Wednesday 31 July 2019

People Are Starting to Think Straight

Well that's comprehensively seen off my weekend worry that Boris might catch his predecessor's Airport Fever.  Good instinct or good advice; it doesn't matter.  Just stay away from those euro-capitals.

Yes, people are starting to take the whole enterprise seriously.  Not Polly Toynbee, of course: "Boris Johnson’s crew will repel voters – there’s no need to fear him".  But elsewhere in the Graun: "Labour risks total wipeout if it fails to take Boris Johnson seriously".

The Irish are worried, too - and well might they be.  Keeping Varadkar waiting for a call was cheeky but good tactics; and the pained hand-wringing isn't slow to follow, as the Graun relates:
An Irish government spokesman said Varadkar had also invited Johnson to Dublin for further talks on Brexit. [I'll bet he did - see Airport Fever above] “The taoiseach restated the need for both governments to be fully committed to the Good Friday agreement" ... the spokesman said. “He recalled that the agreement requires the sovereign government to exercise power with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in full respect for their rights, equality, parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.” [Presumably a quotation from the preamble.  Ooh, that's telling him!]  A No 10 spokesman said both leaders committed themselves to maintaining a warm and deep relationship between Ireland and the UK... Johnson had been accused of snubbing his Irish counterpart by leaving it so long to speak to him ...
Faced with all this new reality, others too are inevitably starting to strategise.  Back to the Irish again: here's a sign of someone getting their brains into gear:
Brexit: mess with Good Friday and we’ll block UK trade deal, US politicians warn. Hostile Congress could hold up trade deal
A decent Remainer attempt to open up a new front: and a bit more imaginative than dropping the IRA into the conversation.  And I suggest there's another scare we shall be hearing a great deal more about, too, as faithfully disseminated by the Beeb:
No-deal Brexit 'would cause civil unrest' in rural Wales
Yes, the threat of civil unrest on a much larger scale than Welsh sheep-farmers will doubtless be bruited about in the coming weeks:  and can a General Strike be far behind?  Or pupils staying away from school, spearheaded by the saintly Greta?  I have a suspicion Stormzy will be musing over the possibilities, too.  And Miller.  And Soros.

If you want an entertaining read from someone who clearly does a lot of thinking, follow Montanatorice, a CiF commenter.  He or she writes quite a lot, and repeats stuff over several comments, but the one you are looking for is what appeared BTL under the "Take Boris Seriously" article linked to above.  I think this link should take you straight in (it takes a second or two to resolve to the comment).  It's even been given the accolade of a 'Guardian Pick'; and a Golden Cleric award can't be far behind.


Tuesday 30 July 2019

Centrica's Woes and What They Betoken

From time to time we pass comment on Centrica - partly because energy is one of our themes; and partly because from inception as an Enron-wannabe spin-off out of the old monopoly British Gas, it's been an interesting company on an interesting 'journey' (as we're obliged to say these days).  

You can click on the link below to see our sporadic past comments.  Not all of them have been favourable, because Centrica went through a misguided phase of loud special-pleading for subsidies, which didn't endear them to us - or indeed to the government.  They've taken a few outright false steps over the years, notable among which were the move into "we-can-do-everything" banking & telecomms; and the big stake they took in British Energy nukes alongside EDF.  But they've done clever stuff too: intelligent re-calibration of commercial policy when things weren't working out as intended (these days we must call this 'pivoting'); and a series of adroit asset acquisitions (most notably gas-fired power stations and long-term electricity supply contracts) when prices were rock-bottom.  Their technical skills in the marketplace have always been pretty fair.

All in all, to have stayed independent for nearly 25 years is no mean achievement.

But today they have serious problems to address.  Mrs May's inane price cap has weakened the entire industry, as was widely foreseen; and for a couple of years now insider commentary has not been kind about Centrica's strategic decsion-making, once so laudable.  Share price has reflected these things. They are 're-basing the dividend' and the top man is quitting. 

There doesn't need to be any sentiment in this: but I feel uneasy when good companies can't find a way through.  The residential gas & electricity supply business is of course going through a shocking phase.  May's cap; the plethora of minnows that should never have been given licences (Ofgem's grievous fault) and have been going under at a rate; big players like RWE (Innogy/NPower) and SSE trying to exit ... this is a mess.  And against a backdrop for the entire energy sector of trying to get to grips with whatever the 'decarbonised' future will bring.

Civilisation is energy-intensive, as the great James Lovelock reminds us (he's just turned 100) - and society needs capable energy companies.  In civilised countries, energy should be like water and food: so well managed that the miracle of abundance goes almost unnoticed.  Darwinian processes are fine: but there's no pleasure in seeing a big healthy beast fall sick.  Yes; things can go very wrong if the energy market isn't working well.


