Tuesday 31 May 2022

Mandelson's 'Starmer' strategy looks like a winner

The bulk of the Left of the Labour Party, having thoroughly swallowed the mendacious soft-focus "I'm really a Corbynite" leadership pitch of Kier Starmer, rapidly became disillusioned (and in some cases, defenestrated) when he started purging the Peoples Party in a singularly calculating manner. 

And we know whose are the calculations: it's Mandelson, the preeminent British political strategist of the age. 

I feel we may now summarise his 2019 thinking, and estimate his chances of success.

1.  Corbyn has done a Thatcher**, potentially sterilising the Labour vote for years to come
2. The only chance of reversing that lies in someone who looks the part (besuited, established), grabs all the levers of power within the party  AND ...
3. ... methodically, gratuitously, ruthlessly and flamboyantly takes every opportunity to do Corbyn and his acolytes down (in ways that Hague, IDS and Howard could never do to Thatcher).  You don't want an excrescence of people who remind the electorate of Corbyn and, crucially, you don't need them; neither for their pitiful subscriptions NOR as election-time infantry  -  because elections are lost by sitting governments, and won by clever media strategies funded by big donations, not knocking on doors
And now we come to the reason why this all might come to fruition in less than a single political generation.
4. Johnson is always going to self-destruct: possibly sooner rather than later: the key is to be in position for when it happens
With any luck (thinks Peter) it'll be Johnson who, in turn, sterilises the Tory Party as did Thatcher, for another decade of Mandelsonian influence.

Looks like it's going to work.  Still: at least Mandelson is intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, eh?

** there's many a Thatcherite that has been in 30-year denial on this.  They have forgotten, or may never have tried, getting support for the Party during the leaderships of the aforesaid Hague, IDS and Howard.  Some things are never forgotten or forgiven by the electorate: Corbyn committed that kind of sin, and so IMHO has Johnson.  

Thursday 26 May 2022

Sunak's Package: Lots Bad - Anything Good? Updated

We may not have received full details yet, but here are a couple of immediate thoughts - to the negative.

  • Crass bad politics in the presentation of it:  why spend a week saying, oooh, all our instincts are against a windfall tax, that's no way to behave, that's a nasty leftie idea - and then say, oh, alright then, if you insist; how about £5 billion?   But we don't enjoy doing it, mind.  When you give something away, do it with good grace and get the full credit.
  • Oil & gas production isn't the only energy windfall sector:  but I haven't read anything about hitting the other really big windfall-winners, namely nukes, and windfarms / solar / biomass etc that are subsidised via ROCs rather than CfDs - which is the majority.  These guys - with costs that don't go up but sales prices that really do, and subsidy payments that carry on regardless (apart form the nukes) - have been making out like gangsters.  And why did they need subsidies in the first place?  Why, to make investing in renewables 'low risk'.  OK, so no windfall rewards, then ... surely?  Nobody, ever, should be getting windfalls on the back of public subsidy.
Anyone spot anything to get enthusiastic about?

Incidentally, it's still not clear to me Johnson is remotely seized with the horror that is to come next winter.  This was an opportunity for making some serious preparations.  If you're going to give large cash sums by way of rebates, now is the exact time to start priming the populace for what may be coming next.  Johnson's sole strategy is Micawber, but there ain't anything good gonna turn up before the next GE that I can see.  So he's destined to be permanently on the back foot: one of the worst things I can say about a politician, particularly one who's in power.

Open thread - go for it!  


UPDATE:  Channel 4 reckons he's coming back again shortly for another £3bn from "electricity companies" I trust this gets to the second point above.  Presumably it all points to the plan being rushed out to cover for the Gray report.  What a bloody shambles.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Russian Cyber Attack Incoming?

The capitalists are rather busy right now.  Yes, I'm on BTL notice to post on what Putin isn't doing, and why: but that must wait.  

By way of a pot-boiler, however, and very much on theme: before the Ukraine war started I solemnly advised folks around here (and elsewhere) to back up onto hard drives etc, any precious data they held in the Cloud - because the very first thing would be a massive Russian cyber attack.  Well, of course, that's one of many things that didn't happen. (yet ...)   

