Snapshots for 14 November, 2015
8:51 am It was either an Al Qaeda attempt to reassert itself as No1 Banana in the Jihad, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), BOTH, or one pretending to be the other.
Very soon, the UK’s National Health Service will collapse under the burden of an impossible workload coupled to chronic government underfunding.
Unfortunately the Conservative mantra of “We have invested far more in the NHS than the last Labour government…..blah…blah…blah…” has become not only an absolutely meaningless slogan but a very bad joke.
Here are TWO straightforward numbers: As at 30th September 2014, there were 1,387,692 NHS employees. That figure included 701,872 clinically-trained staff. In one year, the growth of the first figure was nearly TWICE that of the lower figure.
Many years ago, I began my career in the Scientific Civil Service. There were barely 200 of us researching, with nearly 500 admin staff looking after us…..so nothing has really changed in at least 30 years.
The NHS has undergone far too many changes – many of them based on the amateurish whims of a procession of unqualified Ministers. Luckily, the current Secretary of State seems to be more competent than many of his predecessors, but nevertheless, he is BOUND to be allowing his judgement to be clouded by politics, dogma, ambition and the Treasury. That automatically disqualifies him from making major strategic decisions.
Those pompous medical fatcats – the Consultants…. who use the NHS as a ‘feeder’ for their private practices in order to line their own pockets, also need to be audited and controlled.
An all-embracing Management Audit needs to be undertaken as soon as possible – with only one aim…..To take a very wide “horizontal slice” out of the organisation so that the NHS administrative burden is brought DOWN to a sustainable level.
Yes, it IS very easy to justify layers of bureaucracy within a large organisation but NOT when they are killing the patient.
David Cameron is about to send his Christmas EU wish-list letter to Brussels.
As he licks the stamp, he should perhaps reflect on the fact that this is the third renegotiation since Britain joined in 1973 and our second referendum on membership.
It’s not even as if the United Kingdom is negotiating from a position of strength. The rather flaky economic recovery which Osborne thinks he’s sold not only to a gullible British public but also to the EU, is looking shakier by the day.
The much-promulgated “We’ve managed to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP!” may sound good in isolation but the much-maligned Eurozone has a Deficit-to-GDP ratio of only 2.1% ! (The UK figure is actually well over 5.0%). The only three coutries with a higher Deficit-GDP ratio are Croatia, Spain and Cyprus.
If you listen very carefully to Cameron’s referendum rhetoric, you may notice that he has moved from being pro-EU to very neutral. You will also notice that he’s chosen four very flabby areas on which to “negotiate”:
- Integration: Allowing the UK to opt-out of any EU Superstate nonsense
- Benefits: Restricting access to in-work and out-of-work benefits to EU migrants.
- Sovereignty: Giving greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation.
- Eurozone vs the rest: Securing an explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the European Union.
He has totally ignored our two biggest gripes: The £6-20 BILLION (depending on who you talk to ) net annual contribution to the EU and that obscenely inflated money-pit that is the Brussels bureaucracy. THAT is where the changes ought to be!
However, we can take comfort from the certain knowledge that WHATEVER our Prime Minister “negotiates” will be proven statistically to be a great (statistical) victory for the UK taxpayer.
Snapshots for 5 November, 2015
2:01 pm Chancellor #Gideon is considering scrapping tax relief on Pension Contributions but then allowing tax-free access to savings upon retirement. This should be resisted by everyone. Not only is it a bad idea, borne of Treasury short-termism and a Chancellor with a singular lack of imagination but it is also a con.....He obviously has not learned the Tax Credits lesson and is obviously in a hurry - before the UK economy 'tanks' again.
1:45 pm It's a great shame that even when Cameron makes an absolutely CORRECT decision in halting flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh, people still complain. As evidence accumulates, it looks increasingly likely that the Russian Airbus 321 was brought down by a catastrophic event which occurred inside the plane. DC is taking no chances - and quite right too!
Snapshots for 4 November, 2015
2:51 pm Continuing to enjoy the outrage and the irony of POLITICIANS criticising VW for being economical with the facts and misleading the public. http://reut.rs/1Wy2obH via @ReutersUK
The issues which the NHS is currently experiencing have a lot to do with a fundamental change in its ethos. When it was formed in 1948, its organisational foresight was totally focused on improving the health of a patient. The needs were the needs of the sick. Fast forward to 2015 and we see an amplifying obsession with expenditure and management.
The organisation no longer asks the question “How do we improve the health of a patient?” or “What are the patient’s needs?” The fundamental 2015 question is: “What patient needs does the capital allow?”
Patient needs are no longer an absolute. They are a function of cash available. Too many NEEDS and you’re dead!
It may sound counter-intuitive but the government can only solve the current NHS issues of underpaid Junior Doctors, the shortgage of beds, overpriced drugs, GPs becoming an endangered species etc. through a massive investment programme coupled to a gradual dismantling of the management structure which is weighing down what could once again become a great British institution.
NHS problems are mirrored in what has happened to the UK’s Education system. They have both been ‘broken’ by a lack of continuity, caused by interference by successive governments, ‘management’ by incompetent dogma-fuelled Ministers with their little ‘pet’ schemes – as well as the installation of massive administrative systems.
The reason why Private Schools and Private Healthcare are both cost-effective and thriving is NOT because they are private but because they are FREE of government interference and the sort of management and admin structures which would frighten the Indian Railway.
Snapshots for 3 November, 2015
4:44 pm An influential Commons committee has urged David Cameron not to press ahead with a vote on UK air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. The Foreign Affairs Committee - which has a Conservative majority - said the Prime Minister should instead "focus on efforts to end Syria's civil war". The committee also raised concerns about the legal basis for any UK action. Downing Street has strongly denied reports Mr Cameron has abandoned plans for a vote altogether.......but Oh YES, he has! There's no way that he can risk another Commons defeat, Lords humiliation or be seen doing to Syria what Blair did to Iraq. He has taken the line of least resistance.
In the United Kingdom, total Credit Card debt now stands at about £61,000,000,000. Approximately 2,000,000 people are in arrears or have defaulted and another 2,000,000 are struggling to repay their debt…..The Financial Services Authority says: “Our study suggests that the market is working reasonably well for most consumers, with a range of cards on offer. However, for a significant minority who are in persistent levels of debt, the market could potentially work better.” (Not sure what that means.)
David Cameron and George Osborne both appear to think that meeting other politicians somehow creates international trade. The fact is that politicians have very little influence on commerce and none at all on corporate trade-related decision-making.
The three months to September 2015 saw British exporters experience the weakest growth in orders since the second quarter of 2009 when the country was in the grip of recession.
Admittedly, manufacturing represents only about 10% of GDP but nevertheless it is worrying to see the UK’s export drive going into reverse at exactly the time when the government is dispensing such positive economic mood-music.
Yes, we understand that the UK economy is in better shape than most other European countries but then again, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man IS king!
Our overall economic growth has slowed to 0.5% per quarter but it is most likely that almost all of that growth is as a result of domestic demand – which is certainly not particularly encouraging within the global economy.
A Markit survey published yesterday shows that in spite of the rhetoric, the construction sector also slowed in October.
BURIED NEWS: The (our) government has given a cheap £45 MILLION loan to international Steel Mills Group EVRAZ (owned by Roman Abramovich). The cash will be used to upgrade a steel mill in Saskatchewan Canada which Abramovich owns jointly with Mitsubishi. #Redcar
George Orwell may have been 30 years out, but he was right. Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill must not be allowed to pass into Law. I certainly do not want to traumatize some innocent Plod as he or she scours my web-browsing history…(It was for research purposes!). Rewind 20 years and we have the equivalent of the government saying: “We want to steam-open your letters before you read them but we’ll only have sneaky little peek. Nothing to worry about. It’s all that terrorism y’know! It’s for your own good!”
Hopefully, once again…the House of Lords will protect us from a government which is becoming far too prescriptive and self-important.
Another case of Big Brother is Botching?
If you ask the average British person why they are dissatisfied with the nature of the UK’s membership of the European Union, the items which are always near the top of the agenda are: 1. The scale of our national contribution. 2. Migration fears. 3. The wastage on the bloated Brussels bureaucracy.
That is why it is strange to see that David Cameron’s tediously anaemic ‘negotiation’ shopping list does not mention TWO of the above. Here’s the list:
- Securing an opt-out from the principle of ever-closer union
- Protecting the rights of countries outside the eurozone
- Regaining more powers for national parliaments
- Overhauling the existing welfare rules in relation to migration
If Cameron does not deal which what is really bothering the UK voter, the 2017 EU referendum already has a foregone conclusion.
Snapshots for 31 October, 2015
12:01 pm Many years ago, I was in East Germany (don't ask!) and recall a Keep Britain Tidy demonstration being reported in a Russian newspaper. The strapline was "The average Englishman throws his rubbish onto the street." I knew what they meant but the impression given was horrific. This week, the following article made it to the Independent. Here's what is being reported about the United Kingdom and its 'hardworking people'....................‘Victorian’ diseases rise as Tories fail to tackle food poverty http://bit.ly/1S9nI6A
11:12 am Chancellor Osborne is off to Germany next week to outline how he wants to protect London's financial services industry in a reformed European Union. The fear is that ever-closer integration of the eurozone could leave London sidelined in financial policymaking, affecting its banking sector. In fact, London's status as a European financial centre has already been compromised by Cameron's dithering and inability to put down on paper the exact changes he is (apparently) negotiating. The continuing lack of detail on his demands for new EU membership terms, is causing both frustration, bemusement and a level of confusion among EU leaders. Cameron has now had to "do a Chilcot" by promising to send them his wish-list by next week.
