Tag Archives: Vince Cable

Sack the f*****s!!

I heartily endorse Vince Cable (above) and his moan about the government’s latest bit of displacement activity which is that employers can get rid of employees without necessarily having to give good reason.

However, there’s a condition: The law has to be extended to include Members of Parliament.

Don’t these politicians know ANYTHING about commerce and the workplace?

Sorry! Silly question.

United Kingdom and Miracle-Gro?

“Growth” is a word which is used far too rarely in all the messages and communiques which we have become accustomed to hearing emanate from the million-and-one Euromeetings.

Consequently, it is refreshing to see something (anything) written-down which indicates some intent from our own government.

On the face of it, a raid on Pension Funds (see below) does not look like a good plan and none of the goals (below) have dates attached to them. If they did have dates , we would probably realise that this is not a plan for an immediate growth-explosion but something which first needs to be created, drawn, discussed, re-discussed before the first spade is ever  sunk into the ground. Neither is it an integrated plan – on the contrary, it can best be described as a series of disparate initiatives.

These projects will NOT make the country any richer, because they represent a “spend” rather than an “earn”, that is to say, they are not something which we can exchange for goods or cash with other countries.  These are job-creation schemes which are often confused with proper growth.

Nevertheless, it’s a start. We have lift-off!

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, have  announced a wide-ranging package of more than 140 reforms to build a stronger and more balanced economy. These measures include actions from the second phase of the Government’s Growth Review Phase II and the National Infrastructure Plan.

These measures are supported by an infrastructure package of £30 billion.  This includes unlocking up to £20 billion of private investment through signing a Memorandum of Understanding with two groups of UK pension funds, an additional £5 billion of infrastructure spending in this Spending Review period, and commitments to £5 billion of capital projects in the next Spending Review period. In addition, the Government is supporting around a further £1 billion of investment by Network Rail.

To make the UK’s infrastructure fit for the 21st century, the Government has published its National Infrastructure Plan 2011. The plan sets out a critical analysis of the state of the UK’s infrastructure and sets out a pipeline of over 500 infrastructure projects. It commits to clear ambitions to address the key challenges in each major infrastructure sector – energy, transport, telecommunications, waste and water.

The key measures in the National Infrastructure Plan include:

  • introducing a new approach to financing infrastructure, by leveraging £20 billion of private investment from pension funds;
  • giving local authorities more flexibility to support major infrastructure by considering local borrowing to fund the Northern Line extension to Battersea, and exploring new sources of revenue, such as options for tolling on the A14.
  • investing over £1 billion to tackle areas of congestion and improve the national road network, including £270 million for two new managed motorway schemes at congested times on the M3 and M6.
  • investing more than £1.4 billion in railway infrastructure and commuter links, including £270 million for a rail link between Oxford and Bedford and £390 million on enhancement and renewal works to improve stations and infrastructure.
  • investing £100 million to create up to ten ‘super-connected cities’ across the UK, with 80-100 megabits per second broadband and city-wide high-speed mobile coverage.
  • The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, will chair a new cabinet committee on infrastructure, to push through the delivery of the top 40 priority projects and programmes that are critical for growth.

The second phase of the Government’s Growth Review has been led jointly by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  The Autumn Statement announces a set of further reforms building on this, including:

  • creating a £20 billion National Loan Guarantee Scheme, to lower the cost of loans to small businesses, and a £1 billion Business Finance Partnership, which will lend to mid-sized businesses and small and medium sized businesses in the UK through non-bank channels.
  • increasing the Regional Growth Fund by £1 billion to provide ongoing support to grow the private sector in areas currently dependent on the public sector.
  • an extra £600 million to fund 100 additional Free Schools, and an additional £600 million to deliver an additional 40,000 school places.
  • introducing a new build mortgage indemnity scheme which will help up to 100,000 families to buy their own home, and launching a new £400 million Get Britain Building investment fund to progress stalled developments.
  • providing £45 million of support to UK firms wishing to export, doubling from 25,000 to 50,000 the number of SMEs supported, and making similar support available to 500 mid-sized businesses.
  • making 100 per cent capital allowances available in six Enterprise Zones (Black Country, Humber, Liverpool, North Eastern, Sheffield, and Tees Valley).
  • making available around £250 million from 2013 to support energy intensive industries manage the costs of electricity, including increasing the relief from the climate change levy on electricity for Climate Change Agreement participants to 90 per cent.
  • an additional £200 million for science capital investment.
  • investing £55m into the Strategic Rail Freight Network to help deliver schemes that remove bottlenecks and improve capability and longer term connectivity to the UK’s major ports.
  • giving a bigger role to businesses in purchasing vocational training programmes. In the New Year employers will be invited to bid for a share of a new £250 million government fund. This will route public investment directly to employers.
  • taking decisive action to remove barriers to hiring by making reforms to streamline employment law.
  • investing £10 million over five years from 2013-14 in Project Enthuse, matched by investment from the Wellcome Trust, to improve the quality of science teaching in schools
  • announcing how the Government will maximise the value of public sector data.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said:

“We are committed to making Britain the best place to start, finance and grow a business.  The measures I am announcing today will help us to achieve this by creating an environment in which businesses are easy to set up, have access to credit when they need it and are able to grow without being held back by red tape.  This action supports our deficit reduction plan and the Government’s monetary activism as we build a balanced economy.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said:

“These measures are an important element of the Government’s work to create the right conditions for business to start up, invest, grow and create jobs. They sit alongside our deficit reduction plan and work to increase the supply of credit.

