Tag Archives: banker

Conservative Party Conference week.

      • Boris Johnson once again has showed his leadership credentials by being approachable, witty and engaging. He does make the rest of them look a little bit pedestrian. In spite of his shambolic image, you can sense a rod of steel running through both his speech and personality. One to watch for the future. Imagine   a TV debate between Boris and Gordon Brown. It will never happen – but what a prospect.


  • Boris Johnson and friend


  • George Osborne’s department lined up like a row of fairground ducks was quite diverting. George Osborne is gradually shaking-off his Tim Nice-but-Dim image.


  • It’s very brave of David Cameron to allow Ken Clarke a voice – bearing in mind his strong Euro-sceptic stance. The Conservative Euro-sceptics should not attempt to embarrass David Cameron at Conference. They all seem to think that the next election is already won.


  • Custom dictates that when any Party is in the middle of its Conference, the other Parties keep quiet and do not make any pronouncements. So, Alistair Darling’s crudely populist announcement of cutting the incomes  of GPs and other high earners leaves us in no doubt that the Election campaign is now in full swing.


  • Retirement at 66? Purleeeze George – you can do better than that! Many will still retire at 65 and most of those who have not retired will be out of work – unless there is a local B&Q. The ACTUAL money saved will be negligible and it was hardly worth the leak.


  • It appears that as far as cutting Public Expenditure, the main Parties are now engaged in what can only be described as a peeing contest.


  • It was good to see that old duffer Kenneth Brown. So there is life after death!


  • The Editor of the Sun did not have to buy a single drink in the Conference bar last night. Hardly surprising but the Sun’s move to withdraw support from the Labour Party caused some disappointment among Conservatives. About as much disappointment as finding out that Gary Glitter can’t babysit tonight.


  • On a completely separate subject, the annual yakfest that is the 11th Pride of Britain Awards took place last night. One is never sure why only some kids with cancer attend the show, why only the kids whose parents managed to inform the media of how their brave 2year-old “dialled 999 whilst motherwas having a seizure in the bath” receive bravery awards and why Gordon Brown has to make a “surprise” appearance. We all like proper heroes but nowadays it seems that we have developed a real “need” to worship – as long as it involves lots of celebrities. If Michael Caine is made to feel any more ” ‘umble” I shall throw up. Having said all that, I’ve never managed to watch the show. This year there is a teacher whose Maths lessons contain RAP (one presumes that the “C” is silent). Then there’s the lady who stood between a small child and a Rottweiler. The best one is an ex-heroin addict with 176 convictions who now helps “young people to change their lives”.. As long as Simon Cowell, Tess Daly and Davina are there plus a room-full of tear-wracked luvvies we can rest assured that all’s well. Now where can I buy a Rottweiler? I’ve just noticed something and it is the final piece of jigsaw in a theory that I have been working on for some time. Here goes. I believe that Christopher Biggins is God. Why? because God is everywhere.


  • Safety campaigners are saying that if the Conservatives axe speed cameras, the accident-rate will increase. Here’s a compromise – and it will be comparatively cheap to implement. How about a sign that says “SPEED CAMERA IN 50 YARDS” on either side of every single speed camera in the country.  Not a good idea, I hear you say. Why not? Oh I see. What you really want is speeding motorists that produce a revenue and not necessarily slow motorists who do not.


  • Sir James Dyson managed to look like a prat when his autocue failed. A Dyson Vacuous.


  • Liked the announcement today that the Conservatives will begin a process of ridding us of Government forms and red tape. THAT’S the sort of thing we like to hear.


  • Conservatism SHOULD be the politics of giving everyone in Britain the ability, opportunity and tools to look after themselves and their families – without the smothering State intervention that is the hallmark of Socialism – even when it is wearing the thin veneer of New Labour. That should ALWAYS be, of course, coupled to the State taking care of its weakest citizens. Call it benevolent Conservatism if you like. Simple.  THAT is  the message that David Cameron and his rejuvenated Parliamentary Party should be promulgating. Needless posturing and name-calling should have no place in the modern Conservative political toolbox. David Cameron should look straight down a camera lens and explain what modern Conservatism is. Unsurprisingly, there are those who have never heard exactly what modern Conservatism represents because their views and opinions are still being distorted  and influenced by New Labour spin.