Snapshots for 27 October, 2015
2:03 pm Growth in lending to eurozone corporations slowed almost to a halt in September while a broader measure of money circulating in the euro zone was unchanged, the European Central Bank said on Tuesday. Lending growth to non-financial corporations slowed to an annualised 0.1 percent in September from 0.4 percent a month before, while lending growth to households picked up to 1.1 percent in September from 1.0 percent in August. Sparse lending to companies has dogged the struggling euro zone economy although the picture improved slightly over the summer months before September's dip. The ECB last week raised the prospect of providing more monetary stimulus to the euro zone economy, possibly as soon as December, to boost inflation and growth. The M3 measure of money circulating in the euro zone, which is often an early indicator of future economic activity, grew by 4.9 percent in September, unchanged from August and missing forecasts for 5.0 percent. (Reuters)
Snapshots for 26 October, 2015
4:49 pm The overall cost of replacing and maintaining Britain's nuclear deterrent will reach 167 billion pounds, much more than expected, according to an MP's and Reuters' calculations based on official figures.
4:44 pm British banks approved the fewest mortgages last month since May, while net credit card lending fell to its lowest since September 2014. Now THAT'S what you call consumer confidence!
THE DEFICIT has been a constant in our ears ever since someone at Conservative HQ discovered that because the GDP was exceptionally low in 2010, THE DEFICIT was a high percentage of it.
In fact, it was about 10%.
Gradually, because the GDP has increased, THE DEFICIT has gradually become a lower percentage of the GDP.
It is now of the order of 5%……..or as Messrs Cameron and Osborne prefer: “We have HALVED the deficit!”.
Yes…from 10% to 5%.
The graph above shows that as far as THE DEFICIT is concerned, the United Kingdom continues to UNDERPERFORM the European Union.
(If you click on the “EXPLORE DATA” link on the above graph, you will land on the official Eurostat page where you can add other countries to the graph for comparison and have as much fun with statistics as our Coalition Government did!)
Many years ago, I was asked to chair a Citibank meeting during which the CEO and directors would meet the staff and answer pre-submitted questions. The whole event was started off by the Chief Executive delivering a “Where We Are Now/Where We Would Like To Be” presentation.
In the manner of all Chief Executives with an accountancy background, there were upward-sloping graphs, slides entitled “Return on Equity”, “Return on Income”, a lot about Profit, Expense Overruns, Assets, Take-over Plans etc. After about 15 slides of numbers, there was a final slide which, for some reason, senior management invariably feels obliged to roll out….It is the one about “Our MOST valuable asset…..OUR PEOPLE!”
I believe that it is meant to reassure staff how important they are to the business but having attended many meetings where the CEO only referred to staff as “FTEs” (Full Time Equivalents), that final slide seemed like a bit of an afterthought. ” HR needs an incremental FTE next year.” (In fact, his slides had been prepared by a team of Actuaries and Accountants, so inevitably there had been a slide showing how our FTEs needed to grow in order to deliver some very bullish business plans.)
Then we came to the Q&As. The ones which had been chosen were primarily about the business and its future. As the answers had been rehearsed by various members of the Board, the session went very smoothly and appeared to end on a high.
The CEO turned to me and whisphered ” Before we wrap this up, Richard……let’s take some more questions from the floor…”
I replied “No Paul….Just say a few words of thanks and let them loose on the sausage rolls…..”
The CEO nodded and stood up and addressed to 200-strong audience ” Does anyone have any more questions….Anything you like…….!”
I assume that no-one heard my “Oh, fuck!” as the benignly-smiling Chief Executive waited….
A gnarled hand at the back of the hall went up. It was Harry. He was past retirement age but we’d kept him on as office Postie. He was an old-school Union man who hated all management and their “queer” ways.
Paul the CEO knew Harry because everyone knew Harry, so he was extremely proud to be able to use a first name and demonstrate to everyone what a lovable caring boss he really was. “Yes, Harry….What’s your question?”
“Thank you, Paul,” said Harry “Are you aware that there are no plasters in the fourth floor First Aid Box. I’ve been telling Personnel for ages but they just don’t seem to care…..Not only that…but it’s contrary to Section C of the..blah, blah, blah…..”
“Oh , fuck,” I repeated into my notes.
The smile never left Paul’s face as he turned to me and said in a very loud voice “Richard….Why wasn’t I briefed about this? “
Needless to say, the meeting deteriorated as the staff, emboldened by troublemaker Harry started to ask the REAL questions. The meeting ended with an exhausted Board, an newly-liberated staff and a CEO who wanted me to meet him in his office the following morning.
The Coalition government has made the same mistake as Paul the CEO.
It has spent the last five years telling the voter about its achievements. It has bombarded the voter with statistics. It has told us that there is a “plan”. It has told us that there is a Deficit and that it has to be paid off…….and apart from a very short period last week, when there appeared to be a sudden realisation that it was not making contact with the people, it continues to spout figures and intentions.
As Harry showed the Citibank management, ordinary people are not interested in the Big Picture. What they are interested in though, is enough money in their pockets to deliver self-respect , good health, food and shelter for themselves and their family, freedom from worry and where appropriate, a job which can deliver a future as well as provide their present.
There is only ONE additional concept which every voter supports and which does not affect themselves directly. It is the thought that all vulnerable members of society are respected and catered-for.
The Deficit, “Since Records Began”, taking MILLIONS(!) out of tax etc are the Accountants’ slides which Paul the CEO bored his audience with.
The United Kingdom desperately needs a government and leadership which resonates with its people and not just with a calculator.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is quite right in having decided NOT to prosecute Lord Janner for alleged child abuse. Her reasons and rationale are to be found here: http://blog.cps.gov.uk/2015/04/the-decision-not-to-prosecute-lord-janner-statement-from-the-dpp.html
Although her reasons not to prosecute are (quite rightly) based in law, there is also the question of compassion…..something definitely not afforded the hundreds of children who have been abused over the years. However, compassion must never be confused with forgiveness and we must also remember that Greville Janner has never been convicted of child abuse.
Needless to say, this will be a great disappointment to his accusers as well as their families. His family must also be disappointed that he will go to his grave with accusations hanging over him without having had the opportunity to prove his innocence.
However, an old man who possibly may no longer understand either his alleged crimes or even a long legal process and whose medical condition definitely means that he is not a danger to society is certainly not an ideal subject for prosecution.
Janner has not “got away with it” as have many able-bodied and fully compos mentis individuals, who are doubtless still stalking Establishment corridors. His life is over – guilty or not.
Meanwhile a big “up” to Ms Saunders for taking the difficult decision, although she would do society as well as disappointed victims an immeasurable favour if her department and the police fast-tracked some of the many other files on their desks.
There is a serious point behind Janek Zlinski’s challenge to Nigel Farage…………and I know whose side I’m on!! #GE2015
Snapshots for 14 April, 2015
3:21 pm #GE2015 The Help to Buy scheme continues to place many young homeowners in “indentured servitude”? Why not do the same to those with a home enjoying the protection of a Housing Association by extending their Right to Buy? Although the Right to Buy Scheme seemed very trailblazing and successful in the 1980s, the sad fact is that Local Authorities continue to buy-back Council houses at greatly inflated prices. Placing more people in more debt and selling the concept as a great pre-election "positive" is arrant nonsense.....If you are tempted, remember.....mortgaging a property is no more than RENTING it from a bank, except that YOU pick up the tab for insurance and maintenance.....and knowing the Conservative Party's fondness for post-announcement small print....make sure that you understand what a pre-emption clause is, should you decide to sell-on your house after having exercised your Right to Buy. By the way, The Conservatives say that every house purchased by a Housing Association tenant will be replaced “on a one-for-one basis”. The Social Housing stock can be increased WITHOUT any more hare-brained schemes. Currently 3.4 MILLION people are awaiting Social Housing.
Snapshots for 11 April, 2015
8:53 am Ever since Ed Miliband was captured devouring a bacon sandwich with the expression of a psycho eating his own brother's liver, snappers have been trying to catch David Cameron in a similar predicament. This week, because the canny Dave was photographed tucking into a hotdog with a knife and fork, we have headlines such as "Cameron doesn't know how to eat a hotdog!" or "Prime Minister ate my dog...with a knife and fork!". If lazy journos take the trouble to Google "Cameron eats hotdog", they will find quite a few examples of DC biting into a Dog the traditional way. Anyone would think that there was an imminent election!
8:34 am The signs so far indicate that the Hatton Garden safety deposit heist was loosely based on the 2008 Jason Statham movie "The Bank Job", which was itself based on the 1971 Baker Street Lloyds Bank job. The main differences appear to be that in the Hatton Garden caper, the police alarm was set-off and ignored and the thieves were Health and Safety conscious - wearing both high-viz jackets and hard-hats! Just to strike a slightly political note: It is very likely that if it is shown that a burglar alarm WAS ignored, insurance companies will ensure that the Plod is soon standing in the dock , being sued for MILLIONS. However, as the taxpayer funds the Plod, it will be the taxpayer who ultimately pays the bill (as usual)!