Monday 29 July 2019


Image result for fortnite

A US teenager has won a record-breaking $3m (£2.4m) to become world champion of the computer game Fortnite. Fortnite is the largest prize pool in the history of e-sports, with $30m shared amongst the winners.

This story has allowed the media to run a few hours of debate and phone ins on some of their favourite subjects. 

Concerned parenting. 
Children being less active than their parents 
The horror that is video gaming
Being Judgemental.  

There is nothing very new here. Something is always blamed for moody teenagers and aggressive pre-teen boys.
In my day it was Heavy Metal. The satanic music of AC/DC was turning children into killers.

Before that it was long hair that was to blame. Or jeans. 

Way back at the dawn of teenagers, born from the discovery of independent wealth that was paying more than a paper round, Rock Around The Clock was a terribly bad influence on the morals and attitudes of the nation.

Fortnite, for those that don't game, and never have, is a multiplayer battle royale, in high cartoon form. Not terribly dissimilar to a Star Wars shooting game, of which there are legion, that go completely unremarked.
 One player, and their digital persona, arrive on an island and must hunt down all the other players and eliminate them. So they emerge victorious.Weapons are found lying around. Forts can be constructed.  and so on.

The game is entirely free. Which was the genius of it. It had a few million player base on its launch as it costs nothing, and never costs anything to play. No player need spend a penny if they don't wish.
The creators make money from players buying new suits, or 'skins' for their character. Dance moves. Special gun flashes. And from being a 'brand' with its own merchandise, so is a licensing success. Much like Angry Birds was.

The difference with Fortnite to Angry Birds or Subway surf endless runner games, is that once a player begins the game, as it is real time, against real opponents, if a player has to leave the console/tablet/phone for a minute, they will be eliminated. I'm sure this is where the angry calls of parents for supper and to go to bed right this minute, break out.

Listening and watching the panels a few things are quite obvious. Women, in the main, have no concept of something like Fortnite. Like they didn't with the whole, GTA similar backlash a while ago. As they didn't with FIFA or Racing games. 
 They don't play them particularly, as they don't appeal in the same way. 
 GTA is deliberately, a very masculine product. And shooters and horror products appeal much more to the men and boys.

The Sims is probably the bestselling, more female focused video game  worldwide. It is really just a far, far, far more advanced version of Dolls House. As Fortnite is just a more advanced version of Action Man. Parents and presenters really need to grasp this, to understand the digital phenomenon.

One of the common complaints is that children have phones at the diner table. Have games and are on social media and this interrupts family life. And that they aren't out with their friends.

Though they are with their friends. That's why kids like these games. They are social.

In my day, as an avid gamer before the Internet, we'd play games at each others houses. Board games too. But more and more video games.
With the Play Station and Xbox, so this continued for another generation. 
Now, they can play in the same room , or not. But still the same group.

Parents should be aware that they are suspicious of this technology, only because it is new.
They need to recall that they have little fear of television or video.  While their own parents were very suspicious. TV appeared in their lives in the 1970s. While they were still being brought up in their own parents world of no TV. So all the diner table rules applied. 
 No TV at the diner table, because there had been no TV BEFORE. 

The schedulers, knowing the set time for supper and lunch and such, made sure their shows fitted to these times. As Television became more a part of life, people's lives fitted around the television. 9pm Friday was always new show launch. Saturday night was family TV night, and people adapted to TV rather than the other way around.

TV no longer has much hold on the public. None at all on the youth. Who are used to on demand everything. So they have a different approach to their parents, who, although they have adapted, are still, in upbringing, from the pre-digital era.

The provable cases of a video game causing, or encouraging, psychotic rage leading to murder, is two.That's two, World wide. Since the rise of the Home Computer in the early 1980s.

That's two cases from the billions each day of kids playing these games. Every study shows no link. As children are aware as adults are of fantasy and reality. Captain Scarlet is indestructible. YOU are not. I knew that. I knew that at five. I knew at five that he was a puppet.

Image result for captain scarlet is indestructible
This argument comes around again and again. Jo Swinson was avery keen believer that video games make people violent. Yet for this to be true, the entire spectrum of gaming would have to be true. Kids that played NBA would be terrific basketball players. Kids that played Mario Karts would be manic drivers in later life. 
Kids that watched Twilight teen-horror would grow up and fall in love with an Emo-Vampire. 
Kids, like me,who played Third Reich, the WW2 strategy game for 2-6 players, would end up invading Poland.
It's all obvious nonsense. The same as it was for rock music. The same as it was for watching Kung-Fu films in the 1970s. Or reading Gothic horror novels in the 1870s.

Parents lamenting the lack of model building and Lego making {which is actually selling in ecord numbers} should see what their offspring are creating on Minecraft. 

So don't worry about the kids. They are just fine. They won't turn out anti-social losers, if they weren't already going to be. 

