Archive for May, 2016

Jutland Remebered

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

With its terrible loss of life and serious faults in fighting protocols for a then modern sea battle, the British nation was aghast in 1916 when the expected Trafalgar style victory over the German fleet not only failed to materialise, but what did was three times the deaths and more ships lost than  the Germans, who on those two measures claimed victory. The carnage of the Somme was shortly to follow, so 1916 was a sobering year for Britain, its pride and its Empire. It was also the first year of grief for families on a scale not previously imagined or foreseen.

A century later as commemorations are organised to remember the dead of Jutland on both sides, a more measured view suggests that what was at one level a failure of battle potential, was at another a strategic victory. For the German fleet retreated to port, never to venture out again and the Royal Navy enforced its blockade, which reduced German civilians to malnutrition and hunger, which at times came close to starvation. Later in the Atlantic, the German counter-attack with U boats sinking vast tonnages of merchant shipping carrying essential supplies, Great Britain came as close as it  ever got to losing the war.

These are sobering reflections since both strategies were aimed at bringing the enemy to its knees through civilian suffering rather than battlefield triumph, a form of warfare of which the United States has never been victim except at its own hand in the Civil War. It is perhaps fitting that the UK referendum on whether to remain a member of the EU comes in the interval between the centenaries of Jutland and the Somme.

It also trumps all other reasons of why it is we joined the EU in the first place and why it is imperative that we remain as one of the keystone powers of perhaps the greatest union of conciliation  in history.

Tony Blair: Eve of Infamy?

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

According to leaks, the Chilcot Inquiry Report, finally due out in July, will be very bad news for Tony Blair. Such as is left of his political reputation, and that is not much, will apparently be shredded by disclosures and judgements about how on earth the decision to attack Iraq, to defend against the imminent use of non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’, was taken. So Tony is trying to get in early to build a new consensus about some equally fictitious political strong-point called the centre. The problem is that for a centre to exist it has to be central to something. It might be a circle, or a square, or a forest, or a crowd. In politics it has to occupy the no-man’s land where consensus can be built between the priorities of left and right.

But a political centre without powerful left and right wings will not fly any more than a wingless plane fuselage. We have been governed from the centre since the demise of Thatcher and have ended up in never ending austerity, the rich getting ever richer at the expense of the poor, failures of strategic military and foreign policy, failure to secure power supplies, failures in health, eduction, care for the elderly, the vulnerable and the mentally ill, failure to solve the housing crisis, failure to control excessive inflation of housing costs, failure to end the budget deficit, failure to reduce the trade deficit; the list is all but never ending.

So now this extraordinarily arrogant man who seems a stranger to humility, remorse, clear thinking and a sense of when the time has come to shut up, dares to tell the country that to elect a Corbyn Government would be a dangerous experiment. You may recall he made some fatuous comment about heart transplants which ensured Corbyn’s landslide in the Labour leadership election, so it looks as if a Corbyn government is an increasing certainty in 2020. The reason is simple. Corbyn is a man of integrity whom people instinctively trust. Or put simply, the opposite of Blair.

Nazi Era Thriller: Download or Paperback

Friday, May 27th, 2016


Hitler's First LadyLise Bauer is born in Africa in 1906, brought to England by her parents from where she is expelled with them in 1914, because her father is an East Prussian. They settle in America and become Americans, but return to Europe in the 1920’s. Here Lise is involved in the rise of the Nazi party, marries one of Hitler’s closest associates and later has a relationship with Hitler himself, before divorcing her husband and marrying an English friend of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. She settles again in England with the consent of the security services and she and her husband establish a cell to act as a secret communication channel between Hitler and Churchill at the critical period of WWII.
The novel offers a new view of Hitler’s sexual relationships, a plot to overthrow Churchill and the flight to Scotland by Rudolf Hess. Using historical characters often portrayed in a new light, this account challenges the accepted view of recorded history. It leaves readers wondering why they were they never told about the double lives and events shrouded in secrecy.   UK         US

Economic Scares: Stop it!