Snapshots for 10 April, 2015
1:40 pm There's a bit of a contradiction in all this pre-election media nonsense. The pro-Conservative PRESS, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Sun, Times and the Evening Standard (TOTAL CIRCULATION 5.25 million) in the BLUE Corner AND only The Mirror with the non-Libdem bit of the Guardian holding the sponge, (TOTAL CIRCULATION about 1.1 million) in the RED Corner. That 5-1 in favour of the Blue corner! In spite of this apparent handicap, Labour and Miliband are edging ahead.... Can it be true that the electorate is finally making-up its own mind? Or is Tory dead-tree journalism a dead parrot?
11:15 am Jeremy Hunt Canvassing the doctors for support? Come, come, Jezza.....you're just NOT playing the game!!
10:59 am Conservative #GE2015 promises are now taking on a surreal air. The latest was from Eric Pickles who proposes to give people three paid days off per year in order to carry-out "altruistic works" such as watching the Test Match and mowing the lawn ... It does look as if Cameron is hoping to revive THE BIG SOCIETY, which is fast becoming a bit of a pre-election tradition which somehow manages to disappear by the summer! Here's Eric Pickles being put to the sword by Radio 4: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/eric-pickles-radio-4-interview-5490633
10:36 am "Help to Buy" and now, courtesy of the Libdems, the largely theoretical ( it AIN'T going to happen!) "HELP TO RENT". In order to complete the set, can we please also have "Help to Eat" for all those hungry people queueing at food banks and maybe, we can have "Help to find a Decent Job" for all those who wouldn't need HELP, if the government had not allowed house and rent prices to run out of control.
A couple of years ago, I was in Oman, running a Management Audit course for a dozen employees of a well-known petro-chemical conglomerate. The group they had sent me was the usual mix of nationalities, religions and language abilities.
Years of practice meant that I could judge how difficult or easy the week was going to be within a couple of hours of our first meeting. In keeping with my own tradition, I asked the course participants to interview each other and then introduce the person they’d interviewed. That gave me an idea of what they were all about but more importantly, their English Language skills.
We were is a very posh hotel for a week which gave me the opportunity not only to teach them some “hard-skills” but as usual, I planned to spend some time with each delegate informally – especially those who I felt might be “shy” and not ask questions or fully participate.
Having spent many years in hotels all over the world, I have two very simple rules: When I’m working I don’t drink alcohol or eat abnormally. However, this particular course turned out to be an epic which caused me to break one of my rules, for a very unexpected reason.
The Brazilian delegate spoke Linguaphone American (what I call the “tennis-player” accent) and although his English was passable, he was the most withdrawn of the whole group. He was the lone accountant …the others ranged from a couple of crazy drillers from the USA to a petrol station manager from Poland…all wildly extrovert.
On the second night, I asked the Brazilian to sit with me over a drink to see how he felt. We chatted about this and that, he noticed that I was nursing a lime juice. “Don’t you drink alcohol?” he asked.
” I MOST certainly do,” I replied…”but never when I’m running a course.”
” I see you are drinking LIME. Have you ever tasted a proper Vodka and Lime?”
I had only ever had a British Vodka and Lime…you know, the one with a shot of vodka plus a shot of cordial, topped-off with ice. He smiled…..
“Let me make you a REAL Vodka and Lime!”
JUST to be sociable, you understand…I nodded…and that simple nod was to lead to one of the most memorable drinks I have ever tasted.
We both walked up to the bar and he asked whether he could go behind the bar.
The barman said “Yes, of course” and my new Brazilian friend, Raoul was away!
He asked for sugar and fresh limes. A vast quantity of each was brought from the hotel kitchen and he began…and as he worked, I saw his demeanour change from standoffish accountant to Vodka super-hero!
Needless to say, the other course delegates gradually gathered around the bar to witness Raoul’s alchemy.
He cut limes in half and squeezed juice into a jug. Then he sliced limes and ground them with sugar to release oils from the rind (a Mortar and Pestle had been delivered from the kitchen). The green sugary Lime-sludge was deposited in the jug with the Lime juice. Then he crushed ice and threw it into the jug with a Brazilian flourish. Finally, a fresh bottle of vodka was brought from the freezer and glugged over the jug’s ingredients.
By then we were all slavering. Raoul lined up many glasses, placed ice cubes into each and began to pour his elizir. He then popped a swizzle stick in each and casually said “Enjoy!”
And we did! For most of the night……..and Raoul became the most popular (and extroverted) course delegate – although my 9 a.m. training session the following morning felt a bit flat!
You may be forgiven for wondering what precipitated such self-indulgent nostalgia….
Last week I invested in a bottle of Brighton Gin and as soon as I opened it, I knew that this was not just gin…this was GIN….Gin which deserved some care and special attention….and while I am sure that tipping Tonic into it and floating a slice of lemon is perfectly fine, I felt that it deserved more….SO…..
I gave it the FULL Raoul!
Only FOUR ingredients: Lime , sugar, ice and Brighton Gin…..but WHAT a mix!
It was sublime (geddit?), delicious and I have a new hobby….although, for the moment, my wife continues to have me on vision only!
First published 17th March 2015, The News Hub…. www.the-newshub.com
The relationship between the European Union, the Eurozone and Greece is no different to the relationships between many governments and their own citizens. The EU-Greece relationship is no more than a macro model of what is currently occurring, for instance, in the United Kingdom.
Let’s face it since the Greek crisis started a few years ago, in the main, the Greeks have been caricatured as lazy, workshy and the architects of their own misfortune. That naturally led to the assumption that they didn’t ‘deserve’ support from their richer European cousins unless they changed their ways.
Here in the United Kingdom, the scrounging working classes, just like the Greek nation, have really been clobbered over the last few years. They have been characterised as lazy, workshy and sitting back, as hard-working richer people fed them undeserved benefits. Government slogans such as “The workshy”, ” Abuse of the system” and “Benefits Culture” became common.
The government not only blamed them for a poorly designed welfare system by cutting benefits but humiliated the sick and disabled by forcing them to undergo questions and tests to ascertain whether they were deserving of government support.
Welfare benefits were even reduced if the State decided that they had more bedrooms than they really needed!
This was forced austerity without purpose.
The Greeks are taking the rap not just for their own economic shortcomings but for a very badly conceived and designed Eurozone. Their punishment too was humiliation through austerity.
Poor Brits had the state machinery and official interrogation to contend with whilst the Greeks were humiliated by the fiscal police known as ‘the troika’. Same principle, different scale.
The EU continues its slogan of “We want Greece to remain within the EU”, when all the evidence so far, is to the contrary.
The equivalent UK slogans are all about those ubiquitous ‘hard-working people’ and being ‘In it together’, which just like the EU – is supposed to be a club that everyone needs to belong to.
The oppressed eventually find a hate figure. The Greeks have found themselves the Nazis and poor Brits have found themselves ‘the toffs’ and the bankers. The Greeks want reparations for the damage done during WW2 and the Brits are enjoying bankers forgoing their comedy bonuses. The oppressors (real or imaginary) also need to be punished – an economic quid pro quo!
The Eurozone’s motives in not being too overt in helping the Greeks are very straightforward.
They say that they want to avoid a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone but in fact, it’s much more than that. There are other states within the European Union which are just below the radar and could potentially be in just as much trouble as the Greek economy. Spain and Portugal immediately spring to mind.
If Eurozone officials were not seen to dispense a certain amount of punishment to the Greeks before helping them, or if Greece decided to leave the Eurozone as a result of not being able to stand any more EU humiliation, others would doubtless follow . That means that Greece can only be helped by being thrown the occasional EU morsel, preceded by a public serving of abuse or austerity.
In the United Kingdom, the poor are being kept in line by also being thrown the occasional morsel such as an increase in minimum wage, a meaningless shift in tax bands or mini handouts which no doubt will be expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this week’s Budget.
It’s all about keeping the poor in check without giving others any ideas.
It’s all about keeping the poor in check without giving others any ideas.
(Reuters) – The head of euro zone finance ministers has urged Greece to “stop wasting time” and buckle down to serious talks and implementation of a reform programme to secure urgently needed fresh funds from its international creditors.
“Little has been done since the last Eurogroup (meeting two weeks ago) in terms of talks, in terms of implementation,” Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on arrival for a meeting of ministers of the 19-nation currency bloc.
“We have to stop wasting time and really start talks seriously,” he said, adding that euro zone partners stood ready to support Greece if it continued on the economic reform path.
Euro zone officials were not persuaded by a letter sent by outspoken Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday outlining seven planned measures. They said it was only a starting point and no basis for releasing frozen bailout money.
Varoufakis irritated EU partners in a weekend newspaper interview by dangling the prospect of a referendum.
Dijsselbloem said earlier the steps outlined were “far from complete”, adding that it would be very difficult to complete the reform programme during the four-month extension of Greece’s European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout that runs until end June.
Shut out of capital markets and with international loans frozen against a background of falling tax revenues, Greece could run out of cash later this month.
