Thursday 29 June 2017

Apparently now even the Tories say austerity policy is dead


..very unpopular this austerity lark, so it is to be binned for a small splurge of spending instead.

 Look at the numbers though - Austerity was begun in 2010 just after the election May.

'tis a funny old world.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

TRESemmé: Professional and affordable.

Related imageI'm usually last man standing, backing our people.

I was the one saying 'Sven-Göran Eriksson was the best England manager we have had for years.' He lost only 5 competitive games. his popularity had declined when England inexplicably failed to win the world cup in 2002. But not for me. I still backed him. 

Even when  Eriksson's England team lost a World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland 1–0, the first time that England had lost to that team since 1972, it was a 'don't panic' message from me.

 So, I was the almost loan voice in the UK still suggesting many years after it was  acceptable, to stick with Ericksson. That was despite two press attempts to remove him. One that only a rumoured squad strike prevented. But I still thought, correctly as it turned out, that a replacement would do no better. Probably even worse.

With Hodgson, I was concerned from day one. He'd had a good season, for sure. And been steady enough for decades. But was that really enough? A safe appointment ? 
He certainly stated well enough. Win upon win. So benefit of the Quango doubt given again.
 But he didn't face any real tests. It was all very easy. Easy qualifiers in easy groups with easy friendlies. Looking much better than perhaps he was.
Still, why change a winning team? Even if it was a mixture of those past their prime and those too inexperienced to be relied upon.

Same with Dave Cameron. Long after it became apparent he wasn't going to win us the world cup either, I was personally still suggesting he was better than whoever else was available. He may have had only an extra time win against the Broons, and a 1-0 against the Miliband, it was still better than expected. And the performances overall were solid enough.

But he went, with 'good riddance' from the many ringing in his ears.
 I would have preferred Johnson to succeed him. Even with his enourmous baggage train. And the rift his premiership would have brought. i thought better to have the war during the actual war. Rather than an insurgency of Remain for years and years.
But Boris managed to knife everyone. Including himself. And, if the Shipman book is correct, largely through lack of attention to detail, carelessness, a poor team around him and a large slice of bad luck.

So, TRESemmé it was. She was given the Quango 'benefit of the doubt'. But others on here were not at all convinced. She may have been the best of a bad bunch, but that didn't make her good. Just, less bad.
                                                Theresa May. Tessa May.

With May, 10 months after her rise to the top, I already think she should be gone as soon as it is practically possible. No replacement could do as badly as she has done. She hasn't got the benefit of the doubt.
Neither Johnson nor Gove would have lost a majority. Not Davis. Not even the, for some baffling reason, hotly tipped Rudd. Not Hammond and not even lightweight Leadsom would have lost the majority. Not even 'Chancer' Fox.

She was playing a final match, against Corbyn, for a place at the Euros. 


 That means a solid 2-0 expected to see her through.
A 5-0 against such poor and part time opposition, was wildly predicted by the press.
The fans would have been happy with a good 3-1 to raise the spirits for the coming tournament.

One-Nil would have done in reality. Just to get to the actual upcoming event.

Instead we got a dismal 0-0. 

And even that wasn't the whole story. Players injured. Players sent off. Red cards awarded. A dressing room split. A team line-up that baffled everyone. Star players left on the bench. No understanding of the opponents strengths and weaknesses. Players playing out of position. No tactical sense of how to beat the opposition. 
No plan B, when plan A started to go wrong. Just a long ball up to the front and a hope somehow that it goes in. 
And a very worrying feeling, that they might be weak and inferior opposition, but they have turned up to win. And we haven't.

When responding after the game she revealed she hadn't even brought her regular back room staff along for this crucial match. Instead she was using a new strategy for the election. Formulated in complete secrecy and never tried on the training grounds. By her two closest and youngest advisers.

You can't win anything with kids.

History to May's Rescue

We learn that May told her MPs: "I got us into this mess, and I'm going to get us out of it".  I even take a tiny crumb of comfort from her use of this phrase because it's appropriate, modestly-couched fighting talk - a line that (I assume) was fed to her by someone with half a brain.  If there's one thing she can do, it is pulling herself together, head-girl style, with an evident sense of duty, a straight back and a clear delivery of a prepared line.