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Decisions driven by fear are rarely the best. If they turn out wrong and the fear turns out to have been either groundless or confected (as in the Iraq War and Weapons of Mass Destruction) there is a sense of national outrage which never goes away. It is therefore important to avoid such tactics in national conversations such as the current referendum campaign. The latest scare that if we leave the EU all our pensions will go down the tubes or whatever is ridiculous.

There will be an economic event in the not too distant future whether we leave the EU or stay in it. This is because our unbalanced economy, with manufacturing in decline, borrowing up, growth down, imports up, house price inflation rampant, housing costs preposterous, productivity low, the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor and the gap between the two growing all the time, services starved of cash and a whole lot more, is on life support and has to change. This could happen because of the shock of leaving the EU or because we stay. It could happen because of something in China, or Russia or the US (President Trump?) or it could happen because the gasket suddenly blows.

But it will happen. There will be a crash in asset values and a dramatic fall in the value of the pound. And so there should be because both are mathematically essential to create the conditions in which real growth and prosperity for all, more fairly shared but there for everyone from dustman to Duke, can actually happen. But happen it must.

The issue of Europe is quite separate. It is political and emotional and to do with brotherhood and well-being, peace rather than conflict, working together rather than toiling alone, being part of something bigger than oneself. Either you believe that the EU is the most successful and worthy political union since the fall of the Roman Empire which has put an end to centuries of pointless slaughter and you will vote to remain a central part of it,  or like Boris, you believe it is as bad as Hitler and the Nazis and you will vote against. If you cannot make up your mind or you scared and spooked, it is probably better to stay at home. Then whatever the outcome it will not be your fault. Or will it?

Transatlantic Thriller

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Dr. Rachael Benedict is an American historian and a best-selling author. Through the death of her estranged father she sets out to expose secrets from World War Two, which are so sensitive they have been subject to an extensive cover-up lasting seventy years.  This provokes a killing spree as parts of the security services of both Britain and the United States become engaged in the drama, with one side determined to get the secrets out and the other determined to keep them hidden.
Rachael battles forward to unearth the truth both from intrigues of the Nazi era, but also within her own family, surviving three attempts on her life, before finally achieving her goal. Not only does she expose the truth from history and from her own roots, she has to delve deep into her own emotions to find the truth about herself.

Click on image for uk.          Click here for US

The Economy: Critical Points

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

What is so deplorable about the endless economic sniping between Remain and Leave, is that each is using various figures and statistics to mean the opposite of what is actually the fact. So this post will set out some key economic pointers and leave you to decide which campaign would be most likely to deliver on these issues. I would remind you that I am voting Remain for political and historic reasons, which I believe over-ride everything else. Although there will be an economic impact either way, neither economics nor immigration will affect or influence my vote. So the following can be trusted as impartial.

There can be no long term recovery in this country with the current economic model based on consumption driven mainly by borrowing against ever inflating assets, mainly house prices, and fed almost entirely by imports. This sucks money from the base to the top, makes the rich richer and the poor poorer and the middle squeezed by low productivity and excessive living costs. It does not deliver sufficient growth in GDP to provide a taxation base large enough to fund the demand for services at the optimum cost/efficiency ratio. The future is one of bumping along the bottom of a low growth track, punctuated with slow downs or recessions like the one now gripping the manufacturing sector.

The economy needs about a decade of sustained and significant growth in the order of 5% annually in order leave austerity behind and offer the rising generation a future on a level to that enjoyed by their parents and grandparents, especially the latter. That can only be achieved if we import less, make more for home consumption and for export, reduce borrowing as an economic driver, and halt the headlong inflation of assets ahead of inflation of incomes. This has been promised by all the political parties but delivered by none.

