Archive for December, 2017

Snow and Ice? Get a Grip!

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Just breaking into holiday time off to say that if this country thinks it is going to charge through Brexit into a big new world as a powerhouse nation, we cannot go on having a national transport collapse every time it snows or freezes. We have to get past this terrible failure to invest, plan , prepare and rehearse, so that when the moment comes, people are not left sleeping on the floors of airports or trapped in their cars with very little information about what is going on.

Authorities at every level, public and private, must take on board the fact that if we behave like a third world country in the face of weather most other developed countries would take in their stride, we will become one.

Christmas Break

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

To all our readers a very Happy Christmas and success in 2018.

This Blog will be taking a break from today and will not fully resume regular postings until the New Year. During the holiday period some server maintenance has to be undertaken, so should you be unlucky enough to experience access problems, please be patient. They will be temporary.

Catalonia: What Next?

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

The election seems to have resolved nothing and it is much too early to draw any conclusions. But a few observations might be helpful.

Unlike the referendum, which was illegal and supported by less than half the electorate, the general election was official and the turnout well over 80%. This gives the poll strong democratic legitimacy. Unfortunately the result was not clear cut, although in many ways clear. The anti-independence party is the largest, but far short of a majority. The pro independence parties have a majority, but are not united in their approach to eventual independence. It is clear that the Puigdemont policy of calling a referendum and then declaring independence was a disaster. But so was the Spanish government’s response to it. Yet it is also clear that because of political pressures, neither had much option but to act as they did.

What is needed now are cool heads and common sense. Madrid has to accept that Catalonia’s aspirations cannot be brushed aside or silenced by repressive interpretation of the Spanish constitution, but the Catalans must take on board that for independence to work, it has to be legitimate and internationally recognised. That will require the backing of Spain as a whole.

So there much work to be done and many yawning gaps to bridge.

Trump’s Strategic Doctrine

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Unusually for a commentator who leans Left, I find much to support in Trump’s new strategic view. I oppose his social conservatism, his vanity leading to spitefulness and I have doubts about trickle down economics. Certainly America needed to do something about business taxes, but bar charts of Federal government deficits over the last thirty years reveal they are mostly larger when Republicans are in the White House. So I am cautious here, but if he gets his infrastructure plans through Congress then things will really take off.

But it is on the strategic role of the US that I see something I can really buy into. For far too long and especially since the end of the Cold War, far too much of the world has done extravagant or stupid things in the belief that America will get it out of trouble either financially or with its military. This has been a bad period for America and the world at large and has seen a decline in the authority and effectiveness of the West.

Trump’s recognition that there are now three powers competing for influence across the world, America  Russia and China, shows a refreshing new realism. The assertion that America’s influence depends upon its strength as an economic power and its homeland prosperity rather than its military, which is there to defend not to bully, is a vast improvement. America does not seek to  impose its way of life on others, but it will set an example which others may will want to follow.

Above all Trump believes that every judgment must be made upon the foundation of America First. But he also expects both Russia and China to put their interests first. When necessary he will push back, but where common interest demands cooperation he will be a willing partner. This is a simple doctrine which makes sense, not just to strategists, but to ordinary people too. No wonder Putin and Xi Jinping get on with him. Western leaders will have to start to look after themselves. The EU, the second largest economy in the world, only just behind the US, and the largest single market, especially so.

Economy: Re-Boot Now!

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

For the first time since the 2008 crash the three great economic superpowers, America, China and Japan are all growing fast. Asian markets and the EU are picking up too. The UK is bumping along the bottom, way below the leaders and the EU. Paradoxically this is why we joined the Common market as it then was. We were called the Sick Man of Europe. Are we headed back to square one?

The answer is yes unless we do something about it. Although our growth is now faltering, manufacturing is expanding at its fastest pace in thirty years, due to the low pound. So there is a spark. We have now to stoke the fire with a massive reboot of the economic base with an infrastructure and affordable rental housing spend of at least £435 billion, plus start up investment in new technologies, R&D and home manufacturing of goods and food.

We cannot just stand by humming a merry tune while we wait to see whether we get hard, soft or no Brexit. We have to act to insulate ourselves from the negatives of all, ready to seize the opportunities of any. The only question is borrow  or print? Regular readers will know my answer. New readers may like the find out more by clicking on the attached link.

Dynamic Quantitative Easing: An Idea for Growth

Another Cabinet Scalp

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

On a human level a career wreck is never pretty, but it was obvious from the very beginning that the double accusations of inappropriate touching of a highly respected female journalist and porn on the office computer, made it inevitable that Damien Green would have to go sooner or later. He should have insisted on sooner. May begged for later and lost. Par for her course. But with much bigger stuff pulling her in every direction, Green will soon be forgotten.

Like Fallon.


Brexit Negotiations: The Path To the Vassal State

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

After two major government meetings, of the Brexit Cabinet and the full Cabinet, we are back in the old quagmire of GB seeking to negotiate something which  has already been signed away and because the EU will never agree anyway.

To get the Ireland deal we have agreed that if no Brexit deal is fixed, we will synch our regulations to match those of the EU, so that we can have open borders between Ireland and GB and GB and the EU.  We will, in all but name, continue to be Europeans and will remain part of our heritage of the European family.  To get any other deal we will have to remain in the customs union and single market. Anything else will for sure cost us, for decades, much more than the gains promised us by the fraudster Brexiteers.

