Tuesday, 29 March 2016


The experts would have us believe people can be radicalised simply by an elder advising a younger, this has always been a sceptical view as it can take a long time for someone to turn. We now hear that young men from the Molenbeek area of Brussels has been hit recently by a text message from a pre-paid account extolling the youth to rise up and fight the western horde. [how do they only target males?]

Is it really possible for someone to be swayed by one single text message - I think not. However, what happens when the target [excuse the label was not sure what to use] is on the brink of an internal revolution due to age, society etc, perhaps one text message is enough to turn someone into a radical.

Jamal Zaria, imam at Molenbeek’s Arafat mosque,  told the  Guardian that youths in the area, which has a large Muslim population, were being exposed to “something like cancer at a metastatic stage,” and that the authorities and local community were in a race against time to “develop an immune system for the children in our community so that they reject the message of Daesh,” the imam said using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Another question must be is this the first time or is it usual practice and what follows up after the initial text message?

On another note at its conference this weekend, the National Union of Teachers voted down the Prevent scheme after warning it could be used to target young Muslims. The Government's anti-radicalisation strategy urged teachers to refer to police any pupils they suspected of engaging in radical behaviour, but it has been considered a failure since around 90 per cent of referrals result in no action being taken.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Opposition spokesperson

After scanning the various reports detailing the latest PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions] it appears that everyone agrees the opposition spokesman asked all the right questions but if the viewer was polled at the end of the session the result would be government 1 opposition 0.

What has caused this situation to occur? Delivery.

What is required from an opposition spokesperson is the speed and  tenacity to own issues and chase them through to completion, communicating effectively and in a timely manner to put pressure on the government spokesman in this case the PM. This is not happening and as a consequence what should have been [by all reports] the worst week in government for David Cameron, turned out to be one of the most entertaining spectacles of the season at least for viewers.

I am happy to admit that Jeremy Corbyn has the largest membership mandate of any leader in recent history, however, he has to be trained how to deal with the PM for the sake of the show, or create a new role to bypass the PM [and a new kinder politics or the geography teacher stare did not cut it] or someone else has to stand at the podium to combat the government getting easy points week after week.

Out of the above three I think it would be best if JC was coached in the art of repost because at times Corbyn was very good. The first half of his final question was excellent, he started well too, and his question about why the government proposed the PIP cut in the first place if it is saying now it can do without the money was a shrewd one that Cameron could not answer, and he still has the support of the majority.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Tory Civil War

Last Friday [Friday 18-Mar-2016 at 21:04] Iain Duncan Smith [IDS] Secretary of State for Work and Pensions resigned. It was a shock to the media, however as we have learned since it was known to his close circle of friends and colleagues.

Number 10 responded instantly and the phrase picked out by the media was "puzzled and disappointed", then the individuals from the department start making comments.

Minister of State in the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] Ros Altmann said about IDS:
“He seems to want to do maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to try to get Britain to leave the EU”

On Sunday morning on the Marr show IDS said:
"First of all this is not personal. I know people may think it’s personal because when you resign it’s personal. It’s not personal."

David Cameron is caught between a rock and a hard place. He has a job to do which leaves little time for extracurricular games. So does his Chancellor. Are they seeing power “ebb away from them”? Well maybe they are in which case I say be very careful what you wish for! Perhaps, for now, better to hold on to Nurse for fear of something worse!

One of the interesting bits for me was IDS relating how he felt isolated when the Lib Dems left after the coalition, just how much did the two sides work together to limit what Number 10 really wanted? After a struggle to remove the toxic side of the party before the 2015 election it now appears that the 'nasty party' has returned with a vengeance.

It came across very clearly during the Marr interview that IDS had always passionately strived for the poorest in society, he setup the CSJ [Centre for Social Justice] an independent think-tank, established to put social justice at the heart of British politics and still supports it. He was quite clear that the EU was not at the centre of his grievance although I suspect a lot will be made by both sides in the EU Referendum from this weekends excitement.

Stephen Crabb now replaces IDS as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and what an incredibly strong position he has. For instance he could refuse to implement some of the harsher measures and would not suffer for it as the PM could not possibly loose another cabinet member so quickly.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Budget 2016

The most dismal or the most boring budget ever?

I commend to this house a budget that puts the next generation first, well does it?

Robert Chote, the OBR’s [Office for Budget Responsibility] director said the weaker than expected outlook had blown a £56bn hole in the public finances over the next five years – more than twice the £27bn improvement Osborne was handed in the 2015 autumn statement, which helped pay for his costly U-turn on tax credits.

Total tax revenues are currently 36.3% of GDP. That's already a higher tax burden than at any point during 13 years of Labour government. And according to the OBR, they're projected to rise to 37.5% of GDP by 2019-20 - which is higher than that figure has been since at least 1964, which is as far back as our numbers go.

