26 August 2016

Photo of the day



 

Shambles

They have had months to sort it out but no go.  The Guardian reports:

The security firm G4S has ruled out a last-minute deal to guard Labour’s annual conference, leaving the party without security just weeks before the event is due to open in Liverpool.
The result of the Labour leadership contest is due to be announced on 24 September, just before the party’s annual conference, but without security in place neither event can go ahead.
...
The party is no closer to clinching a deal to provide security for the conference, with the event facing cancellation if no contract is made. G4S, which had been subject to a Labour boycott, has said it is now too late to do a deal.
Last year the party’s national executive committee (NEC) voted to boycott G4S but the GMB union has threatened to stage a picket if Labour contracts an alternative provider, Showsec, which does not recognise trade unions. Showsec was the only provider to have bid for the contract.
 G4S has now said it will not step in to provide security, even if the party’s executive drops its boycott of the company.
Eric Alexander, managing director for G4S events, said the company would usually start planning for such a large and complex event up to a year in advance. “Safety for delegates and our staff is our priority and at this late stage and with our teams committed elsewhere, we are not in a position to step in and provide security for the conference,” he said.
“Security officers need to be cleared and accredited to work, detailed risk assessments made, safety and security plans with the Home Office and local police forces drawn up and supporting logistics, such as security equipment and staff accommodation, put in place.
Sadly, it rather sums up the state of the Labour Party.

 


24 August 2016

Worth a smile


h/t Jennifer

What's he talking about?

I am perplexed.  The Independent reports:
The row over whether Jeremy Corbyn had to sit on the floor of a Virgin train has taken a new twist after passengers on the service disputed the company’s version of events.
Earlier this month Mr Corbyn released a video of himself sitting on the floor of a Virgin East Coast train arguing that “this is a problem that many passengers face every day”.
The train company, however, has released CCTV stills showing Mr Corbyn finding a seat on the train, saying that it “clearly wasn’t the case” he could not find somewhere to sit. Though Mr Corbyn did not claim that there were no seats on the train, he said it was “ram-packed”.
Why "ram-packed"?  Did he mean jam-packed?  A ram pack is something you used to attach to a computer to provide additional memory.

 


21 August 2016

Lookalikes

Jacques Delmas, Toulon rugby coach:


Sean Connery, actor:


    

The booze


So the government will once again amend the drinking guidelines.  The Sunday Times reports:
Adults will be told it is fine to drink in moderation in new guidelines on alcohol intake unveiled by the govern­ment — in a slapdown of Britain’s top doctor.
The rules, to be announced soon, will set the recommended weekly limit for both men and women at 14 units, a reduction of seven for men, and explain that every drink comes with a small health risk.
However, in a move away from “nanny state” pronouncements Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will make clear that the risks are no higher than other everyday activities such as driving a car and people should feel free to enjoy a drink.
I'm not sure than anybody still pays attention - but perhaps it's the company I keep ...


16 August 2016

Quote of the day

Treneman's remarkable powers of observation on her visit north of the border:
I couldn’t help but notice that there are a lot of Scots in Scotland.
Who'd a thunk it?

   

Shambles

The gravy train puffs along.  The Times gives a rough indication of where the civil service is going with Brexit:
Many of the British experts who would be best at brokering a deal are working for the European Commission. Some in Whitehall are keen to bring them back, but Eurosceptic ministers are suspicious of their motives.
Instead, lawyers, trade negotiators, economists and management consultants are being hired at huge expense from the private sector. City firms including Linklaters, PwC, KPMG and EY have been approached about filling the skills gaps. A whole Brexit industry is springing up, with Whitehall ready to pay up to £5,000 a day for lawyers and £1,000 for management consultants. Insiders estimate that the additional salaries alone will amount to at least £5 billion over the next decade.
It’s not just the new departments that are recruiting. The Treasury is advertising for an expert to lead its Brexit negotiations on financial services. Defra will need experts to negotiate deals for farmers and fishermen. The global budget is also spiralling. Dr Fox is planning to set up trade offices all over the world. Nobody in his department could tell me how much that will cost, but with embassy funding slashed to the bone there will be little scope for relying on existing staff and facilities. In addition, the three cabinet Brexiteers will no doubt have hefty expense accounts to jet around the world, staying in top hotels with a coterie of officials. That’s not going to go down well with the “left behind” voters who backed Brexit because they were so angry about a perceived wealthy elite.
They never told us about this during the referendum campaign ...

