06 December 2016

Déjà vu, again ...

He thinks that it’s a toy train set.  The BBC reports:
The way that England's railway network is run is set to be overhauled under plans outlined by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
He wants each rail franchise to be run by joint management teams, including representatives from both the train operating company and Network Rail.
Mr Grayling said: "I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways."
The changes will start when each franchise is renewed in the future.

It was (allegedly) Petronius Arbiter who said it best:

"We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."

05 December 2016

Worth dipping into?

If you are mildly obsessed with progress on the Supreme Court case on Brexit, you can watch it live here, from 11 am on.

Just don't expect drama along John Grisham lines ...


04 December 2016

is common sense re-surfacing?

Probably not, but still ...  The Sunday Times reports:
“The most significant thing that happened last week is what didn’t happen,” an aide to a cabinet minister said. “DD talked about paying money into the EU budget and no one from Downing Street machinegunned him in the street.”
DD is David Davis, the minister for Brexit. When he told MPs on Thursday that the government “would consider” continuing some payments to Brussels to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market” it caused consternation among Eurosceptics.
Immigration is a total red line; budget contributions is where they will try to compromise
While Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have seen many of their public pronouncements on the shape of Brexit quickly contradicted by May’s aides, this time No 10 left Davis alone, saying payments would be “a matter for negotiation”.
Those familiar with the government’s internal discussions say Davis’s statement shows that in private Theresa May is contemplating a softer Brexit than she has been publicly letting on. They say this coincides with Davis adopting a moderate approach to negotiations and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, retreating from his original position that the UK should stay in the European Union single market.
It is now nearly six months since the referendum.  The government appears to be taking an inordinate amount of time to decide what it wants and what it thinks it can get from the Brexit negotiations.


02 December 2016


Maybe a big boy did it and ran away?
Lord Howard of Lympne has been convicted of a motoring offence after telling a court that he “could not remember” who was driving when his car was caught speeding.
The former Conservative leader, 75, said his wife, Sandra, 76, could have been behind the wheel when their Toyota Prius was recorded at 37.3mph in a 30mph zone.
The couple admit that one of them was behind the wheel while returning from a weekend at their home in his former Kent constituency of Folkestone and Hythe to their Westminster address in January.
Given their age and dodgy memory, should either of them be allowed to drive?


Do these guys know what they are doing?

Or do they just twist in the wind, telling audiences what they think they want to hear?  The Times  reports:
Britain is leaning towards a softer Brexit after ministers admitted that they were considering plans to allow low-skilled migration and could pay to access the single market after leaving the European Union.
The government does not want to end up with damaging labour shortages, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, said last night amid growing signs that ministers were moderating their stance.
Mr Davis told a CBI dinner in Wales that the government would be “ending free movement as it has operated before”, adding: “We won’t do so in a way that it is contrary to the national and economic interest . . . Britain must win the global battle for talent. No one wants to see labour shortages in key sectors.”
Earlier in the day Mr Davis, a longstanding Leave supporter, told the Commons that Britain could keep paying into the Brussels budget in exchange for access to the single market. The government was not ruling out the move to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market”, he said.
Any sign of a strategy?  Or a plan?  Apart from making it up as you go along ...


I wonder why?

The Guardian reports:
Boris Johnson will issue a warning that democracy is in retreat across the world 
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that clowns such as he have risen to near the top of the political tree ...


27 November 2016

Viva Cuba!

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I spent a greatly enjoyable three weeks on a Ramblers' holiday in Fidel Castro's Cuba.  Super country, super people.

Desperately poor, in many ways an economic disaster.  But I remember the schoolkids, smartly dressed in their uniforms of white shirts and maroon shorts or skirts,even out in the rural areas, who looked happy and well cared for.  I remember the universal health service, with a better mortality rate then the USA, where newly qualified doctors were required to spend a number of years providing a service in the landward villages.

I hope that they can keep the good things in their society.  And I hope that the almighty dollar does not force them back into reliance on the worst kind of casino tourism.