And it was probably far more dangerous in our day writing in to Jim'll Fix It.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Airport Fever: Here We Go Again

Brussels is making it clear he should go to capital cities first so he can be disarmed of his irrational exuberance.  (Jonathan Powell, Graun)
I thought we'd learned what happens when a PM with airport fever flits in and out of personal meetings with euro-leaders.
... Clause by clause, one by one 
'Til you shout, “Enough, I'm done” 
But there’ll be no ducking out, or break for rest 
Only after you’ve been beat up 
Will we let you put your feet up 
Don’t protest - be my guest, be my guest!
And there must be no "you wait outside the door - and we've arranged for you to be photographed looking lonely - while we all decide what's going to happen to you", either.


Friday 26 July 2019

Boris as Maoist: It's Been Misunderstood

Search on Boris / Maoist and there are plenty of results over several years.  You eventually discover it stems from a David Cameron aside, accusing Gove of being an adherent to the great Chinese variant of Leninism.  Somehow Boris has been swept up in the opprobrium (which is retailed by the Toynbees and Cohens of the Graun-world) and of course now he qualifies as Maoist-in-chief.

It's taken to signify a love of permanent revolution and creative destruction; and maybe that's what Cameron intended, as a colourful label for Gove.  But that's entirely the wrong way to understand Boris-as-Maoist.

Mao was a passable amateur philosopher.  As a Marxist he was in the materialist / naturalist tradition (recognisably Western, by the way) and he was clear that our conceptual, abstract thinking (which he calls 'the subjective') had better correspond with objective reality - a correspondence to be tested in the school of hard knocks - or we are in trouble: liable to bang our heads against brick walls, and (worse) to embrace political heresy.  

This eminently practical (not to say mundane) insistence notwithstanding, he also embraced what some have called 'revolutionary romanticism', a key feature of which is the idea that the subjective can become the objective.  In other words, a conceptual notion (maybe a 'vision') that is compelling enough, and embraced enthusiastically by the masses who then put their shoulders wholeheartedly to the wheel, can thereby alter the conditions of objective reality**. 

Further theorising need not detain us, because my point will be immediately obvious:  Boris pretty much holds the same view.  He's trying it out on us right now! - and in this regard I'd say it's entirely fair to label him a Maoist.

With what chances of success?  The Sino-precedents are mixed.  Beyond a doubt, some of Mao's strategic ventures fall into the category of near-miracles of material transformation being achieved by force of vision, will and large-scale commitment.  The defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek's tanks and aircraft with "rifles and millet" alone; the elimination of endemic starvation across the whole of China; the advance from poor peasant economy to hydrogen bomb-equipped superpower in a very few year spring to mind.  Unfortunately, he also essayed some crackpot notions with equal fervour and mass application, with catastrophic consequences for his own people - innocent deaths numbered in millions.

Perhaps we'd best not dwell on that ...  Go Chairman Boris!


**There are passages in Lenin which prefigure this: and of course Marx himself said that the point of history was not to understand the world, but to change it.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

May finally leaves number 10. Two years after she should have.

This - From Bill Quango

I'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. 

With Dave Cameron, I was happy. 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 Brown Team
And only a 1-0 against the Miliband, but it was still better than expected. 
And the performances overall were solid enough.
 When Cameron went, he went with 'good riddance' from the many ringing in his ears.

 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 unfathomable reason, hotly tipped Rudd. 
 Not Hammond and not even lightweight Leadsom would have lost the majority. Not even 'Chancer' Fox.

 A party split. A team line-up that baffled everyone. Star players left on the bench. No understanding of the opponents strengths and weaknesses. No tactical sense of how to beat the opposition. 

No plan B, when plan A started to go wrong. Just a hope that somehow  she would win.

And a very worrying feeling, that though the Corbyn Team might be weak and inferior opposition,  they have turned up to win. And we hadn't.

I stand by it all.
A disaster that should have been told to clear off the moment she lost her majority. Saved by panic in the party and the fear of a civil war. The Tory party MP's fear of Johnson, has only given them Johnson, with a very, very unstable govrnment.

The lesson was learned long ago in the Tory Party. 
There is no excuse for failure.

Image result for smersh no excuse for failure

Tuesday 23 July 2019

She's Leaving Home

With apologies to Paul McCartney ...

[four bars of plaintive harp music]

Wednesday morning at twelve o’clock, PMQs begin 
Goes through the motions, feels weak at the knees 
Then to the Palace to hand in her keys … 
She goes downstairs to the limo, clutching her handkerchief 
Dabbing her eyes like old Thatcher’s ghost 
Stepping outside, she is toast 

   She (I gave it most of my life
   Is leaving (sacrificed most of my life
   Town (I tried so hard to look smart all the time
   She’s leaving town after dicking around for so many years 

Boris snorts as he wanders round in his dressing gown 
Picks up the letter the courier brought 
Standing in triumph; another great snort 
He laughs loud, and cries to his mistress 
“Carrie, Phil Hammond’s gone! 
Why did he stymie May’s No-Deal plan? 
What can be done with the man?” 

