Tag Archives: Gordon Brown

Gideon Floundering?

The MOST wretched Cabinet job is that of Chancellor of the Exchequer. I  spent years criticising the “Iron Chancellor”,  Gordon Brown. During his posturing days when he was surfing the economic wave created by his predecessor Ken Clarke and even when Tony Blair had declared him the “best Chancellor we’ve ever had”. I saw that he was overspending and that if he’d carried on, the solids would have hit the air conditioning even earlier than they did .

He was given the credit for keeping us out of the Euro but I suspect that the only thing that stopped him was his innate inability to make a decision. He was constantly hounded by self-doubt – and quite rightly so.

It took others several years to realise that the Iron Chancellor was more Irn Bru than of  the metallic variety and in retrospect, perhaps  didn’t quite deserve the consolation prize of the keys to No.10.

I had a sneaky admiration for Alistair Darling because he and I once shared a platform in the early 90s when he was in charge of Pensions. He came across as  a Minister who had taken the trouble to familiarise himself with his subject and anyone who can do that with Pensions earns my undying respect. Plus, when the bankers crapped their own nest, he was the one who managed to wipe their noses and bottoms, give then some pocket money and send them back to their offices without alarming the rest of us.

His contribution has never been fully recognised because his then boss was arguably the worst manager and motivator I was lucky never to come across.

Nowadays we are in the hands of Gideon “George” Osborne. His public manner and voice belie that fact that he is a shrewd operator and very bright. The only problem that he has is one of communication. He is too defensive.

The Labour Government left him NOTHING. In effect, he was (and still is) is in a start-up situation. He has to create the conditions which give the rest of us a reasonable chance to create an economy which, had it been a horse, would have been shot by now.

For several years I have been saying that Economic Theory needs a healthy dose of Chaos Theory appended to it. Consequently, what has become increasingly obvious t0 some of us in the last few years is that economic forecasting has become a mug’s game. Both economic forecasters and politicians ought, by now to have learned that any projections have an inbuilt error of up to 100%. So, if growth is forecast at 5%, it is just as likely to be either 10% or Zero. This is exactly what we are finding today with inflation predictions. The Governor of England may as well hire Russell Grant or Mystic Meg to hand him the numbers.

Hence the overuse of the phrases “Higher than expected” and “Lower than expected”. In spite of the unpredictable variables – from the Japanese Tsunami to the Middle East Riots, politicians still persist in their own special brand of blind optimism. The nearest that they come to admitting that they are no longer in control of events is the occasional “Because of global economic conditions…”

Unfortunately, blaming the Global Economy now looks like an excuse, on a par with “the wrong kind of weather”. The “Global” excuse is only pulled out of the hat when things appear to be going wrong.

The fact is that  a loosely integrated global economy  contains an infinite number of variables, so Finance Ministers ought to relax and freely admit that currently, they are OBSERVERS rather than SHAPERS of economic events.

We have just seen a “surprise” increase in the United Kingdom’s unemployment figures. The figure is 2.49 million – which in reality means that there are probably over 3 million people out of work.

The Chancellor says that in spite of the “disappointing” figures, his policies “are creating jobs” – and do you know – HE IS RIGHT!

He has already cited “world markets” as an explanation – and once again, he is absolutely right! Unfortunately, after a year of unnecessary excuses, that in itself looks like yet another routine excuse.

The number of unemployed women has risen by 38,000. That is the sharpest increase in 2 years and the highest number of unemployed women for 23 years. Why is that? The truth is that no-one really knows. Unfortunately, politicians and “experts” cannot find it in their hearts to admit that they do not know. So we will have yet more pointless explanations.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is NOT responsible for the current moribund state of our economy. That was caused by a mixture of Gordon Brown’s ineptitude, crooked Bankers and the resulting recession.

George Osborne may have the communication skills and manner of a 30s lounge lizard but, technically, he is without doubt the best we’ve got.

He deserves our support so that he no longer feels the need to sell us  what is undoubtedly the most  foul-tasting economic medicine that has EVER been dished out by a peace-time government.

Be nice to your Chancellor. The alternative sits on the bench opposite –  a Brownite about to explode out of his grey suit and it ain’t a pretty sight!

Hug a Hooray.

What?! Mandelson for the IMF?

(Yes, yes! We ALL thought that it was a nose-bleed)

The Chinese have asked if Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson would be interested in THE  job at the International Monetary Fund!

Does a Pope crap in the woods?  Is the bear a Catholic?

It is difficult to understand the qualities that the Chinese admire in Western politicians. If you recall, they were great fans of President Richard Nixon, even after the Watergate bust. They’re obviously seeing something that is invisible to the Westerner.

As well as having been EU Trade Commissioner, Mandelson is our former Business Secretary and he is known as an excellent manager, administrator and shrewd political operator. So he does have (with apologies to Dominique Strauss-Kahn) previous form.

If the oleaginous Mandelson were to be handed the job ahead of sexy Christine Lagarde or bumbling  Gordon Brown, many, including our own Prime Minister would be reasonably happy – after all, Mandelson, in spite of his many foibles is a very smooth international wheeler-dealer.

Mind you, ‘ la cerise sur le gâteau’ would be that not-only the French but more importantly, Gordon Brown would throw all of their toys out of the pram.

French President Sarkozy is still developing his neo-Napoleonic image by having elbowed his way to the front of the NATO queue in order to enhance his recently acquired ‘decisive international statesman’ image by bombing Gaddafi. For balance, he and his wife are expecting a child. He has literally worked his nuts off in order to create a new shiny voter-friendly image for the forthcoming 2012 French presidential election. Make no mistake, the alleged DSK-rape affair is a massive bonus to his campaign.

Now he has the opportunity to install his “protégé” Christine Lagarde at the IMF. That will be yet another feather in his ‘chapeau’ plus Christine will be out of the way, charming bankers and politicians, thus removing herself from the local (French) political scene. Currently, Christine Lagarde is so popular in France  that if she decided to run for the French presidency, she would doubtless win.

Gordon Brown needs a job and when interviewed, he didn’t rule himself out – after all it’s £320,000 tax-free – he just tried to sound serious and statesmanlike. He’s definitely making a low-key play for the job. For instance, he had wasted no time in flying out to  South Africa, where he was launching a new High Level Panel on Education. Today’s interview had a backdrop of a classroom full of nicely polished black kids. That always goes down well with the media.

When asked about his candidature for the IMF job, he replied in his usual sparkly way “Any candidate to head the IMF needs to be appointed on merit”. When he said that, he probably didn’t realise that in that single sentence, he’d ruled himself out.

David Cameron would probably settle for anyone, as long as it wasn’t Gordon Brown – and for valid reasons. There is little doubt that Brown the Bully would try and ‘lord it’ over our  Coalition Government. After all, it is barely a year since he suffered his very public humiliation. Plus he does not possess the urbanity or chic of any of the other candidates. Management by Shouting does not go down well in the IMF environment and Brown has proved more than once that he is a natural backroom boy and not a figurehead.

Nowadays, the Chinese tend to get what they want. After all, even the mighty United States is in hock to them.

Right now, the Chinese want Mandy.

This is going to be a very interesting summer.

(While we’re waiting, Greece will just have to sign a few more IOUs.)


Christine Lagarde or Gordon Brown?

“Hands out of your pockets, Dominique.”

The bookies’ favourite for the suddenly vacant IMF Managing Director’s job is the very bright, willowy 55 year-old  Christine Lagarde. The only obstacle in her way is the fact that she’s currently  French Finance Minister. President Sarkozy needs her.

By training, Christine Lagarde is a lawyer with a Masters in Politics. She has spent time working in America, speaks perfect English and has been voted the best Finance Minster in a G8 country ( Financial Times).

If given the IMF job, she will bring some much-needed glamour and grit to what is arguably the world’s top banking job. She is more of an economist- politician than banker but but has the sort of no-nonsense rod of steel running through her which will doubtless help a worried world through the current economic upheavals.

She is well-liked by the international political and banking communities and has the credibility to talk to them as an equal.

Gordon Brown is an academic, an analytical  and a history graduate. During his short tenure as unelected British Prime Minister he demonstrated a total lack of management and organisational finesse. He continues to delude himself that the ‘led the world’ out of the economic wilderness. Here in the United Kingdom, he left a trail of economic destruction which continues to look like the inspiration for the recent Japanese Tsunami – but with a longer recovery time. Brown’s legacy of incompetence and intransigence will continue to reverberate for at least another two generations.

His popularity within his own country plummeted and remains somewhere below the baseline. At the age of 60, he continues (wisely) to exist below the public’s radar. Unlike the roguish but still likeable Tony Blair, Gordon Brown’s name is never mentioned. He has morphed into the Voldemort of British politics.

In his favour though, he is very unlikely to attack a woman in a hotel room – because he comes across as someone who is frightened of women  and was extremely lucky to have been chatted up by the sainted Sarah, otherwise, he’d still be ironing his own shirts.

The International Monetary Fund  gig requires what one can  describe an Economic Showman – a Personality – a  ‘Sophisticat’  – a ‘Name’.  An economist with a personality. (Sorry, Gordon).

Former Turkish Finance Minister Kermal Dervis, South African Trevor Manuel (we cannot possibly have someone named “Trevor” running the IMF! It’s alomost as bad as “Mervyn”!) and even Singaporean Tharman Shanmugaratnam are in the frame.

Off-stage, the Chinese, Brazilians and Turks are making anti-european noises . (Turkey has competed in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1975 but failed to qualify for this year’s competition)

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel  is pushing for former Bundesbank head  Axel Weber.

Christine Lagarde is odds-on!!


Goldman Sachs strikes again!!

It was GS who helped Greece to cook their books before Greece’s bid to enter the Euro. They were paid a very large fee  for their economic culinary skills. We can all see the fallout of the GS ‘advice’ as Greece is exposed as a Third World economy which is only surviving because of IMF handouts.

Goldman Sachs wields an unfeasible amount of power in the United States Economy:   CLICK HERE

Dr Ben Broadbent has just been confirmed as an external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. His employer? He is senior European economist at Goldman Sachs.

Does the Goldman Sachs strategy include world domination?

That would be surprising, considering the mess that they managed to get themselves into in 2008.

The Halo effect.

 

I have dealt with politicians for many years and one of the first things that I learned was to distinguish between real ability and perceived ability. The Halo Effect.

Most politicians (except close chums of the PM) –  have to go through a selection and an election process. Once they are elected and become a Member of Parliament, nothing changes, except that they have a new job. Their abilities remain exactly where they were the day before the election but many seem to believe that they have become “canonised” and for some, “The Venerable” would fit far better than the pedestrian ” Hon member”.

So what is the Halo Effect? It is simply our mis-perception of someones abilities and traits, based on other abilities or traits. For instance, when you see a photo of a particularly attractive woman, you make a perceptual decision about her voice, her personality etc – all based on one small item of information.

We assume that tall people are more intelligent. We assume that someone wearing a Barbour and holding a Purdey shotgun will talk in a certain way and has a certain amount of money. We assume that if someone has one quality, we can load them with others.

If you have a child, you will understand that he or she assumes that dad or mum can do anything, from dressing a wound to mending Thomas the Tank Engine. To your child, you can do anything. Your halo is the biggest that it will ever be. To your baby, you are ALL halo!

In management and politics, many organisational mistakes are made – more so in politics because of the perceived attributes and skills of those who engage in politics. The motley mixture of ex-union men, solicitors, barristers and teachers who attend Westminster tend to play with a very narrow skill-set, yet in many cases, they imagine that have suddenly been blessed with the lot! 

In politics, because someone is eloquent, he or she can be imbued with an amazing array of skills. The sad fact is that important skills such as negotiating , organisational and management skills are NOT acquired through osmosis but have to be learned and trained.

I have met politicians who are embarrassed to be trained in ANYTHING because their ego and self-perceived status hold them back. That’s purely because of their belief in their own immortality and omnipotence. On too many occasions, they are promoted to fail  – and very often, they do. Hence the rather blunt instrument that is the Cabinet reshuffle.

If you think about it, the Cabinet Reshuffle is no more than a Prime Minister’s admission that he is not very good at recruitment and selection. I have often said to senior executives:  ” Either you promoted the wrong man, recruited the wrong man or have failed to manage him  properly. So whose fault is it that there has been a screw-up?”

When a Prime Minister promotes someone to a key job, he cannot do so purely on ability. Not-only have promises been made, advisers consulted, friendships cemented and length of service considered but there is also the question that president Johnson coined:

“Do I want him outside the tent  pissing-in, OR should I have him inside the tent, pissing out?” 

ACTUAL ability and the correct set of skills for the job is way-down a long list. Many boxes have to be ticked before something as mundane as “fit for purpose” is considered.

Which brings me neatly to William Hague. He is an excellent  speaker and as a result of making himself look a prat at the 1976 Conservative Party Conference, he became a “face”.

Now, 35 years later, all that he has behind him is a long political career without ever  having had the benefit of  having had to manage his way out of the sort of crisis that he was presented when British subjects needed to be repatriated from Libya.

But because he is a nice man, a good speaker and because of the title of Foreign Secretary,we assumed that he could complete the simple task of sending a plane to Tripoli without his boss having to apologise for what looks like a major screw-up and PR disaster. William is not ruthless enough to be a leader. He’s proved that once  already – and that includes leading the United Kingdom’s Foreign policy.

The “reciprocal” of the Halo Effect is the Reverse Halo Effect. Once someone screws-up one thing, we assume that everything else that he touches will be a disaster. That happened to Gordon Brown. 

Mind you, he was a History graduate, ex-University lecturer and was totally and utterly unsuitable for a management job. He would have been stressed to breaking point and this manifested itself in his total ability to make a decision. Once we found out what he was really like, his fate was sealed. Once he’d acquired the “indecisive” sobriquet, no amount of PR could help him. That’s the power of the Reverse Halo.

 Again, Brown was a thoroughly decent man but like Hague, not fit for purpose.

In the same way that Hague’s halo manifested itself during his 1976 speech, the Reverse Halo is now in place – then it’s down to nothing more than David Cameron’s humanity, loyalty,  patience and judgement.

Meanwhile, William has to be careful. Some of us haven’t forgotten the hat. Or the hair:

“I’d walk a million miles……”

” Gaffe-prone? Me? Not at all. By the way, why do you hold your hands like this when you sing Mammy?”

Gordon Brown waited 10 years for a crack at the top job. During that time, the United Kingdom enjoyed the fruits and prudence of Ken Clarke’s final Conservative budget. The posturing Iron Chancellor gave no nod either in Ken’s direction or even in the direction of the Global Economy. Both had made him look good and deserved his acknowledgement but the Global Economy would not come to prominence in his mind until the country was beginning to “benefit” from his personal brand of  “overdraft” budgeting style. Then it was a case of “Nowt to do with me mate, there’s a Global recession.”

Those 10 years also saw Brown set-up his own “virtual” government at the Treasury  as he waited for Blair to hand over the reins of power. He craved a shot at being Prime Minister to such an extent that it became an obsession which yesterday finally ended as  abdication – and about time too.

He could have “walked” yesterday but has managed to squeeze another four months as leader (and possibly Prime Minister). He is not exercising his constitutional duty, he is hanging on at all costs.

Both his tenures as Chancellor and as Prime Minister have ended in failure and today he probably feels that extremely keenly. History will judge his tenure at no 10 Downing Street as that of an unelected interim administrator and not as the great statesman that he undoubtedly imagines himself  to be.

There will be no “Brownists” as there are “Thatcherites” and “Blairites”. Brown will soon be forgotten as a hastily scribbled footnote in the pages of our political history. Sadly, he has become a figure of fun and caricature with a total lack of leadership qualities or public social skills. Those who know him personally say that he is urbane, witty , funny and extremely good company. That doesn’t matter because what we see is a clumsy social inept who would have difficulty in motivating a gaggle of  orgasming American Cheerleaders.

It is sad to say but during the last few years the once-great Labour Party has had trouble finding a decent leader. Callaghan? Foot? Kinnock? Blair? Brown?  Brown was the ultimate “wrong man in the wrong job”. Some may think of him as a delusional who thought that Blair’s famous “hand of history on my shoulder” was always meant for him.

He has not been helped by a Labour Party which under Blair became a pastiche of pseudo-Conservative thinking with the mad-aunt of Old Labour having been  locked  away in the attic. New Labour was embarrassed about its family background. The weak Callaghan did nothing to help the Unions when they were being butchered by Margaret Thatcher. That was the moment when Labour became observers and not shapers of events. Their current legacy is two shooting wars and a wrecked economy. Brown has been at the centre of both.

Whenever a  modern Labour leader has attempted to be a co-shaper of events, there has been tragedy – as the frequent flights into Wootton Basset, broken British businesses  and evicted families will testify.

As far as the latest General Election is concerned, the rather insipid result is as a result of insipid politics. Every Party has planted iteself in the Political centre, giving the electorate little choice. The Conservatives are afraid to appear too Right-wing. That has resulted in the creation of the Loony Right and the emergence of the BNP and UKIP. Had the Conservatives been honest and encouraged internal debate, voters would have seen that there are Conservatives who make the BNP look like left-wing pinko softies. However, that is not politically correct nowadays because everyone in mainstream politics has to be packaged as a moderate.

Likewise, New Labour was driven into the political centre by Blair and it has remained parked there ever since. By default, Brown sees himself and his party as champions of business  as well as the unions. Friends to both management and worker. There is a saying that you cannot run with the hare and the hounds. Labour has  been attempting that impossible trick and consequently, left the electorate totally confused. The question is “Who do you stand for, boys?”  The answer is that all parties attempt to  represent EVERYONE, the only difference being that the Socialists wear cheaper suits than the Conservatives and don’t have moats, trust-funds or offshore accounts. Liberals have dodgy haircuts.

There was a time when the Conservatives represented business and commerce, Labour was the party of the workers and the Liberals were……..well,  liberal. Today, they are practically indistinguishable. Consequently, we the electors have to rely on the Punch and Judy exhibition that is the televised Political Debate in order to reach an electoral decision.

To add to our confusion, Brown never did tell us which way he was leading us because he did not seem to care. He just wanted to be Prime Minister and that is one fact of which we were all very conscious.

Blair had John Prescott  riding shotgun. Brown has Harriet Harman. Blair knew that he needed a Prescott to keep the Unions sweet. Brown’s lack of leadership and personality means that he could only stand to have people around him who agreed with him – and woe betide anyone who gave him bad news. Like a banana republic dictator, he only wanted the good news, compliance, obedience and adoration.

He imagined himself as a world statesman. He deluded himself into thinking that he had saved the world. (Remember that famous  Freudian slip in the House in December 2008 when he said “We have saved the world”?  The Rochdale gaffe was by no means his first.)

Brown’s tetchiness belies his extreme vanity and enjoyment of the trappings of office. His self-image is of the great statesman looking far into the distance, an enigmatic face refusing to give-up his secret visions of a Socialist Utopia where all men are born equal and have the same opportunities and advantages in work, education and care. Student politics in an M&S suit.

Will we miss him? No.

Cameron Sizzles

What a show it was! David Cameron all shiny and polished in his Saville Row suit and spanking brand new Shakin’ Stevens hairdo. Nick Clegg (in the middle again) looking like a Polytechnic student who’d been dressed by his mum for  his very first Work Experience interview. Gordon Brown appeared to be leaning on his lectern like a supergrass who’d spent the day having the shit kicked out of him by Gene Hunt.

David Dumbledore was the evening’s host and question-master.  The Shaun of the Dead audience leaned on each other as the ceremony began. The moaned quietly because thay had been told by the BBC  “No laughing or clapping. Breathe quietly.”

From the beginning it was easy to see that Brown’s strategy was to ignore Clegg and attack Cameron. The trouble was that his technique is so bad as to make it totally transparent and ineffective. He simply appeared like a minor irritant to Cameron –  a Jack Russell puppy taking the occasional gummy snap at Cameron’s hand-made Lobbs.

At the start of a debate, which was primarily focused on the economy,  Gordon Brown was expected to shine because he is the only one who knows all the numbers and where all the economic bodies are buried. But in his single-minded uni-dimensional attempt to discredit Cameron and his policies, he did not make any use of his insider knowledge.

The run-up to the debate was overshadowed by a blaze of bad publicity for Brown after he had been caught by that lapel microphone calling Mrs Duffy of Rochdale , “bigoted” .

Earlier polls yesterday suggested that the incident had not seriously dented Labour support ahead of the May 6 election but for many it was still the “Elephant in the room” and weren’t we all dying for a reference to Gillian Duffy!

Although Brown swiftly acknowledged his mistake, it is debatable as to whether he should have mentioned it at all.  He had probably been advised to do so in order to pre-empt any barbed remarks from Cameron and Clegg but they, quite rightly had decided to ignore the whole amateurishl- handled affair. 

Brown began by mocking himself in an oblique reference to Mrs Duffy and then stressed his record, trying to convince voters he was the man to secure future growth.  He did this so many times as to make it as ineffective as his attacks on Cameron.

“There’s a lot to this job and as you saw yesterday I don’t get all of it right,” he said. That remark was followed by his trademark scary grin which he should have left behind in Rochdale. In fact, there were occasions when the camera panned across to him when one of the others was speaking and he appeared to be either practicing his grin or auditioning for “The Shining 2”

“But I do know how to run the economy in good times and in bad. When the banks collapsed I took immediate action to stop the crisis becoming a calamity and the recession becoming a depression.”  That seemed to be  a written and practiced paragraph which was “full-stopped” by a raising of the chin and a Benito Mussolini-type puffing out of the chest and brief stare into the distance. Dumbledore was caught out by that one on a couple of occasions , not realising that Brown has stopped.

Clegg once again tried his “rose between two thorns” party trick and would occasionally step-back from the lectern gesture left and right  to Cameron and Brown and attempt to bracket them in the voters’ minds as “the usual” and “the OLD parties”. This time it did not work because we saw it coming. At best, Clegg was competent but maybe crossed the line to “hippy management” by overdoing the “we” should get together and “we” should sort this out. He forgot that there comes a time when the electorate needs to be led by a strong character  who is willing to take charge and not someone who is trying just that little bit too hard to be “right on, man”.

Cameron contrasted the Clegg inclusive approach by once again alluding to the time in the not too distant future when he would be running the show:  ” If I am elected Prime Minister…..”

Brown  warned that the Conservatives’ plan to cut a record budget deficit this year risked plunging the country back into recession. That was not a particularly sound tactic , especially as most of the electorate still needs to be convinced that we are out of recession.

Brown, Cameron and Clegg clashed on a range of economic issues, including taxes, the banking sector and the decline of British manufacturing industry, but all three largely repeated their respective well-trodden party lines.

Consequently, this final debate lacked shine and spontaneity. Most of the time, it seemed like the same old script.

By far the most lively exchanges of the night were prompted by a question on immigration, a topic which has surfaced in each of the three debates and which had triggered Brown’s Rochdale outburst. 

Cameron repeatedly attacked Brown’s economic record.

“This prime minister and this government have left our economy in such a mess with a budget deficit that this year is forecast to be bigger than that of Greece,” he said. When the camera panned to Brown, he appeared to be shaking his head. That was confusing because that particular statement by Cameron was 100% accurate.

Yet again bidding to end 13 years of Labour rule, Cameron promised Britain a brighter future.

“If you vote Conservative , you can have a new fresh government making a clean break and taking our country in a new direction and bringing the change that we need,” he said – although he omitted to specify the direction in which he would lead us. Away from Brown would be a good start.

Normally that would have guaranteed a round of applause but the audience’s enforced silence and torpor coupled with our conditioning to expect audience reaction gave us more than one slightly uncomfortable moment.

Clegg (again) told voters not to return to the two parties that have dominated post-war politics.

“When you go to vote next week, choose the future you really want. Together we will really change Britain.” was Clegg’s parting shot. More of the “together” stuff which by this time had become a bit yawn-inducing and made him sound a bit like a Customer Services trainer rounding-off a week-long residential company course. Whoever gave him that final line should be shot.

Ostensibly, this final debate was about the economy which is the key election issue as Britain struggles with sluggish growth and a deficit running at more than 11 percent of GDP. However, there appeared to be tacit agreement between the three leaders not to frighten the electorate with any of the huge figures which were being bandied about just a few short months ago. It seems obvious that no party wants to be the first to tell the electorate that for instance, the next Parliament may see increases in Income Tax of up to 6% or that another 500,000 jobs may be lost.

All three leaders tempered bits of bad news with lots of positivity – much of it unfounded.

The overwhelming feeling was that this had been one debate too many. All three protagonists seemed to repeat themselves, especially Brown. That was probably because in the previous two debates, he had made a point of running for the cover of what he understands best which is economics. By yesterday’s debate, he’d already blown all of his best lines. 

A Yougov poll for  the Sun comic asking respondents who they judged had won the debate put Cameron on 41 percent, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on 32 percent and Brown on 25 percent.

A ComRes poll for ITV found 35 percent thought Cameron had won, against 33 percent for Clegg and 26 percent for Brown. A Populus survey for the Times newspaper put Cameron and Clegg neck-and-neck on 38 percent and Brown on 25 percent.

An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper was the only one not to rank Brown in last place, putting him second behind Cameron.

“It was Cameron’s best performance of the three debates and he won it narrowly from Nick Clegg,” said Simon Lee, politics lecturer at Hull University.

 In spite of the bad news, Gordon Brown has no choice but  to “up” his fight in order  to retain power, with less than a week to campaign. For Clegg, the election cannot happen quickly enough because it seems that his popularity has tended to peak during and immediately after the debates but decayed quite alarmingly during the weeks following.

David Cameron finished the debates on a “high” and has visibly improved week-on-week.  Clegg started strongly but peaked as early as Week 1. Gordon Brown was flat-lining when he started and has since deteriorated. 

The one thing that these debates have shown is that whereas in the past, a Party’s policies were of paramount importance , our gradual decline into superficiality and the deification of “celebrity” has moulded an electorate which is now firmly focused on the cult of personality.

At last politicians have realised what we PR , sales and marketing boys have known for years. You don’t sell the sausage. You sell the sizzle.

Currently, it is DC who is sizzling.

Gordon the Goofer Part 2

” So how about a Damehood, a ride in the Jag AND new double-glazing?”

Even before it all kicked-off, this mini-tragedy had the all edgy qualities of Borat at a W.I meeting.  The Prologue  had it all. We witnessed not-only  the social skills of Borat, the communication skills of an accountant-farmer, the smile of a tomcat regurgitating a fur-ball and the dress-sense of a demobbed Albanian but there was a co-star!  The co-star was an  opinionated grandmother in a bizarre red-lapelled coat. This was the accident waiting to happen. AND.IT.WAS.GOOD!! 

The electoral campaign was just one week too long for Gordon Brown. He had made it so far. Admittedly by this stage, the Labour Grandees’ fingernails   were even shorter than  Brown’s but it did look as if he may just fall over the line without too many  injuries or accidents. Then Rochdale happened. Brown  blundered into the first major gaffe. 

 An open microphone captured him being dismissively rude about a voter who had expressed an opinion.

Brown, apparently forgetting that he’d left a television microphone pinned to his chest, called 66-year-old Gillian Duffy a “bigoted woman” as he was being driven from a public meeting where (he imagined) she had needled him on immigration.

Within minutes the bad-tempered aside had exploded across the media and within a couple of hours Brown was rushing back to Mrs Duffy’s home to beg her forgiveness and emailing his supporters to make clear he’d apologised.

The subsequent 24 hours have seen the cringe-inducing drama replayed on television, radio and  the Internet .  Murdoch’s Sky appears to have the whole thing on a loop. The debacle has dealt Brown a big setback on the eve of the last TV debate ahead of the May 6 vote.

Mrs Duffy, a retired widow and lifelong Labourite from a long line of Labour supporters  met  the prime minister at a campaign stop in Rochdale. She  questioned him about the influx of eastern European immigrants.  Nothing wrong with the question but Brown does not have the spontaneity to answer any question which does not afford him the opportunity to list Labour’s meagre achievements. Consequently, he was rattled. He was also aware that there are immigrant voters with television sets.

He attempted to answer her potentially emotive question with figures and statistics and began his customary sleep-inducing stumble through “facts” such as “X-number of immigrants had arrived”  but “a large number of Brits and Immigrants had  left“. He forgot that she was only interested in her own environment – Rochdale and not in UK statistics. In fact, one wonders whether he had been briefed at all about Rochdale.

He effectively brushed her question aside when he explained that Britons were also working in Europe. His aides sensed that Brown was running out of steam so he was quickly ushered into the ministerial Jaguar. As soon as he was cocooned in the Jag he relaxed and began to complain to an aide about the encounter from Hell.

“That was a disaster, they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous,” Brown is heard to say.

When asked what Duffy had said to upset him, Brown told the aide: “Everything. She’s just a sort of bigoted woman.”

Mrs Duffy  had questioned Brown on taxes, university fees and Britain’s record deficit of £152.84 billion. She had displayed no bigotry whatsoever and her question on  immigration was just that – a request for information. She had expressed no personal view about immigrants.

Brown’s negative reaction was much more to do with his own shortcomings as a communicator rather than Mrs Duffy’s robust questioning.

Brown’s gaffe was immediately broadcast and he was then grilled about it by Jeremy Vine on his Radio 2 show. The show was televised. Slumped over with his head in his hand, Brown said he realised he had made a mistake and regretted the remarks.

“He’s an educated person, why has he come out with words like that?” Duffy said. “He’s calling an ordinary woman who’s just come up and asked questions … a bigot.”  It is still not clear whether Mrs Duffy, her interviewed relatives and all the other Rochdale Vox Pops know exactly what a “bigot” is but they all seem to think that it is a “bad word” – and in this context is is a very bad word – especially for Gordon Brown.

Duffy said Brown had initially appeared receptive as they discussed policy. “I thought he was understanding but he wasn’t, was he?” said Duffy, who said she had planned to vote Labour but would now most likely abstain.

Brown later telephoned Duffy to apologise, then unexpectedly showed up at her home. Damage limitation time.

Smiling broadly but awkwardly, Brown emerged 40 minutes later and said “Gillian” had accepted his apology. Mrs Duffy remained indoors and refused to face the cameras. Overnight, the Red-tops have been pushing envelopes with financial offers through her letter-box and it is rumoured that she has agreed to a deal with one of them.

“She has accepted that there was a misunderstanding and she has accepted my apology,” Brown told reporters through gritted teeth. “If you like, I am a penitent sinner.”

It seems that a statement such as ” She’s just a sort of bigoted woman” is quite unequivocal and Gordon Brown has not yet explained where the “misunderstanding “ occurred. The fact is that he was caught bang to rights and no amount of mealy-mouthed excuses will help him.

As to whether he should have gone back to Mrs Duffy’s house for the 40-minute grovel is debatable. There is a saying that when you have dug yourself into a hole, sometimes  it is a good idea to stop digging.

The political consequences of Brown’s blunder could be severe since he already is third in opinion polls and desperate to show his supposedly statesmanlike credentials to dispatch his less experienced rivals. David Cameron and Nick Clegg  could never have dreamed of being presented with such a luscious target so close to polling day and it will be interesting to see what their speech writers have prepared for tonight’s final televised debate.

In an ironic twist, Brown’s campaign team had even overhauled its election strategy this week — betting that more contact between their leader and ordinary people would revive his flagging election hopes. Had they consulted ANY Public Relations company, they would have been advised to keep Brown in a box until after next Thursday’s vote.

Brown had a previous gaffe last year when he sent a handwritten note to a mother whose son was killed in Afghanistan. He had misspelled the soldier’s name and once again, was forced into an embarrassingly grovelling apology.

Brown’s foes could barely disguise their delight at his high-profile cock-up. “The thing about general elections is that they reveal the truth about people,” said George Osborne in a remarkably restrained statement.

Charlie Whelan, a former aide to Brown, used Twitter to defend the former leader. “Who has not let off steam under stress and strain of a campaign?” he wrote. “He’s apologized, move on.” No surprises there.

Chancellor Alistair Darling offered,  “This is something that he knows he shouldn’t have said.”

Even the reptilian Lord  Mandelson briefly stopped his tongue-flicking  to say  “Gordon didn’t mean it. Ssssssssss. Trusssssst in me.”

Bookmaker William Hill said the gaffe could dent Brown’s election chances, immediately lengthening the odds of a victory for Labour to 16/1 .  William Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe said.  “It could prove to be a very damaging blow to his chances of retaining power.”  The bookies are seldom wrong.

Many commentators say that in order to recoup credibility and votes, Gordon Brown will have to produce a bravura performance at tonight’s debate. Prepare for smiles and statistics.

 

p.s. The open microphone was transmitting “pooled” sound to the media, i.e they all had access to it and they all heard Brown’s remarks. The company which released Brown’s words was Sky.

 

Commie Credibility

After last night’s debate between our political leaders, it was good to see David Cameron, stepping up to the mark and looking and sounding a bit more of a leader. We were all expecting great things from him because of his performances at the Dispatch Box and his “note-free” speeches to Conference.  However, the Dispatch Box only demands short paragraphs, delivered at machine-gun speed. The relaxed atmosphere at Conference, with a “tame” audience is a million miles away from close scrutiny by the nation  and its press through the medium of  TV debate.  The TV “game show”  format demands a subtly different skills-set.

Cameron is not a “natural” but  yesterday, he seemed more at ease and remembered his training. There were only a couple of lapses where it was obvious that he had forgotten to look directly down the camera lens. On the whole, though, it was an accomplished, workmanlike performance which will have won the Conservatives votes.

Nick Clegg is a natural. That was a surprise to us all and possibly most of all, to Nick Clegg himself. The camera loves him, he was the most telegenic of the three  but all that he delivered was more of the same. The surprise factor had gone but at least he did not crumble under a bit of scrutiny from Cameron and Brown. We expect our leaders to be focused on the horizon and Clegg looked “up” a lot which instantly gave him the air of a politician who is fearlessly looking forward. Clegg’s facial expressions were always open, friendly and appropriate. It is unlikely that he has notes in the margin saying “smile”  – unlike Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown remembered his coaching some of the time but when he was under pressure, he reverted to type and ran to his notes for cover . He is not a natural performer but his biggest drawback is that he does not “look” like a leader. His face had the “hang” of an individual who seldom smiles and who may be suffering from sleep deprivation. There is little doubt that he has sincerity but that is about all. All of his quips seemed over-worked and over-rehearsed and it was obvious that he was determined to use as many as he could. We could have done without “Get real, Nick!” and “They remind me of my two sons squabbling at bath-time”. He appeared to be reading both of those “ad libs” and his random “Hammer movie” smile also looked “inserted” rather that spontaneous and natural.

The great “positive” is to see what used to be quite respected Socialist commentators and journalists  willing to sacrifice their own credibility by claiming that somehow, Gordon Brown was the “winner”. There comes a time when it is prudent to gracefully admit that your man is third-best  and that the only way that he can win is to come out for the final round next week and deliver a double-knockout.

Elliot Morley has more chance of becoming Chancellor.

Send out the Clowns

Your Prime Minister

Gordon Brown and the New Labour inepts are very fond of statistics. Most of the time, their statistics are “weighted”, “massaged” or wrong. Their presentation is often designed to mislead. Here are some simple numbers which clearly show New Labour’s main “successes”.

They came to power in 1997 and that is probably the best starting point:

1. INFLATION.  1997 2.5% ,  2010  3.5%

2. UNEMPLOYMENT.1997 2million ,  2010 2.5million

3. NATIONAL DEBT. 1997 42% of GDP,   2010 53% of GDP

4. LITRE PETROL. 1997 50p , 2010 £1.20

5. BUDGET DEFICIT. 1997 ZERO, 2010 £170 BILLION

Needless to say, there are many other such comparisons. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that New Labour has destroyed the British Economy and that we have completed the journey from economic superpower to third-world economy.

Time is running out and we should waste no time in running this bunch of posturing clowns out of town with Gordo the Clown leading the way.

