Tuesday 31 December 2019

2019 prediction result

For the first time in 13 years of this competition I have reviewed the answers and no one was even close. My cat could have done better.

I guess this anecdotally suggests that 2019 was the most crazy year yet - even weirder than the 2010 and 2009 years of the financial crash.

Only gridbot predicted an election but it produced a hard brexit and a hung parliament. Nick Drew did well to suggest there would be a centrist party but it did not even survive the year out to qualify for the final.

My own predictions of May to survive and the remainders to win was fortunately 100% wrong.

Maybe 2020 will see the beginning of a return to normality and some more predictable events unfolding. Or perhaps the zeitgeist of the end of the decade will continue with unknown terrors to some.

A new prediction competition will be coming up next...

Happy New Year one and all!

Monday 23 December 2019

Brexit bites back

Really not very convinced by Boris' new strategy:

1. Win Election Getting Brexit done - big tick
2. Hold immiediate vote on Withdrawal Agreement - big tick
3. Legislate to make sure we leave come what may Decemner 2020 - err...

Why point 3? It is of course the Cummings strategy, set the scene so those pesky Europeans are focred to do a deal in a timeframe of our choosing - stop them dominating the battlefield like they did with sad old Theresa.

However, I am only partially convinced, as it sets up another round of remainer remoaning for the middle of next year and beyond. It will be hard to do a swift deal with the EU as there are many trade-off's to be considered.

Firstly, do we really want free movement or not. If not then many roads are closed, if we want a full Free Trade Association only this is compatible, but with much ECJ oversight and a distinct limit to the point our own trade deals with the US, Canada etc.

With much potential disagreement in Westminster and Brussels, we could well face another false cliff edge in December 2020.

For me, the issue is  no longer political - a great victory for Leave has ended that. For the economy though we are crying out for certainty, as was seen by the fall in the Pound last week when Boris announced this plan.

On balance, there was no need for it - it is pure showmanship with a potential downside. The battlefield was already won and this is a small mis-step.

Merry Xmas everyone, our light touch service may become even lighter touch this week and next!

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Election (3) - Towards a Strategy

Pace, CU, I'll get back to the economy next - promise!

Just to finish off:  so, when it comes to neutralising Momentum (to be understood as meaning the whole bedsit-woke leftist 'officer-class'), I don't at all recommend trusting to a lazy strategy of expecting them to drift away; nor to the more honourable approach of fixing all the real grievances.

And yet the task is vital.  May's appalling failure was not to finish them off in 2017, which I believe she could have - it was their 'close-run thing' in that GE which gave them the morale they carried into the 2019 rematch.  If they can get past their current demoralisation - and a major dust-up over the Labour leadership is just the thing to keep them together over the next three months - there's every likelihood they will find an intelligent way of maintaining their infrastructure, and a basic level of activity, over the lean years to come.

In addition to fixing the real grievances (of course!), some of the other things that need doing seem already to be on Boris' (/ Cummings') list, tucked away at the back of the Manifesto, the famous page 48 - FTPA, boundaries (can it really be true, at bloody last!?), voter ID & postal voting etc etc, Leveson; and some constitutional measures besides.  Our friend Raedwald has advocated an overhaul of the Electoral Commission, which needs to find its place on the list: and there are some pertinent criticisms of the EHRC, too.

And of course the various media require attention.  Frankly, as a blogger, I'm not sure how social media are to be handled.  Freedom is a wonderful thing, and much under threat from the woke tendency.  But abuse of freedom is sickening.

The TV is easier to prescribe for.  Notwithstanding that the Left howls at the BBC too, in my mind there is no doubt whatever that things cannot be allowed to rest.  There are commentators like Andrew Marr who, I swear, don't even realise how shockingly biased they are.  His performance, and that of Emily Maitlis, on the morning of 13th December, were just astonishing [.... fill in your own bĂȘtes noires here] - almost as though they were deliberately goading the new government into attacking them.  [BTW, I don't hear anyone even bothering to defend Channel 4, whose nightly bias is blatant (and their manners appalling) - worse than the Graun, I'd say; and the Graun doesn't even need to be balanced.]

