Are We There Yet?

"Election Warms Up". Good coverage of the  General Election (in 1964)

One day to go until the Election and most of the parties will be wishing they could wind the clock back and start again. Led by the Conservatives, with the worst campaign in memory and about as interesting as toothache, most of the parties set low standards, failed to achieve them and have been in defensive mode from the get-go. The Liberals seemed to wandering around in a baffled daze wondering where the buses went. They were left behind at the start line when they put all their eggs in the basket marked, ‘cross about Brexit,’ without it having dawned on them that most of the ’48%,’ had moved on. (Tim Farron incidentally is rumoured to be vulnerable tomorrow). UKIP’s engines blew up when they turned the key while the SNP charged off at 100 miles an hour but in the wrong direction, having made the same miscalculation as the Liberals and subsequently went back to start again focusing on public services while under unremitting pressure for Ruth Davidson. The clear campaigning winner is Comrade Corbyn who has successfully rewritten the narrative of his personal support of terrorist groups over 30 years and presented a platform of reasonable unreasonableness by promising lots of free stuff to anyone with a hand out whether they need free stuff or not. As one member of a Question Time audience described it, ‘your manifesto reads like a letter to Santa Claus.’ It is easily the most mendacious, devious and manipulative campaign by Labour that I can recall. But clever nonetheless. So, May will win tomorrow but hasn’t really earned it. But why has CC done so well and May so badly?

The Conservative campaign has been described as ‘presidential.’ My view is that the Prime Minister initially set out to attempt to be anything but presidential. I believe her aim was to restore some gravitas and dignity to the office and to do so by avoiding electioneering stunts with hi-vis jackets and hard hats or rolled up sleeves with a pint in hand being a ‘man of the people,' as every PM since Mrs T has at some point attempted and mostly failed to do. The approach has failed though. She has come across more as something between a sub post office mistress and a doctors receptionist. Worse, until this week those ministers with a strong intellectual belief and understanding of their departments and policies, and a charm with which to communicate them, have been hidden from view. The manifesto was, I thought, much better than the press it received suggested. Despite being more 6 null Left wing than I would like I think I understand what the intended broad thrust was. In fact, it was woefully undersold and there were plenty of points which have resonance with the electorate that deserved some flesh on the bones such as the aspirations to build out the digital infrastructure so that every home has access to hi speed broadband by 2020. 

The Conservative manifesto also suggests a policy of student debt forgiveness for student nurses but is limited in its scope. The Conservatives should listen to Crumble, expand it and make a noise about it. I have long argued against the current loan regime, (how can a compound rate of 6.5% be justified in the current low rate environment? It is usury, plain and simple. A £42k student debt with compound interest at 6.5% will be £80k in ten years time). At a minimum, HMG should be offering students electing to do courses which have a direct benefit to the country, (computer science, medical, social work, teaching etc) and where there is need, discounts which increase with length of service. This should be extended to those who subsequently go into a government job where they make a career sacrifice to do so. Further, young people who engage in voluntary work on either a charitable or local government basis, join initiatives such as Teach First, or serve in the Reserves should also benefit from a discount. Given most loans will anyway remain unpaid HMG may as well attempt to derive some benefit from them for the national good. In committing to this the Conservatives would lay the foundation for some sort of vision for the under 30’s which has been the biggest miss of the entire campaign. In fact, the Tories have been watching a completely different movie and have left the young with little incentive to vote for them. Usually, when people start talking about ‘the vision,’ it is time to switch off and walk away but in this instance, a better articulated view of how the UK is going to come to terms with accelerating developments in computer power, automation, robotics and biotech against a backdrop of rapidly changing demographics would have been a good thing. A simple statement such as ‘All primary school children will be taught elementary coding by part time students and graduates who will enjoy a level of student debt relief commensurate with commitments made,’ would at least put a marker down and be duly noted by the young vote. Oh and while I am on the subject of students it’s about time HMG shook down the universities and tackled head-on the weak value proposition that so many students are paying for in terms of poor and sporadic teaching on three year courses which, in many subjects, could easily be done in two.