The Labour claims that they led us out of recession through their fiscal policies is a lie. They did it by printing money and postponing the inevitable collapse.

 

Clegg Rules.

I have just finished reading the reviews of last night’s debate between our party leaders. It would seem that impartiality is a forgotten journalistic art. Either that of many of us were watching a different debate. For instance, the Commie red-tops such as the Daily Mirror have published reports indicating that Gordon Brown had “wiped the floor” with the other two leaders. No he didn’t and I suggest that in future, the Mirror journos record their opinions after the event  – otherwise the facts are in severe danger of being overlooked.

Nick Clegg was the easy “winner” with David Cameron a distant second and Gordon Brown a faller at the first fence. Today, the Socialist commentators are all referring to Gordon’s quip about posters and airbrushing. He preambled into that little joke and it was scripted for him. He doesn’t do ad-libs  so don’t get too excited, boys and girls.

David Cameron found it difficult to look relaxed and gave Gordon Brown absolutely no eye-contact. His appearance of being ill-at-ease was further compounded by the fact that as the debate progressed, his face went from pale pink , through pink blush to what appeared to be Antique Rose (see Dulux Colour Chart).

Only Clegg managed to retain his composure and look increasingly relaxed. So what was his secret? As a professional presenter, unfortunately I shall now lapse into a bit of “presentation-speak”. That will enable me to identify why Clegg did so much better and made the others  look like a nervous groom at a Gypsy shotgun-wedding.

Here are some simple figures which will explain the most important aspects of a presentation: The surprising first fact is that for a presentation to be effective, the actual words spoken contribute only about 15% to the effectiveness of the message. Another 35% is contributed by the delivery – they way that the words are spoken and that includes the quality of the voice, the voice  modulation, the volume etc. The remaining 50% is provided by the speaker’s APPEARANCE.

So, if you look like Quasimodo with a voice like Joe Pasquale, it won’t matter how wonderful your words are. The message will not travel or deliver well.

That may all seem terribly superficial but that’s the way it is nowadays and may help you to understand the reasons for all that make-up and voice-coaching.

Let’s have a look at them is reverse order.

GORDON BROWN

1. Appearance. The poor man seems to be suffering from terminal sleep deprivation. He looks oh so tired and there are days when he appears to have been on the losing side of an argument with Mike Tyson.  He has the sort of portly build which will never look good in either a suit or casual gear. He wears “policeman” shoes – plain with rubber soles. His quivering jowls and general demeanour suggest “old for his age”, “clapped-out” and “yesterday’s man”. His face has acquired the shape and “hang” of an individual who rarely smiles. That is why his smile appears so unnatural and macabre in that Jack the Ripper way

2. Delivery. His voice ought to be his best asset. It is deep and resonant. The Scots burr is usually an attractive asset because it suggests “honesty” and “straightforwardness”. Unfortunately, all those pluses are negated by that annoying “tick” when his mouth snaps shut like a gin trap and he does not posses any spontaneity. He runs for the cover of well-worn phrases which again tend to be very annoying and distracting. He rarely uses adjectives or metaphors  and hence his prognostications appear to lack depth and style. His pre-rehearsed attacks on Cameron were ill-conceived and amplified his own negativity and desperation.

3. Words. Because he is an Analytical, he enjoys wallowing in a morass of numbers and detail. He does not realise that any “sale” of ideas is made on an emotional level. He should learn to use the link phrase “which means that”. For example, “we will be raising National Insurance” is a phrase with which he is constantly being beaten up with by Cameron. If Brown knew how to turn bare facts into benefits that voters could understand, his ideas would be far more palatable. For instance ” We will be raising insurance and using the extra cash to help our pensioners which means that none of them need be hungry or cold ever again”. Unfortunately, he would find the last ten words of that sentence very difficult because they are designed to tug at the emotions and that to Brown, is alien territory.

DAVID CAMERON

1. Appearance. He isn’t a “looker” either. He has an old-fashioned haircut – although he has recently (nearly) lost the arrow-straight parting. He always wears white shirts which do little for his pointy little pink face which tends to look as if it had just been enthusiastically scrubbed by matron with a starched towel. He should try another shirt-colour. Yesterday, during the debate, he did not smile until it was all over – although there was the flicker of a smile when Brown delivered that scripted quip about the posters and the airbrushing. You may have noticed that Cameron does not possess any laughter lines. He may well be a funny guy when he is with his friends and is a glass or two of claret to the good but his thin lipless mouth-only smile suggests an ungenerous spirit. His top set of teeth is rather small and “gappy” which discourages him from smiling under the gaze of studio lights. His over-smooth pink features make him look a bit “slimy” and insincere. According to many women I’ve canvassed, he does not seem to appeal to the ladies as much as he should.

2. Delivery. Cameron’s wife Samantha talks in Estuary English which is basically a posh person attempting acceptance through the watering-down of an accent borne out of a private education. Cameron has made no attempt to water down his accent and continues to sound like a toff. Nothing wrong with that except that  it makes him sound elitist, distant and uncaring. However, he used to be very good in short bursts during the soundbite heaven that was the  half-hour at the Dispatch Box when he used to attack the stuttering and bumbling Brown. He should stop writing his own speeches and seek advice – but not from Michael Gove who is as out-of-touch with the common man as he is. Remember that it was Cameron who wrote all those memorable John Major “funnies”.

3. Words. Firstly, he should not mention his son Ivan again. He is in danger of making us all cynical. Leave it, Dave. The words he uses are good but largely wasted because of the negative personal image.  Yesterday both he and Brown seemed “locked into” their scripts and crib sheets. Much of what he says appears insincere and designed to make him look “ordinary” and a “man of the people”. He can never find the right words to say “I understand your pain” because he doesn’t.

NICK CLEGG

1. Appearance. He is fresh-faced and good looking with a slightly less formal haircut than the other two. The haircut does on occasion look as if it had been cut by a nanny who’d had one-too-many Crofts but even that gives him a lovable air. He wears a suit well but is more M&S  “off the peg” rather than “bespoke”. Yesterday, he smiled more than either of the other two participants and when they were speaking, he often turned and looked directly at them. By half-way through the debate, he was standing with one hand in his pocket which made the others looked like tensed-up club bouncers. He appeared totally at ease and that helped him to “think” whilst talking – not an easy trick and unlike the others, he was not a slave to his notes. As soon as the three protagonists were introduced last night, Clegg had scored points. Cameron and Brown were wearing dark suits which gave them an air of stiff formality. Clegg on the other hand, wore a lighter suit which immediately suggested informality and a relaxed state of mind.

2. Delivery. Clegg’s delivery was slow, measured and his voice was lower and huskier than usual. That gave him an air of believability. He did not involve himself in any bickering and stopped talking when he was told to do so.  We all noticed that in the “wash-up” he had noted all the questioners’ names and referred to them. Cameron attempted the same trick but only managed to name two of the participants. Occasionally when Brown or Cameron made a point that Clegg did not agree with, he gave an exasperated smile and looked at the audience in order to involve them. He was only naughty once and that was right at the end of his own summing up. He was going for applause when he finished with “Thank you” and a nod of the head. That always produces applause. I suspect that he’d had a bet with Vince Cable. His delivery was helped by his openness and readiness to smile at the appropriate time.

3. Words. None of the debaters produced any memorable phrases or soundbites but Clegg was the one who kept away from jargon and spoke to the people in very simple terms. He used the phrase “Those two” several times which distanced him from Cameron and Brown, thereby bracketing them in our minds as a pair of habitually squabbling villains.

Today, as is the case in any political contest, there were three “winners”. That is the nature of politics. In reality however, Nick Clegg demonstrated PR  and communication skills which were a million miles ahead of anything that either of the other two will ever be able to produce. It was very apparent that Clegg had been coached by a British PR man, whereas the other two had been coached by Americans.

Clegg’s credibility will now be enhanced by Cameron and Brown turning on him but only through having realised too late, what a real threat he is. The mere fact that they will inevitably begin to forensically dismember the Liberal manifesto tells us nothing more than the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town and that this is no longer a two-horse race.

The Tory-Labour cartel may well be heading for trouble and their joint fight for survival is about to get dirty.

(It is too late but the most revealing debate would be one without lecterns or notes.)

 

The Three Amigos

“Who are you calling c–t, c–t?”

There is one thing that all three participants in tonight’s election Debate have in common: none has ever been elected to the highest political office in the land.  One of them however, has exercised squatters rights at No 10 Downing Street for quite a while but only because no-one had the courage to evict him. Those who did try  have joined the “where are they now?” pile of political detritus which languishes in that forgotten twilight world, somewhere between politics and commerce.  The Memoir Zone.

One of tonight’s participants may be joining them very soon.

There has been much speculation and anticipation about the “Presidential Style” debate which the media age demands. After all, we know that there is a certain inevitability of the United Kingdom eventually importing everything that is bad from American culture. We’ve already gratefully accepted obesity, gun crime, bad television and incorrect spelling so we might as well go the whole hog and allow our leaders to sacrifice their dignity in the name of entertainment. 

British Prime Ministers have only recently enjoyed direct personal contact with the electorate because after all, they are only elected as ordinary MPs. Since the Thatcher era, the British General Election has become little more than a presidential contest  because the majority of voters will deliver their verdict based only on their feelings towards a party leader. Nowadays, the function of most ordinary prospective Members of Parliament is no more than that of political “ballast”.  Remember Blair’s Babes?

The Blair era demonstrated and established the presidential voting principle  and there was a time when New Labour could adopt a cardboard cutout as candidate in the sure knowledge that it would be elected. It was the time when make-up, make-over and charisma smothered the old-fashioned politicians’ instinct to serve.

It is no coincidence that both Conservatives and Liberals have two comparatively young “pretty boys” as leaders. Gordon Brown’s persona and image are definitely from the pre-Blair era and as such, puts what was formerly “New” Labour at a great disadvantage. “New Labour” was a misnomer  because in reality, it was Blair’s Labour.

Voter-perception and superficiality from the House of Celebrity are the new gods.

There will be no surprises tonight because all three leaders will play safe. They will all have scripted and well-rehearsed ad-libs up their sleeves as they are all aware that the most important thing for them to produce today is a memorable soundbite of no more than one sentence.

Neither Cameron nor Clegg will dare to go too far “off piste” because all that they have to do is not to make themselves look like clowns. Brown will definitely not attempt to go off piste , primarily because he won’t be able to find it – unless it is somewhere in his notes.

Predictably, both Brown and Cameron have gone Stateside for help.

Brown is being coached by Michael Sheehan who coached Barack Obama for his own pre-election debates – notably his TV duels with John McCain.  Sheehan is a speech coach.

Cameron has engaged American agency Squier Knapp Dunn Communications. A partner in the company is Anita Dunn who until very recently was Obama’s  White House Communications Director. Cameron also has a lot of input from Octavius Black who is not-only a PR man but also an old friend of his.

Clegg is coached by Johny Oates who was with PR company Bell Pottinger which is part of the Chime Group.

Brown’s primary task will be to try and shake-off his dour, old-fashioned grumpy image. Unfortunately, that means that there will be smiling.

Cameron’s image has recently entered the rather dangerous “Mr Slimy Know-all” territory and he will be working very hard to appear as our mate Dave. All that Nick Clegg has to do is to remember to face the front and lower his voice half-an-octave and to throw in a few “Cable-isms” which will have already been given to him by Uncle Vince. Clegg will be the one with the most colourful metaphors.

Brown and Cameron may decide to savage each other but Clegg will be treated well by both of them, only because either may wish to open post-election negotiations with him. In reality, all that Clegg has to do is to turn up and not knock-over any furniture..

Cameron’s strategy may be to help Brown to lose his temper and really blow it. Cameron will try and expose Brown as an old fuddy-duddy control freak. Brown in turn, will try and tell us that Cameron is inexperienced, shallow and not a man of the people. Clegg will highlight  the constant points-scoring between the two main parties.

Look out for “palms-towards-the-audience” hand gestures from American-coached Brown and Cameron. It’s the “Hey look at me I’m unarmed with nothing to hide. Trust me”  family of gestures favoured by politicians with lots to hide.  The best exponent used to be Richard M Nixon. Nick Clegg will be very British and restrained and will keep himself very “narrow”.

The other thing to look out for is a simple mismatch between head movements and what is said .  For example if a husband says to his wife in a loving tone  “Of course I love you” and he is simultaneously shaking his head from side to side, instead of nodding – he is lying. Keep a sharp lookout – especially in Cameron’s case.

How do I know all these things? I did a lot of training for Bell Pottinger (Clegg’s advisor) and I have also delivered a lot of presentation skills training for Conservatice Central Office. Labour would not allow me anywhere near them – with good reason.

Prediction: They will all do well – but only if you believe everything that you read in the press.

Another month – another meeting.

First, there was the notorious G20 junket. Then we had the Copenhagen Accord. Now we have another meeting. This time, it is the The High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, held today at 10 Downing Street, London. This meeting precedes the next meeting , which is the Cancun climate change conference later this year.

Today’s meeting was attended by political “big-hitters” such as Guyanan President Bharrat Jagdeo, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. President Barack Obama’s sent his chief economic adviser Larry Summers.

This is Gordon Brown’s statement:

“If we can solve this problem I believe we will be on our way to achieving a global agreement. And today’s first meeting of the group has made a really constructive start.

This is a positive sign that progress can be made with the right leadership. It is vital for Britain that we achieve success.”

The “problem” to which GB is referring is the small matter of raising $100 billion to help third-world countries to deal with climate change.

A REAL opportunity for politicians to have lots of meetings.

Hopefully, their business will be concluded either before there is either serious climate change or when the scientists confirm that the Earth is  in fact, cooling.

At the moment it’s a 50-50 shot.

Meanwhile, as you listen to the video below, you may notice that no-one is clouding any of the issues with facts.

The statements shown above were immediately followed by lunch and a quick game of that well-known and much-loved political game of  “Bullshit Tennis”.

(When Gordon Brown spoke of the delegates’ “full daries”, he was of course confirming that no meetings are ever held  either during Wimbledon fortnight or the Harrods autumn sale.)

While Rome Burns

 

A million-and-one things are distracting our politicians  – naturally-occurring disasters  such as the  Chile tsunami, the  Haiti earthquake, Global Warming-induced freezing weather. Then there are exceptional occurrences such as the Vancouver Games, the death of Michael Foot, the war in Afghanistan, a non-domiciled Lord  and the impending United Kingdom General Election. All are events which have provided many opportunities to ignore the one great constant, the real “elephant in the room”.  The economy.

If history teaches us anything, it’s that when even ONE major government defaults on its debts, economic chaos can follow. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that few appear to have learned.  A crisis can unfold in just  in FIVE quick steps:

1. A  single country’s debt default will   cause ALL gilts and bonds to crash, as  investors  stampede for the gilt/bond market exits, dumping as much as they can, as fast as they can.

2.  As the gilt and bond market collapses, interest rates climb and credit tightens. The rates on mortgages, car loans and other long-term debts go through the roof. They are followed by rates tied to short-term money markets such as credit cards and other unsecured loans. 

3. Consumers stop consuming, that is to say, spending goes down. 

4. Corporate earnings and stock prices fall.

5. Unemployment rises.

Our “faux-recovery” would  stop dead in its tracks and we would all be forced  to take a hard reality check because Page 2 of the so-called “double-dip” recession will have arrived. Remember that the current recovery is only here as a result of Western Governments throwing non-existent money at the banks, purely as a stop-gap but in the vain hope that some new and hitherto unknown economic alchemy would miraculously manifest itself and those elusive green shoots of economic recovery would appear out of nowhere.  A triumph of “fingers crossed” political hope over harsh economic reality.

A disturbing tapestry is already beginning to unfold – not just in ONE major Western country but in TEN of them!

We’ve known for some time that Greece, Italy and Ireland are at risk of default — and this week, we saw how investors’ fears and uncertainties caused them to begin dumping British pounds and gilts. The soaring costs of Credit Default Swaps — “insurance policies” that protect investors against default — on the debts of Portugal, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Iceland and the Ukraine are a clear sign that investors believe that all of these countries are at an elevated risk of default.

Put simply, it would only take  only ONE sovereign debt default to crush this fictitiously anaemic recovery … but no fewer than TEN major Western countries are now at risk!

THREE powerful forecasting tools are confirming that a  bond/gilt conflagration, stock market decline and double-dip recession are now “peeking ” over the horizon and are about to sneak up on us.

CYCLICAL ANALYSIS:  The cycles identified by the USA-based Foundation for the Study of Cycles have accurately anticipated nearly every major shift in market direction  since the  early 1970s. Its current prediction is that Stocks will begin to fall this year and will continue to do so for the following two years. They also anticipate that by the end of 2011, gold will have crossed the $2000 per ounce barrier. 

POLITICIANS and WORLD BANKERS:  Right now, they’re all fed up with bailouts of failed bankers with their continued  intransigence and hand-wringing.  Politicians can only watch  the skyrocketing  deficits and debts  which they created through initiating out-of-control borrowing by their Treasuries. The  mindless money-printing by the the Bank of England, the Fed and other central banks has only amplified the problem. As a result of their collective actions, there is now far more than just the mere spectre  of higher taxes and savage public spending cuts. There is no other way out because all governments need more revenue as well as lower expenditure.  Unfortunately, politicians appear to be frozen in fear and have adopted the  “Let’s wait -and-see and watch these oncoming headlights”  approach.

In the United Kingdom, we have a General Election within two months and within seven months, the Americans have their mid-term Congressional elections.  The net result is that we are languishing in a sort of economic limbo where  indecision and uncertainty are pushing investors’ nerves to breaking point – which usually means that they develop the urge to sell .

The United Kingdom has another potentially destructive issue which is causing yet more nervousness among investors. The latest polls suggest that after the General Election,  there may be a “hung parliament” with neither of the two major parties achieving an overall majority. That means that there is no clear message or even anticipation as to how the country’s massive budget deficit will be dealt with. There are not-only ideological reasons for the uncertainty but even economists cannot agree as to which will be the best way forward. That makes investors very nervous and is a very good reason for the politicians to say as little as possible – and that is exactly what they are doing.

Massive government debts have forced them  to accept that the days  of Central Bank bailouts and other “stimuli” are numbered.  That, in turn, means that the momentary economic stability  that  the recent government-induced  bursts of consumer spending will soon come to an end.

VOLATILITY ANALYSIS:  Currently, the volatility indicators that  professional traders rely on — in the gilt/bond as well as currency markets etc. are signaling that the economic stability and investment trends that most investors have depended on for the last year or so are coming  to an end. The smart money is now beginning to bet on major directional shifts in all major asset classes — plus, the generally accepted “word on the streets” is that the current ersatz recovery is beginning to unravel.

Meanwhile, politicians are grateful for all the little distractions that appear to be keeping their collective eye off the ball. While the economy burns, if Obama, Brown et al were each handed a fiddle, there is little doubt that they would play it.

Cameron’s pussies

Let us start with a statement. The Rt Hon David Cameron MP should be our next Prime Minister. I do not mean “should” in any wishy-washy “if that’s all right with you , chaps”  sort of way. I mean it in that “I’ve seen his previous form, his experience, his  pedigree and his leadership” way. In addition, I have worked-out the real reason why he appears to be allowing Gordon Brown to catch him in the opinion polls. It’s all to do with the printed Press.

On the Left, we have the might of Routledge, Maguire etc but on the other side, we have a bunch of  TPPs  (Tory Press Pussies) who appear to be suffering from “analysis paralysis” and instead of selling Cameron for what he is – a leader of great potential, they think that they will somehow affect the voter by smearing the already terminally-smeared Brown. They could not be more wrong. Incidentally, when I refer to the Tory Press as being a load of “pussies” , I am of course excluding that tough little bugger Danny “the Fink” Finkelstein of the Times. There should be another twenty of him and then perhaps, Cameron would be where he belongs – at least twenty points ahead in the polls.

I don’t know who Cameron’s advisers are but they have obviously told him to try and look  a little more “statesmanlike”, a bit more serious. It seems that George Osborne is being advised by the same prat who is advising Cameron.

Be yourselves, boys! Let your characters shine through. You do not need to look like a pair of emotionless, constipated cutouts with all the charm of a Jehovahs Witness on a double-dose of Valium. (Remember George Osborne’s last conference speech). Cut loose and share yourselves and not your contrived images with the general public. Ditch the Valium-look and let us see you talking and acting as if you have the energy to drive United Kingdom plc forward, deep into the 21st Century. We want to see a Viagra double-dose look. We like to see our politicians acting as if they come to work with a hard-on instead of worrying that they’re going to upset some bitter and insignificant socialist hack or hackette.

Some of us perceive Cameron and Osborne as a pair of irreverent funsters who would probably be quite good fun to get drunk with – and that is why the rather dowdy images that they are currently projecting are consistently  failing to ring true. I am not suggesting that they should be photographed staggering out of Chinawhites after demolishing a case of Kristal with a white powdery residue on the top lip and a giggly perma-tanned tart on the arm but there has to be a small degree of “chill”.

David Cameron appears to be afraid to say anything too definite, hence all that we can perceive are the odd grains of belief and truth in what he says but it also looks as if the only thread holding his views together is the shaky thread of a studied -but-reluctant negativity and the fear of putting a foot wrong. That is where he should take a leaf out of Boris’ book and remove the fear of screwing up. The voter will love him all the more for it.

As for the Tory press – the same applies to them. Chill out and write what you feel. Write with humour and wit and not of rumour and shit. Read some of Danny’s stuff. Most will never write with the rough-handed lyricism and passion of a Routledge but they should have a go – even if the Oxbridge Economics degrees, Chablis hangovers and unfulfilled lives  do sometimes get in the way.

Gordon Brown is perceived as an honest, passionate but sometimes chaotic man who is advantaged by the fact that we all think that we know him. David Cameron has been branded as a shallow hooray on a bike without any strong views. Whoever advised him to go jogging in Brighton last weekend should be ritually disemboweled. All that Dave managed to achieve was to look like the boy who came last in the Wednesday afternoon school cross-country race. The “face like a peeled tomato”  look is never a good one – especially in front of a slavering pack of Labour snappers.  It beggars belief that he can get it wrong so consistently.

So “Eton” Dave and “Wallpaper” George are a pair of young but very able politicians with an image problem. We know that Dave’s wife Smantha is a little poppet and it is good to see her out and about a bit. Although a bit on the shy side, she is a tremendous asset. George’s wife is more anonymous but then again, George should be seen out a bit more with his missus and allow the media a tiny bit more access. Then he may shake off the slightly gay Tim “nice but dim”  image.

There is absolutely no excuse for them both not to be a thousand times more popular than their opposite numbers but it is a perceptual thing and nothing at all to do with policies. Not so long ago, I know that David Cameron was warned against an overly-triumphalist  à la Kinnock attitude: (“Well…….allllllriiiiight”). That was OK when the lead was 10 points and there seemed little chance of Labour recovering in the polls. Today, Brown has managed to shake-off the smell of damp earth and rusty shovels and there is a strong belief that he may actually “do a Major” and win.

That would be the ultimate travesty. Get your finger out, Dave.

New Predictions 2010/2013

Alistair Darling has never looked so relaxed. David Cameron observed that if Darling and and the Prime Minister sat any closer to each other on the front bench yesterday, they would be kissing. The Labour front bench has never  looked so “at ease” and with good reason. There’s absolutely NOTHING that they can now do about the economy, NHS or any of the other major conundrums of State. They are in a good place and enjoying the rapid approach of Spring and what it will bring – the dissolution of Parliament.

The crippled economy appears to have been left to its own devices as it staggers and bumps along from crisis to crisis. The politicians, bankers and economists seem to have been reduced to the role of observers, purveyors of increasingly convoluted euphemisms and “guessers” who still have not grasped the difference between two fundamental Theories: Keynes and Chaos.

It may be an idea to try to slash a path through the current economic goings-on in order to see if we can make any sense of it all.

Our Chancellor’s current laid-back demeanour means one of two things. It means that either he has adopted the fatalistic attitude of one who cannot wait to put his hands on the severance pay, begin his memoirs  and give Gordon Brown the shafting that he has been deserving of for the last 13 years OR  maybe he really doesn’t understand the problem.

The Winter Olympics, Christine Pratt, Gordon Brown and the Coles may be hogging the front pages but perhaps that’s all for the best because what could be on the front pages is strictly Certificate X. In fact, some of what is about to happen to the world’s economy would never pass the scrutiny of the British Board Of Film Censors.  We are heading for a cross between a social  Exorcist and an economic Armageddon. So let’s begin.

I have either observed or worked within the Financial Services Industry for over 30 years and remember the days before the present circus of  exotic financial instruments and comedy accounting. Stockbrokers and Fund managers were not riding financial tigers  or unbroken investment mustangs that were impossible to dismount without a great deal of pain. There were long bull markets interspersed with the occasional short sharp shock of a quick bear. There was order with only the occasional panic which would always be sorted out without the aid of the Bank of England’s printing presses. Those were the “My word is my bond” days.

Investment banks would never have cooked a country’s books in order to replicate what the banks themselves were doing in order to hide gargantuan unsustainable debts. They would not have  charged Greece 0ver £190 million for their trouble so that “on paper” Greece woud look financially fit enough to join the Euro.

Four months ago, Greece’s 10-year bond was trading happily, it was stable and rising.  Then,  global investors began to dump Greek bonds in huge volumes and with unprecedented speed. The whole thing was so brutal that the custodians of the Greek economy did not realise the full extent of the disaster until their economy was exhibiting all the symptoms of near-death. Thanks to Goldman Sachs who had (legally) helped them to cook the books, Greece had been living and borrowing in an economic cloud-cuckoo land. Currently, they are standing on of the equivalent of an “event horizon” at the edge of an economic Black Hole.

Three months ago,  Portugal’s 10-year government bond also peaked. That is also being dumped by global investors. Nobody wants it. Portugal’s problem mirrors that of Greece.  To put it very simply: overborrowed with no collateral. Just like our banks.

Investors are dumping Greek and Portuguese paper because they are nearly 100% certain that their current economic positions  are unsustainable and that both countries will default.

Italy is keeping afloat through the medium of creative accounting. The next economy to tumble after Portugal and Greece will be Spain  which is running out of both time and cheques with which to support its 20% unemployment rate. The ship that is probably going to support the sinking rats is the holed twin-hull of France and Germany who both know that they need to bail out Greece. After that is achieved, there is severe danger of a Euro-queue forming.

The Euro is doomed because France and Germany will be breaking that most sacred of rules which states that “Thou shalt not bail out thy Euro neighbour”. That rule was enshrined in statute so that a Euro economy in trouble would never drag down any other Euro-user.

Both the French and the Germans are continuing their own spending orgies and instead of doing something now, they are following the United States’ and United Kingdom’s lead. They are postponing the day of reckoning and merely watching the final death throes of the Greek economy.

It looks as if the Euro is about to be sacrificed.

The American dollar will also soon be needing  some sort of life support. Rating agency Moody’s  has already warned  the States about its giant but still accelerating debt.

Dollars  and Sterling have been pumped rather over-enthusiastically into both the American and British banking systems and that has directly resulted in an overvalued stock-market and the feeling is that we are now about to witness a fall in market values which will continue into 2013. That will be mirrored by the highest-ever percentage rise in the price of Gold, Platinum, Palladium and even silver. Gold may well cross the $2000 per ounce barrier.

The dollar will continue its slide which will accelerate by the middle of 2010 , with its downward journey picking up speed by the end of  the year. The pound sterling will follow because currency speculators will be falling over themselves to buy currencies such as  Australian and Canadian dollars. From flashy and weak to unexciting but solid.

At the front-end of 2011, we will see the beginning of the dreaded second dip in the recession which many commentators  seem to think is gradually exhibiting those iconic green shoots of recovery. Those shoots will turn brown and atrophy.

All this will happen because back  in 2009,  whole states made the decision to sacrifice themselves in order to  save their dead  banking systems. History will probably judge these to be the worst economic decisions ever made.   A country has never sacrificed its economy and welfare of its citizens in order to save a broke and discredited banking system which it had itself allowed to expand without proper control.

By the end of 2011 and into 2012, most countries will follow the Greek economy – which is currently exhibiting the green shoots of a civil unrest which will soon spread throughout Europe and the Americas .  That will happen because of of an exceptional set of events which will all take place more-or-less simultaneously . Western economies will collapse as their GDPs, currencies and stock markets all bottom-out .

That will finally signal the inevitable dawn of the wealth-shift from West to East.

China will begin to call ALL the shots because Western economies will have  been painted  into an economic  corner with no way out.

Our Chancellor knows that after the next election, he will probably be on the Opposition benches. In the unlikely event of a Labour Prime Minister being asked to form a government, Darling will probably be “reshuffled” out of the Treasury.  Either way, he will be able to continue what he has already started to do – observe the  sunset of the Western economies.

The green shoots of economic recovery? We’ve been looking in the wrong place. They’re in China.

Words from the No 10 Massive

“Brown reading his own speech”

Gordon Brown’s solutions to the joint problems of bank bonuses and the economy are somewhere in the future – and always will be.

In the latest statement from No 10 Downing Street, he says that Ministers are committed to ensuring that banks which have taken Government loans, pay back “every last penny to the British tax payer”.

In a podcast discussing banks, Gordon Brown also says that this year’s 50 per cent tax on bank bonuses is part of the Government’s determination to make banks contribute to society.

He goes on to say that the revenue from the tax will go towards alleviating youth unemployment and cutting the deficit. The current size of the United Kingdom’s deficit suggests that the contribution of this minuscule tax on the bankers is like peeing into a soon-to-erupt volcano – and will probably be just as effective.

This is the transcript of Gordon Brown’s podcast – you will find it pretty easy to follow. In keeping with the Prime Minister’s usual style, it in completely devoid of  facts. If you are experiencing difficulties sleeping, it is suggested that you print-off the next section and read it in bed. It is an excellent cure for insomnia:

“I want to share some thoughts with you today on my hopes for Britain’s future and the way banks can play their part in building a fairer, more responsible society.

Britain is a great country – and after the challenges we have faced together in the last 18 months, I believe we can now feel optimistic and enthusiastic about what lies ahead.

With the combination of your resilience, the enterprise of business, and a determined government, I know we can seize the opportunities offered by a changing world.

And this partnership can help us create new jobs for you and your children in the emerging industries that our economic revival will be built up on.

But just as with our recovery from recession, success is not automatic. It has to be nurtured and has to be won.

And so, as we take Britain forward, we are acting to give everyone the chance to make the most of their talents as we develop a skilled workforce.

And we are giving thousands a foot on the career ladder and important skills for the workplace through our guarantees to young people – part-funded from a one-off tax on bankers’ bonuses.

Successful, profitable banks – able to attract and retain the best talent from around the world – are important for ensuring British homeowners get the mortgages they want and British businesses secure the cash flow and investment they need.

So we have been restructuring our banks including taking shares in RBS and Lloyds – shares that we will later sell at a profit.

But I’m sure you also share my anger with some of the banks, and so you’ll agree with me that it is only fair that those who have contributed to the recession and have now benefitted from taxpayers’ support give something to society in return.

We are committed to ensuring the banks – through good management – pay back every last penny to the British taxpayer.

Our 50 per cent additional tax this year on bonuses is part of our determination that the banks make their proper contribution to society.

I can tell you also that I am working very hard with international colleagues – including talks this week at the European Council – to find agreement on a global bank levy to make sure that in the future the contribution banks make is properly captured.

It’s important that any levy on UK banks is matched by other countries too – and we want to end the tax avoidance by financial institutions that happens when they play off one country against another.

You know, in the UK we have already introduced the toughest rules on bank bonuses anywhere in the world.

This means they are paid over a number of years and can be clawed back if they are not deserved.

We have also put an end to cash bonuses for the highest earners. And we have made sure that no bank owned by the British taxpayer will pay out cash bonuses to any executive earning over £40,000.

Instead any payments made will be in shares – and therefore linked to the long-term success of the banks.

So while in the coming weeks we will see bonus packages awarded by banks, they have to reflect these new rules.

And the proceeds of the one-off bonus tax will go towards alleviating youth unemployment and cutting the deficit.

These measures are not intended as a punishment but there can be no return to business as usual: responsible business practice is essential and the banks have to recognise that they have had help from taxpayers to keep going.

I know that all of us – working together, in partnership – can make Britain not only the global success story of this century but a fairer, more responsible country as well.

Thank you for listening.”

 

If you are still reading……..congratulations but you are obviously either suffering from a sleep problem or on some sort of very strong medication.

Drain the swamp first.

Investment Banking

The British economy is not is very good condition and we know that the unemployment trend is still upwards. Retailers are continuing to shut down and the manufacturing sector is still in a comparatively unhealthy state. Does it not therefore seem strange that one sector of the economy – the one that doesn’t actually MAKE anything is posting profits in BILLIONS?

It is said that if one sector of the economy is delivering improbable margins, then something is wrong.

The annual rate of inflation here in the United Kingdom is 4% and in spite of what Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England is hoping, it is set to rise. He is about to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and tell him that the sudden inflation rise is a mere “blip”.  The blip will continue until the big manufacturing economies such as China  and India awake from their torpor and once more start to run their production machinery at full speed. That is when the price of commodities – everything from soya beans and wood to copper and oil will  increase in price because there will be a higher demand. 

The collateral damage will be our  inflation rate because as demand for goods increases, so will prices of raw materials, followed by the cost of the goods in the shop; the goods we buy. That is also why the Bank of England’s tinkering with interest rates in order to control inflation has always been  such a nonsense.

Let’s have a close layman’s look at Barclays declared £11.6 billion profit for last year. The figures are an approximation but will not be too far out.

It is generally accepted that these days, a bank generates most of its profit from its Investment Banking activities and as Barclays Retail Bank will soon be declaring write-offs of £9 billions-worth of bad debts, we’ll concentrate only on the profit derived from Barclay Capital’s dealing.

If we assume that the £11 billion profit represents  a 20% margin on the stocks and shares purchased, that means that in order to have achieved a profit of £11 billion, they will have had traded assets worth about $55 billion.

We may be forgiven for thinking that £55 billion is a lot for them to have invested in business and commerce but in reality,  they may already have sold that volume in order to realise their profits.

However, if their profits are simply “paper” profits and not hard cash, they will still be holding onto those investments  which can now decrease in value just as easily (and quickly) as they may rise. Hence the new craze for deferred bonuses.

The £11 billion profit shown on their accounts as profit is just a “snapshot” of the company taken on a particular day.

There is another scenario which is a little more worrying  – and this does not just apply to Barclays but to any bank and this is why just over a year ago, so many of them were shown to be organisations of the “all furs and no knickers” variety. Banks often borrow money in order to buy stocks and shares, hence euphemisms such as “gearing” and “leverage”. They both mean “borrowing money”.

That is why all banks ought to be obliged to disclose their Gearing Ratio so that we know how much of their invested cash is their own. If a bank is highly-geared and therefore has to service a large debt, it will be very vulnerable to sudden market downturns.  That is what happened in 2008/2009 – their foundations were either too soft or non-existent.  (The Gearing ratio is a straight comparison between a bank’s  activities funded with borrowed money and those funded with their own cash).

When Mervyn King uses phrases such as ” the banks are rebuilding their balance sheets”, it is because many of them were holding too many “assets” which they had bought with borrowed money plus many of those assets became liabilities which many banks hid.  They are now required to have enough of their own money and assets  before they either lend or borrow. “Quantitative Easing” was designed to accelerate the process. Did it work?  The jury is still out.

Mervyn, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are watching the banks “rebuilding “ on the assumption that prior to the reconstruction, they fully drained the swamp.

Some of us still have our doubts.

Octavius – over to you.

Badger Brown

There are people who will vote for a politician because he has a pretty face, looks honest or has a good voice. What fires an important section of the electorate is not logic but emotion. Perception, prejudice  and superficiality are the new Gods and it is only in recent years that politicians have become conscious of the fact that complicated economic  and social policies are not the primary route to votes from an increasingly apathetic and intellectually impenetrable electorate. They need to tap into the electorate’s emotions. They need to SELL.