“I attach particular importance to infrastructure and Government capital spending, including that on innovation and science, and the credit easing initiative.  Speedy and effective implementation is now required, building on the major progress that has been made implementing phase one.”

The first phase of the Growth Review was published in March 2011. Work has started on all 137 commitments and substantial progress has been made.  The Government has  published an update on every single measure announced in The Plan for Growth.

Closet or Cabinet?

Dr Liam Fox and now Oliver Letwin have given David Cameron the sort of distractions which he does not really need. There has been speculation about each man’s political future and the doom-mongers reckon that “it’s all unravelling”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A few years ago, I  had a meeting at Conservative Central Office (when the Party could still afford Smith Square) with Lord Freeman who, at the time, was in charge of Candidates. We discussed the possibility of me testing prospective members of Parliament so that the Party did not have to rely on patronage and the  depressingly amateurish local interviews which continue to be a feature of candidate selection.

Had we gone ahead  with the plans, the present Cabinet would have contained some candidates who would have been pre-vetted by me. In the event, it was decided not to go ahead with something which may have caused certain future Ministers embarrassment.  Mind you, this parliament has produced those who are managing maximum embarrassment without any external help.

However, in the main, DC has assembled a surprisingly able bunch of characters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Cameron is a good, solid Prime Minister and, given the time, he could become a great one. There is just one thing holding him back – the lack of depth in his “one-downers”. The Cabinet.

Here’s the list:

Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Vince Cable, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Philip Hammond, Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Alexander, Lord Strathclyde, Baroness Warsi, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, David Willets, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Dominic Grieve.

No problems at all with the first five:

Nick Clegg has the most difficult job, both as a politician and nanny to his confused Liberals who, in spite of (mostly) enjoying  the aphrodisiac nature of power, are still a bit uncertain as to whether they are really participating or merely ballast. His sometimes diffident manner disguises a will of steel.

William Hague has grown into his job, in spite of the shaky start with Libya. He has credibility abroad which is probably one of the most important attributes of any Foreign Secretary.

George Osborne, unsurprisingly has been the recipient of more “stick” than any other politician but , love him or hate him, he has shown courage and tenacity and sometimes, downright stubbornness. Whether those attributes are born of economic understanding or just downright bloody-mindedness, remains to be seen. What is in his favour is that, unlike many others – he takes decisions and stands by them.

Ken Clarke has made the legal system accessible. I know that sounds a bit fanciful but in spite of his occasional too-straight talking , he is a great antidote to a legal system which makes bankers and their bonuses look like paupers. Currently, both the economy and David Cameron need a Lord Chancellor who at least “appears” non-elitist because sooner or later, we are going to scrutinise the multi-billion pound cash machine that is THE LAW.

Theresa May is annoying. However, she is good at her job and so far, does not appear to have put a a faux leopard skin kitten-heel-clad foot wrong. She too is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Her handling of both the News International scandal and the inner city rioting was impeccable.

I would also add Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to the A-team. IDS has proved that there is life after political death and has been delivering spectacular results with his pensions initiatives. He is both a great theorist as well as having a rare quality among politicians – he is a “doer”.

Michael Gove has been quietly ploughing the Education furrow  and shaking-up an over-bureaucratic education system and has not been afraid to take some very unpopular decisions. He too is a “doer”. His thinking on education harks back to the 60s when children were educated and not used as test and statistics fodder. 10/10

Philip Hammond at Transport also belongs in the A-team and is without doubt a star of the future. He is lucky though to have both Norman Baker and Mike Penning as Parliamernary Under Secretaries.  Norman the Idealist and Mike the “no shit”  British Bulldog. Philip Hammond is seen on TV as a government spokesman much more than you might expect from a Secretary for Transport.

Dr Liam Fox has been delivering what, on the surface has been a solid job – if not a bit over-influenced by the balance sheet. He has always looked like the Conservatives’ “nearly man”. Soon, he may be the “never really was” man – as his political career begins to unravel. He, in common with all politicians should remember that Perception is King. The current perception of him is now tending towards  the seedy.

Vince Cable was always going to be a problem and continues to be a bit of a thorn. He is a natural backroom boy and looks terribly uncomfortable in the back of a Ministerial limo. However, by far his biggest handicap is the fact that he is having increasing difficulty in disguising his Socialist views. He seems to be in permanent pain. Very soon, his political career will  describe the downward arc of the parabola. He is the Statler and Waldorf of the Cabinet and compared to some of the other youngsters is from the wrong generation. His obssession with the bankers is hurting his credibility because he has not managed to do anything about them and never will.

Chris Huhne is even more annoying than Theresa May (!) but his personal life and the alleged driving licence naughtiness has totally blown his credibility. He is lucky that he is a Liberal – otherwise he may have already participated in an exit interview with DC.