The Dementia Tax episode was just woeful. Again, there is some good rationale to it which would leave most if not all better off than they would be today but the delivery was mistimed and misunderstood. The big, (and getting bigger), problem we have in the UK is that since Labour years ago weaponised the NHS the chances of having a rational discussion about it are round about zero. Back in 1978 my geography teacher, Mr MacKay told us that with the then rate of growth by 2027 we would all either be working for the NHS or be patients of the NHS. Mr McKay was a lot smarter than most of our politicians. Their selfish and infantile thinking precludes debate about potentially innovative and creative solutions to a growing problem and 6 null is contemptible. The other big problem for the NHS is that it has become the default dustbin for everyone in society with any kind of problem, medical or not. That, with a galloping sense of entitlement encouraged by idiot politicians from its users produces unsustainable and unreasonable demand. If citizens in Ireland pay for GP’s appointments what makes us so special that we shouldn’t do the same? The whole national approach to the NHS, and the expectations that we have of it are in heavy need of recalibration rather than the national state of denial which exists. A general election though, is not the time to do it.

Tory strategists clearly thought they were being clever by occupying the centre ground and edging slightly to the left, presumably with the intention of pushing Corbyn further out to the extremes of policy. Unfortunately for them, they were left looking flat-footed when Corbyn outflanked them and has had the bare faced cheek, as someone who has voted against all Anti Terrorisim Acts, to start selling himself as a friend of the police and security services and a bastion of law and order. I am left incredulous that some believe the outrageous nonsense he has been promulgating. Fortunately, the electorate are not as stupid as Corbyn needs them to be in order to win. Let’s though, just remind ourselves of some of the things that would disappear if Comrade Corbyn actually won, (I'll see you all in the hills then....)

The Monarchy

The SAS

Special Branch

The 'Five Eyes' Intelligence Sharing Agreement

Winning

Foreign Corporations

Low Interest rates

Synagogues

Gibraltar

High Net Worth Individuals

Scotland

Foreign Investment

All the Regimental Silver (to be returned to its original owners)

Tax Receipts

The Elgin Marbles (and everything else cluttering up the British Museum)

Public Schools, Grammar Schools, Academies

The Falklands

Trident

The House of Lords

Our International Reputation

Statues of famous statesmen

Northern Ireland

Premium of the pound over the Euro

 

 

 

 

"Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We're off to Never-Never land?"

I can't believe we really deserve this..

Here we are then. The appointed day after far too long and assanine a campaign which has lacked vision and truthfulness. The electorate have been treated like children with each party competing to scare us away from one party or the other. That they have all failed miserably to articulate a pathway that meets the hopes, dreams and aspirations of citizens is actually as tragic as it is an acute moral and political failure.

A missed opportunity doesn't come close to describing the paucity of original thought which is badly needed to meet the demands and accelerating evolution of the domestic and geopolitical world which is pressing in on us. Not to mention economic fragility, demographic pressures and a continuing technology revolution which will see 50% of white collar jobs replaced by a commuter chip or robot within 20 years. Westminster and all it encompasses; politicians, advisors, spin misters, lobbyists, the media - either they are all deeply cynical in a contemptible and mendacious way or they are simply self obsessed stupid people. We have in fact, after all that campaigning, very little hard evidence on which to make a decision and the consequences may be grave. 