Hardline German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters Athens must start implementing its obligations and refrain from unilateral changes to its commitments.
Varoufakis, who wants a negotiated restructuring of Greece’s debt to official lenders, was quoted by Italy‘s Corriere della Sera on Sunday as saying the leftist-led government could call a referendum or early elections if European partners rejected its debt and growth plans.
The finance ministry later clarified that the Marxist former academic had been replying to a hypothetical question and that any referendum would “obviously regard the content of reforms and fiscal policy” and not whether to stay in the euro.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on leaving Paris for the meeting that while he was not worried about a risk of Greece defaulting, “things are serious”.
A source at the European Central Bank said the cash position of Greek banks, on a drip-feed of emergency funding, appeared to be stabilising after heavy deposit outflows from December to late February. The ECB would not allow Greece to increase its issuance of short-term treasury bills because it could not allow monetary financing of the government, the source said.
A senior politician in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc said Greece would be better off outside the 19-nation euro zone, suggesting that Schaeuble privately agreed.
“By leaving the euro zone, as Finance Minister Schaeuble has suggested, the country could make itself competitive again from a currency perspective with a new drachma,” former transport minister Peter Ramsauer, a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), wrote in Bild.
Merkel and Schaeuble have both said publicly they want to keep Greece in the currency area. But in a sign that German sentiment may be shifting, Ramsauer said a temporary “Grexit” would be a “great opportunity” for the country to boost its economy and administration “making it fit to return to the euro area from a position of strength”.
GREEKS WANT TO STAY
Seeking European support for his government’s efforts to alleviate deep hardship caused by austerity, leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday.
A Greek official said they would discuss how Greece can use EU funds to tackle what he called the humanitarian crisis.
Juncker has been trying to mediate between the new Athens government and its EU creditors, notably Germany, but his efforts have irritated Berlin, the euro zone’s main paymaster, which is keen to avoid sending mixed messages to Greece.
German Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter said in a radio interview he did not expect substantial decisions on Greece at Monday’s Eurogroup meeting because ministers were waiting for more financial details on the reform plans.
He criticised Varoufakis’ talk of a referendum or returning to elections, saying it would only delay what needed to be done.
An opinion poll on Monday showed a large majority of Greeks want Athens to reach a compromise deal with lenders to avoid having to leave the euro.
Some 69.6 percent of Greeks say the new leftist-led government should look for an “honourable compromise” to resolve the crisis, according to a Marc survey for the newspaper Efimerida Ton Syntakton. Only 27.4 percent of those questioned wanted Greece to refuse any compromise, even if that meant having to leave the euro zone.
Tsipras won power in January promising to renegotiate the bailout package and end austerity, but was forced to accept a four-month conditional extension to avert bankruptcy.
(JAN STRUPCZEWSKI AND INGRID MELANDER with Additional reporting by Robin Emmott, Tom Koerkemeier, Renee Maltezou and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin in Berlin, Steven Scherer in Rome and Angeliki Koutantou in Athens; Writing by Paul Taylor Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)
(A government FAILS to persuade bankers to lend to the common people.)
The Gates to Economic Recovery and New Prosperity were being guarded by the Bankers.
A tired and bedraggled band of travellers stood before them. They were led by Camron, the legendary economic illusionist and Prime Minister of the Ukshire.
The Chancellor Gideon, the Cabinet and other Uks were busying themselves with trying to appear invisible – an ancient trick modeled after the mythical Bank Elders.
Camron raised his pink chin so as to appear less terrified than he really was. He tried one of his famed rictus-like smiles. “Please let us in! We have cleared The Mess!” .
After he had spoken, he looked round to his band of followers for their approval – for that was their job. They made the customary grunting and “Hear! hear! The Mess! The Mess!” noises of approval.
The Bankers were confused and even a little frightened but nevertheless, were obliged to follow their elders’ orders.
“You have to pay to come in,” oozed the Banker as he counted heads and flicked at his abacus. His fingers were a blur as he remembered: “…then there’s the insurance…..and other charges”. The abacus was smoking.
“But we have already collected and given you all the gold that we could find. And you did promise than when our coffers were empty, we could come in. It is getting so cold out here. We are tired and hungry and we can see that behind the gates there is sunshine and the New Prosperity. If you will not let us in, would you please lend us a little of our own gold back, so that we can eat . Many are dying – even the hard-working people”
” That is not our problem. WE hear that there are Food Banks for the poor! You enjoyed the Old Prosperity when we gave you more than we had and now, we have no more to lend. Anyway, you look as if you would not be able to repay it.”
” But who are all those smiling happy people who I can see through the gates?”
” They are the Bankers. It is the time of the Feast of Bonus and they are celebrating and making merry. Are you a Banker?”
” No I am not but there are occasions when I am speaking to an audience – I imagine that I can hear a whisper in the audience.”
” And what is this ‘whisper’ ?”sneered the Banker.
” It seems that there are some who think that I am a Banker – because that is the sacred word that imagine I hear. On some occasions, I can hear it several times. There must be many who think that I am a banker. Can I at least come in? Just to see?”
” Why should anyone think that you are a Banker? Do you receive a bonus? Do you have large expense account? How big are your share options?”
” I have none of the Sacred Trappings – I am merely the Prime Minister of the Uks but there are those who see me nearly as important as a Banker. In fact, sometimes I hear whispers which make me think that the people wish me to be in charge not only of the Cabinet, the country but of even …………………the Bankers.”
Camron immediately looked down at his feet because he sensed that he may have gone too far. His entourage cowered.
The Chancellor Gideon tried to make himself even more invisible and only just stopped himself from laughing by biting so hard into the back of his own forefinger that blood flowed from the wound. As you would expect, it was a clear liquid.
Shocked, the two Gatekeeper Bankers took a step back. They had never heard such a preposterously outrageous claim. “In charge of the Bankers???? Who? You?!!”
They knew in that instant that they were dealing with a “Dangerous” but decided to continue the dialogue and try to learn more.They didn’t usually have contact with people.
They had heard the legend that one day, a simple creature would come to the Gates and become “In Charge”. No-one quite knew what this strange phrase meant but they wanted to be sure.
Was this “The One?”. They doubted it because the legend of the god Euro suggested that the one who would one day be in charge, was to be a red-headed female called Merkil from the Land of the Goths.
But the pink-faced stranger had just used the sacred “In Charge” words!
It was a joke among Bankers because they knew that no-one but a Banker could be “in charge”…… They were the chosen ones. They used to serve the people but now the people served them.
” Are you ill? What are the people saying?” The Banker took out his Magic Blackberry and punched at some buttons. His eyes did not leave Camron’s pink face, who continued:
” Sometimes when I am speaking in riddles to the people of The Deficit and suchlike – I seem to hear not just “Banker” but also “King” Banker. That is the phrase! They call me a “Right King Banker”. That is the phrase I hear.”
” But can you talk in riddles? Can you make money disappear? Are you so self-serving, selfish and thick-skinned that you can ignore the criticisms of all those around you? How good are you at offering help to those who do not need it? Were you unpopular at school? Have you ever given money and then changed your mind and taken it back? Well…… have you. Do you have the Gift of Sneer ?”
It was like a bolt of lightning. Camron knew! He was The One !!
He tried his smile once again. Some recoiled in disgust but there were those within earshot who were also beginning to believe that perhaps Camron was “The One”.
Camron certainly believed it. He would ask for an Inquiry – just to be sure. He liked an Inquiry – that most holy of Ministerial Sacraments. Meanwhile, he decided to take the bull by the horns – he would assert himself.
” Bring the Head Banker to see me here at the Gates. Tell him that David of Camenor (for that was his real name) wishes to see him!”
There were gasps. Humans, Uks and Bankers looked at each other. For what seemed like an eternity, there was a cold, dark silence – just like the one which would follow a joke made by the Prophet Milibrand the Younger!
Just as suddenly, the beyond-dead atmosphere was broken by a commotion inside the Gates. Word had been sent to the Head Banker. There was no going back!
Eventually, a short man in a black silk pinstriped suit appeared at the gates. His gold tooth and diamond in his chunky gold pinkie ring flashed as he removed his Fedora. The black overcoat remained draped over his shoulders as he approached Camron.
Camron noticed that the Head Banker’s white silk tie matched the handkerchief tumbling out of his breast-pocket. He briefly imagined his own finger in the Head Bankers chunky ring!
They stood toe-to-toe. It was the Banker who spoke.
Camron felt more resolute than he had ever done in his life. This was his destiny! He would be the saviour of the people. This was his time. He cleared his throat.
” On behalf of the people, I command you to lend them the money so that they may enter the Gates of Prosperity.”
It was the briefest and most “to the point” statement that Camron had ever made – and he’d managed it without an Inquiry! He felt quite exhilarated and just in case someone was sketching this historic moment, he struck a heroic pose and focused his bloodshot piggy eyes on the horizon.
Karney the Head Banker moved even closer. They exchanged knowing smiles, although the Head Banker’s eyes retained all the charm of two bullet holes .
Almost imperceptibly, as Camron leaned to wards him, the Banker’s expression changed.
Swiftly, he brought his knee up.
