Archive for April, 2018

Interest Rates: Too Low Too Long

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

An influential think tank considers that the Bank of England is headed for trouble when the next financial crisis hits. It considers interest rates have been left much too low for far too long and when problems in the economy next loom, it will have no meaningful  room for bosting the economy by lowering them.

This blog has been arguing the same literally for years. Interest rates are an important tool in the management of inflation, the currency level and the return of savings, as well as the headline attraction, the cost of borrowing. By keeping them at tantamount to nil, borrowing to inflate assets is the best investment around, whilst the return on savings becomes so poor as to be a disincentive. We know all this so well it will become one of the great historic mysteries as to why the BoE lost the plot, leaving printing the only way out of a crisis.

Putin: Start Talking

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

We have in power a bunch of greenhorn politicians when it comes to foreign affairs, backed by a foreign office which, at least until recently, wore ignorance of Russia, what it means and how it thinks, as a badge of honour. But we have to talk to the Kremlin and that means talking to Putin.

Modern international politics is no longer about breast beating, red lines and narrow national interest. Indeed in the modern interconnected world it can be argued that the only way to serve the national interest is to get along with everybody. In other words what once may have been good for Caesar is no longer any good for us. Because in the modern world there is a new dimension. We call it cyberspace. It covers interconnected communications, management systems, control mechanisms, social intercourse and attitudes, trade, manufacturing and money. Over all these fields there are now no defined borders. No single political entity rules alone. No wealth can be built and sustained without engagement with so called enemy and so called friend.  The rising generation sees itself  first as  a member of the interwoven human family and second of a certain nationality.

There is no doubt that the Kremlin has over the last ten years played a fairly weak hand with extraordinary skill and advanced its global reach in a way which has annoyed the West no end. There have also been some rather clumsy mis-steps, including Salisbury and failing to control Assad’s addiction to the use of chlorine gas. But Crimea is entirely, absolutely and completely the fault of the West.

What now has to happen is the opening of a new dialogue, based not upon a list of confessions demanded and atonement to be enacted, but on a clean sheet. No good at all can come from confrontation but there is good for everyone with a bit of give and take based on common interest and cooperation.

Windrush Fallout: A Government Emergency

Friday, April 20th, 2018

The more this saga unfolds, the worse it gets. What is so offensive is the simple truth that for the most part those affected by the astonishing requirement after a lifetime of loyal citizenship in what they thought was their country to prove how they got here, are among the least well off and most vulnerable. And of course few, if any, are white.

But as we dig deeper something really nasty is revealed. The deliberate creation, as a matter of policy, signed off and proclaimed by the lady now our prime minister when she was home secretary, of a ‘hostile environment‘ for immigration generally. With the majority of immigrants from outside the EU (those from the EU are not affected yet) we are talking about ethnic and religious minorities and people generally who are neither white nor christian. It is no small wonder that this disgusting theme filters down through society giving licence to those who get their kicks from religious and racial intimidation and abuse. Including antisemitism.

There is a big decontamination programme ongoing in Salisbury. We need one in politics, starting with the Tory government.

Syria Strikes: Should Parliament Have Been Consulted? Yes.

Monday, April 16th, 2018

We know the argument. Only the wise government knows what to do. Because it has access to the ‘intelligence’. So we are clueless, have no say and have to live with the consequences. That includes our elected representatives in the House of Commons. We have something called the Royal Prerogative. Ooh how clever. And how English.

Well this blog does not agree. Either we have a democracy or we don’t. We have elected a parliament, not a president. Wars are no longer fought on distant fields. The last one, in which I was a child, was fought over our heads and in our homes, which in countless incidents fell down on top of us. Friends and loved ones died around us, in our streets, not only on foreign fields. That war was declared without parliament being consulted, because that was the way we did things then. But now is a very different world.

If we ignore many insurgencies (IRA, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, Aden) we have since fought in Korea, Suez, the Falklands, Iraq twice, Afghanistan, Libya and on the fringes of Syria. Only the Falklands resolved the issue for the moment, but the quarrel with Argentina simmers on. Suez was a humiliation. Korea is still technically in a state of war after 60 years, and all the others are failures and still going on even after up to fifteen years. WWII lasted six. In the modern world force does not work. It kills and destroys but it cannot deliver peace. So its driver is bust.

Next time it might well be nerve agents and cyber attacks which seep into every life and every home. It will affect everybody and at the very least our elected representatives have to vote for it. That principle must now be established beyond recall and once and for all.

Syria Strike: Now What?

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

There is an argument, put forward by the government and agreed with France and the US,  that if you bomb a few helicopters and a factory or two, this will be a price which the Assad regime will not want to pay again, so it will not use chemical weapons in future. Really?

The strategic rationale for this air strike to anybody qualified above kindergarten level in warfare science, is non existent. The political rationale is very different. The West has pursued a series of calamitous wars since 9/11, none of which it won and all of which simmer on. It also appears in disarray, with a maverick US President expounding trade and environmental polices his allies disagree with and engulfed at home by a peculiar investigation about collusion with the Russians to beat Hilary. The UK is caught up in arguments and uncertainties over Brexit and its consequences, Germany is weakened by an influx of refugees on a titanic scale and the political rise of the far right, Italy is without a government, the Eurozone has stabilized but its systemic problems remain unresolved, Spain has a crisis with Catalonia and Hungary has decided to fence itself in. Everybody thinks NATO is a good idea but only America, Britain and France are prepared to pay for it.

