Monday 30 November 2020

Centrica: as predicted, more assets on the block

Back to the day job, eh?   In September we wrote this:

And so it comes to pass, according to the WSJ, which reports that Centrica has put its fair-sized global LNG portfolio on the block.  It further reckons that the company "may actually need to pay any potential buyer to take the LNG business off its hands, underscoring the uncertain outlook for gas prices internationally".

Oo-er.  That won't be what Centrica has in mind.  Can we form an independent view on the sales value?

Not readily.  Firstly, in its published reports Centrica wraps up LNG in the results of its trading division, a traditional smokescreen behind which all manner of things can easily be hidden.  Next, it only publishes sketchy info on the individual deals that comprise the portfolio (commercial confidentiality: fair enough).  

Most importantly, however, Centrica very explicitly declines to offer a mark-to-market valuation for its big long-term LNG contracts (page 108 of the 2019 AR), of which it has several.  Its *reasoning* for this omission is that there are as yet no transparent long-term forward curves for global LNG.  That can be argued either way**, so their case can indeed be made.  BUT - the trouble is this excuse has frequently been used disingenuously, nay, culpably, by energy companies in a similar stew to skate lightly over eye-wateringly large negatives (in the billions, in some cases) that, although nobody could calibrate them accurately, are known by everyone in the industry to be very much on the red side of the ledger.  And here?  Who knows: I don't.  But it means that literally nowhere in the accounts does a full valuation lurk - even an estimate, even bundled with other stuff.  Institutional shareholders could easily take fright at that, when they consider what lay behind the scenes in other such cases in the past.

If prospective bidders all put a negative value on the LNG portfolio, I can't imagine a deal being struck.  But what other stand-alone assets does Centrica have to sell next?  And - are they due for a nasty downside surprise in the forthcoming Energy White Paper, which is set to pronounce on the fate of future UK large nukes, probably impacting on the value of Centrica's fateful 20% holding in EDF's UK nuke portfolio.  All rather uncomfortable.



** I'd argue that a pretty good forward value could be put on the LNG deals out three years.  Further, though I'm not an accountant, doesn't the conservatism principle require that forseeable losses should promptly be disclosed? 

Saturday 28 November 2020

"Energy is Big and Sexy" - BBC. Well, Yes

As you will imagine I have been idly watching the Beeb's Powering Britain, not in the hope of learning much, but rather to see how prime time TV covers - or dodges - some meaty issues.  Needless to say, for the most part the four episodes have been lavishly-photographed tourist guides, our breathless reporter always being gushingly overwhelmed by the scale and sheer sexiness of the whole thing.  Big Engineering always has that effect - if you steer people away from dirty, leaky old kit and fix their gaze firmly on the shiny new stuff.  Helicopter rides are generally quite fun, too (on a day when the weather's ok ...)

All in all, a massive PR opportunity for the firms involved (SSE, Drax, Spirit and EDF) which naturally they've seized with both hands and immense gratitude.  Can't have done the whole industry any harm, either - give folks an idea of the scale of what it all means; romance of engineering & commerce, etc.  Indeed, if a similar series had been run on commercial TV or a newspaper, you'd assume it was paid-for advertorial stuff.   

And not a Green in sight!   Dear me no - we're all quite green enough without letting Swampy or Greta come on with their whingeing and wimpering.

Controversy has barely been acknowledged: just the once, really, over Drax.  The SSE episode was about the world's biggest offshore windfarm and its onshore receiving station - including the merest hint (which probably passed unnoticed to most) about what's fast becoming a cause célèbre, the culpably chaotic business of digging big cable corridors, generally through highly sensitive coastal geography & habitats etc, with no obvious sign of planning / coordination on the part of National Grid.  Otherwise, it was just 100% jaw-dropping Big Kit on display in breathtaking marine vistas.  And no mention of what happens when there's no wind? ...