  • George Osborne is looking very promising.


  • So why DOES Jordan look as if she’s wearing a gumshield? Is in “hommage” to her cross-dressing new beau and professional thug Alex (Max – you’re running out of crap copy!) or has she been “done”. I think that we all know the answer to that one.


  • David Cameron has been photographed with a glass of champagne. Big deal! I shall simply repeat a previous report: The biggest consumption of champagne at  Conference time is by Labour. That was told to me by a former Chief Barman at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Hypocrites.


  • Today, all the Socialist rags are laying-into  George Osborne who has introduced a bit of realism into our understanding of the economy. One suspects that once the Conservatives are in power and manage to have a good look at the books, they will see that things are far worse than has so far been admitted by ther present incumbents.


  • We are still living in cloud-cuckoo land as far as the economy is concerned. The FTSE is UP. House prices are UP, Gold is UP, Tesco shares are UP. In fact – everything is UP. Sounds great doesn’t it? So why aren’t we all feeling more positive. The fact is that the FTSE is up because  money is being invested on the Stock Exchange as a result of bank savings rates being so derisory plus, much of the money currently being invested is foreign so it could leave us at any time. The money that is being invested by British banks is not all real money. Some of it is the stuff that has been printed by the Bank of England and handed to the banking system. Mr Quantitative Easing strikes again. Gold has been creeping up for months. It is normally viewed as a “hedge” – somewhere to run when equities and commodities are down in price. That is not the case at present.  Something that has gradually been creeping into our collective peripheral vision is the slow-collapse of the dollar. There are strong rumours that very soon, oil will no longer be traded in dollars – there is foreign plotting afoot! Once the dollar really does go into freefall, share and commodity prices will tumble very quickly. The British economy has much to fear because the factors that it has traditionally relied-upon to buttress the economy have all but gone. The City of London USED to be the world’s financial centre. That is no longer the case. WE used to MAKE things and export them. Nowadays, that is down to about 17% of the country’s total economic output. Finally, the British economy and Governmemt are “over-borrowed” with little realistic prospect of repaying much of what was borrowed. If George Osborne had been in possession of ALL the facts, I don’t believe that he would have wished to even beigin his speech yesterday. He did very well and reminded us that we need to take a more collective and inclusive approach to heal the economy.


  • Yesterday I said that I would probably throw -up if Michael Caine was once-again “umbled” at the Pride of Britiain Awards. Apologies to Michael as it was Joanna Lumley’s turn to be “humbled and overcome”. Please make it stop.


  • So Boris and Dave are ex-Bullingdon boys and used to piss it up, throw bread rolls about, get toffed-up  and pose for silly photos. Go to any Comprehensive School on Prom Night (American import, I’m afraid) and watch scores of youngsters, toffed-up, arriving in ridiculous stretch limos and being encouraged to be extremely silly. So where’s the difference between our Grease wannabees and the Bullingdon Boys. Apparently, it’s only OK to dress like a posh prat and behave outrageously if you’re NOT a posh prat. It seems that those aspirational working classes are being herded by the Labour media back towards a concept which one hoped had been left behind – The Politics of Envy.


  • There was a great photograph of the Pride of Britain winners outside No 10 Downing Street. Sarah Brown looked very vivacious – so why did Gordon Brown look as if someone had inserted a six-inch ruler between his cheeks? Oh I see. Smile, eh? Wow.


  • Are we, as a nation, losing our sense of humour? We all remember Boris Johnson insulting Liverpool, Portsmouth and rather bizarrely – Papua New Guinea. He acknowledged all that in the introduction to his speech at Conference this week. Whatever you think of Boris, you have to admit that he carries a very mischievous sense of humour. That reminds me of a pilot who was censured by his bosses for the following Tannoy announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to fly over Liverpool. Would you please ensure that you have placed your hands over your wallets.”


  • This woman’s husband, Andrew George was taken ill but has now been discharged and is being comforted by his family: 

  • She used to work at Little Ted’s Nursery and is a pervert. Although her husband does have our sympathy, one cannot help but think that at some stage during the marriage, he would have benefited from a visit to Specsavers.