The right wing commentariat has been replete with five-point plans for her (we've already cited Lilico's), not many of which go beyond statement of the obvious, nor count as much of a contribution towards a proper strategy.  The much-lauded Gavin Barwell might prove to be a fair choice as May's Chief of Staff: he's not a bad mini-strategist.  (Equally, he might be out on his ear soon if the tower-block fire-risk fiasco is laid at his door.)

The essence of her strategy (or, the Tory's, as you prefer) must be: play for time.  Playing for time always seems lame, almost sordid in an intellectual sense: where's the creativity in that?  But it has its place in the armoury of off-the-peg tactics and strategies - and isn't always trivial to execute.  (Let's see them get through the summer without serious riots ...)

Meanwhile, some more exalted strategising can take place, to which end it's worth considering some real-life cases of leaders / regimes / etc who seemed down-and-out, but made it through - if not triumphantly, then at least in a functional sort of way - to win out in the end.

I propose to start a collection of interesting historical precedents, and invite readers to add their own in the comments: the more diverse, the better.  Obviously any 'precedent' needs to be examined carefully for false analogies: history doesn't repeat itself, it only rhymes. 

But some rhymes are very compelling.  To start the ball rolling, here are three I made earlier, in chron order.

1.  The Jacobite Rebellion of '45

In pursuit of full-scale regime-change, Bonnie Prince Charlie made it as far as Derby with his Scottish army, a far deeper incursion than anyone had foreseen.  Despite clear numerical superiority, many in England were wetting themselves - an outright panic.  Still, it all came to a halt, then a retreat, then a massacre - the 'predictable' outcome to such a romantic, ill-conceived venture, despite how it looked for a brief moment.

2.  Stalin in 1941

Operation Barbarossa took Stalin utterly by surprise.  For days, nothing was heard from him, and rumours abounded he'd fled Moscow in ignominy.  He had been taken for a fool, proved to be strategically inept, and was in genuine, serious peril.  So it seems likely he had some very bad nights.  But after a bit he got a grip, stayed at the helm ... and we all know the rest.  

3.  Saddam in 1991

The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had gone like a dream, and Saddam commanded one of the two largest battle-tested armies in the world (the only other one being Iran's).  But he hadn't reckoned on the American response, and by January 1991 was looking down the barrels of quite a few guns.  Even then, he had a few tricks up his sleeve: for example, on the first day of the air war (Desert Storm) he shipped his air force to Iranian airfields.  (Sitting in an Allied HQ at the time, let me tell you, no-one saw that coming ...)  But in due course his army was swept from the field, and things can't have looked great by the time the last grain of Kuwaiti sand had been prised from his grasp.

But he was still in power 12 years later ...

= = = = = = = = = =

History is replete with stories of these kinds.  One of our Anon's has already suggested Alfred the Great.  So - your further suggestions below, please.


Monday 26 June 2017

DUP agree simple deal for Government

So, time to reflect on the DUP-Tory negotiations.

Much harder this time round than 2010 when Clegg and Cameron were clearly such bossom buddies (with hindsight, easily could have swapped roles with one another, so close were they politically).

This time the DUP sensed their chance against a weakened Prime Minister and came up with a very long list of demands, for a party that is not strictly needed to keep the Government in power.

This then drew 2 weeks of avid criticism of May (remember, I was not a fan originally and have sadly seen my view of her come to pass) and her inability to negotiate even this.

The first rule of negotiation though, is to negotiate, to stay at the table. Not to strop off like a child or say 'no deal' like the yanks do all the time. This achieves little. What actually works is patiently sitting there, hearing the otherside out, whilst making it clear you can't give them much but still want a deal.

This takes time, in this case 2 weeks, eventually if your position is sound and a deal makes sense for both parties, then it is done on reasonable terms. Even when one side started out with a hard bargaining position.

So to today, where the DUP have won basically a tiny pork barrel and concession of some policies the Tory's did not want to implement anyway (again, good negotiation tactic to offer the easy giveaways up).

So on balance I would give this deal a good 7/10 - the main drawback being the awkward handling a the beginning causing a longer delay than necessary - but the right answer in the end.

It does not bode too badly for Brexit then, not that you will read that in the mainstream media currently.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Camden council. Wise decisions or blind panic?

More than 700 flats in tower blocks on an estate in the Swiss Cottage area of north-west London have been evacuated because of fire safety concerns.
Camden Council said people in four towers on the Chalcots estate were moved for "urgent fire safety works".
The council added it was booking hotels but around 100 residents have spent the night on air beds in a leisure centre.The estate's cladding is similar to Grenfell Tower in west London, where a fire is feared to have killed 79.
BBc Website.