The Spirit episode featured their huge Morecambe Bay gasfield and its onshore gas processing plant.  (If you haven't heard of Spirit, it is a Centrica spin-off, one of the many new 'end-of-field-life' specialist O&G producers who manage upstream assets when development risk is long since past and the original developers - in this case British Gas - have better uses for their capital.)   Big offshore installations are pretty mind-blowing, so no shortage of gawping to be done here.  What controversy might have been expected?  Well, there are some people for whom even mention of fossil fuels in any other sentence than "we are closing this thing down as fast as humanly possible, ideally tomorrow morning".  But the Spirit PR team had put clever words into the mouth of the plant manager, who simply said that we'll need gas for a few more years on the path to Net Zero Carbon (tacitly answering part of the question left by the SSE programme), and that they were there to do their bit.  The Beeb felt no need to qualify that with any sort of counterpoint voice-over.  

The last episode was on EDF's nukes at Heysham, and the nuclear fuel plant at Springfields down the road.  They didn't explicitly use it to answer another part of the unasked SSE / wind question.  Obviously, they could have filled the entire slot with nothing but controversy (see, for example, the Public Accounts Committee report published today); so they ran with more-or-less none whatsoever.  Fair play, it had to be that way, really: though arguably they might have mentioned the cracks in one of the boilers and some of the fuel bricks ...  So it ended up quite pedestrian to my view.  I was, however, entranced to hear engineers talking in "thousandths of an inch" (it was the same in the Drax episode) which jars a little.  Then again, I imagine they run the plant on Windows 98 or some such.

So what about Drax, then?  Yet again, they didn't use it to answer the SSE / wind question (- it actually contributes to both parts, in fact); but, yes, they really couldn't - and they didn't - fail to mention that burning trees to generate electricity is controversial.  Which it bloody is - an outright scandal, in fact, compounded by the risible official "green" carbon-accounting convention which allows Drax to ignore CO2 emitted at the point of combustion, and hence to qualify for 9-figure sums in annual "renewables" subsidies despite emitting more CO2 than in the days when it was burning coal (and vastly more than if the same electricity was generated instead by gas) with the distant prospect of maybe that CO2 being maybe absorbed by replacement trees (maybe) 50-100 years hence (maybe).

They've got me started now.

Anyhow, all four episodes are labelled "Series 1" so perhaps they'll follow up with more later.  There's no shortage of energy companies with big PR budgets, interesting stories to tell, and photogenic kit to display.  One thing we may predict: there will be a lot of Greens who are furious at the easy, glossy ride the Beeb has given the industry in these programmes, and will be pressing to get more *balance* into any subsequent series.


Friday 27 November 2020

An alternative to lockdown strategy for 2021

The current lockdown strategy in the UK is not working and leaves me enervated. The virus has become more widespread than before it started a month ago, lots of places that were Tier 1 before lockdown are now in tier 2 or 3. 

There is no acknowledgement of this in Government, becuase there is no acknowledgement of this from their scientific advisers. The advisers are obsessed with their forecasting, which has been both broadly right and specifically wrong for the entirety of pandemic. I am tempted to almost to say I have had enough of experts...

Worse, there is not real calculation of the real hrm being done by cancelling other types of care and impoverishing millions through killing jobs. Any work done on this has been buried deep under Whitehall. 

In general, I am supporitive of the Government, the crisis awful to deal with and has hit a cold Europe very hard, even Germany is more or less at the same levels as the UK now - Italy, Spain and France too, if not relatively worse. There are no easy answers. 

However, for me it is time to try something new in the new year. Free everyone, restore liberty to travel and work to most. But, make the wearing of masks and even gloves more or less compulsory. no bleating about asthama or some other excuse. Just behave in public, full social distancing too of course. Shops caught not enforcing can be find as can any other service, public or private. 

Yes, the draconian enforcement is still a breach of habeas corpus, but there is a virus to defeat for antoehr six months. The up side is a recovering economy, the only places to keep closed in bad areas are pubs and nightclubs - no compliance from drunk people is to be expected. The rest of life can continue in a freer way. 

Thursday 26 November 2020

Rishinomics in not Conservative

I don't sadly have the time to got through a line by line take down of the errors in the fiscal and monetary policy currently being suggested to get over Covid. 

What I can say is that it is not capitalist, there is no role for a private sector led recovery. Instead we continue down a higher borrowing, higher taxing and higher spending Government route. Let's not pretend apart from some very minor bouts of abstinence for a few years every few decades or so, this has been the trajectory of the UK since the Napoleonic wars.

