Monday 29 November 2021

Oh my cri!

 Omicron has done a number on the markets that is for sure. They have bounced a little today, but from sharp falls last week. 

I can't help but think the media is again taking the bad news and running with it. No real time has been spent understanding if this variant is really any worse than Delta or even if it will be able to out compete it - a high bar given Delta was already 6x more catching than Alpha.

It will be a few weeks to see, the Governments across the world are quicker now with restrictions, but it might all blow over very quickly - it is my hunch, so I hope I am right!

Thursday 25 November 2021

Carbon floor price suggestion from...Germany

 So this is very interesting. 

It shows why COP26 will be successful in the long-term. Other countries in Europe have tried a floor price, but it never worked when heavy industry Germany with its coal power was not playing ball. 

For Germany to get in the game and set a floor, 

It means carbon traders can be sure there will be no big drop and indeed many will now expect the price to go 2x to 3x from here  - nice for trading. 

More widely it shows there is lots of money to be made from the carbon transition - more than say pouring money into arms or oil. Which is why even China and Russia are relatively keen, they can sense there is a lot of industrial kit to sell to Europe and the US - all whilst creaming it on selling coal and gas at massive margins for another 20 years or so. 

Monday 22 November 2021

Greens and Red-Greens: edging towards violence?

The reputations of the Swampys of this world are for being a bloody nuisance, but essentially peaceful - mostly putting themselves at hazard, in fact.  XR and Insulate are a bit more "above ground", so to speak, but still basically eschewing outright, first-degree violence.  (Death by delayed ambulance is bad enough for victims and their families, but it's at one step removed.)   The occasional window gets put in: and the blocking and slow-walking practised by anti-frackers etc doubtless cost their targets time and money.  Still, the basic thrust of green protest is broadly non-violent.

Many a hardline leftie has long despised these people, on several grounds.  They are predominantly (well OK, almost exclusively) middle class & middle aged (and, errr, white.)  They don't look to lefties for leadership (as obviously they ought).  And they espouse a kind of 'non-agency':  it's all designed to get governments to do things, rather than promoting a classical socialist programme of (e.g.) The Workers doing stuff for themselves, by themselves.  In fact, they seem to eschew effective practical agency as much as they do the rough stuff.

I detect something's changing.  There seems to be a campaign being organised against the French oil co Total for its big new East African Crude Oil Pipeline project; a campaign which intends to use the broadest range of tactics including what can only be described as sabotage, on the grounds that the project will cause Actual Harm (that much over-used word) both locally and globally; and thus, morally, should be stopped by whatever means possible.

The critique of the doctrine of non-violence now being deployed is that, although some greens espouse non-violence for ethical reasons, most adopt it as merely being the best tactic for not pissing-off the average punter, whose support or acquiescence will ultimately be needed.  But (so the new argument goes) to imagine major reforms have ever been achieved historically without violence is "peace-washing"; and climate change is serious enough a threat to demand & justify extreme actions.

We know, on the one hand, how bedsit lefties - while mostly too gentile & idle to lift a finger let alone raise a fist - often drool at the thought of violence perpetrated ... by others.  Marina Hyde's telling observation has been cited here before.  ("You only have to look at the little faces of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the photos with Gerry Adams to conclude that they’d have been almost erotically impressed by the whiff of cordite".)  On the other hand, since the perceptive & predictive comment of one of our BTL anons in the wake of the 2011 riots - wait until an officer-class emerges from the tougher strain of unemployed, disaffected graduate-bedsits to take charge of the inchoate looter-plebs - we've been wondering if and when this would materialise.

Well evidently Remain wasn't enough to stir them; nor Corbyn's putative upsurge (though it might have come close around 2017-18).  2019 seemed to have thrown them right out of kilter: even BLM didn't kick off as maybe it might have.

So: watch this simmering space.  If this anti-Total effort develops into something noticeable, what price an anti-Cambo push of more than usual 'vehemence'?  Now that Sturgeon has come down against the development, presumably Police Scotland won't be under any instructions to suppress anti-Cambo organisers.  Could get messy, if Boris sticks to his guns on this one.  To use a phrase ...


Friday 19 November 2021

Weekend post - what to worry about?

 Which is more important, people going to fancy dress parties in questionable dress 12 years ago?


New random terrorist attacks? 


Russia preparing to invade Ukraine?

Thursday 18 November 2021

Did Suez End Britain's National Prestige?

Well here's one for History Corner & no mistake.  Did anyone realise Clarissa Eden was still alive?  Until this week, that is, when the grand old lady died, aged 101.