another contrived and stage managed talk

Here then, are my top gripes from the last six weeks,

  • "I've talked to lots of ordinary people up and down the country." How many times have we heard that, (insert name of major party leader here). No you haven't. You've purposely been kept in a bubble away from normal people because you don't know how to communicate with them and your minders want to avoid any blowback from any disgruntled individual you might meet. 
  • Ed Milliband telling us the NHS will suddenly disappear under any other government. This rings all the bells. Untruthful, scaremongering and cowardly. The whole population can see the NHS is unsustainable in its current form for all the reasons that are evident to every family in the land. Free cradle to grave health care without restraint for every citizen employing every single facet of pharmaceutical and medical engineering advance is simply a black hole that will swallow the entire economy. Thats been known for decades. Its obvious that none will have the stones to face up to the problem right up until we reach the point of crisis. That means people will suffer and die before we begin to come up with creative solutions to meet the challenge.
  • Odd how minor matters such as Defence, Britain's role in the world in respect of foreign policy and our relationship with organisations like NATO and the Commonwealth have all but been swept under the carpet. Sure, we sent HMS Bulwark to the Med under the "Something Must Be Done," flag but I haven't seen for example, any earnest debate about the vast migration from Sub Saharan and North Africa which faces Europe and which too, has been forecast for decades.
  • Surgin' Sturgeon, that irritating women whose head wobbles like a Thunderbird puppet has done a spectacular job for someone who isn't even standing in the election. The media have of course fed the monster rather than doing their job in unpicking and unravelling the absurd demands, promises and fantasies promulgated by the SNP which for some bizarre reason are accepted as factual by all except those who quietly brood in the stillness of their own homes, worrying about the nasty and intolerant place their country is becoming. 
  • The BBC found, probably by accident, some mitigation in the Leeds debate but overall their coverage has been anything but fair and balanced. The journalists simply can't help themselves and their in built institutional left wing bias always finds a way of seeping through. As I mentioned in a previous post, Andrew Neil is probably the hero of the campaign and one of the few who has called the political class to account. He's been a joy to watch.
  • A glaring characteristic of the campaign has been the vast array of political figures who have been kept in their box throughout. Obviously, the spinmeisters decided early on that anyone with the least bit controversial views should be hidden away. They were, which has made the whole thing very dull indeed. How many times have you seen Ed Balls for example, Michael Gove or Eric Pickles?
  • Talking of Mr Pickles, just think Eric, if I may call you that, how easy a runaway election this would have been for your party if only you'd kept your promise to get the bloody wheelie bins emptied every week. This is the United Kingdom yet rubbish collection is more irregular than it was fifty years ago and more in keeping with that seen in a Peruvian shanty town than a modern advanced economy. Yes, just hand over two grand a year in council tax and drive your refuse to the recycling place yourself because we can't be bothered. Perhaps they kept Eric off the box in case someone nailed him on that, I certainly would.
  • Perish the thought but this incidentally, is not an election that anyone should perhaps actually want to win. The incumbent is most likely to remembered in history for a thousand years as the man who presided over the break-up of the United Kingdom. He will definately face a recession and probable economic crisis, that is simply as unavoidable as it is cyclical. A cursory glance at the numbers tells us that and no, the next one won't be a surprise, "none saw it coming." Plenty of people are writing and warning now. I find it beyond reason that all the parties happily expound their views on how to spend more money but not not how to create wealth. Beyond our shores, after years of ill thought out meddling by the West in the Middle East, it is now on fire. We can't ignore it indefinitely although our political elite are doing a pretty good job of it.
  • The amount of spending plans resting on taxing houses within the Circle Line is just madness; don't they realise houses can simply fall in value? Perhaps they might like to acquaint themselves with the deflation monster which is being exported from China and which is pulsing throughout western economies creating fiscal havoc.
  • If the major parties care as much as they tell us they do about the United Kingdom, why has no one discussed or debated the potential for a short term government of national unity to see off the SNP?
  • Who on earth thought it was fair or reasonable to give that deluded looney Trotskyist from the Green Party a national platform while ignoring the DUP from Northern Ireland? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • Russell Brand, seriously?
  • The smell of corruption surrounding postal votes which remains unaddressed. 

Well, we are where we are and goodness knows where that leads us to this time next week. There will be surprises and moments of incredulity aplenty tonight. Myself, I'll be at the Guards Museum for dinner following a talk on the battle of Waterloo, the battle that really cemented this nation as one, banished the Napoleonic threat for ever and provided the security on which the Empire was built. I shall enjoy that a good deal more than I have this election.

Shaking The Magic Money Tree

Base_Rates2.png

Politicians of all hues are tripping over themselves to shake the Magic Money Tree and over what amounts to electoral bribes to entice marginal voters over the line. If they're not careful, some of those voters might cross the line and fall of the cliff.

Interest rates are at never seen before lows. In fact, you'd have to be a Time Lord to go back far enough, (beyond 1800), to see anything similar. When rates rise then, while some borrowers may have locked their rates in, (that is a must-do for everyone anyway), everything else they have borrowed will rise  and they'll rise steeply. Don't expect any reasonable or fair relationship between modest bank rate rises and say, for example, credit card rates or personal loan rates.