However, the risks of it are worse now that the finances are in such poor shape. We are but a bout of inflation away from a bond crisis. Worse, the money the Government is spending is in now way investment. Take defence spending, I am not sure who we are defending ourselves from currently and neither is the Government. We are buying lots of ships when there is no danger of invasion or credible threat to our trade lines. So why now? Why not in five years when we have righted the fiscal hole?

Spending on the NHS, endless though it is and awful though the machine has proved in the pandemic, is also never investment, just more jam today. There will be no return on the money. 

Extra benefits and automatic stabilisers I get, but the real impact the Chancellor should have had is to insist all Leisure and Retail remains open after December 2nd, with enforcement of Social Distancing strongly prioritised over closing businesses. Again, this is a statist response in its entirety. 

Finally, worst of all, it plays into the hands of Labour for the future, it frames the whole debate as how much can we spend and on what freebies. The Tories last were in that position in the early 2000's and promptly spent a decade out of power. You can't outspend Labour's imagination.

Somehow Rishi is getting a write-up as a good Chancellor, search me as to why.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Travel in 2021

 As readers will know, I have been pretty bearish on the hopes of the travel industry for next year, much more bearish than the forecasts made by the market participants. 

However, getting 3 working vaccines in the space of a couple of weeks is a real game-changer and much better than expected. Surely, by the middle of next year, the scourge of covid will be at an end. 

I want to know how you will travel yourselves though. I can see myself working back in London again nearly full-time from around March, maybe earlier and also travelling for business by then. All sorts of things about travel, like vaccine passports, will have to be worked out but the industry will be keen to do so. 

For now I have no intention of travelling by air, two weeks quarantine or even five days quarantine is enough to put one off. With a vaccine passport though, it should be easy. What will you all do - if your boss tells you to go abroad (domestic boss  counts too..) then historically you did it, will it really be so different in 2021?

Saturday 21 November 2020

Corbyn's Big Provocation Revisisted

Three weeks ago I surmised how Corbyn had arrived at being suspended from the Labour Party.   The saga has progressed very nicely.  But if leftie-watching is not your favoured spectator sport, then click off now ...

The thesis was, on EHRC day (identified months in advance to be a pivotal moment) his people wanted to make a maximal provocation that was still defensible within the terms of the game, in order to set the baseline for Corbynite recovery within the Labour Party as far away from humiliating abasement as possible.  The provocation took the form of a blatant non-apology (which is in any case Corbyn's style) coupled with a factional message, designed to slip neatly inside an EHRC let-out clause.  It didn't quite work as hoped, because Starmer's people, knowing their man, had seen it coming a mile off and set a bear trap for him, into which he duly fell.  Somewhat aghast at his suspension, his team immediately moved into tactical withdrawal, planning to negotiate / cajole / bully their way quietly out of it.  My concluding suggestion was, this would need to include the most self-abasing, unequivocal apology from Corbs**, abject to the point of severely demoralising his own faction.

What's happened since?  By way of a displacement activity, Corbynite outriders spent their time banging on about due process: but the real action was clearly behind the scenes, with McCluskey evidently feeling a deal was available, and that a modest apology would work the trick.  Meantime the Party hierarchy had (a) come down hard and heavy on Labour members having the temerity to pass motions about the affair in their covens; (b) been a bit taken aback by the due-process criticism and set up a review panel - which, hilariously, reinstated Corbyn!  His outriders declared victory; out came the apology, modest in the extreme; McCluskey reckoned he'd pulled it off.   

Starmer, however, reacted fairly immediately (some say, because the Jewish lobby forced his hand) by removing the Labour Parliamentary whip, supported loyally in public (however unhappily and disingenuously) by senior Shadow Cabinet members.  Cue uproar, because this particular turn of events, essentially PLP-based and no longer a Party matter per se, has left Party members feeling completely free to pass condemnatory motions until they are blue in the face.  And so the weekend begins: what will the Sunday papers make of it all?

I say the Sundays, because right now, aside from the letters page the Graun has nothing whatsoever about it dated later than Thursday evening!  Boy, that tells us something.  So, for an 'authoritative' leftist view, I recommend (again, only for afficianados) a few minutes watching Novara media's account.  

