Friday 31 July 2020

Happy Eid!

As they say from their locked-up homes in Manchester!

It is a rum situation this Covid -19. This virus is racist and also picks on the stupid and also the obese. It really is Darwinian  (as in, the Darwen awards, correct spelling for the grammar hawks). 

No wonder the Government, assaulted by the crazed BLM middle class girl guides, can’t figure out a way to present the situation factually without getting in a right twist.

Poor Boris I saw got a right going over for suggesting we tackle obesity. It is really quite a logical thing when we are assailed by a virus that targets the obese. Anecdotally I have heard London wards were basically BMI 30+ zones and over 80’s - often both.

I really hope our clever doctors can find a vaccine because there appears no chance of UK society overcoming it with common sense or joint action.  

Thursday 30 July 2020

Blogger Warning

Today, Blogger implemented the long-trailed "new version" and like a trusting eejit, I didn't insist on reverting to the old version (which one can for a short while).  This evening, by way of reward, it butchered the post I put up this morning!

I have reconstructed it as best I can.  But just to get my retaliation in first:  if posts go haywire in the next few days, nothing to do with me, mate ...

And if anyone in Blogger is monitoring these things:  fix the bloody bugs, pal


Erratic Wind Power: the Great Grid Balancing Act

Some years ago on another blog I wrote several posts noting how problematic was the rise in erratic forms of electricity generation (especially wind power) which presents the operators of grid systems with challenges that sometimes call upon extreme (and inefficient) (and costly) solutions.  Germany is the worst. 

The underlying physical facts have not much changed; and the amout of wind power has increased considerably.  But the operators are good engineers - and regulators let them spend whatever they need to (and send us all the bill) - just keep the bloody lights on! So, by and large, the lights have been kept on, albeit at the cost of ever more of those extreme, inefficient and expensive solutions.

However, new solutions are hoving ever closer into view as practical propositions.  Most of what I summarise below is not red-hot news in the industry; but a lot of MSM types are suddenly catching up with it.
  1. Storage:  it has long been the quip in physics labs around the world that "if you can invent a truly economic means of storing electricity, you can name your university after yourself".   I'm hoping it's obvious how cheap storage would contribute to the erratic windpower problem.  Well, a bit like The Cure For Cancer (see BTL comments here), there hasn't been a single mighty breakthrough; rather, a lot of impressive incremental improvements, not least in batteries - and we're getting there.  So, there are people building solar + battery combos, and massive grid-scale batteries at cunning points on the system, without subsidies: always the acid test.  It's early days: but we're getting there.  (It's not just batteries, either.)
  2. HydrogenI've written about this quite recently (and subsequently so, inter alia, has the DTel).  I know there are loads of sceptical views out there: but believe me, the amount of private money and effort going into this is truly immense.  How does it contribute to the erratic windpower problem?  Easy: storing hydrogen is much easier than storing electricity, and negative-price electricity (offpeak windpower at times of big surplus: solar power in many, errr, sunny parts of the world) can generate quite cheap hydrogen, via electrolysis.  And hydrogen can be used for lots of applications - including generating electricity again!   (I'm summarising heavily because it's a very big picture that's rapidly developing.)
  3. Demand-side response & aggregator systems: when the price of electricity goes negative, you can pay people to take it off your hands.  Likewise, when it goes through the roof at times of peak usage, you can pay people to stop using it.  Who are "people"?  Well, just about anyone and any firm or organisation that can, with a bit of thought (and maybe a bit of investment), vary their demand in response to sufficiently juicy price incentives.  To make this work on a big scale requires a lot of software sitting in some aggregator's systems, crunching the most epic quantities of data real-time and transacting millions of times in small quantities.  There are more people with this vision than are making much money out of it - yet.   
On this last category of tool: the sole reason those recent, and thus far quite successful electricity-market insurgents Ovo and Octopus are in the market as suppliers (an otherwise rather unrewarding business) is to play this game using the ever-expanding fleet of electric vehicle batteries, as soon as this can become a reality. They expect to clean up. As noted in the linked article, "It requires dedicated two-way charging equipment that can also communicate with the vehicles, as well high-level aggregator control systems. However all of this technology exists". Yes - and right now Elon Musk (Tesla) refuses to make batteries that will do 2-way charging! To be fair, it can shorten battery life significantly, and will require all sorts of potential hazards (and consequent insurance issues) to be resolved. Also warranty issues: if (e.g.) Ovo is offering a stonking real-time pricing deal that incentivises car owners to cane their batteries for £££, they will destroy them quite quickly.