Or maybe that's wrong.  This, from Germany's Tagesspiegel:

Repeated cyberattacks cause concern about German wind industry’s IT security ...  A string of apparently targeted cyberattacks on German wind farms has led to worries that the country’s main future power source is not sufficiently protected. Turbine manufacturers Nordex and maintenance provider Deutsche Windtechnik both grappled with attacks on their IT infrastructure earlier this year, with the latter attack quickly being linked to possible Russian perpetrators, a cause the company so far neither has ruled out nor confirmed. Wind power industry association BWE said its member companies are experiencing “a new quality of cyber threats” since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. An earlier incident this year, shortly after the invasion began on 24 February, led to roughly 5,800 turbines by manufacturer Enercon being cut off remotely. While the Enercon case might have been “collateral damage” of an attack on a US satellite provider, this could not be said of the two later incidents.

Not a definitive sighting, clearly.  But a very strong message about vulnerability.


Tuesday 24 May 2022

Has Simon Jenkins completely lost it?

I always wonder about Simon Jenkins.  He writes crisply, with an air of massive authority, and the Graun gives him absolutely free rein.  Sometimes I like his stuff; other times he goes pompous soft-left and it's annoying.

Anyhow, today he's gone 100% populist pig-ignorant

Forget a gimmicky windfall tax. Energy companies should be forced to slash bills instead ... The answer must be to slash the price cap and demand the companies spend their profits directly on cutting bills. The wimps of Ofgem, the industry regulator, must become tigers. They know that these companies – and their executives – are now wealthy. They know investment is not at issue: they are distributing massive profits and buying back shares. Unless the west goes collectively mad, energy supplies, and profits with them, will return to normal. For now, the priority is simply to bring the price of energy down, and at the government’s command. Yes, all consumers, rich and poor, would benefit; but it would not cost the exchequer a penny, and it would instantly relieve the cost of living at source.

Well, that's embarrassing.  It would seem he thinks it's energy suppliers who are making the windfalls: seeing that it is only they who are subject to the cap and regulated by Ofgem.  Has he somehow not noticed that suppliers have been dropping like flies?

Making his excuses for him; perhaps he has primary producers in mind?  Nothing to do with Ofgem or the retail cap, mind; but OK, well invent a new cap on their prices and for one thing you can say goodbye to all our imports, at the very least.  That's 60% + of our gas.    

I do look forward to his scheme for capping the astonishing profits of renewable generators still on the ROCs subsidy, though ...  Seriously: if people like Jenkins understand as little as he does, both on the principles and the details, some very strange populist cries are likely to be gaining traction, with the scope for some particularly crass political decisions being made.

What a plonker.



Monday 23 May 2022

Ukraine / Biden / Taiwan: where does this lead?

Here's a headline to wake up to on a dull Monday morning: 

US would defend Taiwan if attacked by China, says Biden.   President says US’s responsibility to protect island is ‘even stronger’ after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Blimey.  If he isn't immediately made to "walk this back" by his own people (which is what generally happens when Biden's been talking in his sleep again), this is an absolute blockbuster, and will shake the Chinese rigid.

The only offset is the technicality that he paid lip-service to the 'One China' policy - followed, however, by "but".

What a turnaround.  Back in February, Xi must have been expecting that Putin's Ukraine gambit (a) would turn out to be a quick win of some sort; and (b) could be parlayed to give China more options - and maybe opportunity - vis-à-vis their own designs upon Taiwan.  Make it clear that the USA is a paper tiger, etc.  That sanctions don't work.  That the RoW doesn't fall in line with the west.  That India is with him.

But that would have been based on the notion that China had already secured a satisfactory baseline of non-commitment from the USA.  Xi would never have given Putin the thumbs-up otherwise: not in a million years.  

If Ukraine's success in dragging Putin into the mire has actually emboldened Biden in this regard (plus giving a fine public demonstration of the efficacy of good defensive weaponry + intelligence + tactics), Xi must wonder if Taiwan is now out of reach in his lifetime.  