Growth is expected to be lower every year until 2020, at a little over 2% per year, the estimate for economic growth in 2017 has been cut to 2.2% from 2.5%, and to 2.1% from 2.4% in 2018. Growth in both 2019 and 2020 is now estimated at 2.1% compared with the previous forecast of 2.3%. So if another financial shock strikes, Britain could easily be pulled back towards recession.

The chancellor has already missed his targets for capping welfare spending and debt reduction, and the OBR said he would have broken his deficit reduction rule had he not deferred tax increases for companies, increased pension contributions for Whitehall departments, brought forward infrastructure spending and intensified the squeeze on disability benefit payments.

The white rabbit was Osborne’s announcement of a tax on sugary drinks, designed to combat childhood obesity. When introduced in 2018, the tax will raise £500m by levying a charge of up to 8p on a standard 330ml can, but it only covered the detail during the day, by the time the figures had been dissected, the happiness was looking a little bleak.

I think it is far too optimistic to expect by 2019/2020 the magical fiscal target will be reached by speculative spending and a continued spiral downwards on growth as there is no room for error over the next 3/4 years.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Russia & Syria

Has President Vladimir Putin fallen out with President Bashar al-Assad?

After yesterdays [Monday 14-Mar-2016] shock announcement that V P has ordered his troops out of Syria with the statement that Russia has achieved it's objectives, I have to wonder what happened to the land grab programme which started with Crimea. Maybe I got it wrong?

The two leaders agreed that the actions of Russia's Air Force in Syria have allowed them to "profoundly reverse the situation" in connection to fighting terrorists in the region, having "disorganized militants' infrastructure and inflicted fundamental damage upon them." As reported by Russia Today.

Moscow launched its anti-terror campaign in Syria on 30-Sep-2016. Russia’s participation in the operation, according to a previous statement by Vladimir Putin, has its basis in international law and has been conducted “in accordance with an official request from the president of the Syrian Arab Republic [Bashar al-Assad].” I was convinced it was part of the land grab programme as I suspected Vladimir Putin did not care who was in charge of Syria after the battle had been won as long as it was his man.

This action has happened very quickly after a statement by Bashar al-Assad saying he will take back all of Syria using military might, is this the clinching remark that has moved Russia to leave?

The Geneva talks are the first in more than two years and come amid a marked reduction in fighting after last month's "cessation of hostilities," sponsored by Washington and Moscow and accepted by Assad's government and many of his foes. This announcement came just hours after peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition got under way in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday.

It seems to me that yesterdays activities have happened too quickly considering the Syrian conflit has been raging for more than five years and Vladimir Putin has decided to move out because Bashar al-Assad is not close to leaving or falling.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Euro interest rates

Mario Draghi signalled that the ECB [European Central Bank] would cut interest rates again only in the most extreme of circumstances, which allowed the euro to jump at the end of a week that has seen US & UK stocks end flat.

The ECB is facing a tricky balancing act: on the one hand, the central bank wants to leave the door open to cut rates further if needed, while on the other hand they want to signal to the market that they do care about side effects of easing measures on banks’ profitability.

Investors had initially cheered the ECB's announcement that it will cut rates to fresh record lows, start buying corporate debt for the first time and effectively begin paying banks to borrow from it to lend to companies and households. That optimism dissipated as Draghi suggested that years of interest rate cuts may finally be at an end.

When Draghi said future cuts would only happen under extreme circumstances, investors expecting even lower rates switched their strategy to risk off, the risk-on move initially on the back of the ECB accommodation and it put Treasury prices under pressure, but the Draghi rhetoric of 'no more deep cuts' reversed that.

Gold rose as the euro bounced however, Oil prices declined, with U.S. crude easing from three-month highs as refinery maintenance looked set to boost record domestic crude stockpiles.

Will this be enough to help the Italian banks that are on the edge of a precipice? probably not as the FT [Financial Times] reported at the beginning of the week what they need to do is get some growth in their country.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Apple v FBI

The US Department of Justice has filed a court order to force Apple to build new software that can crack iPhone's encryption. It says that the investigation into the murders in San Bernadino California by the Farook’s is being hindered. In particular officials are still trying to ascertain the Farook contacts.

Apple said it will fight the order.

Attorneys for the Justice Department said that Apple's stance seems to be based on concern for its business model.

Apple has not always been so uncooperative. Prosecutors in the case pointed out that Apple had previously agreed to extract customer data from iPhones. Apple has pointed out that those cases were different because the data was available behind locked phones not encrypted.

Privacy campaigners say such a tool could be used to unlock anyone's phone, however, the order states that this is a one time use specifically for the iPhone belonging to Farook.

Apple is playing a dangerous game. If Farook's phone can be unlocked without it leading to further invasions of privacy, then many people will wonder why the company is making such a big fuss about the principle involved.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Is the BoE neutral?

Mark Carney: Brexit 'biggest domestic risk' to stability.

Mark Carney has fended off accusations that he has compromised his political impartiality after warning that Brexit is the “biggest domestic risk” to the UK’s financial stability. Really?