It's all part of the vast, mostly-untapped world of demand-side response potential.  We are going to need it all, eventually: and storage, and hydrogen.  The good news is, this (like hydrogen replacing natural gas) is the kind of phenomenon that can grow slowly (at first), in small but steady degrees.  Contrast with the unicorn of carbon-capture-and-storage - everyone can describe it, some people believe in it, but it doesn't exist - which can only be done by hitting critical mass immediately.  That's hard.  That takes public money.

The other beauty of DSR is, early adopters will love it (£££ + prestige) and then, at both the individual and the corporate level, it will become fashionable - always the best form of promo.

So:  balancing a grid which supports a large amount of windpower and solar will never be cost-free - there has to be some flipside to sources of energy with almost zero direct variable cost (i.e. no fuel) - but it is going to get ever more efficient.


Monday 27 July 2020

Birmingham Post

A week or so ago we had some BTL exchanges on the relative, errr, merits & demerits of Liverpool and Manchester.  It so happened my attention was being drawn at that time to an interesting short account by one Ina Taylor** of how an individual poled up and subsequently thrived in Birmingham in the mid 19th C - at that time, not at all the Second City it was to become - his ability to succeed being attributed to the conducive conditions of Brum's dynamic nature at the time.  Her thesis is as follows:  
  • Brum was wholly a product of the Industrial Revolution; a 'new town', already a centre of manufacturing of many kinds:  as such, it was "free from the grip of the guilds and their rigid apprenticeships; success was open to anyone, irrespective of background, who had energy, foresight and capital"
  • at the time there were strict laws against Nonconformists (unitarians, quakers etc) from attending the universities; and so smart people from such backgrounds directed their talents towards industry and commerce
  • there was also legislation against Nonconformist clergymen from living within 5 miles of a Corporate Town: but Birmingham was not (yet) a Corporate Town!  It was thus a haven for dissenting clergy and their congregations; and there flourished such firms as Cadburys, Lloyds and GKN founded by such folk
That's the sort of social history that policy-makers need to know.  How do we encourage centres for dynamic new industries?  What are the 2020 parallels to guilds and dissenters; and what rules do we need to waive, in order to get the right people motoring?  (Is it freeports?)

Anyone got other good stories along these lines?  The best UK example of a genuinely deliberate attempt in such a direction was Canary Wharf and the London docklands in general.  I happened to know Geoffrey Howe quite well, and he had told me of his vision for Docklands even before the 1979 GE.  In many respects it was his greatest achievement.  These things can be done.

Surely, Australia ought to be carving out a prime chunk of its (immensely long) coastline for HongKong2 ...


** Introduction to The Edwardian Lady, by Ina Taylor

Saturday 25 July 2020

Weekend: American Lament - Darwin Awaits ...

If we don't much bang on about the USA so much on this blog, it's not for lack of regard; far from it.  Personally, I have worked for more than one US company and, whilst never resident, I have done a huge amount of business in the States (indeed, made most of my money there).  It's such a big country with so many traditions, and generalisation is often foolish: but in commercial terms most Americans are a delight to do business with: open-minded, and always ready to deal if you show there's something in it for them, without being overly concerned about what's in it for you.  They put most Europeans to shame.  (I exempt the London financial sector which happily shares this same characteristic.)

No: if we don't bang on about the USA so much, it's more out of a sense of not wishing to intrude upon the private grief of friends.  Because they have fallen into the hands of utter lunatics.

1.  There has always been a bonkers strand on the US fundamentalist Right.  I have worked with good professional geologists who claim to believe the Lord made the world in literally seven days some 4,000 years ago - and yet their entire technical discipline is based on, errr, a rather different account  - one that they must also maintain in their heads Monday to Saturday, so to speak.  But in the past it's not generally been too hard to leave them to their Sunday eccentricities**.

