# FALLING INFLATION with Rising Prices?

When you are told that inflation is falling, you would naturally expect  prices to be falling . That ain’t necessarily so!

Many years ago, when I worked for a very large bank, I sent a team of people into town in order to find out whether the average British adult understood percentages. The answer was a resounding “No!”

Banks, supermarkets and even the government know very well that most people are either thick or at best borderline thick as far as simple arithmetic is concerned and they take full advantage.

Supermarkets “mix and match” their prices, so that you need to have the brain of a Stephen Hawking to decide whether it would be cheaper to buy three bags of crisps for the price of two or perhaps two at a different price with  one free  or maybe six bags with 10% extra. By the time you’ve made several purchases like this, you can leave a supermarket mentally exhausted.

Banks will be paying you interest at anything from 0 .01% p.a to  3.00% with maybe an introductory offer of three months with an additional 1.5%. Interest on credits is calculated from the day AFETR your deposit but debit interest on withdrawals is applied on the day of the debit. When a bank returns a wrongly applied charge, will it also re-credit the debit interest? If it does – then at what rate? You don’t know? You’re not alone.

The Government will throw statistics at you through the medium of television, delivered by double-first Oxbridge Economics  graduates who have absolutely NO idea how to explain economics concepts – except to other economists. Percentage increases in GDP, percentages out of work, percentage decreases in the annual inflation rate. Percentage, percentages and even more percentages!

Which is better? a 10% discount and then VAT added or would you prefer the VAT to be added first and THEN take the 10% discount? If your energy bill tells you that the discount on your Gas is 5% and the discount on the Electricity is 5%,  how many percent savings will you me making in total?  What is 12% of £60?

Today, we have been told that annual inflation is on the decrease BUT we all know that prices are on the increase. How is this possible?

I am going to try and explain but in very simple terms.

Assume you bought a radio in January 2013 and you paid £95.70.  If you then went to the same shop in January 2014  (a year later) and the price of the same radio had increased to £100, the price would have increased or INFLATED by £4.30. which is an increase of 4.5%.

Let’s now go back to February 2013 when the price of the same radio was £100  and assume one year later, in February 2014, the price  increased yet again, this time to £104. That means that the radio would have increased in price or INFLATED by £4, which is  4.o%.

So, coming back to this year, between January and February 2014 (in one month), the radio’s price has INCREASED by £4 but at the same time, inflation has DECREASED from 4.5% to 4.0%!

Therefore, we have a rising price but simultaneously, we see falling inflation.

The media are already mumbling something about “falling food prices etc” having caused the present fall in inflation.

It is nothing of the sort : Yes, falling prices do contribute but the way that the calculations are made can be the major contributor to the figure because it is calculated  in discontinuous annual slices. Today’s inflation figure depends on what the inflation figure was a year ago.

Having said all that, on this occasion, the CPI has actually decreased in one month

Mind you, as usual,  whatever the basis of the inflation calculation, it will still not stop the politicians from claiming all the credit.

(Unless, of course, the inflation rate goes up too drastically, which is when those pesky “external factors out of our control” come into play!

After insurance industry leaders have had today’s meeting with the Prime Minister, they’re having a meeting with Miliband Minor. It’s going to be a LONG day.

When a CEO or Prime Minister has to handle a crisis personally, that suggests just one thing: He has a poor management structure under him or he doesn’t trust the people HE  hired to complete the job effectively…….. Either way, HE appointed them and is now doing THEIR job.

Another day, another meeting for David Cameron! This time it’s with insurance industry leaders! Just to help DC with the nuances of insurance: INSURANCE is betting on something which MIGHT happen. ASSURANCE is betting on something which definitely WILL happen. Hence Life Assurance (you will DEFINITELY die) & nowadays, thanks to years of mismanagement and under- investment, we EFFECTIVELY have Flood ASSURANCE. Local Authorities and Central Government have placed the insurance industry in an impossible position. Insurance industry leaders will be “asked” not to increase premiums by too much by a government which is partly responsible for insurance claims which are already estimated to be well in excess of £1 BILLION.

Roger Lloys Pack’s funeral took place yesterday. He , of course was best-known as “Trigger” from Only Fools and Horses. According to his daughter Emily, Roger’s final words to his family were “I’m fine”……. R.I.P

The debate about the Scots using the Pound Sterling after  “Independence Day” is all very interesting but pointless because they are quite at liberty to use whichever currency they like.  However, there would be a problem  for instance, if interest rates moved and the variation didn’t suit their spluttering (yes!) economy, King Sean and his jester Sal Mond would have to  rethink their Ruritanian/Wallace dreams and go back to the Withdrawing Board! BTW, there will be no independence because in the final analysis, the Scots are a VERY pragmatic race and  WILL “do the right thing” (sorry!) and remain where they belong – a much-cherished and loved part of the UNITED Kingdom. THAT is why today’s macho posturing by an “irrelevant” such as Chancellor Gideon is….er……irrelevant.

# The FLOODS: An inept response?

As a manager and director I have always attempted to create a “No Surprises” regime. In the last few years, I have been showing businesses how to achieve that for themselves through a combination of Business Control and honest Management Audit.

“No Surprises Management” is not a magic formula for corporate bliss but it does demonstrate how many of the factors which CAN affect an organisation can be controlled or mitigated.

Most of us have heard of Crisis Management, which, to put it simply, is responding to a crisis after it has occurred. For many years, the skill or otherwise of Management has been measured on its ability to deal with a crisis.

Our Coalition government is currently coming under a lot of criticism because it is not able to demonstrate that it has any idea of how to deal with the current flooding crisis. That is because it appears to be formulating policy on the hoof. The sheer volume of meetings (COBRA #23) also points to a lack of policy and organisation.

However, we have to understand that a collection of political academics, ex-local councillors, union men, administrators and sons of self-made parents have never been told how to deal with a crisis – so we should not really expect too much. It is becoming increasingly apparent that their response is that of a bunch of amateurs.

Modern Management thinking is NOT just about managing a crisis but about Crisis Leadership – which is VERY different. Crisis Management is reactive, whereas Crisis Leadership is proactive, in the sense that plans are in place BEFORE the crisis occurs.

Our government should know and have identified the (only) SEVEN types of crisis which will affect it and it should have procedures in place which are ready to deal with each. In fact, ideally, it should have an “umbrella” plan which can deal with ALL of the following:

1. An Economic Crisis. The 2008 banking crisis has been the best example so far, but one should include issues such as Labour unrest, unemployment, a sudden decrease in the “tax-take” or even a Stockmarket crash. If you cast your mind back to 2008, you may realise that there was no clear Crisis Leadership, merely a panicky stab at Crisis Management (by the banks as well as by the government) and because there was no contingency planning, it cost BILLIONS more than it need have – and I bet that there STILL isn’t a plan in place.

2. An Informational Crisis. A loss of confidential information is a good example. Remember the panic over the Telegraph’s disclosure of MP expenses claims? The NHS has wasted MILLIONS on an abortive migration to a new computer system. Ministry of Defence details have been leaked to the media. ALL of these issues have been dealt with as a Crisis rather than by Crisis Leadership.

3. A Physical Loss. Loss of key equipment. Government and MI5 laptops getting into the wrong hands. Selling an aircraft carrier to Turkey and then having to go cap in hand in order to buy-back components for spares. It was clear in each of those cases that there is no Risk Assessment with procedures in place to deal with loss.

4. Human Resources. The loss of a Minister because of expenses fiddling or Police lies. Those are always a real risk which once again were dealt with as a crisis. Simple Crisis Leadership in the shape of some very simple succession planning would have made it look as if someone WAS in charge!

5. Reputational. Rumours, Politicians being caught with their pants around their ankles, damage to a government’s reputation or even slander are all very real risks. They are inevitably dealt with as a crisis and on an individual basis.

6. Psychopathic acts. Assange is one case which springs to mind. Kidnapping and terrorism or even one MP smacking another one in the House of Commons Bar. All require a procedure! However, I bet that the ONLY psychopathic act which the government and its departments are half-ready for, is a terrorist attack!

7. Natural Disasters. In the UK, we are limited to flooding, the odd explosion or fire. Of these, flooding is the topical one and because of a lack of foresight and political will, a major crisis is unfolding.

Pre-planning for crisis (Crisis Leadership) starts with thinking about the unthinkable. It is also about acknowledging that every crisis can go on to create another apparently unrelated crisis. In addition, every crisis is capable of being the Cause and the Effect of any other crisis.

For instance, the floods could be either the  cause or the effect of an economic crisis.

Imagine that in the first instance, there is a flooding crisis. Someone can then cause an Informational crisis by leaking minutes of a meeting during which it was decided to severely limit the expenditure on flood defences. There may have been a Physical loss of dredging equipment as a result of bad policies with another physical loss being an unusable railway line such as the one in Dawlish. A Human Resources crisis has been demonstrated by Ministerial bickering, the loss or Owen Patterson and the installation of a totally unprepared Eric Pickles as the government spokesman who is now flip-flopping from studio to studio, defending the undefensible.

A Reputational crisis has clobbered not only the Environment Agency and Lord Smith but is likely to engulf the entire Coalition Government because the perception is that they are ALL incompetent.

The above are only a sketch which demonstrates how a single crisis , if not managed properly, creates several others in its wake.

So what should happen in the future?

A cross-functional crisis team should be assembled, with an expert from each of the seven types of crisis. Each member of that team should be polled, in order to give the other members of the team a detailed understanding of all the crises which they believe could occur on their ‘patch’…………..A COBRA meeting, consisting of the usual suspects listening to a DC soliloquy plus a couple of soldiers in Camo gear (for the cameras) is NOT the way forward!

The next step is to produce a high-level ‘map’ of ALL crises and how they may interact and produce hitherto unexpected effects or as we are currently seeing…a chain reaction.