© Imperial War Museum  MH 23509
The 1956 Suez Crisis, which famously "flowed through her drawing room", is always astonishing to contemplate.  The UK and France (the latter closely in cahoots with Israel) mounted, in secret (!), a successful airborne and seaborne invasion by 100,000 men (sic - that's D-Day 1944 scale; and we had a spare armoured division in Libya that didn't get deployed ...), with only a few months preparation, resulting in fighting which on the part of the British and French lasted little more than a day.  Then we packed up and went home, with the whole world against us.  20 (twenty!) squadrons of British bombers were deployed.  Fifteen squadrons of UK carrier-based aircraft!  We royally pissed off the USA (which, however, rapidly swung in behind us when we withdrew, to halt the resulting Sterling crisis), the Commonwealth (who were used to being told what the Mother Country was up to in matters of warfare), and pretty much let Russia off the hook as regards its own concurrent invasion of Hungary.  Back at home, half the country was also greatly displeased: this was no Falklands campaign.  The military, and much of the Foreign Office (which was comprehensively kept in the dark) were extremely irked.  Nasser sailed on, his prestige greatly enhanced.

Hard to envisage, really. 

Of course it's conventional to consider Suez 1956 the precise moment when Britain ceased to be a Great Power.  But the years that followed didn't represent the freefall that was envisaged by Clarissa's husband Anthony Eden, and the roguish, unscrupulous Harold Macmillan (the big winner in domestic political terms, though he was gung-ho for the campaign beforehand).  They both seem to have firmly believed that if they let Nasser get away with nationalising the Suez canal, not only would Soviet-backed Arab nationalist-communism quickly come to dominate the entire Middle East, but Britain would be headed swiftly for the status of a "third-rate power, like the Netherlands".  But no; we remained stubbornly second-rate for many decades thereafter.  Maybe we still are.

One concern that comes through very strongly in the attitudes of the time is the concept of national "prestige", the word I used of Nasser above.  Cultivating prestige, estimating and comparing different countries' prestige, in those explicit terms, was a major preoccupation in them days.  Maybe we ought to worry about it more today: the Chinese obviously do.  (Personally, as a very frequent pre-covid overseas traveller, I generally felt myself the beneficiary of a great deal of residual esteem for Britain.)

I was remined of all this when recently writing an obit for an old soldier of my acquaintance who'd fought in many conflicts and served in many countries from 1944 onwards (though not, as it happens, the Suez 'campaign').  He'd left some invaluable notes by way of a memoir, in which he'd been really keen to stress that in everything he did abroad (which was a lot more than fighting, by the way), he'd worked to enhance Britain's prestige.  It meant a lot to him; and to the Edens, too.  RIP both.


Monday 15 November 2021

Back again - quick round-up

Apologies to the readership for the break in transmissions, I was away on an intense business trip all last week. It meant I missed the fun of the end of COP26 - which seems to have been successful in generating the hot air it promised. Also I missed the press get down and dirty on more MP's for their second jobs. 

The second jobs piece is of interest because it will always be skewed, many Tory MP's had real careers and jobs which is a good thing. They then try to carry these on whilst living on lower incomes as MP's - this may or may not be a bad thing, depending on how they are earning their silver. Labour will never suffer the same and most of their current MP's are morons and useless party acolytes. One of the few successful ones is Keir Starmer and the morality police are banging down his door as much as the Tories. They won't be after the deputy Labour leader, who by any estimations is totally unemployable so of course does not have a second job. Labour will always do better here, just as they will see more of their MP's sent to prison for criminal misdemeanours from their stupid and grasping intakes of grifters. 

All of this is pummelling the Government in the polls and quite right too. Labour Budgets, poor political tactics and incompetent leadership - nothing like some large poll leads and some by-election defeats to help concentrate the minds a little onto important matters of state. 

Interestingly though, having travelled in Europe much of the week, it is of note that basically the UK has had the right strategy all along with Covid. So much of the remainer-led criticism has been plain wrong and continues to be. The fully lockdown-enthralled states are not doing any better than us and are gearing up for another heavy wave just as we muddle-through with no restrictions and limited deaths. In politics of course, this is a massive loser being right - because there are plenty of anit-vax idiots and commie-lockdown worshippers to help keep the narrative going of poor Government choices. 

Friday 12 November 2021

I weaponise my tears ...

Homogenizing performative modalities, and other outrages in the competitive virtue-signalling sphere. Bloody hilarious.