Anyone who deals with any building or safety issues in the UK faces this dilemma. 
If you discover something is dangerous you must act. A tower block that now appears to be clad in a material that is a composite of fireworks. Phosphorus. Gunpowder. Petrol and BBQ lighters can not be considered a safe place to house people. And so the council are removing the people to alternative locations.

That this looks more like panic than action is they have not prepared. 270 rooms were rented in a hotel. And space made at a leisure centre and another building.  5 blocks were originally told to evacuate, now since reduced to 4. From the reports it appears the council decided to act as soon as the fire service said they could not guarantee residents safety. A question Camden Council must have demanded an answer too. 
The fire service report came late in the day and the evacuation began in the evening. Some resident had no idea what was happening and had only heard about from the news on TV.

 Taxis were being hired to transport people. Taxi drivers not told why. Not told that residents were coming with everything they own. Including pets and cots and all manner of personal items. Taxi drivers [heard this on the radio] were eventually paid by a council official from her own credit card as there was no method of payment available for the council to pay the cabbies.

This is obviously a really severe issue for the council. If the fire service says no, they don't have a lot of choice. 
Personally I have never known the fire service to give a guarantee of safety. They used to do a compliance check and a safety of equipment check. And when you joked 'We are all safe now then?' they always said "No building is ever safe, sir. You are legal. That's all."

The blocks have been there for years and years. Not burning down. They were happy to leave the residents in place whilst the fire service carried out checks. Nothing has happened since the tragedy at Grenfell on 14th June and now, ten days later. If the building was likely to kill all its occupants it should have been evacuated the same day, or soon as.
Could not the council have waited until it had booked all the necessary hotel rooms. Informed the residents by meetings. Explained the procedure and the reasons. Arranged buses. Explained the process of works being carried out and a timetable for eviction and return. 
And have some cash ready to dish out for the occupants.

How much extra time would that take? Another 24 hours? 

The reason  it looks more like panic than reaction is that once the fire service reports the council is now the body responsible for ensuring the safety of the occupants. And they wanted to ensure they had acted. Because if a fire did break out and hundreds died, this would be a 'Police Chief Brodie, You knew and never closed the beaches', slap in the face moment. Followed by criminal prosecutions.

Residents have reported there have already been fires in the block and it wasn't a problem. 
Some 80 people have refused to leave and are now being given eviction notices to remove them against their will. 

 "Did the council do the right thing?"

Council bosses in Camden are on the £150-£200,000 a year pay deals. Their job is to manage.

Could they not have organised 5 fire extinguishers for each flat and training on their use? 
Could they have delivered respirators, fire alarms, electric warning panels monitored from within the building to all residents? Monitored by a trained, round the clock, fire crew from the London fire brigade. Who would monitor the building inside and out at all times? 
There is an issue of the gas pipes. Could that not be turned off until the building was made safe?
Could the bottom floors [whatever number the fire service can safely manage to reach people from, up to six stories I guess] retain their tenants?
And I'm sure other ideas too. Even doing some of these ideas just for the time it took to arrange proper accommodation would have been a way of managing.

The council cannot really be blamed here. They have been told the news and it would take supreme courage and confidence to not just remove everyone immediately. 
That is the UK today. The actual likely percentage of a risk occurring {which is mostly how health and safety is measured}  is irrelevant when considering the risk of it actually occurring and the consequences of it happening. To you. The decision maker. And your decisions being judged.

Safer by far to opt for the quickest, if not the best, response.

Retail, which is my area, is subject to the most stringent and costly fire safety regulations imaginable.

Every workplace and shop in the country, by law, must have a fire extinguisher. Most have a minimum of 3.
Depending on age,and size, smoke detectors are fitted. And sprinklers. And regular checks and fire evacuations are required.

On any shopping centre built since the 1990s there will be multiple exits. Shopping centres will contain many hundreds if not thousands of people so fire and evacuation are a daily concern. The average shopping centre has 100 retail units. Each of those will have one or two fire exits in addition to the door the public use to enter. Those fire exits lead to backstage corridor areas that will equally have many different exits to the outside. Human activated break glass  fire alarms are fitted throughout. Even though there are hundreds of smoke detectors that automatically activate and report a fire to the monitored fire control room. Fire hoses and axes are fitted too, in addition to automatic sprinklers. 

