Friday, 31 July 2015

Labour Leader Race

The voting for this contest will take place on September 12th which is still six weeks away and an extremely long time in politics, however the race seems to have been won already.

Last week I wrote about the beginning of the Jeremy Corbyn shock...

... and it seems worth fleshing out the details.

Jeremy Corbyn was added as a last minute entrant because someone else dropped out. Of course that should not go against him and so far it hasn't. On the contrary with the outburst in social media [Twitter for example] last week the charge that Jeremy Corbyn has made to the top spot is nothing short of phenomenal.

Hash tag pages such as #CorbynForLeader #JezWeCan #ToriesForCorbyn #CommiesForCorbyn have been instrumental in getting the word round, admittedly some are more humorous than supportive but they have all had their influence. This week has seen the unions start to back Jeremy Corbyn as his position solidifies.

But what do the people think?

It appears to me that the people think the other three clones for the centre ground did not get their message across at the general election last May and still seem to be outlying the same points now that there is no point in supporting them.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins in September will he have enough support to survive the first coup?

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Clintons

It now appears that the Clintons are cashing in on UK foreign aid!

The fact we are spending more and more on aid when we are massively in debt is bad enough, but when it is being tossed away for vanity reasons to ingratiate UK politicians with the rich and powerful in the US … I think most people would find that distasteful and unacceptable.

Tory backbenchers say the revelation is symptomatic of the fact that the DfID [Department for International Development] has so much money to spend that large amounts have to be simply handed to global charities, often leading to huge amounts of waste.

The Daily Mail has been investigating this story that some of the UK Foreign Aid budget has filtered through certain charities that the Clintons control and were employees are accepting over the top salaries of six figures, not to forget the management fees. The charity mentioned is Clinton Health Access Initiative, however DfID has said it does not fund the Clinton Foundation but it does fund the Clinton Health Access Initiative!

I am sure if the government were asked about this they would sweep any criticism away with a remark like 'we have great faith in the Clintons, I am sure there is nothing untoward going on here!'

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Infiltrated is the new black

Comrade Corbyn seems to have attracted Trotskyites who haven’t been involved in the party for years but appear to be mobilising into a highly organised force with the specific aim of getting Jeremy elected as the next Labour leader.

Of course part of this new influx of members, reported to be over 140,000 now, are conservatives who have forked out the mighty sum of £3.00 to ensure that they too support Comrade Corbyn. There are probably others who could not be classed as left now supporting Comrade Corbyn to squeeze out the middle of the roaders who can be seem to be clones.

The media seem to be transfixed on hard line lefties but what if there are people who are just fed up with Labour trying to hold the centre ground, which does not seem to have worked.

Also we cannot forget the near complete wipe out in Scotland where Labour lost 99% of their holding in one election. Have they held a Post-Mortem of May and if so why are they continuing with rhetoric that failed! Then there are the unions which are very good at moving large crowds in one direction.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Civil Service filing

Extraordinary documents found in the Cabinet Office clear out of files connected with historic child abuse cases has been found. The memos, found in a storeroom of “assorted and unstructured papers”, reveals one key paper from November 1986 from Sir Antony Duff, then director-general of MI5.

Writing to Sir Robert Armstrong, the cabinet secretary, about inquiries into an MP said to have “a penchant for small boys”, he says the spookmeister accepts the MP’s denial and adds: “At the present stage . . . the risks of political embarrassment to the government is rather greater than the security danger”.

Was that just the Establishment believing one of its own, combined with a now outdated attitude to child abuse?

Or was it part of a cover-up of the truth?

The cache of documents and correspondence also relates to senior Westminster figures such as Leon Brittan.

All will be handed over to Justice Lowell Goddard, who has ordered the whole of Whitehall against shredding or hiding any documents she may need for her new overarching inquiry.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

English Votes For English Laws

Yesterday's Government defeat in the Lords showed this is still a tricky area. But why should it be?

Why is this not automatic anyway in that all four countries in the UK can identify individual laws specific to one of the four countries and then be the only members to vote on it.

If this was not such a big issue I would have presumed that this was the norm, so I was surprised when this story started to gather pace last year during the Scottish referendum.

