Friday, 27 February 2015

EU "Energy Union": A Real Monster

The blockbuster Energy Union Package hatched this week by the new Commission has been a while in the creation, signalled by Master Mandelson last year.  Obviously one's first reaction is that this would be an appalling extension of the Acquis, with massive potential for corruption of all kinds, to be resisted at all costs.

But there are a very large number of components in this monstrosity, making it it worthy of more detailed consideration, which I propose to give it in the coming days.  Here are a few initial observations, in no particular order.
  • some of its proponents are very critical of  the 'ever closer union'-supporting countries whom one might imagine a priori would be most in favour of another acqui-grab: critical of France, and particularly of Germany.  That's because a major strand of this is about Eastern Europe looking for the help of the Big Brothers in their hitherto one-sided dealings with Gazprom, in which they feel they've been hung out to dry
  • there is a strong strand of anti-Russian 'energy revanchism' in play here - if only as a smokescreen (security of supply being the last refuge of a scoundrel) - and one cannot but note the timing relative to recent setbacks suffered by the EU expansionistas in their Ukrainian policy 
  • France has always wanted the rest of us to pay its astronomical nuclear decommissioning bill, so a 'CEP' was always going to be on the table to join the CAP at some stage
  • the UK has worked wonders behind the scenes, over more than a decade, to drive the open energy market agenda across the EU - with considerable success, given the entrenched opposition from France and Germany.  The Package contains a lot of commendable open-market rhetoric - again, maybe as a smokescreen
  • the politics of all this will be epic.  Why would Germany give up its direct gas links with Russia?  Why would France give more power to anti-nuclear forces within Europe?  Why would the fervent anti-nukes allow France the opportunity to enshrine the nuclear option in an EU charter? (as they surely will - an absolute red line for them). Why would the UK accept such a blatant extension of centralisation from Brussels, enough perhaps to make us quit altogether?  (well OK, we know Mili would love it)
  • the greens will be wetting themselves at the whole prospect, seeing it as the perfect instrument for implementing their wildest fantasies
And so it goes on.  More than can be addressed in a single post, that's for sure.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Rolling Barrage

Nick Drew used the term Rolling Barrage to describe the latest political moves.
Its a quality metaphor.

Politics is only the continuation of war by other means. 

Our UK politics is still very much fought in the way of wars of old. Not so much the modern battlefield's high tech kit. Powerful communications. Great flexibly in multi-role operations. Cost effective units..High tech, low manpower..highly trained professionals.

No. Our politics is a titanic struggle of Might and Money. Mobilisation and National Will. Depots and railheads and fixed timetable battle-plans during the campaign season.
 Citizen volunteers led by a mix of old regulars. Fresh faced amateurs. Public Schoolboys and keen as mustard university students.  Each side containing far greater numbers of journeymen generals than first class leaders. Each with more incompetent or raw officers than veteran field commanders.
Each side proclaiming a great victory for every mile of useless mud gained. Each refusing to accept a defeat. Instead calling it a "rearwards advance" or a "change of base."

Two huge, opposing, power blocks. Separated only by a very narrow ideological strip of no-man's land.  Yet fighting to the death to control that thin marginal seat ground.
Our political leaders scour the battlefield. They send out Political Spad XIII scouts to search out the moral high ground, from where the Heavy Artillery Politicians can dominate the battlefield.    Bellowing out their thunder day and night. New fangled 'Fokkos Gruppen" report on the movements behind the enemies lines.  Seeking out concentrations of troops and the buildup of supplies. Also attempting to find what weakness the enemy has camouflaged under those rear area nets.

Certain sections of the trench line may be very weakly defended. Salients ripe for lopping off.
Other sections are so heavily entrenched, like the NHS, ring-fenced with miles and miles of barbed wire, and well sited union bunkers, that to assault it head on would invite ruin.

Some trench sections led by unflappable Liberal Democrat Captains, have the potential to stand fast,  even though the lines either side of them are wiped out. 

And the thump of a shell sploshing into the mud. Followed by a dreaded hiss as it releases its toxic topic of "Immigration..Immigration" can have even first line troops of the major parties fleeing to the rear in panic.

Certain sections may be in a safe zone. Weakly defended with second line troops. These could suddenly fall victim to new allies joining the war. The Scots nation and The UKIP opening up like the Turkish and Italian fronts.