Until a non-political team such as this is put together, the United Kingdom is doomed to experience crisis after crisis with politicians who create the crisis charging themselves with making the effort to deal with the crisis and unwittingly delivering further crises ……………ad infinitum.

The #flooding has amplified a major misjudgement by politicians of every political party. They continue to imagine that the spouting of platitudes and looking sympathetic in front of cameras is somehow “reassuring” to the public. Here’s a “heads-up”:  Voters certainly used to be reassured by politicians’ Royal visits…….but unfortunately that was when politicians were respected. That started to dip after 1945 and was finally buried when MPs were caught thieving from the taxpayer in 2009.  They should do something useful: STAY AWAY.

What Governor Mark Carney was saying yesterday (in the nicest possible way) was than a few quarters of insipid above-zero growth does not immediately and definitely signify an economic recovery. Unlike politicians, who will extrapolate from a single quarter……but ONLY if if it is positive. Mr Carney is rapidly showing that he is his own man who tells it how it is. A very refreshing change.

Legal Highs cause a very small fraction of the deaths caused by Tobacco and Alcohol. End of debate.

BBC News Editors need to up their game as far as reportage of the #flooding is concerned. They write of “Records”, they give us meaningless Statistics, with their newsreaders almost delighting in the scale of the tragedy. This sensationalist and voyeuristic style of delivery with reporters standing by blown-over trees, collapsed walls and wind-blown beaches serve absolutely no useful purpose. Asking victims with ruined lives the “How do you FEEL?” question is lazy and adds absolutely nothing to the debate…….and incidentally,  just because the Thames Valley is now flooding, is NO excuse to totally ignore the hell that West Country victims continue to experience.

First Eric and now Patrick! DC really IS getting the BIG BOYS in! Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mc Loughlin says that when David Cameron said “Whatever it takes” to help UK flood victims, he did NOT mean “blank cheque”. That is because what DC said was untrue…..and we ALL knew it! ….“Whatever it takes” does NOT necessarily mean Whatever it takes.” That’s because there ARE occasions when badly-prepared political statements are no more than macho nonsense designed ONLY for newspaper headlines. #COBRA451

Bank of England: Presumably, interest rates will be going up AND down, either side of the 7% unemployment rate?  🙂

There was a classic “No shit, Sherlock?!” moment from “an expert” on the radio this morning: “With all the rain, wind and flooding, certain people will become depressed.” It good to see that a Psychology degree is not always a waste of time.

I have a funny feeling that the Draghi-like “Whatever it takes” promise by David Cameron to United Kingdom flood victims will come back to haunt him. It was a VERY ill-advised thing he said, merely  in order to placate the press. Once quotas, amounts, conditions and timescales start being published by his government, he will end up looking as if he’d broken another promise and performed yet another U-turn. For the moment though, let’s sit back and count the COBRA meetings.

Chancellor Gideon has said the rest of Britain might be unwilling to let an independent Scotland keep the pound! The SNP has responded by suggesting that Scotland might in return refuse to take on its share of Britain’s 1.2 TRILLION pounds of government debt. Can Alex Salmond actually see beyond the over-romanticised notions of  “FREEDOM!”…..  driven by blind idealism and Sean Connery?

EUROZONE: The ECB has cut interest rates to a record low, pumped extra liquidity into the banking system and announced a fresh government bond purchase programme…. but the measures have so far not managed to unclog lending to the real economy. Watch for another slowdown….in spite of everyone attempting to talk it all UP!

There was an unseemly exhibition of grandstanding  by Tim Yeo MP at this morning’s Energy and Climate Change Select Committee meeting as  he told  #energy bosses “you are exploiting your privileged monopoly position” and neglecting customers!

The Electricity Supplier CEOs were lined up like fairground ducks in front of the committee and all came across as reasonable guys who knew that in spite of the fact that they had done their level best, it had been impossible to reconnect every customer over the Christmas period.

Yet more evidence that Members of Parliament are NOT fit to even be involved in such an inquiry and as for the Committee’s Chairman, Tim Yeo….anyone would think that he either had other things on his mind or that he was trying too hard to impress!

Remember John Gummer in 1990 when he tried to feed his daughter a beefburger to try to convince the public re the safety of British beef? How about David Cameron doing something similar by being present (with the cameras) at the first FRACKING test drilling in Witney? We’d ALL love to be convinced!!

# Christmas Leftovers

I’ve already published a version of this recipe and have adapted it for the traditional Yule turkey and ham which usually ends up in sandwiches, curries or pies.

Many years ago, I was driving through East Germany (don’t ask!)  and heard this on my car radio. It was read out on an English-speaking radio station and the presenter was obviously reading it for the first time, because after he’d read it out, he appeared to have a  severe coughing fit.

I won’t bother with a list of ingredients because there aren’t many but I guarantee that you WILL want to try this:

Preheat your oven to LOW but DO NOT attempt this dish in a gas oven. Use Electric or better-still, an Aga !

Take equal quantities of turkey and ham…but if you have no ham, then cooked sausage-meat will do.

500g of each is ideal but the weight may be varied.

Place the meat in the middle of a large sheet of foil (with a bit of luck, you should have some turkey foil left over).

Fashion the meat into a log shape, season with salt and pepper and fold the foil around it. Then roll it in the foil as tightly as possible and twist the ends so that you have an object resembling a large boiled sweet.

Place this on the rack of a high-sided roasting tin – the sort that in which you might have roasted your Christmas turkey. However, make sure that the roasting tin is very clean. Arrange sliced lemon segments around the perimeter of the roasting tin.

For the gravy: Into the roasting tin, pour one bottle of Gordon’s Gin and one bottle of Smirnoff Vodka and (if there’s room), half a bottle of Grouse Whisky.

Place the whole lot on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from the oven.

Drink the gravy!

Happy New Year!

# MERRY CHRISTMAS, children!

……………and tonight’s the night!!

# Euro Christmas Wishes

My best wishes for an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender non-specific celebration of the Winter Solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a   fiscally successful, personally fulfilling  recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Gregorian calendar year 2014. This of course does not imply any disrespect to other calendars which, in certain cases, are accepted to predate the generally accepted measurement method and are not considered to be any less valid.

If you live within the Eurozone, we shall of course meet in one month’s time to discuss the above wishes and possibly renegotiate them as they are always subject to clarification or withdrawal. Moreover they can be withdrawn should one member not be in full agreement or should they personally not perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings, the above-mentioned fiscal success and ongoing cooperation from the Holy banking system.

The Wisher also accepts without reservation that especially within the political sphere, there may be, because of election, death or resignation, changes of Wishee. In such cases, the above is fully transferable in perpetuity, to subsequent Wishees but only subject to ongoing membership and cooperation.

# Christmas Spirit.

One Christmas morning a few years ago, an army chaplain decided to join some squaddies in their armoured vehicle for a routine patrol in downtown Baghdad. As they drove through the dry dusty streets, they were only too aware of the possible dangers that they either saw or imagined in every person or pile of rubble that they came across.  As usual, they drove at walking pace.

Within about ten minutes, they found themselves surrounded by a silent crowd.

They soon realised that there was nothing to fear because the “crowd” consisted of about 20 skinny-looking, shabbily-dressed young children. They had that beige monochromatic look that we are all used to seeing in television reports – thin dusty faces, sand-matted hair , barefoot with beige and white ripped clothes. These were street kids.

The chaplain signalled the driver to stop. The children came closer and closer, until some were actually touching the hot metal of the vehicle’s bodywork. The chaplain, being the good man that he was, always carried sweets – not chocolate, because that tended to melt in these temperatures – just a paper bag full of ordinary boiled sweets.

He leaned out of his window, held the open bag of  sweets and smiled at the kids.

The children all held their hands out – obviously not quite trusting the smartly-dressed British Officer, but gradually, one-by one they started to come towards the chaplain and his sweets. Eventually, there was a bit of a rush and within a minute, all the sweets (and the bag) had gone.

Gradually, the laughing children dispersed and their excited chatter left with them.

The armoured car remained parked until all of the children had disappeared and the street was back to the familiar grown-up adult bustle of diggers lifting the rubble of bombed houses, squeaky wheelbarrows and arguing workers with shovels and picks.

The chaplain had enjoyed the moment. The sound of childrens’ laughter reminded him of his own children back home. He imagined his young son’s and daughter’s squeals of delight that very morning as they  opened their Christmas presents without him. He felt sad but at the same time, he felt warm inside and felt that he had just been given a small taste of Christmas.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a girl of about 11 sitting on a pile of rocks, just a few feet away from him. He waved at her – but nothing. She just stared. He felt his pockets but he had no more sweets to give.

He decided to be silly and started to pull faces at her. He rolled his eyes, stuck his tongue out, stuck his thumbs in his ears and wiggled his fingers. His driver remained “eyes forward” – he knew that it was best not to look at an officer – chaplain or not- who was making a prat of himself.

Gradually, the skinny little girl began to relax, became a bit more confident. Soon she smiled began to look a little bit more animated. After a few more minutes of the chaplain’s silliness, she was laughing.

Two minutes later, the girl stood and  walked slowly towards the vehicle. The chaplain noticed that she had both arms down by her sides – as if she was trying to conceal something. For a brief moment, the chaplain felt a slight “frisson” of alarm, having heard of child bombers being told that they could detonate a bomb without any harm coming to them.

Nevertheless, he  stepped out of the vehicle and stood – waiting for her to approach.

She stopped only an arm’s length away and looked him straight in the eyes and continued to smile.

The chaplain could now see quite clearly how underweight and probably very hungry she was. He thought about two things simultaneously. Firstly, whether she was a bomber and whether there was anything to give her to eat on this Christmas morning – but he had nothing useful to give. She continued to stare.

Her cheeks were hollow but her eyes shone like diamonds.

Slowly, the girl stretched both arms towards him with two clenched fists turned downwards.  Her gaze never left his face.  Then she turned her clenched fists so that they were pointing upwards.

Then…she opened her hands, palms-up.