That is because not one of them dare come clean about what has to be done to achieve the illusive rebalancing, because they know that the public will take fright at the prospect. Yet without attending to the root causes, there will be no positive outcome. The root causes are first sterling is historically much too high and needs to come down to much closer to parity with the US dollar. The second is priority of capital over labour has to be redressed so that labour once again becomes an engine of growth. Third imports have to fall off a cliff and exports climb one. Home production must make up for the lost imports and the surplus over must lead the export drive. Fourth housing costs have to be cut so that rents and mortgages take a much smaller proportion of income. Finally a huge economic stimulus must be pumped into the base of the economy to reboot it, without borrowing any money.

This can only be done by boosting the money supply at the base while restricting it at the top, so that asset investment becomes risky and less profitable and saving and investment in new wealth creation becomes more rewarding. That will mean house prices falling to a ratio of an average house costing not more than three times the average annual income and that the Treasury, not the Bank of England will have to print a great deal of money. There is not a single politician of any party who seems to understand any of this and if there is, either cannot articulate it, or has the courage to come clean.

If you look at that economic fact sheet you will see it makes no difference whatsoever whether we are in or out of Europe. Our economic problems are fundamental. Sort them and GB can prosper anywhere and with anybody. Europe is about a lot more than money and it is time the conversation moved on to more uplifting visions from both Remain and Leave.

Is Parliament Sovereign? No. The People Are.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

This is the problem with the Brexit argument. The political class in England (not in Scotland)  consider parliament sovereign. It is not. In a democracy the people are sovereign and they exercise their sovereignty through democratic institutions of which parliament in the UK is the senior. But the people also exercise their sovereignty in the EU through their votes to elect members of the European parliament, as well as electing the national government which sits on the various instruments of EU governance. So the EU enhances the sovereignty of the people, while restricting the power of their UK elected parliamentarians, in favour of a wider power they, the people, exercise in Europe. So leaving Europe would reduce the sovereign power of the British people.

The latest Brexit argument is that Britain is becoming ‘ungovernable’ because of EU interference. This is equally untrue. The function of government is to manage the nation’s needs, resources and security in an effective order which delivers all the advantages of modern civilisation and aspirations for human advancement. It is not continually to invent new regulations and laws. At one time laws were local, imposed by the Baron. Later they became national. They are now becoming global. In the EU there is harmonisation of basic rights and regulations which govern everyday living and trade, which benefits everybody. I have never encountered a single individual in the UK whose life is being degraded by a European law, the driver for which has often been the UK itself. Basic laws are like human rights. They are fundamental and are best when universal.

What government should be doing is to make sure that the infrastructure is cutting edge; power generation is effective, environmentally friendly and delivering cost effective energy; education delivers rewarding lives to the young; the healthcare system is timely and efficient; housing is plentiful and affordable to rent or buy; poverty is eliminated; unemployment is minimal; the standard of living increases; the quality of life improves and so son and so on.

Yet under every one of the above headings this government and its predecessors going back many years have and are still failing. This is because they are preoccupied with changing structures by new laws, rather than by improving efficiency by investing in, streamlining and modernising functions. So health and education, for example, are subject to never ending re-organisations, but continually fall short of expectation. Other areas of government responsibility suffer from neglect, for example prisons and the prison system or power generation and capacity renewal.

At least the public at large is to some extent protected from the worst outcomes of serial failure by UK governance, because of the EU umbrella. Take that away and everybody is going to get very wet.

Brexit Thoughts 11: It Get’s Worse

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

There is almost a case to be made to close down the referendum campaign, so much nonsense is being talked by both sides, with a period of silence till the day we vote. The basic facts are clear. Either you regard yourself as European and see in the EU a huge advance in human fellowship to benefit peace, prosperity, life chances and life quality. Or you see yourself as English and see an independent, on its own, island nation as much preferable to a  confederation, which pokes its nose into every nook and cranny of your life. Either you will vote for one or the other or you will stay at home.