Actually, of course, that might make things even more dangerous.  We're having quite enough of Old (& sick) Men In A Hurry just now.


Wednesday 18 May 2022

Mr Putin, What Are You Like? - revisited

After one week of the war in Ukraine,  we posted this

Putin is guilty of Adolf-style micro-managing the military (the ever-tempting sin I've frequently lauded George Bush Snr for avoiding)

Well, even then some BTLers were objecting to an earlier citing of the Sudetenland as a parallel (I could never see why), and many still don't consider these WW2 analogies appropriate.  

OK.  The whole point about analogies / parallels / similes is not that they are in some sense exact: no discursive account in any sphere except the mathematical is ever 100% exact.  The relevant question is:  do we find it useful? **  

It seems to me, and indeed to Mr BQ from time to time, that WW2 often provides extremely useful case studies - as you know, I cited Finland 1939-40 before this all kicked off, and nobody was being compared to Adolf in that one: it's Uncle Joe all the way.  And yes, of course, it breaks down as a parallel with current events because no other nations came to Finland's aid in anything like the way countries have done for Ukraine.  But the point was, I expected - giving reasons - the Ukrainians to fight, against several people who said they'd fold; that Finland and Ukraine are both big countries with plenty of space into which a defender can fall back; and that the Winter War was an example that seemed pretty apposite.  No?

So: back to the headline.  Yep, in that one I made the dreaded comparison with Adolf.  Not just him, of course: Lyndon Johnson was another inveterate military meddler.  And was it right?  As far as the parallel goes, well, from just this week ... 

Russian failures fuelled by Vladimir Putin’s meddling 

Why Vladimir Putin’s Meddling May Be The Reason Behind The Russian Army’s Poor Show In Ukraine 

Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman from King’s College London, said he judged the military statement about Putin’s level of involvement to be plausible

... others now seem to think so, too.  None of us knows for certain.  Maybe it's just a confection of western psyops, designed to make ordinary Russians turn on their man, or annoy Putin to distraction.  Maybe somebody has a full explanation as to why the Russian forces, heirs to the mighty Red Army, have thus far been screwing things up quite as comprehensively as they have, but which doesn't involve inept decision-making by Putin.  Do let us know. 

But amateurish micro-managing in Moscow surely does seem to be a useful thing to consider.



**Obviously, if suggesting a particular parallel fundamentally pisses off ones interlocutor, it ain't gonna move the discussion forward.  If I've misjudged the readership, well, there you go - have a refund, Russian warship ...

Tuesday 17 May 2022

An exceptionally significant Defence appointment

The name won't mean anything to you, but the new Commander of UK Strategic Command is Lt Gen Sir James Hockenhull.  It's a significant straw in the wind.  

Hockenhull was previously Chief of Defence Intelligence, and is now risen to greater seniority than any member of the Intelligence Corps before.  (There had previously been only one 2-star general, the norm being a one-star in that Corps.)

His latest step up, I can tell you, comes as a result of the stellar performance of Defence Intelligence over the past 6 months in particular.  Quite encouraging, I find this.  

Needs a haircut, though.


Monday 16 May 2022

Axing those 91,000 Civil Servants

We learn that Johnson has packed off all his ministers to come up with bright ideas for saving a bob or two, thereby to forestall the the current and fast-growing economic crisis.  I'm sure we've all suffered fatuous "initiatives" like this at work, and had cause to marvel at the inanity of it all.  If your Chancellor doesn't have advisers of the calibre of a Keynes to come up with the broad macro-strokes that will be required, there's just no point.   We gather this particular "idea" is attributable to the execrable Rees-Mogg.  If BJ imagines saving a couple of billions by axing 91,000 civil servants will contribute anything meaningful, he's as stupid as anyone ever imagined.