No rubbish or equipment of any kind is ever permitted to block corridors or fire exits. Even the smallest shop must keep its fire exit clear at all times. Night or day. A pain for retailers on delivery days. All rubbish is in one area and is managed daily. There is tons of cardboard and paper every day in a shopping centre. It is squashed and removed each day.

Shops have fire curtains fitted at huge expense as standard. These automatically drop down from the ceiling of the open entrances {shops don't really have doors  anymore in shopping centres} to head height usually, so people can pass underneath.
The smoke is trapped by the curtain for a period. And flames running along a ceiling would be too.
All areas have back up lighting. Emergency lighting, strips, flashes and everything written is in reflective  glow in the dark, so can be read. 

The fire alarms sound continuously. With the public address issuing a calm but firm, 'Do not be alarmed. But please calmly make your way to the nearest exit." 
Huge smoke sucking ventilators are on the roof to remove the toxic killer smoke from the building and push it outside. The security are also trained in basic firefighting and can assist in a small blaze. Though their main task is evacuation and containment.
Every door is fire proof. The main ones are automatically activated by a fire alert to close, as during the day they would be open.  At night, all doors in all shops are closed.

A full fire evacuation is usually complete in under five minutes. That's the results from unannounced checks sprung on unprepared retailers and from general evacuations when the system has just gone off on one by itself.  The whole system is automatically linked to the fire station who attend always unless a false alarm is phoned through from the control centre. 

That's pretty good. But then the entire building from its inception has been designed with an eye to containing fire. Removing people quickly and safely, and allowing firefighters to tackle a blaze. 

On many newer centres and outdoor centres and high streets there is a linked system whereby a fire alert in one shop triggers an alert to the neighbouring shops to evacuate too. Air conditioning units automatically shut down. Lights over exits automatically come on. The floor lights pointing the way to an exit illuminate automatically too.

As far as I am aware there have been zero deaths in shopping centres in the UK despite them being made and filled almost entirely of glass and plastic.

I cannot conceive of a reason, bar the obvious one that in the private sector, its them footing the bill, why public access buildings have an unbelievable level of fire regulation whilst domestic buildings do not.

Thursday 22 June 2017

Gas Storage: Rough Old Business

One of our esteemed Anon's asked what's up with Centrica closing down the Rough storage facility.  It wasn't a complete bolt from the blue.  But it's not small !  Rough represents getting on for 75% of UK's gas storage inventory - though a smaller % of total deliverability from storage, because Rough is a slow old beast and can't pump out very fast.  The new generation of 'fast cycle' facilities are smaller but can fill and empty in a couple of weeks, vs Rough which more or less took all summer to fill up, then months to blow down in winter.  'Seasonal storage' in the terms of the trade.  (Rough trade, geddit?)

Well, it used to be ...            graphic from Centrica

I wrote about some of this at fair length a few years ago when M.Fallon called Centrica's bluff and declined to subsidise them to build a new one.  So they didn't.  It was unusual for a politician to spurn a request of that sort in 2013, and it's even more unusual these days.  No-one builds a power station of any kind today without public money (via electricity consumers) being sent their way.

Rough was always an artificial thing, built by the old BG in the early 80's - the closing days of their monopoly, when they could just pass through the costs.   It's very debatable whether it was needed then: but they just did it anyway - because they could.  Engineers love building things.

Seasonal storage is not much wanted these days either - the spread between summer and winter wholesale gas prices is at an all-time low, which signals as much.  It's one of the reasons Centrica can't justify restoring Rough to health.  That and the one-off revenues (half a billion quid over a few years) they will make as they blow down the rather substantial amount of 'cushion gas' for the last time - the opposite dynamic to most offshore field abandonments, which only cost money and are therefore typically put off as long as possible.

How will we cope in winter?  We nearly found out in March a few years back when Rough temporarily conked out during a cold spell.  Extra LNG cargos should do the trick: we have very substantial LNG regas facilities in the UK - built by Mr Market Mechanism between 2000-2010 with narry a subsidy in sight - just a bunch of companies willing to follow through on the obvious fact that UK gas production started its terminal decline at the start of the century.  Glory be.  One of the great examples of the market being left to run its course that I often like to cite.  (It helps that regas is really cheap and quick to build.)