Their explanation is, in a sense, an inversion of mine.  Novara reckons the provocation is Starmer's! - on behalf of the neo-liberal establishment, the BBC and the dark powers, naturally - but I think we can accept that as just the flipside of the coin I have been presenting.  Summarising their account (see particularly from 12:50 mins in): 

The neo-lib establishment is appalled by a particular development.  Prior to Corbyn's becoming leader of a mainstream political party, 'revolutionary' stirrings had been confined to broadly ineffectual extra-parliamentary movements like Occupy.  With Corbyn's accession and his near-miss in GE2017, there was the clear possibility that a genuinely leftwing government might be achieved.  Since the very notion of this must be expunged from everyone's consciousness, Starmer (the chosen agent of the neo-libs, carefully installed in the leadership) must find a means - any means - to expel Corbyn and his followers.  They are using the EHRC as an opportunity, and confecting a provocation to facilitate his eviction; and with him, the left.  Nothing else matters to Starmer in 2020 because he has 4 years to build towards an electoral pitch.     

Aside from the silly conspiracy-theory aspects I don't find this in any way contradictory to my earlier version.  Both sides in the Labout Party view the stakes as extremely high - viz, the potential leftist capture of the Labour Party and ultimately government - with EHRC a pivotal moment, being exploited ruthlessly.  It's a pure win-lose arm-wrestle, no holds barred.

Where does it go from here?  The Novara types reckon (hope?) Starmer has really screwed up tactically, potentially precipitating a leftist-driven uprising within Labour.  The total silence of the Grauniad, and what they identify (surely correctly) as a very Starmer-friendly treatment of all this by the Beeb, is all of a piece.  But they must also fear that Graun + Beeb + almost all of the PLP is actually quite a dead weight on their hopes.  Lurking in the background is always the fear (for them) of a breakaway new leftist party: so they'll hope that passing incendiary motions at the grassroots level is sport enough for their followers.   

Meanwhile, Covid and Brexit march on, and Boris has stolen their Green Industrial Revolution ... but what do they care?  Too young to bother about Covid; half of them Lexiteers anyway; climate crisis, what climate crisis?  Fratricide is much more fun.    



**  Amusingly, Gordon Brown has said pretty much the same 

PS - for the record, this gives an informed insight into the hanky-panky: what a shower. 

PPS - and this; and this; and thisIt's all about wording; humiliation vs not grovelling 

Friday 20 November 2020

Bullying is rubbish in any work place - Friday View

I have worked in quite a few organisations, big and small. One thing that has always led me to leave is a horrid, bullying boss. I have had my fair share of them and luckily, my fair share of inspirational bosses who really helped me to learn and kick on. 

In some ways, the bas bosses, who I generally experienced earlier on in my career taught me the most. They taught me that fear works in terms of driving short-term performance and can lead them to their own promotions. Long-term, it does nothing for the organisation or the people in it. Bullying and picking on individuals might push you to avoid being the target, but no one is happy and less value is created. 

Interestingly, the worst bully bosses I have ever had are all female. Maybe it is fluke or random error, but certainly just as there is an alpha-male type of boss who is a nightmare to work for, there are plenty of women whose own insecurity is taken out on those below them. 

I learned much more from the political and bullying bosses - it taught me how I did not want to be when it was my turn later in my career - not taking credit for things I had not doe, not randomly hauling people over the coals because I was having a bad day, not coming up with petty ideas just to trip people over, not getting angry over presenteeism and not trying to turn the team on one another - all great lessons. 

Not to say the good bosses did not help, making time to speak to people in your team, encouraging them and trusting them even when you know they will make mistakes. To me the companies that do this best always end up succeeding the most in the long-term, even if the bullying ones can do better in a hit and run type market. Personally, I certainly know which ones I would rather work for. 

Wednesday 18 November 2020

The Green Industrial Revolution re-launch

I have a flashback to 2010, then we had a Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who was trying to overcome the huge challenges of the Financial Crash, whilst watching his popularity decline. 

Today it is Boris, struggling with the Covid pandemic, trying to maintain his now tarnished popularity.