  • The Conservatives have announced that they will deal with binge-drinking and teenage violence through the medium of taxation. Surprisingly, this is the first Conservative initiative that I disagree with. Remember that some drugs are far more expensive than alcohol, yet, money is still found for them. The alcohol genie is so far out of the bottle that there are no initiatives that will ever change the Brits’ uneasy relationship with alcohol. Social Engineering through taxation does not work. Let’s face it, Brits drink to get drunk – and then they drink some more. A few more pence on booze will make no difference whatsoever. Practical tip: The increased tax will be on cider and strong lager so do what kids do already, buy normal lager and tip cheap vodka into it. Now what?


  • Could it be true? Avram Grant is returning to Portsmouth as Director of Football? That should cheer the place up. Here is a photo of Avram practicing his Gordon Brown smile.


  • Sharon Shoesmith has  launched judicial review proceedings against Haringey Council, Ofsted and the Children’s Secretary Ed Balls. She was in charge of Haringey Social Services during the Baby P murder. One of the great British traditions is that if there is a screw-up on your watch then you fall on your sword. Ms SHOESMITH DID HERSELF NO FAVOURS during her few TV appearances when the Baby P affair was at its peak. She seemed aloof, smug, unrepentant and unapologetic. ” I was following orders” is the usual excuse. Hers was “We followed all procedures”. That neither exonerated her, nor did it go down well with the public.  Had she cried, begged forgiveness and made some sort of admission, the public would have been a little more sympathetic. As it was, Ed Balls did exactly the right thing in instructing Haringey to sack her without compensation.


  • Labour bleating noises have been heard again today. General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt, GCB, CBE, MC is our most distinguished soldier and tomorrow (Thursday) he will be officially announced as a Conservative Life Peer who will be advising the Conservatives on defence. General Dannatt was our highest-ranking  soldier and Chief of General Staff. He was going to be promoted to Chief of Defence Staff , which means that he would have become head of all of our armed forces – not just the Army. However, Gordon Brown personally blocked the promotion and General Dannatt was instead given the consolation prize of Constable of the Tower of London. Traditionally the Chief of Defence Staff is principal military adviser to the British Government. Gordon Brown was miffed because of General Dannatt’s “repeated calls for better pay and conditions for servicemen”. So General Dannatt’s sins? Speaking his mind, not being a Brown “yes man” and caring about his soldiers’ safety and welfare. Gordon Brown really has no idea whatsoever – probably because he was dealing with a proper  leader. It’s patently obvious that Brown does not recognise the species. He should learn that leadership is much more than Benito Mussolini-type posturing with overworked, overtired, adjective-free, moribund speeches.


  • Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Quite right too. Climate, Democracy, Nuclear Disarmament – in fact, everything that he has touched so far. It looks as if Zimbabwe’s Morgan Chanderai was the runner-up. There is already talk  and discussion of whether Barack Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize with only nine months in office. The fact is that the Nobel committee can see that in spite of the fact that Obama’s actual achievements so far  are comparatively modest – he is by far the most influential individual on the planet as far as the short and medium term futures of the Earth are concerned. The progress that he has made in the last nine months is nothing short of remarkable.


  • It appears that today is probably the last posting day for Christmas. If you  want to send cards abroad, you’re too late. Christmas parcels should have been posted by March 31st. Why didn’t Crozier stick to football. This is yet another case of a Business Model triumphing over the Customer. Perhaps Royal Mail should be renamed Royal Lemming.