 

14 August 2016

The man with no neck


If I were Inverdale, I would try to avoid upsetting Steve Redgrave:
The tension between Sir Steve Redgrave and John Inverdale continued yesterday when the former rower interrupted the BBC presenter as he tried to interview the New Zealand winner of the men’s single sculls.
The apparently frosty relationship between Redgrave and Inverdale has amused and intrigued viewers. As Inverdale began talking to Mahé Drysdale, Redgrave said the New Zealand media should get to interview him first.
“Let him go and do New Zealand TV. I’m sorry I can’t allow that to happen,” Redgrave said. “The Kiwis should get in first.”
Viewers soon took to social media. “And it’s day 6 in the When Will Steve Redgrave Thump John Inverdale competition,” tweeted Andrew Brooks.

 

This year, next year, sometime, never ...

There's always an excuse to postpone apocalypse.  The Sunday Times reports:
Britain could remain in the EU until late 2019, almost a year later than predicted, ministers have privately warned senior figures in the City of London.
Theresa May has been expected to enact article 50 in January, setting in train the formal two years of negotiations before Brexit.
Despite great political pressure to stick to that timetable, she may be forced to delay because her new Brexit and international trade departments will not be ready, City sources said.
French and German elections are also being cited as a cause for delay. Britain might not invoke article 50 until France has voted next May or even until after the German poll in September, ministers confided to senior City contacts.
“You can’t negotiate when you don’t know who you’re negotiating with,” said a City insider. And a cabinet minister confirmed to The Sunday Times that there were “some challenges” in the French and German electoral timetables.
The prospect of a year’s delay will anger hardline Eurosceptic Conservative MPs and “leave” voters who expected a speedy Brexit.
And, by next September, there will likely be another excuse ...

 

11 August 2016

Not very fair?

The Independent reports:
Hugh Grosvenor is to become the next Duke of Westminster and Britain's youngest billionaire after his father Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor died aged 64. 
The billionaire philanthropist and third richest man in the UK fell ill on his Abbeystead Estate and died at the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire. 
As the only male among four children and heir to his father’s dukedom, Earl Grosvenor is set to inherit his father’s estate, worth an estimated £9bn. 
A bit rough on his three sisters, two of which are older than he is.  Still, I don't suppose Lady Tamara, Lady Edwina and Lady Viola are short of a bob or two ...

 

09 August 2016

Getting blood out of a stone

Savers suffer.  The Guardian reports:
Fears have been raised that banks and building societies were preparing to cut rates for savers by more than last week’s reduction to 0.25% by the Bank of England, after First Direct became one of the first major firms to take the axe to savings rates.
Threadneedle Street’s move on Thursday to cut interest rates to a new historic low has forced all lenders and saving institutions to embark on urgent product reviews....First Direct, owned by HSBC, is cutting the rate on its cash Isa from 1.3% to 0.9%, while the rate on its bonus savings account will be chopped from 0.75% to 0.4%. A range of other accounts will be subject to a 0.25 percentage point cut. HSBC said it had cut rates on a number of its accounts, but none by more than the base rate reduction.
If before they were only paying peanuts, savers will now get even fewer peanuts.

   

08 August 2016

So long, Marianne

Leonard Cohen's Marianne has died.  The Times reports:
Leonard Cohen wrote a farewell to the woman who inspired some of his finest songs just before she died, paying tribute to a friendship that stretched across five decades.
Marianne Ihlen, 81, was the subject of songs including So Long Marianne,Famous Blue Raincoat and Bird on the Wire, ballads that helped to cement Cohen’s status as one of the most incisive lyricists in popular music.
They met on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s, shortly after her first husband left her following the birth of their son and before Cohen had released a note of music. The poet and aspiring musician eventually invited them to live with him in Montreal, and the couple were together for seven years.
Jan Christian Mollestad, a documentary film-maker and friend of Ms Ihlen, learnt last month that she was dying of leukaemia. He visited her in hospital in Oslo, where she asked him to tell Cohen, also 81, what was happening.
“So I sent him a letter telling him that, unfortunately, it seems like Marianne only has a few days to live,” Mollestad told Canadian public radio. “It took only two hours and in came this beautiful letter from Leonard to Marianne. We brought it to her the next day and she was fully conscious and so happy.
“It said, ‘Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.
“I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road’,” Mollestad said.
“When I read her the line ‘stretch out your hand’, she stretched out her hand.”
Ms Ihlen died two days later on July 29.