25 November 2016


I'm in a nit-picking mood this morning.  The Independent reports:
Every household will lose a staggering £1,250 a year because of the Brexit vote, independent forecasters say – as they painted a devastating picture of falling living standards, including no increase in real wages for at least another decade.
No, no, no.  The IFS did not say that every household will lose £1250 per year:
IFS economist Andrew Hood said: “The OBR’s figures are for real GDP per household to be £1,250 lower in 2020-21, as a result of the vote to leave the EU.”
In other words, the average loss per household will be £1250.  But some will lose more; some will lose less.



The BBC reports:
Craig Gordon says Celtic have proved they are not inferior to the elite clubs in the Champions League.
The goalkeeper says his team have learned valuable lessons which they can carry into their domestic form and next year's European qualifying campaign.
He is adamant, though, that Celtic have shown their worth in the competition, despite finishing bottom of Group C.
"Our performances have been good enough. We can compete at this level," Gordon, 33 said.
"There's nothing I've seen in any of the games that suggest we're inferior to anyone else in our group."
How can finishing bottom of the group mean anything other than that Celtic are indeed inferior to the rest of the group?


24 November 2016

Brexit and all that

Leaving aside the question of access/membership of the single market, the Article 50 negotiations are likely to be complicated.  The Independent reports:
Article 50 has all the ingredients to become a fight about money. Here are some of the thorny issues that need resolving: Britain must be untangled from the European Investment Bank, and its 16 per cent share of the bank’s capital – nearly 40 billion euros – must be returned. EU grants will need to be repaid and fishing quotas adjusted. Someone will have to pay for relocating the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority from London. In turn, the UK will claim its share of EU assets – from EU offices down to the Commission’s wine cellar and cutlery. Lawyers on both sides will have a field day.
Not to mention the question of the British staff (and ex-staff) of the European institutions and their pensions ...


22 November 2016

Problems, problems ...

At the moment, it's probably not much fun being a government lawyer.  The Times reports:
Lawyers from every Whitehall department are trawling through tens of thousands of pages of EU directives and regulations going back more than 40 years. According to some estimates there are more than 40,000 legal acts in the EU, as well as 15,000 court verdicts and 62,000 international standards. Some are already incorporated into UK law, but will need amending; others are not and will need incorporating.
A senior legal source with extensive experience of drafting legislation said he had seen a government email this week calling for commercial help from outside Whitehall to identify the legislation that needed changing. He accused the Department for Exiting the European Union of not having “the faintest clue what they’re up to”, saying that the legal team had the “wrong seniority, the wrong levels of experience, the wrong skillset”.
Other legal experts said that it would be next to impossible to incorporate such a vast body of law into UK legislation on a blanket basis because so much of it was relevant only while the UK was a member of the EU.
“You can’t just take the whole of EU law and plonk it into the UK legal system because so much of what the EU does is inherently cross border in nature,” Michael Dougan, professor of European law at the University of Liverpool, said. “Once you have left the EU that doesn’t make sense any more. It would be rather preposterous to leave the EU and still give full legal recognition to thousands of foreign decision-making bodies.”
Is the ba' on the slates?  You betcha!


16 November 2016

A right dog's breakfast

Brexit is becoming a mess.  Further it gets messier by the day.  The Guardian reports:
A supreme court judge has raised the prospect that Theresa May would have to comprehensively replace existing EU legislation before the government could even begin Brexit, in a move that could seriously delay the process.
In a speech that angered leave campaigners, Lady Hale said the supreme court judges could go further than simply forcing May to publish a short piece of legislation to approve the triggering of article 50.
The deputy president of the court said that next month’s case – in which the supreme court will hear the government’s appeal against a high court ruling that MPs must approve the triggering of article 50 – raised “difficult and delicate issues” about the relationship between government and parliament.
“Another question is whether it would be enough for a simple act of parliament to authorise the government to give notice, or whether it would have to be a comprehensive replacement of the 1972 act,” she said in comments to law students in Kuala Lumpur that were published online on Tuesday. The European Communities Act 1972 took the UK into the then European Economic Community.
It is becoming equally clear that the government is bogged down in the morass without a scooby as to the way forward.