For ordinary people this is fine, because it will mean that there will be no economic of social disadvantages and life as we know it will carry on. The only difference is that for most practical purposes we will be governed from Brussels, because Whitehall will no longer have a seat at the table which makes the rules, or judges among the courts which enforce them.  Those rules will inform most aspects of daily life. This could be a blessing owing to the appalling quality of our own governments of many years.

But for the political class it is a catastrophe, stripping them of almost all their power. When it becomes clear to everybody that the real choice is between social isolation with economic ruin, or a subject state of a mighty Europe dominated by France and Germany, Brexit will come under attack from all wings and persuasions for differing but valid reasons and it will implode.

As we have said over and over. In the terms in which it was offered, it was never there.

Is The Trump Russia Collusion Investigation Collapsing?

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Yes is the answer. It may literally implode or it may fizzle out, but it is over. There are several reasons. The first and foremost is that whatever you think about Trump, the collusion concept was ridiculous, because it would be impossible to prove, was clearly a desperate attempt to derail the Trump Presidency at it most ambitious and, if that failed, to hobble Trump’s declared intention of improving relations with Russia. Recently this Blog said Trump would have to stand and fight. Well he has. But first let us deal with the Democrats.

Aghast at losing against a candidate they took for a fool and a funny, they were determined to get their own back for the perceived conspiracy to expose Hilary’s email problems. So the notion that Trump was too close to Russia and his campaign had somehow plotted something which was illegal took hold. But after spending a lot of tax dollars, all Mueller has to show is a few miscreants whose only crime, if it can be called that by people with time to waste, is to tell lies to investigators.

Paradoxically the Democrats have done rather well in recent elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Alabama, winning all of them. Seeing they are back in the game with real chances of big gains in 2018, they realise they have to start talking about stuff which Americans care about, like jobs, healthcare and taxes. Wasting tax dollars on a pointless investigation will not sit well with voters. It is obvious to everyone that Trump is closer to Russia than previous incumbents. He has been there with his beauty pageant, tried to build a hotel there, and according to well founded rumour, has quite a lot of Russian capital funding his property empire.

Exasperated at the inability to get on with his agenda, Trump has taken a much more proactive position. First Putin astonishes the world by singing Trump’s praises to the rooftops in his annual press conference. Next Trump phones him (they are on first name terms) to thank him for his support and discuss how to deal with Kim Jong Un. Days later Putin phones Trump to thank him for CIA intelligence sharing which thwarted a plot to blow up a St Petersburg church whilst people were inside at a service. A gang of alleged IS style terrorists is arrested in front of news feed cameras recording the whole thing.

In this carefully orchestrated set of exchanges Trump has said to America, yes I am on good terms with Putin, so what? From me you also get tax cuts, jobs, infrastructure development, a booming stock market, immigration controls etc. To spike the Democrats rusting guns he will add some stuff about Russia and China trying to challenge America on the world stage, which will bolster his case for mega spend on the military. Which is what he wants just in case anybody thinks for one teeny moment that America is not First.

Set against all that Mueller’s show is plain silly. Even the Democrats can see that.

Brexit Mandate: What Is It?

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

A minority of voters, perhaps 20%, voted to leave the EU because they dislike foreigners, they distrust the continent and they wanted to cut adrift from the European family no matter what the cost and disadvantage to Britain. In their eyes to be poor is a price worth paying to be pure.

But they provide no democratic mandate for Brexit. That came from a larger minority who took on board promises of lower immigration leading to more prosperity, jobs and money for public services, as offered with abandon and scarce reference to truth by the Leave campaign. Combined with the haters this hopeful minority became a majority.

Now May has to deliver not to a mandate of Brexit at any cost, but Brexit which makes life better for all. Nothing less will do, because to fail would be to shatter all semblance of trust in politicians. Or she has to come clean, declare it impossible and call the whole thing off. But the days of rhetoric and fluffy articles in the Sunday papers, not one but two, while her Foreign Secretary writes the opposite in a third, are well and truly over. She says she will get on with the job. Agree. As defined above. If she cannot get on with that it is time to get out.

Funding A Just Society: This Can Wait No Longer

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Austerity began in 2010 to achieve certain well defined goals within a certain time frame. All of these were missed. Yet austerity carried on. And on. And on.

Whilst the political class is debauching on Brexit, much of which is a fantasy of its own making, a new economic reality is seeping into every nook and cranny of national life. There is just not enough money in the system to pay for anything to be done properly. No matter whether you look at education, health, social care, mental health, housing, power generation, prisons, the justice system, the police, on it goes with a list so long it never ends. To this we can now add defence.

We have two giant aircraft carriers, already described by Putin as easy targets to destroy, not an idle claim by any familiar with Russia’s new smart defence capability. These vessels will have no planes for years because we could not afford them and will not be guarded by enough combat resources on the high seas because the assets designed to protect them have malfunctions in their systems.

The British active and functional fleet is now so small that it is little better than a regatta, the army is smaller than that deployed by the Confederates at Gettysburg and much smaller than the Union force at that epic engagement.There is confusion in Whitehall as to whether we need to concentrate on the defence of these islands making an attack upon us too tough a nut to crack, or whether we should be projecting some global power ambitions, which not only are unrealistic but which have little public backing and to fund which government coffers are empty.

This combination of real and pressing financial issues in all these spheres and more cannot be resolved without a major economic reboot. Austerity can be effective for up to two years, but after that it becomes a malignant cancer from which only the celebrity class and the greedy can escape. The recent budget was little more than tinkering at the margins, enough to avert an obvious crisis, but not enough to bring relief. Until this government stops rowing about Brexit and applies its mind to something which will not go away, it has no long term future. Neither has Brexit.