So who can wonder that Russia may have thought, following its rejected overtures to join with, and become a partner of, the West, leading it to set a new course going its own and a rather different way, that it could go wherever it liked. Things like bumping off spies and traitors overseas and turning a blind eye to Assad and his chemical horrors, seemed neither here nor there, especially set against the re-emergence of Russia as a world power and the power in the Middle East axis around Syria. Crimea was an unexpected bonus from a botched Western overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Kiev.

The extraordinary diplomatic response of the West, led by the UK, to the apparently bungled assassination attempt of the Skripals in Salisbury and the joint attack by its three military powers on Syria, is a demonstration that actually, when it comes to the crunch, the West is still very much there and in one piece. A point of which the savvy Kremlin will take note.

This Blog is and will remain very much against this futile and dangerous military action and does not subscribe to the view, wildly held by people who have never been on the receiving end of a war, that killing people saves lives. But if you support the attack and were trying to find a reason why, now you have it.

Have a nice weekend.


Violent Crime: Not One Solution and Not In The Centre

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Everybody is shocked at the wave of street killings in London so far in 2018. The natural reaction is to find a single cause and someone or something to blame; too little stop and search, too few police on the streets and so on. The truth is more complex than the soundbite can articulate.

Eight years of austerity has driven increasing deprivation in poor areas. Cuts in funding of programmes designed to give young people a better start if they come from under privileged homes has definitely added to the problems. Cuts in police budgets, driving hundreds of officers off the streets, has certainly been a factor, whatever excuses the government offers. Abuse of stop and search powers was certainly once a problem, but stopping them almost entirely creates another problem.

An education system which delivers an academic rather than a skills based outcome, is a driver of spectacular youth unemployment in poorer communities. Above all the head in the sand approach to drugs, which has established a major industry run by organised crime and criminal street gangs, that has become in some areas the main, if not the only, economic activity is very much at the heart of it all. Perhaps there are two fundamentals which have to be set right before any of the other issues can be tackled with success. There has to be a drive to equip parents with the skills to bring up a family without getting into trouble and we have to find a better level of practical politics which fixes problems rather than pedals ideology.

But this blog does not believe that some new centrist grouping or party will be the answer. The centre is always favoured by those with the fewest problems because it is by nature moderate and soft. After eight years of Tory led government with a catastrophic record across a wide range of social issues and economic consequences, it is time to move far to the Left. Only the Left, with all its hard edges, has the drive and will to sweep away the evils in our midst and establish a fairer economic and social settlement. When that’s done a nice soft centre can tidy up the details.

May: Come Clean Over Salisbury and Fire Boris.

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

There is much about the Salisbury poisoning which does not make sense to the average onlooker, but the British people have for the most part accepted the line that the Russians are behind the assault and, in the case of Boris Johnson, that not just the Russian State, but Putin directly, had ordered the attack. Boris followed this up with interviews in which he assured the audience that he had categorical assurances from Porton Down that the nerve agent was from Russia. This turns out to be untrue. Porton Down not only gave no such assurances; they do not know who made the substance and they do not have the facility to investigate its origin.

This blows quite a large whole in the UK’s position. For the moment the substantial line up of allies is standing firm, but there is widespread anxiety that we could be headed down the humiliating road trodden to the infamous claims of  Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It is now absolutely essential that the government comes clean on what it really knows. Failure to do so in a timely fashion will convince many that it does not actually know anything for sure at all.

As for Boris. In a dangerous world we cannot afford this loose cannon, a stranger to truth, to run the foreign office and speak for Britain. Time for May to act.

Catch-Up Reflections: Antisemitism, Trade Wars, Salisbury

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018


This blog is not antisemitic and does not support antisemitism in any form and especially not if it can be seen to be institutional. But it cannot see how attending a Jewish function, run by Orthodox Jews, with a Rabbi present can be said to be antisemitic.

This blog has always favoured a Palestinian State and believes the UK government should have the courage to follow the lead of the House of Commons, which passed a resolution recognising Palestine as a State in 2014. This blog is opposed to the nationalist foreign policy of Israel, followed now for many years by its right of centre governments. It condemns Israel for its Settlement policies and for its annexations and occupations. It further condemns Israel for ignoring a string of UN resolutions calling it to honour the principles of International Law.

This blog recognises Israel’s right to exist and condemns all who want to wipe Israel from the map. But it does plead with Israel to honour its acceptance into the family of recognised nations by behaving according to the rules. Provoking opponents with cruel policies then shooting them when, unarmed, they protest, is no way to behave at all.

Trade Wars

These are a very bad idea and always end up hurting most the people who start them. If a country suffers from excessive imports of manufactures which are cheaper than those produced at home, which then drives local firms to the wall, there are usually two reasons. The first is lack of investment in the core industry so that over time its product becomes too expensive. The other is an overvalued currency, which makes imports cheap and exports costly.


The unprecedented support given by the UK’s allies, thought at first to be lukewarm, has astonished everybody, including the main beneficiary, the May government. It has created a new international dynamic in which for the first time for many years, the UK is centre stage. Whilst this is hugely encouraging to a nation that felt itself violated by the use of a military grade chemical weapon on its soil, it creates not just an obligation, but a necessity, to do everything by the book. This must include granting consular access to the Russian authorities to see Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, as soon as it is medically permissible. Meanwhile updates to the Russians about her treatment and improving condition would be courteous at the very least.

At some point the government will have to share with the British people the compelling evidence that it apparently possesses, which it used to convince its skeptical allies, that the outrage was committed by an organ of the Russian state beyond all reasonable doubt. Should that not be possible, the heady mood of triumph wafting through Whitehall could turn very sour. Very sour indeed.