If any of these dunderheeds wanted to present a fair and reasonable playing fields for first time buyers they would equalise the anomaly that leads to English youngsters being £30-40k in debt before they start when they're competing for housing with kids from elsewhere in the UK who have that edge on them. I asked a young man the other day who is newly arrived in the job market if I was right in my assertion that most young people in England don't feel strongly about Scottish Independence. "On the contrary he said, I find a growing resentment that our taxes are paying for benefits like university education that is blocked to us and its tougher for us to borrow for house purchases than someone newly arrived in London from Scotland."

 

What Now?

My God, he really is a robot.

The interviewer in that clip, Damon Green, was none to pleased with the result either. His post interview thoughts are worth a read.

To the debate last night and anyone landing from another Galaxy this morning will quickly realise that the UK is heading down a perilous path to a kind of unreconstructed socialism that we haven’t seen since the seventies. Whilst many hope for a Tory surge, and are no doubt tiring of the Spin Meisters drive for “discredit Milliband and steady as she goes,” approach, any outcome other than a Labour + loony fringe support looks at this point, tenuous. The remarkable thing is that the pound, gilts and equities appear relatively unruffled. Although weaker, sterling will take a good old fashioned hammering on May 8th and likely, long before. 

I’m not quite sure what tofu munching unreconstructed Trotskyists like the Greens, who have one MP, are doing on the national stage when the DUP are barred. Its also shocking that none of the other parties have the stones to call them out for what they are. Personally, I’d rather vote for a pigeon shouting alcoholic tramp than that lunatic Australian women. The Welsh woman is stuck in a 1973 entitlement frenzy and the SNP are just scary. If the electorate in Scotland, who seem to be permanently out to lunch,  deliver as the polls are indicating the breakup of the UK is simply inevitable. UKIP meanwhile strike the occasional chord with most voters but lack the maturity, breadth, quality of candidates  and organisation to reach a position of significant influence. That leaves the robotic Milliband who seems to be edging forward which ought to worry every sensible and reasonable thinking individual.

UK National Debt = £1.29 trillion, (chart is in €) That's tough to visualise; try this to help.

All of the parties, except perhaps UKIP, are either too stupid to understand the position of the national finances or are too fearful to be honest. They talk about the “deficit,” while conveniently forgetting the £1.29 trillion debt mountain lurking in the background. Interest payments on that debt are due to surge to over £40bn in 2016 and that’s with interest rates at a 230 year low. The truth is all they are claiming they will achieve is a reduction in the trajectory of the growth of the deficit. 

If these jokers think they have experienced austerity then they’re in for a shock. Regardless of who is elected, cuts will have to be enforced and taxes are going up, that’s just a starter for 10. One thing is for sure and for certain, if Milliband walks into No 10 on May 8th our economy, and the markets, will collapse like one of Fred Dibnah’s chimneys.

Well I Never

Seriously?

I learned a few things over the weekend, none of which I really wanted to hear but by way of introduction I'll mention them anyway. First, it was good news following bad when I learned that my dear loyal friend Gurkha, (Black Lab), had suffered a mini stroke but nothing worse. Although a bit lopsided on his pins, (bit like his owner), he ought to be with us for another couple of months at least.

Second and obviously unconnected, a friend told me over dinner that he popped into the  lavatory in the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard and chanced upon the shocking scene of two men engaged in what the broadsheet court reporters euphemistically term, "a sexual act." Apparently, that sort of thing is not uncommon in what is apparently an architectural gay icon. Mostly won't be going there then.

Third, in a "well I never," moment of disbelief I learned that all manner of drugs are now more freely available than ever and one of the common conduits for transactions are apparently car washes. The patron drives in with fifty quid under the seat and drives out with his cash replaced by the Eastern European car washers with a sachet of Columbian Marching Powder or whatever the required high of the day is. I'll be using the pressure washer at home then.

The Thug Life vid's make the news. Hilarious if Pretty lightweight compared to Spitting Image or Alison Jackson stuff.

