also the sum of its parts and not a monolithic entity. Many of those parts now hate the UK, indeed they have to for their own electoral survival (see Dutch Prime Minister comments of any time in the past 3 months).


These types have appointed Michel Barnier to lead the Brexit negotiation. He has already made it clear there is no negotiation. The UK Government knows this and is preparing as such, of course they have to make noises to keep the Lib Dems and media people happy. The real plan is to wait and hope for rapid political change in Europe during 2017


Some of these remain types then mis-interpret this charade as the Government not having a plan, of they do, but it will be MASSIVELY UNPOPULAR with the remainers, so they pretend not to for now. They can worry about that battle later.


However, at this point the remainers are going to be very sad indeed because Brexit will mean Brexit and that will be that. Discussions will be around the real core issues of whether people can stay in the Country, not what level of access we have to the customs union etc.


To date, most remainers have been happily convincing themselves that all will be fine, maybe we won't even leave etc. Now they are seeing the EU won't allow this as an option and the Referendum is going to mean Brexit.


How ironic, they thought PM May was mindless with her "Brexit means" Brexit tautology - when in fact she was being very clear and honest. I hope they cope with this without too much rioting, but I have my doubts.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Momentum Lost: An Attack of the Trots

Oh dear.  Momentum seemed to hold so much idealistic promise - a spontaneous mass movement tapping directly and constructively into the angst of hundreds of thousands of social-media-savvy young people.
"Momentum has been imbued with meaning and significance above and beyond that of any other left-wing group or campaign. We haven’t only invested time and energy in Momentum, we’ve invested hopes, dreams and visions for the future in it. Most important for many of us was the expectation of “a new kind of politics”, a term which now receives mockery and laughter from both the right and the left. We wanted “straight-talking, honest politics” which put an end to the jargon-laden, focus-group-speak that Tony Blair propagated so well. But we also wanted “a kinder, gentler politics” — Momentum was to be a group built on conciliatory, positive, outward-looking debate, which would be reflected in the way we treated each other, and our opponents... At a local level, many Momentum groups have flourished — delivering political education workshops, running foodbanks, organising rallies, street-stalls and phone-banks during the leadership campaign and getting left-wing people elected to key positions in their local Constituency Labour Parties."
Not only was it going to be, well, wonderful, it was going to be (a) Corbyn's praetorian guard ("we delivered a resounding 61.8% mandate for Jeremy in the Labour leadership election"); and (b) in the longer run, McDonnell's vehicle for an extra-parliamentary Marxist rising.

And then the Trots turned up.   Bastards!   They've wrecked it, ensuring it is run by ruthless warring cliques instead of via 'MxV', a clever web-based OMOV system the Momentum tecchies have hatched.  And now it all comes down to a straight fight over who gets control of the database of members and supporters.

Funnily enough, this is probably meat and drink to Corbyn himself, who has been swimming happily in foetid, Trot-infested waters for decades.  But whatever will Paul Mason, their ultra-high-profile recent recruit, make of it?  Actually, since 2009 he's seen it so many times before in various countries around the world, I can't imagine he's at all surprised.

Ah well, back to playing World of Warcraft in the bedsit.

ND

Monday, 5 December 2016

Italy continues Populist trend

Whatever you think, Bepe Grillo and his Cinque Stella movement are utterly nuts.


They are in origination closer to the Monster Raving Loony Party than UKIP.


With success, they have moved to have some actual policies which are suitably anti-elitist. Leave the Euro etc. All in good order really. Even better, the EU approach of appointing PM's from Berlin and Brussels has been proven a failure, hopefully this pathetic experiment will not be re-tried for the sake of the poor countries subjected to it.


Italy itself remains ungovernable, split into regions and hampered by the populace happily ignoring nasty things likes rules, regulations and taxes (makes it a great Country, I love visiting!).


For the UK, the May Brexit plan is perhaps working out. Fillon or Le Pen, Grillo or Berlusconi, the people in charge of the EU will be markedly more friendly to the UK next year. Merkel will be more isolated - though looking at her history this won't bother her much.


Meanwhile, still trying to find the most leveraged way to short these Italian banks....

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Reasons for Brexit: No.94

No votes for oiks
From my extremely chilly vantage point in the Netherlands (near the coast, wind from straight across the North Sea), I am much warmed to read this ingenious new reason for the Brexit result:

- schools in the north of England are such crap, it causes Northerners to vote that way!

So says Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of OFSTED: and he should know.  If only they weren't all so damnably ignorant, they'd have seen the light.  OK, it's a tiny bit more nuanced than that ... but you can see the way this one is going when Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee get hold of it - and not before time.  Three B's at A-level before you get the vote!  And at least one of them to be in either Media Studies or Applied Marxist Economics.

Public schoolboys to get three votes, if you ask me.

Preparing the young gentlemen for their public responsibilities
ND

Friday, 2 December 2016

Richmond Park: A victory for the Remoaners

http://thetory.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Lib-Dems-whining-here-300px.jpgA victory for Remain in the most prosperous, middle/upper class, media working, actor employing, gap year taking, remain voting, long term liberal leaning constituency in the land, is still a significant victory.

Tempting as it is to suggest that this result is the equivalent of a red rosette on a donkey in the North East, it actually isn't.

The Liberal Democrats received a very deserved and painful disemboweling at the last election. The former coalition partner, taking the Mussolini role in the Tories electoral pact of steel, had lied its way into power, and paid the price for those very public lies that it made directly to its own supporters. Reduced to just 8 MPs the Liberal's have been the irrelevance they should have always been. Labour-lite for wealthy social conscience types.

However, just a few years ago there was {wildly excited, breathless media} talk of Nick Clegg being Prime Minister. If you recall much of that talk was based on a labour meltdown that didn't really happen.

The Richmond win is significant for the Liberals because it will obviously re-energise them. Will show that their ignored leader can win victories. They overturned a massive majority of a very popular local MP. And, despite the Democrats now claiming that wasn't totally the case, they won because of BREXIT.

The importance of this, apart from adding an additional Remainer MP to Parliament, is that it does show the LDs have found their Iraq War 2 moment. Tim Farron took the decision to not just stick with the usual Liberal Euro-Lovein, but to also suggest that Brexit can stopped.

Some of his advisers no doubt warned him that with the vast majority of England and Wales wanting out, it would be limiting to try and channel a path back to something noticeable that really only exists in labour leaning cities. That being a protest party will only allow them to scoop up protest votes. 


Farron has realised none of that matters. What matters for him and his sandalistas, is survival. Brexit has given them a path back from the mountain retreats to the village plains. It doesn't even matter if his message is the impossible contradiction of remaining in the union while being out of it. The deluded notion that the only a soft Brexit is acceptable to the British people. 
It doesn't matter a jot if the Tories push on with Brexit while Labour ignore it, leaving the Lib Dems to fight an ever lonelier rearguard action as the time until A50 ticks down.

Winning isn't important. 
Stopping Brexit, isn't important.
Delaying Brexit, ultimately, isn't important
Campaigning, for truth, justice and the European way, is. 

Anyone unhappy with a leave decision, outside of Scotland, can look to the Liberals.

Hang on to your Local Education identity lanyard...The protest party is back.



Thursday, 1 December 2016

Capitalists are busy

Mistress money is taking her toll at the moment...will be back in action in a day or two if you are wondering....