   She (I had no thoughts of my own
   Is leaving (never a thought of my own
   Town (I struggled hard to learn all of my lines
   She’s leaving town after dicking around for so many years 

Friday morning at nine o’clock she is history 
Hawking some diaries excusing her crimes 
Meeting a man from the Sunday Times 

   She (what did I do that was wrong?
   Is hist’ry (I didn’t know it was wrong
   Now (nothing achieved to remember me by!
   Somehow her stuff, it was never enough in so many ways 
   She’s hist’ry now (bye bye


Monday 22 July 2019

Singing & Dancing in Downing Street

Yes, it's that time of the political cycle. Bring on the dancing girls! With apologies to Warren & Dublin & 42nd Street 

     In the heart of old Westminster, you’ll find a Georgian mall 
     It’s the part of old Westminster that runs into Whitehall 
     A crazy pad that’s full of spads; if you’ve got a little time to spare, 
     I want to take you there ... 

See them tweet, “May’s in retreat!” 
Down the avenue I’m taking you to - 
Quitting Downing Street 

In defeat, she’s luncheon meat 
It’s the old No Deal that’s making ‘em squeal! 
In old Downing Street 

      Hunts and BoJos, and whips and journos, trading in deceit 
    DUP-ers and ERG-ers, plotting trick-or-treat 

Fratricide!   Undignified! 
Yes, the mad and bad are now the elite 
Circling Downing Street 

See her tears, it’s kinda sweet 
It’s a cul de sac, you gotta turn back 
That's old Downing Street!


Saturday 20 July 2019

Weekend Open Thread: Theresa May in History

So: counting down in hours now.  Mrs May is currently pouring out the initiatives & money etc at such a rate, it's hard to be definitive on what her legacy may be.  But it's always fun to take a stab at the First Draft of History.

How will May be remembered 50 years hence?  

Answers BTL, please.  If anyone can come up with a non-facetious positive, I'll be interested to read it.  Offhand, I can think of only one.

We'll check back in 2069 and award prizes then.  'Cause I'm quite sure the NHS will keep me alive that long ...


Wednesday 17 July 2019

Labour Turns Against Social Mobility: Significant

Recently the People's Party (Corbyn incarnation) caused a minor frisson by declaring its intention to ditch Social Mobility as a policy goal. 
Corbyn to drop social mobility as Labour goal in favour of opportunity for all  - Party leader says idea has failed and calls instead for social justice commission ... In a shift being billed by Labour strategists as the rejection of 40 years of political consensus, Corbyn said pursuing social mobility “has failed, even on its own terms”... the party leader vowed to replace the idea that the brightest, most talented young people must have the opportunity to succeed, with a demand that all children be allowed to flourish. “The idea that only a few talented or lucky people deserve to escape the disadvantage they were born into, leaving in place a social hierarchy in which millions are consigned to the scrap heap, results in the talents of millions of children being squandered.”   Labour would replace the social mobility commission with a social justice commission.
Well, he's right about it being consensus.  Search on 'social mobility' in the Graun, and you'll find it's been reiterated explicitly as a policy goal by many a Labour writer ever since Jezza formally signalled its demise.   He never had much traction with the senior figures in his party, after all.

Mention of 'social justice' should cause a shudder.  (I once heard Enoch Powell say that from the Left one will often hear about "Social Security - which is no security; Social Justice - which is no justice; and Social Workers - about which I shall say nothing ...")   But, atavistic reactions aside, something philosophically interesting is going on here, in theory at least - which IMHO should have caused more than just a frisson.  Because in essence he's declaring war on some high-profile sections of the left.

The great bane of our age is 'identitarianism' coupled with 'intersectionality'; the idea that we are all (except solvent straight white males, of course) elements of various minorities (e.g. impoverished / gay / woman of color), and that as minorities we are all oppressed; and that if we could just see this, and proudly define ourselves by our being jointly the victims of oppression - particularly when we may belong to two or more minorities that may be, whisper it softly, in conflict - then we will all rise as one against the straight, solvent ... etc.  

But serious socialist scholars identify this determination to revel in the atomism of mutiple minority personae as no better than rampant, politicised individualism (*spits*).  They, of course, are extremely wedded to a much more sweeping and far less granular taxonomy: the Working Class (good); the Ruling Class (wicked); and the lumpen proletariat (irrelevant).  (Peasants are variously categorised in the second or third classes, or possibly as a kind of working-class lite.)  To dwell on membership of any other category is to miss the point.