You live and learn. Light relief cascaded down then when one of the kids introduced me to a Facebook page called Political Bible. Politicians as a breed have had rather an easy time of it from satirists in recent years, especially since the death of John Fortune in 2013 bringing an end to the Bremner, Bird & Fortune sketches and we haven't seen anything to match Spitting Image in years. Until now.

Pub scene from Bremner, Bird and Fortune's "Last Show before the Recovery". Two old blokes chatting about media trends.

The BBC report that the "Thug Life," videos of political put downs started life in the United States and were first published here on a Facebook page called Lad Bible. All I can tell you is that the thought of carefully orchestrated election spin campaigns careering off their axis and party media advisor's being driven to apoplexy because of some smart kids with a galloping sense of humour and total lack of deference cheers me up no end. Where there is despair, let there be hope.

 

Election Entertainment Quotient just went parabolic

Mr Prescott can't wait for lunch and snacks on the nearest available piece of red meat

Ed Milliband in his first speech as leader “I stand here today ready to lead: a new generation [is] now leading Labour. Be in no doubt. The new generation of Labour is different. Different attitudes, different ideas, different ways of doing politics.” 

In The Observer yesterday, Mr Miliband said on bringing Precott back into the campaign fold, "His abilities and experience, as one of the architects of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, must be used at this critical time for our future and there is no one better than John at bashing heads together to get a deal." 

Mental Crumble “You said it Ed. Labour go nuclear after the condescending Barbie Bus fiasco and haul back the bullying, inarticulate sleazebag Prescott; he’s the one who looks like Jabba the Hut without the charm and dances like an Eddie Stobart truck doing a three point turn. Still, the Election Entertainment Quotient just went parabolic. Odd choice when you think they could have appointed oh lets see, maybe a scientist or something as climate change advisor. We all know what’s afoot and it’s not about the Greens. It’s about stemming the flow of working class voters to UKIP in trying to give Labour an impression of not being a shower of out of touch north London intellectuals.

Could this have been the moment when Miliband met a real live voter that he decided to press the panic button?

When Help-to-Buy Will Become Just "Help!"

The Coalition make a free gift to Labour

We learn with some incredulity that house prices rose in London by 10%, up £50,484 to an average of £544,232, in October; according to a Rightmove survey. No such boom exists outside the M25 however where the real economy remains much more muted. These ridiculous ramps within London aren’t a good thing, especially for the buyers, no matter how much politicians herald a new coming of economic prosperity. Unfortunately, it’s more likely a mendacious electioneering Jedi Mind Trick which will have consequences.... it always does.

On a national level, accelerating house prices in London are unhelpful lest they influence the Bank of England’s interest rate decision making. Mr Carney of course could introduce special measures for separate lending criteria within the London conurbation from the rest of the country. There is no reason why this should not be done and there will be some head scratching going on in the Carney inner circle. Citizens in the North West, North East or South West should hardly pay the price for the London market taking off like an unguided missile.

The Cameron and Osborne Help-To-Buy scheme which offers buyers interest free loans for 20% of the house price and a government guarantee to lenders of 15% will not correct in their words, “a mortgage market failure.” It will make it much, much worse.

It won’t surprise many readers to learn that UK houses have never been more expensive relative to average earnings. They have yet to revert to the long term average and were last at these stretched levels just before the crisis. So, where on earth does the logic come from that suggests encouraging young singles, many of whom are weighed down by student debt, and young married couples is a good thing?

The whole housing lift off appears anyway, contrived. Lloyds Bank (or rather its major shareholder, the Government), which in practice is a geared play on UK housing, benefited from positive housing headlines when £3.21bn shares were sold in an offering in September at 75p. Moreover, as another in a series of blatant electioneering bribes it appears too convenient and obvious by half. If the clowns in the coalition think the population is going to be cheered as they’re reading their new fuel estimates for the winter by the fact that a four bedroom house in Fulham went up by two hundred  grand in September then they are very much mistaken.

 

 "don't call me Stupid.."