A good weekend to all - 


Monday 8 November 2021

COP a load of this ...

So that's Week 1 of COP26: can we sum up where things stand?  (BTW, since I'm about to take the whole Glasgow thing at face value, I invite several of our esteemed BTL crew to switch off now, if they've even got beyond clicking past the very headline itself ...)

Actually, summarising has proved very difficult for the meejah - particularly the Graun and their like.  I think we may safely skip "gender" day and "youth" day, if we're taking things seriously.  Obviously with the Big Shots (less HMQ & Xi & Putin) only in town Mon-Tues of last week, it was always going to be the showy announcements up front, followed by the long nights of grinding spade-work in arrears.  Thus, much of the commentary has been "the devil is in the detail" - pretty lame, but basically true.  However, at face value the announcements on coal, methane, deforestation, finance and the like represent genuine steers for business and capital alike.  We still have carbon trading to come.

(By the way, as I've been saying here for 2 years, for business purposes there is Absolutely No Point in saying it's all a waste of time.  As well say in 1941, we really shouldn't have declared war, it's all getting very costly.  Nope: it's quite simply the only game in town.  So, face value it is.) 

The poor old Graun is left floundering, wanting desperately to say both (a) this is really important Last Chance Saloon stuff & deserves our best efforts & goodwill;  but also (b) Boris is a big embarrassment and it's all going badly tits-up.  So easy to snipe; but they have to stay optimistic.

So what are we to make of all these declarations with differing lists of signatories each time?  Pragmatism, I'd say.  Naming and shaming.  Putting China on the spot - and India, and Australia - since they are the big absentees from most of the declarations.  (Nobody, I think, expects anything of Putin anyhow.)  We know that the CPC refuses to acknowledge any higher authority than itself, so they are never going to bind themselves anyway.  

OK, so the CPC will always put continued economic growth ahead of anything (expect Taiwan).   But they do have a range of foreign policy goals in play, which includes building a voting-bloc of developing nations that can reliably be leaned on to stay with China's line on, well, on anything they dictate.  (In return for hard cash, of course.)  The Graun's feeble if lengthy effort to write up Week 1 contains this interesting throwaway line: 

Joe Biden used his final words to take a swipe at China. The Chinese delegation seemed less perturbed, having its own issues with marshalling smaller developing countries, which are concerned that the 1.5C goal is slipping out of reach.

That's the most interesting thing I've seen written down** over the past 10 days.  There's the germ of something big in that.  More popcorn for Week 2, please.



**And it's by Fiona Harvey, for whom I have low regard   

Friday 5 November 2021

"The end of the beginning"

 That favourite quote of Churchill, after El Alamein, will be one Boris Johnson knows well. 

After many success and perhaps more mishaps, the latest debacle surrounding Owen Patterson I think will become a defining moment. It comes after weeks of mis-steps. A poor budget, lack of confidence in the face of victory over Covid, a pseudo-war with France, the net zero madness of COP26.

All the events pile up on the ever thinning Tory poll lead. But the ones who really matter when a government has an 80 seat Majority are the MP's. From what I have read, they are very disappointed at the antics of this week. Marched to the top of the hill and down again, all in favour of a man who is almost certainly guilty of that which he is accused. 

The tone in the press is different too, always the right wing press have left him off relatively lightly in the past - notably over covid. Yesterday it would have been easy to decry that Parliament was one of scoundrels with both Patterson and Claudia Webbe as exhibits A and B. However, there is little mention of Webbe. The focus, led by Tory MP leaking, is on Boris and his very poor judgement and actions. 

With Brexit delivered, and despite the remainers never giving up, no real chance of undoing this technically for a long time. It maybe that the Tory minds will turn to who is the leader for the future - beyond Covid and beyond Brexit. I can see how that can be Boris if the level of incompetence continues - of which there is no reason to think it won't. We have written here in the past about how a lack of ideological belief makes Boris unsuited to making the hard decisions and sticking to them. 

It won't be quick, with a huge majority and humming economy (inflation aside) it would be an odd time to toss Boris. But falling behind Labour in the polls, allowing Starmer to lead and have a voice that is listened too, together with the inevitable economic hardship the money-printing is bringing (and the Green taxes now biting ever harder, forever)...the drip will continue. 

No more honeymoon or easy wins for Boris, the mountain has been climbed, the view appreciated and the return journey begun. 