Andrew Lansley is running the NHS in the way that you would expect from a career Civil Servant. He is doubtless very able – as a Civil Servant – but the NHS currently needs a large dose of commercial thinking. Everything that he has put forward so far has been through the wringer. Wrong man in the wrong job.

Eric Pickles is a great man in every sense.  He provides the Cabinet with some Northern credibility. From a Labour family, this ex-Communist has travelled the entire political spectrum and is one of the shrewdest operators in Government. He is one of the few in Cabinet who is 100% suited to his brief with the advantage of being a working-class Conservative.

One Cabinet member who one could have been forgiven for thinking would, by now be running one of the great Departments of State is Francis Maude. He is a rock-solid operator and should, without doubt be on the real A-team. As Minister at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General , he has been handed a temporary consolation prize. He has not peaked yet. As a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, he knows things.  Street-wise.

Oliver Letwin is Minister of State at the Cabinet office is DC’s Policy Adviser. Like many intellectuals, he appears to be constantly stressed and “away with the fairies”.  He is the archetypal analytical-amiable who cannot manage himself – or others – and has been given the “Special Projects” brief. He is currently the recipient of a press-roasting but, like a good luck charm, will always be retained in some capacity. It is a pity that other Cabinet members cannot spot “burn-out” when they see it.

David Willets, like Letwin is a white-hot intellectual who is good to have around. He is articulate and fiercely bright.  He would have done much better , had he not looked like a spud. His great disadvantage is a lack of any “street-cred” because he has always been a political “wonk”. Having said all that, he is the ideal person to be looking after Universities and Science with the advantage of being so clever that there isn’t a single other member anywhere NEAR as suitable for this job.

Danny Alexander is another (young) career politician and his appointment has always smacked of tokenism with the added suspicion that David Laws is hanging about whilst DC waits for a respectable passage of time before he invites him back.

Sir George Young SHOULD have been Speaker of the House and his present post as Leader of the House is his consolation prize.  He is marking time because he will probably be the next Speaker. In spite of a comparatively undistinguished Parliamentary career so far, he gives the Cabinet gravitas.

Next we have the Cabinet  “solid citizens”.  All are capable but not stars: Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Dominic Grieve are all OK but will never set the world on fire.

Finally we have the youthful, Lord Strathclyde, or should I say Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde. As Leader in the Lords, he is a very safe pair of hands and is a Conservative straight from Tory Central Casting. A great asset to the Cabinet.

Baroness Warsi is Chairman of the Conservative Party and although a competent TV performer, she always sounds as if she’s reading from a Tory pamphlet. She is very likely to be reshuffled out soon. Bearing in mind that Perception is King, her appointment smacked of tokenism.

So, you see that , in spite of the elitist-millionaire tags, the Cabinet is largely populated by a very cabable and  solid bunch of operators –  although the real depth of talent within the Coalition parties is still a bit of a mystery – even, one suspects, to David Cameron himself.

This Cabinet has a good mix of experience, intellect and toughness.

Whether or not you share their views or politics – they are (by far) the ones who have the very best chance of extricating us from where we have landed.

Diamond is forever

” These stiffs earn £65K. Wooooo! I’m so scared!!”

Barclays boss, Bob Diamond,  was today “grilled” by the Treasury Select Committee  and once again showed that he is slicker than frozen catshit on wet ice.

He, of course was not the ideal banker to be interviewed on certain topics, especially as Barclays did not source any funds from the British government during the banking crisis. Instead, they borrowed cash primarily from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) which was an existing Barclays shareholder.  Barclays had also held talks with  the Libyan Investment Authority and Russia’s VTB and Sberbank banking groups.

At the inquiry Diamond said (quite rightly), “No bank should ever be a burden on the taxpayer.” As someone who had run  Barclays Capital for 14 years, prior to being given the reins to the Barclays Retail operation, he had known where to source money when times became tough for Barclays in 2008.  He’d done it without any UK-focused sentimentality, whereas the rest of the industry ran to the Treasury for handouts. His exact quote: “Banks should be allowed to fail…It’s not okay for taxpayers to have to bail out banks.”

He was quite right. If a bank failed, it would be bought by another bank. Hopefully one with a competent Board and management.

Inevitably, that old chestnut, the banker bonus  reared its ugly head during rather tense exchanges but realistically, Diamond knows that he can earn what he damn-well pleases. Perhaps he wasn’t the ideal banker to defend bonuses. He has foregone his bonus for the last two years but there is little doubt that he can easily afford to do so. In 2007, he earned £21 million.

Barclays is not a government charity basket-case,  unlike the Royal Bank of Scotland whose CEO, Stephen Hester is set for a £2.5 million bonus. (As the government owns 83% of RBS shares, that will, in effect make Hester the UK’s highest paid Civil Servant).

Diamond expressed his belief in the Retail-Investment banking model, saying that the arrangement provided stability and was a “great starting position”. Many MPs believe that banks should be broken up  so that a clear distinction can be drawn between Retail (personal banking) and Investment (so-called Casino banking). In reality, they have always been separate operations and really only come together for accounting purposes.

It has taken the government a long time to come to the conclusion that they are totally impotent as far as banker bonuses are concerned and that they have effectively been told by the banks to “butt-out“.  As a concession though, the banks are expected to say that they are committed to lend more to small businesses. It remains to be seen whether this happens.