2.  The American sense of libertarianism is also somewhat hard to rationalise.  Yes, there are indeed some out-and-out cave dwellers maintaining a genuinely self-sufficient lifestyle in their Montana fastnesses.  (Well, they probably don't manufacture their own automatic firearms ...)  But for so many others, their professed enthusiam for individualism and personal liberty somehow doesn't apply during working hours, because the average American corporate is a tightly-run dictatorship. (Benign? -ish.)  Employee involvement most definitely not wanted: but blind, unquestioning loyalty most categorically required (and forthcoming).

3.  Finally there's the aggressive-woke-snowflake tendency in their universities (and increasingly their corporate HR departments), but we'll let that abomination pass just for now, because ...

It's the fundamentalist/libertarians that are my immediate worry, them and their commander-in-chief.  Their attitude to Covid-19 is likely to see Darwin swinging into action in a big way: a whole year of Darwin awards being issued.  And although we could just about make a pro forma evolutionary argument for how American society is going to emerge all the stronger for a good clean-out of the weak, somehow it doesn't ring very true.  "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger!"  Yeah, maybe.  But you might want to check on the physical and mental condition of some Covid "survivors".

There are of course those on the Left who'd say Boris Johnson's Britain bears more than a passing resemblance to Trump's America.  It's not a wholly empty comparison.  But it's not a quarter as much perturbing (not to me, anyway, even if it's clear Boris has made a very bad fist of being king-of-the-world).  

Yes, the USA has colossal strength in depth, as the Japanese learned to their surprise and detriment.  And mighty empires don't crumble overnight.  But what Americans face today, on several fronts (Covid, China, identity politics ...), and the shape in which they face it, is frightening.  There's a long LRB piece here that addresses primarily the China apsect of this, concluding:
The US is currently preoccupied by the legacy of racial hierarchy and the last half-century of widening inequality.  But as it attends to the challenge of domestic reconstruction, its political class faces another question.  Can it fashion a domestic political bargain to enable the US to become what it currently is not: a competent and co-operative partner in the management of the collective risks of the Anthropocene?  After the shock of Covid-19 it is more urgent than ever.  
Sorry, my Trans-Atlantic friends, but under any probable political leadership over the next four years, I don't quite see how you come out of this, except materially diminished - relative to China at the very least.  Which is depressing indeed.


** I realise of course that many would attribute much worse things to some fundamentalists than just quirky ideas on evolution etc  

Thursday 23 July 2020

Victory for Ambulance-Chaser vs Labour Party

A few months ago we reported on the gleeful pronouncements of lawyer Mark Lewis as he contemplated an orgy of litigation within the Labour Party over the ramifications of the anti-semitism row, the Panorama programme thereupon, and the famous "leaked report". 
There are lots and lots of claims.  There are claims under the Data Protection Act, there are claims for breach of confidence or invasion of privacy and there are claims for libel.  It is a very lengthy report that mentions a lot of people.  I’ve been contacted by 15 people.  Each one of them could well have several claims.  What is going on is phenomenal ...  There are actions against the party, actions against individuals, actions against commentators.  People need to be careful about statements that have been made.  If this bankrupts the Labour party or individuals, so be it ...”
Well, his ship has come in and now he's started to coin it - reportedly taking the lion's share of the Labour Party's large pay-out.  And not just 15 people: he now reckons to be in touch with more than 30 potential litigants!  Further lawsuits are already flying, from several different directions, in a mighty Mexican stand-off.  Mr Lewis doubtless claims royalties on every aspect: he's seemingly cornered the market, Don King-style.

You have to believe Starmer saw this coming and is playing the game as cleanly as he knows (and not cheaply, either, with other people's money) so that at least he's guaranteed to be among the last men standing, and with no shit on his shoes either.  Guaranteed?  There are some on the left who fulminate furiously at his actions in settling what we must think of as the "Phase One action".  Can he personally be sued for that?  These lefties' writ no longer runs much beyond the tweets they twitter: but a canny lawyer might think of something ...

What riches for Lewis!  What sport! 