As she opened her hands, he was surprised to see  that there was a boiled sweet on each palm. She smiled the broadest smile and nodded,  indicating that he should take one of the sweets.

She didn’t move or flinch as he reached out and took a sweet. “Thank you,” he said.

She didn’t understand what the English soldier had said to her. All she knew was that ten minutes previously,  he had given all of his sweets away to the other children and she had accidentally taken two sweets.

She thought that she would give one back  to the soldier, so that he too had a sweet.

That small, simple act of generosity by a hungry little Muslim girl reminded the chaplain of what we call “the Spirit of Christmas” is all about.

Merry Christmas.

# 2014 Predictions – PART DEUX!

The first episode of my 2014 predictions has already been published and can be found HERE.

Below are my final predictions for the year and contain some extrapolations based on the government’s current air-brained and totally unrealistic attitude which is largely based on surveys and statistical “facts” – usually NOT based on a statistically significant time-span.

However, one has to admit that there are other predictions which are based in hope rather than fact!! See if you can spot the ones which are totally ridiculous!

And PLEASE don’t accuse me of being silly! They started it!

1. Chancellor Gideon Osborne will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics.

2. President Bashar al-Assad will win the Nobel peace Prize, in tandem with Tony Blair….for services to Syria and Iraq respectively.

3. The British Economy will recover and outgrow China.

4. British banks will lend money to SMEs WITHOUT blackmailing (for themselves) large chunks of equity participation.

5. There will be NO tax give-aways in the lead-up to the next General Election.

6. The French economy will recover and outstrip that of Germany.

7. Angela Merkel will become engaged to Sylvio Berlusconi.

8. Compulsory Bulgarian and Romanian will be taught in English schools.

9. Education Secretary, Michael Gove will stop interfering in the United Kingdom’s education system.

10. David Cameron will fire a Cabinet Minister for being a useless prat.

11. Banks will have completed the “Rebuilding of Balance Sheets”.

12. A thick person from the lower orders will win the X-factor.

13. Pope Benedict will ask for his old job back.

14. Economics journalists will start to write articles in easily-understood English so that EVERYONE understands what they are talking about – even those without an Oxbridge PPE degree!

15. More 65-plus Media and Arts perverts will be brought to book.

16. Manchester United will win the Premier League.

17. Heather Mills wins 2014 Sports personality of the Year.

18. The FTSE 100 will cross 7500. Or 4500! (It all depends on money-printing policy)

19. Yvette Copper will become Labour Leader and Theresa May will lead the Conservative Party into the next General Election.

20. David Attenborough will locate and identify The Big Society (and its bank).

21. Coalition Politicians will stop saying “The Mess THEY left behind” and “Difficult Decisions”.

22. David Cameron will keep talking about renegotiating the UK’s membership of the EU.

23. Richard Dawkins will prove conclusively, the existence of Godociety – with the former being the most likely!.

24. The Coalition Government will stop using the word “percentage” or “percent” in every other sentence.

25. Chancellor Gideon will get rid of his Caligula haircut.

26. Ed Miliband will say something intelligent and produce some economic policies

27. Dennis Rodman will be appointed Chief of Staff of  the North Korean Army.

28. A well-known former PR man and art collector will have an arse transplant – but it will reject him.

29. President Obama will DO something and Boris Johnson will stop talking bollocks.

30. The HS2 toy train project will become a very long runway.

31. There will be no further bank mis-selling scandals – and I certainly won’t tell that interest on your bank CREDITS is calculated from the day AFTER the deposit, whereas the interest on Withdrawals is debited immediately.

32. UK property prices will continue to increase For Ever! Capital Gain without end!

33. There will be no further Westminster expenses scandals.

34. UKIP leader, Nigel Farage will be quiet, dignified, restrained and statesmanlike after the UKIP gains in European Elections.

35. Iain Duncan-Smith will say “Sorry!”to all the innocent people he has wronged. Hopefully, just before he collects his P45.

(I am NOT a Global Warming mullah but the image above shows all the world’s water and air to scale.)

Remember, Chancellor Gideon: There are NO reasons – only excuses! By the way  the United Kingdom’s trade deficit widened to £10.0 BILLION in Q3  from £5.0 billion in Q3, representing 5.1% of GDP. Spin that! http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_347294.pdf

What sort of twat sees a fireman outside Waitrose with tinsel on his high-viz jacket & drops a pound coin into his Latte?

Is the Home Office ABSOLUTELY sure that the United Kingdom can attract Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to this land of Elitism, Noncery, Government Racism, Xenophobia, crooked Lords and SHOCKING Educational standards?

RIP Ronnie Biggs. Mind you, the Great Train Robbery (including the cost of the investigation) pales into insignificance alongside HS2.

Chancellor Gideon has claimed that “the taxpayer” has made a profit on the sale of Lloyds Bank shares. That is NOT true. It is yet another example of the half-truths and selective statistics which have come to characterize this government. The money to buy Lloyds shares in the first place, was BORROWED. That had an attendant cost. Therefore, if fees and costs are deducted from the share sale, “the taxpayer” made a LOSS. Gideon is becoming Brownesque in his ability to dispose of national assets.

# PMQ “gesture”!!

The Prime Minister spotted Ed Balls making a brand new hand gesture during PMQs. One suspects that it might have been this:

# A Christmas alone – for too many….

Our Education System is catching up with the NHS!!  1.56 MILLION people work for the NHS. Meanwhile, 1.49 MILLION are employed in Education. Approximately 450,000 of them are teachers.

Currently, 30.1 MILLION people are employed in the UK……. Of those, 8.15 MILLION ( 27%) are part-time!

# The Inequality and Iniquity of Growth.

This Christmas there will be millions of puzzled and sometimes hungry people staring at their televisions. Their hunger is easily explained – they are poor but what will confuse them will be the newsflashes showing smiling people shopping and talking about ‘Tablets’ at £500 each, Champagne, and a million other expensive items and yes…even Christmas turkeys!

Then they will see celebrity chefs cooking Brussels sprouts with pancetta, more champagne, the perennial debate about goose fat versus oil on roasties and how we’ll ALL be ‘over-indulging’ and falling asleep on the sofa! An alien world which some will have tasted but sadly, too many – especially children, will never inhabit.

This (to them) is a ‘make-believe’ world of plenty. They know it exists somewhere near them but it is like the parallel universe of science fiction….there but impossible to access.

They see shiny, smug politicians saying words about ‘the recession being over’….something the poor haven’t been too acutely aware of because what the politician calls ‘recession’ and ‘austerity’, they call “LIFE”.

‘The economy’ appears to be doing very well! …………..By the way….what is that?

The disparity between the most affluent Brits and the rest is hurting the economy. This chasm between rich and poor appears to have become an unacknowledged issue, primarily as the result of too many of the Cabinet belonging to ‘the Affs’. It is apparent that few understand that everyone (up to middle class) has seen their income stagnate, whilst wealthy households have really thrived.

Note: I propose to dispense with euphemisms such as “the well-off” and “society’s disadvantaged”. Let’s stick to rich and poor.

Bonuses, higher salaries, higher profits and exceptional stock market gains are flowing almost exclusively to the already-rich. Proportionately, however, the affluent household ‘spend’ represents much less of their money than that of  low and middle-income consumers.

One of the priorities of this government should be to engineer a much broader spending base – one which encompasses the poor……allowing them to actually participate in the economy.

Currently, there is a very distorted  picture of consumer spending because it is driven by the rich. The poor and the poorer are doing their best to keep up but inevitably need to borrow in order to spend – thus making themselves even poorer. Meanwhile, many rich are gaining profits from  bank or lending company shares which are fueled by the poors’ accelerating poverty….but the rich have something else which the poor have never had: OPTIONS or CHOICE!

One very profitable option this year has been the stock market – but once the markets have calmed down (which they will!) and gains are no longer eye-wateringly high, the affluent (As and Bs) will stop spending or at least, cut back dramatically.

THAT will have an immediate and devastating effect on this virtual economic recovery. SO, it is in the government’s interest to sustain the recovery illusion by keeping interest rates low and Quantitative Easing flowing to the banks so that , from an investment point of view, the equity markets (stocks and shares) remain the only game in town, so that the rich retain their mega spending power for as long as possible – at least until May 2015!

That is a very dangerous game for any government to play.

This is the phenomenon which has created and is sustaining the ever more bitter ‘CLASS’ debate and is in danger of feeding Populism and ultimately, major unrest.

Income Inequality and not airports or trains should be the government’s priority.

There is now little doubt that in spite of government policy, the United Kingdom’s economic growth is picking up….as it is everywhere else (Global Economy!)

NOW, while the mini-recovery lasts, would be a good time for the government to tackle the INEQUALITY OF GROWTH which is not an iniquity but the iniquity of modern times.

# 2014 Predictions – PART ONE

Predicting the future has always been a mug’s game. For instance, I continue to believe that the markets are all in the wrong place and overpriced and I predicted the FTSE at about 4500 – but then again, I could not have predicted the collective madness of Quantitative Easing and the real fear that politicians have of the banks. I used to understand investment…but not any more. Cheap virtual cash continues to fund the markets and to keep them artificially high.

The politicians feel that they have to please the banks first and only then the voter. Governments are no longer in control of events. Nowadays, finance drives politics and politicians have become the bankers’ lackeys.

For as long as banks and governments continue to mutually gorge themselves on virtual cash and governments do not have the courage to increase interest rates and taxes in order to join us in the real world, there is a very real possibility that the current economic situation will become the status quo.

These predictions are in no particular order.

1. The disconnect between economic data and the quality of life is fueling populism. It is also fueling right-wing extremism and anti-government sentiment. I fully expect the equivalent of the Arab Spring sometime during 2014 , in the UK and some other European states.

2. South Sudan will provide the next African bloodbath.

3. The Scots will vote “No” to independence.

4. The recently-adopted self-congratulatory air will desert both UK and European politicians as it is realised that the “virtual” economic recovery is unsustainable.