If it goes Yes the markets will have a euphoria moment, before all the underlying problems of our economy and services will begin once more to loom large. If it goes No, there is no telling what will happen, but euphoria, outside the old Empire wing of the Tory party, will be in short supply. Because the sheer scale of unraveling a whole legal, economic and social partnership of this complexity has never before been undertaken, and because the prospect has always been regarded as so outlandish, nobody, including Brexit grandees, has any plans prepared.

Yesterday we had Gove telling us that if we remain,  five million people would invade our shores from five new EU member countries, in the queue to join by 2020 or there abouts, and whose citizens would be free to come and live here, overwhelming our already overwhelmed public services. That is such tosh. While we remain members of the EU not one single country can join unless we say so and agree. We have a veto. And no citizen would be entitled to come here for seven years anyway. But what about the two million Brits working in the EU? What happens to them if we leave?

Today Osborne declares that if we quit the EU house prices will fall and so will the pound. Well that is very good news and the first coherent reasons that this blog has heard for voting Leave. But Osborne is for Remain? Another forecasting muddle apparently. Perhaps it’s time for him to go too.



NHS Overspend

Friday, May 20th, 2016

There is no wonder that the NHS has overspent because the funding model is mathematically dysfunctional. The problem is obvious. You cannot provide an infinite service with a finite budget. In other words the more patients it helps and who come through its doors, the less it has to spend on each of them. Imagine giving the big supermarkets a fixed budget and telling them to feed the nation for free. Nobody would starve but there would be waiting lists for Marmite.

To run a modern, up to date healthcare system which can offer timely treatment and care to everyone who needs it whenever that need arises, requires funding which expands with demand and is driven by demand alone. Yes there can be a framework and there can be restrictions on quasi-medical services which are more cosmetic than cure. But it cannot be the case that genuine demand restricts supply, causing waiting lists and backlogs as well as over complex management structures, leading to failures and overspend of the type we are now seeing.

Some countries use a part insured or fully insured financial model. We could go that way, but it would be a vote loser because the public prefer direct funding by taxation. That is fine but the taxation formula employed must be fit for purpose and expand to meet increasing costs and demand. The public, which means voters of every party loyalty or none, value the NHS more than any other service in the country. For too long there has been a myth that this is somehow free. It is not and moreover it is expensive to do it properly. Abolition of the irrational quango management system with its Foundations, Trusts and Commissioning Boards would help, as well as banning the iniquity of NHS doctors moonlighting into private practice. But the NHS is still going to cost. A lot. And the taxpayer has to foot the bill. Time for the government and all parties aspiring to replace it, to come clean about that.

The Queen’s Speech.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

The most remarkable thing about the Queen’s Speech is that at the age of ninety, be-robed and with a heavy crown upon her head she can still make it with a firm voice and faultless delivery. There is no doubt that the Monarch herself is a good deal more remarkable than the stuff she had to read. Because the first majority Tory government since whenever is even more chaotic than the last one under John Major. Whilst Major had to contend with rebellions and insurgencies, Cameron has a cabinet and parliamentary party engaged in a full, declared and open civil war. So far the war has not reached our prisons, so this neutral ground has become the centrepiece of the government’s legislative programme, even though in its present form and led by Cameron it may not survive beyond the end of June.

Only yesterday these prisons were declared in the majority unfit for purpose by the government’s own inspector and are in their worst state of  anarchy, violence, drug addiction  and murder than for more than 100 years. Whether these latest reforms will fare better than previous attempts remains to be seen. The record is not encouraging. The health service, much reformed, is in serious financial trouble, and its services are declining to lower levels of safety and inefficiency as every day passes; education is approaching a crisis with cuts, re-organisations, exam cock-ups, shortage of places and new teachers leaving faster than they can be replaced; there are problems with the roll out of benefit reforms which are hitting the most vulnerable hardest; power generation is on a knife edge due to a failure to renew capacity; the economic policy appears in tatters with failed forecasts, missed targets and abandoned initiatives; manufacturing is in recession;  these are just the obvious headlines which ignore a vast hinterland of confusion and decay.

The most alarming bit of all is that the Tories consider themselves to be doing rather well.