The banking industry claims that it is lending, whereas the business sector says that banks are not lending enough and when they do lend, it is at exorbitant interest rates with  borrowers having to jump through a series of bank-designed fiery hoops before banks do deign to lend.

However, Diamond said that demand for commercial loans had subsided.

Once again, Diamond demonstrated that our MPs, who are a motley crew of ex-lawyers, academics, union men and local councillors are no match for the denizens which swim the murky waters of the world’s banking system

PREVIOUS BOB DIAMOND

CHANCELLOR GEORGE OSBORNE’S VIEW ON BONUSES? BUSINESS AS USUAL

Vince Cable

Have you noticed how quiet Vince Cable is these days? He used to be the most vocal politician on the subject of both “Casino Banking” and the banker bonus. It seems that after being told never again to crap in the Coalition’s cosy little nest, he has had his wrist slapped and been muzzled.

Cable, Assange. Two of a kind.

The main two players in the news recently have been Vince Cable and Julian Assange – and they both appear to be victims of nothing more serious than male vanity which, in both their cases, seems to have tipped over into arrogance.

What is more pleasing to a man of a certain age than two pretty young things giggling at your jokes and engaging in a bit of harmless flirtation. It is no accident that the Daily Telegraph sent a brace of young journettes to pose as Vince’s constituents. Very quickly they appear to have massaged his ego to such an extent that he went all the way in trying to overstate both his importance, his position in the government hierarchy and the length of his political willy.

If the newspaper has sent along two crusty old male journos, there’s no way in a million years that Vince would have succumbed to their charms in the way that he did with the ladies.

His craving for “esteem in the eyes of others” suggests that perhaps he needs a “fix” of what are called “brain needs” possibly because his basic physical and/or psychological needs are not being totally satisfied either at home or  the workplace. The sad old duffer obviously needs affirmation. If it is not dished out by his superiors, he will satiate the need as soon as the opportunity presents itself. That is why the honey trap sprung by young Telegraph totty worked so beautifully.

Exaggeration of our own professional importance, our experience and our qualifications, believe it or not, is a normal activity. It starts as early as our first job. When your parents asked you as an 18 year-old what you did at the office. It is never….”Well, I made the tea, received two bollockings and spent the rest of the day staring at my computer screen, did a bit on ebay and then an hour on Facebook….” It would be nearer to:  ” The boss asked me for my opinion on X, then I attended a marketing meeting  where I made a short presentation etc etc. Yes…it looks really promising…”

It is normal to exaggerate one’s own importance. Vince did not do it for physical or financial need. His need was purely emotional/psychological. It was “ego-food” and it would seem that he ate his fill. In true warrior-hunter-gatherer style, he imagined himself as Rupert Murdoch’s adversary and suggested that he had already won the battle. However, the sad fact is that he doesn’t even belong in the same arena as Murdoch. Cable is a former academic, economist and now, through the accident of a bad (in his opinion) electoral system,  Secretary of State.

Meanwhile Murdoch is one of the world’s best businessmen who not-only doesn’t take prisoners, he shoots the wounded. To him, Cable’s status in no more than that of a very minor irritant.

Vince can dream of being a hard-nosed testosterone-fuelled tough guy business-psycho but in reality, he is an academic bean counter who got lucky.

Remember when he was everyone’s favourite political uncle? Remember when he delivered that swingeing put-down to Chairman Brown?  You know, the Stalin to Mr Bean  joke? Now, Vince looks like a sad old git whose sell-by date has been tattooed on his forehead and who will be given Transport or Culture at the next reshuffle or, he will confirm that there is life after death by accepting a peerage.

One hates to watch a corpse twich but there is no way back.

Now that he has been stripped of the power to rule on Murdoch’s bid for control of BSkyB, Vince is well-and-truly fatally wouded. That makes him a potential danger to the Government and  both Cameron and Clegg know it. There have been several coy references  to the original quote but the fact is that Cameron would prefer to have Vince inside the tent pissing out rather that outside the tent pissing in.

Cameron’s advisers will probably be spending this coming weekend working out what sort of role Cable would accept without damaging the coalition…and Cable? He will be at home, continuing to cringe and probably still muttering the F-word. Lots.

Assange is also suffering from terminal vanity and you may be surprised to hear that both he and Cable probably share the same psychometric profile. Both are analyticals but whereas Cable is an Analytical-Expressive, Assange seems to be exhibiting all the classic traits of an Analytical-Driver. The starting point for both is a love of facts and figures.

 Citizens of  Nerdania.

The big difference is that Cable does have the added bonus of emotion whereas Assange is probably a sociopath. READ HERE and see if , from what you have seen and heard of Assange, you can perceive him as behaving according to type.

Assange has probably never been properly emotionally involved and his interests will be  sexual rather than emotional. If you listen to his version of the “rapes”, you may notice that he portrays himself as the victim, irrespective of the Swedish technicalities  and  interpretations of the concept of rape.

The Wikileak disclosures have given him worldwide fame and he will be feeling invincible – even though he may be in for some local trouble in Sweden as a result of those rape allegations. Make no mistake he will welcome the proceedings to extradite him to  the States because that will give him even more notoriety and fame and because he knows that the process may take years to complete.