5. There will be a substantial increase in China’s birth rate (the new “one child plus” policy), contrubuting TWO MILLION children to the 2014 economy, boosting consumer motivation.

6. China will continue to build and accelerate its natural resource monopoly in Africa. (One million Chinese already live there).

7. As the West cuts its military budgets, China will continue to do exactly the opposite.

8. David Cameron will continue to tell us what MUST and SHOULD be done, one a whole range of issues.

9.  Anaemic growth in the advanced economies will see government debt continue to climb.

10. The US \$ will continue its decline. Instead of Quantitative Easing Infinity accelerating economic growth, its effect will be to shrink the \$’s buying power.

11. The sudden (and unexpected) pick-up in UK growth, followed by the indication of a reversal in the final quarter of 2013 suggests that businesses were adding to their inventories rather than selling their goods. Expect the reversal to continue in 2014.

12. Germany currently represents approximately 30% of the Eurozone economy and will continue to enjoy the fruits of a weak euro and ramp-up exports.Germany has the world’s highest current account balance as a percentage of GDP. During 2014, Germany’s economic success will continue to accelerate and will represent over ONE THIRD of the Eurozone’s output.

13. Japan will continue to prosper. Its economic output is not 75% of China’s. although it is 4% of China’s size with 9% of China’s population. “Abenomics” has provided the “jump-leads” which Japan needed.

14. The USA will enter another recession in 2014. Currently it is still on “below-2%” growth.

15. A Populist movement will become increasingly vocal here in the UK (and in certain Eurozone countries), with sudden impetus being generated AFTER the European Parliamentary Elections when the main traditional parties will be decimated by the Left and Right.

16. In spite of the Eurozone’s economic “recovery”, unemployment will remain at current record heights (Over 12%).

17. Deflation will accelerate within the Eurozone and economic forecasts will once again be downgraded.

18. The European Court of Auditors (ECA) will publish the 2013 EU accounts and once again, confirm that the continuing “errors” in all of the EU’s spending  areas have finally crossed 5%(!) of expenditure.

19. The UK government will do well to prepare for the possibility of social unrest which is driven by the rapid growth of the “have nots”. The financial hangover caused by  Christmas 2013 will be far more extreme than in previous years.

20. The Federal Reserve will announce and implement the end of its  massive bond-buying programme. This will have a substantial effect on the markets.

21. The full-extent of the banking industry’s Pension and Life Assurance mis-selling will become apparent.

22. There will by an explosion in Teacher Militancy as the government continues to fiddle with our childrens’ education.

23. The price of Crude Oil will fall to about \$75 per barrel. The decrease will be primarily caused  by oversupply as a result of new production methods.

24. The European Union will fail to deal with its members’ collective debts. Again.

25. The Global Recovery will falter.

26. On January1st, Greece will take over the Presidency of the EU – at a cost to itself of €50 MILLION. This exemplifies the madness of the European Union when a de facto bankrupt state with zero clout is allowed to be burdened such a “spend”. Prediction: Greece will make a “pig’s ear” of its Presidency. Hopefully Subway and MacDonald’s are bidding for the catering contract.

27. Twitter, Amazon etc will be recognised as part of yet another totally unsustainable bubble.

28. In the UK, there will be yet more calls for House of Lords reform. Hopefully, as more and more of their Lordships’ financial “indiscretions” come to light, the debate will snowball, eventually leading to an elected Upper House. Turkeys may well HAVE to vote for Christmas.

29. Once South Africa has recovered from Mandela’s death, there is a real danger of  a return to what I can only describe as “Reverse Apartheid”. Violence.

30. Syria will continue to generate substantial profits for the world’s Arms producers as it has become increasingly apparent that there is NOT the political will to even attempt to end this butchery.

(I am NOT a Global Warming mullah but the image above shows all the world’s water and air to scale.)

# Chancellor Gideon – Fact or Fiction?

One of the greatest pleasures in life used to be for someone to read a great work of fiction to you out loud. You would sink back, close your eyes and let it wash over you ……and all that you had to do is to compose the pictures! Unfortunately, reading out-loud is a dying art and now a pleasure only enjoyed by young children and the infirm.

So imagine the frisson of  anticipation ahead of listening to Chancellor Gideon reading The Autumn Statement – (I have always been a great fan of realistic fiction!)  I closed my eyes, kicked back…but…the pictures just wouldn’t come. All I could visualise was a smug fat boy with a Caligula haircut and eyes with all the charm of two bullet holes,  reading with all the conviction of a posh grocer reading a Fortnum’s shopping list.

GDP..blah blah….Growth…blah blah….Deficit…blah….and so on.

Then, after the “de rigeur” and customary:  “Hard-working people” , “Mess they left behind” and “Tough decisions” plus the recently conceived “It will be less that it WOULD have been”….all from the Coalition Book of Platitudes, came something about the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) moving ever closer to life expectancy!

I felt myself slowly emerging from the Treasury-induced coma.

Whether the NRA is 69, 70 or 102, it will never affect those on a private pension or those with enough money to be able to make choices.

The ability to make choices is what individual freedom is all about. One of the overriding features of this government is that too many people perceive that their choices have been compromised. Control has been wrested away from those who are relying on the State to feed and provide their shelter in old age.

Meanwhile, the “well-off” will continue to be able to stop working whenever they want to.

It is only those clapped out individuals who see retirement age as The Finishing Line who will be affected. They are the ones who used to retire at 65 and die at 67.

Soon, they will retire at 70… not quite dead but maybe wishing they were, knowing that some of their better-off acquaintances will have already been retired for 20 years.

(BTW, unemployment at the time of the 2010 General Election was 2.47 million. It is STILL 2.47 million. ……NO statistical sleight-of-hand will ever change that fact!)

Chancellor Gideon’s Autumn Statement will be no more than the Conservative Party jumping out of the General Election starting blocks, as the “Giveaway Season” begins. It will be just like the Christmas Sales but you get your own money back! By definition, it is money that is currently being wasted elsewhere.

One very important question: Given the recent spate of scandals (which appear to be ongoing), has the Coalition government done enough to reform the banking industry? Er……No. In fact, they appear to have done bugger all.

I know that it’s not fashionable…but I have great admiration for Cherie Blair…and feel very sorry for her as she has to sit quietly as the current S**t Storm centred on her hubby and the wife of a media crumbly gathers pace.

A big UP to Jim Murphy MP   #TheClutha

Cannot think WHY Chancellor Gideon  has had the Treasury refitted. Is it worth it? After all, according to the latest numbers, his tenure appears to be VERY finite! MILLIONS have been spent….and I bet that IKEA didn’t even get a look-in!!   🙂   #inthistogether #10MILLION

#blair ….I bet that I can name at least ONE former P.M who would NEVER be accused of suspected “knobbage”  🙂

BOOKTRUST is a charity with a fab Mission Statement: To Promote Reading…What could POSSIBLY screw that up? Only political meddling which looks like “naughtiness with intent” and an embarrassment to Nick Clegg, his wife as well as the Cabinet Office. Statement please. No spin…..

There are those who say that the Liberal Democrats have lost their Mojo. Remember the good old days (WAS it only three years ago?) when Norman Baker and Vince Cable would get stuck into the government and create hell for the then Prime Minister – the one whose name will not be mentioned?……..In May 2010, when the small question of Coalition arose, the Tories weren’t taking any chances and did exactly the right thing  – they muzzled both of these outspoken old radicals (or, should I say, what passes for “radical” among Libdems). The pair of them suffered the political equivalent of castration. Now look at them….OK, their suits are a bit more expensive and people call them “Minister”….but what real use are they? Their strength  used to be in their independence….they WERE the Libdem Mojo. Unfortunately, come May 2015…it will be too late for a sudden change of suit and style because their electoral credibility will have gone with the Ministerial limo…….Both Norman and Vince will find it nigh on impossible to fit into those old grey suits and tweed jackets worn by the common people they once were.

The United Kingdom’s Bankers and top City people don’t REALLY appreciate austerity. Why? Because last year, the average banker salary increased by ONE THIRD and the income for the top 2,700 was in the region of £1.6 million EACH. Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Cable have clearly demonstrated themselves to be no more than helpless bystanders. There was the usual macho rhetoric, both pre and post the 2010 General Election but, as usual, it was nothing more than empty words. “In this together”? DON’T make me laugh.

The late Margaret Thatcher is being criticised for holding some of her assets in offshore trusts. Well, through the magic of PFI, The Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, as well as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ALL pay rent to companies whose tax bills are “optimised” because they’re registered offshore.

Here’s something that has been highlighted in Neon since May 2010:  Despite many years of a mythical populist “democracy”, after innumerable elections where the “will of the people” supposedly prevailed, despite all the comedy Socialist rhetoric, despite  millions of tons of environment-endangering  hot air about inclusive growth, despite promises of meritocracy and being “in this together”, the United Kingdom remains a strong and stable plutocracy. Our politicians haven’t let us down, with even poor MPs being caught attempting to acquire plutocratic mannerisms, even if that meant being forced to steal from the taxpayer. Needless to say, there are side-effects, such as poverty, debt, homelessness and misery for the masses, but that’s the price they have to pay for growth and “reducing the deficit”.

#NHS Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is probably a very impressive chap – especially to politicians who are impressed by letters both BEFORE and AFTER one’s name. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this eminently qualified DOCTOR is now viewed as the Mutt’s Nuts on NHS ORGANISATION & MANAGEMENT! (It is called the “Halo Effect” which simply means that if someone exhibits expertise in one area, it is naturally assumed that they can tackle ANYTHING. In this case, it is  a doctor as a management expert!) Sir Brucie on O&M is the equivalent of me attempting a hip replacement or open heart surgery….and I’ve watched HOUSE! ……………..I  used to serve on the NHS MHRA  committee – me and loads of eminent medics. I can tell you that from an organisational point of view, the ones I spoke to did not know their bottom from a hole in the ground….and they didn’t want to! Another screw-up by the No 10 Senior Common Room? Or (hopefully) this will be YET another report which they ignore.