There are only TEN recognised Emotional Buying Triggers ( EBTs): Ego, Status, Prestige, Greed, Fear of Loss, Pride of Ownership, Ambition, Health, Security and Sex.  All selling is based around combinations of these 10 EBTs. 

For instance, television car advertisements: Status, Pride of Ownership, Ego.  M&S food: Status, Ego, Health.  The most powerful EBT is SEX and that is why  many advertisements and promotions tap-into it so frequently. Exactly the same rules now apply to persuading the jaded but still-susceptible voter.

Emotionally, there are large blocks of voters to whom politicians cannot sell. These are the individuals who are tied to a particular party by blood and bigotry. ” My father was Labour, his father was Labour etc etc.”  If you canvas these people and start talking interest rates, percentages, policies, their eyes glaze over.

When politicians talk of GDP, Fiscal Stimuli, Quantitative Easing, they are not talking to  the man in the street, they are addressing Times, Guardian, Independent, Mirror or Telegraph analysts and journalists or they want to direct messages towards bankers, corporate investors or other politicians. The “man in the street” needs blander and more digestible messages – something that he has been conditioned for.

Admittedly, there is a small percentage  of voters that  does analyse the economic slurry which is discharged by Whitehall and then reported, interpreted and mangled in a variety of ways by a deeply partisan press. Whether the journalist is Labour, Conservative or Liberal, his or her views are as strong as those of the voter who will vote for his Party but only because he has always voted for the Party. Voters read specific newspapers and follow specific journalists, not for reasons of debate but simply for the warm milky comfort of having their own views and opinions reinforced.

In an election, the target is not the die-hard voter – the one  who will vote for his party even if the candidate is  a cardboard cut-out. The target is the so-called “floating voter”. The sales pitch has to be  for him.

So, which buying triggers do the political parties usually attempt to tickle? Security, Fear of Loss, Ambition and Health have always been favourites. Greed is another quite powerful trigger. In the final analysis, our primary concern is not the economy but ourselves. “What’s in it for me?”  The BNP is an excellent example of a party which is constantly tapping into Fear of Loss (of our sovereignty and way of life)  and  Security (the implication that we may somehow be in economic and physical danger from immigrants).

The above buying triggers have been tapped-into for years  and  apply to all parties.  A new “edge” was needed and not surprisingly, it was the emotional buying trigger of SEX – totally overlooked by politicians for many years which suddenly became the prime catalyst.

Let’s face it, most politicians were (and still are) “spuds”. That is to say, ordinary men and women who were obviously chosen for their abilities and not for their looks. Nowadays, that is not enough – especially for the people at the top – the party leaders.

Here in the United Kingdom, Tony Blair was the first politician to present himself as “Political Totty”  and surrounded himself with even more totty. Remember Blair’s Babes? Blair had learned the Cult of Personality from Bill Clinton, who some think  may have “overworked”  the  “boyish good looks” angle. The result, as we all know, was public disgrace and a dry-cleaning bill.

Much of  Tony Blair’s appeal was superficial – the slim good looks, the ready smile, the Bambi eyes etc. You may have noticed that when he appeared before the Chilcot Committee a couple of weeks ago, the soft-blush bloom of youth had faded and much of his appeal had dissipated. Consequently (and possibly unfairly) we were pre-judging his words because there were  no buying triggers left for him to tap-into.

There is little doubt that Gordon Brown is also going to attempt to tap-into our most basic EBT. His appearance on the Piers Morgan programme was designed to let us see Brown as a “bit of a lad” who had finally settled down and in spite of the setbacks and personal tragedies, has immersed himself into a loving family relationship with a handsome woman who dotes on him. Hey, that’s sexy.

Setting aside Morgan’s “lêche-cul” style of interviewing, the editing, tempo and content produced a  superficial but morbidly interesting piece of television. The Ill-tempered, chaotic, gauche  Billy-no-mates was airbrushed before our very eyes into a deep, emotional, loving, modest man who will work for charity when he finally retires from politics. Celebrity Mr and Mrs cannot be too far away.

Rumour has it that the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron is being advised by friend and confidant, Octavius Black who, in spite of  a moneyed background and public school education, is quite street-wise. That is good because in order to cement his voter-appeal, Cameron needs to lose the off-duty Barbour image and gently pull his wife more and more into the limelight. His media advisers are probably already talking to ITV and BBC with the usual demands for “balance” (equal air time).

The one-on-one interview must sound appealing to the Cameron camp but they should beware of comparisons with Brown and they certainly should not accede to any requests from Piers Morgan. Cameron must start by  tempering his behaviour at the Dispatch Box because the nation now sees Brown as a cuddly old Badger who is doing his very best and who, although occasionally tetchy, seems quite trustworthy and competent. The last thing that they want to witness is the unedifying spectacle of a Mr Toad tearing down the hill, making lots of noise and being an all-round pain-in-the-a**e.

Who said  “This is not about personalities.” ?

Oh yes it is. Octavius – it’s over to you.

It’s still all Greek.

The statement read out by Herman Van Rompuy after yesterday’s Brussels summit of EU leaders resulted in a vague and uneasy  feeling of dejà vu. It was last year’s much-anticipated G20 conference which produced similar words to Van Rompuy’s but it wasn’t just the rhetoric – it was the worrying lack of content that was so familiar.

“Determined and coordinated action”  is just a sentiment and Angela Merkel’s reference to another “meeting in March” only suggested that difficult decisions were being postponed. Yes, it was  that familiar long-grass syndrome again.

The  statement that Greece “has to take measures to tackle its huge debts”  is a truism and not really worthy of any special mention. The Greek economy is no longer lame – it is deceased  – but European leaders are more concerned about what money-market speculators are about to do to the Euro. They may do to the Euro what Silvio Berlusconi is alleged to have done to Patrizia D’Addario.

PIGS is  an acronym which will burn itself on our collective conscousness very soon. Portugal, Italy, Greece , Spain are the lame-duck european economies on the brink. All they need is a small push.

In fact, the full acrnonym should be PIGSUK.

All these countries have been borrowing cheap money for quite a few years and  like the man who eventually doesn’t bother to open his credit card statements, their debts are now approaching the stage where they are having a problem to even repay the added interest.  If they then have their credit-worthiness down-graded, they will be charged even more interest and the self-amplifying problem grows until they finally have to admit that they cannot repay the money and they default. That is when the Euro will begin to look like coloured printed paper.

Remember the Lira?

Greece is slightly ahead of the game because it has already had its  credit-worthiness downgraded so borrowing more money is now going to be very expensive.

Make no mistake, the money markets are currently very twitchy so it seems that yesterday’s non-announcement was a bit of a tactical error. The markets are hungry for good news but only news with substance. When the announcement was made, the Euro rallied but not for too long. After the words had been analysed, it was realised that nothing had really been said and the  currency fell away again.

Here is an extract form the Van Rompuy statement: 

“We fully support the efforts of the Greek government and their commitment to do whatever is necessary, including adopting additional measures to ensure that the ambitious targets set in the stability programme for 2010 and the following years are met.

“We call on the Greek government to implement all these measures in a rigorous and determined manner to effectively reduce the budgetary deficit by 4% in 2010.”

Greek President, George Papandreou added: “If it is necessary we are committed to take these additional measures to achieve our targets.” 

It was all too vague for the markets.

Budget deficits in euro zone countries have  ballooned this year as slower economic growth has cut government income and boosted government spending. The Euro “ceiling” on budget deficits is 3% of GDP.

Currently the Greek deficit is 12.7% of their GDP. They have had more-or-less the same issues to deal with as the rest of Europe but their Public Spending has been out of control for much longer and the previous Greek Government had been cooking the books. That meant that when George Papandreou took over, he found that he had  inherited a Budget Deficit TWICE as big as that which had been declared.

This will not be the last time that Europe finds itself in such a quandry – for as long as countries using a common currency practice such diverse fiscal policies.

There are self-imposed EU rules which prevent handouts to member states but  next week’s meeting of EU finance ministers  should (hopefully) produce a solution.

Gordon Brown was present at this week’s meeting, although strictly speaking, the United Kingdom is not within the Euro zone. Brown would do well to learn from the Greek experience because the UK budget deficit is more-or-less the same as that of Greece.

These are some of the measures that the Greeks intend to implement:

  1. Cut the budget deficit to below 3% of GDP by 2012. ( Currently 12.7%)
  2. Freeze public sector salaries and cut bonuses
  3. Replace only one in five of people leaving civil service
  4. Raise average retirement age by two years  by 2015
  5. Raise taxes on fuel, tobacco, alcohol and property

The above initiatives are a very strong pointer to what the UK government will need to do in order to achieve a similar result. However, the first stirrings of civil unrest in Greece are demonstrating how deeply unpopular all such measures are.  That is why this is not really a job for politicians who have one eye permanently trained on the opinion polls.

The British insular attitude was expressed by a reporter who inquired whether the British taxpayer would be contributing to any bailout of the Greek economy. Brown’s reply was unclear but the quick answer has to be “yes”.   For instance, if the IMF is asked to loan Greece several billion, some of the money will inevitably be British money because the United Kingdom is an IMF contributor.

However, the most likely outcome will be that some of the more powerful EU members such as France and Germany may decide to stand as Guarantor for any future Greek loans.

It is a widely-held view that Greece will not be able to either service or repay its loans. For instance, nearly 12% of its current GDP is used to service the current money it owes. It owes about £250 billion and will need  to borrow another £48 billion this year, just to balance the books.

British Treasury officials and politicians are probably watching this modern Greek Tragedy very carefully.  Let’s hope that they recognise it as the Case Study which it undoubtedly is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crying – the New Lying

 

Look out for the slight  intake of  breath accompanied by an almost imperceptible disbelieving shake of the head Then the slow downward look, followed by a sigh and the glance to the left or  or a glance to the right right and maybe a light touch to the forehead or eye.  The correct way to execute the entire manoeuvre is in total silence.  End with another slight shake of the head and about five seconds’-worth of rapid blinking.

However, for maximum points, a bit of glycerine on the finger-tip will produce a tear. If you can manage that  – you cannot fail.

Yes, it’s the politicians’  Tear Timewarp and it’s a guaranteed VOTE WINNER !! 

Blair had a “go” during his Chilcot Inquiry “grilling” (actually it was more of a slow roast with the oven turned off). Alastair Campbell nearly went all the way when being interviewed by Gargoyle Marr. Unfortunately, being a Northerner, he couldn’t manage the crying bit, so instead,  he just ended-up looking as if he’d forgotten to take his ExLax.

There is a rumour that Gordon Brown will be doing  the Full Monty this weekend. No, not like that. He will be delivering the  full Politico Tear Timewarp to Piers Morgan. It’s already been taped and apparently, it’s a good one.

If Brown’s performance scores him a few extra points in the opinion polls, David Cameron will be the next in line and then the floodgates will really be open. This will be the Wet Election – in more ways than one.

Mind you, squeezing-out the odd tear should not be too difficult. There are all sorts of topics guaranteed to reduce the most heartless bastard to tears.  Here are a few of my favourite things – you know the tune:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright wooden coffins being brought back to Britain
Black plastic body bags, mourners sing
These are a few of my favorite things

Flag-covered boxes and  a post-playing bugle
Processions and flowers and  a war so llegal
Airplanes that fly-in with blood on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

You see, there so many things around to provide our politicians with much-needed inspiration. That’s without even having to think about what reduces us, the voters to shoulder-wracked sobbers:  The economy, the violence, thieving MPs, charity records, Simon Cowell  – not to mention the rapidly diminishing choice that the electorate will have when the time comes to choose a decent government.

I’m welling up again……Just a glance to the left…..

Here’s something really “puketastic”  as a warning (answers on a postcard, please):

and here’s the real thing:

 

 

Dysfunction, Dysfunction, Dysfunction

The First Division Association (FDA), the organisation which represents about 18,000  senior civil servants, diplomats and advisers has referred to the present government as “utterly dysfunctional”.

According to Jonathan Baume, General Secretary of the FDA, the primary reason for this brutal assessment appears to be “indecision” from Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister.

It is said that several of the more fatalistic Ministers  have more-or-less accepted that the current government’s  “sell-by” date is just about to expire and have either fallen asleep at the wheel or are exhibiting more extreme symptoms of the moribund apathy which has always dogged this government’s foot soldiers in the post-Blair era. Mr Baume said that some ministers had “given up”.

Presumably, the sight and sound of the civil service non-too subtly gearing-up for a change in administration, is doing little to motivate an already head-bowed Labour team.

The cause of the government’s “dysfunctionality” is said to be “partly political and partly organisational”.

Whatever the causes, the buck stops with Gordon Brown. Unfortunately, he has never been able to fully demonstrate his Chief Executive’s capabilities and the more subtle shades and nuances of the leadership game continue to elude him. There are rumours that his approach to leadership owes more to volume than persuasive discourse.

Mr Baume added: “No-one is clear how the Treasury, the prime minister’s office and the Cabinet Office actually loop together and come up with a coherent policy initiative.”

“When Gordon Brown became prime minister, no clear direction ever emerged from him,”

He said there was a “government by announcement”.

According to him, new policies  and initiatives have always been announced by No 10 Downing Street with little indication as to how they would be paid for. That is never an issue during boom times but difficult when government expenditure is about to be cut.

Having said that, there has never been  any real government follow-up on proposed  cuts in public spending – possibly because such news would inevitably affect voting patterns.

The FDA is finding the whole thing very unsatisfactory and says that there is  “sense of malaise at the political level”, with some ministers already focusing on what may happen after the election.

In fairness, it must be difficult to run any government office with one eye on the department and the other on the Situations Vacant  page.

Phony War?

“Message for Gordon Brown!”

I wager that very few of us normal citizens were aware of the fact that until today we were on a “substantial” terror alert. That has all changed because as from today, we are on a “severe” terror alert. The mysterious thing is that Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary is unable to tell us the reason for the sudden change in status recommended by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. All that he would say was that there is no “immediate threat” of a terrorist attack.

If there is an immediate threat, we will  be automatically upgraded from “severe” to “critical”. That’ll teach them.

Currently, the suggestion is that JTAC have had a sniff of potential trouble and informed the Home Secretary who has now completed the admin by changing our status but why the hell don’t they just steam in and arrest the suspects. Perhaps there are none .

Alan Johnson said: “We still face a real and serious threat to the UK from international terrorism, so I would urge the public to remain vigilant and carry on reporting suspicious events to the appropriate authorities and to support the police and security services in their continuing efforts to discover, track and disrupt terrorist activity.” 

That very bland statement says nothing at all and makes one suspect that if there is no specific threat, that this may be another one of those government camouflage tactics.

What is “remain vigilant”? What are “Suspicious events?”

” Hello , is that the police? I was in the middle of my latte and croissant when I noticed a strange and unpleasant -looking person sitting opposite me, looking slightly sweaty, with some sort of head-dress and judging by their girth, it is possible that they have something concealed about their body. They are talking unintelligible rubbish and staring at me hatefully………….Oh sorry officer. It’s my wife  who’s just come out of the shower. Sorry.”

The Home Secretary said the new level meant people needed to be “more aware”. More aware than what and more aware of what?

Is this the beginning of another another Phony War or is it just some “displacement activity”  or pointless  terrorist window-dressing by a government which has run out of ideas and is in desperate need of something major with which to impress an increasingly sceptical electorate ?

Patrick Mercer MP, who is chairman of the home -affairs committee on counter-terrorism has criticised the Home Secretary for this sudden announcement and has called for some clarity. For instance – why the change in status?

Could it be anything to do with the current suspension of flights between Yemen and the United Kingdom? Are the Americans and Brits looking for a new scapegoat? Is it because those damn Haiti earthquake victims are hogging all the headlines?

Mind you, there are a couple of conferences coming up here in the United Kingdom this week – on Yemen and Afghanistan – so possible terrorist targets are being flown into the United Kingdom by invitation. So by implication this government is inviting terrorist attacks. Why can’t we hold this type of conference elsewhere? Brussels would be a good choice but they probably don’t want their good hotels full of terrorist targets.

The last time that our terrorist alert was at “critical” was after the 2007  Glasgow Airport bombing – and very useful it was. We spent the next two days avoiding dark-skinned people driving Ford Transits. Whatever we did must have worked because there were no further incidents.

This is all that the Home Secretary has to say in order to help us understand: ” This Wednesday and Thursday we have invited a couple of plane loads of Yemeni and Afghan politicians to London for a conference. In doing so, we are a temporary magnet for every disaffected terrorist psycho-nutter from anywhere the Middle East – in fact, some of them may even be on the planes. We hope that by putting ourselves on a “severe” terror alert we will show Johny-terrorist that we are taking him seriously. However, you are all safe – unless of course you are Brazilian hanging around Stockwell underground station. Meanwhile, if you spot an Afghan or Yemeni passenger jet heading for any of London’s tall buildings, please call the police and leave a message”.

Meanwhile, let us hope that this week’s conferences are as useful and revolutionary as that other major conference for which we will remember our dear Prime Minister – last year’ G20 summit.  Please read Gordon Brown’s post-G20 summit statement of  Thursday 2nd April 2009 and then try and decide how many of the “action points” have been implemented. You will not be disappointed.

This week’s conferences will probably result in a similar statement which will probably be another “cut-and-paste” version of the April 2009 G20 declaration.

Here’s an example:

“Can I welcome you to this conference following our G20 summit Conference on the future of Afghanistan?  This is the day that the world we came together to fight back against the global recession terrorism, not with words but with a plan for global recovery and for reform and with a clear timetable for its delivery.  And our message today is clear and certain: we believe that in this new global age our prosperity resolve is indivisible.  We believe that global problems terrorism requires global solutions.  We believe that for growth peace to be sustained  the fight against terrorism must be shared and that trade peace must once again become an engine of growth.”

Good game!

 

 

Brown Whitewash?

Chilcot Inquiry

During the latest Prime Minster’s Question Time, Angus Robertson of the SNP  asked Gordon Brown: “The Chilcot inquiry has heard that you were in the Iraq war inner circle and refused key payments for our troops on the front line. Will you confirm to the house that there is no impediment for you to seek a time to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry before the general election?”

Gordon Brown replied: “This is, as I said, a matter for the Chilcot inquiry. I have written to Sir John Chilcot and I have said to him that I am happy to give evidence at any time. That is a matter for the committee to decide, but I will take whatever advice he gives me about when he wishes me to appear.”

Gordon Brown had already written to Sir John Chilcot and had said “I want to make it absolutely clear I am prepared to give evidence whenever you see fit.”

Chilcot fears that the Inquiry may become “politicised” as a result of the Prime Minister’s appearance – which will be within the next two months – and prior to the General Election.

The Chilcot Inquiry’s interrogation of Brown will probably be the equivalent of being flagellated by a warm marshmallow-on-a-rope.

Make no mistake, Brown would have preferred not to have been questioned at all –  but for pressure from the Opposition parties – notably Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Iraq invasion was a transparently illegal act of war. A sovereign state was invaded and that is why many say that the Brits and Americans should now be asked to pay reparations to the Iraqi people.  In spite of the fact that there was more-or-less all-Party agreement and support for the invasion, it is the waythat that Parliamentary support was solicited and obtained that is in question. So, whether or not Chilcot agrees, this is a political matter.

It is probable that a Prime Minister lied to Parliament – possibly with the full knowledge of his co-conspirators – with Brown among them.

At the time, Brown was  Goering to Blair’s Fuhrer,  so in reality, they should both be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock, next to that latter-day Joseph Goebbels – Alastair Campbell.

I make no apology for the Nazi parallels because it is becoming increasingly evident that the Cabinet was manipulated, as were Members of Parliament of all Parties. It seems that for a short time, democracy was a stranger to British politics.

Brown has to explain in detail,  his part in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Jack Straw made it abundantly clear to the inquiry that he was anti the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq. At the time, it was the generally accepted feeling of both politicians and the secret services that any invasion of a Muslim state would result in increased terrorist activity targetted at the invading countries – and so it has come to pass.

Consequently, more and more of the United Kingdom’s and America’s resources are now focused on the “war on terrorism” which appears to consist of  no more than sending young soldiers to obscure places to be blown up and the UK  and USA “spook”  population running around in ever-decreasing circles in the sure knowledge that their political masters have ensured that they have a spooking  job for life.

The arithmetic is simple. Many more hundreds of thousands of people have been  bombed,  shot or blown up as a result of the West’s misguided attempts “prevent” terrorism, than have ever been killed by actual acts of terrorism.

Blair will be questioned next Friday – by then most of  the supporting acts will have done their “turn”. Let us hope that Brown’s interrogation takes place while feelings are still running high and that the Brown-hand-picked Chilcot committee temporarily puts all thoughts of future Peerages on the back burner and does its  job.

So far, their questioning technique is about as incisive as that of a old parish priest taking confession from a nun. Regrettably, there are no barristers present so we must not expect fireworks but it is hoped that Chilcot’s kindly old duffers pep up their somewhat moribund tennis-club-committee style of interrogation.

Originally, Conservative Leader David Cameron dismissed the Chilcot Inquiry as “an establishment stitch-up”. Let us hope that he was wrong. 

Obama and the Banks.

“OMFG!”

The last twelve months have seen bank profits reach pre-crunch heights. There is no doubt that the banks were able to continue their activities only because of the intervention of world’s governments who have pumped eye-watering amounts of liquidity (money) into the banking system.

Now that the banks are producing a surplus, they have four very clear choices:

1. They can increase lending (on reasonable terms) to commerce and business.

2. They can place the money in their reserves – just in case there is another crisis or a “run” on bank assets.

3. They can repay money to the world’s taxpayers who have underwritten the banks’ past, present and future losses.

4. They can extract the money from the banking system through the medium of high salaries and bonuses.

The reality is that the banks have dabbled in all four options but through their smug bumptiousness, have created the perception that all that they are interested in is Option 4.

The banks appear to have closed ranks and decided to keep their heads down while they pick both government and taxpayer pockets.

Here in the UK, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have made increasingly strangulated noises in the bankers’ direction and attempted to appeal to the bankers’ better nature. They are yet to find it. The situation here in the UK is a delicate one because the Financial Services Industry used to add about £100 billion per annum to the country’s wealth. There are over 500 banks in the City of London and Docklands, where the majority of the business is being carried out internationally. Golden goose and all that.

To put it simply, the United Kingdon economy is over-reliant on the banks. That is why all that the politicians can do is to try and shame the bankers into complying but at the same time, they do not want London to lose its place as the world’s leading financial centre.

Our own Chancellor has stopped short of introducing legislation to curb the bankers’ excesses but instead has dabbled with a one-off bonus-related tax which the bankers have side-stepped and swatted quite neatly because they know that any levy claimed by the government will consist of no more than a refund of the government’s own money back to the government. The bankers are not-only in the driving seat but they are driving a limousine while all that the government can do is to run alongside barefoot and knock on the window while the bankers sigh, light up another Monte Cristo and count their bonuses.

Bankers used to be “middle-earners”, whereas nowadays – especially Investment Bankers, are well-and-truly in the top 10% of all earners. It is interesting to see how income distribution looks after so many years or “ersatz” socialism: The Lowest 10% of earners in the United Kingdom collect about 3% of the total earnings, whereas the top 10% of earners take home about 30% of the total.

It is doubly frustrating for a nominally socialist government which (on paper) is committed to fairer income distribution, having to stand-by as a mere spectator, while the bankers continue to plunder the economy. Some may say that the plundering is being carried out with the government’s connivance or perhaps merely as a result of the government’s intransigence and ineptitude.

That is why it was so refreshing to hear that President Barack Obama has decided to declare war on the bankers and impose some rules. The reaction of the financial markets has been spectacular and not-only indicated fear but has also demonstrated the banking industry’s foot-stamping petulance.

Bank values fell in the United States and the good news is that the “Obama-effect” is spreading .

The US Dow Jones fell by 2%. In London the Stock Exchange fell by 2.2% – led by Barclays which dropped by 3.5%. Barclays was followed by the German Deutche Bank which more-or-less matched Barclay’s fall.

The banks are fearing an imposed break-up of their operations because most of them realise that they are too big. If you listen carefully you will hear the rasping sound of Bank Directors choking on their Remys.

If a bank is too big to fail – then it is too big. THAT should be a self-evident truth.

President Obama has said that he is “ready for a  fight” with the banks. He is a very brave man because there are many within the US establishment – both Democrat and Republican who are still not 100% comfortable to see a black democrat with a social conscience running the show. Mr Obama has a difficult year ahead – but good luck to him.

He said  “Never again will the American taxpayer be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail.”

Goldman Sachs has just announced the equivalent of a £500,000 bonus to each of its US employees – each one of whom already averages about £300,000 in salary. Needless to say, Goldman Sachs shares have fallen  in value and perhaps finally, their stranglehold on the US economy will be broken. READ HERE.

In spite of Gordon Brown’s delusions, he has not been the “leader” during the global financial crisis. He is very much a follower who has always found it difficult to go out on a limb in the way that Obama just has.  Brown’s spokesman , City Minister Lord Myners said yesterday that the US proposals were “very much in accordance with the direction we have been setting” .  Since when?  Yesterday?

George Osborne, the Conservative Shadow Chancellor has said that if elected, the Conservatives would dismantle United Kingdom banks but only if he managed to secure international agreement.  It would seem that no-one wanted to be the first to blink and now that President Obama has shown the will and the courage – the bandwagon will begin its long and creaky journey to banking reform.

We should not be surprised however, if the banking industry regains the initiative any day soon by announcing its own plans for reform and reorganisation. Watch this space.

One of the main causes of the 2008/09 banking meltdown was (and still is) the habit that the banks acquired through gambling with their own money – the so-called proprietary trading . The problem is that they weren’t always using their own money – they were themselves borrowing the money from other banks and “investing ” it. Hopefully, that will now stop and they will only invest their customers’ money – which after all, is what they are supposed to do. Banks are not in the business of putting themselves into hock in order to gamble borrowed money on the stock exchanges.

Obama said: “While the financial system is far stronger today than it was one year ago, it is still operating under the exact same rules that led to its near collapse.”

He will change those rules but the more likely outcome is that the banks will comply without any bloodshed. There is a saying that “the fight is won – even before the first blow is struck.”

Obama has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He has been in office for one year and the banking fiasco has been a constant irritant from Day One. In addition, US unemployment is rising, he has a battle with his proposed health-care reforms and Republican Scott Brown has captured Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat.

Make no mistake – Obama has diamond-hard resolve. His attack on the banks is no more than the play of  a wily gambler who pushes his chips into the middle and says ” I’m all in. What have you got?”

The banks are facing him across the table but at this stage they are not sure which of them is holding the weaker hand.

My money is on the President to prevail and for the rest of the world’s governments to back his hand.

 

 

Gordon’s 2010 Resolutions

 

“This time it’s different”

1. Put General Election in Diary.

2. Fire my Media Consultant.

3. Put that Ainsworth bloke is uniform, give him a gun, a couple of bullets and send him to Helmand.

4. Try and get that Blair bastard in front of the beaks at the Hague.

5. Work on my smile and get rid of that “Would you like to see my rabbit, little girl”  look.

6. Stop saying “Unlike the Party opposite”during PMQs.

7. Get friendly with Paddy Ashdown, otherwise those Eton twats will give him a job.

8. Get some sleep (2 nights booked in June).

9. Buy a pair of Levis and get  tattoo.

10. Buy a CD by that Anarchic Monkeys beat combo.

11. Win Election but redecorate No 10 to look like a Senior Prefects Common Room – just in case.

12. Be nice to someone.

13. Don’t let those Miliband jerks stand behind me.

14. Have Mandelson hurt.

15. Phone Max Clifford.

Crimbo Limbo

 

This is the fag-end of a year which needs to be stubbed out as quickly as possible. The presents were as disappointing as ever, the bathroom scales are telling lies again, the Roses tin is down to the orange creams and the fridge is full of Tupperware boxes and foil-wraps which we’ll bin next week.

New Years Eve will never be the same since we found out that Jools Holland records his show in October  and the TV is full of little-known newsreaders. Radio stations are inviting  anonymous pundits who tell us what is obviously Crofts-induced crap. For instance, this morning on the wireless,  there was an assistant economist from a well-known organisation that I’d never heard of telling me that the economy had “turned the corner“. Sheeeesh!

Mind you, at this time of year, very few “experts” would come on and say  “the economy has puked all over itself and is lying face-down in the gutter being rogered by the banks”.  We need good news.

Gordon Brown (the Prime Minister) will be delivering  a sort of RabbleRousingBudgetStatementQueen’sSpeech in which he will tell us that:  A. He will make us all prosperous again and that B. He will ensure that Britain maintains its global strength.

“Our strategy is to go for growth, because we want to build our country up, not talk Britain down.”

 That’s sorted then – and you have four months in which to deliver, mate.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are peeing their pants – not because of anything to do with the Labour Party’s  economic dexterity, war-mongering tendencies or  recent “trial separation” from the banking industry. It’s the Alec Douglas-Home effect which is taxing their collective expensively-educated brain.

David Cameron and the rest of the Shadow Common Room know that the Labour spin doctors and focus groups are very likely to nail them, not because of their proposed policies and views but because of their wallets.

If they do not produce a decent counter strategy, they will be Eton alive. It’s the perception thing again. 

Forty-five years ago, Alec Douglas-Home lost a General Election to Harold Wilson because he was a toff who appeared monarchical and above ambition. Wilson, on the other hand, cultivated the image of a modern hard-working man  from a humble background who knew about economics. Sound familiar?

So, the good news for 2010 is that we are in for one hell of an election  scrap which will eclipse Celebrity Big Brother, X-factor, Planet Beckham and all the other loboto-fodder which we crave.

It’s going to be a fun 2010.  (I need to go now – I have the Samaritans on “Hold”) 

Twenty-one 2010 predictions

On 15th May 2008, I predicted the nationalisation of British Banks. 

On 20th April 2009, I predicted that by the end of the year the FTSE 100 would fall to below 2500

On 3rd November 2009, I predicted the collapse of the dollar and of the pound-sterling 

The first prediction has come to pass – in all but name. The third prediction is about to come true. The FTSE 100 prediction of 2500 was out by a factor of over 100% – so what happened? Quantitative Easing is what happened. Very few of us could have predicted that the Bank of England would start to generate free money, hand it to the banks and allow them to use it to gamble on the stock markets and continue to declare false profits.

Currently, the FTSE 100 stands at over 5400 but this value is totally unsustainable. It is a false dawn. Bankers are now daring to predict that we will not have a “double-dip” recession and that everything seems to be looking rosy. When the dollar and pound collapse and the pound is worth the same or less that the Euro, we will see some real (genuine) action on the world’s stock exchanges.

The critical time in 2010 will not be the first quarter but the second –  because Q2 will contain not-only the beginning of the new tax year but also the General Election and the frightening spectre of the Liberals holding the balance of power. The only good thing that would come out of such a result would be Vince Cable as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Here are the 2010 predictions.

1. The collapse of the dollar and the pound – with the pound achieving a value of 0.9 Euros and the dollar achieving parity with the pound.

2. An accelerated move away from the concept of Anthropogenic (Man made) Global Warming.

3. The United Kingdom being down-graded by the rating agencies – based on its inability to service its current debts.

4. Bankers, Financiers and financial journalists will finally run out of metaphors to describe the apalling state of the British economy.

5. Conservatives will win the  General Election but without an overall majority.

6. Stock Market crash  .

7. 10% more British retailers to go out of business.

8. Arsenal to win the Premiership.

9. The beginnings of civil unrest in the United Kingdom. 

10. AFNAJ ( Artist formerly known as Jordan) hospitalised – inevitable progression. Woo Woo land beckons.

11. Another scandal involving Jeffrey Archer – it’s about time and will include at least one of his editors or maybe Jeffrey’s well-travelled trouser department or maybe the Kurds’ missing millions. We’ll see what we can do.

12. A well-known rock star will succumb to “prescription drugs”. (That’s an easy one because it is an annual event.)

13. The Queen will visit China. It’s about time and someone has to hold the begging bowl.

14. United Kingdom unemployment will be over 3 million.

15. At least one large bank will move its operations offshore.

16. The Americans will threaten to invade Iran. The Russians and Chinese will tell them to “butt-out”.

17. The cost of an  iPhone will be halved because of competition from Google and Android.

18. iSlate will be the “must have” 2010 Christmas present. (Apple has just bought islate.com)

19. The Miliband brothers will be tasked with rebuilding the Labour Party.

20. Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah will write a book and become a television chat-show host.

21. Someone from Goldman Sachs will tell the world how Executive Order 12631 has been abused both to their and the US Government’s benefit.

Have the Tories blown it?

A ComRes poll, commissioned by the Independent appears to show that the TORIES are losing ground to Labour.

The general flow of the poll is that voters do not think that the Conservatives offer an appealing alternative to Labour and the electorate also thinks that a Conservative government would mainly represent the interests of the well-off.

The Conservatives have been trying to convince the electorate that public services such as the NHS would be safer in their hands but the poll shows that voters are pretty neutral on the topic and not really favouring either party.

Currently, the Conservative lead over Labour is 9 points which indicates a hung parliament  and the unpleasant spectre of the balance of power in  Liberal hands.

The one single most important thing that the Conservatives must remember is that the majority of the electorate makes voting decisions based on perception and not party policy.

The current perception of the Tories is that of a rabble of millionaire toffs which has no conception of how the majority of the electorate thinks or lives. The fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of Conservatives who are ordinary working people and who were definitely born with a plastic spoon in their mouth. However, Labour has (very subtly) been driving voters’ perception and emotions back to the old “them and us”  days of class division.

New Labour was originally elected because the electorate perceived Tony Blair as competent and a “good bloke”. He had learned the lessons of Bill Clinton’s “cult of leader-personality” campaigns and had the benefit of a very cleverly orchestrated PR (spin) machine which suddenly made him a modern “man of the people” and not the opportunist also-ran that he really is. The electorate’s perception was that they were electing a “cool” , competent leader and New Labour famously encouraged the electorate to think that they had become a party of the Centre and not the Left. All that was achieved with words and without evidence – yet collectively, we bought into the idea – and it wasn’t even a new idea.  In reality, we had merely been fooled by the new packaging, which itself had been “borrowed”. New Labour was not a new concept. SEE HERE.

During the post-Thatcher years, the Conservatives have had several bad attempts at electing leaders: John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard were the potential electoral cannon-fodder prior to the arrival of David Cameron. John Major only won an election because of the sudden and fatal shift in perception that Neil Kinnock managed to self-engineer just before the voters went to the polling stations in 1992.

That’s how finely balanced the May 2010 election will be.

The Conservatives should not become too “hung-up” on the “Eton Senior Prefects’ Common Room ”  image that they have acquired over the last year-or-so.  They have to create a perceptual shift which will indicate to the voters that life under the Conservatives will be fun and that the future will be brighter than under the yoke of a bumbling and incompetent  Labour administration.

The fact that some of them attended Eton, if handled correctly will not make any difference as to how the voters see them. For instance, look at Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. He is an Eton-educated toff but has managed to persuade most of us to perceive him as a trustworthy “doer”. Consequently, there is an embryonic but  rapidly-growing “Boris for Leader” campaign. Boris has shown that a good leader transcends party politics and is elected in-spite-of  and not because-of Party policies.

The Conservatives have made several tactical errors. They should never have become embroiled in a Commons debate over Inheritance Tax because they were always on a hiding to nothing. George Osborne should not have delivered such a negative speech at the last Conservative conference. He was trying to be perceived as an honest realist who would not be making extravagant promises but unfortunately, he had been ill-advised. Instead, he came across as a “devoid of ideas” depressive who appeared to promise hardship, austerity and misery. Perception always wins out. His speech, immediately following Alistair Darling’s recent Budget Statement compounded the image problem.