I realise that Scotland has a lesser parliament, but it is still a parliament and the Welsh and Irish have an assembly, however, they should still be able to be the only ones voting on their countries laws.

This whole point raises issues for me as I have said, if it was not mainstream news I would have assumed that it was happening anyway. Is the current system completely out of touch with every day business, or am I just naïve?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Labour leadership race

As each day passes it becomes clearer that Jeremy Corbyn [at the beginning the outsider, the invitee to make up the numbers and fill in the left space] is taking an immense lead over the other three.

Now is this a flook brought about by the numbers, or a protest, or a deliberate manipulation of the situation, or is this just what the Labour members want?

If the rumours are true there is already a plan to force a coup if Jeremy Corbyn wins. Unbelievable!

Sometimes bookies can be more accurate that the polls and the bookies are most definitely favouring Jeremy Corbyn at the moment. I must admit the vote will not happen until September so we have 6-8 weeks to go, but at the moment it seems quite clear.

On Newsnight last night [Tuesday 21st July] John McTernan [Labour Party political adviser] said "the Labour members who nominated Jeremy Corbyn are Morons". Now did he say this because of what was happening, i.e., Jeremy Corbyn in the lead, or did he mean it in the sense that there are a group of members who are desperate for the party to return to it's more left of centre roots? Perhaps over the coming days, this situation will become clearer.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Salary remark

They still do not get it, even though the PM David Cameron stood up in parliament and said "We get it."

Fair enough the comment was made after parliament had just voted 'no' to bombing Syria, even though the RAF today is helping in Syria, but that is a different story.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood a foreign office minister on £90k a year has now apologised for his "watch the pennies" remark when responding to the announced 10% pay rise for MPs by the independent watchdog IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority].

IPSA are still going ahead with this increase which will go into every pay packet and it is still unclear how many will or will not forward the increase to worthy charities. I suspect that Tobias Ellwood will not be extending the hand of friendship.

Last week Susie Boniface aka @fleetstreetfox took the bull by the horns and started a trend that was a huge success in getting followers to petition their MPs with the simple question "will you be accepting the 10% pay rise, or donating it to charity/local places in need?".

The response was very slow to start and then after a wile one or started to reply back that they would pass on the extra to charities. After a few days it was clear that very few would do the decent thing and pass on the pay rise.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Pluto's designation

My thoughts on Pluto started at school in science and whether it was one of the Solar System's planets. At that time there was not one side or the other that carried the argument and my biggest sticking point at the time was Pluto's trajectory.

The peculiarity of Pluto's trajectory is that both its eccentricity and inclination to the ecliptic, the approximate plane in which the orbits of the other planets lie, are extremely high.

As far as size is concerned I could say that Pluto is smaller than our moon, also Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, Io, Titan and Triton but that has never sat well with me.

It was mainly due to how people described the other eight planets, they always seem to come together and Pluto appeared to be left out, for example:-

there are four inner and four outer

there are four smaller and four larger

there are four solid and four gas

This type of rhetoric was constant at the time and Pluto always got the short straw. Then it was demoted to Dwarf planet and I thought no more about it until recently, now I seemed to have changed my mind and have decided that Pluto is one of the nine solar system planets.

Friday, 17 July 2015

MPs Pay Rise

Yesterday Twitter exploded with the #AskYourMP hashtag and it was connected with the 10% pay rise given by IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority].

IPSA was setup as a response to the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009. It establishes and monitors the expenses scheme for Members of the House of Commons, and is responsible for paying their salaries and expenses.

IPSA has been criticised publicly by many MPs, including David Cameron, who told IPSA to "...get a grip on what they are doing and do it fast.". Criticism has been largely centred on the perceived high running costs of IPSA, inability of MPs to get through on the IPSA helpline, emails and letters going largely unanswered, and the length of time taken to reimburse expenses.