Meanwhile, Miliband Minor jumped off the creaking Energy Bandwagon and landed on the next one to come along: The Water Companies. He said: “The water industry needs to be scrutinised to ensure that it is not ripping-off customers.“……… SCRUTINISED?!! Well, I’ve just completed the exercise and can confirm that yes….we are being ripped off. (It took 5 minutes!)………. Now what?

There’s yet another example of the exhortary but meaningless language used by the Prime Minister and favoured by senior Coalition politicians. It is designed to give the impression of imminent action but in fact, is meaningless. This is the PM’s spokesman on the subject of senior NHS staff who are made redundant, handed hundreds of thousands of pounds in severance pay and then re-hired by the NHS on similar packages: “The PM is very clear that we need to show more restraint in senior managers’ pay and if these people are returning, we should be claiming back some of the money.”….You may recall similarly fine words of “restraint” and “clawing back” in respect of bankers’ bonuses……………. How’s that going, Dave? Politico-twaddle………. http://www.spygun.uk/richard-ruzyllo/the-mess-we-were-left-yawn

WHAT has the British government done to help small businesses which it can definitely say has helped? Apart from a couple of “schemes”………. NOTHING.  Yesterday, the Chinese government announced that it would streamline its corporate registration system to ease market access and encourage social investment. Minimum registered capital requirements for limited liability companies, one-person limited liability companies, as well as joint-stock companies with limited liability will be scrapped. According to National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese SMEs provide more than 80% of jobs in Chinese cities. The number of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises represent 99.7 % of the total in China. Here in  the UK, we prefer our earnings to be generated by “intangibles” such as banking and insurance. THAT makes our economy VERY vulnerable to the vagaries of the global economy.

A rather long “No shit, Sherlock?!” moment – but then again, it is from a EU policymaker: “We basically arrived at a point where transferring more power to the European Commission and ‘Brussels’ in general to dictate national policies is no longer something that people are ready to agree with….”

THIS is from China’s state news agency Xinhua: “As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated. A new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing. Instead of honouring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas.” ………….Xinhua added: “Regional tensions amid territorial disputes, fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies…..”

Foreign Secretary William Hague this morning: “I condemn the abduction of the Libyan Prime Minister….”……. It’s NO WONDER the bad guys have released Prime Minister Ali Zeidan so soon! You don’t mess with the Haguemeister! When he condemns you – you stay condemned!! Al-Qaeda terrorists are quaking in their sandals!

When most people see Malala Youzafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban, they see a heroine. I see a sad, unfortunate girl, impelled and steered by a father’s grasping opportunism. Sorry.

# Heads I win, Tails I….er…win?

The American Dollar is on its way up because everyone has woken up and is rushing towards it as fast as they can. Why this sudden (but expected) reaction? Because no matter what happens in the USA as a result of the battle between the Republicans and Obama, the dollar is the one world currency which will always trade and will always bounce back.

Never mind that hundreds of thousands of poorly-paid American employees aren’t being paid, never mind that America is quite likely to default on its debts as a result of Congress possibly blocking the raising of the \$17 trillion debt ceiling. Those things just DO NOT matter. Why? Because of the numbers.

To every other country on Earth a debt ceiling of \$17 trillion seems beyond huge! It appears to be beyond management…but you have to remember that the USA’s  annual economy is worth approximately the same amount! In addition,  the worldwide trade in the American dollar is about \$4 trillion PER DAY  and even though much of the trade is by algo-trading, such vast volumes mean that there is little chance of business suddenly drying up!

The dollar trading volume  every FOUR DAYS is roughly equivalent to America’s entire debt! So, even if the USA defaults on its debt, the worldwide dollar trade will continue.

A very high percentage of these trades will be in derivatives and high-speed meta trading. Whatever the views are on this modern equivalent of the three-card trick (blink and you’ll miss it), as the owner of the world’s reserve currency, America can get away with economic choices and techniques open only to it.

Whatever happens in the States, the global economy, especially within the Eurozone, will remain fragile.

The American economy has given a very good impression of having been in recovery for several quarters but the maximum collateral damage that the current Washington crisis can cause, will be to make the ersatz recovery look even more unconvincing. That’s unlikely to give the Fed, Obama or even the Republicans too much of a headache.

The whole affair will not be dealt with by means of finesse or any subtle change in policy. It will be the equivalent of a fiscal sledgehammer! Uncle Sam’s customary solution to any issue!

We live in a  “meta-money” driven financial system which sits above (and below) the “real” economy. It manages to both influence and to be driven-by the real economy which gave birth to it (that’s the old-school economy which is based on profits derived from either manufacturing or providing a service).

Stockmarkets, whose original purpose was to raise capital to fund business are now no more than piles of gambling chips to be plundered (mainly) through the medium of high-frequency trading – a mutation of “simple” capitalism.

The goings-on in America will generate billions – no matter what the outcome, because bets are currently being placed on all scenarios and outcomes. In the main, it will be Republicans or, strictly-speaking Republican-supporting business placing the bets.

That’s because Washington’s political agenda is being driven by right-wing business because it is they who are funding the Republican right-wing and ultimately, their agenda is very straightforward. They want Obama out. The Republican left-wing has to go along for the ride.

The outcome will be similar to that which has developed in the United Kingdom over the last few years – big business (specifically Banking) and not the electorate will drive the political agenda.

They have the chips AND the cash.

(The IMF’s Christine Lagarde has just made the customary panic announcement that the Americans should sort themselves out. “Vite! Allez!!” ….Calm down, love…let them finish the game.)

United Kingdom economic growth is weak and will remain weak. That means that unemployment will stay high.(It is the same today as it was before the 2010 General Election). No amount of statistical engineering, designed to tart up the government’s performance will alter that basic fact. The latest announcement by the Prime Minister of NOT maintaining the right of the 16-25 group to claim benefits means that young graduates will now be starting their adult lives in debt with little or no help from the State which put them in debt. Reminder to the Coalition government: AMBITION is driven by SELF-ESTEEM. What the government is doing is showing that all the talk of encouraging entrepreneurship in young people is nonsense because they are destroying the very mind-set  which they need to nurture.

Currrently, American politicians do NOT appear to be fulfilling their electoral mandate and  instead, are concentrating on a Washington power struggle. Perhaps they too should have their salaries suspended. It might help them to concentrate.

Post-war German leaders have long argued German interests coincided with the greater European interests. Angela Merkel’s singular achievement, vindicated by her latest election victory, is to have kept Germany in the heart of Europe even as terrifying sovereign debt crises exposed the fissures and conflicting interests between states within the euro zone.

There is no doubt that the German economy benefited enormously from the euro-driven economic union. But when the crisis broke out, German taxpayers, understandably, did not want to bail out foreign governments and financial institutions caught in the upheaval. Merkel’s strategy was to protect the interests of her taxpayers while convincing them that the euro must be kept alive; otherwise the whole European project, the basis of the continent’s peace and prosperity, could collapse. To this end, she imposed much-criticised austerity on the hard-hit peripheral states in southern Europe while pledging support to them by committing the equivalent of Germany’s annual federal budget to various rescue funds.

Merkel preferred the step-by-step approach rather than any grand reform schemes. Euro-zone bonds to lower sovereign borrowing costs? No way. An even tighter banking union than currently planned? Forget it. She perceived that in all these big and ambitious schemes, Germany would be the one that ended up paying the most to support them, thereby putting German taxpayers on the hook.

Because of the delicate balancing act she had to pursue, she has been criticised, with reason, for dragging out the crisis rather than resolving it once and for all with a bold plan. But it’s highly doubtful that without her cautious approach, German citizens would have gone along in helping the crisis-hit states. And without German backing, no rescue plan could work. Now, finally, the euro-zone economies are showing signs of life. Most likely, they still have a long way to muddle through.

Merkel may not have saved Europe. But she deserves credit for preventing a euro-zone break-up. (SCMP)

Science used to be the triumph of humanity over superstition but we appear to have forgotten how powerful superstition is.

Science is now hostage of the Global Warming superstition. The interesting twist is that we (the human race) have been taught that we are an eternal being. That has given us a certain degree of arrogance which in turn has made us believe that 150 years of human industrial activity has affected the 4.5 billion-year-old Earth to such an extent that there will be irreversible changes.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The Human Race will probably continue to burn Fossil Fuels for another hundred years. Therefore, unless, the scientists can PROVE that any “damage” done to the Earth will be irreversible, then set against the 4.5 BILLION year age of the planet, it is an irrelevance.

IPCC Report on GLOBAL WARMING: We should always question and be suspicious of ANY belief system which is over-reliant on consensus rather than evidence. Consensus-building is a socio-political and not a scientific process. The alarmist global-warning “faith” is a fine example of the phenomenon. Having said that, the so-called “scientific evidence” can also be flawed. You may not realise it but even the  “peer review” process of scientific papers is subject to consensus. It too is subjective and on many occasions…selective. In the same way that consensus is built on selectivity, there are still occasions when scientific results which do not follow the “mainstream” can be ignored and buried.   (DISCLAIMER: Other consensus-driven belief systems and faiths are available!)

HOUSING BENEFIT: So far ONE-THIRD of households affected by the Coalition Government’s reduced Housing Benefit are said to be in arrears with their rent. Eventually, Local Authorities will HAVE to step in – in spite of the fact that many have a non-eviction policy. Then, the Local Authority will have to ask the Government for more cash to balance its books and to provide alternative housing. The circle will have been squared. This government is ONLY looking at its own balance sheet when making what are life-changing decisions on behalf of the people affected. Luckily for them, the Socio-Economic groups which are suffering are unlikely to be Conservative voters so in effect, they don’t matter because they won’t affect the Tory vote. Meanwhile, the Tories’ self-styled social conscience, the Libdem Party, can do nothing but stand on the sidelines and wring its hands whilst dispensing warm words. Fiscal decisions are all well and good but what about the social aspects of say a small family which has had the same neighbours for years, gone t0 the same pub, the same playgroup and a which has a support structure within an area it knows, being booted out to be rehoused elsewhere?  Just so that an arrogant Works and Pensions Secretary can score a few Brownie Points and a desperate Chancellor can squirrel away a few more quid into empty Treasury coffers. The so-called Bedroom Tax will do for David Cameron what the Poll Tax did for Margaret Thatcher. A scrapping of this nonsense-attempt at Social Engineering would be one U-turn which would be very, very welcome.