Come that freezing March month, and it may not be cheap in the spot market, though ...  then you find out who's hedged and who's shorts are dangerously exposed.  Chilly, it can be.  And of course if our good friends in Qatar are still in bother, well, hmmm.


Wednesday 21 June 2017

is an empty Queen's Speech the best sort anyway?

There is certainly plenty of Government in the UK, different levels going right up to the EU and ECHR.

In our daily lives we are all affected by it, one truism of life too is that increasingly there is more Government than before.

Back say 100 years the Government share of GDP was well below 20%, now is pushes nearer 50%. The rise of Government, periods of austerity only being mere pinpricks, is inexorable.

So, given that the Country is not necessarily improved by constant tinkering, a welcome space of few new laws being put in place is probably quite a good thing. In fact, simple things like no fiddling with the tax code give certainty to business decisions for example and make planning easier.

So a minority Government's Queen's speech is in many ways something to be celebrated - because not much will happen, people will be freer of political interference. Perhaps, with the great repeal bill in the works as well, the lawmakers will be so obsessed with their craft for a few years that the rest of us are left alone to a greater extent than usual.

All things being equal, that should be a big plus for economic growth in the UK.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Brexit - at last, perhaps

So we are off, the first round of negotiations has started. David Davis, a solid pair of hands if not spectacular, has laid out the terms -

Leaving the EU
Leaving the Single Market
Leaving the Customs Union

This has not made Barnier very happy, nor the Remain media who are now starting on their long campaign of 'UK failing at negotiations" which will be a very dull and uninspiring commentary for the next two years.

It will, even if untrue, do for the Tory party. Their reward for achieving Brexit will be ballot box defeat, a la Churchill and 1945.

This of course is dependent on May holding on as Prime Minister for some time, which again the media are trying their best to prevent. I can only hope she is strong enough to realise that now the election is kind of won, she can really settle in for a year or two before quitting - enough to give time to the Brexit team to have more of less completed the negotiations.

Oddly, the piece I see a lot of commentators missing is that there is this 'negotiation failure' mantra. Actually, with the terms above there is little to negotiate in reality - basically we agree a big settlement payment, Irish border issue and EU citizens rights - then onto a trade deal. The trade deal may end up in a transitional agreement, but as it will be for goods and not services, this is really not that hard to do.

An actual negotiation, which Labour and others are ignorantly promoting as part of their populist binge, of trying to stay in the Single Market but with restricted immigration - that would be tough to do! Sensibly, we are not even trying it.

As a final anecdote, I did meet a junior UK negotiator rather randomly the other day (civil servant, not politician), they were of the view if the media just dropped the pressure a bit everyone would be pleasantly surprised at how successful the chosen strategy will be.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Say You Wanna Revolution ...

Context for younger readers:  those of us who gew up in *ahem* the late 60's became accustomed to assorted Communists, Trots and even Maoists who were seriously and openly "plotting The Revolution", in the UK as much as in Vietnam.  This state of affairs persisted here until, well, essentially its last outing was the Miners Strike 1984-85.  As a university student in the '70s one would hear this stuff in SU debates, pubs, sit-ins and al fresco riots, to the point where one knows what it all means - at least, by the lights of the wannbe Revolutionaries.

And so to 2017, where we have a lot of indicators that have turned to Red:
  • deeply unpopular government of the Right (notionally)
  • a fractured Establishment with no effective leadership 
  • Unions fancying their moment has come 
  • public sector pretty hacked off
  • widespread economic discontent, all the way to outright misery
  • popular upswell of resentment across all sectors of society, even beyond the economically miserable
  • recent history of fuck'em-all-who-gives-a-toss political gestures (Brexit vote, late surge for Corbyn)
  • many student bodies in the grip of particularly unpleasant leftists, and the summer hols about to start
  • readiness to turn nasty at the drop of a hat: plenty of criminal-underclass street-warriors and rentamob leftie bedsit-youth available
  • plenty of other cannon-fodder too: jobless locals and migrants swirling around
  • hot weather

Yep, that ticks very many boxes on the classical Marxist-Leninist check-list.  Certainly febrile, and apparently fertile.  Stew into that mix the altogether new phenomenon of Social Meejah and mobile 'phones ... and we're hot to Trot.