(a) None of us want a bloated civil service, nor a bunch of workshy WFHers on the payroll; but unless by some miracle he can identify exactly those 91,000 people who are collectively & personally responsible (haha) for the global crisis we now face it will have purely disruptive consequences - and broad-spectrum ones at that - at exactly the time he's enough on his plate;

(b) I'm no expert on how public finance accounting works, but I don't see how it will save money for a good few years; 

(c) If he wants a diversionary tactic against voters noticing his own crass behaviour and manifest unfitness for office, there are many better ones, at infinitely less cost, to be had.  The only diverting that will happen will be of governmental time and energies.

As we know from covid, when the shit really hits the fan, the government cheerfully moves the whole nation onto the public payroll anyway.  The shit that's almost certainly going to happen between now and the next election makes this an entirely spurious 'policy'.



Saturday 14 May 2022

Where now for Putin? (part 2) - Mission Somewhat-Less-Impossible

 After one week of Putin's war, we wrote this

... it was widely suggested that Putin has available to him a fruitful strategy of "bloody a few noses, seize 50km, freeze the new border, wait for the waters to close over, rinse and repeat, from Tbilisi to Tallinn". In other words, that's not to be characterised ... as a less-than-ideal outcome: it's maybe what he wanted all along... He certainly has his 50km ... (But) the whole of NATO has been royally stirred up; and Tallinn might be feeling a bit more secure than it did three months ago.  The "50km" strategy starts to look a bit, well, glacial ... how long has he got?   

Ten weeks later, a different way of asking the question might be:  what else has he got?  

Map (extract): Institute for the Study of War - to whom maximum kudos

As any student of warfare knows, you overlook logistics at your utter peril.  Putin now has to confront the obvious fact that he simply doesn't have the wherewithal to execute an offensive war, Red-Army style, which requires vast usage of ammunition (each salvo from a single BM-21 requires a full truck-load of rockets).  Russian logistics are essentially dependent upon rail networks (maybe subject of a later post) - they don't even have many trucks, still less the resources and logistical genius of (e.g.) Gen Schwartzkopf in 1991, or Wellington in 1813.  And while he can't advance to Kyiv on a train, there are several rail links from Russia direct into his newly-acquired strip (pink in the map above).

So what's Putin got left?  Let's credit him with retaining a degree of agency in the matter (though he does look awfully ill...) - so what orders does he give?  He has, de facto and possibly by accident, the components of a workable "fait accompli" strategy and probably the military means to sustain it, territorially if not politically.

Faits Accomplis / Coups de Main

A standard geo-politico-military strategy is to grab something more-or-less out of the blue[1] in the hope that the other side will be taken aback and, before they can respond effectively, you've consolidated to the point where it's too late: think Putin / Crimea 2014, Nasser / Suez 1956, and several of Hitler's early moves.  Less encouragingly, there's Argentina / Falklands 1982, and Saddam / Kuwait 1990.[2]

Putin certainly has his 50 km - more like 100 km, in fact - the arc roughly between Kherson and Kharkiv.  Note two things.   On the negative side, he faces very stiff & well-organised resistance in the centre of the Donbass front: indeed he's being rolled up from the west at Kharkiv.  On the positive side: apparently he has enough of the Kherson oblast to guarantee the water supply to Crimea - a genuine strategic goal; and all of his 50km has a border and rail links with Russia.

Provided he sticks to a defensive posture, his logistics there are (relatively) secure.  That alone isn't remotely sufficient - both Argentina and Iraq had broadly favourable, and certainly superior (in relative terms) logistical positions to the foe they faced.  But it is 100% necessary: and proximity to the border will do this for him.

So: much as he evidently wanted to achieve more[3], Putin's orders must surely now be:  

Define a defensible subset of what we now occupy - categorically including whatever it takes to water Crimea.   Dig in; set up the resupply lines; and hold that territory to the last mercenary.  Lay waste and abandon the rest.  

This is militarily realistic.  And he seems to be laying the geo-political groundwork, by declaring Kherson to be part of Russia, which he can then announce will be defended by whatever means, as NATO would defend its own borders.

It is not guaranteed to succeed, of course: see Falklands 1982 and Kuwait 1991.  That pinkish chunk in the map running north and east of Luhansk up to fiercely-contested Kharkiv looks to me like turf to be abandoned on the theory outlined here.  And note the little blue patch east of Kherson: that represents Ukrainian claims of partisan operations: WW2 teaches us it's the right kind of territory for that stuff, after all.