LIBDEM conference: Yesterday, our professional (and perpetual) political bridesmaid, the Liberal Democratic Party rejected calls from party members to relax fiscal discipline and spend more. Instead, the Party pledged broad support for the government’s austerity-focussed economic strategy. The Party is assuming that by May 2015, those elusive green shoots will have finally emerged and that they will once again ride into Westminster hanging onto Chancellor Gideon’s (straw) coat tails……………(AUSTERITY? It’s a well-known fact that if you want to make a horse to run faster, you don’t encourage it through a combination of hay and ass-kicking….you pull back on the reins as hard as possible….don’t you?)

The last time we heard a UK  inflation figure, it was 2.8% per year. Today it has been announced that August inflation “fell” to 2.7%. However, the Consumer Price Index has INCREASED from 125.8 (July) to 126.4 (August). That is an increase of 0.6 in ONE MONTH, which when annualised, gives a price inflation figure of 5.7% per year!  This is a situation which we’ve been amused by for quite a long time now: Inflation falling while prices increase. The magic of numbers! Here is the latest ONS bulletin. The numbers are on page 4:       http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_323760.pdf

# UK Economy: I told you so!! But would you listen?!

“WTF?!”

A single  swallow doesn’t make a summer! Now is the time to calm down and  inject a bit of realism into the equation!

(Reuters) – British industrial output was flat in July and there was a marked deterioration in the trade balance, official data showed on Friday, taking some of the shine off recent strong economic data.

Output in the industrial sector – which makes up about one sixth of Britain’s economy – had been expected to edge up by 0.1 percent according to a Reuters poll.

The narrower category of manufacturing rose by 0.2 percent, just short of forecasts for a 0.3 percent rise, although June’s figure was revised up, the Office for National Statistics said.

Signs of a surprisingly strong recovery in Britain’s economy have come thick and fast in the past few months. Growth of 0.7 percent in the second quarter could be trumped by an even stronger reading in the third.

The Bank of England pledged last month to keep interest rates on hold until unemployment falls to 7 percent, something it does not envisage happening for another three years, but the strength of recent data has encouraged traders to bet rates might rise as soon as next year.

Separate figures showed Britain’s goods trade deficit widened to 9.85 billion pounds in July after narrowing sharply in June. Economists had forecast a gap of 8.153 billion pounds.

Including services, in which Britain traditionally runs a surplus, the trade deficit widened to 3.085 billion pounds. That was more than double its level in June and the worst reading since October 2012.

Exports to non-European Union countries plunged by nearly 16 percent, the biggest monthly fall since January 2009.

Monthly trade figures are volatile but July’s figures may dampen hopes that Britain’s economic recovery is broadening and moving onto a more sustainable footing.

(Reporting by Christina Fincher and William Schomberg)

#SYRIA:  Does the increasingly isolated Obama, with his barking-mad, cigar-chomping generals, not realise that an attack on Syria will cause  markets to tumble, wipe BILLIONS off share prices, accelerate the failure of the “propped-up-by-the Fed” American economy, damage the BRICS countries’ economies, raise oil prices, accelerate the collapse of the Eurozone and probably cause the deaths of thousands more innocent people? There are times when principle has to give way to pragmatism.  #Callmehysterical!

SYRIA: The Pope, spotting an obvious bandwagon,  has urged world leaders to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution”. He has also invited 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday “to end the civil war”. He obviously does not realise that to the millions of displaced victims of Syria’s violence, prayer and (especially) fasting, come quite naturally!

What you see in the mirror is never what other people see. Let’s hope that there’s a massive reality check before the s*** hits the fan.

#SYRIA: “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them” (George Santayana)

Official figures have revealed that MPs, peers and staff at the Houses of Parliament have tried to access ‘adult’ websites using their work computers 309,316 times over the past year. About 850 attempts to click on pornographic websites were blocked each day. A popular site was “Out of Town Affairs”, a dating site for those wanting to engage in extra-marital affairs. Note a new proposed Westminster logo. It has a vaguely nautical theme. Mind you…with those numbers, they must be swimming in it!!    🙂

In the last seven days, President Obama has greatly diminished the American Presidency and it will need a lot of work to regain the level of awe and veneration which the Presidency enjoyed under such “greats” as Roosevelt, JFK  and even Clinton.  The President has gone from “Hail to the Chief” to “Hello Committee member”. Meanwhile, Obama the orchestra conductor sits in the comparative safety (and anonymity) of  the Whitehouse Wind section….awaiting events.

#SYRIA:  I hate to pee on America’s parade and spoil the day for all those self-important politicians and generals sitting around over-sized mahogany tables… but here’s a warning: Bashar al-Assad will shoot back. Big time.

The Reports are telling us. The Statistics look good. The graphs appear to have turned a corner. Today’s good news is that August’s UK construction PMI has hit its highest level since September 2007! ALL fantastic news! However, we all look forward to the day when the  population-at-large is given the means to participate in the Coalition’s “New Atlantis” because, in spite of the statistics and flim-flam, too many Brits continue to struggle. The As and Bs “have it”! Great Britain is now a proper two-nation  state.

# John Kerry – his full statement on SYRIA

President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in #Syria. And last night the president asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week.

I will tell you that as someone who spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it’s important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards.

And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That’s our responsibility: to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the administration and the Congress with responsibility for their security.

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and rereviewed information regarding this attack. And I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people, who can judge for themselves.

But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people.

That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly.

So, what do we really know that we can talk about? Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened.

We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so. We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions.

We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed, and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas, and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.

And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching, with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.

And we know it was it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors.

And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn’t report: not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.

Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas, and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

The United States government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders — the doctors, nurses and medics who tried to save them — they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger.

This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.

We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact and actually was afraid that they would be discovered.

We know this.

And we know what they did next. I personally called the foreign minister of Syria, and I said to him, if, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.

Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days. And when the U.N. inspectors finally gained access, that access, as we now know, was restricted and controlled.

In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of that, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence this is common sense, this is evidence, these are facts.

So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know. The question is what are we — we collectively — what are we in the world going to do about it.

As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History if full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference and especially against silence when it mattered most.

Our choices then in history had great consequences, and our choice today has great consequences.

It matters that nearly a hundred years ago, in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again. That was the world’s resolve then. And that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear red line for the international community.

It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That’s why we signed agreements like the START treaty, the New START treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which more than 180 countries, including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, have signed onto.

It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are, and if unchecked, they can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends.

And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries whose policies challenge these international norms are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.

And make no mistake. In an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do — or not do — matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things. We need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing.

It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.

This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?

So our concern is not just about some far-off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world.

It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations. This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us, and it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world.

My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.

America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act. The world is speaking out, and many friends stand ready to respond. the Arab League pledged, quote, “to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.” The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, “to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.”

Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”

The Australian prime minister said he didn’t want history to record that we were, quote, a party to turning such a blind eye.

So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is what we will do. Let me emphasize President Obama, we in the United States, we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who endured regime gunfire and obstructions to their investigation. But as Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, has said again and again, the U.N. investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the U.N. investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons were used. By the definition of their own mandate, the U.N. can’t tell us anything that we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know. And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. cannot galvanize the world to act, as it should.

So let me be clear: We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies and, most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.

Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about.

And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things, we do know.

We also know that we have a president who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria, it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.

The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, we are committed, we remain committed, we believe it’s the primary objective is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table. And we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That’s what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of a planet where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

Thank you very much.

SYRIA: On April 14th 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered a series of bombings directed against Libya under “Operation El Dorado Canyon”. This was in reprisal for the “Libyan” bombing of a Berlin nightclub. It is now generally accepted that the “evidence” against Libya had been fabricated. Reagan subsequently gave the CIA “Regime Change” orders  for Libya. THAT goal took 20 years to achieve. Both Clinton and George W Bush openly talked about regime change in Iraq. One may be forgiven for wondering whether the CIA have ever been given similar orders in respect of Egypt and Syria.

#SYRIA:  The embers of discontent have been glowing ever since the previous owner of the family business that is Syria, President Hafez al-Assad, quelled a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982. Thousands were killed with little reaction from the West……Then in 2011,  in the southern city of Daraa , his son and heir,  Bashar al-Hassad had 15 children arrested for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. Small, seemingly insignificant events such as this can often change the course of history. The present killing, propaganda and destruction are just another example. The rest of the world has turned a blind-eye to Syria for too long and much irreversible damage has been done not only to its people but to the country’s infrastructure and culture. There is little doubt that the West wants to see a regime change… but the means to achieve that – whether right or wrong, are not to be found in the navigation system of a Cruise missile, the trigger-finger of a jet pilot or a politician’s vanity. There’s still time to talk.

I’ve often written about the impact of Chaos Theory on modern economics. Usually, it is an unforeseen catastrophe or surprise which impacts negatively on the numbers. Today’s Vodaphone announcement is yet another unplanned-for event…but one which will have a very POSITIVE impact on the UK economy. The pound has already moved positively against the Dollar. Once the institutional shareholders get their hands on their dividends, they will use that cash to reinvest!! For once, it’s ALL good news! Chancellor Gideon can put down those Rosary beads!!