Let's have a re-launch the advisers say, something fun and that appeals to everyone, with a suitably long enough time frame that we don't have to do anything now, but will win some Brownie (see what i did there?) points for vision and strategy etc.

And lo, we are presented with the Green industrial revolution. An idea stolen from Rebecca Long-Bailey of the Labour party no less. The benefit to this is there is hardly any meat here to worry about or initiatives that will cost too much when they meet reality. A downfall meme on this is surely only hours away. 

The idea of greening the economy itself is a good one, just ill-suited for 4 year parliaments to really implement. 

However, I am going to defend one stand-out idea. That of phasing out sale of petrol and diesel in ten years. This to me is exactly how Government should regulate. A simple goal to understand and the technology already exists to make this possible. The private sector is left to steer the ship the right way. 

This way is way more efficient than say setting up our own green car company or legislating like the Green party want for everyone to have a free bus service. 

As for the rest of it, tomorrow's chip paper. 

Monday 16 November 2020

Jack Ma & China's Capitalist "Regulatory" Regime

There are several ways of looking at the mighty hiccup just suffered by the great Jack Ma's corporate empire as the Chinese authorities thwart the epic IPO he had scheduled for Ant Financial Services.


1.  One in the eye for Chinese dreams of FinTech domination

Not really.  Theirs is a specialist domestic financial sector, and it doesn't depend on Ant, or Ma's other corporate vehicles having free rein.  Word is, the authorities are toying with transition 100% to a virtual currency.  Now that's the big development to be watching for.  (Can it be done?  Much like Xi's Social Credit dream: easy to conjure up over a beer, and to recognise the advantages that would accrue to the CCP - if they could make them happen.  The practical difficulties, however, are legion, and they advantages almost certainly not what they think.  Law of Unintended Consequences looms very large.)

2.  See, the Chinese can't do Due Process

Errr, I think we knew that.  The CCP is quite explicit: it recognises no higher authority, in this world or the next.   So (a) there will always be a lot of business China will never get, for this very reason.  

Then again (b) neither can several other countries do Anglo-style Due Process, e.g. Germany! - as we've discussed here before.  HOWEVER, no end of western companies "who should know better" kow-tow for Chinese business like there's no tomorrow (and I chose that simile with precision).  Marxists always scoff at this: the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will string them up!  Haha.  Yeah, always gets a laugh.

3.  So it's just like Russia, then?

Sort-of, but slicker.  Yes, after a few nervous years in office, Putin got to the point where his terms for the oligarchs were - remember, мои друзья, you cannot overstep the mark I lay down.  The CCP built the whole of its capitalist regime - or rather, stood back and watched its capitalist regime develop spontaneously under the freedoms they rather prudently granted - on the same clear understanding from the very start.  Mr Ma may have been wondering whether he might just be big enough to think otherwise; but ... 

4.  At least no blood was spilled

Now we're getting closer.  How much more civilised, how virtual (virtuous?) to put a spoke in the wheel of an IPO, than to put a bullet in the back of the head.  (But we do know that's in the toolkit too.) 

5.  OK, but not a proper capitalist regime at all

Can't agree.  Capitalism is the human economic activity that thrives whenever and wherever there is space for the ordinary person to profit personally from their own ideas and keep enough of the proceeds to represent personal capital.  No implication whatsoever of unlimited licence.  Works best with Due Process, but works pretty well in less 'formal' frameworks, too.  As the Chinese have proved magnificently over the past 30 years.

6.  Any lessons for us?

Not really; because in both the paradigm economies of the Anglo capitalist model (US and UK), private businesses ultimately operate under the possibility of direct governmental intervention, often with very little resemblance to Due Process.  A brief engagement with the history of the nuclear power sector since it was supposedly 'privatised' will leave you in no doubt on that one: and very many more examples could be adduced.

Oh, and many folk heartily wish our government would also intervene against Due Process earlier and more often.  When it suits them, naturally ...


Saturday 14 November 2020

Dominic Cummings is a Cult

One of our BTL anon's put it thus: 

Cummings architected his own downfall ... I've worked with a few like him - smart, knowledgable, volumes of ideas that are mostly good to great, but come with a raft of blindspots that make them a nightmare to deal with, and a curious type of stupidity where they seem oblivious to the fact that if you generate enemies faster than you do successes, your aims will never come to fruition.  If you ever find one in a workplace, you have to rapidly determine if they're manageable or not, and if not get rid, because they are toxic.  But keep ahold of their ideas, and find someone who knows how to soothe ruffled egos to possibly implement them. 