Wednesday 3 November 2021

COP26 Finance mandate - another free cop out for Finance titans

 If you work in any large organisation in the UK or the West over the last few years, you will be well aware of the cultural capture by left-leaning values that has engulfed CEO's and Human Resources teams. 

Aware that trying to engineer upwards growth for their business all the time is hard work, Chief Exec's have rushed to discover the need to promote diversity and inclusivity and set these cultural targets that are rather easier to achieve - but achieving them allows the same bonus to be earned. 

The new wave of course is climate change and the impact on companies of this. In some ways a big positive, flying junior staff around the world for various not so important meetings has been ended by the pandemic - at no loss the the staff or companies really in the Zoom enabled ear. Lower carbon miles must be a good thing in the round, but this has been a side benefit of the pandemic, not the result of firm action by companies. 

Reducing investments in oil and gas, like tobacco and arms before, has proved easier and also allows for some wiggle room when finding somewhere to blame for poor investor returns. As does overly investing in green energy and infrastructure projects where lower returns can be promised in return for some feelings of moral superiority. 

In fact, many centuries ago the protestant reformation was started by Martin Luther, angry at indulgences sold by the Pope's to absolve people of their misdeeds. The new found obsession with Sustainability seems to have many similarities - look at the rich and famous flying into Glasgow to espouse their morality and direct everyone else's behaviours, much like the Papacy of the Middle Ages. Pontificating in Glasgow has a nice ring to it, eh?

Returning to avarice driven CEO's, the new Net Zero mandate is manana from heaven for them. They will be able to run their large companies with a view to reducing emissions, lets not worry about profits and market share, all very difficult in a competitive market. Instead we can have lots of internal meetings about vision and strategy, employ consultants and come to some obvious conclusions, like abandoning offices and commuting in due course. All the while getting paid the full whack of pay and with ready made excuses for any economic downside "its for the good of the planet."

Their personal jets, houses, jacuzzi's and mistresses jewellery will I predict remain untouched - as much as those of Prince Charles.  Whether the world gets any benefits; maybe, maybe not. 

Monday 1 November 2021

Good COP, bad COP ... and other awful jokes

I feel the obvious need to pen something about COP but really, there's little point to attempting anything analytic.  The outright contradictions are so many and so stark, it's just rats in a barrel.  If, that is, the rats can actually get to Glasgow with all the transport problems, lack of accommodation, Covid rules, etc etc etc.  As Lil said BTL a few days ago, what can go wrong?

It's all a curious mash-up between virtue-signalling and outright desperation.  The Chinese and Russian no-show (OK, their sherpas will be there but we all get the Big Message) means it'll be null anyhow.  And with the 'leaders' departing after Tuesday of this week, the format is clear: Big Empty Statements up front, followed by days of detailed and ultimately fruitless wrangling.  At least in Paris '15 (COP21) it was the other way around so that (in theory) the 'leaders' could knock heads together at the end and contrive a 'breakthrough' (on paper).

Transitioning, therefore, to a vaguely pertinent business story on the matter of 'leaders' doing 'deals' that must then be transacted by their hapless underlings.  We were a big player in the North Sea (oil & gas) and one day Pete the commercial director convened a small team: an excellent lawyer, a licensing specialist, an analyst and myself (negotiator).  Joe, our fairly dynamic Chairman (American, relatively new in the job, not strong on details) had lunched with his opposite number in another North Sea player (not at all new in the job, ought to have known better) and on their napkins they'd agreed a massive asset swap.  "All we had to do" was draw up the contracts.  So, Pete, what is the deal?  He suppressed all hint of sarcasm and faithfully recounted what had been agreed:  a mishmash of part-shares of producing assets, undeveloped discoveries, exploration acreage both prospective and fallow.

Stunned silence.  It was obvious to everyone in the room that the 'deal' couldn't be done: for one thing, it would breach our licence terms (itself an absolute killer) and for another, we'd need the approval of various joint venture partners, some of whom had pre-emption rights ...   Ladies and gents, we just have to get on with it.

Mercifully, we knew our working-level opposite numbers well, and of course they were in exactly the same bind.  With near 100% good will & cooperation, about two months later we came up with something that satisfied honour: the nearest approximation to the napkin-deal we could jointly muster.  In the meantime, I'd even taken up smoking again.  (To be fair, Joe - there you go, I knew it could be done! - and Pete were deeply appreciative of our efforts.)  

The differences between that set-up and COP are pretty clear.  Yup, a total lack of good will and cooperation!   Not much COP, then (sorry!).  Good luck to those sherpas ...

Your related business stories BTL, if you fancy.