And the politics for him (at home and abroad) and indeed for everyone else, will be complex - to say the least - and not concluded any time soon.  Maybe, indeed, he'll regret the whole thing profoundly; and Xi will never talk to him again.  But in purely military terms it is at least coherent in light of the resources he can put in the field, and his ability to sustain them.   

BUT ... rinse and repeat?  No way.  Even if "successful", he'll never live to see a re-run of this - anywhere west of Donbass, at least[4].  



[1] Even though "there's no such thing as strategic surprise"; ... but "there can always be tactical surprise"

[2] Faits Accomplis are all rather important right now because Xi obviously hopes to pull off a big one with Taiwan - hence his acute interest in the fate of Putin / Ukraine 2022 - and is trying a slow-motion one with the South China Sea "new islands" trick

[3] As the one-time 1990s Russian PM, grizzled old Victor Chernomyrdin said sadly upon leaving office: "we hoped for better things - but it turned out as normal"  (A deeply Russian sentiment, that)

[4] Sorry, Georgia (subject of my triumphant New Year prediction here in Jan 2008) but I think you're on your own 

Thursday 12 May 2022

That Putin non-Speech: What Now? (part 1)

Sadly there are no competition awards to be made after Putin's Speech - none of us really reckoned on nothing much to say, did we?  Mostly, people everywhere figured either ...

(a) escalation (declaration of war / mass mobilisation / small nuke somewhere / big distraction-stunt); or

(b) declaration of victory (got what we want / now - what we have, we hold)

Nobody really expected "I am a tired old man / weather's a bit cold & overcast for the time of year, pity about the flypast / WW2 was great / all rather difficult now / oh well, soldier on, I suppose / safe journey home, mind the tanks round the corner, they have a habit of breaking down / let me have that blanket".

I need this blanket more than you, Grandma

So: what does it betoken?  

  • he doesn't fancy escalation.  You could see why: maybe the west has more sanctions up its sleeve; he doesn't have the military resources for anything much on the battlefield in the near term; mobilisation (& declaration of war) would be a very two-edged sword - potentially deeply unpopular where it matters, for not much return in the short run beyond the legal freedom to send conscripts into the battle.  Also, putting aside the morale-boosting double-down effect of any spectacular escalation, in military terms he might not need it - see part 2. 
  • he doesn't have a victory worthy of the name.  Russians are patriotic, and fairly-much whipped into line right now to swallow (or at least pretend) quite a lot; but they ain't stupid.  And calling a 'victorious halt' right now would come with all manner of practical problems, not least that they are positively retreating on the Kharkiv front and may find holding the Donbas line really difficult - maybe even Kherson, which is really important for them (water supply to Crimea).  So: no point, even, in that rehearsed 'Z' flypast: no triumphalism whatsoever**.  
  • status quo is priced in for his audiences.  The home audience is more-or-less conditioned for the long haul - at least in their current frame of mind, before sanctions really hit (which they will: Russian industry is grinding rapidly to a humiliating halt).  The RoW can hardly think any worse of him; and China specifically was utterly disgusted at a very early stage - only a lightning victory at low (material) cost would have been good enough to impress them and give them encouragement for their own heartfelt designs on Taiwan.
  • there is at least the possibility something helpful turns up.  Top of his list must be the EU splitting badly as Germany refuses (i) to stop buying the gas; (ii) to pay for the pain Poland et al are suffering; and the populace as a whole tires of massive stagflation - we were happy enough to send weapons, but we never figured on 20% inflation ...  Yes, folks, there's every possibility the Russian public has more tolerance for hardship than we do.  (I'm being flippant here, of course; they absolutely do, by the bucketload.)
  • he's run out of ideas - if not his own, then anyone else's.  Somebody could have come up with something, by way of an imaginative, low-cost surprise / fillip / morale-booster.  I am always banging on about how the point of being in power is that you always have vast scope to take the initiative, limited only by the shortcomings of your own imagination.  Even Saddam Hussein could be credited with understanding that: he pulled several surprises on us in 1991, not to mention the big one in 1990.  There's never been any indication Putin has any imagination himself; but in a land of avid chess players, there must be someone around him who does.  Mustn't there?  No, apparently not. 
I conclude he's now adopted a strategy of doggedly bringing about a situation conducive to a mission his massively disappointing army can actually be expected to execute.  We should add, 'as best possible', because performance to date doesn't provide much encouragement.