That's very fair (even if architect isn't a verb).  Some of Cummings' writings are superb, speaking to an important perspective: and coupled with his apparent** strategic successes in referenda, it's easy to see why his contribution is frequently valued highly, all the way to the point of hero worship.  As we've bemoaned here many a time, there are so few real strategists in the game; and even fewer good ones.  (Osborne, you are categorically a bad one.)

But there has to be traction with reality, which in a case like Cummings requires a sophisticated transmission system.  Harnessing him directly to the main axle without a differential, a multi-speed gearbox (including reverse) and a powerful manual over-ride, is asking for Trouble.  And so it transpired.

The manner of his going may yet reverberate for a while.  Your appreciations / obituary notices for the man below.



** Not sure we know enough to be certain about this

Thursday 12 November 2020

Croydon is Bankrupt: The Excuse is Revealing

Newman: Toytown oaf 
No, not a statement of moral or aesthetic judgement on the borough - just financial.  As has been on the cards for months (see several recent posts), Croydon has run up the white flag of a Section 114 Notice, replacing the Red Flag under which this nonsense has occurred over a 6-year period of relentless Labour misrule.  All led by this Toytown oaf, who inherited healthy financial reserves from his Tory predecessor but has pissed them all up the wall on a variety of pet projects and ill-conceived schemes of various kinds, plus unapologetic gross mismanagement and outright waste.   His Labour Group on the council has been bollocked collectively at a meeting, harangued by senior Labour worthies from other London boroughs who told them they are a disgrace to the Party!  So you can guess, it's pretty bad.

Funnily enough, although some of their schemes have been a bit ideological, mostly it has been just the result of a bunch of utter incompetents left in charge of the sweet-shop and determined to have a good time for themselves and their client-groups.  This is not some Momentum-contrived confrontation with central government, Red-Ted style.  They've tried to hint it's the fault of Austerity and Covid, but they daren't push this line too much because many other authorities have suffered worse from both causes, as well they know.

Tony Newman is a droll cove but totally autocratic, and has brooked no challenge from anyone, be they politician, public or council officer; nor even gentle enquiry by councillors in his own party.  The 'cabinet' model of local government very much facilitates this nonsense (more, I think, than the mayoral model - and much more than the committee model) and he duly packed his cabinet with place(wo)men non-entities, and picked a totally supine and ridiculously over-promoted chief executive who fled earlier this year with a £440,000 (sic) payoff, courtesy of Newman's personal intervention.  I won't bore you with a list of the nonsenses this calamitous crew has perpetrated.

What I find really interesting is the generic excuse, which strongly echoes what is coming from Nottingham Council with their own outrage to lament, the financial debacle that was "Robin Hood Energy".  What you do is blub a bit (quite literally in the case of one Nottingham woman councillor, live on youtube), say you meant well - the old Tony Blair excuse - AND ... I didn't have the training

You can see how this goes.  In the name of loyalty to the leader, or diversity or whatever it may be, all manner of people find themselves holding Cabinet posts that are wildly beyond their capabilities.  But: all have won, and all must have prizes: as we know, literally everyone is equal - provided they've Had the Training.  And when their incompetence catches up with them, well, it can't possibly be their fault, or any personal shortcoming, so - if only I'd had the proper training!  Simples.  A couple of days' "workshop" at the hands of some costly consultant (with lots of plump pastries on the table, and lengthy lunch-breaks), and they'd have been just fine - but somehow, they all missed the class.  What else could possibly explain their abject failure?

I look forward to the Liverpool FC 1st Eleven being selected on the same basis, and trying the same excuse upon being thrashed.  Meanwhile: will my wheeliebin be emptied next week?


Wednesday 11 November 2020

Coronavirus job losses accelerate


The FT above reproduces the latest ONS data on UK employment. 

As can be seen the rate of redundancies is now exceeding the worst phase of 2008 - the height of the once in a century financial crash. 

