Monday, 30 September 2019

Party conference

Yesterday the conservative party conference started, which is happening while parliament is in session, unusual as this has never happened before and because last Tuesday the Supreme court said prorogation was unlawful!

The agenda:-

Building a Safe and Prosperous Britain
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Delivering Brexit

James Cleverly opened proceedings as party Chairman, and told the hall that he and Johnson had signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Conservative party, while other pre-briefed announcements were left to outside the hall.

There is the row about whether Boris Johnson failed to declare a conflict of interest over his relationship with tech businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri. He insisted on Marr Sunday morning, that there was 'no interest to declare' following the latest allegations that the pair were not just enjoying [technology lessons] together. The story here is about money, and whether it was right that Arcuri received public funds while Johnson was Mayor, and whether she got access to trade delegations which she had not been deemed eligible to go on as a result of those technology lessons.

Every party conference starts with briefings that aides 'want to focus on domestic policy' rather than the rows about Europe. That has been going on for long enough for all of us to know that this just is not how things often work out. But today will be a very domestically-focused day. The big speech of the day comes from Chancellor Sajid Javid, who will presumably want to suggest that he is not just the guy who signs the cheques written by Boris Johnson, but someone with an authority of his own.

There are also speeches and panel discussions on welfare reform, education, infrastructure and business. We will get announcements on planning, infrastructure spending and employment.

Today's agenda:-

Boosting Our Public Services
Creating a World Class Education System
Spreading Opportunity Across the Country

Growing Our Economy and Protecting Our Environment
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Building the Infrastructure Britain Needs
Remember the MPs have to travel 200 miles south to vote!

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The House Returns

After Tuesday's surprise and unanimous verdict from the Supreme Court Parliament started again yesterday at 11:30, and everyone rushed back to the house to see what was going on.

The Prime Minister gave his statement on the Supreme Court's verdict, and then responded to points from MPs.

He repeatedly goaded the Labour leader, accusing him of 'sheer political selfishness and political cowardice', and claiming he was being held hostage by his party, crying to the chamber: 'Free the Islington One!' Conservative MPs broke into applause. This was mainly due to the fact that the PM has repeatedly said we will leave the EU on 31st October with or without a deal, tried to call for a general election, which none of the opposition parties want as they are remainers and seem convinced that the public will once again vote to leave, only this time it will be a bigger majority.

However their tactic now is to accuse the PM [only] of using disgraceful language in the house to bolster his case. James Cleverly conservative party chairman explained on BBC Radio 4 Today programme that language on all sides of the house had been intemperate and violent. The rhetoric can be deescalated if both sides calmed down and compromised.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox described this parliament as 'dead' and insisted that his legal advice about prorogation had been correct, but that the judges had created new law. Obviously this little episode has a long way to go even though the Supreme Court has made a ruling, which was unanimous.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019


Prorogation [pronounced 'pro-ro-ga-tion'] marks the end of a parliamentary session. It is the formal name given to the period between the end of a session of Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. The parliamentary session may also be prorogued before Parliament is dissolved.

At the beginning of September 2019, Boris Johnson the Prime Minister Prorogue'd parliament, a decision that caused a furore among MPs as they thought parliament was being stifled. The act is normal when a Queens speech is enabled usually before a term of parliament, but the length was what caused the commotion as it left very little time for a debate about Brexit.

People were so incensed that the matter was taken to court lead by Gina Miller using the label "fight for democracy", it was very quickly shuffled up to the high court.

Three of the most senior judges in England and Wales dismissed her claim that the prime minister acted unlawfully in giving advice to the Queen to suspend parliament from next week at a time of momentous political upheaval. The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, the master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, and the president of the Queen’s bench division, Dame Victoria Sharp, granted permission for the case to be appealed to the Supreme court.

That day has arrived as we all now patiently await the Supreme courts decision.

Lady Hale in the Supreme Court has stated that the Prorogation was unlawful and therefore is no longer running AND this was a unanimous decision by all eleven.

Link to Lady Hale's summary:-

Monday, 23 September 2019

UK Labour position

The party conference season is in full swing and this week is the turn of the Labour party, an opportunity to showcase policies.