Friday October 2nd 2009

  • Ethiopia has suddenly become the focus for all anthropologists. An ancient  skeleton was found in 1992 and it has taken 17 years for the research team to rebuild it. Why all the excitement? The skeleton belongs to an in-between species of humanoid about 4.4 million years old. It has been designated Ardipithecus Ramidus. It is not “the missing link” but by extrapolation, it appears that it is probably about 9 million years since the division between apes and humans. So where was John Prescott this week?
  • The East of England Minister Barbara Follett is to stand-down from Parliament. She is (was) Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism. Her reasons for leaving? Yes, it’s the old chestnut: “For family reasons – to spend more time with my family”. Heard her name before? She’s the MP who claimed £500 to repair a Chinese rug ( don’t we all?) and she also claimed £25,000 “for security reasons”. She has since repaid all of the money. So how could she afford to sign such a large cheque? Her husband is millionaire pulp fiction writer, Ken Follett. Barbara and Ken epitomise the “champagne socialist” and are chums of Tony and Cherie Blair.
  • Jobs for the boys. Former Northern Rock boss, Adam Applegarth is now an advisor to Apollo Management. They are an American Equity firm. Adam is advising them on the purchase of bad loans, including parts of Northern Rock bank, the former Building Society he brought to its knees. Perhaps a touch ironic but perfectly legal. He will earn about 200,000 per year which is a lot more than the thousands of people who lost their jobs at Northern Rock. It’s all very worrying.
  • Today, Ireland will vote in favour of the Treaty of Lisbon. It’s their second attempt. The Irish economy is currently in such an appalling state that they appear to have little choice. However, if they do not support the Treaty, then it’s curtains for the Treaty.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting that the British economy will grow by 0.9% next year. That’s about four times the current politicians’ prediction. House prices have returned to their pre-crunch 2008 levels, the FTSE 100 index is UP. As one of the few people who predicted nationalisation of the banks, I am still not sure whether to put the Bolly on ice just yet.
  • Vanessa George, Colin Blanchard and Angela Allen. They are the three baby-abusing perverts who are spread all over the newspapers today. Angela Allen is the one from Little Ted’s Day Nursery in Plymouth. She photographed herself sexually abusing babies as young as 12 months. Whichever prison they end up in, they are guaranteed some very close attention from other inmates. The burglars, drug dealers, fraudsters etc look almost honourable professionals next to these degenerates. I do hope that the other prisoners are not too gentle with them.

Thursday October 1st 2009

  • A survey has just been published of the world’s top  Broadband Countries – taking into account speed etc. The United Kingdom is languishing in 25th place. The top country? South Korea. Is this another indicator of the rise of the East and the slow eclipse of the West?. 

  • The Daily Mirror has adjusted its reportage of the Tories today – presumably in response to the Sun’s decision to back the Tories. It’s going to be a right mess leading up to the election. The gloves are off

  • BAE systems is about to be prosecuted for dishing out hundreds of millions in bribes. You may recall that when Tony Blair was in charge , there was a bit of a bribery scandal  involving Saudi Arabia, but as they say – all charges were dropped. There is one thing that both our Government and Judicial System would do well to remember and that is that greasing the cogs of commerce through the medium of bribery is normal in many countries – especially hot ones. Many years ago, I sold a yacht for a $1million to an Arab Prince and we shook hands on the deal and arranged to complete the paperwork the following day. That night , my phone rang. It was the Prince’s “Private secretary and advisor”. This is what he said: “Although the Prince is a very rich man, alas he is not a generous man. You will also understand that he always seeks my counsel and almost always heeds my advice. I have yet to advise him as to whether he should complete this purchase – but I am sure that we can come to some sort of arrangement.”  I was outraged! I told him that I did not make a practice of dishing out bribes and that I would report our conversation to the Prince. I never saw the Prince again. Some time later I realised that the Prince had probably been sitting next to his Secretary when he had made the call and it was probably his way of getting a few thousand off the price. I also recall another yacht-owning Middle Eastern client. Whenever we presented him with an invoice, I would ask the staff to make sure that it was itemised and added-up wrongly, but in his favour. Usually by either £50 or £100. Before handing over a wad of cash, he would add-up the bill himself, realise that it was incorrect , say ” Yes, that appears to be in order”  and pay. He was happy and I was happy but more importantly, honour had been satisfied, he had won a little victory and he always came back to us because he enjoyed our little game. We should NOT always be so po-faced about the way that other nationals  do business. It may not be pretty but it works.
  • Is it really the end of the Labour Party Conference? Thank You, God. Harriett Harman is not too chuffed about the Sun’s decision to support the Tories. She said: “Let’s face it, the nearest their political analysis gets to women’s rights is Page 3’s news in briefs.”  It’s only a matter of time before Harriet gets the call from Hugh Hefner.
  • At the Labour Conference yesterday, the jurassic Tony Woodley, leader of UNITE, was cheered when he tore up a copy of the Sun. One presumes that he had looked at the pictures first. He said: “I suggest the rest of the country should do exactly the same thing”. Labour should persuade more progressives such as Tony Woodley to give voice to their views – that way they’re absolutely GUARANTEED to lose not only the next election but several after that. During Tony Blair’s tenure these Brylcreemed 50s throwbacks used to be kept in a darkened room or padded box until after Conference. A dignified silence without even a platform-mention of the Sun would have been far more powerful.