Worse news is that this is set to continue for at least another quarter. Whilst hopes for a vaccine roll-out in Q1 2021 mean that some shuttered business may decide to hold on and try to arise phoenix like from the ashes then, many more will not have the financial wherewithal to sustain themselves for that long. 

Plus the pandemic has created a perfect Schumpeterian syndrome, where changes that were in progress for a decade or more have been smashed into a few months. There will not be much demand for building big offices or hotels in the near future for example in any big cities.  Firms that have gone digital have prospered whilst analogue ones have experienced their market and demand simply dry up. 

This dislocation always causes long-term unemployment. The pandemic is at least better than 2008 in that we can see much of the world of before will bounce back - air travel will resume - at a lower level and taking time to build, but it is not gone the way of Lehman Brothers and the money on securitised mortgage loans.

The ONS are forecasting unemployment to hit over 5% and possibly over 6% - in some ways, it could be worse. Quite a chunk of this should bounce back next year if we can get on top of the virus. But that does not take away from redundancy and unemployment being such a horrible fate for so many, even short periods can be very stressful and have huge long-term impact on  your finances and life.

A really positive thing about the UK is the ability though of the economy, although increasingly modelled on EU stasis lines, to still have enough capitalist traits to ensure rapid job growth (sadly, increasingly of lower paid jobs). France and Spain will have a much tougher time in the medium term trying to get out of the Corona fix. 

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The Left is Insecure & Very Nervous

 Just a short one, I'm rather preoccupied.

A glance at the Graun's comment pieces, or a rummage among the twitter of the smarter 'real lefties', is enough to show that the Left - both 'liberal' and 'socialist' - is still in the state of demoralised shock they have been for quite a while now.  How does Trump get so many votes, (and increase his % of black support, both men and women)? etc etc etc.  By way of a telling symptom, the Graun has almost completely suspended facilitating BTL comments on CiF: amusing to speculate precisely why.

The impression is of stark terror.  That educated lefties feel they've completely lost their grip, their ability to rely upon, the uneducated masses.  They never even gave that a thought.  The "working class" was theirs, the Unions (or someone) would always deliver - wouldn't they?

Of course, I can't remotely claim originality for this idea: because it's been out there since the twin eruptions of 2016.  Remember Grayson Perry after the Referendum, who ruefully bemoaned that all his life he felt he was securely on the side of the angels, sticking it to The Man - only to realise that now, he probably was The Man ...  He'd turned around, looked behind him, and noticed there was nobody there.

Nobody, it seems, to cover their backs as they pursue their woke-fantasy agenda, horribly exposed.  That's a naked position, alright.  The sheer terror that's out there.  Remember also the UK Left in 1980-81-82-83 ... don't worry lads, sooner or later the Miners will strike, and that'll be the end of her.  And they did; and it wasn't.  Oh, horror.

Don't worry, people.  Sooner or later ...  But no.


Monday 9 November 2020

Biden - How long has he got?

I am interested in knowing how long Biden has got in the Presidency. He will likely be a good President for America, an welcome antidote to the crazy narcissism of Trump.

However, at 78, he is the oldest ever US President. Way older than Reagan who was 69 when he was elected, Trump was 70. As we know from history, Reagan was accused of having Alzheimer's disease whilst President in the 1980's - of course much research has been done to show he was not ill during his Presidency. 

Trump too has faced constant attacks on his mental well-being, with the Left saying regularly he should be removed from office to do his poor mental health. Again, whenever he saw a doctor his health came back fine. 

In truth, the US Presidency is a tough, 24/7 job. If you were really ill these days I don't think it could be hidden all that well nor managed. When Roosevelt was ill in the 1940's there was a big difference in the amount of media exposure and reliance on radio for messaging, with easily staged photographs too. 

So back to Biden. Already throughout the campaign he has been accused of not really knowing what day it is. In his set pieces of the last few days, you can easily see someone who is very together and is delivering his lines well - of course a lot of it will have been scripted for him, if only Trump had taken the same route maybe he would still be President next year. 