So what's lined up on the other side?  One of the most interesting factors is that the Police is being near-idolised, even by many on the left, as an heroic component of the revered Public Services for their selfless responses to recent terrorist outrages.  (Obviously the other uniformed civilian services - fire-fighters, ambulance crews & hospital staff - get all this adulation and more.)   There may be strange things yet to come; but even with a degree of politicisation in ACPO etc, there's not an obviously mutinous situation brewing (we're not a country where the police are all owed 3 months wages etc).  And they are armed to the teeth these days: firepower that can't be matched in a hurry by, well, anyone (though watch out for Irish developments).

Likewise, the military is in relatively good odour, and has no history of being a political factor in the UK since the General Strike (and even then, not in any autonomous Praetorian, or mutinous, sense).

Finally, there's the Great British Public, which is extremely conservative and phlegmatic au fond, and saw off the first Labour government, the General Strike, the Nazis, the IRA ...

Who else is having such thoughts?  John McDonnell, that's who.  But you know what - even though this will all be coursing through his mind (and his veins, and his guts) - I'm willing to bet he hasn't done any serious planning for turning this into the Revolution.

Which is not to say he couldn't, and in quite short order (Drew's 4th Law of Politics), because the templates are all there to be dusted off - though he needs more than just political logisitics for a serious effort.   The Leninist / Bolshevik approach is of course to let chaos reign, then purposefully muscle to the front of the queue as the most prepared and disciplined force on the field.  Unceremoniously bump off any rivals on the left, and after a period of turmoil emerge as the only coherent political entity in the land.  Let the Right retreat to the countryside and pick it off at leisure. 

(By the way, the Iranian Revolution of 1979-80 took a very similar course: it's not remotely the case that Khomeini swept to power on Day 1.  Several other anti-Shah factions had a crack at it first: he came up on the inside many months into the piece.)

And still we wait for leadership to emerge on the Right.  As I said BTL yesterday, in an important sense the Conservative Party doesn't even exist right now - just a couple of baronial factions circling the wounded and dying in No10.  

Several scenarios come to mind, and many historical illustrations that may or may not be germane; but I can't even guess what will happen next.


PS - enjoy the original

Friday 16 June 2017

Friday Quiz - May Day!

How long will May as UK Prime Minister last?

A) 5 days

B) 5 weeks

C) 5 months

D) 5 years

Answers and Comments in the comments.

Thursday 15 June 2017

That's another fine mess you've gotten me into.

As CU says, what a mess. Too weak to govern. Too strong to give up. And an opposition too weak to govern and too strong to not want to try.
Plus a preferred coalition partner that could cause more problems than they solve. 

John Major made the point that the Belfast Agreement specifically states no single political party in Northern Ireland can receive favourable treatment from the UK government. Awkward.
Johnnie M might be an arch remainer, determined to scupper any Brexit, but even his wet Toryism doesn't want to see the Corbyn Comintern Co-operative Progressives raising the red flag over number ten.And he does know a thing or two about northern Irish politics and treaties and how very likely they are to unravel over a grievance.

So, a signed up agreement is probably a worse idea than not signing the DUP up.
Which means instability.

What are the realistic options?
Going for another election immediately, or even this year, would probably result in a no more favourable result and possibly a much worse one. Its also an option available anytime. When better alternatives have failed. Bottom of the pile for this idea.

What is actually needed is a stronger alliance. With people who share similar values. And won't be too demanding and excitable. Blairites would be ideal! But they are long gone.

The SNP would be destroyed forever by any association of any kind with their English Overlords. No matter how many airports Theresa promises, it won't be enough to convince any of the SNP to take the bribe. Forget them.

Which leaves the Liberals. 12 MPs. That, plus the implied support of the DUP, is good enough. Slightly better than it was before the election.
The problem is, the Tories invited the Liberals into coalition before. It didn't work out well for them. 
And ended with a bloodbath of murdered Liberal MPS, struck down by their former friends,the  treacherous Tories, that would make a good season finale for Game of Thrones.
The Yellow Wedding.

However, there is a faint, faint possibility that the Liberals could be tempted into a con-sup arrangement.

Firstly, the Liberals need to be made aware that most of their misfortunes following the coalition, were of their own making. The Conservatives never told them to put free tuition fees into their manifesto. When Cameron said "Sure..if you like," to the Liberal's key demand, referendum on proportional voting, that was their choice. Not Cameron's. They wanted the green energy ministry. They were welcome to it.
If they hadn't spent decades being duplicitous, hypocritical, two faced liars, it might have worked out better for them.