They go on to identify the actual workings of identitarianism as this: various self-appointed 'minority voices' push themselves into the public gaze and demand that they be elevated to some position, generally salaried, of their choosing or indeed of their own devising.  There, they press loudly for (e.g.) more black women to get Oscars; and success in this lobbying is greatly feted.  

The upshot of all this is that de facto they take their satisfaction from - and invite everyone else to be satisfied by - the elevation of 1% of their own minority into the "Great Big 1% That Rules the World".  So - provided the G.B.1% is comprised pro rata of the same mix of categories as the populace at large, well, that's OK then.  Job done.

This, for the 'true socialists' is just a new, if colourful, twist on individualistic neoliberalism: effectively, a kind of political show-biz, the 'circuses' bit of 'bread & circuses'.  Multi-ethnic Oscar awards as the new opiate of the masses.  And it completely obscures and distracts from the real task at hand, which is to elevate the entire Working Class / 99%.  

And it rather seems Jezza thinks so too.  (More accurately: one of his trusted advisers with a brain.)

It's going to be interesting to see how far he pushes forward with this one.  A lot of the high-profile minority-voices-on-the-make aren't really interested in the Masses, or subordinating their own causes to the big Workerist cause.  And they do have a lot of profile.


Monday 15 July 2019

Nuclear Finance: Stuffed by the French Again

Later this week, we're told, the long-trailed announcement will be made of a new approach to financing nuclear power plants in the UK.

As we've long been warmed up to accept, no company is willing to take upon itself nuclear construction risk.  That was just about all that remained in the lap of developers, after EDF had blazed the trail with the outrageous Hinkley Point C contract that May so cravenly signed back in 2016 under stern instruction of the miserable tadpole Hollande (thereby proving to the entire watching world she was unfit to conduct the Brexit process).  But EDF itself quickly signalled that if we wanted any more nukes the next deal would need to be even better.

(Note always that HPC is a not-quite-free option for EDF - they still have no obligation to complete construction of the plant.  It can be argued they have no idea how to do it anyway, seeing that Flammanville has been put back yet another few years ...)

Still, the frogs are dangling the next one, Sizewell C, before the desperate eyes of HMG - and of course the Chinese and Japs and Koreans can all make their own offerings - if the contract is rich enough, and free of risk for themselves.

The chosen financing model to gratify their rapacity is the Regulated Asset Base model.  Details are awaited; but it's a familar enough tool, used across the USA in various forms for decades, and latterly for that grotesque and unnecessary project, the Thames Tideway.  But familarity alone is no recommendation.

The lazy headlines are that the 'taxpayer' stands to pick up the tab for the inevitable monstrous cost overruns.  Maybe; but it's even more likely it will be the poor old electricity bill-payer, which may seem a fine distinction but it highlights an important point.  Everyone needs electricity (and water) and their utility value to all of us is so great, we can be made to pay almost anything for them.  No new taxes required.  By these means we can be, have been, and will again be screwed into the ground, giving foreign firms the right to enjoy themselves on a grand scale at our expense for many decades to come.

The only possible argument in favour is that nukes have only ever been built by public finance, so we may as well don the nose-pegs and get on with it.  That assumes we need them at all - and I say we don't.  Or, if we do, we're f****d, because manifestly the French don't know how to build them within, say, 10 years of their airy estimates - so we'll always need large-scale Plans B, C and D.  Why not just settle for a good, cost-effective Plan B and have done?

Anyhow, knowing that several of our BTL regulars actually favour new nukes - have at it in the comments!


Saturday 13 July 2019

Charisma vs Strategy: the Tory Leadership Choice

While the Tory Party agonises over which 'unt is to lead us to glory, time for some weekend musing over the rather extreme choice the two candidates present us with - almost a caricature of the dichotomies of colourful vs grey, big-picture vs detail etc etc.  I haven't read anything particularly interesting on this in the MSM; certainly not this very feeble offering from the Graun on leadership vs management.

In times that call for genuinely serious political leadership - analogies with war don't seem to me in any way overblown - one has been hoping upon hope that the hour will indeed bringeth forward the man.  The twin tasks before the next PM - to prevail against the EU, and in the next GE (though not necessarily in that order) - represent two enormously challenging theatres of political warfare that canot be avoided.  Admittedly, success in whichever epic battle comes first could materially enhance the prospects for the second ... but that didn't help Harold Godwinson, did it?  And the consequences of his ultimate failure weren't just long-lasting, they were kinda fundamental.     

Bringeth forth the man ...  Neither of the two hopefuls is a Churchill, despite Johnson's risible attempts to associate himself with that more propitious piece of our history (much like Gordon Brown writing his 'eight portraits' on Courage. Would he have included Aung San Suu Kyi today, hmmm?)  I struggle to find an encouraging historical parallel of a Boris-type taking the reins in such dire circumstances and plucking triumph from the jaws of defeat - though I could imagine there's an obscure Roman emperor who might fit the bill.  We have of course had some personally ineffectual kings down the years, but the successes under their reigns have been down to powerful players at the next level down - and where do we identify those today?