By far the best way to deal with him would be to starve him and his ego of the oxygen of publicity and notoriety.

What Wikileaks is doing is sound but it is unfortunate that it is headed by such an arrogant publicity addict. Regrettably, the media continues to feed his over-active ego.

So we have Cable,  the Analytical-Expressive who is mortified and embarrassed by his own clumsiness and on the other hand, we have Assange the Analytical-Driver who does not feel even remotely humiliated by accusations of rape and who continues to wallow in the discomfort of indiscreet politicians.

Within the media, the indiscreet politician Cable has become a figure of fun whereas Assange, in spite of his obvious personal failings is portrayed as a hero of free-speech and non-censorship.

Both are vain men and both have made mistakes. But……………

Too Much Class

It’s all going terribly pear-shaped. Lord Brown of Madingley, the former BP chief executive has compiled a report. The report is a Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance and was commissioned last November by the then Business Secretary, (the Dark)Lord Mandelson. Now, there is a tsunami of spluttering because the Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition has confirmed its intention to adopt most if not all of Browne’s recommendations.

Vince Cable, our Business Secretary has the martyred look of someone who would never deny his faith but, because of a slight misunderstanding, is about to be burned at the stake. That is one explanation of his permanently pained expression but there are others. Either, someone nicked his tube of Preparation H or he’s  thinking about or is about to lick a cat’s arse.

Yesterday he gurned to the House, “The roads to Westminster are littered with the skidmarks of political parties changing direction.” The only skid marks were in the back of his own Y-fronts from being “wedgied” by the Conservatives into  once again making university education the stomping ground of the rich.

Mr Cable spent an hour and a half making a statement about the proposals contained within the Browne report and  has never looked less thrilled or sounded less convincing. It was painful. Meanwhile, students and soon-to-be students up and down the country , protested.

Students should attend university because of ability and not their parents’ bank balance. Unfortunately, it is difficult for modern students to play the Ability Card, mostly as a result of the fact that, thanks to Labour, the qualifications for entering university these days are ostensibly no more rigorous than the ability to steam-up a mirror with the optional benefit of a functioning pulse.

St Vince told the House that  the magic figure is £21,000. After completing studies, any graduate earning less than that amount will not be required to repay his or her student debt to society.

So, is that gross income or income net of tax? Will there be a sudden increase in ex-gratia payments? Is the government inadvertently encouraging the Black Economy?  What about medical students and their seven years’-worth of fees? Once again, the Law of Unforeseen Consequences will kick-in.

The well-off will not bother with loans because they will continue to pay university fees in advance.  The poor will remain poor with yet another incentive to remain on the dole. The middle-classes will continue as everyone’s favourite target.

What about the first-time buyer and the housing market? Here  is another example of how a seemingly clever government policy, designed to save taxpayers’ money will have an unforeseen effect.

When , in a few years time a shiny new graduate sits in front of a bank manager and asks for a mortgage on a small ” bijou” that he has found, the banker will sink back into his soft leather exec chair, clasp his hands behind his head and, with a knowing twinkle he’ll ask : ” I see that you have a degree. Do you have any other debts?” The graduate will splutter, “Well, there is the small matter of a student  debt of £45,000 which I am paying back but I’m hoping it will be paid back by the time my own children start university.” The banker will then sympathetically hold his hands in front of him, fingertip-to-fingertip and sigh,” So you , at the age of 24, you already have massive debts and you want me to lend you MORE?”

The banker will then walk to the door and hold it open………and he (as usual) will be right!

However, the Browne recommendations may produce some positive outcomes. Only very clever people will dare attend University. The thick-poor will no longer apply to red-brick former polytechnics in order to be taught third-rate subjects by second-rate lecturers………. but the thick-rich will carry-on regardless.

Eventually, regional accents will no longer be heard in academia and the phrase “We know our place” will fall back into common usage.

It will all have been the fault of the 2010 Liberal Democrats and their “flexible friend” – formerly known as their principles.

Vince Stable?

“Global warming? It was the Bankers.”

“Lino” Clegg  has firmly embedded himself in our psyche as the Spiro Agnew of British politics. Lino? Liberal In Name Only. It could have been worse –  if they were still known as Whigs.

Meanwhile Vince Cable continues to carry the air of either Stadler OR Waldorf from the Muppet Show balcony. Vince’s face looks more and more tortured by the day – as if someone was trying to unblock his catheter by jumping on it. 

It is increasingly apparent that in spite of the fact that the ConLib coalition is being promulgated as a “partnership”, it is an unequal union. They are not Joint Tenants but Tenants in Common and the Liberals are looking more and more like political ballast with 99% of the political tenancy being owned by Cameron and the Bullers.

Clegg’s obvious earnestness remains endearing, although one does have the feeling that an old-fashioned delivery bike may be a more appropriate mode of transport than a ministerial Jag.  DC is using him as .a messenger/delivery boy and so far it looks as if “Lino” is quite happy “in the national interest”– his favourite phrase.

The “downside” is that DC has a price to pay for Lino Clegg’s innocuous presence. That price is the Business Secretary.