  • Financial Analysts seem to be confusing the state of the FTSE 100 with the British Economy. The fact is that many of the billions invested in the Stock Exchange consists of foreign money. That’s where many of the profits are going – abroad. Instead of flying to Monaco to play the tables at the Casino, many foreigner “investors” are winning lots in the Casino that is the London Stock Exchange.

  • The FTSE 100 has experienced its biggest quarterly rise in 25 years. Once again, this  is being hailed as some sort of success. It simply means that lots of bets have been placed. The punters will be taking their profits soon. Then the Government can once again blame the bankers. Let’s hope that they don’t break the bank again.

  • Politicians are always saying that it is the Pension Funds and Insurance Companies  own most of the assets traded on the Stock Exchange. In fact, between them, they only own about 25%

  • Today the national minimum wage rises by 7p an hour to £5.80 and for 18 to 21-year-olds, the minimum wage increases by 6p to £4.83 per hour. This is also the day when the government legislation on “tips” has changed. From today it illegal for bars, restaurants and hotels to use tips or service charges to make up a minimum salary. That is all very well but in the grand scheme of things, it is a comparatively trivial matter and possibly not a terribly cost-efficient move by the Government. Especially as the Government has already conceded that the changes governing tips will lead to an estimated £60m in extra costs to ensure the legislation is implemented properly. The new code will also lead to higher National Insurance payments. This is an inflationarymove because bars , restaurants etc will simply “up” their prices to maintain their margins. The British Hospitality Association (BHA) estimates the new rules could lead to an additional £130m in costs and up to  5,000 job losses. There are those of course who feel that a tip should be a customer’s expression of appreciation for good service and should not be used by an employer to bring wages up to the minimum. Mind you, both the Federation of Small Businesses and UNITE are both in favour of the changes. The only people who will be really affected are the tippers and the tipees. The customer tippers will experience increased prices and the waiter tippees may suffer up to an estimated 5000 job losses. There is a saying: ” If it ain’t broken – don’t fix it.” Needless to say, one of the few groups who will not be affected is Politicians. You may have heard that when they eat out or stay in hotels – it tends to be on expenses. 


Monday September 7th 2009-Friday September 18th 2009

Friday September 18th 2009 

  • There has been some concern that Romell Broom may have suffered mental anguish when two Ohio State officials failed to find a vein in order to deliver a fatal injection. According to Broom’s lawyer, Broom had suffered both “mental and physical injuries” and apparently became distressed and appeared to cry. Broom was convicted of raping and then killing a 14 year-old girl.
  • We’re too fat, we drink too much alcohol, we’re unfit, we ingest female hormones in our meat  and weedkillers from our vegetables and we’re too stressed. Paradoxically, our life expectancy is increasing.
  • Alistair Darling is engaged in a series of meetings in order to decide where spending cuts can be made. If you’re expecting decisions within the next few months – stop being so silly. Although professional pundits do now have the opportunity to make pointless predictions.

  • Andy Burnham is suggesting yet more NHS changes. The God of Change strikes again! This month’s idea is that we will all be able to choose our GP. I would like one that’s qualified, understands human anatomy and is sober.

  • Baroness Scotland should know that in a Court of Law, ignorance is no defence. Mind you, the Baroness is the Attorney General. Hopefully, hiring someone called Loloahi Tapui(clue!) with out-of-date papers was just an oversight and as such, does not generate a witch-hunt. Oh yes – there’s an enquiry. There’s always a feckin’ enquiry.

  • Suddenly, Jordan doesn’t want to talk about “the rape”. It seems that her PR people are running out of interesting stories. The only remaining possbilities are either  ” I was abused as a child” or “I was abducted by aliens”.