It actually started last Friday with the announcement that the position of Deputy Leader was being abolished! As it happened Tom Watson managed to keep his elected position, however it was obviously the start of movement to cement Jeremy Corbyn's position this week.  Remember as the unions hold 50% of all votes, it only really matters what they vote for.

Of course, the big row at this conference was supposed to be on Brexit, and there's plenty of potential for things to really kick off tonight and tomorrow, when the party will vote on what its position should be. Members were last evening locked in a private room doing 'compositing', which is one of those words you will only ever need to use if you find yourself attending a Labour conference. Just one extra vowel away from composting, which is one of those activities you would probably rather spend your Sunday doing, this verb entails people sifting through all the motions and amendments submitted by local parties and coming up with a motion that conference can then vote on. But expectations are that the meeting will not be successful in reaching a compromise.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr McDonnell said he would support Remain in any future vote as he thought it was the "best option", but he believed other members should be allowed to "exercise their own judgement". He added: "This is an honest, democratic debate and that is what our party is about - making sure that people can express their views democratically and be honest about their assessments. "People have high emotions on this because they feel it is important, but people are respecting each others views as well. "Do not mistake democracy for division. It isn't. What we are seeing is an honest debate."

John McDonnell also summed up the debate that will take place, unfortunately it still sounds as though Labour want to place a question before people in a referendum that sounds like A) a new deal from the EU or B) remain, however the new deal from the EU would be remarkably similar to staying in that the paper might as well say A) remain or B) remain.

Tomorrow at Labour conference
08:30: Policy Seminars
09:45: Morning Plenary Session: New Economy John McDonnell's Speech
12:35: Votes
12:45: Break
14:00: Afternoon Plenary Session: New Internationalism
16:20: Votes

Friday, 13 September 2019

Friday 13th

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

A suggested origin of the superstition Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar, may not have been formulated until the 20th century. It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King, John J. Robinson's 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy [2006].

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, attracted some attention from popular science-literature, as it concluded that "'the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent' on the 13th"; however, the authors clearly state that "the numbers of admissions from accidents are too small to allow meaningful analysis". Subsequent studies have disproved any correlation between Friday the 13th and the rate of accidents.

On the contrary, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500."

Fortunately for me, nothing remarkable or bad has happened to me on Friday 13th.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The global financial system

Are we at the beginning of the biggest global financial meltdown yet to be recorded in human history?

The American president Donald Trump is focused on and obsessed with the fact that we bought $543 billion worth of stuff from China last year, and we sold $120 billion. It is not because of bad trade deals The Donald thinks that his predecessor made, or because the Chinese are the worst kind of trade cheats in world history. The reason is the economic differential [the economic cost and wage gap between the two countries is so great], that we have this huge imbalance. The Fed is the partial cause of that economic and cost differential.

If you look at manufacturing, the average wage is over $30, which includes the cash wage plus the health benefits, retirement, and Social Security taxes, and all the rest of it. In China, it is about $5. When you have $30 versus $5, it tells you all you need to know.

So, we have this huge gap overall, which is $423 billion, in other words, exports minus imports. Now almost 55% of that is accounted for by two trade code categories that really focus on smartphones, laptops, desktops, other computer equipment, electronics, and so forth.

Apple iPhones and the whole rest of it [the supply chain has been entirely transplanted to China. That’s because of a wage arbitrage. Last year, in those categories, the US imported $275 billion worth of stuff, including about $90 billion worth of cell phones] and then exported to them only $27 billion worth of stuff. So, there is a massive 10-to-1 ratio of imports to exports, and it is due to wage and cost differences, not because the Chinese cheat. The point is you are not going to negotiate that away.

Donald Trump has identified the problem of $423 billion merchandise trade deficit of one country. He is only going to blow up the global trading system and supply chains with these idiotic tariffs. They are really getting pretty serious.

After the 2008 crisis, the Fed kept interest rates artificially low, as a “temporary” measure. All this did was create easy money and pump up the stock market. The Fed’s attempt to normalize interest rates caused the stock market to tank. They’ve since capitulated and ended the tightening cycle.

You could say they will go to quantitative easing [QE]. I doubt that. The QE experiment has failed entirely. We have had massive increases in the Fed’s balance sheet, which went from about $850 billion on the eve of the subprime crisis to a peak of $4.5 trillion. Ben Bernanke promised at the time and said it over and over: This is an emergency. It is the 100-year flood. It is a one-time thing. We will normalise as soon as the economy has stabilised.