Snapshots for 24 February, 2015
4:51 pm With Malcolm Rifkind (quite unnecessarily) having made the grand gesture of Political Sepukku, the Conservatives will be looking to Labour's Jack Straw MP for a similarly honourable and pointless act. Jack is already standing down as MP in a month's time but surely, there must still be something by which he could demonstrate that there is honour in politics. Turning down a peerage would earn a few Brownie points. Mind you, he does appear to be under the misapprehension that members of the House Lords can carry on with impunity and acquire any number of nice little earners.....so THAT'S probably out of the question. Mind you, SHOULD a sudden explosion of avarice and self-ennoblement disqualify him from his hard-earned Baronetcy?
3:16 pm It looks as if the Eurogroup is giving Greece little chance of breaking free from its crippling austerity. Surely they understand that Greece has little chance of Economic Growth with the jackboot of austerity still on its neck. Hopefully, the #EU is not hoping for a U-turn to 100% compliance by attempting to "engineer" the return of Samaras and his Euro-poodles.
We are constantly being reminded that that the May General Election, rather than being an ideological battle between the two usual suspects, it is much more open…..but is it?
The main two protagonists have been standing toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring for some months now…but it is is the Blue Corner’s “second” who is twitching on the slab, hoping for a last-minute crumb of absolution from the electorate. The mauve circus continues to be led towards that mythical New (EU-free) Dawn by their gurning ringmaster…hardly spilling a drop as he marches through town…always steering towards the Main Event but aware of the fate which befell the man on the slab. There are the tree-huggers flitting in and out like Noddy’s goblins…but there will always be tree huggers. The REAL Green Controller is staying well out of this Rumble in the Westminster Jungle.
The UK 2015 General Election IS a Beauty Contest but with only two contestants. No matter HOW many votes go to the Mauve Circus, the Man on the Slab or the Green Goblins, it is (and always has been) either the man in the Blue Corner or the Man in the Red Corner who will become Champion.
So which one should our money be on?
Very light on his feet (No! NOT in that way!), trains hard by performing endless U-turns and making vague promises about the future. Puts on a brave face but beginning to suffer mild stabbing pains between the shoulder blades. He likes to start fights but rarely finishes them (see European Union) but likes to say that everything will improve, if he wins his next fight. His “previous” as a former speechwriter to John Major (really?) and special adviser to Norman Lamont (in 1993!) does NOT look too good on paper but his shouting skills at the Despatch Box have become legendary…plus he has perfected the art of giving the same answer to every question! For example: “Good afternoon, Dave” “It would have been a much better afternoon if we didn’t have to clear up the mess..left behind….etc” Invented but unfortunately mislaid The Big Society.
Although youthful, his face looks as if he’s been in many fights but apparently, it’s his natural look. He suffers from the same stabbing pains as the other guy but always gives the impression that he is very thick skinned….as you’d expect from someone who once shafted and humiliated his own brother in public. His general “look” has been described by some as “weirdo chic”, as has his voice, face and hair. His “previous” is as impressive as his opponent’s…his main claim to fame being a very long-standing association with the Old Charmer himself, Gordon Brown…as an adviser and then as author of his party’s last election manifesto. A 2011 Ipsos Mori poll found him to be less popular that Iain Duncan-Smith when he was Leader of the Opposition.
THIS is going to be very close but my money will be on the Blue Corner……Purely on political guile, leadership qualities, contacts and presentation skills. However, they ARE reasonably well-matched with the main issue for both of them being the quality of the people they have surrounded themselves with.
(Who would YOU rather see across the table from Putin?)
After the mess left behind in Iraq, Libya and Syria, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. For most political leaders, 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 destruction and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness, rubble and refugees.
The most bizarre aspect of the whole Middle East 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…..and unsurprisingly, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minster is at it again. This time, from the safety of the White House.
Historically, 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 used to be THE excuse because they knew that as soon as they shouted “Freedom!” or “Democracy!“, the usual suspects would come riding in, dispensing guns with notions of rescue, egalitarianism and ballot boxes.
THAT didn’t work so now it’s Muslim Fundamentalism and not democracy which needs to be spread! However, the Root Cause remains the same. Only the excuse is different.
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 Muslim be interested in getting shot in the name of “regime change” , “democracy” or even “Islam” – 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.
Exactly the same economic argument applies here in the West . Would as many young Muslims fly to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State if they had a career, a home and a future? Would they blow-up magazine offices and fly planes into buildings?
With horrific levels of Muslim youth unemployment and social exclusion, their “Islamic revolution” is primarily based in economics….. not religious idealism.
Once Western leaders accept that, instead of constantly citing “Radicalisation”, we may be a step nearer to finding a solution.
The Summer of Love, Woodstock and now Je Suis Charlie…….. Love-ins are doubtless very motivational, inspirational and emotionally regenerative but unfortunately, they carry with them a large dose of exponential decay.
Other demonstrations such as Solidarność worked because they were not-only inclusive but they also hinted at revolution and violence……..undercurrents which are (by definition) always missing from love-ins.
Make no mistake, the events in Paris yesterday were wonderful and uplifting but regrettably, not transformational. They were no more than a herd coming together after a few of its members had been attacked and killed by predators. We were all looking for emotional warmth, safety, reassurance, a feeling of belonging and motivation of the sort which only a herd can provide.
It was all terribly emotional but in time, emotions grow dim.
Words of love and respect were spoken by members of all denominations and class. Politicians delivered their obligatory words of defiance. Social and Political commentators provided analysis and words of caution as well as optimism. Mothers brought their children for that “I was there” moment….but feelings will pass and memories fade.
We are currently watching the emergence of a rogue herd which is not yet ready for the pragmatism of rubbing along peacefully with all the other herds. The Islamic State will be “l’étranger” for some time to come. Showing it love and respect is impossible for the rest of us because for the moment, in spite of our numbers, it is they who are the predators and we are the hunted.
However, looking at the magnificent sight of two million individuals sweeping slowly through the streets of Paris reminds us that it is not only time which is on our side but that it will always be a numbers game.
Yesterday, the human herd grew….both in numbers and stature.
Social Unrest has little to do with Democracy or Government. It has everything to do with uneven & unfair Wealth Distribution and hungry people. See Italy and Greece…… It WILL happen elsewhere, especially in the “We’re in this Together” “United” Kingdom.
We have had many scandals in the UK. By far the greatest is that a country which (on paper) is one of the Top 10 richest in the world has a need for food banks.
The Conservative solution to British hunger and poverty is best exemplified by Leader of the House & former pin-up boy of the teaching professions, Michael Gove:
“Those who find themselves without money for food are not best able to manage their finances”
Just like the Government! When there’s not enough money in the kitty, you either borrow or do without. The trouble with the hungry is that they are unable to conjure-up food money by clever accounting tricks which make them look better off than they are.
Political and Establishment figures keep “calling” for stuff! “Calling” appears to be used as an action substitute. They “call” for ceasefires, they “call” for international responses and so on. They even “called” on Russia to get out of Crimea!
Today, it’s the turn of the Archbishop of Canterbury! Today, he will CALL for more help to prevent British families from going hungry.
I call on them all to shut up and DO something positive.
Whether you provide a service or whether you make something and no matter how GOOD you are, you need to tell the world about what you produce. THAT means that a large part of your job is Selling!
Whenever I train people to sell, I tend to major on how to get your product or service in front of people and how to turn value into hard cash. A good Sales Presentation IS useful but as MOST entrepreneurs who fail, do so because they don’t distribute or sell their product effectively, I thought that on this occasion, I would cut to the last bit……the very end of a pitch, presentation or meeting – so that you recognise the signals which tell you that you have hit a brick wall and have made an error during your pitch.
I have many years experience of pitching my company to senior management – usually the Chief Executive and even though I’ve completed hundreds of pitches, presentations etc, I still find myself making the occasional mistake – usually by simply misreading my prospect’s signals.
Here are some phrases which you may have already come across….ALL of them indicate that somewhere along the line, you have made a mistake. It’s by no means irredeemable but you DO have a bit more work to do:
” Leave me your card, I’ll get back to you.”
” I need to discuss this with my partner/directors/ wife/ HR Director/ Purchasing Manager/ Accountant/ Solicitor etc etc.”
” Call me in a week’s/Month’s time.”
“Let’s get Christmas/ Easter/ Summer Holidays etc out of the way…then we’ll talk again.”
“Write to me.”
“We’re reorganising/moving premises/installing a new system.”
“At the moment, everything is a bit ‘Up in the air’….I’ll call you when we’re ready.’
“We’ll definitely go ahead in the New Year/ next month/next financial year etc.”
If you look carefully, ALL of the above are stalling statements from someone who has not been persuaded that he or she has a NEED or that YOU are the one to satisfy their need.
So, if after the first one or two follow-up phone calls, letters or emails, you are still being stonewalled…..move on and maybe come back in a few months.
Remember: There are NO reasons…only excuses and bad sales presentations!
In September 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that there SHOULD be a “clawback” system for bankers’ pay.
In February 2013, the EU was POISED to cap banker bonuses.
In January 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron said that a bonus COULD be clawed back but not basic pay.
In November 2014, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England said that bankers’ pay MAY need to be clawed back.