What's that mission?  More at the weekend in part 2. 



** For my money, the scrapping of the flypast is an impressively logical & decisive reinforcement of his 'nope, comrades - no victory yet' posture.  Somebody is still thinking coherently in there (if not imaginatively), and Putin is listening - to them, at least.

PS: à propos of our speech-drafting compo, at least poor little troll-anon's worst fears were not realised ...   ["My fear is a NATO-sponsored terrorist attack, either on the parade or its spectators. A 9/11 style spectacle. It's unlikely the US can let this pass without doing something."]  Or was it a Kev-spoof ..?

Tuesday 10 May 2022

... and it isn't just inflation!

This link is to a thread containing some eye-opening charts portraying how the world (UK in particular) is changing under our feet.  Some of the changes being captured have been gaining momentum over many years, and are fairly familiar (see this chart, for example; and the growth in financial inequality).

Others are less so, e.g.

  • % young adults living with their parents  
  • % women aged 30 that are childless
  • out-of-pocket payments for healthcare in the UK - now the same as in the USA!
  • rise in crowdfunding to pay for medical costs

These sorts of socio-economic shifts require a D.Cummings to wrestle with them politico-strategically.  The long term implications will be significant.  Can't see B.Johnson having the slightest interest in that anymore, though.


Monday 9 May 2022

The cost of living crisis to come

 to come you say?


You see what we have today is just the foothills unfortunately, baked into the pipeline are some rather big nasties.

A - Diesel  is now $600 a ton, up from $200. Diesel fuels everything, tractors, ships, trucks. All the real stuff, even a decent percentage of cars. It is 3x more expensive that it was a few months ago. Russian crude was very good for making diesel and so their refineries were experts and pumped it out by the millions tons a day. Now we are not playing with them, they are not doing that. Worse, the Western refiners that made diesel used Russian crude. Now that is not available to them either, though they are giant things, oil refineries are calibrated carefully to the right API for fuel and other key factors - typically they are supplied from the same wells for years and years and forever in Saudi! With Diesel at this price the costs of globalisation, farming and much else are not coming back to earth anytime soon. 

B - China, has gone nearly as mental as Russia, only this time on its internal population. Life has stopped in many major cities, the factories are closed and the ports are full. This is a huge dislocation in the global economy and it was exactly this kind of thing that started the inflation super-cycle in 2020 when the pandemic hit. 

C - Market crashes - as the markets catch-up with the factors in the real economy, investment will drop. In the medium-term this is a good thing as it stops money supply growing so fast (investment is matched with bank created fiat money everywhere), but it also leads to lower productivity and output. Right when the economy is short of supply rather than demand. 

I remember writing how fearful I was of stagflation in 2011/12 after the great recession. Inflation did peak but the commodity prices crashed and China was much less effected so continued to supply the goods which kept supply and demand matched. 

This time there is no counter-balance that I can see. The only one will be a huge reduction in demand - job losses, high taxes, much higher poverty etc, the creation of scarcity. 

The Tories won't survive this it needs to be said, no Government would, in the same way Labour could not escape 2008. People will need someone to blame for the misfortune of an unstable world and perhaps more rightly for some poor policy choices that may have helped around the edges. However, what will a new Government do faced with the same situation. Only printing money will arise as a solution with inflation at 10%+....

Saturday 7 May 2022

Croydon Goes Bankrupt: The Sequel

The story so far:  in a series of stunning scandals and maladministration, a curiously non-ideological one-man Labour dictatorship in Croydon reduced the largest London borough to bankruptcy.  Considerable opprobrium lighted upon this individual, his crazy schemes and disgraceful neglect of residents; but Croydon looks demographically fairly safe for Labour, not least because Tory voters are fairly widely spread across the vast borough, whereas Labour votes are nicely concentrated geographically, sufficient to hold the council and 2 of the 3 parliamentary constituencies.