Some, if not many buyers will be helped by their parents. For the most wealthy section of society to exploit an opportunity is not unlawful nor is it immoral but it hardly helps those at the bottom of the pile or even half way up the ladder. Lighting a fire under house price inflation is unwise because the rise in house prices simply makes them more unaffordable, not less. The screaming lunacy about this racket is that Cameron himself said, “"The current system only allows people to buy homes if they have rich parents and that “is simply not fair“. (Why do I keep thinking of “don’t call me stupid,” Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.” 

no, it's not clever to buy houses when interest rates are at multi century lows 

Moreover, the resultant lift in interest rates will bury the already struggling consumer. It’s not smart or clever to borrow huge sums of money when interest rates are below the lowest level for 320 years. To encourage them to do so is just stupid and irresponsible.

Incidentally, one might also ask if anyone has considered which direction prices will go when the subsidy is pulled. Great choice here, higher interest rates or negative equity. Sounds like a great plan.

There is only one way to help affordability and that is to increase supply, especially at the young marrieds / first time buyer end of the market. The government’s role here is in long term planning and infrastructure; something that Neville Chamberlain understood as chancellor in the 1930’s. If the Coalition was serious about wealth creation it would avoid quick illusory fixes, the implications of which they barely understand, and they would focus on economic growth and that means tax cuts. If they want to be creative for the young, they can do something about the penal rates of travel in the UK which force individuals to spend considerable amounts of their income on getting to and from their place of work.

Housing & Students; Think Smart Not Stupid

 

 

It's a fact that our housing stock is in serious need of replenishment. The governments plans announced yesterday may or may not help first time buyers, I suppose we'll find out. 

I'm not so sure though that helping first time buyers is particularly the pressing issue. The people who need more affordable supply are young marrieds with children.

HMG is anyway, discovering some of the unintended consequences of other poorly thought out policies; in this instance the heinous rise in student fees without commensurate improvement in service levels at universities, (I know of students with no more than three hours of lectures a week). Wandering into this swamp, which is bare faced educational apartheid as far as English students are concerned,  with careless disregard for the individuals, it's obvious that no civil servant in his briefing to ministers thought to look at the American experience. I'll save them the time.

There is a clear pattern in the US of first time property buying being impacted by very high levels of student debt. For what it's worth, there is also a corresponding rise in the suicide rate amongst the young and an effect on relationships; "do I want to live with someone who has $150,000 of debt at 23 years of age?" Obviously, the cost of education has risen, some universities have become "for profit," institutions at taxpayer expense and the US national debt has increased. 

Back in April 2010 I offered this for inclusion in the manifesto to help the Tories win the election. I offer it again as a more elegant approach to getting the housing market moving;

"Match the requirement for the pension fund industry to meet it's long term liabilities with the chronic problems of housing affordablity for the lower paid and lack of housing stock.

Issue a 30 year 3% gilt and lend the money through state owned banks on 30 year fixed 4% terms."

I don't expect my low expectations to be met; you could hammer six inch nails into the foreheads of most of our politicians and it wouldn't make any difference to them so you won't be seeing it on the front pages any time soon. 

Oh and while we've mentioned students we might also bring up this post, "Bloody students," in which I put forward the idea of matching the assets of the retired to the liabilities of the young on a national scale. Unfortunately, as a concept it has all the advantages of being original, mutually supporting and apolitical so it therefore has absolutely no chance of seeing the light of day.

Incidentally, and unfortunately for the students in regard to all these matters, they have proved singularly unable to articulate their view successfully or indeed to put forward supporting evidence for their case and instead, wander through Trafalgar Square every three months blowing whistles and chucking dustbins around. If they switched on they could easily build traction with the public who I sense, by and large, support them being the fair and reasonable bunch we are.

 

 

Standby for Election

This morning,  otherwise content and happy souls were woken to the news that we're all in for the treat of watching Gordon Brown shed tears in an interview with that chilling reptile Piers bloody Morgan on television next weekend. 

I won't be watching Gordon Brown crying because I've been crying for 13 years, ever since ZanuLabour pulled the biggest confidence in history and set about devoting their every waking moment to hurtling us into the Third World, despatching a thousand years of hard won common rights in the process.

Still, it's quite obvious the election is coming early. Won't be long now.