There is little doubt that George Osborne is very clever and  will make a very competent Chancellor but he still has to fight and win the perception battle.

The third tactical error was the Zac Goldsmith fiasco. Millionaire toff, safe Conservative seat and a close chum of the Party Leader. A PR disaster which allowed Labour to reinforce  our view of the Conservatives as the “haves” during a period in our history when the number of voting “have nots” is on the increase.

The Conservatives will do well to remember that currently in Westminster they only occupy 193 seats out of 646. Labour has 350.

There are two enemies that they need to face and defeat before they take-on New Labour. Their own complacency and the public’s perception.

Copenhagen Cash

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has flown into Denmark – presumably on her Nimbus 2000 and told the delegates at the Copenhagen climate change/cash for the G77 meeting, that  her country was prepared to “work towards mobilising  $100 billion a year”  for developing countries.

The wording of that statement is very clever. It does not say that the USA will contribute $100 billion per year. Neither does it suggest that the Americans will be contributing anything . They will work towards mobilising. That’s good! That’s very good.

Here is the full quote: “In the context of a strong accord in which all major economies pledge meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to those actions, the US is prepared to work with other countries towards a goal of mobilising $100 billion a year to address the needs of developing countries.”

Genius! The African states are thinking that they’ve scored a decent amount of “wedge” and  the Americans know that the New Faith of Global Warming only has limited “legs”. The most important thing is that President Obama will be able to fly in like a latter-day Saviour and appear to have engineered a  famous victory.

We have to bear in mind that all these Copenhagen agreements, “strategies”  and handouts designed to deal with climate change will not be in place until after 2012, which is when the obligations of the Kyoto Protocol expire.

Today’s state of play in Copenhagen is confused  because the developed and developing nations remain at odds over who should cut emissions, how deep the cuts should be, and how much cash should be handed to the poorest nations.

Gordon Brown has arrived early so as not to be overshadowed by the American Presidential machine when it hits town. Gordon Brown  is the political equivalent of “dad-dancing”. It’s embarrassing but you cannot help but watch and cringe.

He has once again slipped into his Mittyesque Churchillian skin:

We must summon up the greatest level of ambition”, followed by  “The success of our endeavours depends on us forging a new alliance”  and   “In these few days in Copenhagen which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow self-interest to prevent a policy for human survival.”

The technical term for that sort of rhetoric is political “sincero-talk” . Many of us prefer to think of it as meaningless bollocks.

Surprisingly, he didn’t mention anything at all about “fighting them on the beaches”  but then again, Germany’s Angela Merkel is about to speak . Best not to rock das boot.

Outside the meeting,  the Danish Riot Squad will continue to throw tear gas and beat the crap out of protestors and sundry activists who believe that actions speak louder than words. They cannot fail to speak louder than some of the words we’ve heard this week.

Think about this: The politicians are supposed to know how doomed we really are.

So, if we are THAT doomed, why are they behaving like children and why do they all appear to be so laid back about the whole thing. The urgency with which they address their taxpayers appears to be totally missing from their deliberations.

Surely the polluted triple spectres of self-interest, opportunism and procrastination have no place in discussions which are supposed to decide the future well-being of the human race.

Or perhaps they know something that we don’t – or something that we’re not meant to know.

Bank Bonus Farce

 

Several banks have anticipated the Chancellor’s tax-raising exercise and already paid-out bonuses to their people. Others are so cash-rich that they can afford to dismiss Alistair Darling’s gesture as the waste of time that it is. The bottom line is that there isn’t a single banker who will be affected by the Government’s pathetic posturing.

Lloyd’s yesterday successfully completed its £13.5 billion rights issue  and is preparing to pay out its bonus pool in full – with absolutely no concessions.  They will hand-over  £100 million-plus to the Treasury for their naughtiness but what the hell…. What’s £100 million these days.

Most  Lloyd’s bonuses will be comparatively modest – “only”  between £20,000 and £40,000 and  will surprise some of our less clued-up government ministers who expected the banks to rethink compensation policies in the light of the Chancellor’s “supertax”. Most people living in the real world realise that Alistair Darling’s “Coyote”  to the Banking Industry’s ” Roadrunner”  will always be doomed to failure.

Not many of Lloyd’s staff are to receive those much-publicised £1million+ bonuses, unlike the Royal Bank of Scotland , whose main money-earners will receive a total payout of more than three times the amount that Lloyd’s is paying-out.

The majority of banks are now preparing to follow suit.  Some banks have no choice in the matter – especially American ones because they cannotallow a huge pay differential between their UK and US employees .

RBS, however is the likeliest to “toe the line” and reduce 2009/10 bonuses “by a bit” because it is practically a Civil Service department. In the  long-term – it is likely to generate similar profits to the Civil Service.

Price Waterhouse Coopers  estimates that the government is likely to generate  about £2.5 billion from the Chancellor’s Bonus Tax – compared to the £500 million that was originally estimated. However, this is hardly a surprise, bearing in mind this government’s and specifically the Treasury’s record on predicting anything to do with numbers.

Even the current inflation figures are a source of constant surprise and mystery to them and Mervyn King has already inked his Shaffer in readiness for that letter to the Chancellor.

The Treasury has stated on more than one occasion that it wants the banks to retain capital, rather than pay it in bonuses. Therefore, allowing  the banks to pay bonuses at the original levels the banks themselves fixed and then depriving the banks of cash and thus reducing their capital must make sense to someone at the Treasury. So the Treasury will have  the benefit of £2.5 billion which the banks could have lent to small businesses. It would have made far more sense for the Chancellor to “give” his ill-gotten gains to small enterprises but one supposes that business thinking stops at the Treasury’s threshold.

Eric Daniels and Lloyd’s are beginning look good again – in spite of Gordon Brown nearly bringing them to ruin by brokering the HBOS acquisition deal. They now have a successful Rights Issue and all bonuses to be paid in full.

Many of those close to Lloyd’s now expect UKFI, the institution which holds the Lloyd’s shares on behalf of the government, to offload a significant portion of its shareholding in the first few months of 2010. The exact timing will depend on market conditions and presumably, the Election date.

The government will be keen to show it has made a return on its investment before the election and consider a profitable exit price to be anything over 64p a share, compared to yesterday’s closing price of 55p.

Some banking analysts have a target price of 100p for the Lloyd’s shares, which if correct, could see the government selling shares at a healthy profit.

If the government does sell its Lloyd’s shares at say 100p and then the shares “tank”, will the brokers who sell the shares on the government’s behalf be subject to the Prime Minister’s suggested “clawback” rules.

Lloyds calculates the government has so far spent £20.3 billion on it. From that it subtracts the £144 million fees paid to the government for the underwriting of the rights issue, as well as the £2.5 billion break fee from the asset protection scheme, leaving a net outlay by the Treasury of £17.6 billion. This sum would be recouped if the government sells all of its shares at just 64p.

Will anything in excess of that amount be considered as unacceptable risk-taking by the government? Will they hold-out for a much higher price? Knowing this government’s record, they will probably attempt to dump all of their shares, cause the price to fall, just like the previous Chancellor did with all of the United Kingdom’s gold reserves. That could trigger yet another banking crisis crisis and all this will be completed just before the election.

If it does all go well well, they will be able to say: “Look at all the money we made for the taxpayer – unlike the Party opposite!”  Or so they think.

If there is much more interference by the Treasury in the banking system, both Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown ought to claim for a handkerchief each so that they can wave all the bankers “goodbye” when they climb  onto aeroplanes and leave the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, they will not be flying British Airways.

Copenhagen Crap

Is it something we said?

The Africans walked out – from under the collective banner of the G77 states.

The G77 developing countries, blocked the United Nations climate talks overnight by walking out of several of the key meetings in protest over the failure of wealthy nations to put firm targets on the table under the Kyoto Protocol. (In case you’re wondering how many countries belong to G7 – it is 120. The original G77 was founded in 1964 by the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries” and was originally a loose coalition of developing countries. The group includes China)

”It is regrettable that we appear to have reached a deadlock on process,” the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said last night. ”But a range of countries are working hard to get these issues resolved.”

The walk-out had been brewing all week but came unexpectedly as ministers arrived to take over the negotiations from officials, indicating that the deep divisions are not going to be resolved easily and currently it looks odds-on that the whole circus will be extended by a few days so that when Obama arrives, there will be something to sign.

The reason for protest by the developing countries is the refusal of the wealthy nations to clearly state they will keep alive the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty that imposes legally binding cuts on their Carbon Dioxide emissions.

The G77 countries have been demanding all week that the wealthy nations agree to a second round of cuts under the Kyoto Protocol before they will agree to a new treaty. As the whole Kyoto exercise was a farce anyway, it is looking increasingly likely that very little will happen in Copenhagen during the next few days. So far there has been a beautiful display of political window dressing, lots of talk and eating but little promised action.

In the intervening 12 years, most developed countries have been studiously ignoring the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen meeting has the air of “Let’s start again”  about it. The African states are taking the opportunity to help the rich states to salve their collective conscience by relieving them of even more cash. Cash for famines, cash for water, cash for development, cash for Swiss bank accounts and now cash for carbon. They never miss a trick.

There a lots of scientists milling about and as mere increases in temperature have become a bit “passé”, new angles are needed to further panic the world into action. Once again, the scientists have not disappointed

A report prepared specially for the Copenhagen meeting has found growing acidity in the oceans caused by the soaring amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The acidity is irreversible in the short term and it poses an immediate threat to marine life.

The report warns that by 2050, the ocean acidity could increase by 150 per cent.

”This dramatic increase is 100 times faster than any change in acidity experienced in the marine environment over the last 20 million years, giving little time for evolutionary adaptation within biological systems,”

The report, which was prepared under the UN Environment Program and the Convention on Biological Diversity, highlights the link between soaring greenhouse gas emissions, the health of the oceans and the huge potential cost  of reversing the trend.

”Ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years, and substantial damage to ocean ecosystems can only be avoided by urgent and rapid reductions in global emissions of CO2.  Attention must be given for integration of this critical issue at the global climate change debate in Copenhagen.” said  Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Head of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Apparently, the seas and oceans are absorbing about one-quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. As emissions soar, the percentage is increasing.

The only amazing thing about these new reports is that they appear to come out of nowhere and according to the study,  this particular phenomenon seems to be occurring independently of climate change but will no doubt give the African states even more ammunition in their demands for more money to “help them to deal with climate change”.

So yesterday, after a couple of hours, it became clear that the “walkout”  wasn’t really a walkout. Then the talking was going to resume; then it seemed to resume. The problem was that this “talking” was informal and not a proper negotiation. The WRONG kind of talking! So it doesn’t look as if it counted as talking. Confusion reigned.

Some African delegates confirmed that the negotiations would not resume until today (Tuesday) but others were already involved in a meeting. However, technically both factions were correct because there WAS talking but the talking wasn’t negotiation.

This is rapidly developing into a meeting about semantics and procedures. The Danish hosts have called for “informal consultations on major issues requiring political guidance.” It seems that all issues need to be discussed formally, although most discussions are being carried-out over a sandwich and a drink without the benefit of an agenda, stenographers or TV cameras. Chaos rules.

The major stumbling block is that the Africans want to continue-with and develop what was agreed in Kyoto, whereas the Danes want to bring everything together under a new singleagreement which will supercede Kyoto. That gives the impression that the Kyoto Protocol is dead and the handouts to the African states will be re-negotiated – or is that re-discussed? Doubtless, the African leaders will moderate their views soon after the chequebooks appear.

In spite of the logistical and organisational cock-up, there is hope. Gordon Brown is flying in.

Blair the Invader

Tony Blair was a bad Prime Minister and his tenure at Downing Street was underpinned by nothing more than spin and window-dressing.

He is now attempting to justify his illegal aiding and abetting of that insaniac George W Bush’s mission to complete the Iraq job – or more specifically, his own father’s (George Bush Snr’s) failure to subdue Saddam in the 1990s.

Blair’s spinning habits have not changed at all and that is why he is suddenly acquiescing to the odd interview prior to his appearance at the Chilcot inquiry. That should be a laugh because judging by the inquiry events so far, Chilcot has already dipped the roller in the whitewash and is about to start redecorating the facts.

One hates to cloud the issues with facts but the only important one is that George W Bush and Tony Blair illegally invaded a sovereign state. They both knew that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Those two are the sole reason for the recent world-wide expansion of the terrorist industry.

Saddam was a merciless tyrant and was not the most popular leader but Iraq was stable, there were no terrorists blowing themselves up and there was nowhere-near the current body-count.

Imposing sanctions on Iraq so that, for instance. there weren’t enough medicines and then  refusing Iraq the ability to sell its oil were both clumsy amateurish attempts to paint Saddam into a corner. He and the Iraqi people felt very vulnerable and were easy prey to anyone who felt like invading them. It is no surprise therefore that Saddam decided to “big himself up” by making all sorts of claims about Iraq’s military prowess.

Everyone with an iota of intelligence could see that Saddam’s pronouncements were nothing more than Generalissimo-type posturing and window-dressing.  All that is except that Dumb and Dumber of politics: Bush and Blair. The thick and the slimy.

Blair is not a bad person, although his conversion to Catholicism does suggest that he enjoys reading fiction such as the WMD dossier. His actions over Iraq do show him to be an incompetent, ill-informed manager. It is difficult to refer to him as a “leader” because that describes  a generic ability which he lacked in abundance. It is also an inability which he so cleverly passed-on to his successor.

What is most worrying though  is the fact that he (Blair) allowed himself to be led by Bush – a man who , one suspects would have had difficulty finding the Presidential helicopter parked on his own lawn.

Looking on the bright side though – had Gordon Brown succeeded John Smith, we definitely would not have invaded Iraq.  The inquiry would  still be in full swing.

Later Darling!

“Mum, I peed in the swimming pool today”

Mother: ” That’s all right Alistair, most people pee in the swimming pool from time to time”

Alistair: ” Yes, but not from the 10 metre board.”

Yesterday, Alistair Darling peed over most of us, received a lot of attention and there are still a few droplets on their way down to get us later. Some bankers wish that they’d climbed out of the pool earlier.

The attention, headline (and hopefully) vote-grabbing  was achieved through the Chancellors 50% tax on any bankers’ bonuses which are over £25,000. This is a one-off purely cosmetic gesture  because you have to remember that bankers already pay tax at 40% on that part of their income, so in actual fact, only an additional 10% is being levied. Assuming that the total amount of bonuses paid to the banking industry is £5 billion, the Chancellor will rake-in an additional half-billion. That sounds a lot, until you set it against the trillions that he has pumped into the banking system and the £178 billion that he will have to borrow in 2009/10 in order to balance the books.

The calculation is simple, this year, the Government will be spending £676billion (that’s on education, defence, the police, social services , transport etc)  but its income is only £498 billion. The government has not enjoyed such a low-level of income since the 1950s when No 10 was occupied by Harold Macmillan.

The shortfall is £178 billion and it looks as if it will be more-or less the same next year. It won’t be until 2011/12 that the deficit will begin to shrink by any appreciable amount. Mind you, the Chancellor’s crystal-ball gazing in marginally less accurate than that of the average pier-end astrologer so his figures have to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The interest payments on the money that the government has borrowed currently amount to £30 billion per year. That’s the same as it spends on Housing or Defence and more than it spends on the Police, Social Services and Transport. That is why is is important that the governments current AAA-rating remains in place – otherwise it will be spending much more of its income on  interest payments. Currently, things do not look good and the  United Kingdom may become a sub-prime borrower – like Greece. There is still a strong possibility that once the UK’s credit runs out, it will be technically “bust”.

This Budget statement appears incredibly complacent and  both the Chancellor and Prime Minister, in keeping with Labour tradition,  believe that the best way to get out of debt is to spend their way out of it. It’s a very risky strategy because they are banking (sorry!) on tax-revenue-producing businesses reawakening, employing and so producing much-needed tax-revenue.

The alternative, of course is for the government to decrease its spending. Defence would be a good start although , thanks to Tony Blair, the country is too entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan to make any  meaningful defence cuts. On the contrary, Defence expenditure will have to increase in the short-term.

There has been talk of the the political “sacred-cows” such as  schools, the police and the NHS being “ring-fenced” and not tampered-with for the sake of saving money. That just leaves the Social Services, Education, Industry, Agriculture, Housing and the Environment. There is another line in the government’s annual budget which amounts to about £80 billion. That includes the government itself and the civil service. That is why the Conservatives are so keen to reduce the size of Parliament and the Civil Service

The only REAL way forward is for the government to increase its tax revenue by helping people back to work through persuading the banks to lend money to business so that manufacturing and the service industries can prosper and hire. Unfortunately, the banks are still sulking – especially after the Chancellors’ bonus-punishing announcement.

Meanwhile, all of us will have our living standards compromised and most of our economic pain will not arrive until after the next General Election. The April 2010 increase in National Insurance contributions will mean that anyone earning over £20,00 per year will be worse-off. That’s on top of the rate of VAT returning to 17.5% next month. To put it simply, we will be earning less and paying more.

Rather patronisingly, the government has lowered Bingo Duty from 22% to 20% and there will be free school meals for another 500,000 children.  Child Benefit will increase by 1.5% and the State Pension will increase from £95.25 to £97.65. These are all rather small vote-catching measures which are presented in order to  sugar the very bitter pill of a prolonged and unexpectedly deep recession which will finally turn the United Kingdom into the poor man of Europe.

Over a quarter of the United Kingdom’s economy relies totally on the Financial Services Industry which has moved from being a huge “profit centre” to a temporary “cost centre”.  In spite of the Prime Minister’s and Chancellor’s pantomime “macho” posturing and pointless fiddling with the bankers and their bonuses, they should find an initiative which would force the banks to do what they were designed for. To look after our money and to lend it to business and commerce. Currently, the banks are navel-gazing, producing figures which tell us that they arelending and making a profit.  Unfortunately, they cannot tear themselves away from the idea that their primary “raison d’être” is to prosper, primarily through generating profits by playing the Stock Exchange with borrowed money. Look at the mess that landed them in during 2008 – and they’re still doing it!

This morning, I heard a banker say “I work for Credit Suisse Asset Management. Does that make me a banker?”

The games have begun – and make no mistake, the Chancellor and Prime Minister are already crossing-off the days on their office walls.

“Classist Attitude”

Gordon Brown and New Labour are going to do the damnedest to portray David Cameron and his shadow cabinet as a bunch of toffs and public school yaboos who cannot possibly understand how poor people live and how they think – thus making them unfit to govern.

 

The United Kingdom class attitudes follow exactly the same rules as racism.

For instance, it appears that black people cannot be accused of being racist towards white people. The UK’s anti-discrimination laws were designed to protect non-whites. There’s nothing wrong in that because the English whites are the most racist people in the world. Starting with the French , the Indian sub-continent – even the Scots and the Micks. Never mind the Americans, West Indians and the rest. They are all fair game.

However, the upshot is that white English people have no protection whatsoever from racist jibes. There haven’t been too many successful prosecutions of someone for referring to an Englishman as a  “Stuffy, emotionally constipated white twat.”

The same double-standard of the English class system makes it OK for “working class” people such as Gordon Brown to say that posh Conservatives do not understand the British working classes because they went to Eton and therefore are out of touch.  So why is it not  OK for Eton-educated millionaires to say that working class morons cannot possibly understand rich educated people and therefore are unfit to govern  rich privileged people. The ones who provide jobs for the grasping working-class thickos?.

Why does one approach seem acceptable, yet the other make one’s teeth itch? 

Let’s blame the aspirationally schizophrenic Middle Classes. Bastards. They aspire to be rich and upper class but cannot forget that their parents and grandparents were poor – but in a romanticised soft-focused salt-of-the-earth sort of way.

That’s why they voted for Tony Blair and so created the current New Labour Paradise – which has taken us back 50 years – not-only economically but sociologically as well. War, national debt and now a return to the class system.

 

 

New Gordon

I admire Gordon Brown’s political skills nearly as much as I admire Joseph Fritzl’s parenting talents. However, during Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday , Gordon Brown looked far more relaxed and confident than I have ever seen him.

Assuming the he had not been at the “sunshine in a bottle” stuff, he made Dave Cameron look quite ordinary. OK, he gave the same answers – which aren’t really answers but questions to Cameron about Conservative policy but his attitude had shifted.

There were a couple of Blair-type put-downs and I do believe that he is looking like a potential winner.

One very noticeable and unsavoury thing though – it is obvious that Labour are going to be playing the Class card in the run-up to the election. Eton was mentioned at least twice. Not very clever  – but fair game.

It is hoped that the “Goldsmith Factor” does not return to haunt the Conservative Party.

Even the BBC has said that we haven’t had Eton blokes in charge for fifty years – since Alec Douglas-Home’s day – not a great link.  It will be easy for the New Labour spin machine to portray a Tory election victory as a regressive step.

The message to the Tories is this: Don’t be complacent and do not under-estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Yes, I mean the voters.

Wunch of Bankers

The Walker Review on the corporate governance of banks recommends that FTSE 100-listed banks and the largest building societies should disclose in bands the number of “high end” employees, including executive board members (whose incomes are not a secret anyway).

The bands would show the number of people taking home £1m to £2.5m, £2.5m to £5m, and £5m and above.

The report recommends that within each band, the main elements of salary, cash bonus, deferred shares, performance-related long-term awards and pension contributions should be disclosed.

The changes are expected to come into force from spring 2010 with the first yearly earnings disclosures not available until 2011.

This appears to be a watered-down version of what was first proposed. Originally, it was suggested that individuals at the high-end of the salary and bonus bracket should be named. Technically, there are still ways for these individuals to avoid such scrutiny – whether they are named or not.

The easiest, of course would be for someone earning say £1 million to resign and return the following day as a self-employed consultant or as an employee of his own company.

However, what is most worrying is that because of Gordon Brown’s failure to obtain the promised  and much-vaunted international agreements, many high-earners will be able to move offshore to a less demanding regime. That way, not-only will they not have to disclose their incomes but the Exchequer will lose a substantial amount of tax revenue.

The vilification of high-earning bankers is a device by means of which government spin doctors have managed to shift the public’s focus away from the blunders and ineptitude of their masters.  Paradoxically, though, the government is walking on eggshells   because since the United Kingdom doesn’t make anything, the Financial Services Industry’s contribution to the country’s gross income is now of the order of 30% . Without them, the economy is finished.

The reason why  Gordon Brown and his puppets have been dancing  on tiptoe around the banking fat cats is because the latter are holding the former by the bollocks.

Sir David Young has worked hard on his recommendations but the mere disclosure of the incomes of a relatively-small bunch of bankers is useless because it will serve no practical purpose, except perhaps to further fuel envy among the downtrodden bank customers.

If the government does not have the moral fibre nor the will to put a cap on bankers’ incomes, they should leave them alone, let them earn as much as they wish but make sure that the next time that they screw-up (and they will) – come down on them like a ton of gold bars.

No-one has really used the F-word  but there has been institutional  and corporate fraud on a vast scale, yet no-one appears to have been brought to book. Several directors and Chief Execs  have either resigned or been removed from their posts but there is no doubt that there were people within the banking industry  who were  operating illegally and yet once again, this government rocks from foot-to-foot and calls for inquiries.

Mealy-mouthed platitudes, spin-doctoring, enquiries, half-baked “threats” , “reports”  and indecision don’t appear to have had much effect, so let’s hope that the 2010, 2011 or the 2012 banking crisis is dealt-with by a government with a little more courage and resolve.

Big boys’ salaries? We don’t really care.

The Brown-Darling Conjecture

There are still six Millennium Prize Problems which remain unsolved. The proof of the Poincaré Conjecture was completed by Grigori  Perelman in 2003 and its review completed in 2006.  That means that there is room for another insoluble problem and that  problem is the current United Kingdom economy. In common with the other Millennium Prize Problems, the UK economy is doubly incomprehensible  because not-only has the solution evaded the greatest economic and political minds of the day but there is little understanding of the question.  We propose therefore to  formally name the government’s “solution” to the current orgy of Quantitative Easing, Low Interest Rates, Banker Intransigence and Economic Chaos. The Brown-Darling Conjecture. 

Gordon gives Good Phone

It seems as if Rupert Murdoch’s Sun comic has totally misjudged the public’s reaction to the attempted drive-by shooting of Gordon Brown through the publishing of his note to Mrs Jacqui Janes and their subsequent telephone conversation.

The call from Downing Street was mysteriously recorded by Mrs Janes and in order to milk to death the death of her son Jamie, she has said that she would “be willing” to meet Gordon Brown. Lucky Prime Minister. Presumably  this time, she can video his grovelling on her Sun-sponsored Iphone.

Some say that Gordon Brown should simply have apologised and should not have argued with the woman but he did. NO real harm done.

Since the publication of the transcript, there has been a rumour of David Cameron’s  involvement with News International through his old chum James Murdoch. Then there’s more tittle-tattle about the Conservative Party’s intention to freeze the BBC licence fee so as to give advantage to Sky. In fact , there are all sorts of rumours and conspiracy theories, many of which smack of  a media turf war and newspapers aligning behind their parties in readiness for a pre-election media punch-up. Both Parties are taking the matter very seriously, as evidenced by the direct involvement of Lord Mandelson.

Below in a complete transcript of the telephone conversation.

Jacqui Janes sounds and looks like a typical Sun reader, you know. Init? She attempts to engage Brown in a Sun-scripted debate on the under-resourcing of our troops whereas all that he wants to achieve is another apology.

Mrs Janes bangs on a bit about Brown’s spelling mistakes but she filters her Sun-arguments through the Murdoch-medium of bad grammar and half-baked “facts”. That makes one suspect that she wouldn’t recognise a spelling mistake if it stuck it’s head under her skirts and whistled.

She answered the telephone a at 10pm to be told she was speaking to the Downing Street switchboard who had the Prime Minister on the line.

The first few seconds of the conversation were not recorded.

JACQUI JANES: I’m sorry, you know, I have the deepest respect for the fact that you are Prime Minister but I am the mother of a soldier who, really, you know, his death could have been prevented in several ways, lack of helicopters being the main one.

GORDON BROWN: I don’t think so but, er, obviously you are entitled to your views. We have tried to do everything we can to protect people against these explosive devices.

JJ: Er, Mr Brown, Mr Brown can I just step in here. My sons are fifth generation infantry I’m not silly. I have had lots of info from different people who I know from within the Army. I know about Chinooks that, er, were meant to be brought up to the Mark III standards but went wrong so they’re no good. I know about the Merlins that have been brought back from Iraq and are still sitting in this country. I know of another soldier that sustained the same injuries from an IED that my son sustained and he’s alive. All right, limbless, but alive. My son wasn’t given that opportunity…

GB: Er, I, I

JJ: The letter that you wrote to me Mr Brown…

GB: Yes

JJ: I don’t want to sound disrespectful here, but was an insult to my child. There was 25 spelling mistakes, 25!

GB: There wasn’t.

JJ: Mr Brown I’ve got the letter in front of me…

GB: I’ve got the letter in front of me and if you feel that my writing was not right then I’m sorry about that.

JJ: I’m not saying, I’m not saying, no, no, no… I have made no comment about how your writing looked. But other people have seen this letter as well. And as for my serving soldier in Catterick…

GB: Yes.

JJ: You know he has to now live with the fact that there was nothing he could have done. He was a more senior soldier than Jamie. Jamie was very proud to be a soldier, very proud.

GB: You know you know that I wrote to you, er, a handwritten letter because I was…

JJ: Listen to me…

GB: … because I was concerned about the death of your son…

JJ: Listen to me, please. I am looking at the letter now…

GB: You know I did write the letter because I was concerned about the death of your son and I don’t think what I said in it was disrespectful at all.

JJ: I never said it was disrespectful. The spelling mistakes are disrespectful.

GB: Er…

JJ: The fact that you named me Mrs James was disrespectful.

GB: I think I think I was trying to say Janes, as your right name. Maybe, maybe my writing looks bad but I was trying to say your right name. And I spelt Jamie right as well I understand.

JJ: Erm, I beg to differ. I’ve got the letter in front of me so I do beg to differ.

GB: I, I, well…

JJ: I can not believe I have been brought down to the level of having an argument with the Prime Minister of my own country

GB: Well I wanted to assure you that everything that I have tried to do is both protect our forces and when, when your son died I wanted to send my respect to you and write a letter that appreciated the service that he had given to the country. And I think if you are able to look at the letter again, and I know it is something that’s very difficult to do when you’re receiving letters about something that is so personal, you you’ll see that I said Jamie was a brave, selfless, professional soldier who was held in the highest esteem and regard by all who worked with him and I tried to say that words may offer little comfort at this time but I hope that over time you would find some consolation in his courage and in his bravery and in the great contributions he made to the security of his country and I then said if I can help in any way please, please tell me and I would have been very happy to have received a letter from you and replied again or if you’d asked to meet me I would have met you. So…

JJ: I think, I think at this stage…

GB: Please understand my good intentions and I’m sorry you feel so strongly about, er, about, er, the way I wrote the letter but I hope that on reflection you’ll understand that I have the greatest of sympathy for you and I…

JJ: … I’m not, I’m not doubting that, I am not doubting the whole of the country has the greatest of sympathy for me. What I do know for a fact is that our soldiers out there – they should be out there by the way, I do truly believe in my heart of hearts that the troops should be out there. We do need more troops out there for a start, we do need the helicopters out there. That’s a fact. I know for fact of certain different pilots working out of Kandahar that on some occasions there is only one Casevac (casualty evacuation) helicopter available.

GB: Well, I, I, I’m sorry that that that’s the information that, er, you’ve been…

JJ: But I know it’s fact and not fiction.

GB: Well, OK, OK, I don’t want to argue with you because I want to actually pass on my condolences and I want to assure you that although you’ve taken some offence against a letter I’ve written I’ve tried to reflect my personal sadness at the loss of your son, er, and I don’t want to have any, erm, argument with you about it. If you feel strongly that I’ve done you wrong then that’s for you to decide but I want to assure you that there was never any intention on my part to do anything other than pass on my condolences to you and to your your, your family, understanding that you are a a military family and that you have given great service as a family to our country, er, and I hope that, er, that on reflection you, you will understand that I was trying to do the best by, by our country and trying to reflect the sadness that Sarah and I have at the loss of your son.

I, I’m sorry that I have been unable to persuade you of that but that is how I feel, that is that is how I feel.

JJ: Right, can I now just say how I feel?

GB: Yes please.

JJ: Many many years ago, in 18-something, somebody said the biggest enemy of our Army was our Treasury… they were so right.

GB: I, I…

JJ: Even to this day..

GB: I, I…

JJ: Mr Brown, to this day, I know as fact helping my sons buy equipment themselves before they go to war, I know of every mother, the letters I have received off mothers whose sons have been killed, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, you know, friends of mine that were killed in Northern Ireland. I know that our Government are letting our troops down, big time.

GB: But I’m sorry I would not send anybody abroad unless I felt that they were properly equipped and, er, what I’ve told the Army chiefs that we cannot send people abroad unless we can properly equip them.

JJ: But they’re not properly equipped and we both know this.

GB: That…

JJ: Why are… then please tell me why are all the Merlins still in this country that have since come back from Iraq?

GB: The reason the Merlins, er, came back from Iraq and are in the country and about to go out to Afghanistan is that they have to be completely remodelled with new blades because you cannot fly the Merlins that were flying in Iraq in Afghanistan, which is a different terrain, er, and, er, the height is different and the, the temperature is different.

JJ: So what, what…

GB: The helicopter pilots have got to go to America to be trained in the high altitude and in night light. I’ve been to see the helicopters myself and I’ve seen how they’ve had to be regraded, er, so they can actually fly in Afghanistan and you cannot take the helicopters straight from Iraq to Afghanistan because they need these new blades and that’s, that’s I’m afraid the reason why, although three I think, are going in the next three weeks, it’s taken time to get the Iraq Merlins ready for Afghanistan. I’m sorry that is the case but that is the reality. We had to re-equip the helicopters to…

JJ: I know what has to be done. I have been made aware of what needed to be done. But nobody has replaced the Chinooks that were, erm, how can we put it, that went wrong.

GB: I, I don’t I, I, I wanted to speak to you because of the controversy, erm, that you’ve, erm, you’ve erm, obviously that surrounded… that I had every intention of, er, of passing on the condolences of myself and on behalf of the country. Er, er, I’m sorry that you’ve taken offence about that…

JJ: I didn’t take offence that you were writing me a letter of condolence. It was the amount of spelling mistakes. It was just like an absolute insult to my child, who, by the way, was only 20 years old.

GB: I understand that he was only 20 years old but I’m sorry I don’t think I did have spelling mistakes. My writing is maybe so badly (muffled) that you can’t read it and I’m sorry. But I have tried to write honestly and honourably about the contributions your son made and… (muffled) can’t be read. I know from colleagues Jamie was a brave, selfless professional soldier held in the highest regard.

JJ: I don’t need anyone to tell me how brave my son was. My son paid the ultimate, ultimate sacrifice.

GB: OK, Miss Janes, I’m sorry, that I can’t, I can’t, er, satisfy you, but I have tried my best, er, to er, show you this evening that if there’s been some misunderstanding about how my…

JJ: I do appreciate you taking the time to phone me but I’m afraid we are going to have to, erm, disagree.

GB: Well that’s that’s, I, I, I know how strongly you, you feel.

JJ: No, Mr Brown, Mr Brown, listen to me… I know every injury that my child sustained that day. I know that my son could have survived but my son bled to death. How would you like it if one of your children, God forbid, went to a war doing something that he thought, where he was helping protect his Queen and country and because of lack, LACK of helicopters, lack of equipment your child bled to death and then you had the coroner have to tell you his every injury? Do you understand Mr Brown? Lack of equipment.

GB: I do understand but I think you, you have got to also understand that I feel very strongly about this as, as you do.

JJ: So where’s all the money? You can save a bank. You can put seven whatever into saving a bank. Why not put it into the troops? We all know they are not going to be brought home and I am glad they are there to help.

GB: I’m sorry Miss Janes…

JJ: No, Mr Brown.

GB: I’m sorry, Miss Janes, we have tried to give the troops the equipment they need and I have tried my best…

JJ: And failed…

GB: Well if it’s not good enough for, for them they’ll have to make their own decisions but I have tried my best…

JJ: Even Army hierarchy are retiring and telling you what is going wrong and still you send 500 more troops not the 2,000 needed.

GB: I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

JJ: You’re making it sound like my son and every other child that has been killed in a savage manner…

GB: Nobody was asking for 2,000 more troops

JJ: Really?

GB: Yes, nobody was asking for 2,000 troops, there are 9,000, 9,100 there at the moment, increasing to 9,500 the, the chiefs of staff are not asking for it to go up to 11,000 or 11,500. I just tell you that honestly. Whatever information you’ve been given, that is not correct. But I don’t want to interact in a political debate about this…

JJ: No that’s fine. Nor do I.

GB: What I want to do is to pass on my condolences and to say, however strongly you feel about my mistakes in this matter, I still feel very, very personally sad about the death of your son and I want you to know that and I’m sorry if you’ve taken offence at my letter. I’ve tried my best, er, to faithfully reflect my feelings about the loss of your son and the contribution he made, er, and, er, thank you very much for talking to me this evening.

JJ: Thank you very much

GB: Er, and I’m sorry that we can’t agree but I hope you’ll agree that I’ve tried my best to pass on my condolences, on to you and your family.

JJ: Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Gordon’s note – again

 

“Gotcha! You Pommie bastard.”

 

 

 

One cannot help but feel sorry for Jacqui Janes. Her son Jamie was killed in Afghanistan and she feels that he may have lived had a helicopter been available to transport him away from the war zone. The poor boy bled to death. The truth is that we’ll never know.

I have never been Gordon Brown’s greatest fan but in spite of his apparent lack of decision-making capabilities, he is a profoundly decent man and  should be believed when he says that the note which he wrote to Mrs Janes was done with good heart.