06 August 2016

Music of the week



 

It ain't easy being a presidential candidate ...



From the Donald's diary (here):
Wednesday    I’ve just been in a TV studio where the host kept asking me to endorse the Republican candidates John McCain and Paul Ryan, who are fighting primaries. And I refused.
“Feel like telling me the strategy there?” says my campaign chief, afterwards.
“Not really,” I tell him.
“Is it because McCain refused to say he was comfortable with you controlling the nuclear arsenal?” says my campaign chief.
“No,” I say.
“Is it because you feel Ryan represents an aloof Republican hierarchy?” he says.
“No,” I say.
“Is it because you momentarily forgot whether you were a Republican or a Democrat?” he says.
“It might be,” I say.

   

02 August 2016

Rueful smile of the day

Here

"You're more than a number in my little black book"

What kind of paranoid idiot writes down the name of his enemies in a little black book?  And what kind of idiot then tells the newspapers about it?  The President of the European Commission, that's who.  The Guardian reports:
There is no shortage of people who could make it into the bad books of the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.
...
While the true list of his enemies remains secret, Juncker has revealed he keeps “a little black book” to note down the names of people who cross him. “I have a little black book called Le Petit Maurice where for the past 30 years I have noted when someone has betrayed me,” the EU president told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
Juncker explained it wasn’t very full, because people “rarely betray me”. He added: “I am not vengeful, but I have a good memory.” Juncker’s black book was a constant companion during his 18 years as prime minister of Luxembourg. He would tell people attacking him: “Be careful. Little Maurice is waiting for you.”
Bizarre ...

01 August 2016

The last refuge of the bureaucrat

When you cannot find a decent reason not to do something, you can always rely on the tried and tested.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May will not intervene in the official process of approving David Cameron’s resignation honours list because it would “set a very bad precedent”, Downing Street has said.
It's nonsense of course.  Would anybody mourn the loss of the ability of an outgoing PM to reward his friends and cronies?

 

28 July 2016

The plot thickens


So my old boss from my time in Brussels, Michel Barnier, has been appointed as the European Commission's Brexit negotiator.  The Guardian reports:
A veteran French politician and experienced Brussels insider who has repeatedly clashed with the City of London over financial services reforms is to lead talks on Britain’s exit from the EU.
The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said he had wanted an experienced politician for an “important and challenging job” as he announced the appointment of Michel Barnier, a former EU commissioner. Barnier would “help us develop a new partnership with the UK”, he said.
A member of France’s centre-right Les Républicains (formerly UMP) party, Barnier, a former French cabinet minister, will take up his post on 1 October. He said in a tweet he was “honoured to be entrusted” with such a demanding task. The appointment will be viewed with some apprehension in London.
All very well, but a quick glance at Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty suggests that it is the European Council, rather than the European Commission, which is mainly responsible for the negotiations.  Possibility of a turf war between Tusk and Juncker?


   

27 July 2016

Go figure ...

The FTSE 100 has risen by 20 points to 6744, a level last seen in August 2015.
Now over 6761.

   

And the Fairy Queen offered three options to Prime Minister May ...

Option 1

Go for a hard Brexit, securing controls on immigration but abandoning hopes of access to the single market.

The likes of Liam Fox, Andre Leadsom and Priti Patel would cheer but the business lobby (and the bulk of Tory donors) would disapprove, not to mention London, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  And there might be nasty economic repercussions.  Would it command the support of the Commons?

Option 2

Go for a soft Brexit, securing access to  the single market but at the expense of free movement of labour (perhaps with minimal concessions) and payments into the EU, some kind of arrangement not dissimilar to Norway or Switzerland

The Tory right wing would scream betrayal, endangering the already slim Tory majority. And the people might ask what was the point of the whole exercise.

Option 3

Keep on delaying the invocation of Article 50 in the hope that something - a general election? the collapse of the euro?  Jean-Claude Juncker falling under a bus? - turns up.  In other words, kicking the can down the road.

Nobody would be happy, particularly in the light of the continuing uncertainty, but they might be less unhappy than would otherwise be the case.

No easy answers then.  But sooner rather than later, Mrs May will have to choose.