Meanwhile in Croydon South, the only constituency held by the Tories, the hyperactive and "creative" MP Chris Philp came up with a wizard wheeze to solve his perennial local problem.  The Labour council was forever approving planning applications his core voters hate.  So, reckoning that a borough-wide elected-mayoral system would be a lot less wasteful of Tory votes, and might conceivably come up with a Tory majority, he organised a campaign + referendum to switch to the executive mayoral system (the same system just cancelled by Bristol voters: these enthusiasms come and go).   Philp's Croydon referendum campaign, bitterly opposed by Labour - despite official Labour policy being in favour of elected mayors -  succeeded by a huge majority.  Hardly surprising: the Borough was by then bankrupt and the scandals had achieved unusually wide currency, local and national.


The Tories then selected their current leader - i.e. leader of the Minority on the council - as Mayoral candidate, simply on Buggin's Turn.  He's a nice enough chap (always the most damning thing you can say about a person) but has the charisma of a potato, and no more than the usual local profile enjoyed by a councillor, i.e. virtually zero outside his own patch.

Labour, having recovered their wits after the crushing referendum result, suddenly discovered they were, after all, in favour of elected mayors, and pulled a serious stroke by selecting a genuinely well-known and genuinely local candidate: career politician Valerie Shawcross.  She'd been Leader of the Council many years ago; a Deputy Mayor in the GLA for many subsequent years; has a superb grasp of London politics; is fairly moderate and well liked, as these things go; and has completely clean hands as regards the recent Croydon Labour scandals.  Her campaign (notable for a complete absence of the colour red!) was excellent and of course Boris is a gigantic ball-and-chain just now.  What made her prospects even better was that Mr Potato and the Tories ran a very poor campaign, with truly lame leaflets etc.

But she lost!  In an election-night count that went on for 36 hours(!), with recounts, the Tory won by less than 2%.  As they say around here, inability to count is what got Croydon in this mess in the first place ...

Philp's gamble, which must have seemed like a slam-dunk only a year ago, will have cost him some sleep over the past three weeks.  But it's come off.  Couldn't happen to a nicer chancer.

(Sorry, that's, errrr, chap )


Wednesday 4 May 2022

Competition: Write That 9th May Putin Victory Speech!

OK, C@W crew:  what "victory" is Putin gonna claim next Monday?

Give us at least your main bullets, if not the whole 6 hours script ...

Sunday 1 May 2022

When Does Inflation Hit? Bank Holiday Post

Returning from a Bank Hol run on the supermarket, I cannot but notice that the much-heralded inflation (as anticipated by myself, amongst many others) has not yet hit food prices - at least, not the stuff Mrs D and I buy, across a wide range of foodstuffs and drinks.  Not even the stuff coated in sunflower oil.

We are given to believe supply chains are heavily oriented towards just-in-time, which speaks against there being many months of last year's produce stashed in Mr Tesco's warehouse, being steadily run down.  The warehouses of his suppliers?  Some of what's in our trolley is fresh produce.

And everything requires transportation: do supply-chain players buy their fuel many months forward?  I'd believe they fixed their electricity and gas prices around this time last year, which was when every energy professional knew the price crisis was coming, Ukraine or no Ukraine.  But diesel?  Ships' bunkers?  Maybe.

Or is everyone determined to take the hit in their P&L?  Is it even a "passive price war"?

All in all, I'm surprised.  When does the absence of wheat (& sunflower) exports from Ukraine - and Russia - make itself felt?  When do supply-chain players run out of forward-purchased energy?  

When does food inflation hit?


PS:  Food aside, I'm not sure I've encountered the full out-working of >6% CPI generally, either ...

PPS:  Food price inflation has gone through the roof in, errrr, Russia ...  One of our new trolls can now assert this is CIA propaganda if they like, but, hey-ho, it's true.