It's current faux pas is to award MPs 10% while public sector employees are receiving 1%. In most countries there would be burning barricades in the streets outside Parliament, however here in the UK we debate the issue ;)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Greece vote

today - Thursday 16th July 2015

The Greek parliament has voted yes to the deal on Greece's worsening debt crisis, but after the announcement by the IMF it now appears that even this deal cannot work. Meanwhile, across Greece, banks are closed and capital controls are in place, forcing citizens who have struggled through years of economic strife to deal with even tougher times.

In lieu of banks operating, Greeks must get their cash through ATMs, but the new capital controls limit withdrawals to 60 euros. The restrictions have led to long lines and some machines running out of funds entirely.

The forced reliance on ATMs causes obvious problems for Greeks who don't own debit cards, many of whom are elderly. Banks temporarily reopened last Wednesday to give those pensioners who lacked cards a 120-euro disbursement for the week, resulting in scenes of desperate seniors crowding into branches to get their funds.

In addition to the daily ATM limits, Greeks are also unable to electronically transfer any money out of the country without government approval. Those who need to send money abroad for emergencies like medical issues may find reprieve, though they face a review process. The measure is intended to prevent a massive flight of capital, but many of the side effects are severe.

The stoppage of transfers has huge implications for businesses that rely on foreign suppliers for their products. Greece imports over half its food and raw materials, but local companies now lack the ability to transfer money abroad to purchase those imports.

In addition to foodstuffs and associated materials, Greece also relies on imports to obtain medical supplies. Pharmacies have reported shortages of drugs, and hospitals are said to be in similar straits. Drug companies have promised to continue to supply Greece, despite being owed more than a billion euros by the government, allegedly.

While increased demand for necessities has caused runs on food and medicine, people seem to have given up on buying nonessential goods. This means many stores have struggled as business slows to a halt, causing further economic woes.

The controls have hit Greeks outside the country as well as those within it. Travellers have had their credit and debit cards declined while abroad because of money transfer restrictions, finding themselves cut off from cash.

Tourists visiting Greece have also faced problems. Although the daily limits don't apply to foreign nationals, closed banks and cash-strapped ATMs still pose obstacles. Greece's tourism industry is a vital part of its economy as well as a huge source of jobs, and any potential damage to the sector would be disastrous.

The debt is so large there is little possibility of paying it back, surely it would be irresponsible to lend them more money?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Financial situation today

Yesterday [Tuesday 14th July] the ONS announced that inflation in the UK was at 0% once again.

What does this mean?

Firstly the figure means that the cost of living is the same as it was a year earlier, but that does not really help us understand the meaning of 0% inflation.

We have to look at the reason why inflation has fallen. At least part of the fall in UK inflation is due to temporary short term factors, such as falling oil and petrol prices. These temporary factors are unlikely to continue, and could be reversed. It is more important to look at underlying inflationary pressures – core inflation, which excludes volatile prices like food and oil.

Falling prices could boost real incomes. One of the fears of deflation is that it depresses consumer spending. However, with a fall in the price of basic necessities like petrol and food, consumers find their discretionary income / spending power has increased, this could actually lead to higher spending in the short-term.

The big concern over 0% inflation are the long-term expectations and I have no idea what could happen over the long term especially with what is happening in Greece and Europe.

Of course the next step down is deflation, and we do not want to go there.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


Yesterday on the BBC [Victoria Derbyshire] there was another labour leader Q & A and in two hours housing was only mentioned once and for less than a minute. Now I am not saying that it is Labours problem to deal with, but it shows the lack of interest which is shown by all political parties today. When the parties are asked about housing, they seem to have a whole host of ideas, but nothing ever gets done.

It has been clear for some time that housing supply is not keeping up with demand. Reasons for rising demand include improved life expectancy rates and a growing number of one-person households. There are almost 1.8 million households on English local authority housing registers and significant levels of overcrowding in the private and social housing stock. Poor housing impacts directly on residents’ health and educational attainment, while difficulties in accessing affordable housing can also limit the ability of people to move to find work. The need to increase the supply of housing and tackle affordability issues is a key housing policy issue. Yet despite the critical social and economic role that housing plays, it has tended not to have the same political profile as, say, health and education.

The onset of the credit crunch in 2008 put the achievement of housing targets under serious pressure. Despite rising demand, the collapse in mortgage advances meant that private builders reduced the supply of new housing. Put simply, house-builders will not build houses that they cannot sell.