And Boris is compounding the shambles:
Britain is probably leaving the EU customs union, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has claimed, despite Whitehall warnings that it could seriously harm the economy.
The cabinet minister made the revelation in an interview with a Czech newspaper, despite Theresa May’s insistence that her government will not be providing a running commentary on Brexit.
According to the interview, which was reported in Czech, Johnson said: “Probably we will need to leave the customs union, but this is a question which will be dealt with in the negotiations.”
The move is likely to alarm businesses that move goods to and from the EU as it would mean extra checks at the border.



14 November 2016

Fur coat and no knickers

On the one hand (here):
Donald Trump has said he will deport two to three million undocumented immigrants “immediately” upon taking office.
In his first television interview since winning the presidential election, Mr Trump insisted that he is going to carry out his hardline immigration policy proposals, while insisting that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably two million – it could be even three million – we are getting them out of the country or we are going to incarcerate,” Mr Trump told 60 Minutes.
On the other hand:
...  it still remains unclear how Mr Trump plans to carry out this proposal. Undocumented immigrants are entitled to full removal proceedings in immigration court. And as the courts already have a major backlog of hearing, there would be no immediate removals. Additionally, he fails to explain how his policy would be different from the current law in place under the Obama administration, which prioritises removal of immigrants convicted of criminal offences. 

09 November 2016

A so-called financial expert opines

Just shows how much I know.  The FTSE100 is up by over 40 points, while the FTSE250 has risen by over 100 points.  Adding jam to the butter, the pound sterling is up to over 1.13 euros.



Oh dear

Trump past the winning post.  Now for absolute carnage on the stock market.  And who knows what else ...

As The Guardian points out:
The people of America have stepped into the abyss. The new president elect is an unstable bigot, sexual predator and compulsive liar; he is capable of anything.


08 November 2016

Cartoon of the day


By their actions shall ye know them

Well, there's a surprise (not).  The Guardian reports:
The UK government is fighting a rearguard action to prevent Guernsey, Jersey and British overseas territories from going on an EU blacklist of tax havens.
At a meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday in Brussels, David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury, will tell his counterparts that the UK opposes attempts to put territories with a zero rate of corporation tax on an EU list of “non-cooperative” jurisdictions.
The EU vowed to draw up a blacklist of tax havens following the revelations in the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Brussels pledged to throw light on the shady “treasure islands” that help multinationals and wealthy clients avoid paying tax.
So much for the government's protestations about fighting tax avoidance ...


Aw diddums ...

Jeremy gets himself in a lather:
Jeremy Clarkson has described plans to make the BBC reveal the pay of stars who earn more than £150,000 as disgusting, saying management should be trusted to pay enough to keep them from joining commercial rivals.
Asked about his earnings from new Amazon show The Grand Tour, which reportedly cost £160m for three series, Clarkson lashed out at those he said were “obsessed with money”.
“Take the business of BBC talent. What country are we living in when we want to know how much people are paid? It’s disgusting,” he told the Radio Times.
Some of us might regard this as rather more disgusting:
Until he was dropped last year from Top Gear after allegedly assaulting a producer, Clarkson was on one of the largest salaries at the BBC, thought to be around £1m a year.
He had also earned millions in dividends from Bedder 6, the company he formed with long-time production partner Andy Wilman, which exploited the Top Gear brand globally. In 2014 the pair sold their stakes in the company to existing shareholder BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, taking Clarkson’s total earnings for the year to more than £14m.
His salary at the BBC was paid for from the licence fees levied on the public.  Why should that salary be secret?


07 November 2016

The fake

Not the Real Thing.  For that you'll have to wait until Thursday.


Was he leaned on?

You have to feel sorry for James Comey, FBI boss, the J Edgar de nos jours.  In July, he controversially cleared Hillary of illegality with regard to the e-mails on her private server.  Ten days ago, he - again controversially - re-opened the case anent some 650,000 e-mails found on a laptop (some laptop!) owned by ex-Congressman Wiener.  Yesterday, after extensive FBI analysis (man, they really got through all those e-mails!) he admitted there was nothing to look at and could everyone just move on, please.

As a result, he has offended just about everyone in every quarter of the political establishment - Hillary for re-opening the case and the Donald for then hurriedly dismissing it.  Lesson for young James?  Don't mess with the big boys ..

A storyline for The West Wing?  Not likely - too improbable.