Unfortunately for Mr Brown, Rupert Murdoch and his Sun “newspaper” think otherwise. The Sun scum who masquerade as journalists have gathered around the Prime Minister like a pack of slavering hyenas. They sensed a wounded Brown and have encircled him and drawn blood. Thankfully, other editors – those who are not Murdoch batty boys have kept clear of the furore. They understand the difference between journalism and mindless comic-book opportunism.

Gordon Brown was not-only sincere but visibly upset when he delivered today’s statement and apology to Mrs Janes. Remember that he does not need lessons in losing a child.

If Murdoch insists on continuing the anti-Brown crusade, he should instruct his Sun underlings to develop their campaigns from  news and pay no heed to an attention-seeking idiot of a woman who appears to be using her son’s death (no matter how tragic) to grab her 15 minutes of fame. The Sun journos must have messed their pants in excitement when they were approached by Mrs Janes and the Prime Minister’s apparently hastily-scribbled note.

My own current bet would be that Murdoch has done Gordon Brown a big favour by making him look vulnerable, human and empathetic to both war victims and their families.

Mrs Janes recorded her telephone conversation with the Prime Minister – or to put accurately, she was scripted by the Sun comic, whose representatives  were surrounding her when the Prime Minister telephoned last night.

There is a vast difference between news-gathering and news creation. Murdoch is a hate-filled  crumbling relic who has just overstepped the mark.

Leave British politics to the British, you colonial pillock.

(I tried to find Murdoch’s Spitting Image puppet as an illustration but apparently it has been melted down and moulded into an asshole)

 

Don Gordo speaks

“Just pay the money, you punks. We don’t want no accidents, do we? When Tommy the Legg is unhappy – I am unhappy. Think about it. OK  so  he’s a “testa di cazzo” but he’s like a brother. Sei niente senza rispetto!”. 

Many MPs just don’t want to return any expenses  and it seems that Sir Thomas Legg has neither the authority nor any sanctions to apply to this rapidly amplifying problem of parliamentary dissent.  Party  leaders are showing little management ability and are communicating with their own Members by issuing indirect threats through the medium of the TV interview. Speaker Bercow is still keeping schtum and probably double-checking the £20,000-plus that he has been claiming every year. Or perhaps he’s making sure that the Capital Gains has been properly paid by his accountant on the house sales from which he has profited. Continue reading Don Gordo speaks

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. 

  •  

Wednesday September 30th 2009

  • So the Sun will not be supporting the Labour Party. No real problems there, except the usual one. Why should an Australian like Rupert Murdoch have any say in which newspaper supports which Party. The Sun is read largely by the drooling classes who are very susceptible but regrettably, there is very little that can be done. The Sun’s sister paper , the News of the World, no doubt is poised with some salacious Labour politician scandal ready-to-go.

 

  • The Sun will not just be pro-Cameron  – it will be strongly anti-Gordon Brown. The Sun will do the same assassination job on Brown as it did on Neil Kinnock . The Sun has a circulation of 3 million which means a readership of about 9 million – so  when the Labour Party says – ” it’s people who decide elections”  – they are not really being naïve because they know deep-down that seven months of relentless mickey-taking of Gordon Brown by the Sun will have a profound effect on working class views. Remember that this is the paper that helped Margaret Thatcher to power – they’re THAT good – and relentless. Incidentally, did you know that one James Murdoch is a pal of David Cameron? Coincidence? Er…No.

  • Today’s Conference speeches by Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are very likely to be delivered to a near-empty Brighton Centre. Quite right too.

  • One hesitates to dispense advice to Labour MPs but those who are screwing either their secretaries or researchers should beware  – at least until the First Thursday in May 2010. Whatever you’re doing that is naughty, illegal or vaguely interesting – stop doing it immediately. The News of the World will be releasing the hounds at any minute. For all you know, they already have their snouts in your dustbin.

  • Why was Gordon Brown banging-on about “change”? They’ve had 12 years. It’s a bit late with only a few months to go.

  • Gordon Brown has announced a referendum on how we vote in future – a subject always popular with minority parties. Which counting system will the referendum use? First Past the Post, the Single Transferable Vote or the Alternative Vote method? I think that Gordon looks like a Schulze Method man.

  • Good to see Martin McGuiness attending a Party at the Grand Hotel. Wouldn’t it have been ironic if someone had blown up the hotel – just like his IRA did in 1984?

  • 350,000 old people are to receive free home help. The only good thing about that is the fact that the £400 milllion cost is being made available by cutting some “bolt-on” NHS departments such as Marketing(!) and Communications. Get rid of them anyway.

  • Nero’s revolving dining room has been discovered in Rome. I’ve been in lots of rotating dining rooms in my time  – funnily enough, they usually begin rotating at about 11.00 p.m on a Saturday evening. We call it the “whirling pits”.

  • Tuesday September 29th 2009

    • Interesting statistic which doesn’t appear to be receiving the publicity that it deserves: In the United States, a house is foreclosed or repossessed every 7.5 seconds. As usual, the politicians are taking care of business at the macro-level, while the grass-roots are burning.

    • It is an excellent idea for Gordon Brown to take-on the other two Party leaders in televised debates. Any future Conservative or Liberal vote should be a “pro” Conservative or Liberal vote and not an anti-Labour vote. The Labour backroom boys, led by Darth Mandelson are obviously running a campaign centred-around the comparative inexperience and youth of the other two leaders. That’s fair, because that’s exactly what the Tories did  to Tony Blair in 1997. Admittedly, David Cameron and the Liberal David Whassisname look fresh and youthful compared to Brown – who currently looks as if he has been cage-fighting with his hands in his pockets but in spite of his comparative lack of political fitness, he is not to be underestimated. He will be boring but he will come out fighting. There will be blood. We’ll know by late next week whether David Cameron and George Osborne have steel and substance. Constant criticism and sniping at the Government by the Opposition is quite entertaining but when it comes to a General Election, we will need to witness views and hear policies. Having said all that, remember that PERCEPTION is king and if in spite of brand-new shiny policies from the Tories, the Labour spin machine manages to make David Cameron look like a shallow “oik” then the forthcoming election will be much closer that we currently perceive.

    • One of the ideas being kicked about at the moment is the saving of millions of Education pounds by  cutting teaching assistant jobs in schools. In the UK there are 40,000 teaching assistants – they’re the ones who sit in the classroom with “challenged” children or take them on zoo trips. They are all very nice people, I’m sure –  but a waste of money. Many of the children don’t need a glorified baby-sitter – they need specialist teaching. While we’re on the subject of cuts , I would take an immediate horizontal slice through the current Education Department bureaucracy and take-out all those school advisers – the ones in the designer suits with Series 3 BMWs. They are a waste of time but unfortunately , many are ex-teachers. 

    • Conference time is the time when politicians churn out populist crap in order to grab newspaper headlines and cheap applause. Gordon Brown now says that he will turn 11,500 Post Offices into the “Peoples Bank”. That’s what Building Societies used to be. There was one other bank which used to be popular with the “people”. Now what was that called?…… Oh yes, it was called the Trustee Savings Bank. Whatever happened to that? Here’s a quote from Gordon: “I want the Post Office to step in to help hardworking families to save and access their money easily with banking for the people in our neighbourhoods”. If Brown thinks that he is going to create a new banking system in under eight months, then perhaps Andrew Marr was right about the happy pills. Brown is obviously playing without the full complement of marbles. Oh yes – one final thing. “Hardworking” working class families need JOBS. They rarely save their Giro cheques.

    • Today’s the day that Gordon Brown will either  read the best speech of his life or stumble his way through the world’s most-boring and longest-ever suicide note. Whichever way it swings – there will be lots of applause, back-slapping and standing-up.

    • If you keep putting rats in a cage and keep adding rats, there comes a time when they start eating each other. The human equivalent is the run-down council estate. Weak rats are prey to the bigger and stronger rats. That is exactly the phenomenon which killed Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francecca. Mrs Pilkington was driven to such desperation through being goaded and verbally abused by a gang of young pikeys that she set-fire to herself and her daughter. Not the best way to die. Needless to say there will be enquiries, lessons will be learned, the Social Services will be exonerated, the Police will make excuses, the local Council will hold a press conference and make a statement. By now, the whole process is probably in an Operations Manual somewhere.

    • Jack Straw is surprisingly eloquent today. The trouble is that The Brighton Centre seems half-empty or as the Tories might say “half-full” or as the Liberals would say “too big”. Let’s hope it fills up when the leader performs. The Labour Party is going to play dirty this time. Straw mentioned Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act. This was repealed by Labour in 2000 and was the section of the 1988 Act which stated that a Local Authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”. They should stop dragging up 20-year old legislation (under which there wasn’t a single prosecution). Homosexuality is not an issue in 2009 and “New” Labour is clearly demonstrating what little legislative success it has had in the last 12 years. Occasionally they still bang-on about 13 years of Tory Rule!!! Labour should fight on current policies. By the way, when Jack sat down, the reception was at best muted, at worst underwhelming. As the spin doctors might say: He received a seated ovation.

    • Fiona Phillips off the telly is speaking but she is having difficulty speaking because she appears to have  her tongue well-stuck up Alan Johnson’s well-groomed backside. She is acting, flicking her hair and simpering like a love-struck typist who’s just shagged the boss. At least Johnson, who looks (and sounds) more Bookie’s runner than Statesman has the good grace to look embarrassed. What the f*** was all that about? “Airhead introduces Postman Pat”? 

    • There is one session that we presenters and speakers like to avoid – if given the choice. It is the session immediately after lunch when your audience arrives full of food and drink and whose brains are temporarily in semi-shutdown as their stomachs begin the digestion process. We call it the Graveyard Session. Wonder who’s speaking this afternoon? Oh yes! Him! Perhaps the audience needs to be semi-comatose. If it isn’t, it soon will be.

    • I’ve just been watching a recording of John Denham speaking at the Labour Conference. Is it me, but doesn’t he look like a Conference League Football Referee? He’s another one who disapproves of David Cameron’s “Notting Hill” Policies. All Labour speakers are talking-up the social gap between the poor and the Conservative Party. A dangerous and desperate strategy. Only Mandelson has verbally placed the Labour Party firmly in the middle of the political spectrum but he also took the opportunity to accuse the Tories of lurching to the right as soon as they are elected. The Socialists are going to defend  that middle ground to the death. That is where the election will be fought. The Labour strategy appears to be to make the electorate perceive the Tories as a gang of inexperienced extreme right-wing Notting Hill hoorays.

    • Have you noticed how the Party that’s behind in the polls always accuses the BBC of “bias”. Today we have anti-Government bias – in the old days, under Her Thatcherness and John Major, we had BBC left-wing bias. Apparently the BBC is capable of bias in all sorts of delicious flavours and colours.

    • Gordon Brown has started his speech with a list of Labour achievements. That’s the first five minutes gone. He has obviously structured his speech very simply. The next list is one of his cabinet and their achievements. That will probably be another ten minutes. Luckily I have a hairdressers appointment at 3 o’clock. He’s just mentioned Northern Rock. Talking off-script? He started with a smile but has now forgotten it and his expression has returned to looking as if he’s defusing a Taliban bomb. I notice that his <pauses for applause> seem to be immediately after he has mentioned a large number of some sort and his intonation changes as if he’s saying “Crackerjack pencil! “He’s mentioned Harriet and Alistair but has now stopped naming Cabinet members. My current thought is that his speechwriters should be ritually disemboweled and fed to Darth Mandelson. His speech has now become the usual drone. As he is slagging-off the bankers, I fear that it is time to go. If you listen to his speeches, you will notice that he seldom uses adjectives or adverbs. I just killed a fly and wonder whether I should turn the Aga back on today, in  spite of the sunny weather. Our field was cut a couple of days ago but I just cannot summon the energy to cut the lawn. It takes two hours. Gordon Brown is still talking. He doesn’t like banks, does he? Surprising therefore that he’s invested so much of our money in them. I’ll record it and come back later after a couple of Bushmills. He’s just used the most exciting phrase of the whole speech – Economic Model. Enough. He’s off on his pre-leaked Post Office bollocks.  Low carbon Zones? He knows how to give his audience a good time.

    • What’s all this about “Middle England”?  Why don’t they just say Northamptonshire? Or do they mean Middle Earth?

    • In the USA, the Federal Housing Association has a leverage ratio ( What it owes compared to what it owns) of 50-1. Interestingly, that’s just about the same as Bear Stearns had on the eve of its collapse. The FHA insures about $750 billion in mortgage debt. In the UK, “leverage” is known as “gearing”. They are both euphemisms for debt.

    • Have you noticed that the £-Sterling is just about to achieve parity with the Euro?

    • An ASBO is an Anti-Social Behaviour Order and it is usually given out to pikeys and their parents. The trouble is that most of them are so thick that they probably think that an ASBO is a qualification which will be worth a few points on their UCAS form when they go to University to study demolition or vehicle hotwiring. I’ve just seen some ASBO-pikeys being interviewed and it seems that the sub-species favours a single earring and a tattooed neck (men) and the women have to be very fat with bleached hair. Their natural habitat is either a bus shelter or a stained sofa which faces a television. They only eat orange-coloured food – as long as it doesn’t contain fruit or vegetables.

    • Just saw a re-run of Sarah Brown introducing Gordon. She was good. She will be a major Labour weapon in the forthcoming General Election. I wonder if David Cameron’s wife Samantha is taking Powerpoint and sincero-talk lessons?

    Monday September 28th 2009

    • Excellent headline grabbing by that jug-eared gargoyle Andrew Marr. He is without doubt a supreme journalist but his questioning of Gordon Brown yesterday was inexcusable. Suggesting that Brown needs prescription drugs to get through the day, followed by Brown’s admission that he has trouble with his eyesight was a direction that no journalist should steer. There is a real danger that if the Tory Press goes down the  ” Brown’s a sick man and therefore unfit for office” route, there will be a swell of pro-Brown sympathy. Then, if the Socialists succeed in portraying the Tory Shadow Cabinet as a bunch of hoorays lounging about in the senior common room with David Cameron as a self-serving Head Boy, there is a very real possibility that Labour will retain office. Undecided voters are driven by PERCEPTION and not by policies  or past performance. Remember John Major’s victory in 1992? He was behind in the polls, yet in that year claimed the most votes in British electoral history. Leading up to the 1992 election, Labour had been ahead in the polls since 1989 plus the economy had entered a recession under the Tories. Yet Major won and remained in power until 1997.  He won because the electorate liked him and thought that Neil Kinnockwasaprat. Nothing to do with policies.

    • Alistair Darling is going to deliver his usual speech on bank bonuses. “Clawback”, “Unacceptable” “Deferred” etc.will all  make their appearances – as they have done for many months. Alistair Darling will “pledge” to clean-up the banking industry. The proposed Fiscal Responsibility Act sounds like another focus group creation and no doubt, there will be another Financial Services Act close on its heels. He is obviously working on the principle of “If you can’t win the argument – legislate”. It’s all a monumental waste of time but look on the bright side – we will be living in a society where the highest earners are footballers and pop singers. Something which our children can really aspire-to.

    • Gordon Brown says that he won’t  ”roll over”. I do wish that his speechwriters would give him words that he is comfortable with. What’s next? “I ain’t goin’ to be no Tory dude’s bitch. Shabba”?

    • Roman Polanski arrested on a 31-year-old warrant. Apparently in 1978 there was a plea-bargain andhewasto receive a nominal sentence if he pleaded “guilty”. The judge then reneged on the deal so Polanski absconded. Originally, Polanski has been charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14 but the plea-bargain reduced the charges to  a single charge ofunlawful sex with a minor. Polanski was six years old when WW2 broke out and like many Polish children who grew-up during the war, he was damaged. Add to this the horrors of the Manson murders and the killing of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, it is doubtful whether Polanski has ever been in what we might call a normal psychological state. However, the fact remains that he did horrible things to a 13 year-old girl and is a convicted criminal who probably still poses a danger. There is no Statute of Limitations for this type of crime but as his victim has forgiven him and so much time has passed, one hopes that the high-level diplomatic activity currently taking place will result in some sort of amnesty. There should be a White House statement soon.

    • The next Labour Prime Minister is the new the darling of Conference. Yes, Peter Mandelson earned a standing ovation and became the Labour Party joker today after delivering an appalling speech. He stumbled over the funny lines, his timing was out and his voice was its usual oleaginous drawl. However, the Conference highlight up to that point had been Alistair Darling and had it not been for Mandelson, they audience would have been engaging in synchronised self-harming. That’s how dire it had been. He is going to extend the scrappage scheme <applause>. Sadly, he appeared to be talking about motor cars and not the Cabinet. The scrappage scheme will keep the Japanese, German and Korean car industries going for a couple more months so let’s hope that their own governments can take over soon after that. 

    • Tomorrow Gordon Brown is widely expected to give “the speech of his life”.  That good eh? He’s probably in his hotel room practicing by reading the instructions on his Corby trouser press – that’s just about the level of excitement that he’ll generate tomorrow. But the Labouristas will clap and there will be a standing ovation. Is it true that the conference-hall doors lock from the outside?

    • Alistair Darling’s speech also had all the excitement of a talk on basket-weaving at the local WI . He obviously had gaps in his script indicating <pause for audience reaction>. Unfortunately, the pauses were more exciting and informative than the text. As expected he did some pointless macho posturing on the subject of bank bonuses  – in the certain knowledge that the whole thing will be picked up by “Boy” George Osborne and lost in the mountain of unfinished business that Labour will leave behind in the May 2010 rush to clear their desks.

    • The British Frigate IRON DUKE scored a decent stash of Colombian Marching Powder, weighing 5.5 tons with a street value of £250,000,000. Apparently , the fishing boat containing the stuff was sailing erratically and suspiciously. That’s Coke for you! The only worry is that instead of sinking the boat WITH the cargo, the frigate is now taking the cargo to New York. Let’s hope that H.M.S Iron Duke doesn’t sail up 34th Street all shiny-eyed and twitchy to tie-up outside Macy’s. 

    Sunday September 27th 2009

    • Just down the road in Brighton THEY are arriving for the Labour Party Conference – or should that be the New Labour Party Conference. Did we elect Labour or NEW LABOUR? Anyway, that’s  now just a technicality or a long-forgotten dream of how things could or might have been. Here’s a Labour FACT, given to me by a friend who used to be Chief Barman at the Grand Hotel. More Champagne is consumed at the Labour Party Conference than at all other conferences and he told me stories of vintage Champers being quaffed  – not from a young lady’s glass slipper but from PINT jugs. If I recall correctly, that particular incident involved a gang (?) of Trade Unionists. Now THAT’S Socialism.

    • You know things are bad within the Labour Party when John Prescott begins to look like a Statesman (comparatively speaking). When Johno was Deputy Prime Minister, he used to deliver those grammar-free rabble-rousing “calls to arms” which could have been such fun if we’d understood what he was talking about. This year it’s Harriet’s turn and it won’t be the same. It will be the difference between a drug-crazed, alcohol-fuelled multi-position shagfest anddoingitquietly, Missionary-style with the lights out.

    • Gordon Brown is to introduce a law which is currentl;y being referred-to as the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FSA) (running out of ideas,perhaps?).The Act will oblige all future Governments to reduce the country’s borrowing by a set minimum amount. Needless to say, the amount and timescale are yet to be decided – probably a commission or enquiry… So what will happen if a Government fails to repay the minimum amount in a given year? A fine? Arrests? I suggest firing squads.

    • The Labour spin doctors have decided that David Cameron will be portrayed as a shallow toff – a script and autocue-reading “hooray”. Normally, that would upset the Tories but then they remembered the alternative.

    • Quote from Gordon Brown: “By 2015 we want our country to be fairer, greener, more prosperous and democratic.”  Seems to me that we have several Labour admissions in that sentence.

    • Lord “Darth” Mandelson has referred to David Cameron as “hugely arrogant”. Not really much more to say on that one.

    • Mandelson has said that he believes that the forthcoming election is “up for grabs”. Yes it is – by the Tories.

    • Great interview in the Sunday Mirror today. Vincent Ross interviews Mandelson and re-defines the phrase “butt-kisser”. Perhaps a spin-job awaits at No.10?

    • Iran is launching missiles today. So, they have missiles and they’re developing the capacity to stick nuclear warheads at the missiles’ sharp-end. I am now off to have another “No shit, Sherlock” moment. I shall report when I’ve worked it all out.

    • Why are the authorities making such heavy-weather of Baroness Scotland and “CLEANERGATE”. If they announced an amnesty for all illegals, they would have to hire at least one Wembley Stadium to fit them all into. Leave the Baroness and her cleaner alone. Is it because she’s clever, female, attractive and black? Mind you, she is Labour. See what you mean.

    • Ken Livingston has just married. At London Zoo. There are some things which are way, way beyond parody.

    • “I want this so badly” “It’s been a great journey for me” “Singing is my life” ” I’m doing this for my (sob) brother/mother/ sister etc”  and ” I’m sure he’s looking down on me” The last one is about Simon Cowell. He’s not dead – just incredibly condescending.

    • Great quote from Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan “Shagger” Cole on Jo Wood. ” One of Jo’s big strengths is that she’s alive.”Considering how long she lived with Ronnie Wood- it has to be worth a mention and maybe a box of chocolates. We all hope that Ronnie Wood is reunited with Jo as soon as possible-he is currently risking his life. Some of those Russian girls will do anything for a bowl of Borsch and clean sheets. Anything.

    • In 2008, the NHS collected £112 million in parking charges. With such figures, perhaps the NHS should concentrate on parking and stop the healing and surgery  activities which probably distract them from where the REAL profits are. Perhaps a joint-venture with NCP beckons? Worryingly, £28 million was collected from its own staff. It’s a great wheeze. Tax the sick, tax their families and tax those who look after them. Who helped with the Business Model? Gordon Brown?

    Saturday September 26th 2009

    • The  American Fed has issued the following statement:   To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets, and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve will purchase a total of $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and up to $200 billion of agency debt.”  Now we can watch the demise of the once-mighty American Dollar. Fund Managers and Investors will now start dumping dollars like confetti. A TRILLION is a million millions and in this case, it represents more Quantitative Easing or to be strictly accurate, the purchase of toxic assets with “printed”  i.e non-existent money. The sort that caused the global banking meltdown. This is a case of throwing bad money after bad.

    • President Obama has announced tough new capital requirements for banks as well as more stringent rules on bank borrowings. If you were to ask what these rules are likely to be or when they are to be implemented, the answer would probably be “We haven’t really decided but it will definitely happen later.”  They are saying that  the rules will be phased-in once financial conditions improve and recovery is “assured”. Leaders have been discussing a cap on bank bonuses for a while  but they still haven’t agreed any numbers or timescale. The only thing that they have agreed is that bonus payments should not be guaranteed for many years, should be deferred in part and should not exceed a percentage of the bank’s revenue. That is how vague it is at the moment. When the global economy has healed itself and both governments and banks return to generating profits, most of this will be forgotten because by then, the balance of power will, once again have shifted back towards the banks and the next boom-bust cycle will begin.

    • The least entrepreneurial profession of all is banking. There is a vastly different mental attitude between say, an entrepreneur such as Richard Branson and say, MervynKing, the Governor of the Bank of England. That rule works all the way down the line until we have the small local businessman and the small-town banker. Chalk and Cheeze. Incidentally, when I say “entrepreneurial” – I am referring to people who take risks with their own assets.  Just to reinforce the cultural difference – bankers will gladly take risks with other people’s money – especially in very large amounts – as evidenced by the cause of the current Global Banking crisis. However, when a local business goes to its local bank in order to borrow say £20,000 to purchase a machine, lots of fiery hoops are assembled for the business to jump through, fees are charged, personal guarantees are demanded, forms need to be filled out, cash flows and business plans are sought . So when a  small businessman goes to his bank – the MOST likely answer (especially nowadays) in “NO”.  Perhaps unknowingly, the banking profession is not-only killing itself but it is also slow-strangling the business community. The banker chose to work in a bank because he didn’t want the worry of not having a pay cheque at the end of the month, he did not want to work a 16-hour day and he didn’t want to cold-call  people in order to drive his business forward. What he needed from his life was predictability, order, neatness and a company pension. This is the paradox: The banking profession has managed to evolve itself into something which it was not designed to be and  it has managed to do it by what is known as the “Halo Effect”. There is a saying “Get them by the balls and their hearts and minds are bound to follow.”  Banks now have “business advisers”  ; mostly young people with degrees who cannot possibly have ever tasted the fears of an entrepreneurial businessman.  Bank management has developed a culture of self-importance and inaccessibility.  Remember the time when a bank manager tried to impress you in order to win your business? Now , you have to ask him to welcome you to his club so that he can look after your money. He is now doing YOU a favour – unless it’s ” I’d love to help you but the System  ( or those upstairs) say “NO”. The banking tentacles have moved further into he business community. Local Enterprise Organisations and  Business Clubs are now both Governed and heavily populated by more bankers. Entrepreneurial andmanagementadviceisbeingdispensed by a profession with little or no practical or first-hnd business experience or knowledge. That is the Halo Effect. Put simply, because the banker knows about money and has you by the balls, you assume automatically that he is able to dispense Tax Advice, Marketing Advice, Sales Advice, Organisational Advice, Training Advice, Recruitment Advice, Purchasing  Advice and any other Advice that you need.  The total power of the banking community is evidenced by the fact that Chancellors, Prime Ministers and even  Presidents are having to say “Please do something about your bonuses Mister Banker.”  Banking has developed into a multi-headed all-powerful Frankenstein. It is not a simple case of imposing a few rules. What is really needed is a massive cultural change within the banking industry and a massive perceptual change from both private and business clients. If you’re a businessman or work for yourself in any way, ask yourself – ” Am I comfortable with taking business or financial advice  and all the other captive-audience advice that they like to dish-out, from an organisation populated by people who obviously did not heed their own advice and lost billions but have no idea what really happened?”  WATCH THIS SPACE.

    •  I received a letter from a Member of Parliament today. He addressed me by my Christian Name. What’s going on? Paranoid? Moi?

    • The airlines appear to be learning from the banks. British Airways will be charging us again AFTER they have our business. We book a flight and then pay an additional fee  to get a seat. Genius! Can you bring your own seat and pay corkage?

    • There’s only one thing wrong with an Indian Summer. The Global Warming Mullahs will wake from their torpor and deliver the usual speech about our emissions. I think that 4X4 vehicles should be compulsory. Have to go now and have my dolphin steaks and light the coal fire.

    • In the last two years, 150 teachers have been sacked for sexual misconduct. A loss to the teaching profession but what a bonus for the Vatican’s recruitment team!

    • Gordon Brown has been voted World Statesman of the Year – mostly for giving away any leftover taxpayers’ money that Mervyn King has not given to the banks. Brown has been generous to Africa and quite right too. In addition, he has enjoyed many politicians’ or Pope’s ultimate wet-dream. An embrace from Bonio who , apart from being big in the dog-biscuit trade, is (apparently) some sort of Irish pop singer. He plays in a popular beat combo named after some American spy-plane. U2, I think. Crucial.

    • Remember Gordon Brown selling off the UK’s gold to China a few years ago? Who better to value, melt-down anddoitallover again with that pile of  gold Anglo-Saxon tat recently dug up in Staffordshire – wherever that is. Middle Earth?

    • There’s a very exclusive TV Club – the old dears who used to read the news and appeared on the Christmas Morecambe and Wise show in the 50s and who did high kicks andeithermarriedapolicemanorshagged Jon Snow or went to live on a farm in Scotland. Pretty soon, the pre-teens running the BBC andthecommercialchannel will be  playground-bullied into re-hiring these venerable oldsters.  Prepare for News at Ten to look like a re-run of Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 1.

    • In 1959, Typhoon Vera struck Nagoya in Japan. There was a 20 ft tsunami, 150 mph winds and 5000 people died. Did you know that they managed ALL that without Global Warming! They could do stuff like that in the 50s. We have a lot to learn.

    • TV’sDoctorGorgeousappearedtohaveeverything – but he was struck by the one affliction that even he could not cure. He lost the ability to keep it in his trousers. Marriage, Mistress, Divorce, Mistress, two-timed Mistress, Girlfriend.  Best of luck mate. The definitive case of “Surgeon heal Thyself”.

    • In an average week, I speak to 5 or 6 Chief Executives – guys I’ve either trained, coached or who I know personally. This week I had the most weird experience with a company CEO and company owner. He fancies himself as a “leader” but  is just realising that he has recently reached the upper limits of his incompetence. The stress-levels are phenomenal and I shall devote a whole article to him next week. Look out for it – it WILL be libellous!

    • Fantastic evening for crumblies. ITV is celebrating 250 years of Cliff Richard. He hasn’t changed one bit – apart from wearing Frankie Howard’s old rug. Well, it’s either that or a  very quiet ginger cat.

    Friday September 25th 2009

    Friday September 25th 2009

    • The mole who leaked the MPs’ expenses information to the Daily Telegraph has revealed what motivated him to do so – apart that is, from the £110,000 fee that he was paid. It now appears that his primary motivation was not money but the fact that serving soldiers were “moonlighting” at the House of Commons. They were working in the Security department and protecting the Civil Servants who were dealing with confidential matters – one of which was Members’ expenses. Apparently, it wasn’t long before the soldiers realised the extent and extravagance of MPs’ expenses and so glimpsed the comparative opulence and excesses of the politicians’ lifestyles.  The very people who represented them and who had sent them abroad to be shot at. The sums of money involved in the claims that they either saw or were told about were further amplified by the fact that the soldiers were doing this extra work in order to buy decent boots and body protectors and other items which would make their soldiering duties easier and safer. It is currently very easy for us to feel very emotional  when they hear stories such as this – but we should proceed with extreme caution because it now seems that the mole is trying to justify his actions in leaking the information. He appears to be telling us that he now feels vindicated because of the “poor” soldiers and because MPs have to-date returned over £500,000 in mis-claimed expenses. Planes bearing dead blown-to-bits soldiers, processions through Wootton Bassett and full-page photographs of a recently mutilated soldier paying his last respects to his blown-up dead buddy certainly do tug at the heart-strings. Great propaganda andimmaculatetimingbyourmole. Now the facts: The mole received £110,000 pounds from a right-wing paper. Currently each soldier receives Osprey lightweight body armour and£3500 – worth of state-of-the-art equipment – including boots and shoes. The mole’s motives for leaking the information would not be in question had he not accepted such a large amount of money – which one presumes has been donated to the Army Benevolent Fund. I am not a great supporter either of this Government or of the pointless shenanigans in Afghanistan but sometimes there are over-sugared pills which are just too difficult to swallow.

    • One question remains: Why were security men  -serving soldiers or not- allowed to either view or be given  confidential information.

    • China , India and Brazil are to play a more prominent part in G20 and will also have more IMF votes. Currently, China wields 3.7% of IMF votes compared with France’s 4.9%, although the Chinese economy is now 50% larger than that of France and  in spite of the fact that China has over 20 Provinces which each has a population greater than that of France. This looks very much like the dawn of the Eastern or New economies and the inevitable sunset for the once all-powerful West. Regrettably, not only is it a question of size and manufacturing power but the West is currently “in hock” to China. Chinese and Indian savers enabled all of us to be borrowers. Now economists are saying that the East has to create the same free-spending and borrowing consumer society that we have enjoyed for so many years: just look where WE are now! Are we really so well-placed as to be dispensing economic advice?

    • Another New Labour piece of legislation which has been languishing in the long grass for a while is the changing or possibly the removal of the Statutory Retirement Age. It is a shame that there are ex-teachers, ex-managers, ex-engineers who happen to be over 65 and who are now either shelf-stacking, working at B&Q or watching Countdown. What a waste. The Government says that the matter will be dealt-with in 2010, in other words, by the Tories. Meanwhile, at least 300 over 65s are taking ex-employers to Tribunals and yet again, lawyers have become involved. That is New Labour’s one big success – through their intransigence and incompetence, they have produced the best-ever Lawyer Job-Creation Scheme. The Brits have always been obsessed with 65 being their time to stop work, relax, take long holidays etc. Unfortunately in many cases it’s retire, sit around for a bit, die.  We are changing as a nation and it is not purely because of the recession or plundered company pension schemes that people wish to carry-on working. Our “retirement mentality” has gradually been disappearing and people genuinely WANT to work for as long as they can. OK, there are very physical jobs where at age 65, you’re clapped-out. For instance, building, mining or farming. You can punish your body to such an extent that by the time you are 50, you start looking forward to the day when you can stop. However, nowadays many of us are engaged in non-physical work which means that we SHOULD be as fit at 65 as we were at 45. Policies should not be driven by a Government with one eye on unemployment statistics because as usual, public opinion is against them. It’s now time for the Statutory Retirement Age to be abolished.

    • Iran is the world’s fourth-biggest oil producer. No wonder they need to make such a vast investment in nuclear energy. You never know! Or, could it be that the Mullahs want to produce nuclear warheads in order obliterate Israel and/or the USA. That’s not possible because the Koran says that Muslims want us all to be their chums. Here are three quotes directly from the Koran (or Quran if you know your Peking from your Beijing). Here goes: “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” (5.51)  or :“So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates.” (47.4)  or “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement” (5.33) As I said – nothing to worry about. They’re just misunderstood. Talk of fundametalist Muslims being a bunch of fanatical murdering misogynist psychos is very naughty. They want to love us – as we love them. It says so in the Quran. Let them build their nuclear power stations bombs. It’s for our own good. Just think about all that cheap electricity.

    Nearly forgot: “O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand.” (8.65)

    • The often misunderstood and misinterpreted thing which suggests that when a  Muslim blows himself up for the cause , he will be rewarded in Paradise with 40 virgins to shag (presumably) -is wrong. Martyrs in Islam are classified as people who die for their religion whereas people who blow themselves up for women are dying for their own lusts. It’s Hell for them. Presumably you need to die with a hard-on. Not impossible – many men do, apparently.

    These are Iran’s main Nuclear sites:

    Thursday September 24th 2009

    • The Government has criticised the Football Association for not reforming itself. It has also asked the F.A to spend more time and resources on ethnics and women as well as telling them that they should provide better leadership. Perhaps when the F.A has completed its restructuring it can then give H.M Government a few tips. Talk about Pot-Kettle.

    • A recent U.S survey shows that many Americans think that Tony Blair is the British Prime Minister. Someone ought to tell them who the real UK Prime Minister is. Darth Mandelson.

    • Mandelson has been quoted as saying that Gordon Brown ought to “lighten up”  a bit. Not THAT smile again PLEASE!!!!  NOOOO!!!

    • What is it about meetings beginning with a “G”? Why is our expectation level do low? Is it because we know that the post-meeting statement has already been written? Is it because all previous meetings were such a monumental waste a waste of resources, time and money? Anyway – who DOES write that n-page statement which announces the next meeting in 6 months? Gordon Brown’s LAST such meeting.

    • Is it true that Obama snubbed Gordon Brown? Obama has had one-on-one meetings withotherleaders. Why not with our own Prime Minister? Is it because of the Megrahi affair or could it be because of the increasingly prominent sell-by date on Gordon Brown’s forehead?

    • Banks are currently reducing their assets and hoarding cash because of liquidity requirements. Put in simple terms, that means that the magic conjured-up money – the so-called Quantitative Easing is making it in through the banks’ back doors but the front doors remain only slightly ajar. READ REST OF ARTICLE

    • In 1998, the Saville Inquiry began its investigations into the shooting of 29 Civil Rights protesters by soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the British  Parachute Regiment. Five protesters were shot in the back and two injured protesters were run down by Army vehicles. Fourteen people died. This was the Bloody Sunday Massacre which took place on 30th January 1972 in Derry. The original Widgery Tribunal concluded that the  soldiers actions could be best described as “bordering on the reckless” . Unsurprisingly, the Widgery report was widely regarded as a whitewash. Hence the Saville Inquiry. Now we hear that the Saville Inquiry will report in March 2010!!! Apparently, there’s a printing issue that needs to be resolved. Once again , this 11-year inquiry brings into focus two great British institutions – queueing and inquiries. Not to mention a steady income for a whole “shark” of lawyers.