Having mentioned several measures we might fairly view as corrective (punitive is a harsh word), we might also mention the universities and other institutions further down the 'academic' scale.  Just as online freedom is precious, so too is academic freedom.  But it's under assault from the woke-left, in no uncertain terms - mostly, of course, from within.  (Worse in the USA than here, so far, but there's no room for complacency.)   Too big a subject to handle briefly (still more so the schools) but I trust there is room for it on Cummings' 5-year plan. 

Which brings me to my final hot-review election thoughts.  Longtime readers will often have found me lauding the British government's actions after the Boer War.  Where many might have expected a vengeful turn of events, the wise counsels of the day were for magnanimity towards the defeated Boer - a very large amount of money for rebuilding their shattered land.  The result repaid the gesture many times over - the magnificent contribution they made to WW1 and WW2, fighting superbly against the side which for many of them might have been a more natural attachment. 

So: over and above 'fixing the grievances' (which is itself a tall order, let's face it) I'd be looking for purposeful ways to persuade all but the most rabid, ideologically-driven marxists amongst the bedsit brigade that there are other, better ways to improve the lot of mankind than fomenting hatred and revolution.  The means of doing this will necessarily be indirect, because we don't go in for political re-education camps in this country.  But it's there to be tried.  We can't take any pleasure in a whole generation of 'officer-class' material festering in the juices of resentment.  I'd like to think Cummings is the man** for this, as well.


** Footnote:  I was pretty appalled by Gove's triumphalist warm-up speech (before Boris came on and justly demanded breakfast).  What a ghastly little git he is.

Monday 16 December 2019

Can we focus on the economy now, please?

Thanks to Brexit, the madness of Corbynism, climate change and the emergence of 'woke' identity politics, I can't remember a time when the economy was less important in terms of the national debate than now.

This blog started in 2006, the economy and its impact on politics was a cornerstone of the UK debate, even in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Into 2007 and the beginnings of the financial crisis and it became the all-consuming topic and this lasted into the faux-austerity years right up until the Brexit referendum in 2016.

So the really interesting point is that it is now 3 years with little practical focus on what is going on. In the main this is good news, the economy has ticked along in its new slow growth post-Quantitative easing way. Employment is very high by historical standards and jobs still low paying but improving at the margins.

There has been no major faffing with the tax system since George Osborne changed the stamp duty rates which flattened the housing market in 2015. This year we have changes to IR35 which will cause some dislocation, but a yet to be determined amount and anyway - there are plenty of jobs that need doing so it is likely that this will cause a shift in labour and how it works more than any lasting impact on the economy as a whole.

Of course, we did see a lot of high level macro-economic nonsense in the recent election campaign - stuff about nationalising rail and, er, broadband. All for the birds as it turns out and surely even a crazed Labour party is not going to run on such an extreme position in the future.

So now, with a return to a more normal environment for political discourse, what will we see, after all there are some big challenges to be had:

1 - Climate change is a big issue now, there is scope to change the tax base more radically to address this in the tax system...whilst...

2 - Somehow finding more money for the NHS and Social care, neither of which are going to be funded properly with a greying population. Clearly an extension to the pension system and better tax free private provision will be needed to get more money allocated to this sector

3 - Not forgetting Brexit, where trade negotiations (which lets face it are marginal in the overall scheme of things) will determine whether the Government is brave enough to significantly reduce tariffs to enable a low import cost base and juice the economy that way.

Plenty more to discuss, I look forward to it rather than having silly conversations about tens of billions for magical thinking theories on communism! Happy days ahead.

Sunday 15 December 2019

Weekend Election (2) - What Next

To envision the full potential horror of Momentum - a sophisticated 'ground operation' of decisive effectiveness in the cause of marxist identitarian dictatorship** - is one thing.  To figure out how to neutralise it politically is quite another, whatever parliamentary majority the Conservatives now command.  By 'it', I don't just mean Momentum with a capital 'M': the left is often fairly amorphous & blob-like, and will readily re-form in a different guise: they're good at that.  What's meant here is the determined, disaffacted leftist bedsit 'officer class' we've discussed before which, if Momentum disbanded tomorrow, would still exist as a fully networked 'virtual' revolutionary base.  They've trained together; they've 'fought' together; the camaraderie is there.