Ever since Vince Cable’s crack about Gordon Brown having mutated from Stalin to Mr Bean , he has worked very hard on his soundbites. In politics, there is nothing more powerful than a well-rehearsed ad-lib. Vince’s Ministerial Jag has given him more and more confidence to create increasingly colourful and outrageous metaphors – especially those directed at the soft target which is British banking.

He claims to be pr0-business but continues to take great delight in banker name-calling. It seems that it is OK for him to refer to bankers as “spivs and gamblers” but when he does that , he is only referring to a very small percentage of those who work within banking. It confrims the old-fashioned view that those who like to make money and flaunt it are ALWAYS bad people and figures of fun. That’s the British Way.

According to Old Man Cable, Capitalism is “killing competition”. Capitalism creates competition . Competition is only killed when capitalism mutates  into monopoly – whether State monopoly or Private monopoly, the effect is the same. Although our banking system appears as a collection of separate businesses, the way that they are regulated and administered has just about removed any remnants of competition between them and the industry is now acting as a multi-headed monopoly.

Where is the competition between banks? They certainly used to compete but not any more. Because of the State’s intervention, they can now  buy money at about 1% and sell it to the consumer for whatever they want. Worse still, they are now givenmoney by the State and then sell it to us for more-or-less what they please.

Not quite what Adam Smith had in mind and one feels that he would have been miffed by being quoted out-of-context by a Business Secretary who has a clearly perceived, self-inflicted “use-by” date.

Our collective appetite was whetted by the customary pre-speech leaks which suggested that the Business Secretary was to “attack the banks”. Why attack the banks for doing what comes naturally – something that few politicians understand – delivering profits for shareholders and rewarding those who delivered the profits?

Short-term profits are NOT damaging the economy. What has damaged most economies in the last two years has been the global con-trick  of  Goldman-Sachs spivs designing the Credit Derivative. Everything flowed and  grew from that one fiscal spawn of Satan. The bankers were both victims and slack-jawed observers.

There has been a lot of criticism of Vince Cable  delivering an “emotional” speech. The speech was not emotional per se – it was a contrived speech, designed for the front pages for the glorification of Vince Cable and to please his rapidly diminishing band of groupies.

The Business Secretary’s bleating about “restraint” in the payment of bonuses was pointless because all that he will achieve is to increase bankers’ salaries.  

“I make no apology for attacking spivs and gamblers who did more harm to the British economy than  Bob Crow could achieve in his wildest Trotskyite fantasies, while paying themselves outrageous bonuses underwritten by the taxpayer.” 

That’s an easy one to sort-out, Vince. Keep Mervyn King’s trembling finger away from the printing-press “START” button because if you don’t watch him, he’ll do it again.

In actual fact, Vince Cable’s posturings were no more than a touch of “wind-and-wee”with  a seasoning of badly conceived and amateurishly executed metaphors. All that he’s trying to do is to blackmail the banks into lending more at lower rates. Then he would be able to beat them up for “irresponsible lending” .

He also took the opportunity to call for the banks to be separated into Retail Banking (High Street) and Investment Banking (which isn’t really banking).

The Business Secretary has obviously forgotten that companies are created in order to deliver profits for the shareholders and the shareholders have the right to reward their executives however they wish. The shareholders are NOT social workers.

If your economic theory is more Trotsky rather than Keynes, you may be silly enough to say something such as: ” I am shining a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour. Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can, as Adam Smith explained over 200 years ago.” 

NO you’re NOT and NO he didn’t. However, it has been noted that Vince’s ideas are 200 years old and second hand.

He continued: “I want to protect consumers and keep prices down and provide a level playing field for small business, so we must be vigilant right across the economy… Competition is central to my pro market, pro business, agenda.” 

That rant is more bovine than Keynes.

 He carried on to say that it is not easy for the Liberals to be Tory lackeys but added that  “It’s necessary for our country that our parties work together at a time of financial crisis. It is an opportunity for the party to demonstrate that we have the political maturity to make difficult decisions and wield power, with principle.” 

He has clearly demonstrated that he is attempting a brand new political trick – which is to be in Government (when DC is listening) and Opposition (when his Leftie Liberal chums are listening) . As Business Secretary, he should be seen to be a pro-business champion and leader. As a flabby very Left wing Liberal, he has to be seen to bash the banks and regurgitate Labour’s populist slogans. Every dawn sees him sounding more and more like Alistair Darling.

Was Vince Cable too high a price to pay for coalition and can he steer business and commerce through the rapidly approaching choppy waters of  recovery within the context of a falling pound, collapsing market and high unemployment?

Blood Diamond.

“WTF?”

I am not a great fan of the banking industry but the reaction of the terminally ignorant to the appointment of the extremely talented Bob Diamond as Chief Executive of Barclays is  well…….annoying.

If an executive has been branded as the “unacceptable face of banking” by Peter “unacceptable face of politics” Mandelson, we should embrace, hug and welcome him.

Bob Diamond has just been appointed chief executive of the retail arm of Barclays Bank. Even our old favourite, Vince Cable – who himself has morphed from our favourite Opposition spokesman to Homer Simpson’s grumpy father has expressed unease at Bob’s appointment.