Unlikely as they are to want to join their former abusers, who not only took all their seats in 2015, but now also want to leave their beloved European Union, the Liberals just might, might, think again.

They have just dropped their ineffective and unpromising leader. They will have a better one in any of their four main favourites. Davey. Lamb. Swinson. Cable.
Their Remoaner strategy that we looked at here, has failed. 
Failed badly. Its not the future.
Scottish unionism is a viable strategy. Soft brexit nonsense, is a fantasy that will play better than rejoin-remain did. It needs much more thought and detail and proper proposals. But it won't be dismissed now like it would have been two weeks ago, by a newly desperate Theresa May.

The Liberals could, for their support, on a limited time, limited offer basis, achieve two key aims. And could, with the right leader, recover much of the respect they have lost.
It does take great courage and vision. Not something normally associated with the Liberal Democrats.

The pitch is this.

1. A seat on Brexit negotiations. As part of the government's official team. A seat and a voice and a vote. This needs to be realistic. There can't be a veto of Brexit. But there could be a vote on yes/no/try again. Doesn't have to be viable. Just has to be able to look like it could be viable.

2. Free tuition fees.
Actual, delivered, free tuition fees for university students. 
£36-40 billion is an estimate of what that would cost. In the fine print it can be taken lower. EU and foreign students pay more. The worst 20 universities must close. A certain number of made up Mickey-Mouse subjects can be excluded from the offer. Free school meals scrappage in the small print too. Very small. Right at the back.

The U-turn explanation is, the people clearly wanted it. And its already free in Germany. 
And all the major and minor  parties already agree.

The existing student debt will be sucked in to this too. And that may have to be written off too.
Austerity is over. Gordonomics is back. 'Investing isn't really spending. And investing in our natural resources, which is people, is the priority of government for a sustainable future .'.Yada yada yada.

But think of the headlines!

"Liberal Democrats, under new leader Jo Swxxxx, have already delivered the impossible. A free higher education for all. This isn't some Corbyn fantasy manifesto. Its a real commitment that will be debated on in 2018 and enacted in 2019. Enacted by the government in power. 
Not by some possible future government but the real one. One that this time, the liberal democrats can remove themselves from at any time, if this proposed bill on free higher education is not delivered. A victory for every aspiring young person in the land."

Its the easiest possible sell in government. 

Corbyn has already promised it. he can't back out. All the progressives want it and are already signed up. Scotland already has it. So no more one rule for us one for them. Students want it. The middle class, should-be, Tory voters,parents of middle class students want it also.
If the Tories don't do it now, next time Corbyn will say he will. And his tricky new problem of the youth won't have been addressed.

Say that £80 billion is coming out of the future sale of the banks - RBS and Bradford and Bingley. And the EU payments we won't be making. And by not paying the £100 bn EU divorce bill. 
Beneficially this forces the Libbers to be more realistic about Brexit. Fixes some of the yoof issue for a while. And youth opposition to Brexit. You can be in the EU or have a free education - You choose.
Next election held during the summer holiday period is the other genie bottle stuffing plan for reducing this new, young demographic.

Anyway, as a result of just £50 billion in free stuff with an ongoing £25-£30 billion a year cost to education, TM will have got out of the hole she dug herself and will be marginally better off than before she jumped into it.

About the same as paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in total, for each coming year.
Or a 10%  hike in VAT.

Or, as Jeremy himself proposes, stick it on the nation's Mastercard. Just pay the interest. And let someone else in the future say "This is another fine mess they got me into."

Key themes emerging one week on from the UK election

1. DUP - clearly demanding not only pork-barrel money from the Tories but also anti-Sinn Feinn policies, which has stopped the confidence and supply discussions for now (why did May go to HM when she could not form a Government?).

2. Hammond Speech tonight - the Remainers are back and out to stop Brexit or make it a non-Brexit by leaving only tiny bits of the EU. Sadly, this is a real long-term pain as the EU won't want this and remainers will get angry when they realise the EU is telling us to pack our bags and leave. They will blame the UK rather than the EU - terrible for the Tories who are already in a poor electoral position.

3. McDonnell advocates street action and anti-democracy - Despite losing the election last week, the Shadow Chancellor managed to advocate a 1 million person street demonstration to get the Tories out yesterday. Such rhetoric is borderline legal in my view, as it is promoting the overthrow of Her Majesty's Government. More worrying, having monstered Labour but realised now that they may form the next Government, the press has decided to give a free pass now to the radical left to expound whatever it likes without criticism. This bodes very ill for the Country and the next election.