Wednesday 22 July 2020

Relief in Retail

At the beginning of the Covid crisis you may remember I wrote a few times on the need to switch away from upwards-only rents to a more nuanced approach for retail based on turnover. Fair to say I did not get universal support for this and a few people pointed out that some shopping centres had tried this already.

However, I am still pleased to see the Crown Estate is to pursue this strategy in Regent Street (where I work, so will be able to give regular updates as to how it is working out) - see here.

This approach shoudl work for the low income restaurants and shops that are not going to bounce back for a few months yet to anything like pre-Covid normal.

It will be interesting to see if this strategy works, or whether business is just too bad to continue for many of the independent retailers.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Russia in Britain

Once upon a time the headlines would have spoken of "Red Faces" at such revelations on Russian activities, but the doctrinaire aspect is missing in these days of pure venality.  By way of some background thoughts, here are a couple of observations.

1.  For the best part of a decade, Western politicians forced a fixation on Iraq and Afghanistan that was so totally all-encompassing for the security services and armed forces that attention to, and expertise on Russia was allowed to dwindle to almost zero** (and not just in the UK).  The scrabbling around to rectify this began a few years ago, but there was an immense, gaping window of opportunity for Russians to exploit - and they did.

2.  Of course, it's handy that Corbyn was a blatant, card-carrying Useful Idiot, operating in plain sight on RT and on his feet in the Commons.  (Suggesting that the Russians be given our Salisbury Novichok evidence for their review and considered response ... - for pity's sake.  It might even - justifiably - have cost him the 2019 GE: not many voters have any truck with that kind of crap.)

But.  There are some truly masssive scandals for the Conservative Party lurking out there.  It'll be curtains for some.  (Should be, anyway.)


** Belated update for the record,  from the Graun:
... the agencies’ post-cold war workload ... was dominated by counter-terrorism, especially in the wake of 9/11, as well as ongoing issues related to Northern Ireland, and the mounting threat from far-right violent extremism.  By 2008-09, according to the Russia report, just 3% of MI5’s effort was allocated to work against “hostile state activity”.  By 2006, just 4% of GCHQ’s work was focused on the former Soviet bloc, for similar reasons.  These proportions have risen again recently, although the precise figures have been redacted from the report.  Nevertheless, they mean that Putin’s Russia was largely faced with an open goal.

Monday 20 July 2020

BBC: the Bad and the Very, Very Good

This isn't a wokewatch blog, there isn't time in the day;   though sometimes we can't contain ourselves.  The importance of free speech and truth-telling is central to the type of liberal capitalism we espouse.

And the Beeb is so very often at fault: so when it lives gloriously up to its Charter the trumpets should be sounded.  But before that, a reminder of its venality.  They are re-running David Olusoga's A House Through Time, and I must have missed the relevant episode of the Liverpool House, or I'd have mentioned it then.  Olusoga is of course a revisionist historian with an impressively "rational" demeanour - oh, he knows so many facts - and needless to say the Bristol House was that of a slave-trader etc etc ad nauseam.  The Liverpool example was near the docks, and in the episode that covers WW2 he delivers the following line.  Thanks to the untiring efforts of the two heroic dock workers he's lauding,
"the Port of Liverpool remained operational throughout the War, ensuring that Britain was fed, equipped and armed"
Except, of course, when it wasn't.  The Liverpool dockers have always been notorious for their propensity for striking, and WW2 was no exception.  As well as a load of small strikes in the period before Hitler invaded Russia (i.e. when Russia was Hitler's ally and the Communist Party opposed the war), there was what even trade unionists accept was a "major" dock strike in Liverpool in 1943; and a big seaman's strike there in 1942.  Londoners of my father's generation would bitterly recall the Liverpool dockers being out at the height of the Blitz.  Time to revise the revisionist account, then.