The basic battle plan remains the same for both sides.
Find either a strength on your side or a weakness on theirs. Mass forces. Set up a timetable. Brief everyone concerned, making sure their is no deviation from the plan, whatever happens. Then set up a tremendous barrage. Days and days of relentless prattling. Followed by a creeping barrage of sudden explosions and a mixture of Statistics Piercing Shells. Highly Explosive Revelations..Tons of smoke-shells to disguise own mistakes..And the never ending chatter of machine tweets, as the poor bloody infantry try and get their flyers read before they hit the recycling bin.
Once the offensive begins its too late for fine tactics. Simply hammer the opponent and hope to break his front line, so allowing penetrations and flank attacks and try and force him back to his second or third lines.

The chances of a knockout blow are slim to say the least. More often its just attritional, positional warfare , where each side attempts to overwhelm the other with sheer numbers.
Costs are not considered. The war chest has already been amassed and there is no point saving any for the next battle. So every gun that can is brought to bear. And the winner is often the one that made the fewest mistakes.

Our politicians are very old fashioned. They are impressed by something as ancient as a database that might or might not show them where their supporters are. This startling lack of hard reconnaissance means they fire off millions of leaflets, carpet bombing rather than strategic strikes. 
They know the marginals are the key to victory. So they bombard them the hardest. But again, just using weight of shells to try and counter battery their opponent into silence.

Communications,  the key to the modern era, is not quick enough. MPs rely on a pre-mission briefings and what appears to be field telephone. So they sometimes go over the top into a hail of fire that could easily have been avoided by being forewarned.

Can't help feeling that the first party to master  the Westminster equivalent of radio-telephone. Coded messages. Combined arms. Close air support. Mechanised transportation and self-propelled artillery is going to waltz through the political landscape and cause an almighty upset.

I think that's taken that metaphor as far as it could possibly travel. 
But for the historians amongst us..

The Entente

The British Empire - Conservatives 
Ill prepared. Too parsimonious and too active on too many fronts prolonged the conflict and prevented gathering of forces for a decisive campaign. The Empire takes a long, long time to become effective.

The French Empire - Democratic Unionist Party 
Always up for an offensive. But after sustaining terrible casualties their morale declines. Prefer to remain on the defensive within their own sphere.

Czarist Russian Empire - Liberal Democrats
The least prepared, financed and equipped of the great powers. Poor leadership causes severe losses, Even being propped up by the British Tory Empire can't prevent capitulation then revolution.

Serbia - UKIP
Impossibly small. Friend of neither  the Allied nor Central Powers. Somehow, despite attacks from all sides, remain in play. And even mounting offensives.

Central Powers

Imperial Germany - Labour
Once the dominant power. But the war machine was no longer the power force of the 1870s. Outspent by the Entente and lacking allies and with weak leadership, they struggle to find a way to win.

Austro-Hungary - SNP
Allied by virtue of a common ideology to Imperial Labour. But wish to rule as a nation in their own right. They lose almost every battle, yet remain a powerful player in the war to the very end.

Ottoman Empire - Plaid Cmyru/ Respect 
Dragged into the conflict through economic dependency on Imperial Labour. Proved ill prepared and ill financed. Charismatic Caliphate leader keeps them going much longer than expected. But eventually defeated and destroyed.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria - The Greens
Originally both the central and allied powers wanted the Green agenda on their side. Eventually the Central Socialist powers proved more able to deliver Green desires. After limited initial success the Kingdom failed in its offensives.. Poor health of troops and lack of money and supplies led to catastrophe. The blame was placed on the idiocy of their leader, who abdicated.

BBC Question Time - 2 jobs edition

Question Time quiz.

Again..I am out.
But may be back in time for the watching.
So hopefully scores this time.

David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Telford in Shropshire. The panel includes Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps MP, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves MP, Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt MP, UKIP's Mark Reckless MP and the Sunday Times journalist and critic Camilla Long.

A lot of news this week. I will guess

Dimbletie - Butterfly motif.
1. Cash for access. Milibandwagon's second jobs for MP's. Public will be well up for a ban on second jobs. But the exemptions list would run to several hundred pages. 
2. Green party. loony party leader can'rt explain loony party policies. Who knew?
3. Three English girls. All very Enid Blyton. Three get into a fix in Aleppo. Since the story broke been looking for someone to blame...Luckily..
4. Jihadi John turns out to be a kind, friendly, cheerful, pacifist. But the security forces turned him into a Jihadi. So we know who to blame. All this terrorism is caused by MI5 investigating terrorism.
So I suppose if the Human Rights people are right, if we just stop looking for terrorists that will prevent terrorism.
5. Has to be those disastrous Net Immigration figures and Cameron's silly pledge.
{The spin I get from CHQ is - The economy is doing so well..every foreigner wants to come here.!}
If you think I'm trying that suicide line on the doorstep, think again Lynton.