Pressure is continuing within the housing industry to amend borrowing rules so that, in line with the rest of the EU, investment by public corporations is no longer counted as part of the public sector debt, thus removing a constraint on investment in council housing and creating more of a level playing field between the providers of social housing.

I would hope that last weeks budget has improved the situation for housing in this country because until we start building houses little else will change.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Stirling incident

Lamara Bell has now died.

Police Scotland confirmed late last Wednesday 8th July that it was investigating an accident [which occurred on Sunday 5th July] in which a man was pronounced dead at the scene and a woman was left in a critical condition in hospital.

It has since emerged that a call was made to police late on Sunday morning reporting that a car had left the road on the M9 slip road southbound near junction nine at Bannockburn. The report was not followed up at the time, a failure that has now been referred to Scotland’s police investigations and review commissioner [PIRC].

According to the ONS [Office of National Statistics] this road sees approximately 1000 cars a day, so while the police are investigated, the guilt has to be shared round the public in this area for such a tragic end.

John Yuill and Lemara Bell cannot be brought back, however, incidents like this must never happen again.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Greek update

It appears that the six page proposal presented last night [Thursday 9th July] by Alexis Tsipras is very close to what the creditors wanted and a deal might be likely. I am curious to wonder what the 61% who voted 'NO' last Sunday will think?

Fox Hunting

It appears that the figures available from YouGov show every region of Britain supports the fox hunting ban. David Cameron PM has said that next weeks vote is on technicalities only and the ban will remain, if he was to bring in an open policy through the back door, would he be trampled on by the country?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Summer Budget

This budget seemed more natural for a pre-election position, not post.

It was surprising how many leaked stories were numerically incorrect, for instance:-

the personal allowance was rumoured to go from 10k to 12k but went to 11k

the upper tax threshold was rumoured to go from 41k to 50k but went to 43k

I'm not sure I understand the defence statement as an increase as we were spending 2% of GDP anyway!

Mortgage tax relief for buy to let landlords restricted to basic rate is a good idea, but we still need more houses.

I was also surprised that Public sector pay rises will be frozen at 1% for four years, if all goes well with growth over that time, then private sector pay will rocket ahead and it seems a bit mean to restrict public service pay so much, especially when the politicians are going to get 10%.

The rabbit in the hat at the end seemed to be introduced to damp the fire of their opponents rather than be effective, will it be possible to police all the employers who will refuse to keep up with the rate?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Barclays culture

Today Barclays has released Antony Jenkins the CEO, business parlance for incompatibility.

Antony Jenkins had been in his position for three years since Bob Diamond left, the charismatic character that was pressured out after failing to convince a commons select committee of his morals, following controversy over manipulation of Libor interest rates by traders employed by the bank.

Antony Jenkins started by making a statement to the staff something similar to [staff should quit the bank if they do not want to sign up to a set of standards aimed at rebuilding the bank's reputation] after a string of scandals.

He pointed out that over a period of almost 20 years, banking became too aggressive, too focused on the short-term, too disconnected from the needs of their customers and clients, and the wider society, also performance assessment will be based not just on what they deliver but on how they deliver it. They must never again be in a position of rewarding people for making the bank money in a way which is unethical or inconsistent with his new values.

Obviously this has not gone down well with the old guard within Barclays as Antony Jenkins walks out today. Perhaps the people investing with Barclays might like to take stock of the current situation and the way the world is moving away from these pre-historic ideas of greed is good.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

ECB independence

Has the ECB ever been independent?

No is the short answer.

On it's front page it states:-

"The independence of the ECB is conducive to maintaining price stability. This is supported by extensive theoretical analysis and empirical evidence on central bank independence.
The ECB's independence is laid down in the institutional framework for the single monetary policy (in the Treaty and in the Statute)."

However, it is now known that the ECB is waiting for it's political leaders to tell it what to do!

The ECB itself says it cannot act until a result from negotiations have concluded, but negotiations have been going for months without a conclusion and Greece needs action now, not next month.