In summary, f*ck me what a shit show.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Hop It, Frog

So, farewell then, Vincent de Rivaz, point-man for France's baleful nuclear policy in the UK, architect of Hinkley Point C, persistent and devious lobbyist, and triumphant hands-down victor over the Civil Service and successive UK governments.  

Oh, and originator of the Radioactive Turd.

It was your machinations last summer (at the behest of, and strongly backed up by Hollande) which tipped off the whole world that Theresa May was Not Up To the Job.

Can't see the back of you soon enough.


PS - I hope, however, that you live long enough to see the HPC project abandoned without ever having generated a single KWh.  Of which I reckon there's a fair chance.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Coherent Rage

I really commend our BTL commenters for the expressions of fury at the election, its outcome - and of course the years of dumb and blind policy-making of which it is the culmination.  [For some reason, a few of these comments seem to blame us personally here on C@W (!), but let that pass.  We'll come to an apologia of capitalism in a later post.]

Youve taken two full-on face punches and your teeth are on the canvas ... youve had your fun and used state institutions to prop up private businesses and investments ... this vote, like Brexit, was not for Corbyn or Leaving the EU it was to utterly break the current establishment ... whatever it takes to shake you from your stupor ... hopey changey message will reduce the tories to rubble ... decided to start putting into motion a long held plan to decamp from the U.K. I just cant reconcile the disaster of a future socialist regime with my Love of England and my Childrens future, sad really ...  McDonnell is calling for the hardest possible Brexit as he knows that it will make it easier for him to become Chancellor/PM and free him up to unleash Marxist Terror ... You took a solid, successful, prosperous liberal democracy and you handed it in three steps to Marxist revolutionaries ... The fools here have been living and prospering on subsidy for nearly a decade and have come to believe that this is how an economy works ... I predict huge tax increases and a punitive LTV to get pensioners out of family homes and into flats ... The country is lost to the left

Given how laughably easy it would have been for May to avoid the immediate political outcome (a campaign of only 3 weeks would have done it), I'll offer another image of the horror involved: it's like the parent who has carelessly reversed the car out of the drive and crushed her child.

Andrew Lilico - one of CU's favourites but not someone I've linked to before - has a very good stab at the strategic party-political issues here, with some good simple headline prescriptions for the next 5 years, which is where focus must be now.  Even so, I can't resist quoting one last over-the-shoulder diagnosis he makes: 
At that stuff about the IRA, Hezbollah, the Falklands, nuclear weapons, a maximum wage, mass nationalisation, appointing Communists, abolishing the monarchy and empowering the unions was all true and ought to have made him utterly inconceivable as a prime minister, but it didn’t. Young voters didn’t care, or didn’t believe it, or actively wanted it.
Young voters didn’t care.  That's a revolution, in classic Marxist terms.  That's how bad it is.  1848.  1917.  1968.

But Lilico's prescription, whilst good political stuff, is just that: political.  I stress: it's just a political prescription.  And that's not enough, as our commenters have said.  Fundamentally so.


Monday 12 June 2017

A fine mess

The UK General Election has had the opposite effect to what was hoped. Instead of stability and assuredness for Brexit, we have a coalition with the DUP and a weakened Prime Minister.

Even the markets are pricing this in. We are left at the mercy of the EU, fortunately, they have no mercy so we will still get the Brexit that we need in the long-term.

For the future is an interesting story of how the Tories can convince the  Cities, young and benefits class that they are on their side. Cameron did this, it suggests to me a need for lots of new blood in the Tory party but PM May has stuck with the old guard for now - cling to nurse etc.

 The election to me has a 1992 feel to it, with Labour sure to be in place now to make the most of the effects of Brexit plus the economic downturn which, according to history, is inevitable at some point in the next 5 years.

Who will lead Labour, well at the moment it does not seem as if it will be a moderate, but a left-winger.

Time draws short for capitalists, the Tories will surely move further left to try and eek back from ground from Labour - there is no free-market party now in the UK.

At least there will be lots to discuss....

Saturday 10 June 2017

Must Be Pole-axed

"The loyalties which centre upon number one are enormous. If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed" **
(W.S Churchill)

That's it, really.


** and yes, I do know how it continues