BUT  (*fanfare*)  the Beeb has redeemed itself, and all is not lost.  For they have seen fit to publish a no-holds-barred account of how the Atlantic slave trade had its origins in a pre-existing, and utterly unrepentent native African slave trade.  We all knew this, but I wasn't expecting to see it aired quite so fully as it is here. 
'My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves' - Nigerian journalist and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that one of her ancestors sold slaves, but argues that he should not be judged by today's standards or values.  
My great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, was what I prefer to call a businessman, from the Igbo ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria. He dealt in a number of goods, including tobacco and palm produce. He also sold human beings. "He had agents who captured slaves from different places and brought them to him," my father told me...
It further contains some highly relevant cultural commentary by this bravely outspoken lady.
The successful sale of adults was considered an exploit for which a man was hailed by praise singers, akin to exploits in wrestling, war, or in hunting animals like the lion. Slavery was so ingrained in the culture that a number of popular Igbo proverbs make reference to it: [e.g.] Anyone who has no slave is his own slave ... The concept of "all men are created equal" was completely alien to traditional religion and law in his society. It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles.  Assessing the people of Africa's past by today's standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains  [my emphasis].
Can this article survive for long in the Beeb's website before being taken down?  I've recommended elsewhere that we all cache it as a gem of accurate, thorough historical reporting and intelligent commentary.  It deserves to go viral - and if it did, the resultant woke-wailing would be wondrous to behold.


Saturday 18 July 2020

Weekend: More Authoritative Covid Stuff

A couple of months I posted some knowledgeable Covid material from an Oxford prof I'd heard speak.  It's had the most hits of anything on C@W over the past three months.

Here's the perspective from another Oxford prof - this time more conveniently available on www.  It's only 18 minutes, and entirely accessible.   The speaker is Naj Rahman, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Director of the Oxford Respiratory Trials Unit, who is absolutely in the front line on several key aspects (Oxford being way out front in real-time research & response on Covid, and Rahman being a practitioner as well as a researcher).

His talk is at once sobering, encouraging, and in its account of the noble efforts of some medical students, uplifting.  BTW, I'm not sure he agrees with the previous prof that Covid-19 might be the last coronavirus pandemic we face.

So - only 18 mins and well worth a viewing.


Wednesday 15 July 2020

Property? Oh Yes, Recession is a-Coming

From a fortnight ago (and noted BTL by our reader Graeme), here's a massive straw in the wind:
Retailers in the UK have paid less than 15 per cent of their rent, according to initial figures from Wednesday’s quarterly payment date, piling pressure on landlords whose incomes have been cut deep by coronavirus ... Retailers paid just 14 per cent of the rent due, compared with 20 per cent at the same point after the March 25 payment date, leaving landlords waiting for £2.15bn in unpaid rent for the June quarter. 
BQ will hopefully illuminate this further: but even to the mere spectator this is obviously massive.  Here are a couple of aspects that occur to me.

1. Impact on Local Authorities

A number of councils have been pouring speculative money into commercial property, borrowing heavily to do so (at very low rates - for the time being).  But it's Northern Rock syndrome: they are borrowing short-dated money to invest in long-term "assets".  Yes, there's been an arb there for them - and they are propping up thier expenditure with it: but it is SPECULATION.  Nemesis awaits.  

BTW, this stupidity used to be illegal for Local Authorities.  Who let them do it?  Yep, you guessed: it was George Little Git Osborne, in 2011.

2.  Property Market Generally

We've all probably read stuff recently about how residential property is set for a mini boom.  Well, during Lockdown people have saved up all that money and repaid their other debt.  And people will be eager to move away from the dangerous city, to one of those innumerable white-flight, on-the-ringroad housing developments close to a nice county town, with green fields to look out on (until the next tranche gets built).  Oh yes, there's pent-up demand for housing out there ...

This whistling-in-the-wind is the merest bollocks.  Immediately adjacent sub-sectors within the same part of the economy ain't ever gonna be counter-cyclical.  In a big downturn, most things correlate.  It reminds me of an eejit I saw on the telly during the '07-09 Financial Crisis, interviewed on a news-piece about falling car sales.  He opined that although sales of new cars were collapsing, and prices falling, "the price of second-hand cars will go up, because people will always want to buy a car - and when they can't afford a new one, they'll go for second-hand".  

Hoho.  Nope, when there's no economic activity, there's no economic activity.   (And there's quite a few less people, too; and of course all those former granny-houses to shift.)  Not many mortgages available to the unemployed.  And even if the estate agents' windows don't reflect it just yet ... they will.