    • The anniversary of Lehman Brothers going down the toilet has passed anditisnowayearsincethesolidsreallyhitthe air-conditioning big time. For those who do not really understand finance – and who really does these days, here’s the deal. Politicians and bankers knew for at leat 18 months before the collapse that there was not enough cash in the system andthatmost, if not ALL banks were now standing on foundations of sand. It was only when Lehman had to admit that there was no real money – only paper ” instruments” which could be worth cash , that it was realised that the real currency that the banks had been  dealing-in was bullshit and promises. Politicians are now beginning to strike heroic poses as they tell us how they saved the banking system and that they only-just managed to avert a financial Armageddon. The real fact is that they knew what was happening all along and lived in the HOPE that somehow (they did not know how), the financial system would self-adjust or self-regulate itself back to stability . It didn’t and the solution that is being applied today is exactly the same as that which caused the collapse. Imaginary money. Eighteen months ago, bankers and politicians were HOPING that the system would sort itself out and that is EXACTLY what they are hoping for today. What is really needed is a total restructuring of the banking system but there isn’t the global political will to make that first all-important move.

    • There’s a (denied) rumour that Gordon Brown is going blind. Obviously we all hope that he is not. In spite of the fact that he has all the leadership qualities of damp Kleenex, he is a decent man. The rumour that he is blind has obviously been started by someone who is confusing his eyesight with his policies and management style.

    You calling me a banker?

    “Move over, Darling. Please!”

    Banks are currently reducing their assets and hoarding cash because of liquidity requirements. Put in simple terms, that means that the magic conjured-up money – the so-called Quantitative Easing is making it in through the banks’ back doors but the front doors remain only slightly ajar.

    No amount of media-blackmail or Government arm-twisting is going to persuade the banks to start lending to commerce or to the private sector  in reasonable volumes or at reasonable rates. The banks are lending but at nowhere near the volumes needed by the economy. When they do lend, they apply wall-to-wall fees and a starting interest rate of the order of 6% over Base Rate. So, if you factor-in their fees, the actual percentage rate is ridiculously high compared to what little the BANKS are paying for the money and compared to the average company’s profit margin.

    Very often finance is over-complicated. For instance, if you are a manufacturer and you have a bank overdraft on which you are paying 10% per year, you need a pretty hefty profit margin in order to make any profit after you have paid your bank charges. Simple.

    Currently, margins are so tight that the banks may as well be in a different economy and on another planet because the sums just do not add up. The banks are doing their own thing, apparently with absolutely no reference to what is happening in commerce – especially where interest rates and current commercial margins are concerned.

    There are those who seem to think that the current Bank of England Money Sale (Quantitative Easing) is not working. “We can’t tell yet” is a current often-recited bankers’ Mantra. The double uncertainties of whether QE is working and more importantly, whether  the UK will ever be able to repay its currently vast borrowings without further damaging the economy has caused the pound sterling to fall in value. It has begun its short journey South and will be closely followed by the dollar.

    Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England wants to add another £25 billion to the Quantitative Easing pot. He is currently in a minority of ONE. The dissent reminds us once again that Economics is largely a matter of opinion, guesswork and misjudgement.

    The Chancellor, Alistair Darling still has an occasional bleat about bankers’ bonuses. That is all purely cosmetic. Bankers’ bonuses are trivial in comparison to the current needs of manufacturing and commerce.  In fact, the whole subject of bankers’ bonuses is taking-up a very disproportionate  amount of not-only our media space but also of the Chancellor’s and the Prime Minister’s collective energies. It is a red-herring. This morning, Alistair Darling has again been banging-on about “clawback” and banks holding onto bonuses for three years. It’s all ill-conceived rubbish.

    The fact is that the Government has absolutely NO RIGHT to tell any privately-owned company what it should be paying any of its employees. That is up to the owners of the company – the shareholders. However, where the Government is a major shareholder in a company, e.g. RBS, only then is it at liberty to impose its views.

    The banking issues will not be solved until there is a dislocation between High Street Banking and Investment Banking.

    This morning’s hare-brained scheme was to ask companies  to declare their TOP 20 earners’ incomes. That should work-well for many Hedge Funds! Some only  have 5-10 employees. We’ll know what their secretaries and cleaners are earning which should be useful!!

    The Banker Bonus issue is a red herring which the Treasury is using more and more to distract us from the fact that they  not-only made a mess of managing the economy prior to September 2008 but  it now looks increasingly likely that the “cure” that has been applied through the medium of Quantitative Easing only has a 50-50 chance of working.

    The real worry, however is that Quantitative Easing was the last throw of the dice – and don’t be fooled by the near-miraculous “recovery” of the Stock Markets. Those Investment Bankers are now gambling with pretend QE money. The end-game will be fascinating.

    Wednesday September 23rd 2009

    • Apparently, there is a small but statistically significant rise in patient deaths when junior doctors start work in August. Perhaps the same survey should be done with slightly different parameters: Before pubs open and after closing time.

    • A friend sent me a cartoon yesterday which, for the first time, explained the constant Midde East conflict . Jewish man  looking up at the sky saying, “Now, let me get this straight God. The Arabs get the oil and you want us to cut the end off our what….?” 

    • This snippet explains better than anything the anonymous nature of the Liberals’ leader. Nick Clegg will be delivering the Leader’s rabble-rousing Conference for the THIRD time!! He will attempt to come cross as a TOUGH leader. Doesn’t compute, does it? He always looks as if he’s just taken a “NICE” pill.

    • Justin-lee Collins has said what many are thinking: Bruce Forsyth should have stopped TV presenting three or four years ago. There’s a touch of the Emperor’s New Clothes about the whole thing. So much so that no-one appears willing to say ” Brucie, you are now coming across as an old twat. Piss off”. Instead the poor old bugger is being patronised, allowed to be unfunny (obviously from the tumbleweed school of humour) and worst of all, he’s being referred-to as “sprightly”.An adjective every man dreads because it is THE word which signifies the beginning of the end. It is NOT a compliment. It means that you are past-it and when you attempt to tap dance avec embarrassing Sammy Davis Jr-esque gurning, you look like a swinging cadaver with a ferret up a wet trouser leg.

    • I have just discovered that Chas & Dave have split up.     p.s. I am writing this on Beachy Head.

    • Kristna Rihanoff whose Strictly Come Dancing partner is Joe Calzaghe celebrated her birthday yesterday. Rumour has it that Joe and Kristina have grown very close. I  wonder whether he had any difficuty in wrapping her present?

    • More meaningless military “sincero-talk”today. Acting Sergeant Michael Lockett was blown up by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province.  “There’s now a gap in our ranks that will be so very difficult to fill”  and  “Sgt Lockett’s raw bravery and seflessness cost hm his life but undoubtedly saved that of one of his soldiers.”  are just two more examples from the Army Book of Fine Words. Meaningless twaddle. Sgt Locketthas left behindastrickengirlfriend and three children aged eight, seven and five. “We take solace in the fact that he died doing a job he was born to do” was more puke-inducing bollocks – this time from his father.  Stop this pseudo-heroic crap and bring ALL of our young soldiers back here to the United Kingdom, where they belong. The Taliban certainly do not see these young soldiers as heroes  –  more like fairground ducks.

    • When will the Vatican be called to account over the tens of thousands of children that have been abused by pervert priests? The Catholic Church has been accused at the United Nations Human Rights Council of a systematic and long-standing cover-up. The Vatican is in breach of its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Handing out MILLIONS in compensation is really not the way forward. It’s customary to pay for sex up-front , not ten, twenty or thirty years after the event. Let us hope that one day there will be a time when the Vatican can close its child-abuse fund and get on with the business of religion.

    • Nothing about Gordon Brown today because he hasn’t said anything new or original. Situation normal. 

    Tuesday September 22nd 2009

    • Did you see Darth Mandelson being questioned on the subject of bankers’ bonuses last night? As Business Secretary, he has the power to stop the bankers in their tracks. But he cannot and he would not answer any bonus-related questions.

    • General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan has warned that the war there could be lost unless there is an increase in troops within a year. He is asking for an additional 30,000 troops.  This is truly developing into another Vietnam. Currently, there are 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, 62,000 of whom are American. Time to talk.

    • The United Kingdom is needlessly wasting resources by sending too many average and some downright thick students to University. In fact, there are too many Universities. Hence the current funding crisis. The solution is so simple that even an Education Minister ought to be able to work it out.

    • The worldwide recession and the resulting drop in consumer demand has had a profound effect on industrial production. That has had an unexpectedly welcome effect on greenhouse gas emission – it has fallen by over 40%. Perhaps the Global Warming Mullahs will take this opportunity to shut up.

    • Anish Kapoor, the 1991 Turner Prize winner has a solo exhibtion the Royal Academy. This event is unusual because Anish lacks the traditional qualification for such a exhibition. He isn’t dead. If you enjoy abstract sculpture and/or you like spouting pretentious arty bollocks, then this exhibition is for you. Here’s a nosegay from Anish himself: “That sense of the poem being put together as word objects relates to sculpture in a very fundamental way. Sculpture also has this ability to be what it isn’t. It’s kind of about the illusory and the real.”Quite.  Anish is very keen on vaginas so do look out for the odd wobbly red letterbox shape.

    • The media seem surprised that construction companies and builders have been ripping-off Local Authorities and other organisations which are spending other peoples’ money. It’s been going on for years. This is from April 2008 – CLICK HERE– and it includes a scene from the Coconut Club, which you will be hearing more and more about over the next few weeks.

    • This week is Climate Week – a crucial  week in the quest for a global climate deal. World leaders are meeting at the UN in New York and a G20 summit in Pittsburgh. Meetings such as this have been going on for a few years now so let us hope that the current series of meetings produces something that has been sadly missing from previous encounters. Action. In December the Copenhagen environmental conference will hopefully be the real turning point and turn meetings into agreements into action.

    • Global Warming: Predictions are made using computer models and although the general consensus is that Global Warming is occurring, there are scientists (the so-called “deniers”) who have alternative models which suggest that the Earth will cool before its becomes hotter. Regrettably, the religious-like aspects of Global Warming, treat scientists who deny Global Warming as heretics who are often lampooned andmarginalisedby both the scientific and political communities.  The latest of these is a   Professor Mojib Latif, from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel,  who has suggested that the long-term warming trend could be masked – perhaps for as long as 10 or 20 years – by a temporary cooling caused by natural fluctuations in currents and temperatures called the NorthAtlanticOscillation. It all seems to depend on which set of data is plugged into which computer model.  However, it is the politicians who are the true believers who only appear to read data which supports their dogma.

    • Helen Goddard , music teacher has been jailed for 15-months as the result of a lesbian affair with a 15-year-old pupil. How modern. Not nice – but definitely “of the age”.

    • Rumour has it that Louis Walsh, the Irish spud  and pop manager from the X-factor is going under the knife in order to improve his looks. There must be a long queue of knife-sharpening volunteers. Surprising that he hasn’t yet benefited from sitting so close to that pair of  BotoxedBookends – Simon Cowell and Danni Minogue – by osmosis.

    • Sir Bobby Robson’s Memorial service must have been an ordeal for Paul Gascoigne. There was only one photo of Gazza that the snappers wanted – and they got it.

    • This is the sort of medical research that we like:  If you have alcohol in your bloodstream, you are far less likely to die from a head injury, says Dr Ali Salim from Los Angeles. The findings are based on a 5-year study of 38,000 people. You can’t be too careful. Cheers.

    • Nothing in the Press about Jordan today. Max Clifford must be on a long weekend break.

    • Attorney-General Baroness Scotland is still facing an uncertain future. Gordon Brown, her boss is being his usual decisive self. This is what he said this morning: “We will have to find out what has actually happened and I will have to wait for that report this morning and she will want to answer the questions that are put to her. We will have to make decisions.”  Brown obviously has not been watching the news or reading his Daily Worker. The fact is that Baroness Scotland employed someone who did not have authorisation to work in the United Kingdom. In fact, her papers expired five years ago. As usual, the long grass is quivering in anticipation.

    Monday September 21st 2009

    • It now appears that Womens World  800m champion Caster Semenya was tested ages ago and there has been concern over her sex for months. The issue did not suddenly materialise at the last Word Championships. The whole thing has been handed so badly that there is every likelihood of IAAF resignations.

    • Baroness Scotland will probably resign this week. If every politician who made a mistake resigned, Westminster would be empty by now.

    • It looks as if Megrahi is going to be the first criminal to be retried on the Internet. We’re still awating an intervention from God and the miracle recovery. There has been one previous miraculous recovery by a convicted criminal. Ernest Saunders (1980s Guinness Scandal) was freed by a judge because he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. So far, Ernest Saunders in the first  and only recorded case of a total recovery from Alzheimer’s. The recovery took place soon after he was released from jail. Speaking of miraculous recoveries – Ronnie “released on compassionate grounds” Biggs has been seen out and about on his mobility scooter. Megrahi or Biggs? I’m off to Ladbrokes to make a small investment.

    • The Liberals are having their occasional rush of blood and putting themselves forward as a party of government. Remember David Steel in 1981? “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.”  Forget it boys and girls. There’s Vince Cable and Norman Baker and after that it all becomes a bit anonymous. Nick who?

    • The Liberals want to tax home owners whose properyis worth in excess of a million. They will be the only Party whose policies will be derailed by a property crash andonthatbasisalone, this policy has the depth and solidity of  a closing-time back-of-a-beermat “I really lovvve you”  concept. They’re not sponsored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, are they? This new policy is the Liberals’ biggest-ever lurch to the left. The sort of thing that New Labour would have done when they were Proper Labour.

    • The elephant in the room – the one that no-one is talking about is still there. I am of course referring to the economy.

    • Several big companies, including a couple of large builders as well as the Royal Bank of Scotland will be coming to market very soon to raise many billions. Watch those share prices.  Here we go again.

    • Have you noticed how Kerry Katona’s nose is looking more and more like Danniella Westbrook’s last nose-but-one?

    • The Education bods are gettinng a bit twitchy at Ed Balls’ suggestions of swingeing cuts in Education. It is the designer-suited BMW-driving “advisers” at County Hall who should think twice before renewing their gym membership or booking that holiday in Tuscany. CLICK HERE

    • I did not see Alesha Dixon’s debut on Strictly Whatsit but it sounds as if she had a list of pre-prepared crap written down, dispensed it quite randomly and personalised it by adding bad grammar.

    • Rules are being published this week which will exempt family and friends from being prosecuted after assisting in a suicide.  It is purely coincidental that these rules are being rushed through just before Gordon Brown’s conference speech.

    • Manchester City manger Mark Hughes is complaining that too much time was added on at the endofyesterday’sderbygame with Mancheser United.  Michael Owen scored Man Utd’s winning goal in he 97th minute. Hughes forgets that his team had the identical extra time in which to score.

    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

    Clever but Dull

     

    ” I see no shits”

    There have been rumours again that as soon as a General Election is announced (probably May 2010) David Cameron will be challenging  Gordon Brown to a Presidential-style live TV debate. That does not seem like a great move. WWF it ain’t but Gordon “the Undertaker” Brown  has nothing to lose and “Pretty Boy” Cameron has nothing to prove. The best that the Conservatives can hope for is that New Labour keeps Brown in place as Leader and Prime Minister. The two falls and submission will come naturally – with no choreography.

    Gordon Brown has that permanent “my piles are playing me up again”  look which, coupled to the Louis Vuittonesque bags under his eyes makes him a Conservative PR man’s wet dream. Continue reading Clever but Dull

    The Great Dictator

    Gordon Brown is perceived as a bumbling, rambling carthorse of a man who, by all accounts, 7 short days ago, was dead and buried. Keyboards were clattering, HBs were being sharpened  and metaphors  polished in readiness for the unavoidable event – his political death. Obits needed to be written and the “He was a good guy really” sincero-talk had to be prepared for the Newsnight tribute.

    Harold Wilson was right – because here we are, one week later and PMQs yesterday saw an invigorated, more confident Brown at the Dispatch Box, admittedly still stuttering his way through the unexpected but nevertheless giving the impression of control when dealing with the choreographed and planted questions which had so obviously been crafted by the Labour Whips Office and Lord “Darth” Mandelson. David Cameron looked his usual exasperated self as Brown repeated the same answer to any number  of questions but the fact remains that little damage was done and one felt that once again, the man had got away with it!

    There are positive ripples flowing from the odd economist and although we are not yet in the sunny uplands of economic recovery, those elusive green shoots do appear to be trying to break through. Some economic sages even claim to have seen the so-far mythical shoots!

    Are we about to leave the dark dark winter of recession and blink our way into a long hot summer of economic sunshine?  No.

    The banks are still in trouble but bankers continue to pay themselves huge bonuses, unemployment is rising, the country is  “over-borrowed”, small businesses are collapsing , credit card companies are still charging over 20% per annum and we are governed by credibility-free Members of Parliament. Yet inexplicably, we are all feeling slightly more positive because we have enjoyed the multiple distractions of a phantom leadership challenge, a Cabinet reshuffle and mildly interesting results in last week’s Euro and Local elections. Oh yes, the sunny weather has returned and that coupled with the news that Ann Widdecombe has “reluctantly” put her name forward for the Speaker’s job  is making us all smile again.

    Both economically and politically we are in a fantasy land. None of us (and I include politicians) is thinking straight.

    Our Prime Minister is indulging in a bit of displacement activity. For instance, he has busied himself with the two grandiosely irrelevant concepts of Constitutional and Voting reform. Why? No-one knows but the clue is probably in his own background as a historian. Socialists such as he  usually see themselves as social reformers but Gordon Brown has “The Great Dictator”-type pretensions of a Constitutional reformer. He sees himself in the history books. His activities over the next 12 months will be driven by  self-indulgence and a misguided sense of purpose and history.

    The spanking-new Cabinet members have the air of a pack of back-parcelshelf nodding dogs and the leftover ones from the previous Cabinet appear to be burdened with a sense of fatalism and pointlessness which afflicts those who have come to terms with their own mortality and imminent death.

    Brown does not need the aggravation of a Cabinet which contains the odd firebrand or original thinker. He needs “yes” men but apparently, not too many “yes” women. He is still reeling from the Caroline Flint experience – so intelligent and opinionated political totty is definitely out.

    The Westminster Summer Recess is looming large and the Press will soon give its attention to Crop Circles, “Phew What a Scorcher” and the myriad other lightweight and trivial distractions of the silly season.

    Could it be that events are conspiring to keep The Great Dictator afloat? Let us hope not.

    Give it a Tweak.

    We are currently a single-concept country.  It is still MPs’ expenses – although Susan Boyle has also embedded herself in our psyche, providing very welcome relief from the ridicule and vilification of our Parliamentary representatives.

    The most disturbing thing though is not the range and volume (and ingenuity) of our Members of Parliament but the inertia of all our political leaders. It is now dawning on  Joe Taxpayer that there isn’t a single political leader who has any idea how to attack the problem.

    David Cameron favours kangaroo courts and a General Election. Gordon Brown favours the grand gesture of Parliamentary Reform (whatever that is) and an enquiry or two. The Liberal bloke….whassisname…Clegg is trying hard to capture the non-existent middle ground and is wheeled out occasionally for an insignificantly ineffectual bleat.

    If you have got into the habit of listening very carefully to Gordon Brown, you will have noticed that he keeps making vague promises but there are no “doing” verbs in his lexicon. David Cameron is like Wily Coyote. Trouble is, it’s too easy. Gordon “Roadrunner ” Brown is mentally-stationary and not really providing any sport for the increasingly frustrated Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. Vince Cable throws out the occasional soundbite but that’s about all.

    This is also a time for opportunists to slither onto the political stage. Where are the intellectuals, the industrial leaders, the economists? They are not that stupid. Instead we have Esther Rantzen and David Van Day. Perhaps that is all that we deserve. After all, politicians are OUR representatives, they reflect our beliefs and behaviours – so one could argue that we have the politicians that we deserve.

    Maybe the next stage for politics is another negative quantum leap to synchronise with what we have become in 2009. We are a skint has-been nation which finds its solace in the pursuit and worship of celebrity. Perhaps a future Cabinet which consisted of Esther Rantzen, David Van Day, Jordan, Kerry Catona, Biggins, a (any) footballer’s wife and Stan Collymore is what we deserve.

    So, I hear you say – “If you’re so smart sunshine, what is the solution?”

    The problem of MPs’ expenses has been caused by a total lack of management  within Westminster. Gorbals Mick has the brief is to provide Speaker-type leadership and a nominal amount of management. The “nominal” bit was OK in the good old days when Members were an honourable lot but not today. ( I have to admit that I am not sure quite when the “honourable” period  was but please bear with me on this one.)

    Comparison with the “good old days” is important because up until as recently as ten years ago, we the Brits had a healthy fear and respect for authority. We used to be fed RESPECT with our Cow & Gate plus we have a class system which helps us along the way, with our “They’re the same as us really” attitude.

    MPS are “the same as us” in all senses of the phrase. Therefore, they need as much management and control in their day-to-day jobs as the rest of us.

    For instance, let’s look at the management of Parliamentary expenses. Simple measures such as giving senior MPs a group of others to “look after” and sign-off their expenses BEFORE they go to the Westminster Finance Office. A simple “signing off” system would stop most naughtiness and would certainly stop a bunch of lowly finance civil servants from being bullied by loud-mouthed MPs. “Accountability” will have been introduced.

    I would also consider allowing the Government to sign-off the Oppositions expenses and vice versa. That would have an immediate impact. That’s what I would call REAL transparency.

    Nowadays, we actually believe that they (the politicians) are the “same as us”, that is to say, disrespectful, self-serving, celebrity-worshipping, selfish scumbags. Just think who people such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Fred the Shred and others like to be seen with. Do they respect us, their “clients”?  What is more important to them than their big houses, mortgages, pensions and expense accounts? Nothing, it seems.

    These attitudes and behaviours have killed not-only our banking system and possibly our economy but have exposed “New” Labour as “Pretend Socialism”. Orwell was not only right but he was more right than others.

    Then there’s Conservatism. “Nice” Conservatism should be about encouraging the individual  and giving him the tools to be able to look after himself and his family without looking to the State for charity whereas at the same time providing proper support for the weak.

    That is where our best chances lie – within the gentle conservatism of the Major/Blair days.

    Finally, there are two other negative contributory factors – namely, bad candidate selection and nepotism. There are too many “hereditary” Members of Parliament – especially within the Conservative Party.

    Candidate selection should be done more scientifically. I once attended a selection interview and was surprised to see about ten “crumblies” sitting round a table, without a plan and obviously not having a clue which questions to ask. They did not stand a chance. That has to stop. What is needed is rigorous, tested selection. Filter-out the bandits way before their mugshot appears on a campaign poster.

    So as you can see, a few gentle tweaks will do the trick. Not the procrastination of “Constitutional change”, nor the prevarication of Commissions and Enquiries or the chaos of a General Election. Those approaches may all be good solutions but not to the current problem.

    Just a few tweaks and normal service will be resumed.

     

    Those damned rules!

    Elliot Morley MP did not “made a mistake” when he fraudulently claimed £800 per month for a non-existent mortgage. Likewise,  Andrew MacKay MP and his wife and fellow MP, Julie Kirkbride knew exactly what they were doing when they were claiming for two “second homes”. Two Labour Lords have allegedly been exposed as a couple of crooks who were willing to take cash in exchange for altering Laws. Again, these were not mistakes.

    The “It was within the Rules” mantra is no longer being trotted out because MPs have realised that Rules express no moral or ethical responsibilities. Chequebooks are being waved about, yet only just over £100,000 has been pledged by increasingly panicked MPs who are not promising the return of cash through any sense of “right-and wrong” because it’s far too late for that.  They ignored the concept of right and wrong and because they have been caught with their closed hands in the till, their self-preservation instinct has kicked-in.

    Andrew MacKay has fallen on his sword in order to  save his wife’s career because his has peaked. She should now be nailed as “accessory” and also asked to resign.

    That bug-eyed louche, professional Mr Clever-pants, Peter Ustinov wannabe and Royal butt-kisser Stephen Fry has offered an opinion and believes that it is all a storm-in-a-teacup and that “we’ve all done it”. No we haven’t Stephen. Mind you, Stephen’s been banged up for naughtiness so his judgement will always be suspect and hopefully he has learned a good lesson. Never talk to a reporter when you are pissed. At best, you end up sounding like a know-all uber-opinionated cab driver. At worst, an ersatz upper-class prat.

    By the end of this week, it will be the end of the beginning for our naughty MP chums  but also the beginning of the end for Gorbals Mick (Mr Speaker) and Gordon Brown, the er…Prime Minister.

    Brown is currently swaying from foot to foot wondering what to do . We have established that his decision-making is on the dodgy side and that he manages through the joint media of the “enquiry” (Macro Management) and the thrown mobile phone and shouting (Day-to-day or Micro Management). He has probably already exhausted his entire repertoire on this one.

    David Cameron has managed to overtake Gordon and will hit the first corner well in the lead because he has made a decision and ordered his MPs to get their chequebooks out and start reimbursing the Public Purse. Gesture Politics at their finest!  He too has a surprise coming because this is not about money any more, it is about the authority of our Parliament. Had the Party Leaders managed their troops effectively and had the grand chequebook gesture happened say a year ago the matter would, by now, be at the “tidying-up” stage. Instead we have what looks like a badly-written Crisis Management case study underpinned by empty words and blind panic.

    Meanwhile, whilst Cameron is temporarily cooling-off in the calming breeze of two hundred fluttering chequebooks, Gordon does what he knows. He looks in the direction of an enquiry. Any enquiry. The ideal enquiry for him would be a “Please make it go away, Mummy” type.

    Meanwhile The Speaker of the House, scarlet jowls quivering as the berates the most upstanding  (and innocent) MPs and sees everything that flies in his direction as a personal threat, also does what he does best. He fails to understand the gravity of the crisis.

    Make no mistake, the Speaker and Prime Minister are now standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the trapdoor and there will be a massive fight as all hands attempt to pull that lever.

    The next stage (hopefully) will be in the hands of the Police and the Inland Revenue.

     

    Retribution or Restitution?

     

    Unlike your MP, at least Dick Turpin had the grace to wear a mask.

    The taxpayer is looking for two things as a result of the current MPs’ expenses campaign. Retribution and Restitution.
     
    Retribution can be delivered through the medium of the ballot box but  the matter will not be allowed to rest until there is at least some attempt by Members at restitution. Apologies are no longer hard currency.
     
    How about if some of the more frivolous Members’ claims were dealt-with by the Inland Revenue as “income” and subject to taxation at 40%. Any such amount could then be collected by an adjustment to the MPs’ tax codes and would be collected by the Inland Revenue over say, a couple of years.
     
    There is little doubt that there has been some “naughtiness with intent” but in the main, I believe that the vast majority of MPs are honourable people who currently appear to have but one weapon with which to defend themselves.That is the “It was within the rules” mantra. Unfortunately, that phrase is a little too reminiscent of  “I was only following orders”  – and just as believable.
     
    The suggestion appears to be that if you are caught with your hand in an open sweet jar – it is perfectly OK to blame the jar for being open.
     
    It would appear far more honourable for certain members to come over the parapet with their hands up and admit that there has been confusion. Rather than be subjected to any possible hardship as a result of having to make repayments, the matter could be left to the Inland Revenue. Meanwhile, that nice little earner for retired Civil Servants, the enquiry, could grind along at its own pace.
     
    I hope that soon we shall see the green shoots of trust – currently they seem more important that those other shoots which keep threatening to emerge.

    G20 bender

    These are the wines that were served up to the G20 delegates. The total bill for the wine was a bargain £6000 which is a small fraction of the total wining and dining bill which was approximately £500,000. Perhaps the taxpayer should be grateful. Here is the list:

    Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1986 – 19 bottles @ £140 per bottle.

    Château Leoville Poyferré 1989 – 29 bottles @ £60 per bottle.

    Concha Y Toro Merlot Sunrise 2006 – 11 bottles @ £6 per bottle

    Domaine de Planterieu 2006 – 13 bottles @ £5 per bottle

    Nyetimber 1998 – 10 bottles @ £23

    Louis Roederer Carte Blanche – 2 bottles @ £35

    Fonseca 1977 – 5 bottles @ £137

    Chapel Down Lamberhurst Eatste Bacchus Reserve 2004 – 30 bottles @ £10

    Three Choirs Bacchus Estate Reserve 2004 – 17 bottles @ £10

    The G20 weekend of excess  produced a statement and a document which has already been forgotten.

    It was all designed to boost Gordon Brown’s image. He is now seen as the Walter Mitty of International politics.

    Darling has the solution in his hands.

    If you have read a good balance of the reporting and commentary on yesterday’s budget, you will have realised by now that this was a political budget. The Chancellor and his puppet-master know that their stewardship of the economy has a maximum of 12 months to run and then , as is the fashion nowadays, the lecture and non-exec circuits beckon. There is light at the end of the tunnel for some but unfortunately, not for all.

    There is no point in raking through the coals of yesterday’s return to Old Labour and the 21st Century embrace of the Politics of Envy.

    “Let’s do the rich!”and the great unwashed and the slack-jawed champagne Socialists will most likely follow. Trouble is that the great unwashed is fast becoming the great unemployed and Tony Blair’s Champagne Socialists (teachers, media people etc.) are now more Cava Sippers than being able to afford the real thing. Some have even moved to pink Zinfandel!

    The Budget was delivered with all the panache and conviction of a  tortoise that knew that it would never catch the Conservative hare. And did you see the Hammer-horror grin that Brown’s face morphed into when Darling sat back down into the wet patch.

    Cigarettes – √. Booze – √. – Petrol – √.

    Let’s make it look as if we are going to upset the rich – “It’s always good to piss on their strawberries”. -√.

    Oh yes – Pensioners  – √.

    Did you notice that the Chancellor looked a bit uncomfortable talking in mere pounds and pence. After all, he is used to lots of noughts now. When the scale of Government’s borrowing was announced there was a definite shift in the Earth’s orbit as economists’ scrotums shrunk to a tenth of their size – at the speed of light. Some may remain dysfunctional for years to come. Like the banks.

    This was a Budget by Numbers when what was needed was a masterpiece. The trouble is that before this Government is run out of town,  Chancellor  Darling will touch up an already impossibly bad economic picture with another Budget. What was that Chris Rea song? Oh yes – The Road to Hell.

    You may be wondering why all seems to be well with the Banks  – they should have all completed rehab by now and should be ready to score us some readies. Their Social Worker – otherwise known as the Treasury is telling us that they still need a bit of time to regain confidence. That is why they are currently being fed a “money substitute” through the medium of quantitative easing.

    How is it that a few of the big banks have declared such surreally fat profits? Have you never wondered why or how they seem to have been rehabilitated so quickly? They are still cooking the books, ignoring the fact that they are still insolvent. The difference is that now they are doing it with this and other Governments’ connivance. To put it simply – it is a world-wide con trick. There is naughtiness afoot.

    If we knew the real figures, we would panic. The fact is that for every pound or dollar that the Banks once had in their coffers, they lent or gave away at least 50. They tied the modern Gordian Knot not with rope but with worthless paper and they have fashioned what  appears to be the most complicated paper chain ever conceived. Currently they all owe each other billions because they screwed each over, many times over. The screwer was also the screwee and vice versa.

    This has been institutional fraud carried out by banks on other banks and  the only reason why they are not all standing in the dock is that there isn’t enough dock available.

    The other important factor is that instead of doing what Alexander the Great did and cutting through the knot, Governments still think that they can untie it . If they carry on their random attempts, it could take a generation.

    The banks have the Governments by the balls.

    That brings us neatly to a rather pathetic silver-haired Edinburgh Solicitor predicting that we are soon to experience a recovery with a growth rate of 3.5%. That statement really is not worth commenting upon because of the poor man’s past record – which is similar to Russell Grant’s. In fact…………………………..

    There are billions of pounds stashed away in funds, in banks and in insurance companies. That money belongs to us and many of us will have to wait years before we can get our hands on it.  I am referring, of course to Pensions. Personal pensions, group pensions, small company pensions… they come in a hundred delicious flavours.

    There was a time when someone leaving a company  – whether voluntarily or otherwise could take their accrued pension with them. Let us say that the Chancellor announced that for the next two years, anyone being made redundant or who wanted to stop working could have all of their accrued pension immediately. What effect would that have.

    Firstly, we would have “spenders” in the economy. who could provide a massive buying stimulus to all retailers. The Government would save on benefits because many of these individuals would suddenly have “savings”.

    Secondly the institutions holding the pensions would not have to be “persuaded” to part with the money because if they refused, they would be breaking the law. And if the didn’t have the money, then we would all know.

    Thirdly, employers would think twice before sacking anyone if they knew that they would not-only have to fund their redundancy pay but that they would also have to hand over accrued pension benefits.

    Too simple? The alternative is to keep feeding the banks with money that we do not have and that has a time limit which is not as far away as we seem to think.

     

     

    Socialist? Moi?

    The current Labour government is having a very tough time  and a very bad situation is made worse by what appears to be a lack of leadership and management skill. Gordon Brown seems to feel that you can manage by changing the rules or by organising enquiries. You can imagine Brown being informed that more and more people are on the breadline and solving the problem by having an enquiry whose purpose would be to confirm that the breadline is in the right place and if not, recommending where it should be placed.

    We are currently in a post-collectivist society which has lost several compasses, ranging from the moral and social to the economic and political, resulting in an upsurge in crime, family breakdown, violence, drug abuse and poverty.

    We are existingin a morally sterile, Left-wing, politically correct State and because we have forgotten how to self-manage, we will have more and more regulations imposed on us – otherwise, we are in very real danger of lapsing into anarchy. That is exactly what has happened in the Banking industry. It has taken a mere twenty years to move from what started as a self-regulating, rock solid service industry to arrive where we are today. An every-man-for-himself rip-off business which will now have such a raft of rules and regulations placed on it that it will suffocate. Collectivism has morphed into Neo-individualism which needs rules.

    The word “equality” used to be a concept – albeit a good one – definitely unnattainable but nevertheless, worth striving for.  “All men are created equal” and all that…..

    Nowadays, we all have to appear “equal”. Inequality has become an evil which has to be eradicated at all costs and it now stands in the dock, shoulder-to-shoulder with poverty and global warming as one of the Three Bogeymen which has to be killed-off through the medium of meetings, promises and large cut-and-paste documents.

    The sad fact is that we will always have both inequality and poverty. That is Society and Normal Distribution.

    But if we decide to subsidise the poor so that they are more equal to their rich cousins, then it is those rich cousins who have to generate more wealth in order to pay for those subsidies and thus we create a tranche of society which becomes totally dependent and more resentful because they not-only have poverty but also, courtesy the media, a direct window on the lives of their better-off cousins. Africa is a good example. We are in very real danger of creating a wholly-dependent continent which is simultaneously grateful and resentful.

    Elsewhere, the Equality Mullahs have substituted “qualifications” for education resulting in an insipid education system where excellence has become the property not of the FEW, as it used to be. It is now in the hands of the VERY FEW. That is what happens in any system where there is an attempt at “forced distribution” – whether it is A-level grades or income.

    All systems, whether political, physical or economic are self-adjusting with what appears to be a strong unwritten self-preservation programme buried in them – especially if there has been an attempt at “forced distribution”.

    Even the banking system has self-adjusted recently.

    We are now moving into the third generation of people who know nothing but emotional and physical squalor, who cannot communicate, eat properly, relate to “the others” and who will automatically resort to aggression when thwarted in any way.

    We appear to be at the stage when we need Victorian-type social reformers and not mediocre political management whose tools of the trade are slogans, meetings and enquiries.