League Table 2015

Kilgore Trout - 2
Hopper -2
Measured - 2

Dick the Prick - 1
Blue Eyes - 1
Taff -1
Nick Drew - 1
Cityunslicker -1
Malcolm Tucker - 1
Charity Shield winner - Malcolm Tucker.

Devo-Manc: Another Serious Power-Play

One of my perennial themes here has been: 
  • governments have their hands on the biggest levers 
  • a government strategist with a bit of creativity can always drive the agenda
Regrettably it is usually people like Mandelson who actually understand this.  Brown sort-of understood it, except he deployed it negatively in his 2009-2010 scorched-earth campaign, analysed by C@W at the time.  Anyhow, Osborne understands it too (and of course Crosby).

So now we see another serious power play, and it's well up in the creativity stakes (relative to the usual nonsense) - Devo-Manc and, in particular, the NHS-devo aspect dropped onto the unsuspecting Labour Party yesterday by Osborne.  Yes, he couldn't resist dropping this bombshell himself.

And yes, Labour has been comprehensively wrong-footed.  Oh how they hate devolution!  So now they must spend a week (out of the ten weeks remaining) cobbling together a response, which won't be easy because the Mancs (almost entirely Labour) are in favour.  (Hell, Andy Burnham - panicky and instinctively against it - is a north-west MP.)  And Tessa Jowell likes the sound of it for London.  And every regional newspaper will be majoring on it for weeks to come - even if the Gruaniad relegated what the New Statesman called the biggest story of the day to a sub-page on its labyrinthine website (oh how the lefties hate devolution).

We may confidently assume this initiative is part of a rolling barrage.  It wouldn't be difficult to bundle Mili off the field with the devo-bombardment alone, for which there is plenty more ammunition still to be fired: but I'm guessing that another flank will be opened up soon, to reinforce his lethal disequilibrium.

This is gearing up to be one of the great election campaigns.  It's not before time and I'm loving every minute.  There's no such thing as an election to lose.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

GKP puts itself up for sale

It's been a while since GKP left the AIM stock market for the main market. Sadly for the company thought, which had a fantastic run in 2009-2011, events have really caught up with it.

Drilling in Kurdistan was always risky but who knew ISIS would be threatening and the whole area would turn into a warzone. Worse, the Kurdish Government has never been able to come to a political settlement with the main Government of Iraq concerning oil funds; so there has been precious little money to pay the Oil companies whom they gave licences too in Kurdistan.

With the large debts built up from exploration, GKP has a hard time paying its debts. As such today the company has put itself up for sale. Moving the shareprice up 50% at time of writing, but still at fraction of where the shares once traded.

Afren, a fellow oil company in Kurdistan with huge problems. also struggling to sell its assets, it maybe a firesale of sorts - it is not like the Global market for Oil M&A is very hot right now.

I have been invested on an off in the company for a long time - it amazes me how much global politics and events have ended up defining one small oil play in end.

Wars, Rumours of Wars, and the FTSE 100

What colourful times we live in, eh?  A single day's headlines include:
  • Russians limbering up for the expected assault on Mariupol  
  • Cameron commits military 'advisers' to Ukraine*
  • Ms Green the greenie publicly melts down into a puddle of green goo
  • the FTSE 100 reaches a record high!
Wow.  The next several months are going to be astonishing.

Seriously for a moment, I take all these items as grist to Crosby's mill.  We know that there will be all manner of happenstance making the minnow-parties look stupid - only the SNP are moderately proof against this.  Of course, Mili will take succour from any further green meltdown, but Cameron will take still more from the combination of war abroad and UKIP looking flaky at home.   I think he's mad to engage in Ukraine: power-mad, that is.  Proof of serious intent at a no-holds-barred elelction strategy.  This is William Pitt stuff: you gotta admire a pure power-play.


* truth be told, UK military 'advisers' have been in Ukraine, on and off, for a number of years, much good it has done