  • Bit of a “to-do” about  unofficial sperm donors. Apparently, ladies can contact a sperm donor  on-line, arrange a meeting and either be handed a container-full of the stuff or on occasion have it delivered direct through the medium of sex. Hence the phrase : “”Bottled or draught?”  Sounds like an excellent service as well as an interesting career move, although it could mess-up the old CV, especially if the CV is printed on a sheet of Kleenex. Just realised that if this type of work is a career, the phrase “hand job” begins to make sense.

  • How would the management at Student Loans UK feel if they were told that because of administrative incompetence, their September salaries will be paid at the end of October. They would probably be quite upset. Next question: How do young kids with the incredible stress associated with leaving home feel-when they’re told by Student Loans UK that their University grants will be paid “about” four weeks late? Why is the beginning of the academic year ALWAYS a surprise? For the record and to help Student Loans UK: The next academic year will be starting in October 2010. Hopefully, that’s enough notice.

  • Scientists at Newcastle University have produced human sperm in the laboratory. Didn’t know that there was a shortage. Just take a chipping hammer to any Confessional carpet.

  • Gordon Brown said today “Cooperation between nations at the G20 summit will be crucial to ensure global economic recovery”  That is probably the twentieth version of the same sentence . It is a truism and it’s boring. Here’s another sentence which I hope Gordon finds as interesting as his own deep thoughts: ” The sun is in the sky”

  • Here is a quote from this evening’s No 10 bulletin: “The Prime Minister is launching a brand new podcast series this week talking directly to you about the big issues of the day. The podcasts, which will be available on our iTunes channel andonYouTube, will be recorded at Downing Street or around the world when the Prime Minister is travelling.”  Wow! That Gordon Brown is so “street”  -using that Interwebthingytoconnectwith the YouTube dudes. Way to go, MC Gordo! Soon,  he’ll be buying a pair of those really cool Levi Strauss blue denim casual trousers with the turn-ups, copper rivets and the little red label. Sound! Should go well with the black brogues.

  • Remember what I told you about the American dollar going into freefall. Soon. Continue reading Monday September 7th 2009-Friday September 18th 2009

The Scam of the Millenium

The Government has a vested interest in allowing us to assume that suddenly the comparatively modest bailouts and part-nationalisations of our banks have somehow solved our economic woes. They would have us believe  that we can now sit back and await the often-mentioned green shoots of economic recovery to somehow poke their way through the concrete of economic failure. We have even had “estimates” as to when the recovery will kick-in. Where were these soothsayers one year ago?

I am using this blog to put on record – to predict, what will really happen.

By Q4 of 2009, the FTSE 100 will be below 2500 and UK unemployment will be above 10% and there will be no proper recovery for at least three years.  Why so negative? Because we are being conned by the Unholy Trinity : government, economists and bankers. How are we being conned?

During any economic turn-down there are comparatively short periods of “ersatz” recovery – the so-called bear-market rallies. Those nuisance false-dawns when astute traders can continue to make a few quid for themselves will act as an occasional shot in the arm which will make us all feel better when the real trend is DOWN.

The banks will be allowed to inflate the book value of the so-called toxic assets and their profits will be further inflated by them “losing” most of their losses – if that makes sense – and this will all be done with the Government’s connivance.

Politicians, regulators and economists are simultaneously scamming us and themselves not understanding what is going on because the amount of the so-called bank bailouts is a mere fraction of what is really needed.  If the banks had really been bailed out, we would by now be back to normal. Vague talk of “we are awaiting banks to regain their confidence” have been repeated so many times that we are beginning to believe without understanding. Exactly what the banks themselves were doing for ten years.

The Budget will be no more than a little man, putting a little finger in a hole as big as a (rapidly depreciating) house.  The Chancellor is hawking snake-bite like an old-school medicine salesman  who is punting useless medicine which will do nothing to ease the pain to come.

So What?

As a businessman I have always been a great believer in applying the “So-what?” test to any management problems or initiatives – just to test any effect – positive or negative. The rule is simple – Write down the phrase or problem, then add “so what” and then attempt to answer the question.

For instance, Kobe summit – so what? Global warming – so what? Tomorrow’s Budget – so what?

There are many phrases that I have tested in this way – my most recent favourite being: G20 – so what? The answer is WINDOW-DRESSING. But the worrying thing is that the whole thing was based on the premise that you cannot overestimate the collective stupidity of people in large groups – that’s us.