Tuesday 14 July 2020

Oatly: Failure of the capital markets

Now, you may or may not know of Oatly. They sell very carb-heavy milk substitute. Personally, I am a big fan and it has more or less replaced milk in my coffee.

Today though I am frustrated because of the news today that it has raised £200 million for expansion. Whilst I maybe a happy customer and pleased to see the company growing, I am dismayed by the use of celebrity endorsement. 

Clearly, Oatley approached the mega US fund Blackstone to help with a capital raise. They in turn have found some of their own money, but then plied the celebrity contacts they have such as Oprah Winfrey to find the £200 million. As part of the deal, the celebs have then lent their name to the launch which will help promote the company. 

The frustration for me is that all of this is in keeping with the trend away from the capital markets we have seen in recent years. Private funds, Private equity and private debt are all the rage. Going public, once the ultimate sign of success is relegated to a second order issue. In the US they have constantly lowered the amount of public equity needed, so that companies like Facebook can have what are effectively share listing when most of the money is still tied up with the original management - this used to be the key trade-off of going public, but no longer.

So we have companies like Oatly, doing well and now only available to the already rich and famous. If they do go public it will be the likes of Jay-Z who do best. Private Equity is not friendly towards retail investors. At least Blackstone is, maybe we have to console ourselves with owning shares in them. 

Increasingly though public markets are falling in terms of capital allocation. This is in my view is a bad outcome for Western society. If means the value created by new business goes increasingly only to those founders and the already wealthy investors they started with. The little guy misses our more and more, even the little guy's helpers - the pension funds - are not really in this game anymore. 

There is not much on the face of it you can do to stop this, rich people should be free to invest where they like and management free to raise capital from all legitimate sources. However, Governments could do more to reduce reporting requirements and increase tax incentives to go public so that we don't always see the rich getting richer.  

Monday 13 July 2020

Wealth taxes on Agenda in the US

"Young, mega-rich - and demanding to pay more "
This is an interesting article on the BBC. It comes as no surprise that some of the woke community who have inherited a huge amount of money or made themselves fabulously rich have come out to try and push the idea of wealth tax on the US elections.

Of course, this is always the thin end of the wedge. The wealthiest can easily pay such taxes levelled at 1% and indeed their investments return much better than this on average so it has no impact.

But in terms of virtue signaling it pays them really well - they get huge points across the world for showing their moral conscience. What amazing people!

Of course this is the worst way to promote a tax, maybe the second worst. But it does strike me as being at least on the side of truth. As there is no good case in Western democracies to have a wealth tax. Wealth taxes are levied on assets that have already paid their dues, it is double taxation, akin to inheritance tax. Like the equally terrible Land Value Tax, it places the State as the ultimate owner of all goods and all citizens as rentiers. We literally spent hundreds of years getting us to the position we are in now, which also managed to create capitalism and lift more people out of poverty than ever before in human history. The side effect of this is a bunch of rich people, could be worse. 

Practically of course, when recently tried in France they have ended up with a scandal to dwarf our own expenses scandal, with 60 politicians now being prosecuted for tax evasion. After all, a wealth tax is reliant on valuation of assets and these can be gifted, pledged, drawn against - all sorts of things to hide the true position.

The reason I say they make the case well is a wealth tax only works as a moral crusade, a peaen against the unfairness of society and a call to make rich people feel guilty and change their ways. Except of course, they could always give more money to the Government themselves, no one is stopping them.

PS I fixed my browser spellchecker at long last...
PPS Still needed spellchecking, this is slowly creeping up my to do list....

Friday 10 July 2020

Weekend Read: Why I still can't get over Tony Blair

All these years later, we still see the Left blaming many of the problems of the UK on Margaret Thatcher. It does not really work so well now, but they have had an entire generation making-up stories to tell themselves and ignoring facts. 

However, I am beginning to feel sympathy for their plight. Not because they were right about anything, Thatcher remains the best Prime Minister since Churchill by some distance. 

No, I have sympathy because I feel the same way about Tony Blair. I was educating my kids the other day about why we have ended up in such a polarised policitcal situation in 2020 and I realised That it is basically entirely Blair's fault. I will try to be succint in explaining why. 