It would seem that life on the two planets which exclusively orbit only each other….Planet Bank and Planet Westminster….life moves slowly and is mostly populated by Modal Verbs….a sort of Mañana in suits!
Meanwhile, Investment Bankers continue to gorge themselves…..and all we can do is ….well…..nothing.
The primary reason for the outrageously high payments to the designer-labelled barrow-boy City slickers is the over-simple reward system. The City rewards the “ups” but does not penalise the “downs”. That encourages short-term risk-taking. A trader can make a large bonus from the profit on a deal but when that deal collapses or the share price falls, there are no sanctions.
In the good old days when life was simple, every day was sunny and back doors were left unlocked, a Life-Assurance salesman (remember those?!) would be paid what was known as “indemnity commission” on any contracts that he sold…… (Incidentally, all the large Pensions and Life salesforces were trashed because of mis-selling! The job was then handed to the banks)
If the salesman sold a £100-per-month policy to a client , he earned say £1,000 in “up-front” commission. Over the next twelve months, the client paid his £100 per month and at the end of the year, the salesman’s commission had been paid for. However, if the policy lapsed in the meantime, the commission was “clawed back” pro rata. That simple system discouraged selling policies to high-risk clients who were likely to lapse their policies.
That method of advance payment was called Indemnity Commission…..a sort of loan against future earnings.
With the sophisticated systems that all financial services companies now operate, it would be simple to create a payment system which took into account the often negative consequences of trading. Bonuses could be paid but with a “clawback” period during which the deals which had been made would be monitored.
It is now time for those nice people at the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority’s latest incarnation to bare their teeth and take control.
The argument of having to pay obscene bonuses in order to hire “the best” has been used before. “The best” used to mean the most aggressive and most ambitious and the most likely to take shortcuts.
We now have the opportunity to enter an era where “the best” means the best-qualified, the most knowledgeable and the most professional. NOT the most crooked.
Mind you, the opportunity has already been around for a few years…… Perhaps tomorrow……
Worried or embarrassed about your GP examining you ?
About two months ago, my brother-in-law went to see his G.P about a back pain. The doctor examined him, told him that he’d strained his back and prescribed mild painkillers. He told George that his back would get better but that at his age, it might take some time.
A couple of weeks after that, George went to the doctor again. The pain was not improving and he was beginning to walk with quite a pronounced stoop. As a surveyor, there were occasions when he needed to climb ladders and he was naturally worried that his back might “give way” when he was up a ladder.
Needless to say, the G.P made the customary reassuring noises, examined George again and prescribed slightly stronger painkillers and a cream.
George began the course of painkillers and finally imagined that he was feeling some improvement.
Two weeks ago, he was climbing down a loft-ladder at home when the heavy trap door fell on his head, cutting a deep gash in his forehead. The following day, rather embarrassed, he visited his G.P again…..purely as a precaution.
The doctor examined him yet again, suggested that he finish his course of painkillers but that it might be a good idea for George to cal 111 and arrange an MRI scan…”just to be on the safe side”….. He thought that he would have the scan within two months.
Several days later, George’s family noticed that his head was permanently bent forward but said nothing….they thought that it was all part of the last few months’ back pain.
Last week George woke up in the night but found that he could not move and was feeling a tingling sensation in one arm.
His wife immediately called 999 because she was unable to move him.
In hospital, he was properly immobilised and put into a neck brace. The following day, he had X-rays and a scan.
The X-Rays and scan revealed that he has a broken neck and shadows which appear to be lymphomas around his spine. The hospital doctor asked for a biopsy.
It has now been confirmed that George has prostate cancer which has spread to his lymph glands and his bones have been weakened to the extent that they are so brittle that they are in danger of breaking with only a medium impact.
The prognosis is NOT great but it’s all still treatable……..
STILL worried about your GP examining you?
I’m only worried about THAT GP examining me and if I thought that it would do any good, I would publish his name.
Once watched a Conservative corporate video: "The primary objective of the Conservative Party is…………" ..Bet you can't guess….
— Richard Ruzyllo (@spygun) October 10, 2014
An unpleasant consequence of a Scottish ‘YES’ vote will be David Cameron’s current stabbing pains between the shoulder blades becoming fatal.
He, as Prime Minister has a DUTY to maintain the Union, so if Smuggins Salmond finally gets his way, DC will have to go. His footnote in history will be as the PM who saw the Union collapse.
Traditionally, the Conservative Party doesn’t leap on its leader until he or she looks fatally wounded. Once that happens, the surgery will be very swift!
Currently, the Conservative Party does not have the advantage of being spoilt for choice of potential leader……DC is by far the best they have – by MILES. That means that there is a very real danger of yet another lame-duck Tory leader having greatness thrust upon him (or Theresa). (Forget Boris for the moment…he is still praising DC….presumably, the burying will come later).
Let us hope that the Tories don’t screw the Union further by not-only losing Scotland but losing a leader, leaving us with the spectre of Prime Minister Miliband Minor, aided and abetted by Nick Clegg, with no EU referendum in 2017.
There’s more at stake that we realise!
Iraq’s neighbours are Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Together, they have over 300,000 active military personnel with another MILLION available for combat.
The fighting and disputes in the Middle East tend to be factional and centre around disagreeing flavours of Islam. The present ISIL expansion is no exception.
Instead of giving a very good impression of sitting back and allowing the West to worry about the genocide and destruction in Iraq and elsewhere, perhaps the Arab States would consider taking the initiative.
After all, they buy arms from the West. Perhaps they should consider getting some of them dirty.
They have the firepower….but do they have the will?
Anyone else hearing the rumours that Sean Connery is preparing to stand for President of Scotland?
And can anyone think of a better reason for voting ‘NO’ ?
It began with Saddam: “Killing his own people, “Outrage”, “We condemn”, “We will take action”, COBRA meeting, Statement: “Blah Blah…unacceptable”, “we will do out utmost…….” with the same dreary and predictable consequences. Then we had EXACTLY the same rhetoric for Gaddafi, then Assad and now ISIL.
There is just ONE practical step which David Cameron should think about : SHUT UP!
Threatening Islamic fanatics whilst hiding behind America’s skirts achieves absolutely nothing and only serves to aggravate the ISIL nutters and embolden them even more.
They KNOW that the odds of them being caught are very slim.
Prime Ministers ALWAYS say that “there will be justice…” or “they will be hunted down” but these are all empty threats because since Ken Bigley was beheaded , the promises made by Blair, Brown and now Cameron have not been delivered. The anger is there, the intent is there but not a single terrorist has been brought to justice for murdering hostages. We don’t have the “reach” or the resources.
Today, foreign ministers are meeting in order to decide a joint plan…..again. There will be another communique, more outrage and more threats…..and life (and death) will move on.
Snapshots for 13 September, 2014
12:23 pm In the last fortnight, there has been an appreciable increase in articles and analysis of the Eurozone economy. Couple that to the ECB becoming involved in a semantic argument as to what does and what doesn't constitute Quantitative Easing, one can almost sense nascent rumblings of the economic Richter Scale. Hopefully, it's a false alarm and the seismograph stops twitching soon.....(Eurozone UNEMPLOYMENT steady at 11.5%)
Snapshots for 12 September, 2014
9:45 am Nigel MacFarage has what can only be described as a bit of a Dalai Lama. Today, he's off to Scotland to create a bit of Euro mischief with the very valid argument that Scotland may be giving up one form of political slavery for another. A YES vote will mean that they will be able to throw off the chafing shackles of Westminster Imperialist rule....but if Benito Salmond then pushes for Scotland's EU membership, the new masters will be those Brussels bureaucrats, which Nigel fears more than a dose of Ebola. On the other hand, has he forgotten that once a YES vote has been delivered, the Woad applied and Salmond has shouted himself hoarse (or preferably SILENT!) with rabid cries of "Freeeeedommmmm!!!", Scotland will be OUT of the EU....which surely, is a GOOD thing? We sense yet another referendum or two.
9:33 am Officially there have been NO Russian soldiers in Ukraine. However, the bodies of dead Russian soldiers have been repatriated and injured Russian soldiers are being treated both in Rostov and in Moscow. There must be a secret conflict in which Russia is participating as the paperwork accompanying the dead soldiers does not indicate their place of death.
Snapshots for 18 August, 2014
11:49 am A concept which Western negotiators would do well to get to grips with is "MASKIROVKA"...something Russia is very good at! http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/maskirovka ........... Humanitarian Aid ? OK...if you say so! That scamp Putin is still running circles around everyone. Sanctions? I still remember years ago, the USA quietly asking Russia to please stop printing dollars. For the moment, the contest between Russia and the West appears very uneven. A good starting point would be for the West to LIFT all sanctions and force Putin to make his move :)
During the last four years or so, there has been a lot of political talk about “the mess THEY left behind”. Here it is:
Snapshots for 15 August, 2014
11:44 am Ebola, Famine and fighting in Africa.......... Rape, murder, racism, religious oppression and high explosives in the Middle East..... On the brink of war in Ukraine........HE certainly DOES move in mysterious ways!