So here's a short piece I can recommend, on how to understand charisma - which is just about the only potentially positive commodity which Boris clearly offers in spades.  Whether reading that makes you any the more hopeful, I don't know. 

By way of balance, is there anything of substance worth saying about Hunt?  Actually, I think there is.  You have seen me before, tearing my hair over May's complete lack of anything resembling a strategy, in the face of people (Selmayr, Robbins) who clearly knew exactly what they were doing.  But here's Hunt who has actually published something on Brexit that is recognisably strategic.  If you haven't seen his 10-Point Plan before, take a read.

I'm not suggesting this is a work of genius.   And you can argue it's a pretty rum state of affairs when these things need to be published.  But secrecy over strategy isn't necessarily required in all circumstances: in some conflicts, one or other side's strategy (or both) may be so obvious to all parties - indeed, they may flaunt it - that secrecy is out of the question: but that may not weaken them materially.  And whoever produced this document for Hunt can also, presumably, be pressed into service by Johnson - and be invited to contribute to the GE strategy, whenever that's needed.

Your weekend thoughts on the Johnson/Hunt choice?


Friday 12 July 2019

Labour / Couldn't Make It Up / Part 194

Most of my friends who have traditionally been card-carrying Labour supporters have quit the Peoples Party now.  Despair and disgust.  Several have joined the Greens.  Over a beer last night one of these, a City professional living trendily in the East End, and heretofore considering it his social duty to the benighted borough to be engaged in good works via the Party, told me the story in his manor.

The thriving constituency GMC has been taken over by Momentum.   As part of their committee-packing drive, they replaced the LBGT rep - a cheerful gay chap whom everyone likes - with a straight, white male Union official.  And they replaced the BAME rep - an Indian lady who'd been doing the job proudly and effectively for many years - with another straight, white male Union man.  Incidentally, both of these carpet-bagging gits are middle aged, which isn't perhaps the image Momentum likes to project.

Multiply this a hundredfold across the land and I'm guessing the loyal-voter base quickly starts to erode, one way or the other.  It could well be put to the test quite soon, we must suppose.

Over the weekend we'll have a look at what might be facing them across the political divide.


UPDATE Makes this all the more amusing! 
"Momentum announces drive to help Labour members deselect MPs - says process will clear way for greater diversity in parliament"

Thursday 11 July 2019

The conversation should be privatising all education, not nationalising it

Image result for ash sarkar private schools

So, as is common these days, the very nutty communists who inhabit the Labour party (have you seen a book called Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani? Drivel does not begin to describe how awful it is), have latched a new proposal into the labour party conference which decides their manifesto:

1 - Outlaw private education
2 - Confiscate the endowments and money from these schools to 'share' amongst State Schools
3 - End Charitable status to make doubly sure no Private schools start again.

Scary does not really do the above Justice. There are many, many reasons why the above it a terrible idea. The one that sticks out to me though is that, like our Top Universities, people from all over the world pay an absolute fortune to have their kids educated here - in fact I would bet it is one of the main reasons there are so many billionaires in the UK, they can educate their kids here.

So, in the real world, we should be thinking how do we extend the education opportunities provided by private schools to all? What is the secret.

Well the obvious piece is money. In Universities, the Government introduced fees to try and help Universities improve their offering, act like a supplier rather than an union and stop kidding people with silly Kite Flying degrees. Lo and Behold broadly this has been a success!

Thus the real change that would help state schools would be a voucher system for parents, who could spend the money on the schooling they wanted - local comp, technical colleges, religious schools, private schools. The good would prosper and the bad would reform or die. Just like in Higher Education, market forces would drive up standards overall.

You could even reduce massively the burdensome national curriculum as parents could choose they types of schooling suited to their children which is not always based on A-C grades a GCSE.

This would be a much more successful route than killing the successful bit of secondary education in order to level down the playing field.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

The Ordure that the Left Pour on Themselves

There's an inclination to laugh at this but it wouldn't be right, because it's serious.  After decades of leftist encouragement, direct or otherwise, for all manner of 'identitarian' nonsense, the chickens have come home to roost.  The run-of-the-mill 'well-intentioned Left' of academia is now confronted with a Kafkaesque, reductio ad absurdum nightmare: under frontal assault (and I do mean frontal) by the militant 'trans identity' movement to a point where freedom of speech - and much else besides - is quite evidently a thing of the past in several UK universities.  (There are universities in the USA just as bad.)

Sit down, pour a stiff drink and read this: a compendium of appalling personal accounts compiled by the redoubtable and greatly-to-be-admired Kathleen Stock, on behalf of rational feminist educators everywhere.