There are two 'passive' approaches I don't think it prudent to rely upon; one complacent and lazy, the other honourable and much more demanding.

1. The lazy argument is that Corbyn-style marxism is now proven to be terminally unattractive to the British electorate: ergo, the matter can safely be ignored.  They'll all drift off to get proper jobs and have families.  If they do ever re-surface, they'll be spurned just as surely as they have been this time around - and take down the Labour Party with them (again).

I don't buy either part of that.  We might readily accept that some of them will be pretty disillusioned right now, and may well drift away.  The attention span of da yoof is notoriously short - indeed, one might fairly contend they've already slipped from their 2017 high-water mark. That's helpful, as far as it goes: some of the weaker brethren are, well, weak.  But for a solid core, the grievances are strong, the ideology solid, the narrative compelling.  It's easy to stay networked, ready to be re-mobilised at short notice - even if they aren't actually back in action straight away (see footnote). 

And next time?  Under better generalship in the mainstream Labour Party, the crack Momentum infantry could easily have had far greater impact this time.  The Labour campaign, incompetently conducted by first-timers following Corbyn's purge at the time of Party Conference, was strategically flawed, tactically inept (e.g. pouring resources into Uxbridge, a mere vanity project) - and that's before factoring in the oft-remarked observation that facing almost any other leader than Corbyn, the Tories would have been toast (unprovable; but it's certainly what many Tories think).  Good troops were squandered by Corbyn's Labour like the Commonwealth forces in the fall of Singapore. Who's to say that the infinitely more political McDonnell couldn't have pulled it off?  Complacency about next time isn't good enough.

2. The more strenuous, and altogether honourable 'passive' approach recognises the grievances - the real ones.  It attacks them via a 'One Nation Conservative' strategy, as announced by Boris on Friday, of Actually Redressing the Grievances; and who knows, he may mean it.  Nothing like draining the swamp to flush out the alligators: and it would be wonderful to be able to rely on this alone, to deal with the disaffection and see off the marxists.

The trouble with this laudable mission is several-fold.  (a) Some longstanding problems take an awful lot of turning around: maybe more than one parliament, given the mighty distractions of Brexit, and a probable recession starting soon.  (b) Some of the grievances are outright spurious, but the contrived 'hurt' is real enough in the eyes of the beholders.  (c) Some problems, notably health and old-age provision get bigger, the more successful you are at dealing with the current manifestations.  Demand will always be one step ahead of supply.  (d) Some problems are unlikely to be solved by anything I've seen in anyone's manifesto.

All in all, a realistic best case would be that in 2024 Johnson's government gets a decent amount of credit for demonstrably trying hard - hopefully with a few tangible quick wins that haven't simply been banked and forgotten.  But everything can always be labelled "too little, too late".  It will be a mighty feat of WW2-style Keynsianism - plus supporting propaganda - to leave a large number of people feeling materially and morally better off in a mere five years.  The BBC cannot be relied upon to do anything constructive towards that end, nor (e.g.) the teachers' unions, nor Labour councils ... etc etc.  That's not even to mention the SNP.

Splendid though it would be to rely on manifest Tory success in addressing the nation's intractable problems for Momentum spontaneously to wither on the vine within five years ... but I wouldn't trust to it myself. 

(Part 3 to come)

** In case anyone imagines this is overstating the matter, you don't have to go far to find people writing about preparations to wage the Class War starting on Monday.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Weekend Election Thoughts (1): Momentum

Here's an interesting difference between the two main parties.  If you volunteer to go canvassing for the Tories, you are welcomed with open arms and - frequently with little, or even no 'training' - sent straight out onto the streets with a cheery "have you done this before?"  If you're a first-timer, you might be sent out as part of a little team.  If you self-identify as "experienced", or are just cocky, they'll happily send you out alone. 

So how difficult can it be, to ask "can we count on your support?".  Well.  For those who don't know, the old business of just sticking people down on the list as "pledge", "doubtful" or "other" are long since over.  Since the rise of UKIP, Tory canvassers have supposedly been trying to classify people much more finely, e.g. "Brexit-formerly-Labour".  In theory, they'd get a different personalised letter to the person who was "Brexit-formerly-Cons".  (Just once in a while, there's a local operation sufficiently competent to make use of such subtleties.  In truth, it really only makes sense in official target seats or by-elections of national importance, when central resources are available.)