1) Winning the Middle class for Labour - Blair in the 1990's realised Labour needed middle class votes to win an election. To do this, he switched away from the unions and traditional Labour support and focused on first world problems. One such idea was to put more people through University, from around 20% of the population, up to 50%. He did this by making courses free and getting the state to pay. The Universities, always left-wing, were delighted beyond belief. But we did not see a rise in hard and useful STEM courses, no we saw a rise in media studies and psychology. 

As as result we now have very Left-Wing univerities and two generations inthe workforce with pointless and unneeded degrees. Of course, later on the Tories had to introduce tution fees as the cost of Labour's plans was too high a burden and it was hoped this might end the proliferation of Madonna Studies and Kite-Flying. Which it did, but only at the cost of making more generations angry at the Tories. 

It has also left a huge number of people feeling the world is not fair. University education was supposed to be their route to a nice middle-class life. But with the economy growing at normal rates, we now see lots of people over-quailfied for jobs and really their University tution fees were not worth it. They are angry people and also they have been indoctrinated into Left-Wing thinking at Uni and by their feeling of grievance. Man have a point, if you graduated with a psychology degree in 2009 your prospects were not good for your career. 

Not only this, often referrred to as Elite Overproduction, but future Labour leaders have continued their obsession with Middle Class issues - which has meant in the last decade an obsession with identity politics, green issues etc. This has led to the loss of the working class voters, abandoned by the Middle Class chasing Labour party, more of this later. 

2- EU & Immigration - Blair of course opened the door to Eastern European immigrants, hoping to get both new voters and a boosted economy. He also was passionate about the EU, signing up to treaties and handing back the rebates won by Thatcher. 

This enraged the working class and a huge section (around 40% of the Country, as we have since seen at every election) of people who had never wanted mass immigration and the change it brought about - whatever the supposed economic benefits. Amazingly, Blair came up with the most anti-working class strategy of any Government since the Victorian era - whilst leading the Labour party. 

What we have seen since his time then is the pressure rocket for a referendum, said referendum then won by the anti-EU people (now disdainfully called populists for pursuing policy which has a majority backing) and eventually the end of the red wall with Working class voters flocking to the Tories. 

3- Culture wars - These are more post-Blair but the two point above have created this situation, along with changes across the West and the rise of Chine economically and politically. We have a Middle Class steeped in a new kind of class hatred, that of identities and anti-patriotic who vote Labour and even some of the Upper Class, champagne socialists like Keir Starmer, join in, but only in the big cities. Blair was a key started in this by defining those opposed to mass immigration as racists.

Thus began the twisting of merging policy and morality opposition into the single venemous brew that we see today on the Left.

4- Economic disaster Gordon Brown of course wrecked the economy which as left us right up the creek ever since and now Covid-19 has dropped on top of this. Blair was happy to ratchet state spending to try to salve middle class issues. He did not really care or understand much about economics, his focus was elections. Of course, when the 2008 crash came we were woefully ill-prepared and also a population had become hooked on middle class tax breaks and benefits, like child benefit for all, which it has proved almost impossible to row back from even over a decade later. 

Meanwhile everyone else in England votes Tory to avoid the lunacy of Corbyn and to make sure the EU is left and hopefully immigration brought back to a sustainable level. In the regions those disliking both Westminster rule ad Labour have found nationalist parties to vote for. (I could say devolution is point five, hastening the rise of the SNP and potential break-up of the UK - one success Cameron did have against the tidal flow caused by Blair)

But overall May and Cameron were only ever passengers on the torrent of change wrought by the above. Both tried to balance the anti-EU sentinement and remain sentiment (which we saw of course became an identity thing for the Left - hence FBPE on twitter and other such extremism). Both failed miserably and ended their terms in ignominy. 

So there you have it, blame Blair, so clever that he did not know what he was doing. 

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Rishi Runs Riot. Open Chequebook, OpenThread

Well the Left certainly don't know what to think ...

(give them time - someone will tell them)

What do we think?


Tuesday 7 July 2020

Wealth Tax on the List of Demands

My crie du jour just now is: "what are the demands?"   The BLM thing was the proximate cause, and "they" still haven't got remotely near Marcus Rashford's stunning, tangible achievement in terms of coming up with something of all-round practicability.  "Defund the Police and dismantle capitalism & the patriarchal system" allow Kier Starmer to snort with dismissive ridicule for the cameras, and counter with his deep and abiding support for the police.  So - not much traction there.  