Since the phrase “Casino Banking” was coined, it seems that management, administrative and motivational skills have taken a back seat to name-calling,  politicians’ prejudices and sloganism.

Let’s get one thing straight – Barclays Bank belongs to its shareholders – (Bob Diamond has £65 millions’-worth of Barclay’s shares) and it is up to the shareholders to decide who runs the business on their behalf. Not a has-been grubby politician such as Mandelson who has spent his entire political life aspiring to be all the things that Diamond is and he isn’t.

As I have said many times before, banking used to be a business populated by uneducated functionaries with the imagination of  retarded isopod.  The revolution came in the mid-80s when a new breed of executive landed on Planet Bank. The MBA generation. They were (and still are) men and women who know their way around a balance sheet and are trained to run a business which makes money. They are what are called “Drivers”. They drive a business forward but in doing so, they do not take prisoners and they most definitely shoot the wounded.

By definition, they would make lousy Social Workers and rarely or never go into politics because they are far too clever. Good business executives rarely enter politics because they are too bright. Even Asda’s Archie Norman only lasted a few years at Westminster before realising that he was out of everyone’s league.

It is too late to whinge because the revolution has already taken place. Deal with it.  Starting in the 80s, the pipe-smoking old duffers with double-barrelled surnames who ran the banks quickly became an endangered species. Now (thankfully) they are almost extinct.

The so-called “old school” banker is dead.

Eddy Weatherhill, the former shopfitter and well known “bank victim” who is chairman of the self-established Banking Advisory Group has said  (referring to Bob Diamond’s appointment) that “the lunatics are taking over the asylum.” Mind you, he is always ready with a pre-prepared quote since he tried (and failed) to sue Lloyds Bank for £1million.

Vince Cable, the (Business Secretary) has dutifully been trotting out tired and worn-out phrases from his lexicon of banker insults as have many other politicians who themselves could not run a sweet shop.

So who is Bob Diamond? He has many attributes which we Brits do not appreciate but which many envy. He is American, he’s clever (Connecticut MBA), he has had an exceptionally successful career in the finance industry, he is rich (£100 million in the bank) and he has a very happy family life and most important of all, he is an excellent golfer (8 handicap).

Bitter  British politicians have presented Bob Diamond as some sort of dodgy American snake-oil salesman and not the cerebral corporate entrepreneur that he undoubtedly is.

He has a reputation as a great manager and motivator of Barclays most important asset – its people.

I have spent much of my professional life in banking and have met several Diamond-types. They are the management equivalent of a roller-coaster. Sometimes terrifying but ALWAYS exhilarating and if you do your job, they are the most generous bosses that you could ever work for.

Twenty-odd years ago, when I was  Citibanker, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Selander. He had been assigned to a small area within Citibank – EMEA – Europe , Middle East and Africa.  He was responsible for retail banking , Diners Club and insurance.

What did he know about British insurance? Nothing. What did he know about another Citibank acquisition, Scrimgeour Vickers which was a tired old stockbroking company operating out of a condemned building in the City. Nothing. There were many other aspects of his job that he had no experience of – and that is the whole point!

Firstly NO-ONE is ever really ready for that next promotion and secondly, if you are a good manager and leader, the actual product that your business is distributing is irrelevant. Whether it is pink teddy  bears or retail banking, the management skills that you need are   identical. Don’t let any ex-councillor, ex-barrister, ex-lecturer or ex-shopfitter Member of Parliament tell you otherwise.

Bob Diamond will do well. He’s a member of a very small and exclusive club of corporate leaders that SHOULD be running  a modern  bank. (We’ve had cheap British imitations of this rare breed but where are they now? All that  they have left is an exceedingly large pension and a knighthood).

Piggy Bankers

Here’s the story so far. A bank lends money to anyone who can steam up a mirror, the Chief Executive is sacked but manages to hold onto a huge pay-off and an eye-watering pension. The government then raids the Bank of England every couple of months and continues to scoop-up more and more money which it tips into the bank by the BILLION.

The Investment bankers then take this free money and use it to gamble on the Stock Exchange which is heading upwards  because the government is also tipping  money into other banks and into the economy itself. Regrettably, the government’s munificence leaves it with huge debts but it has vowed to do ANYTHING for the banks because the banks USED to be an important part of the United Kingdom’s economy.

Unsurprisingly, the bankers’ “gambles” earn the bank some dodgy money. Unfortunately, they forget that in a rising market, any muppet can make a profit but nevertheless they demand huge rewards for their cleverness – in the shape of bonuses.

The unelected Lord Myners who is masquerading under the soubriquet of “City Minister” announces that at least 5,000 bankers in the United Kingdom will earn more that £1 million EACH. That’s a total of £5 BILLION. One would be forgiven for assuming that even if they’re on a 10% commission, they should have produced profits of at least £50 billion. However, in reality, £50 billion represents just one quarter of the £200 billion “quantitative easing” bail-out money handed over to them in the few months by a government paralysed  by the fear of upsetting the banks. The total that has been pumped into the banks since October 2008 is £850 billion!!

Taking the Royal Bank of Scotland as an example, their investment banking division made £6 billion this year and they intend to pay 25% of that in bonuses. That is an outrageous figure and should be stopped. Especially as the rise in commodity prices, which has fuelled most of their profits, had absolutely NOTHING to do with them.