Snapshots for 30 June, 2014
12:50 pm Cameron's ex-media chief Coulson to face payments re-trial http://reut.rs/1nXFLNv via @reuters
GLASTONBURY and its Winnebagos, air-conditioned yurts, Chardonnay and designer hippies…….. reminds me of more innocent days:
Snapshots for 27 June, 2014
9:53 am We have learned (again) that David Cameron is not a tactician but a merely a talker and purveyor of quioxotic promises, who has been unable to come anywhere near blocking the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission President. We have a quote which crystallises the futility of Cameron's stance. It is from Belgium's former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt - himself blackballed by Britain for the EU job a decade ago: "Arguing that the commission president should not be a federalist is like saying that the next pope should not be a Catholic."
9:39 am #EU If David Cameron cannot even block an "old guard" federalist as commission chief, what chance does he stand of clawing back significant powers from Brussels? After the P.M's massive "FAIL", look out for face-saving EU consolation prizes, such as EU leaders allowing the UK a few business-friendly policies and a maybe a key commission post to oversee reforms such as the internal market portfolio. No doubt, DC's spinmeisters are already hovering over their keyboards, ready to rewrite this latest EU cock-up as a great tactical victory.
8:06 am Prime Minister David Cameron should have negotiated quietly with other European leaders and built an anti-Juncker alliance by arguing his case through reason and gentle persuasion. Unfortunately, as usual, he could not resist the temptation to gob-off and get everyone's back up by giving his customary impression of a petulant schoolboy. The argument is now lost and Jean-Claude Juncker WILL become head of the EU executive.
Snapshots for 26 June, 2014
4:06 pm Tweeting blind from spygun.com. Hope Tweets are coming through!! :)
11:32 am Errol Damelin who resigned from WONGA this month, just before the solids hit the air conditioning, owns 16.8 MILLION Wonga shares through Castle Bridge Ventures which is based in the British Virgin Islands......PROPER British Capitalism!
11:24 am Presumably after its deception of impersonating a Solicitor, Wonga will be calculating the compensation to its victims at a rate of five YEARS at 5852% ....and what excuses will the OFT and FCA be offering for not throwing the book at the company?
7:36 am #UKIP What does Nigel Farage do between elections? Have you noticed that he only appears when there are seats to be fought? I like to think that he's in an earth-filled coffin in a castle somewhere near Salzburg.....
7:27 am Good to hear that, rather than those sugar-laden fruit juices, schools are going back to providing pupils with WATER........which I believe is some sort of mixer... :)
7:19 am Prime Minister David Cameron used to work in Public Relations? Not much evidence of that this week...#Coulson #Juncker However, he is very lucky that it is only Miliband who faces him across the Dispatch Box.
The judge in the British phone-hacking trial criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for not waiting until all verdicts were in before commenting on Andy Coulson, his former media chief who is facing jail.
Less than two hours after yesterday’s verdict, Cameron issued what he called a “full and frank” apology, saying he had taken Coulson’s assurances of innocence at the time at face value, something he now realised was a mistake.
The jury was however still deliberating on two further charges on Coulson.
“I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdicts” the judge, John Saunders, said in court.
“My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done. Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge.”
In addition, the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, referred to Coulson as “a Criminal” !
The jury was discharged today after failing to reach agreement on whether Coulson was guilty of authorising illegal payments and it would now seem that Coulson will NOT be tried on the two remaining charges against him because of the premature outbursts by clueless politicians.
In spite of Cameron’s very dramatic waving-about of the Leveson report during PMQs, like some executive Teddy Bear or talisman designed to protect him from any suggestion of wrongdoing in hiring Coulson….he still doesn’t get it!
The Root Cause of this mess is not “I am innocent of negligence because I was given ASSURANCES ” but in the amateurish recruitment procedures on Planet Politics.
“I hear that he’s a good bloke”……….” I knew his father”………… We were at the same school”…….”I shagged his sister”….etc…. STILL take precedence over ability.
Coulson was “recommended”…..and of course, the Conservatives needed to please their benefactor Rupert Murdoch.
( It was Chancellor Osborne who did the recommending…….. What’s his game?)
Select Committee members can do a bit of grandstanding, Prime Ministers deliver a bit of macho jive talk – but the fact is that politicians can do jack-s*** about the Pfizer/Astra Zeneca deal . They CANNOT influence board or even management decisions.
Read carefully what DC said this week: “
Our entire approach is based on TRYING to secure the best possible deal in terms of jobs, investment and science. And that is why I believe it was absolutely right to ask the cabinet secretary to ENGAGE with Pfizer, just as we’re engaging with AstraZeneca, and I do find it extraordinary that we’ve been criticised for this.”
The Enterprise Act only allows government to intervene in the case of mergers affecting NATIONAL SECURITY or MEDIA OWNERSHIP.
After the Kraft takeover of Cadbury’s and subsequent events, the Takeover Code was amended in 2011 so that nowadays, the bidding company has to publish INFORMATION as to the anticipated effects of the takeover and employees are able to give their VIEWS. All irrrelevant window-dressing which does NOT affect future management decisions.
Let’s PLEASE stop all the pretence.
Snapshots for 1 May, 2014
2:27 pm #Ukraine. The Blitzkreig-like advance of ethnic-Russian militia in the eastern provinces is working so efficiently and meeting with so little resistance that one could be forgiven for suspecting that there is a plan and that there always has been a plan! In fact the capitulation by local authorities and officials suggests either complicity or possibly French military advisers! :)
10:41 am The IMF's austerity conditions for #Ukraine, in return for cash handouts will prepare the country for membership of the EU's "Indentured Servitude Club".....alongside near-neighbours such as Greece....... The short to mid-term future looks very bleak for members of the ISC........Nowadays, the population-at-large paying for the crimes of its politicians and bankers appears to be the generally accepted norm!
A lot of pretentious nonsense is talked and written about “motivation” and there are many motivational speakers who travel the world, giving strung-out executives a quick fix of “feelgood” which then dissipates just in time for a subsequent seminar and the next fix….and so on. It has become a huge industry but related more to entertainment than to personal development.
Whenever I train executives, the motivational advice which I give them is disarmingly simple but devastatingly effective. So for a moment let’s forget Maslow, Hertzberg and the rest of the showbiz that is “The Motivation Industry”.
I learned this many years ago from an American called Tom Haggai. We met during one of his many motivational gigs and I do believe that he is still travelling and motivating…….and he is very good at it.
The advice is PRAISE YOUR STAFF.
Even when they screw up.
Tom said that he learned that simple lesson when his son came home from school with the MOST appalling grades on his report. In common with the vast majority of parents, Tom berated his son and told him that he was very disappointed in him.
Several months later, his son came back with even worse grades and of course, Tom went through the same routine and really expressed his displeasure at the boy’s continued under-performance.
One day, Tom was talking to a friend about the problems he was having with his son’s terrible grades and how there didn’t seem to be a way to make him work. His friend listened carefully and said: ” You fly around the world motivating top executives and yet you can’t motivate your son? You just criticise him? You can’t motivate your OWN son!?”
Tom thought about this and the next time his son produced his report rather nervously, Tom looked at the grades which by this time were really shocking.
He smiled and said “ Well done, son. You have obviously tried your best. Well done! I’m very pleased and so should you be!”
The boy smiled and hugged his father.
It was not that reaction which surprised the father, but what his son said next: “Thanks, Dad…but I think I can do better.”
From then on, the boy knuckled down and never looked back. It was a miraculous turnaround! He believed that he could do better and he did do better!
If you’re a parent and your young child brings you a piece of paper dripping with paint and there’s water, paint and mess on the kitchen floor, on the table and on the child’s clothes, what do you say?
You look at the coloured chaos on the paper, you smile and you say “Wow…that’s fantastic. Well done! What is it? “
The child tells you that it’s a picture of you…………..but it’s what happens next that is interesting.
In ten minutes, there’s another dripping piece of paper in your hand. This time it’s a car or the cat…… and so on….and so on…….
Soon, you have enough pictures to paper the entire room – and they’re all the result of the child enjoying your praise and attention…..and wanting more.
So, if you want “your people” to over-perform, tell them that they’re GREAT…..and they will be!
There’s yet another related phenomenon which, when used properly and sincerely, is very powerful. The humble COMPLIMENT!
I bet that everyone reading this remembers most if not ALL of the compliments they’ve ever received – even the ones from childhood and I bet that occasionally, you “replay” them in your mind. Why? For TWO reasons. Firstly, we don’t compliment each other enough, so there’s a certain rarity value and secondly, it is the MOST intense psychological experience!
THAT is why you still remember the person who told you that your dress was nice when you were six!
Never forget the power of saying positive things to people.
It has been confirmed that the government is considering whether to introduce a new offence of Emotional Cruelty to Children. It is aimed at parents “who deny their children affection” and is the result of a campaign for a “Cinderella Law” from ACTION FOR CHILDREN.
The British Empire became what it was through the actions of the emotionally damaged, as have successive British governments. It is the emotionally damaged who make the world go round!
We live in a country where it is not unusual for a child to be packed off to Boarding School at the age of SIX. Surely, THAT is the ultimate example of parent-child emotional deprivation…with the added frisson of the possibility of sexual and physical abuse!
There aren’t enough Social Workers to deal with THAT !
The average foreigner’s caricature of an English gent is that of an emotionally-crippled, uncaring and unfeeling toff….. and bearing in mind that worldwide, we’re mainly represented by members of the Government, who can blame them?