There is no doubt that this is not going to stop anytime soon.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Parlimentary politics

On Monday 2nd September, 2019 the PM announced in front of Downing Street:-

Chancellor Sajid Javid is going to set out the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade
We are recruiting another 20,000 police officers.
We are doing 20 new hospital upgrades in addition to the extra £34 billion going into the NHS.
More funding for primary & secondary education.

He then went on to talk about #Brexit.

The PM said he could see three reasons for a deal:-
They [EU] can see we want a deal
They can see we have a clear vision for the future
They can see we are utterly determined to strengthen our position

He then pointed out the vote on Tuesday 3rd September, 2019 where he recommends that MPs should vote with the government against Corbyn’s pointless delay.

He then added "Without that sword of Damocles over their necks." clearly stating that any conservative MP not voting with the government would be severely dealt with.

On Tuesday 3rd September, 2019 the vote went...

On their first day back after summer holidays, rebel and opposition MPs voted in favour of seizing control of the parliamentary agenda for the following day in order to introduce a bill forcing the prime minister to request a Brexit delay until January 31, 2020 - unless legislators approve a withdrawal agreement, or vote in favour of a so-called no-deal departure by October 19.

There was a debate that started in the afternoon and lasted until the vote, the rebel MPs and opposition parties won by 328 to 301.

There were 21 conservative rebels including two ex chancellors Kenneth Clark & Philip Hammond, and all 21 have now been expelled from the party and are no longer allowed to stand as conservative MPs at the next election.

To add drama to the day [as if that was needed] the PM walked into parliament on Tuesday with a majority of one, which he lost even before the vote when the Conservative MP Phillip Lee defected from the party and crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats.

On Wednesday 4th September 2019:-

TLDR:- The PM Boris Johnson gets his second defeat in parliament.

Boris Johnson threw down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn to call a general election in his first Prime Minister’s Questions at lunchtime.

Agenda for the day was MPs vote to block PM's call for an election, then the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn rejects general election [even though they have been calling for a GE for almost two years] to break #Brexit deadlock.

There are apparently MPs wandering round Westminster looking like zombies as the last two days has felt like two weeks.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Hong Kong Protests

The Chinese government has rejected all five demands of the Hong Kong protesters, while police in the special administrative region have begun rounding up pro-democracy leaders. According to Reuters, the Chinese Communist Party has ordered Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam not to bow to any of the protesters' demands, including the full and final withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked the unrest in March. Beijing was initially relatively restrained in its reaction to the protests, which have seen millions take to Hong Kong's streets. But as the movement persisted, the Chinese government has become more vocal regarding what it has described as riots and "near terrorism."

Nonetheless, Reuters noted that the Communist Party is believed to have been directing the Hong Kong's government's response to the unrest. Lam submitted a report on the protests some time between June 16 [when Lam announced the suspension of the proposed withdrawal bill] and August 7, Reuters reported citing two of its three sources. Chinese government officials analysed Lam's report at a meeting on August 7 in the border city of Shenzhen, where Chinese military and paramilitary troops have been gathering in recent weeks. Reuters reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the report and the meeting to discuss it.

The protesters have five central demands: the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into the protests, fully democratic elections, dropping of the term "riot" in describing protests, and a general amnesty for all those so far arrested.

The extradition bill would have allowed the region's government to extradite criminals to China for trial. Opponents feared it would allow Beijing to target political opponents in Hong Kong and undermine the "one country, two systems" accord under which the island has been governed since it was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have arrested multiple pro-democracy figures as they prepare for what will be the thirteenth weekend of consecutive marches. Among those detained was Joshua Wong, who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, in which activists demanded full democratic elections in the territory. Wong was arrested alongside fellow activist Agnes Chow on Friday. Both belong to the pro-democracy 'Demosisto' movement, and have now been released on bail, the organization said. Following his release on bail, Wong wrote on Twitter: "My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded."

Police have arrested more than 900 people since the mass demonstrations began in June, CNN reported. As the unrest wears on, clashes between police—occasionally backed by alleged pro-Beijing gangs—and anti-government activists have become increasingly violent.