But it's broader than just BLM's amateurish flounderings.  Starmer's Labour, and in particular the signally unimpressive Anneliese Dodds, are always coming up with silly anodyne lists of things they'll be holding the government to account for, ("Our 4 tests for Covid Economic Recovery") which are always modelled on the Brown/Balls tests for joining the Euro - designed as a cunning trap for their enemies disguised as something constructive and clever.  (Does this clever-clever political stuff ever really work?)

Anyhow: it hasn't taken long for that old Corbynite favourite, the Wealth Tax (- everything can be paid for by smashing the 1%), to hove into view.  Here's nervous little Dodds again; and here's ... Polly!

Cards on the table: though I'm no LVT obsessive, I've always reckoned the Council Tax is a masterpiece and case study in practical politics, and that Little Git Osborne missed a massive political, fiscal and economic trick in 2010 when he failed to take the simple step of extending the bands upwards very significantly, thereby rectifying a grotesque anomaly.

But WT in the way Polly intends it (and she writes of all manner of serious work being done on the subject) we're talking a lot more than recognising the stupidity of a banding scheme that stops at 'H' ('I' in Wales).

What do we reckon?  Open WT thread below.


Friday 3 July 2020

Restructuring UK plc 2020/21

As you may have noticed, UK Plc is in a very sickly state. The first impact of Covid-19 was to push over the edge a whole bunch of companies that were teetering on the brink anyway - like Flybe as a prime example. The casual dining sector, hugely oversupplied, had been struggling and now we are seeing barely any chain survive with nearly all of the either in administration or about to be, like Prezzo.

I don't think many of these dining options are going to do much damage to the overall economy, we did not need 3,000 variations on pasta and burgers to really push on in the 21st Century.

However, what is harder, notably for the retail sector but also SME's, is that the rent holidays and mortgage holidays are all going to come to an end in the next few months, along with the need to increase contribution to the furlough scheme.

These extra costs are a huge debt burden on businesses, some of whom may bounce back on pent up demand, but others who thanks to social distancing, will suffer continued slow business. But this slow business will be under the added debt burden above.

This wont be sustainable for many businesses in the medium term. In the short-term many will try to struggle on, but sooner or later the owners will try the administration route or end up in insolvency.

Much of the lending has been arranged by the British Business Bank, which has worked with the clearing banks to distribute the interest-free Government loans.

At the moment and considering the above, a huge chunk of this is going to have to be written off if the businesses fail. Which leads me to the conclusion that in order to keep businesses going why not write-off a big chunk anyway, before the businesses go under?

This will be difficult politically to achieve, but either the Government takes on the debt or the private economy will be ruined - so in a different way to 2008, but with a similar outcome. History does not repeat but it does rhyme. Last time the Government bailed out the banks, this time it will have to be businesses directly.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Theresa May, An Authoritative Voice (ahem) ...

Theresa May has lambasted Boris Johnson in Parliament for his choice of National Security Adviser.  He really ought to listen to her on this one ...

(Apologies to Bugsy Malone & the rest of gang) 

My name is Theresa 
Prime Minister once; 
Until hounded out by 
A right bunch of chumps! 
I have a simply stellar reputation behind me 
So if you need my wisdom 
In the Commons you’ll find me 

My name is Theresa
No failure am I - 
The Eurocrats loved me! 
(I never knew why) 
I know an awful lot about appointing advisers 
They must be liked in Brussels, 
And be good compromisers 

Lonely, a PM can be lonely 
Come and hear Theresa 
She can put you straight when you stray 
If you’re lonely, you don't have to be lonely 
When they talk about Theresa 
You know what they say … 
They praise me in the Lords, they praise me in the Commons 
“Theresa had her training from the great Olly Robbins!” 

My name is Theresa 
And soon I’ll be gone 
A trashed reputation’s 
The road I’ll travel on 
“Brexit means Brexit” - now the words upset me 
You may be glad I’m gone 
But don’t say you’ll forget me … 

Lonely ...