FOR PARENTS: Last year a survey of 19 year-olds indicated that   that 285,000 of them had left school at age 16 without a Grade C or higher in both English and Maths and only 21 % of those who had not gained a good grade at age 16 in English continued studying  it, along with 23 per cent of those who had not got a C or better  in Maths. QUESTION: How many did not continue English and  how many studied Maths? That question is very simple arithmetic. However, as a nation, we don’t “do” sums. When I was at Citibank, I organised a voxpops-type street survey in which we asked passers-by to calculate something like “What is 60% of  50?” LESS than HALF of the participants  (all adults) were able to give the correct answer……… Today’s much-maligned kids are just as good at arithmetic as their parents…..and by the way….THAT is why most political and economic statistics are presented  in percentages rather than in REAL terms!  Most of us have NO IDEA what they mean!   #NationOFthickos

Children are to keep taking and retaking their Maths and English GCSE exams until they have passed with at least a Grade C. Why single-out English? Did you know that these days, children are passing Language GCSEs such as French, without being able to speak it? Why should English be any different? Things is really went from badder to worsest.

Chancellor Gideon says: “In the housing market  outside the centre of London … there is not some kind of housing boom or some dramatic increases in house prices.”……..The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says: “We are experiencing the fastest growth in house prices since 2006, with homes in London increasing in value by more than 8 percent compared with a year ago.”……….You choose.

#Syrian U.N. envoy Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari says that U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry Kerry has “adopted old stories fabricated by terrorists based on fake photos from the Internet.” …..and based on Uncle Sam’s past record of relying on fabricated “evidence”,   who is brave enough to argue with him? The Ambassador has also written to U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon and President of the Security Council Maria Cristina Perceval,  asking them to “to shoulder their responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria” …..Now that both Obama and Cameron have bared their teeth and convinced everyone that they still belong to the “Peace through Bombing” style of international politics, they should now do the right thing:  Sit down with the Russians and Syrians and talk.

For the last 70 or 80 years, in spite of their oil billions and flash skyscrapers, most Arab States have clearly demonstrated that sociologically and politically they are firmly anchored in the Dark Ages. On many occasions, they have also demonstrated that all despotic dictators have a limited shelf-life which invariably ends in violence. For a long time, we have been trying so hard to tell them all about Democracy and its advantages. and in recent years, we have even tried to install it for them.  This week, the vote in United Kingdom Parliament which prevented us from bombing Syria, has done more to demonstrate  real democracy than any action of the last 50 years – and we should be proud. We do not go to war on the whim of a single individual. We debate…then whatever the outcome, we respect the Democratic Process. Half of us may be “pro” a military strike and half of us may be “anti” but in the final analysis,  we respect each others views, accept them and move on. From now on, we can go to a politically primitive state such as Syria with our heads held high…NOT because we decided against adding to their pile of dead.. but because we have finally shown the world (in a very public way) that we Brits practice what we preach. It isn’t the romanticised French version of “Liberté” or the still largely theoretical American notion of “Freedom”: It is in the astonishingly mature demonstration  that it is possible to disagree  – but with acceptance and mutual understanding. That’s the real lesson for the bad guys.

#SYRIA: Looking forward to William ‘Rambo’ Hague and maybe DC read out the Churchillian stuff currently being written for them…….as yet another North African state prepares to be molested…… Methinks that we may need to reappraise our self-image. We have been binning ships, armaments and soldiers but, just because we won the World Cup in 1066 and WW2, we think that, along with Uncle Sam, we’re still the world’s policeman and everyone’s conscience!

#Syria All those years that we were shooting Irish people and the IRA were bombing in Northern Ireland as well as the mainland….I don’t recall Assad’s old man (Assad Snr.) either condemning the United Kingdom for “killing its own people” or threatening to invade or bomb us. Mind you, the USA was raising funds for the IRA (remember NORAID?), so nothing really changes. http://noraid.homestead.com/

# GCSE Results… Same old?

An economy in trouble prints more and more money and by doing so devalues the currency  which ultimately becomes worthless.

An education system in trouble prints more and more GCSEs, A-Levels and degree certificates.

The diagram above (for those who did not pay attention at school) is a Standard Distribution curve.

This type of curve represents all sorts of phenomena – especially to do with people. For instance, here in the United Kingdom we might want to look at salaries and how many people earn lots, how many earn very little etc. In that case, the curve might be called a distribution of salaries.

As you can see , the green-coloured area on the diagram represents the majority of us who earn either side of the average wage, the blue areas represent those who earn either a little bit more or a little bit less and the red areas show the lucky ones who earn lots or the very unlucky ones who earn very little.

Intelligence and academic ability also follow this type of distribution. We are not all Einsteins and at the other end of the scale – we are not all morons. Most of us are either side of average.

That brings me to today’s annual GCSE debate and the attendant mantras. : “They’re getting easier.”  ” Too many A-grades.” etc.

The figures in white represent the percentage of students that one would roughly expect to score the grades shown from A to F.  (With A, B and some C-grades being University material)

At one end, we show a small area in red and (in white figures) roughly the percentage of students that (statistically) we would (statistically) expect to score an A-grade : the very clever ones.  The equivalent on the right shows the E-grade.  Those are the not-so-bright students who just scrape through.

At the far end (on the right), we have the students that  you would expect to fail. I’ve classified them as “F” but nowadays, they are designated as “U” or “unclassified”. What we used to call thick.

Those are the extremes but you can see that most are in the green and blue zones.

That’s not just statistics – that’s life.

The figures in black along the bottom of the above diagram represent the actual percentage of students who have scored  particular  grades in the last few years. There is a substantial difference between the expected  (white) and the actual (black).

It appears that there are very few (normal) average students these days – the ones you would expect to make-up the majority of the population.

This year’s A-level results suggested that about 75%  or three in four students  are average or above average.

Academics are arguing (quite rightly) that it is difficult to distinguish between clever and exceptionally clever students.

The “experts'” solution was to introduce the A* grade for marks in excess of 90%.

Why not simply “redistribute” existing grades and have an A-grade which is for results of say, 85% and above or maybe 90% and above. Thisd is finally being done but for political reasons, progress HAS to be slow.

The primary issue is that it is  difficult to distinguish between average students and the terminally stupid ones.  The system is not sensitive enough.

Incidentally, if we are  to use the terms “bright” , “clever” and “gifted” we should not be afraid to use adjectives such as “stupid” and “thick”. Otherwise, the morons with degress will have a nasty surprise when they leave the comfort of the “University of false hope” and shuffle into the workplace or more likely, the dole queue.

Firstly, it is not the fault of the students who appear to be over-achieving and who are not really bright enough to attend what is nowadays called “University”.

The combination of aspirational parents, ambitious headteachers, dubious teaching methods, spurious subject matter and league tables have all conspired to fool us all into thinking  that we have a cleverer population than is fact.

We are all still  hostages to a crumbling old socialist dream spawned by the politics of envy and a desire to massage unemployment statistics.

We are not alone.

Not so long ago, I was in a Middle Eastern country and was chatting to some very bright-sounding Americans. I told them that I was training some senior executives for a well-known oil company and asked then what they were doing. ” We are writing Ph.D dissertations for some local students. We get between \$3000-\$5000 per document.”

Here in the UK, we already have one foot on that particular slippery slope.

How times have changed.

Many years ago, I recall my school maths teacher handing out examination results.

“Smith !” He bellowed to my friend. “You have scored 6% in Mathematics. You must work harder, boy!”

Smith looked a bit perplexed ” 6% out of what, Sir?”

Fast-forward 40 years. Smith has retired early with about £20 million in the bank.

University is not compulsory and we must stop, think and then return to proper education and proper Universities.

If  GCSEs, A-LEVELS and  Degrees are devalued any further, I can envisage the day when people will deny having “Qwaleefikashuns” and pride will be restored in non-academia.

Would you want to admit to a degree in Equine Psychology or Surfing?

We should look forward to the day when once again University students read without moving their lips  and who can write a decent essay without the aid of “cut and paste”.

Finally, just to show that you cannot fool the real world – over 100,000 University students drop-out after their first year.

Nearly a quarter of all university students FAIL to complete their degrees.

The average drop-out rate is nearly 20% and some “Universities” have a drop-out rate of about 40%.

(For those of you from Sir John Crap Metropolitan University in Lower Uppingham who can read this – that’s about a fifth or nearly a quarter.

40% is twice that  or nearly (but not quite) a half.

Sod it! Here’s something to colour in:)

THIS WEEK’S BANK RIP-OFF: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had reached a deal with insurer CPP and 13 high street banks and credit card issuers to pay customers compensation of up to 1.3 billion pounds for mis-sold credit card insurance.

It is the latest mis-selling scandal to hit Britain’s banks, which have been forced to increase their capital buffers partly because of huge compensation payments.

“Seven million customers, who between them bought and renewed about 23 million policies, will soon receive a letter from CPP giving more information on the process,” the FCA said in a statement .

“The involvement of the banks and credit card issuers reflects the fact that they introduced customers to CPP’s products and so must share responsibility for putting things right.”

Banks are still paying out compensation for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI), which so far has totalled well over 10 billion pounds.

The Financial Services Authority, which was replaced by the FCA in April, fined CPP 10.5 million pounds in November for mis-selling. Card protection insurance costs about 30 pounds a year, with identity protection about 80 pounds annually.

The FCA said customers were given misleading and unclear information about the policies and ended up buying protection they did not need.

The banks, credit card issuers and CPP have agreed to a “scheme of arrangement” which seeks to make processing claims simpler and easier, subject to High Court approval.

The banks and credit card issuers are Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Canada Square Operations, Capital One, Clydesdale Bank, Home Retail Group Insurance Services, HSBC, MBNA, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide, Santander, RBS and Tesco Personal Finance.

The FCA said the first payments were not due until spring 2014.