Oh yes: and we're not to call it "canvassing" any more.  It's "listening".  Now where did that come from?  The answer is - Momentum.  And a very stark contrast they present to what us Tories do

As well as having a bit of an inside perspective on Momentum (it's a long story), I first met these chaps in action on the doorstep in 2017.  A 20-something rang the doorbell, and he probably guessed he was on a sticky wicket because we had a poster in the window.  So that's strange, right from the off: received wisdom is not to waste your time with the other side, there's just too many houses to get round.  But evidently it was all in his brief, because he had a string of well-crafted Q&A scripts, designed to actually engage and probe and, yes, maybe even to convince. 

But there isn't one person in ten thousand who can take on that challenge without (a) training and (b) motivation.  Well, we live in a marginal.  But still: that's impressive.  BTW, he had clearly been bussed in because his local knowledge was rudimentary - though not zero - and soon gave out.  Not so his general intelligence: he was an educated, polite, thoughtful person (and I've encountered more of the same in 2019) and gave no outward signs of rabidity, snowflakery, or cult-grooming.  What he had clearly undertaken was extensive political education (might have been self-taught, of course) - and some very purposeful training: which definitely included the importance of "listening".

Two things about this.  First, there is no serious Tory equivalent of such training - some half-hearted measures at best (like making people call it "listening"!), which are pretty-much lost on confident middle-aged activists who just hit the streets with "can we count on ..." as they always have.  And, frankly, few of our youthful activists (yes, there are quite a lot of them in the Tory ranks these days, itself a big change over the last ten years) could hold a candle to this lot.  We have no Doctrine to steep them in! - because "no Doctrine" is half of our raison d'ĂȘtre.

The second thing is this.  Since 2011, as regular C@W-ers will know, I have been much taken with the concept of a capable new officer-class emerging within the ranks of politically-active, educated, disillusioned 20-somethings.  2011?  The year of the riots, of course, when one of our esteemed BTL-ers ('Anon', if I recall) opined that while the nonsense of that summer was pretty much anarchy, frequently of merely the opportunistic-looting kind (albeit with some Blackberry-based 'organisation'), we ain't seen nothing yet.  Just wait until the leftist bedsit officer-class emerges.

Momentum is a pretty fair candidate to be just that.  Its senior ranks (I can assure you if you don't already know) include some really intelligent people.  They are motivated.  They have stamina.  They are strongly inclined towards a Doctrine, though I'm not sure it's fully formed.  They are utterly hostile to what generally gets called neo-liberalism; though again, that's not a wholly coherent doctrinal stance because by some definitions, I am too.  They have a programme of political education and, up to a point, it's pretty practical in its intentions, if not in its outcomes.  And some of them - what proportion, I know not - are outright revolutionary marxists who believe their time has come.

In ones nightmares, Momentum could be truly formidable.  That's certainly its intention!  And it needs to be taken carefully into the reckoning.

More to come


Friday 13 December 2019

The Potential Significance is Great

... but only 'potential'.  Johnson's crew must use this astonishing opportunity, to wrench the Overton window into a new position in the multi-dimensional political space.  But this needs to be adroit; it needs to be very determined; and it needs not to be distracted by the inevitable EU negotiating morass (which must also receive full attention).

The aim (to caricature it briefly) must be to force 'reasonable' members of the Momentum tendency - yes, they exist - to give up their recent dreams.  A truly vital task.

Wow.  More over the weekend.  Have at it BTL.


Thursday 12 December 2019

Light Relief - While We're Waiting

Here's an hilarious vanity project to make you chuckle on a dank December election day:  Saudi Aramco valued at $2 trillion!

Yeah, right.  The 2019 flotation flopperoo was one of the biggest damp squibs in corporate history.  But MbS needed his face saving; so every sheikh and stooge across the ME has been required to buy a couple of shares at crazy prices on the Riyadh exchange.  And $2tn it is!

