Archive for January, 2018

May Does Not Do Quitting

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

May is right to say she is not a quitter. She is nothing if not stubborn. But she lacks imagination, she finds intuitive decision making impossible and relies on an almost never ending process of review and research as the best way forward. The result is lofty speeches on intentions but total failure to deliver outcomes in the likes of housing, health, social care. prisons, the justice system (a new evidence disclosure crisis here), education and so on. And then there is Brexit, chaotic, confused and undecided.

Clearly as a prime minister she is a disaster. But the Tory party needs to know that it cannot replace her and remain in government. If they try to get rid of her they all go over the cliff together.


Is May’s Government In Real Trouble?

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Yes. On three fronts. It cannot agree within itself what sort of Brexit to aim for. The EU on the other hand knows pretty well what it is willing to agree to. Negotiations are being conducted  to different agendas. There is an increasing fog developing about where we are and where we are headed. Whitehall is convulsed by the sheer scale of the greatest administrative upheaval in history.

The Tory party is beginning to split open. The hard Brexiteers are now openly at war with the soft Brexiteers and remainers. The Cabinet is now speaking with different voices. It is difficult to see how May can proceed without some kind of showdown with one side or the other. Meanwhile rumours of plots abound, although few can offer a clear and credible alternative. Perhaps it is the case that the Tory party and May are stuck with each other. But a split party faced with the challenge of Brexit, is a ship holed below the waterline.

Finally we come to the real crunch. This government is so distracted it appears unable to govern. The litany of crises in major public services is a daily chant across the media. That is where the danger lies for May. The country needs a government in Number Ten. At the moment it has an argument.

Thatcher Era Thriller : Download and Paperback

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Downfall in Downing Street: Power, Corruption, Lies and Sex by [Blair-Robinson, Malcolm]




Trump And The Markets

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Wall Street is booming, for which a gleeful Trump takes the credit. If the economy continues to boom Trump stands every chance of winning mid-term and again in 2020. I watch Rasmussen  and he remains steady, fluctuating between 40 and 46. If there is a third party candidate at any election Trump will break through, because Trump support, while a minority of the electorate, is solid. Not all those who oppose him vote Democrat. Some stay at home, some vote for a local issue candidate and some go Green or whatever.

The two caveats are these. The US growth surge is only partly due to Trump. This is a global surge, with Europe, Asia, China and the US all growing together rather than the usual of one pulling up the others. This is unusual as it is more often either the US or China pulling. Because of the huge number of factors involved predictions are hard, as there are a lot of issues beyond national control. It is critical that Trump does his infrastructure thing otherwise he could end up with ballooning debt and slowing growth. There are some, but not all, economists fearing another 1929. The risk they see is that never before has so much invested money been first borrowed and not yet repaid. An assets crash would be devastating and a sudden rise in interest rates for a local reason somewhere could trigger a sell off which becomes a contagion.

The other caveat is political. Trump’s base will back him no matter what. But Trump haters will vote against him whatever he does and however good things are. Not all Americans work in rust belt industries. If there are no third parties and if all anti-Trumps and Democrat sympathizers vote, Trump is in trouble. This is what happened in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama in recent months. Indeed the Republicans have lost almost every election since the inauguration. Trump has now to reverse that trend.

But one thing is for sure. International politics have rarely been so interesting.


Economic Growth

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Lord O’Neil, one of the economists whom this Blog admires, predicts that the surge in world trade could help GB entirely offset the effects of Brexit. He stresses, as a Remainer, we would be doing much better still if we were not trying to leave the EU.

This is encouraging news for sure, although there are so many problems with the government’s finances and lack of coherent Brexit plans, that even this good news could be wasted by blunders to come. We must also remember that if Brexit had never been heard of, this government would be in trouble because of a deeply flawed economic strategy which has conspicuously failed to deliver on a string of broken promises and missed forecasts, and an economic model which is top heavy and unfair. It is simply not possible to operate austerity for eight years without damage all across the piece.  Moreover the growth we are achieving is not because we have left the EU, but because we are still in it.

Remember that too.


Nigel Farage: A New Party?

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Nigel Farage is reported to be considering the formation of a new Brexit party, because his first one, UKIP, is disintegrating. Farage worries that the case for Brexit is being lost. He is dead right. Not because of UKIP, but because there is no case for Brexit. It was a con from the start. Brits are rarely conned once. But never twice.

EU: New French Dynamic

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

A new European leader has arrived on the world stage. At first people were not sure, but now it is clear that President Macron is a strong reformist leader who is not only changing France, with remarkably little domestic resistance from a country averse to change, but also impacting Europe and Brexit. Merkel, the EU mega-politician is struggling to form a government and even if she succeeds it will be one limited by widely different interpretations of where the EU in general and Germany in particular, should be headed.