I do though have it on good authority, from Feb 2018, that Harris was the chosen candidate for the Dems in the US. The fear was she would as a black woman not have a fun or successful campaign against Trump - just as Hillary had not. As such, my source (a senior Democrat figure and fundraiser) said they would look to the primaries to see how she did, and it not well enough then they would go with Biden as the candidate and her as VP.

The entire point of this was to make her President. Of course one thing we do know, with Biden being 78 is that he is going to be a one-term President come what may. They key will be that the Dems will want Harris installed so that she does not have to fight another primary and also so she gets the Presidential kudos of defending the Whitehouse. With that in mind, perhaps that plan will be to giver her a year or maybe more to get the feel of being President. 

So it seems unlikely Biden will see out his whole term, but he could do yet. From here, it also seems very likely that Harris will be the next President, of course, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip. 

Thursday 5 November 2020

The Trump who cried wolf

Quite interesting seeing the US have to wait for the Presidential outcome, like here in the UK when we had to wait in 2010 for the coalition to form - all very odd for those not used to it. 

I think Trump is about to learn the moral of the the tale of the boy who cried wolf.

Hard as it is to ascertain facts in this hyper-partisan time, it seems very odd that in a few key states something like 98%+ of the postal ballots went Biden. I mean it does not pass the smell test that. Even in Islington in the UK you would not get that level vote or indeed in say Surrey Heath. 

However, Trump has been on about this forever and is on about it in other cases where it is far less likely to be true. Mass accusations generally are a bad idea becuase they don't stand up to scrutiny.

Additionally, by signalling for months that he was going to do this, the Democrats have got their act together, with their own lawyers and attack lines. So Trump has given away his offensive advantage. 

So now he is going to go mad about fraud, he may even be right about a few things, but it wont be enough and he wont be believed without amazing hard evidence - which is unlikely to be found and will be strongly contested by the Dems anyway. 

Still it is possible he will sneak a win in Arizona and come through, but would be a big surprise from here. Joe Biden a strong favourite to be the next US President for a few months. 

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Trump's legacy

So with US polls open and a record turnout expected the US election will take centre stage for a few days. 

The election and indeed the shitshow that has been 2020. has exposed the deep divisions in US politics. 

I expect (n.b. this post may age poorly) Trump to lose quite badly. in poll averages he was 3-4% behind Hillary last time and it is double that to Biden this time. He may not lose in a landslide but he fluked it last time as it was. 

So what will be his legacy? Sadly for all of us 2020 will only ever be about Covid in historical terms. Trump will blame the virus and say no incumbent could ever win (how about that Jacinta Arden for you there Donald?) with the way it has impacted the US. 

What else will really last - his economic policies, his foreign policy, his social policy approach?

For me his theatrics and outright ignorance should rule him out as a great president, but on so many areas he ideas have been good, just poorly executed and also proclaimed with a vitriol that has been far too divisive. 

Plus, being a little parochial (aren't we all, trapped in our houses!), a Biden victory is a disaster for Brexit as the EU gains a new ally and we lose our best one. Another reason all the can-kicking of the remainers has harmed us no end. 

Monday 2 November 2020

Lockdown 2 - Lockdown's revenge

So that was all worth it then. According to the figures I saw yesterday from the Boffins we are in exactly the same place as early March. Back to square one, gone right down that snake to the beginning of the game. 

Which I have to say I find a little bit depressing if not unexpected. I also recall from March a chart which showed we would have repeated patterns of lockdowns until a vaccine was found, the virus mutated to a more mild form or herd immunity had built. 

So I fully expect this lockdown will drive the R<1 for a little bit, we will then be freed for Christmas which will start the spread again and so another lockdown, after a bit of dithering in Feb or March time. Hopefully by then, some sort of vaccine will be in the process of being rolled out and with the summer too, it maybe the worst is behind us then. 

In the meantime, somehow I have to control myself from the judgey environment this has created, as well as the mild physical threat. It seems to me plenty of people are ready to screech and report any minor misdemeanour (in their eyes), such as not wearing a mask in a field, meanwhile another section of crazies storms around without a mask shouting we are all lemmings or some such. What a time to be alive!

I'll get to a review of the economic impact of this later in the week, but it is not going to be pretty to say the least. Whilst I am quite an optimist on the virus being controlled, the economic damage we are taking makes me far more pessimistic.