2019 - what a year to choose to float a hydrocarbon producer.  When the entire world decided "de-carb" is a Thing, and that joining the 'Adaptation' gravy train is the only game in town.



Wednesday 11 December 2019

Why do the polls of edge in these days?

Political polling has a lot to answer for.

Starting in what we must now call Year Zero for New UK (2016), they predicted a Remain victory with ease in the Referendum, which was one of the reasons Cameron went for it.

Just the Year before Year -1, they had predicted Ed Milliband would squeak in as Prime Minister.

In 2017 the Tories were due a big majority under May who duly held and election and lost.

There is an outside chance we see this in 2019 too.

But in the last 2 elections Labour has closed the gap at the end of the campaign, according to opinion polls. This time for further back so hopefully too little too late. But why do all the polls gather around a point in unison, especially as often in the past, as above, they have then ALL been wrong.

As competitors in a market, there is no incentive to all have the same results, or else the buyers would reduce the competition in the market to the lowest price offer?

I can't work out why this happens  - any ideas?

Tuesday 10 December 2019

End Game time for UK electorate - a limp effort it is too

As I have posted before, I really have despaired at the quality of this election.

The Tories have one strategic plan and that has a big hole in it. Get Brexit done they say. But we know they don't really mean it. There is no way Brexit is over and next year could well see a big panic as No Deal rears its head again after we manage to not agree a Free trade Deal in twelve months flat. OK, so I don't really care if we end up on EEA type terms, however given this is their only real policy it is a poor effort that it is not even good or likely deliverable,.

Then we have Labour, where to start, their pure fantasy of massive economic spending and free treats for all is beyond the pale in terms of the damage it would do to the Country. The outrageous weaponising of the NHS has come to a peak just in time for the end of the election - clever in one way, but so tragic in another as again they have no answer to the real problems. We can but hope for a heavy defeat to see the communists ousted from our main opposition party.

Then the Lib Dems - only two policies have cut through. One being to revoke the referendum which has gone down like a cup of cold sick. The second, to deny there is a biological sex difference between men and women, has had a similar effect on anyone who has paid attention. As ever, get woke, go broke. A shame though as a sensible party would have had a real chance at replacing Labour, but there we go they invested their capital in Jo Swinson who had literally not a clue.

So there we are, what will Jo Public do come Thursday. I personally am keen on a big Tory majority to make politics go away for a few years and we can get back to sorting out the economy..but they don't deserve it and if it happens it is purely because the opposition are so weak. I think in th event it will be a very close thing as to whether Johnson gets his Government - a late swing to Labour of a couple of percentage points could send us back to a re-run of the May nightmare!

Monday 9 December 2019

Today: a Once-in-a-Lifetime Event

A journey I make frequently takes me all the way up the M11, then on via the A14 to the A1(M) northwards.  For several years now this has been heavily disrupted by a substantial road-building project designed  (a) to make the A14 three lanes wide for the whole Cambridge-Brampton stretch;  (b) to by-pass Huntingdon instead of over-passing it (the big flyover section there is badly in need of repair, and is only two lanes wide anyway); and  (c) to eliminate the west-of-Huntingdon dog-leg, where the westbound A14 becomes a route rather than a road, encompassing two ugly junctions and significant delays before it carries on past Brampton to Kettering and points west (map here).

The scale of this upgrade is pretty big, starting at Cambridge with some very large and complex new junctions to allow the M11, A14 and several local A-roads to merge effectively; and ending a little to the west of the Brampton new cross-over of the A1(M), with new river and rail bridges as well as the many new junctions.  On Saturday morning, heading north-and-west, we were forced to detour because, not for the first time, the A14 was entirely closed by these works.  I was resigned to a couple more years of this stuff.


Returning south-and-east this morning, to our amazement the entirely new stretch of road is now open (and a very fine road it is, too).  So what? - you ask.  So, ... it's opened one whole year ahead of schedule!

Not, I think, an everyday occurrence in the annals of UK civil engineering.  A modest celebration is in order.