Susan Boyle?

Over 100,000,000 hits on U-Tube. It’s those pesky Americans and their uber-sentimentality. Make the Yanks cry and the world is yours. Don’t forget, they know what they are talking about. They must do – they invented Country Music and Cabbage Patch Dolls. There’s your answer.

Seriously, we all have to admit that Susan is not classically beautiful. What do you think the reaction would have been  if there had not been such a mismatch between looks and voice?

She’s a lovely lady but the Americans love a freak show and that is what they will turn her into – and she does not deserve it.


Did you call me a Banker?


Over the last week-or-so, there has been a slight upswing in the markets as investors  focus on economies rather than on the global banking crisis. 

The sad fact however is that the banking sector is still having a vastly negative effect on the economy:

1. The banks are not lending.

2. They are “upping” interest rates to businesses as well as personal borrowers – in spite of prevailing downward pressures on rates.

One could argue that banks have behaved fraudulently over the last few years. The mere act of keeping dodgy investments “off balance sheet” (hidden) means that these loss-making institutions have been declaring fictitious profits which have enabled them to pay executive bonuses.

Barclays has gone to the Middle East for a cash injection. Why? Would their books not stand up to detailed government scrutiny and would government money have strings attached? Such as parachute-free executive resignations?

Barclays was already after a £5 billion cash injection in May 2008 and now  appears to have secured £6.5 billion jointly from the Quatar and Libyan Investment Authorities. It’ll cost them and let’s hope that when the time comes, they are able to repay the loans to their new masters.

Barclays is currently behaving like a teacher’s pet and will be the first bank to participate in the European Investment Bank’s £4billion scheme to provide cheap loans for small businesses.

In the States, the screens were placed round Goldman Sachs with almost indecent haste. Why? Did they have an unacceptable exposure to SIVs and SIV-lites? We’ll never know – unless of course the new Washington administration is in a surgical mood and decides to take a scalpel to its own banking system.

Sadly, the banks seem managerially-unequipped to deal with the current business chaos and if they need “cash in” , they simply jack-up rates and withdraw credit in the vain hope of temporarily tarting up their balance sheets, prior to the inevitable write-offs 12 months later. 

They should take their own business advice and nurture the businesses who will provide them with future cash-flow. One of the great banking paradoxes is that when a client is in trouble, the bank’s tendency is to increase his loan-and-overdraft rates. That’s banking logic – if someone cannot afford £1000 per month, increase it to £1100, sit back and watch them choke but give them lots of advice.

The other paradox is that of bankers providing “business advice”. The individuals who need  banking as a career are diametrically opposed to their clients who have chosen the risky route of creating wealth through entrepreneurship. 

Yet, it is the entrepreneurs who have to sit and nod as their bank’s “business advisor” or “consultant” tells them how to run a business. Bankrupt banks providing advice through the medium of bankrupt ideas and penniless platitudes – priceless!

One more thought: did the government complete a detailed audit of the banks prior to agreeing to support them with taxpayers’ funds? Or did they accept their word as gentlemen?

You can’t beat a good bank.

Chris Blackmore, Business Editor of the London Evening Standard  is quite right in saying that there ought to be a few more bank executives either resigning or at least participating in an exit interview.

Sadly, even on the rare occasions  when they are shown the door and pushed, they are invariably given a very big parachute so they’re never in any great danger.

Spygun understands the industry and knows that there is an almost masonic bond which nurtures, develops and then protects individuals who would be eaten alive in the outside business world. It is no good expecting them “to do the right thing” because they have no concept of what that means. These men are “takers”.

When it suits them, they are the victims of “external economic forces over which we have no control”. Regrettably, they never seem to have any concept or inkling of these forces and consequently, when the solids hit the air-conditioning,  it is always a surprise.

They certainly did not see that mortgage securitisation was an accident waiting to happen. The reason why most did not see the danger is because many did not understand the nature of securitsed mortgages.

They are the “Untouchables”. These are the executives who  can lose millions and still stick £100k per annum into their pension fund.

What Chris  highlighted is their arrogance but it is not just arrogance that has brought them to this point.