Mark Carney repeatedly says the BoE [Bank of England] is not under pressure from Number 10 however the public can see by his remarks which side the BoE is on, which is disappointing as a Canadian most people would be surprised at his intervention.

The Bank of England has made a series of interventions today which has angered those campaigning for a Leave vote in June’s referendum which is hardly surprising as the BoE should not sway for one side or the other.

In a letter to MPs, Mr Carney restated his view that membership of the European Union “reinforces the dynamism of the UK economy”. The Bank also announced last night that it was preparing “contingency plans” to supply billions of pounds of liquidity to the UK’s banking sector if there is a Leave vote, nothing wrong with that as it is classed as a contingency plan, it does not side with one or the other.

Mr Carney appeared before MPs yesterday, when he sparred with pro-Brexit MPs, particularly Conservative eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg. “You are getting into political partisanship, removing yourself from your Olympian detachment,” Mr Rees-Mogg told the Governor. Mr Carney hit back, accusing the MP of having a “selective memory” in picking and choosing his evidence for such a claim. “I’m not going to let that stand,” Mr Carney said after Mr Rees-Mogg said it was “beneath the dignity of the Bank of England to make speculative statements” and warned Mr Carney he was “doing your reputation harm”.

Quizzed by the Treasury Committee today, Mr Carney said Brexit was the “biggest domestic risk to financial stability” because it could have knock-on effects on the current account, housing and euro area. He added: “I’m saying it is the biggest domestic risk to financial stability. In my judgement, the global risk, including from China, are bigger than the domestic risk.”

Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie invited him to echo the comments of the G20, which said leaving the EU could have a “profound economic shock”, but Mr Carney declined. “It is a material financial stability risk. If you’re referring to communiqué language of the G20, that is a different phrase that is the view of the collective countries of the G20.” Greater instability “could be associated, normally would be associated, with poorer economic outcomes,”.

Should the BoE promote one side over the other or suggest routes for both sides depending on the outcome which will be decided by people voting on 23--Jun-2016?

Monday, 7 March 2016

Migration today

There are noticeable changes to mass migration today.

In the past twelve months the picture of fit young 20 something’s swarming into Europe has been replaced by children.

Are the people in the Middle East so desperate as to send their children on a crusade to Europe or have the young males from last year been successful enough to send out messages of hope to encourage their families to join them in Europe, considering Syria is a bomb site?

At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe, according to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.

The plight of unaccompanied child refugees has emerged as one of the most pressing issues in the migrant crisis. Last week it was announced that Britain would accept more unaccompanied minors from Syria and other conflict zones. According to Save the Children, an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe last year. Europol, which has a 900-strong force of intelligence analysts and police liaison officers, believes 27% of the million arrivals in Europe last year were minors.

So why are all these children turning up on our shores now?

Thursday, 3 March 2016

EU week one

French finance minister Emmanuel Macron has said in the FT [Financial Times] that David Cameron was right to warn that Brexit would lead to migrant camps relocating from Calais to Dover. The quote from the FT is: "The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais," so where will they go, home? I think not.

George Osborne is still using 'Project Fear' against those thinking of leaving and has dubbed Brexit "the worst of all worlds" and ”in last few days, we have had confusion heaped on confusion from those who want to leave the EU”.

The only confusion I see is from the 'IN' campaign where once again Sir Stuart Rose has not come across with the best of slogans saying that people's wages will rise if Brexit happens, more good news for the people on the street.

Boris Johnson has been making himself known for the Brexit camp by saying the PM & Chancellor are clutching at skirts with reference to Angela Merkel and "if we stay in the EU, we will inevitably find ourselves dragged in” also “Forget Project Fear, it is time for Project Hope.”

This is mostly from the right side of politics, what about the left I hear you ask, well Labour is getting on with the day job as Rebecca Long-Bailey tackles Government plans to sneak out income disregards on tax credits via a Statutory Instrument. Thank goodness for pressure groups.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Mass Migration

Yesterday [29-Feb-2016] the first cracks started to appear in the EU. Shengen we know has already died last year but yesterday it turned ugly.

Violence broke out on the Greek ~ Macedonian border.

A lot of fences have appeared between EU countries in the last twelve months [Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia] but tensions finally broke when migrants used a battering ram to tackle the gate on the Greek ~ Macedonian border.

Worried for their safety, security in the area used tear gas to repel the invaders and as the gas went through and past the attackers it affected the families behind them. Doctors without Borders treated several people for tear gas effects including children.

Macedonia has made a statement this morning and the Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov warned that once Austria reaches its cap of a maximum 37,500 migrants transiting through this year, the refugee route through the Balkans will have to close.

Macedonia's neighbour Greece is currently taking in 3000 refugees a day, that is over 1 million a year and the figure is rising. Greece has asked the other 27 countries for help in a system where politicians want closer union and only two countries have stepped up to the mark, Germany and the UK.

I still do not see an satisfactory argument for staying in a failing leviathan.