A Cinderella Law, properly implemented is in danger of not-only putting hundreds of well-to-do parents in the Dock but ripping apart the fabric of British Society.
Whilst cocky Nigel Farage is looking increasingly like a pink Kermit the Frog, EU-enthusiast Nick Clegg retains the boyish charm and earnestness which won him so many plaudits after the 2010 “I agree with Nick” pre-election debates with Cameron and Brown.
Nowadays, Farage’s studied arrogance and increasing belief in his own publicity is beginning to water-down both his image and the argument. I say THE argument because he is also coming across as a one-trick pony and thus in danger of being perceived as the head of a right-wing pressure group rather than the Leader of a bona fide Political Party. I am not saying that he’s not a good bloke but had he debated Britain’s Defence system or the changes in Education, he would have gained more credibility. Instead, we had yet more déjà vu!
He is probably regretting the fact than post-January 1st 2014 we are NOT being overrun by screaming hairy hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians heading over the hill from Newhaven to the nearest Benefits Office. David Cameron has been very quick to respond to Nigel’s xenophobic hysterics and has an ongoing charm-offensive in place, aimed at the “at-risk” Nutty Right Wing of the Conservative Party. DC and Nigel both know that come the General Election, the many who have dallied with UKIP will retake their rightful place and step back into the Conservative thin blue line.
Nigel’s task of criticising the EU gravy train whilst simultaneously immersing himself in the gravy makes some of his arguments appear both hypocritical and increasingly valueless. He was obviously VERY uncomfortable when being asked about paying his wife a salary and lapsed into his usual defence of turning an attractive shade of fuschia accompanied by bluster and large numbers.
Nick Clegg, on the other hand, was a tad patronising and appeared to lack conviction – although he is doubtless a committed Son of Brussels. He too made the usual points and counterpoints and one could argue that he cheapened himself by even appearing on the same platform as the UKIP Commandant.
The upcoming MEP elections will demonstrate quite clearly that as far as Europe is concerned, the British public fits neatly into the “don’t care” camp….
As to who “won” the debate…If you measured it on well-known points and statistics repeated yet again…it was a draw.
The red mark on the map is the location of the American Military Base on Diego Garcia, which is is a coral atoll and part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.
The disappearance of the flight has been the subject of many conspiracy theories……ranging from alien abduction to an on-board bomb.
A couple of days ago, INMARSAT, a British company completed some very subtle calculations and announced the most likely resting place of flight MH370….somewhere near the bottom of the above map, to the west of Australia.
We have all taken Inmarsat’s calculations at face value but the discovery that a recent addition to this company’s Board was General C. Robert Kehler, United States Air Force (Retired), puts a slight “spin” on the facts.
Until November, General Kehler was Commander, US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
So, we have a heavily-protected US base which has nuclear rockets pointed a several targets on the Asian mainland.
We have a (possibly) deranged pilot who is rumoured to have Diego Garcia programmed into his home-built aircraft simulator.
What if the pilot had decided to crash Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 into the Diego Garcia Base? Remember that he didn’t disappear from radar by accident. He disappeared at the point where he knew that the plane would be “invisible” to radar.
There was absolutely NO reason to fly South and crash into the ocean.
Last question: WHAT would the USA Military do if they became conscious of what looked like a rogue plane with communications switched off heading towards them at a height of a few thousand feet?
They would blow it out of the sky.
The only issue remaining would be to lay a false trail in order to put the “crash site” as far away as possible from where it was “killed”.
One cannot blame the passengers’ families for being sceptical.
TONITE, while me and ‘er indoors go to the Bingo & then to the boozer, I’ll tell the kids to go to the railway to see if there’s any discarded coal. Then, as a special treat, they can stand outside the pub with crisps, lemonade and maybe share a Woodbine!
We’re celebrating because I heard on the bus that Chancellor wassisname says we’re going to get £15 grand and we can have it all at once! It’s all because of the dificit or something. The bloke said it was a percentage (whatever THAT is ??!) of GHQ or it could have been ATM!
Then , because we’re quite strict with the young ‘uns (ha! ha!) it’s in bed by midnight for them! After all, they’re only six and eight. We give them ten minutes start because once we get going, me and the missus can get quite noisy! One day we hope they can have their own room and we’ve been looking at bed sheets in that Argos Book!
Busy day tomorrow – it’s the Friday family trip to Tesco for a bit of light shoplifting and then off to the food bank.
Above is the official “Budget Diagram” just issued by H.M. Treasury. Presumably we have to provide the crayons.
The most remarkable thing about this Budget was how small the numbers were – and I remember when ONE BILLION was a lot of money!
The ubiquitous “Scheme” was in there. This one was £3 billion to boost exports. As UK exports only represent a tiny percentage of GDP and because it is only “a scheme”…no harm done there!
UK potholes cost motorists about £730 million per year and cover a surface area of about 300 square miles. Therefore £200 million “made available for Local Authorities to bid for” seems a bit parsimonious…but nowhere near as mean as only £140 million for repairs and maintenance to flood defences. We not only need to patch up the damage but we need NEW flood defences. Presumably, the government’s resolve dissipated soon after the last COBRA meeting and when the last retina was reattached…..
The first “headline grabber” was scrapping VAT on air ambulance services and inshore rescue boats as well as scrapping Inheritance Tax for members of emergency services. As the current IHT threshold is £325,000 , THAT won’t bother too many firemen and ambulance drivers’ descendants and neither will the reform of air passenger duty!
We already knew about Ebbsfleet Garden City and PLANS for 200,000 new homes. Handy for the Ebbsfleet International Railway Station so that presumably, once HS2 has been completed,those pesky immigrants can be shunted-off to the North without even having to stop-off for a Starbucks.
Company-bought homes, valued in excess of £500,000 will now enjoy Stamp Duty of 15%. No doubt that can be recouped at the “sell” end of the process, which makes this a purely cosmetic gesture by Chancellor Gideon and a transparent attempt to create some egalitarian credentials ready for May 2015.
The Libdem-inspired tax threshold increase to £10,500 is a nice touch as is the freezing of Petrol Duty.
We have become used to the “let’s patronise the poor” section in which we have the cut in Bingo Tax, the freezing of whisky and cider duty and yet another PENNY cut in the price of a pint of beer!! ..which was negated (and worse) by the increase in cigarette prices. However, as all toffs know, the working classes smoke roll-ups so they will be unaffected!
By far the most important set of measures has all the electoral subtlety of a house brick through a crystal chandelier. It was for THE PENSIONERS (Gawd love ’em!).
When they retire, they will be able to get their liver-spotted hands on all of their Pension Pot and will NOT have to purchase an annuity. That sounds fantastic!! However, if a pensioner takes his pot of pension and blows it all on a Porsche 911….who is going to pick up the tab when there is no pension at the end of the money? Annuities are there for a reason.
In addition, when a pensioner cashes-in his or her pension, where can they keep the money? Why….a BANK, of course! Ideal! So it looks as if the banking system is due yet another windfall…but this one will be from the over 65s!
THAT is why there will be a PENSIONER BOND! The banks will be able to lock-in the money and pay 2.8% for a year’s use of the cash and only 4% for three years’. Win-Win!
The Premium Bond ceiling will be raised from £30,000 to £40,000! So, if you like your investment to REALLY be in the shape of interest-free eroding capital, then cash in your pension and give it to National Savings which, incidentally, is State-owned. Another Win-Win!
We won’t bother with the announced increase in tax threshold of a few hundred pounds for “middle income” earners because it is worth PENNIES.
The superficial generosity to the pensioners WITHOUT actually giving them anything is there for a reason!
Guess which section of the population has the highest percentage of voters?
He started it!
Snapshots for 4 March, 2014
10:02 am My father's family is from Lubaczow, which is as near to the Polish-Ukranian border as you can get...so I recognise and understand the collective Ukranian psyche. They are a bloody-minded people who will NOT take any shit from Russia. There is TOO much history. Imagine the relationship between a cat and a dog and you may begin to understand. AT BEST, they only tolerate each other..........
9:48 am #UKRAINE: Usually, before a country moves from Despotism to becoming a fully-fledged Republic, there is ALWAYS a brief brush with Anarchy. In Ukranie's case, it has temporarily moved from home-grown Despotism to the threat of an alternative flavour of Despotism, but on this occasion, delivered by a foreign power. This will soon pass and the country will be able to get on with the Anarchy before finally settling down to being a mature republic. However, as Egypt is currently showing, the cycle may have to be repeated several times before the appearance of those mythical sunny uplands of political stability.
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!”
MOST of the people we interviewed had NO IDEA about percentages!
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!
Snapshots for 18 February, 2014
9:13 am 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.
9:10 am 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.
9:02 am 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.
Snapshots for 14 February, 2014
9:25 am 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
9:10 am The odds are that a chunk of YOUR pension fund is invested by a Fund Manager (on your behalf) in Bank Shares. Over the years, lower dividends, as a result of those comedy bank bonuses will have an appreciable effect on your retirement fund. Who cares? You should. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/feb/13/lloyds-bank-ceo-antonio-horta-osorio-bonus-profit
Snapshots for 13 February, 2014
5:04 pm 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.
8:24 am 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.
8:07 am 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.
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.