History Corner:   I cannot quickly find online evidence for this; but the opening of the A14 as a direct trunk-road from the east-coast docks to the Midlands in 1982 was part of the first Thatcher government's meticulous planning for what became the Miners Strike of 1984-85.  Until the completion of this route (and various other preparations) was complete, the long-anticipated strike could not be properly fought.  And so the government climbed down from the first confrontation in 1981-82, awaiting the more propitious conditions of 1984.  Fancy that: a government acting with genuine strategic intent ...

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Different Attitudes in Foreign Lands

Perhaps not as foreign as all that - just the USA and the Netherlands.  It can be refreshing to hear views expressed in ways that you won't encounter in this country very much.

I've lauded Adolph Reed here before; he's a black American professor of political philosophy, and despite his avowed marxism he sees clearly, thinks coherently, writes trenchantly - and extremely well.  (He's self-evidently a nice chap, too.)   In this Current Affairs interview, he opines on the Obama phenomenon and - his customary thesis - the baleful effect of the present-day US politics of race on what he reckons should be the class-oriented struggle for the betterment of people.  A couple of extracts:
and then Barack popped up. Nobody knew anything about him, nobody in the activist world had ever heard of him, had no connection to him, and it was just fascinating watching the liberal and foundational world get kind of wet-pantied over him. And it actually split the left ... in the summer of ’08 after he had all but officially sewn up the nomination, he made an immediate sharp-right turn over the span of four, five days ... Obama seemed to burnish, if not to establish, his bona fides with the black political elite by giving the “tough love” speech, that “we” have to tell our broke people to do better ... why did so many people who should have known better get swept up in the hype? ... what’s happened to the left that even led serious, longtime veteran activists to delude themselves, and to delude themselves as militants. It’s not just that they liked Obama, and supported Obama, but they were sort of like, the Gestapo for Obama during the campaign.
... this is another marker of the decline of the left, ultimately… that a society can be just if 1 percent of the population controls more than 90 percent of the good stuff, provided that 1 percent is like 12 percent black, 14 percent hispanic, half women, and whatever the appropriate percentage is gay ... Is it a model of a just society that most of us want to sign up for? Probably not.
Closer to home: I've been in the Netherlands on business recently, with a Dutch colleague who is of Turkish heritage, and visibly so (whilst having a Dutch name and accent).  When we walked into a meeting with another company, one of the folk we were meeting for the first time cheerily greeted him with: well you're not a native - where are you from?  Nobody froze, or tutted - everyone was getting along just fine.  As we broke up at the end of the day, someone said he was dashing off to the toyshop to prepare for his forthcoming duties as Santa - in Dutch, Sinterklaas - to which one of his colleagues of Indonesian heritage said:  "I'll be Black Pete"; and another, of Chinese antecedents, offered: "I'll be Yellow Pete!

Nobody in the room took amiss at any of this.  But here's the Graun giving a platform for hyper-ventilation on the subject.

As they say: travel and reading broaden the mind.  Until it all gets proscribed, that is.


Tuesday 3 December 2019

Labour to nationalise itself make the Labour party 'free to all'

As the election gets tight for Labour they have been busily offering 'free' goodies to all potential voters in a desperate calculated bid to try and get nearer to 40% of the vote and deny the Tories a majority in Government.

Hot off the phone line from the Millbank Kremlin to me comes the news that the last and best retail offer Labour has saved for the end of the election Campaign. The Labour party intends to rally make it for the may and not the jew few.

In an announcement to be made at Roker Park in Sunderland, Jeremy Corbyn will announce that the Labour party will be nationalised. Everyone will automatically become a member of the labour party from birth. A free signed picture of Jeremy Corbyn will accompany every NHS baby pack and to start school all kids will receive a Diane Abbot signed calculator.

Labour believe that this fantastic offer, fully paid for by a travel tax on the Gnomes of Zurich, will be the clincher. With everyone a member of labour then everyone can vote for Labour at the election. I understand Richard Burgon is the brains behind this cunning plan and argued for it voicerferously over a recent meeting of the shadow cabinet in Jeremy's kitchen.

As a Capitalist I can only marvel at the logic and audacity of the Labour party during this election. their sensational and well-thought through political plays have amazed me.

What will be more amazing is if they really do get more than 1 in 3 of the votes next week...