OOPS!!! China’s brokerages will come under government scrutiny after Everbright Securities mistakenly made 23.4 billion yuan(\$3.82 billion) of “buy” orders, collectively the biggest erroneous trade in Chinese stock market history. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) decided to widen its investigation of stock trading systems to all brokerages following its probe into a small Shanghai-based company that made the high-frequency trading software used by Everbright

GOLD BULLION is being surreptitiously moved out of London. It is being pulled out of London’s Exchange Traded Funds. It then goes to Switzerland where it is melted down and converted into small bars and coins. In the last eight months, about 800 TONS (!) have headed East. First to Switzerland and then Asia. As I said the other day – NOW is a good time to think about buying! Mind you, many gold MINERS are also looking very interesting at the moment.

SYRIA Nerve Gas Attack: Foreign Secretary William Hague: “The perpetrators of this atrocity will he held accountable.”…..Frank Gardner (BBC) “It’s doubtful whether those responsible will ever be found.” #AgentContagentHague

The West continues to believe that Democracy means “one man one vote”. Unfortunately, unless several other factors are in place BEFORE the pointless rush to the ballot box, Democracy will NOT work. Democracy works for us because we already have the sub-structure in place. That is to say: 1. A free Press  2. A independent judiciary 3. A reasonable and largely corruption-free civil service 4. A taxation system in which the majority of the population participates and finally 5. Some sort of predictable freely-given support system for society’s weakest. The answer is NOT a large tin box with a slot. Mugabe continues to prove that point as do the most recent catastrophies of Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Here in the UK, the perception is that the Coalition government has begun to dismantle at least TWO of the five pillars of Democracy. It does so at its peril.

The Ministry of Defence spent £70 million on making over 2000 people redundant. It is now rehiring about half of them at a projected cost of £40 million! Obviously part of the government’s job-creation scheme! Perhaps the government should re-prioritise. For instance, the government spends £500 million per year on press, marketing and campaigning with an additional £500 million on “Communications” (spin) . At £60 million, the biggest Comms spender is the NHS. In total, government departments have about 3,300 spin doctors.

# Egypt: another Iraq or Libya?

After the mess left behind in Iraq and Libya, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. Heroic speechwriter-polished phrases and Churchillian posturing are a remnant of a past when the words ” honour” and “bravery” still had currency.

Today, war is recognised as a filthy misery-spawning industry which, like an appalling Grand Prix Circuit, moves from country to country, leaving no more than a legacy of rubble and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness.

The most bizarre aspect of the whole circus is that the  leader of a small cluster of damp islands in the North Sea is always the one who makes the most noise, always hiding behind his younger but much bigger American cousin’s skirts. Collectively, the West feels that its job is to dispense the universally therapeutic remedy of “democracy” – even to those who don’t really want it.

Democracy is not an emollient to be force-fed in the same way that 18th and 19th century missionaries (from exactly the same damp islands) delivered Christianity to the world’s natives.

The Arabs are not even remotely interested in our special brand of democracy. Democracy is their excuse because they know that as soon as they shout “Freedom!” or “Democracy!“, the usual suspects will come riding in, dispensing guns with notions of rescue, egalitarianism and ballot boxes.

Can you imagine revolutions in the Middle East if the family businesses masquerading as governments distributed their oil billions as they should? Would the average Arab be interested in getting shot in the name of “regime change” or “democracy” – if he had a job, enough food, decent housing, a car, TV set,  free hospital care for his family and a bit left over? Of course not.

There is no such thing as absolute freedom or unbridled freedom of speech – and that is NOT the product which interests the Egyptian population.

With 77% youth unemployment, their revolution is based in economics not idealism and whatever the West’s response, it will be based on exactly the same criteria.

# Screw the Interview

Some of you may have read my “How to get to the top with absolutely NO talent” which gives a few tongue-in-cheek pointers as to what NOT to  when attending a job interview.

I thought that it might also be useful to tell you a few other pitfalls – especially as more and more of you will be attending interviews over the next few months (years!).

Turning up on time seems like an obvious piece of advice. Turn-up in plenty of time to ask where the loo is so that you can at least straighten your hair and see how you look after the journey. You know how it when you’ve either walked 100 metres from a train station or walked 20 paces from your car – there is always that rogue gust of wind which messes up your hair or that snap rain shower which makes your suit feel like a dishcloth or washes-away your makeup. Arrive with plenty of time to settle down and convince yourself that you look good!

At some stage during the interview, you will be asked whether you have any questions. There are a couple of things which you definitely never ask about. The first rule is that you never, ever ask about salary, overtime, holidays etc. The function of the first interview is to demonstrate how lucky your prospective employer will be if he is wise enough to hire you. The interviewer needs to know what you can do for his company and not to tell you what they can do for you.

Never ask inane questions about the company.  “How many employees do you have?” Do your homework. If you are being interviewed in an Agency pre-selection interview , you can get away with a few inane questions but remember that this type of interviewer sees you as no more than a commodity.

When you are asked the ubiquiotous “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” never reply “In your seat” or any of the other  trite replies which the interviewer has heard a million times before. Start your answer with a “Hopefully..” and talk about working hard and progressing. (Every company will lie to you and say that it runs a “meritocracy”).

You want a job. This job. You need to show commitment to the job which you are being hired for.

Another favourite (lazy) interview question is the good old “What are your weaknesses” question. Yes – even now, some interviewers believe that this is an excellent  interview question. Although it is a rubbish question, you can put a positive spin on it without appearing too clichéd.

The first rule here is not to give that type of answer which attempts to turn such a ridiculous question into a major positive. You know the sort of thing: ” I tend to be too much of a perfectionist” or ” I put in too many hours” etc etc. The only reaction answers such as these will generate is a yawn.

The correct way to deal with this type of question is to think about skills rather than attributes. For instance , if you need to polish-up your Powerpoint skills or have forgotten a few Excel shortcuts, use those. ” I’m a little bit rusty…..”

In my book, I state quite clearly that you should not lie about qualifications but that things such as GCSEs are rarely checked – so what you say about qualifications is up to you. However do not claim anything that you will not be able to bluff your way through or a qualification which suggests that you will be be able to do the job when you can’t.  Lie intelligently. Otherwise you are not-only wasting the interviewers time but your own as well.

Most interviewers realise that you will exaggerate the responsibilities you have in your current and previous jobs – just do not overdo it!

When you are approaching the end of the interview, the interviewer knows that you need to know as soon as possible whether or not you have been successful. The “When?” question is always a pain so don’t ask it. A bad interviewer (and there are lots of those), will sometimes make you believe that you have been successful and too many interviewees spend the interview misinterpreting what the interviewer is saying – especially if at some stage he says “We”, meaning “The Company” and you think that he is including you.

Don’t spend the interview searching for imaginary clues which make you believe that you have the job.

” I need to know as soon as possible because I have other interviews.” is another favourite which practically guarantees that you will not be participating in a second interview or shortlist.

” I really need this job.” or my personal  favourite ” I’d do anything to get this job.” do not convey you as a thrusting “go-getter” – just a desperate loser. (I’ve been on the receiving end of both).  Avoid!

Finally, I presume that you are wearing a suit (both males and females). If you are, make sure that it is clean and pressed and ladies – do not display your chest – no matter how proud of it you are. It can be an unnecessary distraction and in my experience , does little to enhance your job chances (and I’m a big fan!)  – but it is a very common mistake!

Good Luck….and remember the correct mind-set. It is THEY who will be lucky to employ YOU!

# Economic “Growth”?

Politicians are currently gadding about, scattering statistics like confetti and pointing everyone at figures which are not preceded by a minus sign!

It’s time we paused, drew breath and took a closer look at the figures. Before we do, let’s have a go at putting some general perspective on the numbers. In Europe, it is being reported that the E17 (Eurozone) and the E27 (EU) have “grown” by 0.3% and that the figures signal a recovery!! A few points about what 0.3% actually means.

3% means THREE parts in a HUNDRED, so 0.3% means Three parts in a THOUSAND……but there’s more! The percentage change being quoted is the change in nothing more than the PREVIOUS QUARTER (see the top of the table above). That means that even if the figure was -100 and it changed to -99.7, THAT would be a POSITIVE growth of o.3%.

However, if you look at the PERCENTAGE CHANGE COMPARED TO THE SAME QUARTER LAST YEAR (the right-hand column above), the figures remain negative ( -o.7% and -o.2%).

France returned to growth in the second quarter of 2013, boosted by stronger domestic demand, after two straight quarters of decline. However, France’s reported increase in consumer spending is largely as a result of increases in energy prices. It was not an “en-masse” dash to the shops!

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy grew 0.7% in the second quarter (compared to the previous quarter), and when annualised, it was the fastest growth of all the world’s advanced economies.

The Netherlands, whose government has been a strong supporter of austerity, reported a a second-quarter contraction of 0.2%, confirming its fourth straight quarter of negative growth. It remains in recession.

Portugal reported a quarterly growth of 1.1%,  Spain -0.1% and Italy -0.2%.

Compared with the same quarter of 2012, the United Kingdom is showing a growth of 1.4%, the same as the United States.

These figures are NOT a sign of the end of the Financial Crisis. That crisis remains firmly in place, with many of the figures indicating little more than the continued recovery from a particularly bad  and exceptionally long winter……………… a weather-related catch-up.

The second phase of the government’s Help to Buy scheme – which offers state-backed mortgage guarantees – will come into force from January. Despite criticism from the IMF,  the government has insisted the scheme will last for three years. Data released yesterday showed the first phase of the scheme, which offers interest-free loans on new-build purchases, was proving popular with buyers.  However, the associated rapid increase in property prices does suggest that they government may have created a housing “bubble”. The Governor of the Bank of England has played down growing concerns about rising house prices….. but continuing signs that the market is overheating could force the Bank of England to raise interest rates from their current 0.5 percent earlier than planned.

EUROZONE: In spite of record unemployment, its corporate profitability under intense pressure and fiscal policy being tightened further in 2014, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici has welcomed France’s second-quarter data (GROWTH of 0.5%), as a sign that the French economy had exited recession. A TYPICAL Politician’s extrapolation of ANY positive figure.