    We are very good at uttering the slogans of equality but the sad fact is that over the last few years, the poor have been getting poorer, the thick have been getting thicker and the violent have been joining the police.

    There has been a build-up of social pressure which is in real danger of manifesting itself as social unrest – the sort that will have  to be dealt-with by means of state violence by uniformed men carrying sticks and Perspex shields.

    Tinkering ( VAT, green cars etc) is not the answer. The ONLY solution lies in massive CHANGE – and if that change comes late, the entire system will crash before it has to be rebooted..

    Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

    Gordon Brown’s letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Head of the Civil Service has seven paragraphs. Five of them begin with “I”.

    Unpopular leaders realise that their enemies are all around them and ultimately they feel threatened by every one – even those whose careers they enhanced and who they feel should owe them allegiance. When they reach that inevitable stage, they are well and truly in the arms of the hired help – the advisors. And it is no surprise to learn that most advisors are just as unpopular as their masters.

    Blair’s hitman and “friend” was Alistair Campbell. Brown had McCain.

    A good dictator eventually makes enemies of all those close to him. The really big trouble starts when even the advisors are alienated. The hired help does not have to like its master – but it helps.

    By nature, Brown is an analytical -he has that in common with ex-Accountant-CEO, Sir Fred Goodwin. When dealing with analyticals under pressure, those close soon discover a dark, sinister and nasty side. Ask any senior ex-RBS executive.

    Analyticals under pressure become not-only nasty but “personal”. They are not the most likeable individuals in the first place but if you intend to put them under pressure, make sure that you take a tin hat and full body armour – otherwise you will get hurt. Luckily, unlike the “expressives” like Obama, analyticals do not have a strong need to be liked. They are natural loners and find it difficult to interact. When there is trouble, they will look to solve matters by either using or creating rules and regulations. Hence Brown’s letter to Gus O’Donnell and hence Brown’s liking and reliance on enquiries and Commissions. Analyticals paint with a very limited palette.

    Brown already knows that he will lose the next General Election and that there is a more than 50% probability that there will be a challenge to his rather flaky leadership. G20? What G20? Brown’s only long -term political future may lie in a Ken “Lazarus” Clarke-type resurrection. Otherwise he is finished. He certainly is not capable of doing the Blair thing and going into showbiz.

    McBride’s emails suggesting some “jolly japes” aimed at Cameron and Osborne had more than a whiff of Senior Common Room than any seriously heavy political substance. Therefore, Brown should have smiled a wry smile (he does those well) , apologised unreservedly and then hung McBride out to dry. The focus would then have been on McBride and not on Brown.

    Cameron and Osborne have a very good reason to feel outraged because in spite of the occasional endearing lapse into  neo-Abbott and Costello, they are a pair of  thoroughly decent blokes. McBride has done them them both a great political favour: they are now firmly occupying the moral high-ground, they are offended and Brown will not say “Sorry chaps – it won’t happen again.”

    You could not plan or pay for a better image boost.

    Back to the Gus O’Donnell letter and all those “I”s. They suggest two things – the first is that Brown ‘s ego has taken a bashing and he is attempting to reassert himself. Secondly, the letter did not have the benefit of an advisors red pen prior to release. Brown is on his own.

    Cameron knows exactly how these Spin-Advisors (SPADS) work – he used to be one under Margaret Thatcher. Remember, at the end of her reign she ended up feeling as lonely and as isolated as Brown is feeling today.

    This coming Wednesday, PMQs should be the best yet. Cameron will look serious, vulnerable and wounded. Brown will make his weekly error of indulging in pointless muck-raking through Tory recent history – and Cameron will score yet more points.

    Brown will continue to perfect the unique skill that he has developed over the last two years by driving yet more nails into his own coffin.

    p.s. McBride wanted embarrasing photos. Here’s one:

     

    The Brown Delusion

    “Now down again. Slowly.”

    The G20 conference was the most orchestrated, pre-determined piece of theatre that we have had the privilege of seeing since the 1968 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show. The primary motivators were to somehow please the banks, instill confidence in both the markets and the voting public and lift Gordon Brown’s approval rating.

    The three main devices  used were the over-wide smile , the already well-tried method of “let’s throw more money at it” and a long document.

    Make no mistake – this amazing show of unity was for the voters back home. Gordon Brown was being so transparently Party Political that the G20 conference should have been funded by the Labour Party. He no doubt he sees himself as some sort of latter-day King Canute in an M&S suit but he does not wear it well – the image or the suit.

    Barack Obama and his wife were the undoubted stars of the show – not because they are still new and shiny and unsullied by any of the recent banking shenanigans but because they are stars. Obama’s demeanour throughout was that of a modest thinking man who did not feel the need to stand either in the middle of the picture or at the front. Likewise, Michelle Obama did not put a foot wrong – although there was a moment when the Queen should have sent a flunkey to fetch a stool for her to stand on – such was the height mismatch between her and Michelle.

    The communique produced after the meeting is vague in the extreme but there are a few quite interesting items. The first is a sop to the Franco-German alliance – or as I prefer to think of it – Vichy 2. A Financial Stability Board will be established. One presumes that this will develop into the Global Financial Services Gestapo so that if there is any financial naughtiness or even naughtiness-with-intent – “there vill be reprisals!!”. One serious point that has constantly been ignored is the fact that the banking issues are more to do with financial bandits completely confusing incompetent bankers. Any Financial Services Authority will train its beady eye on the incompetent bankers. The bandits will continue to operate but with even more stealth and guile.

    The Head of the International Monetary Fund (currently Dominique Strauss-Kahn) will now be elected through “an open, transparent and merit-based selection process”. That simply means that any future encumbents can be  non-Europeans of any colour. Progress indeed. Likewise, the President of the World Bank (currently Robert Zoellick) can be non-American! Presumably, however, both will still be required to  attend the Bilderberg conference.

    Those are just a couple of minor concessions. The rest of the document reads as if it had been written a while back. It is full of non time-stamped “cut and paste” rhetoric, e.g.

    ” We have today therefore pledged to do whatever is necessary.” 

    ” We believe that the only sure foundation for sustainable globalisation and rising prosperity for all is an open world economy based on market principles.”

     “We are determined not-only to restore growth but to lay the foundation for a fair and sustainable world economy” 

    There is much more of this sort of turgid nonsense and padding which looks as if it was drafted by a Civil Servant from the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious.

    The main single item from the whole circus was the agreement to recapitalise the IMF to the tune of $1.1trillion. One could argue that in these times of recession (and extreme poverty), all this could have been achieved through the usual channels without all the showbiz.

    Meanwhile, somewhere in the depths of a thousand bank strongrooms, there are “papers” which represent billions of dollars-worth of damaged assets. The surviving hedge fund managers  are ready for the new game. Incompetent bankers are still in place. Retailers are being strangled by a lack of credit. Manufacturers are shedding millions of jobs. Governments are printing money that they don’t have and the City screen monkeys are still confused.

    And yet today we feel optimistic. All because of several days of fine words and political sleight-of-hand.

     

    Oink!

    The perfect line of curly tails has temporarily stopped flicking with pleasure because it seems that the trough of plenty is about to be removed. The squealing and slurping has stopped because the Mama Pig that is the taxpayer needs some respite. There is a real danger of drought – and it is not the drought predicted by the Global Warming Mullahs – it if the financial drought caused by the double-whammy of “on the take” bankers and their avaricious politician chums.

    The Home Secretary, Jacqui “Within the rules” Smith,  argues that she has done nothing wrong and she is right. What about hanging? That  also used to be within the rules – did that make it right?  Within living memory there were those who were “following orders”. Were they right?

    The debate is one of morality and not political chauvinism. If you are caught with both hands in the cookie jar – don’t blame the jar.

    There have been many debates as to the merits of electing politicians who are financially “independent” – those who do not see politics as a “nice little earner”.  Many are “at it” in the Commons and no doubt some are at it in the House of Lords.  Why are they at it? They are at it because many of them are about to enter the last 12 months of comparative plenty. Nests need to be feathered before the arrival of their personal political winter. For many, this is the most that they will ever earn.

    It is interesting to note that of the top 20 MPs  claiming for second homes (The Independent yesterday), 14 are Labour. All are from outer-London and the surrounding area because they are allowed to claim Additional Costs Allowance. The ACA is discretionary – it is not compulsory.

    Needless to say, there has been yet more fancy footwork from Gordon Brown, followed by  yet another disturbance in the long grass as Sir Christopher Kelly  and the Committee on Standards in Public Life are mobilised.

    By the time that they complete their ruminations, it may well have been cheaper to leave well alone.

    Bear necessity.

     

     

    We have entered a long-term bear market and equity prices are heading towards Ground Zero. All that Governments have managed to achieve so far, is to delay the decline.

    The currently established pattern is very simple – investors wait and see what the government is going to do. Then there’s a short Stock Market rally.  That is usually followed by another business admitting losses, bad debts or a cash shortage and shares move down again. Then the cycle is repeated.

    The whole thing is being dealt-with “piece-meal” because decisions are being made “on the hoof”  by politicians who always have one eye on opinion polls. The current economic woes are not a function of votes and governments should have taken a deep breath , sat back for two or three months and waited.

    That comparatively short wait would have resulted in the bankers emerging with their hands up and coming clean. Plus  there would have been time to properly audit the investment and commercial banks (that is where most of the so-called”toxic” debts reside).

    Instead, Governments and Treasuries all over the world allowed themselves to be spooked not for good business reasons but for political reasons. This over-protracted game of “pin the tail on the donkey” now looks as if it will never end.

    The initial funds that were gifted (yes!) to the banks represented a knee-jerk reaction by amateurs such as Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Their panic-fuelled decision had absolutely no basis in good business practice. The term “due diligence” did not come into general use until after five months of chaos. Due diligence was not practiced by the banks when they were lending or acquiring bad investments. That tradition was propagated by  this and other governments who handed cash to the banks as irresponsibly as the banks had handed money to the NINJAS (No Income, No Job or Assets) and dodgy businessmen.

    The amounts handed to the banks were based on a formula created in conjunction with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – an organisation which itself is taking over £300 million out of the industry so that it can make sure that small-time brokers are completing their clients’ forms correctly, whilst at the other end of ther financial food chain, the big boys are still happily stripping money from investors and borrowers.

    The amount of money handed to the banks was calculated as follows: The FSA established what a bank’s safe capital level should have been, in excess of the Basel Accord ( a formula based on assets, capital and risk which establishes a capital asset ratio).  That was the simple subtraction that was carried out : the difference  between the Basel Accord calculation and what the FSA  had established as the safe capital level.  Due diligence which really means “Let’s have a proper look at your books”   was nowhere to be seen or experienced. Why? Because the FSA does not have the in-house experience to carry out a full bank audit.

    Good management practice should mean “no surprises”. The Government is being surprised at least once a week. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t costing us billions.

    Revenue and Misappropriation

    What the Banks really mean

    It is about time that the taxpayer was told exactly.what the banks have done with the money that they have been handed by the Government.
     
    Vague statements such as “plugging holes in the balance sheet” mean nothing to most people (including politicians). “Restoring confidence” in inter-bank lending is also a meaningless phrase as is “toxic assets”.
     
    Alistair Darling has just asked the banks to “tidy up” their Balance Sheets. Does that mean that the banks were handed taxpayers money without having tidied up? A company’s accounts consist of two sets of figures: The Balance Sheet – what they own and what they owe. The other bit is the Revenue and Appropriation Account. Maybe its time to re-label it to the Revenue and Mis-appropriation Account because it would seem that is where the trouble lies.
     
    Where’s the money? Have they got it yet?
     
    When banks do deign to lend, the terms make it nigh-on impossible for the average borrower to take advantage of their generosity. Politicans continue to throw everything that they can at the bankers, yet the bankers are sitting back, calculating how to circumnavigate their sudden bonus loss and scratching round for the next non-exec directorship. Many know that they may still be pushed out of the airplane with only a small parachute.
     
    Most pundits are secretly thinking that we will end up with a fully nationalised banking system and are merely observing a game of “Who will blink first” between the Government and the banks.
     
    Here in the UK, Gordon Brown is beginning to sound monotonous (!)  and yesterday, even Barack Obama’s “cut-and -paste” rhetoric was sounding jaded.
     
    This terrible state of affairs has had a profound effect on the political and economic pundits.  “Punditis” is rife.
     
    Financial experts are running out of metaphors and their predictions show all the conviction (and accuracy) of a pier-end astrologer. Other experts are delving deeper and deeper into a morass of incomprehensible technical detail which may be interesting to other financial anoraks but is adding nothing to the debate.
     
    There was a time when Television and Radio reported the opinions of politicians and financial experts. Now, they report the opinions of Robert Peston.
     
    Time to take a deep breath folks.

    I’m a real FRIC.

     A Valuer FRICS

    Gordon Brown continues to speak with the conviction of a condemned man reading from a hurriedly-conceived briefing paper  This time it is mortgages (again).

    No more 100% mortgages? I think that it is about time that the Prime Minister carried out a simple calculation as follows:  Suppose that the Government (sorry, Northern Rock) lends 80% on a £100,000 property – that is an £80,000 mortgage. Then let’s suppose that the property falls in value by 20%. That means that there is an £80,000 mortgage on an £80,000 property. That is what they call a 100% mortgage. When a householder has  no equity in his property – that is also a 100% mortgage. Negative equity just means that the mortgage is over 100%.
     
    That brings one rather neatly to one organisation which has kept its head down throughout the whole sorry mortgage  mess. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. They should have come out with their hands up many months ago. Why? Because their members have been the ones who have been valuing properties. The most deflationary thing that the Government can do as far as property prices are concerned is to ignore the sulking banks for a while and have a serious chat with the RICS.
     
    There was a time when the RICS was a leader – an organisation whose valuations were sacrosanct. The RICS has now become a follower which does exactly what the banking industry tells it and has contributed more than any other organisation to the ridiculous house price rises of the last 10 years. But wait – their blind slavishness to the banks is far worse than merely following orders.
     
    Imagine that you are a Bank and you want to lend and you also want to make sure that the properties that you lend on have the benefit of  a high-enough valuation. How do ensure that there will be no problems with house valuations? How do you make 100% sure that  the valuation will be exactly the one that you need?

     Simple – YOU BUY YOUR OWN VALUER!
     
    For example, Halifax  valuations are carried out by Colleys. Who owns Colleys? The Halifax. One is not suggesting naughtiness but when valuation fees are a function of the valuation and the value of  properties in-mortgage represents a lender’s assets, the temptations do not have to be spelled out.
     
    The RICS should assert itself – otherwise there is a real danger of the property inflationary spiral replicating itself in a few years time. Independent property valuations and a return to more objective valuations will have an immediate impact. Currently, there is far too much reliance on the “supply and demand” argument and incidentally, the “drive-by” valuation – but that’s another story.
     
    In the last few years, the pressure on valuers has been to “value up”. The valuers value up and then the accountants come along later and value down. Not an ideal system.
     
    Time for the RICS to make a stand – if that’s all right with the banks.

    Where’s that paddle?

     

    No Government  can ever act on the basis of certainty. It is  always forced to act on the basis of probability. In other words, there is no REAL idea as to when the current financial mess will end so decisions and actions are based on a “best-guess” basis.

    Stock market prices lie in expectations for the future. It is a constant battle between optimism and pessimism. When there is optimism one expects:

    1. Confidence in the Banks and the Marketplace
    2. Consumers confident enough  to engage in long-lasting spending sprees
    3. Rising prices

     During a period of pessimism, the converse is  true.

    Depending on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, you will be anticipating one of the following (most probable) outcomes:

    • Uncontrollable money-printing and excess spending on bailouts and stimulus , producing a new, super-inflationary environment with a falling Pound and rapidly accelerating  unemployment. (Option A)
    • A major change in capital flow  evidenced by shifting consumer and bank attitudes, thereby generating a period of deleveraging and deflation that will eventually produce a economic rebalance and a strengthening Pound. (Option B)

    Needless to say, the Government is hoping for Option B but at the same time it is running up its (our) budget deficit to historic levels and will soon be printing money like confetti.

    The fact that  unemployment is heading for a new record and consumers are spending far less means that the Government has painted itself into a corner and can only lead the country to Option A.

    Our collective wealth in stocks and housing has been destroyed and  Sterling is at a 23-year low against the Dollar which, post-Obama, will gain strength, thus further eroding the Pound.

    Yes, we are up dirty creek without a paddle.

    Notwithstanding the odd Minister-induced  “virtual” green shoot and platitudinous attempts by government to tell us that  “We’ll get through this”, the current perception both within the banking system and the real world is  one of overwhelming pessimism.

    The  low Bank Base Rate and lack of consumer confidence in (what are  still laughingly referred-to as)  “lending institutions”  will result in  more and more money being kept under the mattress. The banks are doing it so why shouldn’t we?

    The government should set sail for Option B (above). Unfortunately, it appears that no-one has any idea of where to start and the rudder appears to be broken.

    KFC is not a Knighthood, Gordon!

     

    As a management trainer I thought that I would give Gordon Brown and his motley band of funsters a basic (and free) lesson in management – purely to help then to concentrate their minds.  During this week’s PMQs, David Cameron referred to the “headless chicken”. His brutally eloquent summing up of the Brown style , although unoriginal is perfectly accurate.
     
    There are only a few types of generally accepted styles of management. So which one is the Labour Party using?:
     
    1. Management by Objectives. This is the best-known and easiest to understand  and all other styles of management have this style at their core. You set specific measurable objectives which are agreed and timebased and then you monitor progress. For instance: The banks will have lent £10 billion to businesses by 15th February. Currently, the government’s version is that the banks will lend when they have “regained confidence”.  Perhaps Gordon Brown ought to assign a social worker and a counsellor to each bank to help with their affirmation exercises.
     
    2. Management by Exception. Let the system continue and only intervene when pre-defined objectives are not being met. Do not attempt to manage every single micro process such as fiddling with the VAT at a time when retailers are discounting by 50 or 60 %.
     
    3. Management by Process. Define critical Macro and Micro processes, assign ownership of these processes and monitor and measure performance and progress against pre-determined objectives.
     
    4. Management by Projects. Plan the entire process that you need to complete your goals and set interim goals. Intervene when it looks as if a goal is in danger of failing to be achieved.
     
    Currently it appears that the government has no plan, no time-based objectives and appears to be  creating so many disparate goals that the country is in real danger of losing total confidence.
     
    The government appears to be an observer rather than a shaper of events. The current style of management also has a name and is called:
     
    5. Management by Pissing in the Dark. You attack as many parameters as you can in the hope that something positive happens. Unfortunately you need to hit them in the right order which is unlikely especially if  a. You don’t really understand the root cause of the problem and b. Your head is being eyed up by the man from KFC.

    The name’s Bond – Bernie Bond.

    Gordon Brown has invoked the British wartime spirit to cope with the current economic downturn.
     
    He probably thinks that that we are all quite looking forward to shivering in our Andersen shelter as we pump the old Primus stove and await our turn with the teabag. Is that what he means? Or are we being gently steered towards seeing him as the new Churchill?
     
    “We must not just plan for tomorrow. Our task over the next twelve months is to build tomorrow today”. Is that what he was thinking  seven years ago when he sold-off our gold reserves?

    Between 1999 and 2001 the gold price stood at a 20-year low.  Rumour has it that the Bank of England counselled Brown, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer not to go ahead with his proposal to flog-off 415 tonnes of our gold. He ignored their advice and like the corporate entrepreneur that he undoubtedly is (!) , he announced his intentions. The price of gold then fell even further.

    The word on the streets was that he was going to spend a large proportion of the gain on Euros. That made most banking “experts” (yes, it was them!) think that he was preparing us for  an entry into the single European currency. The European Central Bank’s announcement that countries wishing to join the euro would have to sell off their gold reserves reinforced that view. In retrospect, that may not have been a bad idea.

    At the time gold represented about 17%of the country’s total reserves. The gold disposal reduced that by 10% and left us with the lowest bullion holdings of any major country. This was our first step towards third-world economics and 2009 will usher the final step.

    So far, the actions of that Chancellor have cost the taxpayer at least £4billion and in the future, the loss is set to rise.

    Who benefited from the Delboy-type deal? China. They bought most of it.

    Currently, bankers are slithering out from behind the sofa and “predicting” (on average) that the downturn will last another 18 months and that everything will then be OK. Will it?

    Having worked in the financial services industry for over 30 years, my only suggestion would be that if you need any “no questions asked” money, register yourseld as a bank. The Government will then provide you with shedloads of cash. The good bit is that they won’t ask you what you need the money for  and they won’t even inspect your accounts.

    If you don’t want to own a bank, change your name to Bernie or Bernard and start a fund (role models and heroes: Bernie Cornfeld and Bernard Madoff) . All the experts who are currently making positively sunny economic predictions will probably invest in your fund. That should keep you going for a few years by which time, the world economy should have sorted itself out.

    Global Warning.

    ” This morning it was as big as Nigella’s arse.”

     

    We are currently experiencing the coldest December for 30 years.
     
    There are sectors of society which are welcoming the news – for instance, the antiques trade has always enjoyed a severe cold-snap – especially if it was linked to old dears not being able to afford to heat their homes. Really severe cold weather has always livened up antiques markets and auction houses. By late Spring there should  be a very welcome glut of Clarice Cliff tea sets and Edwardian walnut sideboards. The antiques trade curses Gordon Brown and his heating allowances.
     
    There is another “up side” to a cold December – the Global Warming Mullahs have shut up. Are they the same people who warned us about the Millennium Bug and Bird Flu?
     
    A 30-something designer-dishevelled professor from a redbrick university will soon be wheeled out on the 6 o’clock news to tell us – with just the right touch of rakish gravitas – that the cold weather is caused by man-made Global Warming. The true believers will nod knowingly – for they know that he will have spoken the “universally accepted scientific fact”. But is that so?
     
    The funny thing is that since el Nino warmed the planet ten years ago, there has been no real increase in the overall global temperature. If  there is any doubt – what are the figures? Has anyone seen the actual temperature charts? We have seen lots of polar bears on small icebergs but no figures.
     
    Icebergs have always been around as have hungry polar bears but nowadays, they are PROOF(!) that the planet is off to Hell on a handcart (or should that be a bandwagon?)
     
    Surely, if any changes in weather patterns are man-made, the last ten years would have produced quite appreciable changes.  India and China, (to name but two) have been burning fossil fuels like the clappers. So where are the mild winters that we were promised?
     
    I’m off to buy a furniture removal van followed by a quick glance at the Obits.
     
    Recession – what recession?

    Michael rock the Boat

     

    Who are you calling a fucking clown?”

    Much of what has happened in both the financial and political world recently has simply been as a result of poor governance. The latest example can be found in  the way that the Speaker of the House of Commons has conducted himself following the search of  Damian Green’s Westminster office.
     
    The Speaker has said that the police did not have a search warrant. The Police only need a search warrant if they are denied permission to search premises. All that the police have to do is to satisfy themselves that  the person from whom they are seeking permission has the right to grant such permission. Because they sought permission from the  Serjeant at Arms, they acted correctly.
                                   
    The Speaker is wriggling and the question of the Police search warrant is a huge red herring. Michael “Coco” Martin appears to be “doing a Pontius Pilate” and  not supporting the Serjeant at Arms.
     
    The “search-warrant-red-herring” masks a much wider and more profound issue – it is the difference between responsibility and accountability. It was the Speaker who hired the Serjeant at Arms and although he has delegated responsibility, he has not delegated either managerial or constitutional accountability. That remains with him.
     
    The choice that he has is a stark one. If he believes that the Serjeant at Arms acted illegally or exceeded her authority – she has to go, closely followed by the Speaker. If he believes that she acted correctly, he must give her his full (public) support.
     
    No more scapegoat-hunting and mealy-mouthed statements please. This is a straightforward management issue and it certainly does not warrant what has become the Prime Minister’s stock delaying tactic  – an enquiry.
     
    ( I wonder how the PM would feel if the policeman who opens and closes the door to No 10 allowed the Plod to enter the premises and search through the PM’s desk because they believed that he had somehow acted illegally).

    VAT are you saying?

    Alistair the house elf

    This Government and the banks have a lot in common. They have both enjoyed many years of negligible economic turbulence and  zero competition.

    The good times may have continued if either had noticed that Wall Street had invented the real weapons of mass destruction – the financial ones. The banks had sliced, chopped, diced and mixed bad mortgages and fashioned them into contaminative instruments of death with a built-in time fuse.

    The bankers’ handiwork has created a vast financial Black Hole which has already consumed many financial institutions and is beginning to consume whole economies. So  what to do? It’s obvious – decrease VAT by 2.5%.

    Decrease VAT? The Government has shown once again that it is a bit short on creative ideas. It often uses short-term tactics to deal with strategic matters. On this occasion, it is in the vain hope that when the global economy returns to sunshine and wealth , the Government  will will be able to claim that it  had controlled events. Gordon “Canute” Brown and his house elf  Darling will have done it!

    (In reality it will have simply been a readjustment in the new global Stability-Chaos-Stability cycle). 

    But think about this: The global economic crisis is happening because of “external forces which are out of our control”. If that is the case and we truly have no control over super-macroeconomic events, gestures such as VAT-tweaks will have negligible impact. Even Mervyn King appears to be distancing himself from this initiative.

    Gordon Brown is indeed a one-trick pony who believes that the only way forward is to persuade the consumer to consume. However, he will not pull the economy out of the quicksand by persuading us to buy 42″ television sets and new cars. When the going gets tough, the tough buy food and clothing.

    By pulling the white rabbit of higher taxation out of the Budget hat for those earning more than £100K, he has appealed to the “not-so-rich” (are we allowed to say “poor”) with a touch of the old “Politics of Envy”.  We can almost hear Denis Healey  “squeezing the rich until the pips squeak” .  Let’s call it Gordon’s “hommage” to Old Labour.

    In the next few years, the pips will squeak but the fact that there will be a saving of £12.50 on a £500 TV set will not dampen the squeaks.

    Soundbite Brown

    “Osborne? Io sono huomo di cortelle e si tu no mascolta io te do na cortelatta.”

    George Osborne has said Mr Brown’s attempts to secure a global agreement for a fiscal stimulus package have failed. It pains me to agree with the Shadow Chancellor but he is right.

    Many (about 3500) fine words have emerged from last weekend’s G20 meeting. But what has really been achieved except perhaps an agreement to have another meeting in 2009?  Oh yes, there was a  statement that the G20 are going to “harness tax cuts to stimulate the global economy”.  

    As Manuel might have said: “Que??”

    The good intentions of the G20 will not prevent events such as a fire-sale of stocks by Hedge Fund managers or the accelerating erosion in the value of sterling. The sheer speed of developments within the global economy may create the real danger of politicians’ status  being demoted to that of observers rather than shapers of events because the provisional time for the follow-up G20 meeting is not until April 2009. 

    In five months’ time the global economy will be in a VERY different place but meanwhile, the flow of politicians’ platitudes will continue as more financial placebos are dished out.

    Brown has always indicated a dislike of political  “sound bites”  but in spite of that, his speechwriters have created some gems. Like an ageing football pundit, Brown has has increasingly relied on tired and crass political soundbites and clichés.

    Brown now has a “route map” and that’s about it. “Road map” would have been a better phrase but that one has been taken. “Money map”, “Fiscal map”, “Green map”, “Mouse map”, “Door map” and even “Brown map” are all still available.

    “Brown paper” is also an excellent one which has not yet been spotted by Brown’s wordsmiths.

    It is a shame that these phrases cannot be registered like websites. Someone could make a fortune.

    There have been many fine words but they do not seem to make much sense.

    “These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures”. Yep – can’t disagree with that one.  A  fine example of both a cliché and a truism  but Brown might as well have said “We are in deep  s*** and we really should think about getting out of it.”

    G20 made a commitment to “boost growth and reform financial markets” is not a world-shattering assertion. Mind-numbing perhaps but definitely NOT world-shattering.

    “The G20 are going to strive to draw up a timetable for a new world trade deal”  sounds like a fine statement but  would have sounded better if he’d left out the “strive to” phrase. Is Brown’s route map time-based or not?

    Gordon Brown’s pseudo-Churchillian posturing and new world-leader status is looking increasingly silly and maybe a little delusional,  especially if you know that 45% of the world’s financial reserves are in the hands of the BRIC economies = Brazil, Russia, India and China. Currently they appear to be deferring to the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and France who collectively control less than 5% of the the world’s financial reserves.

    Brown feels the hand of history on this shoulder (sorry!) and doubtless his writers are polishing a fine new set of clichés.

    “Eloquent silence”  would be my favourite.

     

     

    The bank that likes to say “Help!!”

    There is euphoria, Gordon Brown is the saviour of the Western economy, there have been a couple of “dead cat bounces” and all decent metaphors have been used up. Life is great! Happy sunny days!

    But in reality….. it is still raining.

    The FTSE 100 index is limping soggily either side of 4500 . Last week’s red screens seem to have been forgotten – as has the fact that twelve months ago, the FTSE 100 was standing at a healthy 6500. Today, the Dow rallied and finished at about 9300. Economists are smiling. One year ago it was at 14000.

    The banking diversions and shenanigans of the last two weeks will slowly be giving way to harsh economic reality as final quarter company profits loom, with the sobering prologue of unemployment and inflation figures.

    Some commentators are saying that  here in the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher’s policies and the 20 year-old deregulation of the markets have finally unravelled. It is not policies or rules that cause catastrophes – it is people. In this case it is the ineptitude of those running the banks and building societies.

    Guess what? Apart from the four sacrificial lambs that have been offered up today, the same senior executives are still running the banks. We have been regaled by the rather fatuous argument that the executives who are still in place are the ones who understand how the business works and if we trashed them then we would be in even more trouble. That is nonsense.

    Spygun has worked for a Building society, several large insurance companies and a large (the largest) American bank. The root cause of what has been happening in the last year-or-two is the total lack of technical and managerial talent within the industry.

    In the good old days, the lending of money  to an individual had never been a profession – it was more of a “trade” because it was simple. Consequently, the money-lending business (nowadays it is called “banking”) was run by ordinary honest folk who could gradually work their way to the top of their organisation.

    The directors would make sure that they kept the bank or building society well within the liquidity rules, they would vary interest rates when instructed  to do so by the Bank of England and they NEVER went bust because it was nigh on impossible to go bust. I recall just one occasion many years ago when the Chelsea Building Society was forced to revalue its assets but otherwise – no problems.

    There were no executive bonuses because the word “profit” was not in their dictionary – but they would strive to make a small surplus. Likewise, there were no golf days, coventions or any other executive freebies.

    Then laws were changed and the “suits” came.

    Directors of lending institutions used to be a crustily venerable lot and  tended to be unqualified businessmen who strangely enough, were more entrepreneurial than the MBAs that are running the show these days. Typically, they were senior partners in accountancy companies, estate agencies or solicitors. They were men in their 50s and 60s who were REAL businessmen and who had created their own wealth.

    That is where the seeds of destruction were planted – in the panelled boardrooms of provincial England. The Old met the New and were dazzled by the following: (perm any two from six) MBA, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Degree and Insead.

    The flatulently pipe-smoking unqualified old duffers were dazzled and seduced by the shiny new boys with MBAs and incomprehensible management jive talk. They all wanted one!

    It was in 80s  USA that the cult of the “corporate entrepreneur” had been born and transplanted rather uncomfortably into the gut of the UK’s financial industry.

    The phrase CORPORATE ENTREPRENEUR is like “Police Intelligence”, ” Microsoft Works” and “Friendly Fire”. It is an Oxymoron.

    A corporate entrepreneur is a man who takes risks with other peoples’ money and is rewarded for his “bravery”. (Incidentally, one is not being sexist when referring to entrepreneurs as “him”. There  are few REAL female entrepreneurs because most girlie entrepreneurs had a flying start with either inherited or gifted money.)

    Plus, one of the vital ingredients of REAL entrepreneurship is testosterone. Most women don’t have it – although there are a few who act as if they have. We digress.

    A proper entrepreneur takes risks with his own hard-earned cash whereas the boys who run our banks are just overpaid bluffers with a shelf life and a permanent hard-on.

    As a result of their corporate games, our Government is now forced  to take a shortcut which is the reciprocal of what  happened in China and the old USSR.

    The Russians and Chinese have flipped from state control to capitalism but we appear to be heading  in the opposite direction. If the government takes on any more banks, they will  be reported to the Competition Commission.

    For the time being, the markets will bounce along, floating on the short-term  wave of faux-euphoria. We are all whistling in the dark.

    Soon we will all wake up and realise that if we are really seeking a new banking direction – it is the drivers and not the cars that have to be changed. The government is the short-term relief driver but new drivers need to be found from within the banking industry.

    There are scores of very talented “solid citizen”  gems within banking who are dependable and honest but who do not have the need  to constantly spray testosterone. We need service-driven bank managers and directors and not self-serving ego-driven scalp-hunting prima donnas with over-funded pensions.

    These corporate hidden gems have all the knowledge and experience needed to reawaken the banking system from its torpor.

    They are also the ones who know where some of the bodies are buried.

    (If you are not familiar with the phrase CORPORATE ENTREPRENEUR, please enter the phrase in Google, see the various Management Models, the smug mugshots………………and weep)

    From a Jack to a King.

     

    The government’s  rescue package has been met with a tsunami of indifference, as has the Bank of England’s announcement that the base rate has been lowered to 4.5%.

    There is still a fear that there are other financial services outfits who are yet to declare that they are not viable – notably insurance companies and judging by the FTSE 100 index (which today is happily bouncing between 4400 and 4500), traders are unimpressed. How many more SIVs and SIV-lites are sitting and festering in off-balance-sheet suspense accounts?

    The FTSE 100, the Dow Jones and all the other indices will continue to oscillate up and down like a bride’s nightie until we are all allowed a good look under the voluminous skirts of the entire financial services system. The money’s on the table – now let’s see what you’ve got. We already know it’s not balls.

    The same people who are responsible for the catastrophe are still in charge and advising Gordon Brown, George Bush et al. There is already talk of not butchering bank executive remuneration because this “talent” will simply up sticks and go to ply its trade elsewhere. Good.

    There is no explanation as to why this all happened and why nothing positive  is going to happen for a very long time. The other mantra “The Banks won’t lend to each other” is being intoned on a daily basis without real explanation. “Toxic Debt” is still toxic as far as we can tell and the fatcat bankers are still plundering executive expenses.

    There was a time in the early 80s when the banks decided for the first time that they would have  a go at the mortgage market – prior to that it had been a simple affair which had been run without mishap  for many years by degree-free and MBA-less Building Societies.

    On that occasion in the 80s, the banks screwed it up (Yvette Cooper’s words, not mine) for the first time and then climbed out of the market. They should have stuck to what they knew.

    Lending money to people so that they can buy a house was not rocket science – until bankers and securitisers become involved. Then it goes way beyond rocket science because the banking alchemists believe that they can produce cash out of debt ad infinitum.

    A few days ago , the spectacle of an angst and bile-ridden Dick Fuld answering “Janet and John” Congressional questions with all the grace of a Dodge-ball full-back with a club was sickening. He had no intention of sharing what he knew with questioners who were obviously way out of their depth. “You are confusing liquidity and collateral” really meant “You seem confused – let me confuse you some more”.

    Here’s some more for you, Dick. You are confusing profit with earnings. You are confusing electronic promises with cash. You are confusing all of us because you don’t know what the hell happened either.

    For years, you were holding a pair of Jacks but you  tried to make us think that you had a royal running flush.

    Let me explain. The “lending” that goes on between banks is not the lending of hard cash. What they are lending to each other is a series of promises of cash at some time in the future. Our politicians who still do not appear to understand the process are about to inject cash into the system and there is nothing to show that the banking fraternity will know what to do with it.

    Banks have been inflating their profits for years by concealing their debts – or as they like to put it: keeping their debts “off balance sheet”.

    They have been playing Texas Hold-’em with worthless chips – and I would still like to know why a Federal screen was placed around Goldman Sachs with such indecent haste. Insider knowledge?