If central bank independence increases credibility, it should be associated with greater rigidity in the setting of nominal prices and money wages, reflecting the fact that the bank's promise to keep inflation low is believed. Indeed independence, not merely fails to reduce the cost of dis-inflation, but rather seems to increase it. Getting inflation down takes as long and calls for a larger short-term sacrifice of output and jobs, on average, in countries with relatively independent central banks.

Perhaps we should ease off the idea of an independent central bank and accept that it has political masters so that the Greek banks can have assistance immediately.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Greek referendum - the result

Yesterday Greeks voted 'overwhelming no' and the question that most Greeks must be asking themselves is what happens now?

This 'no' vote could be catastrophic for the economy as it would mean that the cash-for-reforms deal that would give the Greeks access to the final €7bn tranche of a €240bn bailout fund would not be available. In turn, this would likely result in Greece defaulting on loans due on 20 July to the European Central Bank [ECB], which is currently propping up Greece's banking system.

The Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government stay in place, but where can they turn to for support. If they want to start from the beginning as a new state, how are they going to pay for public services?

Leaving the eurozone means they need a currency, presumably they would return to the Drachma, but how long would it take to get the currency up and running?

What about supplies, every trader needs stock, Greece relies almost entirely on foreign imports for its pharmaceutical supplies. But since capital control imposed last Sunday brought the country’s banking system to a sudden halt, some suppliers have stopped delivering key medication because they cannot get paid. Foreign bank transfers have been banned by the Greek government and Greek credit is no longer accepted outside the country [as stranded Greek tourists found this week when their credit cards stopped working].

What happens when the food runs out?

It is possible that there are too many questions, problems, issues to answer in the short term and the likelyhood of civil unrest becomes more pertinent.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Greek referendum

The Greeks are going to the polls today to vote either yes or no.

I do not claim to understand the question, but from an outsider's position I can see either a bad result or an even worse result. That is usually language that a comedian uses, but here it seems to be relevant.

Only tomorrow will tell.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Terrorist naming conventions

Parliament is about to debate whether to allow our armed forces which are currently bombing locations in Iraq and turning round at the border of Syria and flying home, to continue into Syria and bomb locations there. They say it is different now. How is it different? have less people died?

No it is a matter of who to upset or not.

My focus today is on naming. Recently the BBC was praised for not calling I.S./I.S.I.S./ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] the Islamic State as it offends Muslims. Fair enough, but these people who are offended have not advised us what to call them instead!

If they are suggesting that we do not call them anything, then that could be a little difficult as we love to label everything.

Earlier today the defence secretary Michael Fallon started calling them Isil-Daesh part way through his speech, is this the new black?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Credible Gatwick

The report is in and Gatwick is in a very good position for getting it's second runway. The restrictions that would be placed onto Heathrow to allow it to comply with today's regulations mean that it would no longer be a viable operation.

Gatwick has excellent rail connections. It is connected to 125 rail stations directly, and by the end of the decade it will be closer to 200. Heathrow is connected to six.

Gatwick also wins on noise, Heathrow impacts about 800,000 people whereas Gatwick impacts only about 3% of that number — a very tiny population. That’s because it is to the south of the city in a relatively sparsely populated area.

Unlike Heathrow, a new runway at Gatwick, will not interfere with existing motorway connections or rail services: “Already, the Sevenoaks junction round to Godstone on the M25 has been made four lanes wide, and that is going to go all the way round to Reigate in the coming years. Likewise, it will be four lanes all the way to Gatwick on the M23.

Of course the final nail in Heathrow's coffin is the Prime Minister's statement when David Cameron said "No ifs, no buts, no Heathrow third runway".

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Greek climax

They have defaulted.

What does that mean?

They have passed an agreed time and not paid the agreed amount. Nothing too strange about that. However, it has taken a long time to get to this point.

There is no fighting on the streets, but then I did not predict that would happen within minutes of the default, merely that without pay for civil servants, [Police & Military] the security of Greek society would weaken considerably.

Funnily enough there is still another date [two in fact] to watch before anything really drastic happens. 1) July 5th Sunday's referendum and then 2) July 20th when Greece must repay a bond to the European Central Bank.

This saga is far from over...