Macron, on the other hand controls the Elysee Palace, and his new party has majorities in both houses of the French parliament. Already he has stepped into the power vacuum left by Germany’s temporary political paralysis and demonstrated De Gaulle style vision of a world in which France is far more centre stage than for at least two decades. More important, he appears to want to develop special ties with the UK regardless of Brexit going one way or the other or not at all. A new Special Relationship?

This could be very interesting. Watch this space.

U.S. Federal Shut Down

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Once again the Federal Government shuts down because Congress cannot agree a budget. Key departments continue, but non-essentials are stopped. The rest of the world is somewhat bemused by this, at least to the extent that it is even mildly interested. But it has happened before. And the U.S. is still there. Sooner or later it will be resolved for another short period and once again things like the National Parks will be open.

However this interesting piece of Washington theatre is worth thinking about for two reasons. First, this is not about a President facing a hostile Congress, because for the first time since 1929, the Republican party controls all three arms of government; the White House, the Senate and the House. It is about the seeming inability of the Republican party to get to grips with government. It is no excuse to complain that the President is a loose cannon, or unlike any previous incumbent. Had he not been these things he would not have been elected and Hilary would be in charge.

The second reason is this. The impact of Trump and why he will go down in history as one of the very few before and after Presidents, is that something has been revealed about the country which has always been there but which has been papered over for 150 years. There are two Americas. One which believes in strong central government with the federal authorities operating a European style of state management and raising taxes to pay for universal and compulsory programmes.

The other which believes that such a powerful and financially demanding government is anathema to everything America was founded to reform. This interpretation of what America is, believes that the individual States should take responsibility for almost everything except national defense and raise whatever taxes they need to pay for what they want. So some may have universal health care and others not, for example. The federal government should be only about foreign policy, national security, the military and the currency.

These two Americas now face each other down not entirely, but partly, geographically, but also within communities and families. The split also exists within the Republican party, hence a Republican majority is not quite what it seems. Between 1861 and 1865 a terrible Civil War was fought  to resolve the issue. History tells us the war was about slavery. That was the excuse for the slaughter. It was actually about America. The Federalists won the titanic clash of arms. But the issue was not resolved. Neither is it likely to be. Perhaps it is the tension which drives America on. What Trump has done by his populism and nationalism is once more to bring it out into the open. In all its raw passion and simplistic character. It will be hard to shut it away again.

As one of his avid supporters  in the Deep South put it, when asked about Trump’s horror language to describe African countries, re-affirmed her support for the President whom she regarded as courageous and plain speaking ‘he says what half America thinks‘. The critical word was half.


Prison Failures Shame The Nation.

Friday, January 19th, 2018

There is something deeply disturbing to find oneself living in a country which, in addition to mounting problems in its public services generally, neglects its prisons, creating cruel and inhuman conditions in which vulnerable human beings are incarcerated. This is surely a mark of a country suffering appalling incompetence of governance? How we got here is a sad and sorry tale about dogma, outsourcing, quangos and austerity. And about losing touch with our values and our standards.

The good news is that times are changing. No longer is all this nonsense acceptable and sooner or later it will be swept away in an electoral tide of reform and renewal. The sooner the better.

Government Outsourcing: The Bogus Private Sector

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The Carillion collapse reveals the extent of government outsourcing in a dramatic style, which is making large numbers of ordinary people who have never thought about it before, sit up and wonder. All of this stems from changes introduced by Thatcher and continued by both the Major and Blair governments. Innocent and modest in scope at the beginning, it ballooned out of control more recently. It was not the arithmetic which drove governments to pursue these deals; it was an ideology. Small government. The private sector is much better at this. If this means fleecing the taxpayer, this Blog agrees.

In a modern rational economy, with left of centre ideals which do not exclude business friendly policies, the best model is for the private sector to create new wealth (not churn assets) and the public sector to create the infrastructure, services and regulatory climate which makes wealth creation a contagion in which ever greater numbers wish to engage, with ever more innovative ideas of how to do it.

Government is about collecting taxes and using them to deliver the platform upon which prosperity is built. It is about making laws to protect and empower. It is about managing the nation’s health, education, defence, law and order, public services, power supplies, information technology and so on. Our problem is that governments have outsourced almost everything to profit making corporations who charge the taxpayer far more than in house delivery. This has led to taxpayers being fleeced and politicians losing the skills to govern.

A private sector in which the bills are paid by taxpayers is not  private and no place for shareholder profits. If the taxpayer is paying, the public owns and the  government manages. There needs to be quite a big remodeling. Is there anyone in the present government with a clue what to do?

You tell me.