    Scurrilous? You bet.

     

     

    Let’s burn some money!

    “Joker burning money”

    The Prime Minister has announced a £1 billion energy package that could help households across the UK save more than £300 a year on their energy bills.

    Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Brown said the Government will legislate to channel £910 million from energy companies into energy-saving initiatives such as providing loft insulation and cavity wall insulation free of charge to elderly and low-income households and at a 50 percent discount to others.

    Cash will also be pumped into a new Community Energy Saving Programme that will provide up to 90,000 homes with targeted advice on improving their energy efficiency and reducing their bills.

    The Prime Minister said he did not expect energy companies to pass these costs back to consumers through future prices. Business Secretary John Hutton added that the Government “will not hesitate to intervene” should an Ofgem review suggest that consumers were getting a raw deal.

    Mr Brown said the Home Energy Saving Programme would help drive “lasting change” in UK energy efficiency and consumption. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, also at the press conference, said that each household could save £100 through loft installation and £150 through cavity wall installation in just 12 months.

    Other Government plans to help people with their fuel bills include negotiating lower tariffs with energy companies for up to 600,000 homes, increasing cold weather payments from £8.50 to £25 per week in severe conditions and providing cash on top of Winter Fuel payments to the over-60s and over-80s of £50 and £100 respectively.

    In common with all other Government initiatives it would be of great benefit and interest to people if they had an indication of how much of the allocated funds would actually be spent on the materials and how much on labour costs.

    For instance, when the Government says that it is spending an additional £20 million on education  – that could mean any number of things. It could mean more teachers or it could mean lots of electronic blackboards. It could mean more books or it could mean a lick of paint.

    Every £1000 spent on loft insulation could mean either 100 lofts insulated at £10 each or possibly one loft at £100, i.e £10 for the insulating material and £90 for labour charges by the local council.

    90,000 homes are to be provided with ” targetted advice on improving their energy efficiency and reducing their bills”. Does that mean leaflets? Home visits by several more sub-strata of public servant?

    Has the Government thought this one through as thoroughly as all the other initiatives?

    Oh what’s this?

    Sorry, no thanks. It’s too late…… Siobhain McDonagh?  Nope. Don’t recall the name. I seem to recall a Junior Whip by that name – but that was a long time ago…..Yesterday, I think.” (Thinks) “I wonder what else is heading for the fan? “

    The Gord , the Sad and the Bungling.

    charles-clarke.jpg“….a deep and widely shared concern – which does not derive from ideology – that Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are, combined with a determination that we will not permit that to happen”.

    Charles Clarke MP has said that New Labour is heading for oblivion unless Gordon Brown resigns. Here’s a wake-up call, Charles: Labour would remain unelectable whether they were being led by Gordon Brown, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or even JFK.

    Charles Clarke used to be Home Secretary but was sacked by Tony Blair in the 2006 Cabinet reshuffle. Blair’s “slash-and -burn” came after the massive clobbering that New Labour received in that year’s local council elections. Since then, Clarke has drawn sustenance from the ghastly after-taste of a self-stalled career.

    He had been appointed Home Secretary after David Blunkett’s departure and should have gone after this very memorable quote: ” We don’t know where everybody is. I know where about 100 of those 1000 are”. He was of course referring to the 1023 burglars, sex offenders and other sundry foreign scum who had been released from prison without being considered for deportation.

    In fairness, he did offer his resignation  but Blair (wisely) preferred to keep him by his side until Clarke’s position did become totally untenable.  When John Reid took over as Home Secretary, he memorably commented that the Home Office was “unfit for purpose”. Clarke did not agree.

    Clarke’s career has been punctuated by several “lows”. For instance, he was Neil Kinnock’s Chief of Staff from 1983-1992. You may recall that in 1992, against all the odds and during the worst recession for several generations, John Major’s Conservatives (to everyone’s surprise) won the General Election. Clarke deserves at least some credit for Major’s victory and Kinnock’s final performance. “Well allllllriiiight!”

    For that reason alone, one has to question Clarke’s judgement on the subject of who can or cannot win  an election.

    His constituency is Norwich South , where he enjoys a majority of  3,653 : about 8.7% of the vote. No need to spell out what would happen if the next General Election produced the sort of double-figure swing that we have seen in recent by-elections.

    “It’s just Charles being Charles” is an often heard phrase as this increasingly sad politician sits and snipes. He has called Gordon Brown a “control freak, deluded and uncollegiate”.

    That may well be true but hopefully, Clarke will realise that as time goes by, his opinions and views, like his career will at best become a minor footnote and at worst, a sad joke.

    Clarke used to be a big fan of Alan Milburn and should take a leaf from Milburn’s book.

    Time to move on. Preferably towards the door marked “EXIT”.

    Give us a clue

    darlingbrown2.jpg 

    1-across is SWAT TEAM”

    “I’ve got ‘T’ as the first letter”

    “That doesn’t surprise me.”

    The latest desperate initiatives of an increasingly desperate Prime Minister and  a Chancellor who is already packing his parachute  have just traversed the laughable and blundered into the surreal.

    The plot so far: The banks rip each other off by granting a mortgage  to anyone with a pulse – irrespective of whether or not they can repay the loan. The banks then tart-up these dodgy mortgages by packaging lots of them up them up into a fund (securitisation)  and then they flog shares in these funds to each other. 

    The money rolls in and  is lent to more dodgy individuals until someone realises that selling shares in  “funds” that are not producing any income because no-one seems to be paying their mortgage is not a good thing.

    (The American banks started it but we aped them and then blamed them.)

    The banks then decide that there is a crisis and the only way to deal with it is to stop lending – to each other and to the public.

    This strange new situation is given a name – Credit Crunch.

    Then these privately-owned banks go cap in hand to the Bank of England which has been “advised” to bail them out. Others, such as the Northern Rock are given money directly by the Government.

    That does not seem to do the trick because the banks decide to sit on their (our) money because they don’t want to take any more risks. Why not? Because these ersatz corporate entrepreneurs can only function when things are going well.

    They have no real idea what to do next – except perhaps to rip off existing customers by increasing interest rates on anything that they can get away with.

    When they did play at being entrepreneurial with these so-called “securitised ” mortgages, they messed up – big time. They should all be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock.

    However, the banks know that if they do nothing for a few months, the desperate government will be forced into action. They know that the New Labour government has only two ways of doing business:

    1. No Crisis = No Action.  

    2. Crisis = Panic = Action = Handouts = Big Bucks.

    Today we have the announcement that the government will lend money to first-time buyers and there will also be a package for those who cannot repay their mortgage and for good measure, Stamp Duty for properties with a purchase price of £175000 or less will be suspended for a year.

    So the government lends to the banks then it lends to the borrowers so that the banks can lend some more to the borrowers.

    Why doesn’t the government cut out the middle-man and give the money to the builders to build houses which can then be rented out with a post-dated option to purchase.

    When will we all wake up to the fact that the “owner-occupier” skirmish with hard capitalism has not worked  and that we have to be re-educated into thinking of a house as a home and not as a commodity.

    This is what Gordon Brown had to say:

    “No-one in this country who works hard and plays by the rules should be left alone to bear the impact of the current global economic downturn, and I am determined to see the government do everything we can to help British families weather these difficult times.

    I understand what it means to see people struggling to get mortgages or homeowners who, through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves unable to keep up with their repayments. And it’s not just families who are finding it tough but businesses as well, with house-builders now experiencing difficult conditions after years of extremely favourable circumstances.

    So to address these issues, the government’s new £1 billion housing package will give first-time buyers a leg-up onto the housing ladder, help homeowners in difficulty and support the UK’s housebuilding industry.

    First-time buyers are one of the groups hit hardest by the credit crunch and are crucial to driving the wider housing market. They would usually benefit from falling prices, but a combination of the higher cost of borrowing, bigger deposit requirements and weakening consumer confidence means this has not happened.

    To do everything we can to support them, there will be a one-year stamp duty holiday for all properties sold for up to £175,000 – helping to restore market confidence and giving first-time buyers the extra help they need. And, alongside this, 10,000 more first-time buyers will benefit from a new £300 million shared equity scheme called “Homebuy Direct”.

    The current housing market difficulties are also leading to increased repossessions, so we are introducing a new £200 million mortgage rescue scheme that will help thousands of vulnerable families to stay in their homes.

    And to do more to encourage social rented housing, we are bringing forward £400 million of government spending to deliver up to 5500 new social rented homes over the next 18 months.

    Taken together, I am confident these measures and the other new steps we have announced will help create the best possible environment for the housing market to come through these challenging times – and I invite you to read more about our proposals on the Number10 website. “

    Olympics 2008 – the Epilogue.

    We like His Borissness and we always enjoy the  studied buffoonery. This  time it began with the unfurling of the Olympic flag at the end of the closing ceremony in Beijing. Would he or wouldn’t he?  Of course, it was OK in the end.

    There is only one question which my toff mates have been unable answer :  how does Boris make a Saville Row number look like Eastender Minty’s boiler suit? That is real style.

    olympic-bus.jpg

    The double-decker bus which opened like a Chancellor’s purse was OK but the faux-topiary, faux-clipped to look like bugger-all was not good. Leona Lewis looked terrified and seemed more concerned with not falling off her perch than with the warbling. For once, the vibrato sounded real – but then again, it normally does when you’re crapping yourself in front of billions.

    We did not quite realise it at the time but this was just  the beginning of the Simon Cowell Benefit night.

    Beckham held a ball up and kicked it and said later that he was “honoured”. The training has obviously paid off. I don’t mean fitness or football training but “HOW TO PUT LONG SENTENCES TOGETHER” training – for the interview. He didn’t once use the V-word, so we have to assume that he has since had a severe bollocking from the gruesome pouting one.

    Red bus, Leona Lewis, Beckham, small girl and dancers. No cock-ups. Good so far.

    Enter Boris centre stage for the post-Olympics piss-up. Some marginally unfunny stuff about Ping Pong. Nothing wrong there except that it probably produced several complaints to British talk radio stations from “offended” out-of-work Scottish listeners. Again, nothing unusual.

    We were still awaiting the first cock-up. We’re British for goodness’ sake. We NEED cockups. It is our cultural oxygen.Without cock-ups we are like everyone else.

    Then it came!!! It was a video about London…….

    Some (former) mentalist VT editor had included a very short sequence on the Tate and there was a glimpse of a so-so painting of Myra Hindley. One could argue that the image was appropriate. After all, Gordon Brown was wearing his Jack the Ripper grin PLUS murder is currently a popular cultural phenomenon – especially in London.

    The sad fact is that this was not a new video and the company Visit London probably did not think twice about including Hindley’s likeness. I bet that the editor was a young guy who probably just saw something that could have been an Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe. Sadly, although it was a rip-off, it was not the sainted Marilyn.

    Boris was outraged, Brown was outraged but  instead of being outraged quietly they managed to alert the whole world to our ineptitude. Social soirees and breweries immediately sprang to mind.

    All that Brown had to do was to quietly ask for the directors of  Visit London to place their dangly bits on a butcher’s block  while he went in search of a drink-crazed hoodie with a machete. Job done. The British Way.

    No. We had to put it on the front page and indulge in a bit of collective outrage. That is the perversity of the British psyche.

    Before we move to London’s Simon Cowell benefit “Concert” which, for some reason appeared to be called “VISA”, there is one small niggling matter which may be worth a mention.

    Huw Edwards had been freighted over and unpacked to commentate on the closing ceremony – ” a Beacon….. a beacon of hope….”.

    He has neither the intellect, wit nor the vocabulary to add anything to any great occasion. Just clueless empty platitudes. One of the Dimbebys (preferably David)  should have been dispatched or maybe Sue Barker should have taken the lead with her chum Hazel. 

    Edwards’ commentary was very reminiscent of the night that Trevor MacDonald was sent to RAF Lyneham to commentate on John McCarthy’s return from Beirut  “and here come da plane in an arc… a lovely, lovely arc…. etc.”

    The telly-action moved to London for the “VISA Concert” and lots of Blue Peter presenters introducing performers who had at some stage, passed through Simon Cowell’s hands.

    More inanities  and lots of  “How do you feel?” questions. Needless to say , everything was “Amaiiiiiizing!!!” ….but……a danger is now lurking and it WILL bite us:

    We all appear to be suffering from the “1966 effect”.

    In 1966, we won the World Cup and since then  we have believed, contrary to all the evidence, that we are a great footballing nation.

    We are now imagining that we are some sort of major force in world sport. There is mass hysteria with open-topped buses, gala dinners and Gordon Brown  dishing out honours like Purple Hearts. 

    Let us hope that once the 2008 Sports Personality has been chosen, we calm down, regain some sense of perspective and  take a reality check.

    Titanic on the move again

    prescott.jpg

    ” Fucked it up again.”

     

    Prescott has been bludgeoning the  old Titanic metaphor but because his paragraph construction has the direction   and smoothness of a blind man attempting to slalom on broken glass, he has managed to hit the headlines again.

     

    Gordon Brown’s  “changes” will not be  like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic because he has no idea where the deckchairs are. Some might say that he wouldn’t recognise a deckchair if he saw one. Eh , Vince?

     

     

     

    BROWN’S CABINET MEETINGS ALL OVER THE PLACE

    latsupper21.jpg” Is Judas still at the off-licence?”

     

     

    Good idea to keep on the move, Gordon.

    Blame the NINJAS

    ninja.jpg Would you lend money to this man? They did in the States!  Many years ago, life was very simple in the financial services environment.

    Banks provided somewhere for you to keep your money. You could take it out of your account by means of a cheque-book or by presenting a savings book at the bank counter and withdrawing cash. Banks also provided small unsecured loans so that you could, for instance, buy a set of curtains, fridge or anything else that you needed.

    Building Societies were started very humbly by a collection of individuals clubbing together and saving a certain amount of money each month until there was enough in their fund to buy or build a house. They then drew lots and one of them had the house. Simple. The lucky person then paid interest back to the Building Society for the money that he had been lent. They then repeated the process until they all had a house. Soon  they realised that it would speed things up considerably if they accepted savings from outsiders who did not necessarily want a house but who were looking for a home for their savings. Eventually they created  accounts called Paid-up share accounts, usually of two types: One paid interest monthly and the other added interest twice yearly. There was a distinction between “INVESTORS (who were share-holders of the Building Society)” and “DEPOSITORS”. The depositors were not members or share-holders of the Society and usually were paid about 0.25% less in annual interest. For that privilege, they were first in the queue in the event of a run on the Society’s funds but they had no voting rights in any of the Society’s affairs.

    Up until about 25 years ago, mortgages were of two types – either gross of tax or net of tax. The Building Societies operated on roughly a 4% margin, which was the difference between what they paid their investors and what they charged their mortgagors.

    Insurance companies insured people’s lives. A small subscription ( or premium)  was paid regularly into a fund by many individuals. If one of them died, the company would pay out a pre-determined sum of money to his family from the accumulated fund.

    So we had three venerable institutions, each fulfilling a different but necessary function.

    • 1. The Bank provided a home for our short-term money, savings accounts and short-term loans.
    • 2. The Building Society provided medium to long-term savings and enabled you to borrow money which was specifically for the purchase of a house.
    • 3. The Insurance company provided you and your family with “peace of mind”, should anything happen to you.

    Lending institutions always claimed that they borrowed “short” and lent “long”. For instance, they took (or borrowed) money from investors for what was described as “short term” because investors could withdraw their money whenever they wanted to.

    At one time they did lend “long” because mortgages used to be for a term of 20 or 25 years.

    That tradition still remains, e.g. the Mortgage Deed that we sign is usually for a period of 25 years, although the average ACTUAL length of mortgage is between 6-7 years and falling  as people  take say,  a 2-3 year  fixed-rate mortgage and then move it after the end of the fixed term.

    Nowadays, banks borrow “short” and lend “short”.

    Then it all changed. The three institutions which had for many years stood at their own  apex of the financial  triangle, all met in the middle

    The Banks decided that they wanted to do what Building Bocieties did  and they entered the mortgage market. They thought that they might as well sell insurance as well and that way they could supply an individual with the whole package.

    The Building Societies realised that a large slice of their livelihood would soon be missing so eventually, after much lobbying, they were allowed to become banks and started issuing chequebooks and arranging unsecured loans and also began selling insurance.

    The Insurance companies also decided that they could supply mortgages, loans and all manner of things – including investment products. The sort of service that stockbrokers used to supply.

    So we had three institutions who within a very short space of time had just about become indistinguishable.

    However, there was a fourth institution which was keeping a watching brief. That was the part of the financial services industry which dealt in stocks and shares. Imagine how they felt when suddenly everyone else was providing investment advice and facilities for anyone to invest on the stock market. They decided to have a look at mortgages.

    In 1982, two traders at Salomon Brothers in the USA had an idea which was to change the face of lending and which eventually led to what we used to call a Credit Squeeze but which we now refer to as a Credit Crunch. (Don’t ask).

    Properties in mortgage to a bank of building society represented the bulk of that institution’s assets. A house is a disposable asset, it pays a dividend to the lending institution by way of interest some of which can be passed on to the investors but nevertheless, a house is not an asset which can be realised easily to provide capital for more lending.

    Lew Ranieri and John Meriwether of Salomon Brothers developed the concept of securitisation. 

    What if a lender were to lump his mortgages together, package them up as a sort of fund with a definite value? That “fund” or “bond” would  produce an income through mortgage repayments so it was a very attractive instrument.

    On the face of it, they had capital appreciation as well as an income. What could go wrong?

    Just two things: Bad lending and a fall in property values.

    An unscrupulous lender could easily buy in some money,  lend it  to anyone, knowing that there was little likelihood of the money being repaid. He could then package all the mortgages together  (securitise them) and then sell them off as a viable investment.

    You may be familiar with the concept of NINJA  lending: (No Income, No Job or Assets). Billions was lent to NINJAS in the USA in the full knowledge that once securitised, these investments would slide faster that Gordon Brown’s reputation.

    It would seem that the only qualification for a mortgage was the ability to steam up a mirror – and even that was optional in some cases.

    The bad lending only took place because the lenders KNEW that they would be “laying-off” the risk through securitisation. In fact, lenders were cheating each other by selling secutirised mortages to each other.

    One could say that they acted fraudulently.

    In the antiques trade, ship containers filled with antiques here in the UK are shipped out to the USA.  American dealers pay  a price for a container, only knowing that it contains antiques. On many occasions, the “antiques” turn out to be valueless.

    The securitisation principle is the same – only bigger. It started in the States and now we’re all doing it.

    Finally, just to give you an idea of scale: last year  Northern Rock securitised about £70 billions-worth of mortgages

    Oh for the good old days. The days when you could shake hands with your bank manager without losing your watch.

    Brown Dread 2

    aligord4.jpg“So, let me get this straight. You’re telling me that I fucked up again. Right? Let me tell you something , you punks. You keep messing with me  – you know the sort of thing  – not voting for the Party and showing me disrespect and other stuff. The Crewe caper was a one-off temporary setback.  This Glasgow temporary setback is  another one-off temporary setback which is unlikely to be repeated while I’m in charge. I am still the most popular leader since  Alec Douglas-Homo. That Cameron punk is a nobody. He shows no respect. Keep an eye on his pretty face. Accident? What accident? I was in a meeting.

    Those nice Milliband boys – they are like my sons and I would hate to see anything bad happen to them. The Ed Balls boy is harmless but I would hate him to lose his surname – if you know what I mean.  I hired him and his woman because I know that they will be no trouble – but I have asked Jack to look out for them,  just in case of any more accidents.

    Jack has always been a good man. I like him but I like to keep him close. The only problem is that he has a mouth – the sort of mouth that could lead to misunderstandings and sometimes… very bad accidents. That was not a threat – just an observation.

    That Tarquin Timpson won the Crewe caper fair and square and I respect that. Mind you what do you expect with a Labour candidate called Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey. She sounds like a toff – no wonder we lost. 

    In Glasgow we had the  Curran woman. She’s OK, I suppose but she looks a bit accident prone and  I know that we should have made her a appointment at Specsavers – but you can’t do everyrhing. She went to meet this old guy who had been  presented with a gong and said that he was a real inspiration. She said:

    “Mr McGuiness is a 93 year old—who looks not a day past 70, by the way—living in a sheltered housing complex that I went to visit today.

    Mr McGuiness fought with the Desert Rats in World War II and was treated in hospital for shrapnel wounds. He also fought in Yugoslavia with the partisans against the German occupation.

    He reminded me of all the sacrifices our older generation made so that we can enjoy freedom today. I hope every single voter in the East End uses their hard-fought right to vote on July 24th.

    Having met Mr McGuiness today, I am reminded we owe it to people like him to use our democratic right to vote.”

    When Mr McGuiness met Mrs Curran , we thought he looked a bit pissed off. You would think that he’d be quite pleased at the compliment about his youthful looks .

    Do you know his secret of eternal life ? He is 67.

    Mr McGuinness had been confused with a  real 93 year-old called John Hipson.

    John McGuinness had been  the proposer  on the Nomination Paper of the Scottish Socialist Party candidate. Her name was Frances Curran.

    See? When you think stuff out, you always get to the bottom of the problem. Mind you, with a cock-up like that, she would have fitted right into the Cabinet with no problem whatsoever.

    By the way, I still know that there are Labour Members with small majorities who know that they are onto a good little earner and who are getting nervous, especially  about losing their seats  and their secretaries or researchers scoring a few quid from the Sunday red-tops – in spite of that Adolf Mosley case. They think that come 2010, after the divorce , they might have to find a proper job.  All that I have to say to them is – ask yourselves, what is the point of a good clean Parliamentary  job with no heavy lifting if you have no legs – even if it’s only for a couple more years?  We don’t have to hurt each other, do we? Let’s stop all that silly talk about leadership challenges. Brakepipes on official Jags have been known to come adrift for no reason and cycling can also be dangerous – there could be a sudden increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents around Westminster – especially with that  new London mayor Doris Johanssen in charge.  You never know. Think about it.

    Who? McDonnell? Never heard of him. Has he got a bike?”

    Glasgow by-election

    curran2.jpg 

    “Bollocks.”

    Margaret Curran was beaten by 365 votes.  Coincidence?  Yes, I think it was.

    Here are the full results:

    John Mason(SNP): 11,277 votes (43%) Majority: 365

    Margaret Curran(Labour): 10,912 (41.6%)

    Davena Rankin (Conservative): 1,639 (6.3%)

    Ian Robertson(Liberal Democrat): 915 (3.5%)

    Others: 876 (3.3%)

    The turnout was a respectable 42.25% .

    One gets the feeling that the electorate was trying to make a point.

    Davena Rankin, the Conservative candidate harvested over 1500 votes. That result is not to be underestimated because let’s face it – most Glaswegians would rather vote for a deep-fried dog’s testicle than elect a  Conservative.

    There are several downsides to this result.

    The obvious one is that Ms Curran is a victim of the current Labour Government’s dithering and incompetent “oke coke” style of government. She campaigned well and during her campaign was relying on local initiatives and policies.

    This result has yet again proved that politicians’ promises, policies and crystal ball gazing are no longer of any interest to the electorate. The “swing” voters rely on their perception of the Government and its leader.

    We have already had the obligatory statement from David Cairns, the Scottish Office minister who said: “The Prime Minister’s fate does not hang on any one by-election… I think Gordon Brown will continue to be leader of the Labour Party and will lead us into the next election.”  Cairns made that statement just BEFORE the result was announced.

    Perhaps Cairns knows something that we do not. For instance, has Gordon Brown has had the locks changed at No 10 ? 

    The other downside to this result is that Alex (McGargoyle) Salmond’s smug grin will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

    At least the Labour Party is consistent in its by-now regular achievement of double-figure swings against them. This one was a 24%-er in a rabidly Labour area. Nice one. Edward Timpson only managed a 17.6% swing to the Conservatives in Crewe and Nantwich.

    Is that what Transport House  calls “progress” these days?

    Spygun wishes Gordon Brown and his family a pleasant holiday and suggests that Gordon takes his Latin Reader to the beach so that he can practice phrases such as ” Et tu, Jack?”

    Knife in the fast lane.

    gordo.jpg ” Listen up punks”

    “We are clearing the decks, cutting the red tape, cutting back on bureaucracy, making it possible for policemen and women to spend far more time on the beat answering people’s inquiries, in touch with local communities – a visible presence on the beat so that more and more people will see a policeman or woman there and able to help them.”

    Gordon Brown has said that more people will see more police officers on the streets under new reforms announced today. About time.

    The word “police” has a specific meaning – it means to regulate, control and keep in order. That definition contains no reference to fannying about with bits of paper, typing out reports and being a desk jockey. It is an outside job.

    Spygun sincerely hopes that we are at the dawn of a new policing era and that the consequence of this Government’s initiative will result in a long queue of wide-eyed innocents wanting to become proper policemen. We want policemen to be Policemen.

    Brown said that the new policing Green Paper will “clear the decks” and cut down on bureaucracy so that officers can spend more time tackling crime. That must have come  straight out of the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious.

    Speaking of “bureaucracy” – let us hope that this initiative is not stymied by Westminster bureaucracy. We are at a stage when it would make sense to give the police powers under emergency legislation so that they would  not be subject to Westminster ruminations while more kids are knifed to death or maimed.

    The number of Police statistical “targets” is to be downsized so that instead of chasing numbers, they will be chasing criminals. Wow!

    Knife crime has shaken the government from its moribund ambivalence and the Prime Minister has made the most memorable and sensible statement of his tragic tenure.

    Sometimes the numbers can be useful  and they revealed that last year the police recorded 20,000 serious offences involving knives. That is why the solids have hit the air conditioning.

    More stop and search, metal detectors and prison sentences smack not only of knee-jerk desperation but may increase the “caché” of carrying  a Stanley knife or machete. Caution should be exercised – otherwise we will have the biggest game of “cat-and-mouse” ever devised.

    Balance is what is needed at this stage and not overkill.

    Last week  there was talk of making parents responsible but there was no mention of them in the latest statements. 

    Let’s face it, knife carriers do not come from nice homes and are probably thick with equally hopelessly thick parents. A knife in an adolescent’s hand is just a willy extension. Men and boys with sad lives need willy extensions because the knife takes the place of self-respect and self-esteem. It makes them feel like a big boy.

    They probably still live with their mum and/or dad and have absolutely no chance in later life but regrettably will one day reproduce and there will be another idiot on the streets talking about “respec”.

    He says and writes “respec” not for cultural reasons but because he can’t spell it.

    Brown Dread

    “So, let me get this straight. You’re telling me that I fucked up. right? Let me tell you something , you punks. You keep messing with me  – you know the sort of thing  – not voting for the Party and showing me disrespect and other stuff. The Crewe caper was a one-off temporary setback. I am still the most popular leader since brownboss.jpg Alec Douglas-Homo. That Cameron punk is a nobody. He shows no respect. Keep an eye on his pretty face. Accident? What accident?

    Those nice Milliband boys – they are like my sons and I would hate to see anything bad happen to them. The Ed Balls boy is harmless but I would hate him to lose th “h”  in “harmless” or even his surname – if you know what I mean.  I hired him and his woman because I know that they will be no trouble – but I have asked Jack to look out for them,  just in case of any more accidents.

    Jack has always been a good man. I like him but I like to keep him close. The only problem is that he has a mouth – the sort of mouth that could lead to misunderstandings and sometimes… very bad accidents. That was not a threat – just an observation.

    That Tarquin Timpson won fair and square and I respect that. Mind you what do you expect with a Labour candidate called Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey. She sounds like a toff – no wonder we lost.

    See? When you think stuff out, you always get to the bottom of the problem.

    I know that there are members with small majorities who know that they are onto a good little earner and who are getting nervous, especially  about their secretaries and researchers scoring a few quid from the red-top Sundays. They think that come 2010, after the divorce , they might have to find a proper job.  All that I have to say to them is – ask yourselves, what is the point of a good clean Parliamentary  job with no heavy lifting if you have no legs? Think about it. Leave it! We don’t have to hurt each other, do we?”

    Toff at the Top

    blairtoff.jpg

     

    Is this the sort of man that we want to lead us? Or shall we go for something like this:

    camerontoff.jpgThe Crewe by-election  is extracting the best and worst from the British psyche. The British working classes worship Royalty and the upper classes, yet at the same time they bemoan the fact that they (the toffs) are out of touch with the average working man.

    They (the workers)  have a chronic inferiority complex  and will always defer to anyone who speaks with a “posh” accent but like to think “we’re all the same really”. We are not all the same.

    Let’s just spell it out:  The working class cannot produce a leader. The working class has only ever produced a handful of decent Members of Parliament and the majority of those attended either Oxford or Cambridge.

    Most working class people have neither the vocabulary nor  the intellect to lead others and they badly need someone to look up to. Generalisation?  You bet it is.

    Likewise, the toffs are all chinless wonders with lots of dosh, even the thick ones get to University because they can pay for it and they don’t know what it’s like to be broke. Another generalisation? Yup.

    We need leaders who can communicate and who don’t regard politics as a nice little earner. That is a very strong argument for politicians who are of independent means and who , on being elected, will not rip off the system because they have just discovered the triple concepts of the “second home”, red wine at more than £3.99 a bottle and researcher-shagging.

    At the other extreme, we have the Pot-noodle eating, tattooed Chav who cannot string a whole sentence together and who is extremely stupid. He  thinks that the current MPs salary is a fortune and if elected as  MP, will make the most of his perks because, deep down, he aspires to be a toff. After all , he is equipped – he has a Burberry baseball cap!

    The choice is ours.

    Edward Timpson is a good bloke and will make an excellent Member of Parliament. So his family is loaded. So what? We would all like to be loaded. Those of you who are currently in the financial shit are there because over the last few years  of New Labours “virtual” plenty, you were given the opportunity to think that you were  loaded. Like a toff.

    Labour supporters and canvassers in Crewe are dressing up like toffs in the vain hope that somehow we will all laugh with them. No we won’t. They are all making themselves look like dicks and should stop it.

    Spygun was born with a plastic spoon in his mouth and being of European rather than English extraction is mildly amused by the Tom and Jerry antics of the British classes.

    Let a semi-outsider spell it out for you: If an individual speaks with an accent; for example a Birmingham, Yorkshire or Welsh accent – he is not necessarily either thick nor working class. Conversely, someone who speaks with a public school accent ( the one where all the words are pronounced properly and arranged into sentences), he or she is not necessarily rich and superior.

    We do make lots of assumptions based on too little knowledge. For instance, if someone speaks with a French accent, they are not necessarily  a homosexual, garlic-chewing surrender monkey. Mind you…………………

    Nearly forgot – this is what we have at the moment:

     

    brownkid1.jpg “Macmillan said that we’ve never had it so good. Well, I’ve never had it! And NO, my left hand isn’t always like this”

     

    p.s. Look at Blair’s right hand in the top photo. That confirms it! They are a right bunch.

     

     

     

    If you answer YES to TWO of these questions, you are a toff:

    1. Have you ever said “Gosh”?

    2. Have you ever been to pony camp?

    3. Do you know where Antibes and Deauville are?

    4. Have you ever read the Tatler?

    5. Do your parents have an Aga?

    6. Have you been to Cowdray Park?

    7. Does your house have a library?

    8. Is there a tiara in your family?

    9. Can you use a bidet properly?

    10. Have you been to Henley and Glyndebourne?

    11. Could you go straight to Harrods food hall?

    12. Have you ever seen the inside of a Range Rover?

    13. Does your name end with the letter “a”?

    14. Have you ever found lead shot in your food?

    15. Do you have HRH before your name?

     

    Something is heading for the fan and it’s Brown!

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    Mervyn King

    The phrase “Boom Bust” will always be associated with the Tory years. It was the Socialists who embedded the link in our minds. That means that they need another phrase to explain the current  Boom-Bust cycle. Uprecedented Growth/Credit Crunch looks good.

    Make no mistake, by the end of 2008, inflation will be at 10-12% per annum, house prices will have fallen even further and by the end of this year, unemployment will have reached (but not peaked at) two million and the FSA and bank-induced rigor mortis  will have all but finished-off the British financial services industry.

    Within the last month, we have entered the “Bust” phase of the economic cycle – or “Credit Crunch”. (Sounds much friendlier – almost like a breakfast cereal.)

    One good thing has come out of the whole sorry affair:  we have come to realise that the futile posturings of the Bank of England  are irrelevant and that the BoE is no longer a “shaper” of the economy. It is merely an observer.

    During “Boom” years, having lots of meetings and tinkering with the Base Rate is a harmless enough pastime. However, come the “Bust” phase of the cycle, the old chestnuts ” We are in a Global Economy” , “Downward slope of the Economic Cycle” , “Sorry mate, we didn’t see that one coming” and “It was those fucking Americans and their securitised mortgages” are trotted out.

    What bankers practise is not an exact science – that is why there are usually several opinions as to whether or not rates should be changed or who to blame for the latest screw-up. What they practise is best described as a combination of “bucket chemistry” and “guesstimation”.

    The Bank of England has no more effect on  inflation than my wife  recycling plastic bottles has on global weather systems.

    In the good old days when the BoE did as it was told, successive Chancellors would order a change in Base Rate in the full knowledge that  in the grand scheme of things, their machinations and fiddling would have absolutely no long-term effect on the economy. (Are you reading this, Norman Lamont?)

    When government does finally intervene and shake up the financial system, they will have to do very BIG things such as nationalisation. The days of futile fiddling with interest rates are over.

    Under Mervyn King, the BoE Monetary Policy Committee has become an irrelevance.

    There is no longer any correlation between Base Rate and what happens to real borrowing rates. The banks are out of control and more-or-less doing what they damn-well please.

    Everyone is reluctant to use the word “recession” which , just for the record, applies to a period when the economy experiences negative growth for two consecutive quarters. Or, to put it in plain English: when the economy shrinks for six months. The economy is now shrinking.

    Some may say that certain “sectors”are not in recession while others are.

    That’s like being slightly pregnant. Either you are pregnant or you’re not.

    Sometimes it seems that even the economists and bankers don’t understand what is going on. Nowadays we live in a much more immediate and unstable age and therefore , the old economic principles are ceasing to apply. A single unpredicted event can have a major impact on either all , or on individual economies. More Chaos than Keynes.

    The fact is that we can no longer manage Macro Economics through Micro Management. Interest rate tweaks, sugared by soothing political noises and underpinned by blind panic are having little effect .  For instance, The Americans have decimated their interest rates recently with  no particular effect on their economy although they “think” that they have had a slight effect on their inflation.

    Bush staged a big dollar “giveaway”. Brown has now done the same. Both were decisions based in Politics rather than Economics. Perhaps the time has come to move Economics from the Politicians’ reach?

    Looking on the bright side, in a few years, all this will be history. Mervyn will be gone, another Prime Minister’s hand will be up another Chancellor’s lower alimentary canal and in spite of the BoE’s and the Government’s ineffectual tinkering and rhetoric, those of us who survive will be enjoying another “Boom” but not before we have struggled through another recession/depression.

    By 2013, the new Government will tell us that it was their policies and prudence that led us to the New Prosperity. The old Government had got it all wrong.

    Economists and Bankers will tell us that they did not see any of this coming.  I am not a banker or economist but reckon that we are headed not just for a recession but a full-blown , very painful Depression – à la 1930s. The hazy and illusory days of plenty will be over.

    Finally, I don’t think that enough has been made of Tony Blair’s excellent timing.

    He ruled over us during a time of “virtual” plenty (it wasn’t real because it was funded by debt-ridden banks funding increasingly debt-ridden companies and individuals).In spite of Gordon Brown’s mithering, Blair held on until the rubber-band of economic growth was at maximum stretch. Finally, he handed it to Gordon………

    The real worry is that at the time Gordon Brown was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and should have forseen certain things.

    Not only did he not see what was flying through the air but even when it whistled past his ear, he did not notice that it was heading straight for the fan.