But not just them, because this is truly baleful and if not stopped in its tracks will eventually flood out of academe and inflict itself on us all.  And - I remind you - Penny Mordaunt, Tory MP and Secretary of State for Defence, is complicit also.

For the antidote, let me even things up and suggest you read this, too, which restores a little of what the equally redoubtable Brian Leiter terms "intellectual hygiene".   Written in a nicely ironic tone, but making the point strongly at the same time.   


Monday 8 July 2019

2019 General Election date prediction - Thursday 3rd October 2019

More qualified observers than me can help with this post in the comments. There are some possibilities that are rapidly becoming facts which will create a General Election this year in the UK.

a) Boris becomes PM
b) 30 plus Tory rebels refuse No Deal option and effectively hold the Government to ransom

So far so good, but what does Boris do? He can't force no deal without some Constitutional aberration of trying to shut Parliament which to me is a non-starter and I think for Boris too.

So what is left is only a GE to sort out Parliament with a Leave Majority. Boris will fancy he can do this via an electoral pact with Farage. Whether people buy this will determine if the ruse is successful, but the basic maths are Tory and Brexit Party as one block will be bigger than the divided Lib Dems and Labour vote in the first past the post system...but by how much is the key betting question - it could be a huge margin is Labour lose their Northern seats to Brexit Party candidates.

So the option of a GE GE is Very Likely in the next few months we can perhaps try and forecast a when. There are no other viable routes for Boris as Parliament is against him and he leads a very minority Government that is split anyway.

You could have a second referendum, but even if this goes for Leave it does not sort out the recalcitrant parliament. A vote to remain ends Boris's PM tenure very quickly and not on his own terms, at least at a GE he would go down fighting.

With a GE decided upon, Boris will have to try and square away the Tory party and donors for this effort. Luckily he has July and August for this. We also know that Oct 31st is Brexit day so we need a new parliament before then to plead for a new deal/extension.

So an election sometime between September 1st and October 31st. End of October will be cutting it too close. We need a month for a GE campaign so I feel this is unlikely to be called until everyone is back from summer holidays. This more or less rules out September unless we et a 3 week campaign which could mean 26th Sept as a possible date, more likely to me would be either 3rd October or 10th October.

To me the 10th is cutting is pretty fine to go back to the EU for Plan C, D or E.

So, on balance there is likely to be a General Election on Thursday 3rd of October, with it being called straight after the August Bank Holiday.

Agree or Disagree in the comments.

Friday 5 July 2019

Friday Humour: Trump Style

"In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and New York and named after the great George Washington, commander in chief. The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our army manned the [unclear], it [unclear] the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under “the rockets red glare,” it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant."
 Donald Trump, 4th July Speech 2019

Posted without comment with a humour tag. Maybe a small tear for his history teacher.

I really, really thought this was some made up Saturday Night Live comedy, apparently its the real deal. 

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Peak Corbyn

As you perhaps know I am an inveterate, nay veteran strategiser: I have done it for a living in the military and in commerce.  In the aftermath of the dreadful GE 2017, my thoughts inevitably turned to how the Tories might work their way out of the ridiculous hole May had dropped them in.  (Obviously someone had been given an inkling of the result beforehand, because at least the DUP deal was immediately ready to roll.)

Sticking to aspects that are germane to the matter in hand right now, my strategy incorporated the following elements that had positive leverage potential:
  1. The next (scheduled) GE would be five years ahead, a helluva long time
  2. Corbyn was 68; McDonnell 66
  3. In the ensuing years there were likely to be a number of truly loonie-left Local Authorities to provide public evidence of what these latter-day marxists do, given a sniff of power - 5 years being a mighty long time for them to hold their discipline
  4. Da Yoof, whilst capable of surging onto the streets and into the polling booths in a fit of childrens-crusade enthusiasm, are nowadays notoriously fickle, flighty, of short attention-span, and low propensity to make commitments beyond the next Deliveroo pizza horizon  
Anyhow, their attention-span lasted long enough to grant Magic Grandad a full Triumph at Glastonbury 2017; and Momentum, buoyed up with all the confidence May had so culpably endowed them with (see recent posts), was gearing up to take over the world.

Then the long drawn-out Brexit stuff engulfed them, and Corbyn's resolute fence-sitting - almost indistinguishable from being fully impaled on a sharp bit at the top - has begun to annoy quite a number on the Left.  The tone of many a leftie article just now is:  too late, you old git, we've got your number now, and if you change your mind this late in the day, nobody will believe you.  Anyhow - remind me why we ever liked you in the first place?  And where's that pizza?  

Oh, how fickle is fortune, eh? (see item 4 above).   And then we come to item 2, and this week's "Corbyn has lost it" meme, so rapidly fanning out from the Murdoch press.  As with all good malicious rumours, per the Trump handbook (see Scott Adams passim) the key is to say something that immediately chimes, that was almost on everyone's lips anyway, that crystalises the already-present but non-articulated thought.  And, let's face it, this one falls on pretty fertile ground.  The timing was perfect.