The unelected Lord Mandelson calls for restraint.

The Royal Bank of Scotland will be paying a total of £2 billion in bonuses to its staff. There is an unsubstantiated rumour that the government is being blackmailed by the RBS board who say that they will resign if the government somehow manages to block the bonuses. They are all forgetting that they are the same people who were around when the bank was run into the ground. A year ago, they faced the real prospect of spending   Christmas 2009  paying for their children’s Christmas presents out of their Jobseekers Allowance. That is how close it was.

Unfortunately, they were saved by the government, so they never actually managed to set foot in the real world. Hopefully they will –  just after the next banking crisis.

VInce Cable has said that the government should call the bankers’ bluff. If they want to resign – let them resign.

The directors’ duty is to the shareholders which means that they have to listen-to and obey the shareholders. The majority shareholder at RBS is the United Kingdom Government. The Government should step in today and sack the lot of them. The bankers are playing a very high-risk game. Mind you, that’s what they do for a living – but with taxpayers ‘ money, supported by a taxpayers’ guarantee that if they lose their stake money, the taxpayer will provide them with more. 

The newly-anointed Chief Executive of RBS, Stephen Hester was considered to be a “government man” – a steady hand on the tiller. However, even he is showing dissent by saying that the bank will lose “valuable staff” if it is unable to pay bonuses with lots of noughts.

The argument that bonuses need to be paid in order to attract and retain “talent” is exactly the same fatuous argument which is bankrupting most football clubs.

There are two months left before the bonuses are supposed to be paid. Let us hope that everyone concerned uses the intervening time wisely.

(Barclays is about to increase the pay of 22,000 investment bankers by 150% – in lieu of the proposed cut in bonuses. Clever!)

G19 (+1)

 

“Sorry! That should have read: Monsieur Sarkozy is regarded by many as a cult”

There ought to have been just the one hymn sheet because if there are several hymn sheets, we are in for a very discordant Thursday.

Barack Obama is hoping that: ” G20 countries will do what is necessary to promote trade and growth.”M le President Sarkozy wants to create a Financial Interpol to police the financial services industry. The delusional Gordon Brown’s not-so-hidden agenda is to rescue his image and somehow emerge as King of the World but he persists in spouting inane generalisations such as  “clean up of the world banking system” and “more regulation of tax havens”.

Sarkozy is right. A Global Financial Services Authority is what is needed. If there are at least 20 Financial Services Authorities and the only thing that binds them is the hope of “greater co-operation” then all that is being thrown into the heaving fiscal mix are more junkets such as this G20 and more opportunities for the financial bandits to operate between even wider cracks within the world economy.

Somehow, it has been decided that “protectionism” is bad. Perhaps Mr Brown should spend more time thinking about the United Kingdom’s issues rather than constantly trying to put alleconomic problems in  the context of the “Global Economy”. Where was the Global Economy during the years that he stood at the Dispatch Box preening and accepting the plaudits? There was little credit given to the Global Economy when the British economy was behaving itself and Brown was  self-actualised and not self-delusional . History has already demonstrated that the Iron Chancellor’s image was so frail that it could be shattered and buried by one sentence from Vince Cable.

So the modern-day equivalent of the Tribal Elders will be talking economics but they will be thinking politics. Any summit such as this G20 meeting enables the leaders to discuss world economics but always with one eye on domestic politics.

Brown is very aware  – as are all the other G20 leaders that he is a dead man walking and the long-term fallout from the current economic crisis will be managed not by Brown but by the Conservatives led by David Cameron. (Somebody had to say it!)

So is this G20 summit necessary?

Brown is a historian and knows that Chamberlain was the first Prime Minister to engage in the sport of Summitry. Churchill’s meetings with the American and Russian leaders continued this fine tradition and in the 80s, Margaret Thatcher travelled as did Tony Blair in the 90s.

Currently, the technology is in place to make Summitry an obsolete sport but large numbers of politicians sitting round huge tables  still seems to be a popular diversion. Each already knows the other’s views and the odds are that there will be more conflict than accord. For instance, M Sarkozy is being backed as the first to flounce out.

The fundamental question is ” What is the problem and how do we sort it out?”.  That approach could  be a very fundamental error. In recent years, politicians have grown into the habit of putting themselves under tremendous pressure by asking the above question and then feeling the need to produce almost instant solutions – and of course we have become conditioned to expect that approach and more crucially, so have the media.

Brown the historian should know that the real question should not be “What’s the problem?” ( the modern politician’s approach) but ” What’s the story”  (the historian’s approach),  that is to say – let’s establish 100% how we managed to get into this mess. This approach takes time but in the long term , will produce the correct solutions.

Most Governments have already shown by their random actions of the last six months that they prefer to treat the symptom and not the cause.

In this respect, Gordon Brown should learn from both John Major and Tony Blair who both understood that firstly, the story of the Northern Ireland problem needed to be understood and that the solution would then follow as a by-product of that understanding. The whole process took a very long time but as recent attempts at destabilising the situation have shown, the solution is rock-solid.

This could be a time for reflection and not necessarily the customary politician’s sprint to action.