In the eighties we had the Genesis of the “corporate entrepreneur”.  American banks were looking for  individuals who were by nature, entrepreneurs  but who would be willing to work within a large organisation, bend the rules where necessary and make big bucks for the business.

It did not matter if they made expensive mistakes, because they had the company’s assets to fall back on. They were encouraged to take risks, on the understanding that occasionally they would make losses..

The Americans were good at it and it is that mentality which bundled up dodgy mortgages and sold them on.

Here is the UK, we played at it, made the right noises and created what can only be described  as “ersatz” corporate entrepreneurs. We had the suit, the car, the management jive talk and sometimes even a dodgy MBA  but we were never the real thing.

The bad news is that here in the UK, the 80s corporate entrepreneurs are now in charge.

However, because they continue to lack the entrepreneurial flair of their American cousins, all that they can do is sit tight and fill their pockets until their personal final whistle sounds.

This is Chris Blackmore’s excellent article which appeared in the Evening Standard on 28th July 2008. It is reproduced here with his kind permission.

Thank God for Mark Burgess, head of equities at Legal & General. At last, an institutional investor has had the guts to say in public what many of them have been muttering in private these past few months – that not enough senior executives at Britain’s banks have quit in the subprime debacle.

Only one has gone – Bradford & Bingley’s Steve Crawshaw, and that was for angina – whereas in America and elsewhere, the sight of highly paid bankers eating humble pie has been a regular occurrence. Look at Royal Bank of Scotland. Its shares have plunged twothirds in the past year, partly because the bank followed its rivals and thought it could make millions from trading in fancy financial instruments built around dodgy borrowers in the US ( precisely the sort of people RBS would not ever lend to normally) and also because it ignored the warning signs and paid a fortune for ABN Amro.

Imagine if a business in any other sector had seen its value plummet so much. Do you think its bosses would still be in situ? Do you suppose RBS analysts would hold back from demanding management changes? Yet RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop and chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin carry on regardless.

They’re not alone. At HBOS, Lord Stevenson, the chairman, and Andy Hornby, the chief executive, have presided over a share-price collapse of 75%. You have to wonder what sort of cloistered world they inhabit. Surrounded by fawning colleagues, lost in their own vanity, they are shielded from the uncomfortable truth. No surprise then, that Edinburgh is referred to as “Fredinburgh” in tribute to Goodwin’s hold over the home of the Scottish banking establishment.

It’s the sense of complacency I find so breathtaking. Somehow, Goodwin and McKillop, plus their compatriots at other British banks, are saying: “We’re different. Yes, we know others have gone, in New York, Paris, Zurich and Frankfurt, but we’re not like them.” This is arrant nonsense – arrogance that isn’t lost on foreigners when they look at how we conduct ourselves in this country.

Frankly, it’s the sort of old boy matiness that was supposed to have been banished from the City but is clearly as entrenched as it ever was.

It rears its head in other ways, too. One of my bugbears has always been the rank failure of our authorities to prosecute for fraud and other instances of white-collar crime. In the US, managers are frequently led away in chains – but not here. In the UK, apparently, our bosses are clean – they wouldn’t dirty their hands with a bit of crookery.

What rubbish. Jessica de Grazia, the former US prosecutor, has just compiled a report into the Serious Fraud Office. What did she find? Only that the organisation had “pass-the-buck, risk-averse culture, lack of focus and skills”.

Oh, and get this. De Grazia said the SFO had charged seven defendants in five years, against 50 in the same period by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Seven in five years!

Even when we do pursue cases, we do not get them right. The SFO’s conviction rate for 2003-7 was 61%, compared with 92% in New York.

Concluded De Grazia: “A criminal justice system that produces this little cannot be said to be effective in deterring, detecting or punishing criminals who commit serious white-collar crime.”

But it’s the silence that is so damning. Where are the calls for change? Why isn’t the City jumping up and down, saying enough is enough? How can we honestly lay claim to be the world’s leading financial centre when we behave in such a lackadaisical fashion?

What is required is more like Burgess, a fund manager who is not comfortable sitting on his hands, to break their silence. Legal & General holds 5% of RBS. For the sake of the City’s reputation, the other 95% need to stand up and be counted.