Of course, Team Corbs (I believe they go by 'LOTO') have rushed into full Rapid Rebuttal mode - but this one would have been a challenge for Bad Al Campbell** lui-même in his formidable Excalibur prime.  Unfortunately, the best they can come up with is, Jezza is really quite fit.  For his age.  Ahem.  Sadly, as lots of people know all too poignantly, there is many a deep-dementia sufferer who is as fit as a fiddle ...  and that's even before we get into "Methinks / protest ..."  Just how smart is it to call for a full enquiry?  Who knows what else will come up?

People have periodically been calling 'Peak Corbyn' for at least 18 months, but thus far I haven't been convinced.  Today, there's a decent case to be made.  He seems to have a tight pretorian team that can face down even McDonnell, so they can probably keep him, El Cid-like, stuck on his fence for a good while longer.  (People did the same for Gordon Brown, as we frequently noted at the time.)  Trouble is, there may no longer be the adoring crowds gazing up at him from either side.  No Glastonbury for Corbs this year (according the Grauniad, he'd have been booed if he'd tried).  Could be quite a lonely place when the wind gets up.  Clambering down again may be painful in itself, and too late anyway.  Talk is already of handing the baton to Rebecca Long Bailey.

By the way, I hear McDonnell's health is not of the best ...

**Did he even start the rumour ..?

UPDATE:  this,  from today's Guardian
Rumours have been flying for months not only about Corbyn’s physical health ... but more broadly about his intellectual capacity; his ability to master an endless series of complex briefs and take timely decisions on difficult issues, while simultaneously managing a sometimes fractious party and dealing with whatever unexpected crisis blows up.
 AND MORE:   (also Graun)
Corbynism’s greatest liability is now Jeremy Corbyn himself ... He sounds tongue-tied and looks like a man hiding from battle, which undermines the image of a candid crusader. When the hero no longer embodies principles on which his movement was founded, the whole edifice wobbles. The attention of young idealists drifts; affection turns conditional; benefit of the doubt is withdrawn. It is getting notably harder, for example, to be loyal to Corbyn and determined to combat antisemitism at the same time ... He once exuded a gentleness that made allegations of fanaticism sound preposterous. Now his peevish side cuts through. He once animated feelings of belonging and purpose in people who had felt starved of inspiration by soulless New Labour. Now he refuses to quench the thirst of his party’s parched remainers ... Few Labour MPs, if any, relish the prospect of an election under their leader, although most pretend to want one. It is hard to present Corbyn as a man for the future, and May’s departure will date him even more. He will be a stale continuity figure from the time of stasis, irradiated through years of loitering ineffectually amid the referendum’s toxic fallout. His aura of specialness has dissipated, revealing the man in all his flawed mediocrity. The prospect of Britain having a radical Labour government is sliding into the gap that has opened up between an idea people once called “Jeremy Corbyn” and the actual Jeremy Corbyn.

Monday 1 July 2019

Will growth fall to 0%?

The quarter is over and the results are eagerly awaited. There is not much to be gained in the round by overly focusing on GDP numbers - the statistics are so variable that revisions can do things like erase recessions a few months later (as happened in 2011).

Indeed, just this last weekend the statisticians decided that the UK economy was £32 billion bigger than they previously estimated. This is small when considering the UK but £32 billion is a lot of money - but of course is about the size on one of the Baltic States entire economies or rather closer to home only slightly smaller than that of Northern Ireland which is around £40 billion.

But statistics have their uses as a guide to the general direction of things and one thing that does happen over time series is that they do track into and our of recessions. So this month should be interesting because Q1 of 2019 was 0.5% growth which is really quite good for the UK economy.

However, there was a lot of stockpiling ahead of the non-Brexit of 29th March and so this may have brought forward some corporate and other spending. As such Q2 will be weaker almost as a given, but will it drop to 0%. One really bad aspect of Brexit is the uncertainty, even a hard Brexit does at least end the uncertainty which is causing businesses to under-invest. Although Foreign Direct Investment is holding up well, it is also dropping off from its very high level.

Investment is crucial to the UK economy, without it we continue to move towards a low-pay, low added value model more akin to Southern Europe than US or Germany. The Government can only invest so much with a high public debt already, so we need the private sector investment.

Overall, I think growth will slow to 0% or near 0% in Q2 of 2019. With Brexit likely not until Q4 at the earliest, investment will remain weak and so Q3 over the summer could also be slow, hoping that renewed stockpiling could see a winter run up in GDP - overall though from here it seems hard to predict GDP growth above 1% for 2019 which is a very poor out-turn for the current rude health of the world economy.