25 June 2016

Our next prime minister

You may wonder if Boris is up to the job.  But, hey, it's inevitable.  The Guardian reports:
The blunt truth is that nobody else in Conservative politics gets begged for selfies as Johnson did on every walkabout; none has his charisma or his reach. If his name is on a shortlist of two put forward to Tory members, few doubt he would be the runaway winner.
And if MPs conspire to keep him off that list during the preliminary stages of the contest? Well, imagine the consequences for those who have already outraged constituents by voting remain. Imagine the rage, the mass defections to Ukip, were Johnson to be seen to be blocked by yet another elite afraid of ordinary people getting it wrong.
Far from sure that a country led by Boris is one in which I wish to live ...

 

This is going to get complicated

The implications of Brexit are becoming apparent.  The Guardian reports:
The UK has to negotiate two exit agreements: a divorce treaty to wind down British contributions to the EU budget and settle the status of the 1.2 million Britons living in the EU and 3 million EU citizens in the UK; and an agreement to govern future trade and other ties with its European neighbours.
Tusk has estimated that both agreements could take seven years to settle “without any guarantee of success”. Most Brussels insiders think this sounds optimistic.
At the same time. the UK and Scottish governments need to decide what to do about the vast body of domestic legislation giving effect to EU policies in such areas as the environment, consumer protection, financial regulation, agriculture and fisheries, and so on.  This is likely to be the centrepiece of parliamentary business for years to come.  And none of it will be easy.

24 June 2016

Relieved!

OK, it's not good but the FTSE100 is sticking at 6025 or thereabouts, down 5% on last night's close.  Far from the 15-20% decline predicted by the doom-mongers.

   


Weird

The FTSE 100 has recovered from a low of close to 5800 to well over 6000.  Sterling has recovered from a low of $1.34 to over $1.37.

Meanwhile, Cameron is going without invoking Article 50 to initiate Brexit negotiations with the EU on the grounds that it would be for a new PM to decide.  And, possibly, that new PM - whoever he or she turns out to be - may conclude that he should not invoke Article 50 until he has secured his position by means of a general election.  Which raises the question of whether a new government would feel obliged to pursue Brexit - depending on the manifesto on which it had been elected.

Old Heraclitus had it right when he said all is flux and nothing remains the same.

   

Only one of the questions ...

From The Guardian (here):
Britain now has to decide what sort of arrangement it wants to have with the EU. Does it want to remain part of the single market even if that means accepting free movement of labour? Or does it want to go for a complete go-it-alone approach, which would give the new government a freer hand on immigration?
Or should we look for an option somewhere between this binary choice.  And we do not know what position the EU will be prepared to accept.

Furthermore, even the Brexiteers seem unsure what they want.


   

"All is flux; nothing stays the same."

The people have spoken.  What happens now is the question.  And none of our politicians has a clue ...


 

21 June 2016

Still in the trough

From CityWire's press summary (here):
  • The Guardian: TalkTalk paid its chief executive, Dido Harding, an extra £1.8 million last year when the telecoms company suffered a cyber-attack that cost it £60 million and 101,000 customers.
  • Daily Mail: Dairy Crest boss Mark Allen has seen his pay go up by almost 50% in the past year, despite the firm reporting a 59% fall in profits.
  • Financial Times: SABMiller’s chief executive took a £1.2 million cut in total pay last year but will shortly be in line receive a payout of £55 million — once the London-listed brewing group is taken over by larger rival Anheuser-Busch InBev.

   

Cluck cluck!

Not sure that likening the electorate to a bunch of chickens is a good idea:



20 June 2016

They think it's all over ...

Well, maybe it is.  Bloomberg reports:
European stock futures surged, Asian equities rallied and the pound strengthened by the most in three months amid signs Britons are warming toward the European Union ahead of a referendum on Thursday. The yen slumped with Treasuries and gold as haven assets fell out of favor.
FTSE 100 futures soared as much as 3.3 percent, while contracts on the Euro Stoxx 50 jumped more than 3 percent and the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose by the most in two months. Sterling jumped after a poll showed the campaign for the U.K. to remain in the EU leading by three percentage points. The euro strengthened with high-yielding currencies, while the yen fell for the first time in seven days.
Me, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
   

16 June 2016

Sir Philip before the Select Committee

Is it fair to subject a knight of the realm to such a grilling?

Big Phil set the tone by rolling his eyelids at the committee while sitting down and his performance became progressively more unstable the longer the session dragged on. First in line was Conservative Richard Fuller, who he believed was looking at him in a funny way. “Stop staring at me like that,” he demanded. Then he had a pop at another Tory, Jeremy Quin, for playing with his glasses in an annoying way. The committee clerk was ticked off for whispering and Labour’s Karen Buck, aka “That Lady”, was called out for being a mind-reader in a former life. Most bizarrely of all, the reporter from the Sunday Times was all but accused of bringing about the collapse of BHS by investigating the deal.
“I’m not here to blame anyone because that’s not my style,” he insisted. “But there are some other people I could mention who are to blame.” Quite.
“Can we get back to talking about some of the details?” asked co-chair Frank Field. “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question,” said an apparently bemused Big Phil. Field tried again. “Can we get back to talking about the some of the details?”
“That’s not the right question to be asking me,” insisted Big Phil second time round. This became a familiar pattern; almost every question was either too difficult or not the right one. It’s fair to say that Big Phil has concentration issues as well as trust issues.
   

You looking at me, pal ...



Splendid rant in The Guardian:
Ours is a broken economic system, rigged in favour of a tiny wealthy elite whose fortunes more than doubled even as the wages of millions fell. It is an elite riddled with contempt for democracy, and will be damned if anybody wishes publicly to scrutinise its affairs. It is happy to treat the state as a cash cow but reluctant to pay taxes to contribute to its upkeep. It drips with machismo and arrogance, believing that rules exist for the little people. It is more interested in short-term profit than long-term innovation and investment, putting the bank balances of a few ahead of the interests either of workers or society as a whole. It has no interest in accepting responsibility for problems it has caused, and will shamelessly redirect blame anywhere else. And if this system were to take human form, it would surely be Sir Philip Green.
Who would disagree ...

 
 

09 June 2016

Hooks, crooks and comic singers

These are not very nice people.  The Guardian reports:
Dominic Chappell, the former owner of BHS, had his “fingers in the till” of the failed retailer and “threatened to kill” its chief executive after he was confronted about taking money out of the business, according to explosive allegations made to MPs.
...
Other allegations from the hearing into the collapse of BHS, which has put 11,000 jobs at risk, included:
  • Chappell claiming that retail tycoon Sir Philip Green, who sold the business to him, was to blame for its collapse. 
  • that Green went “insane” when he found out that BHS was in talks with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct about a rescue deal, so he blocked it and forced BHS into administration.
  • Chappell’s consortium, Retail Acquisitions, collected at least £17m from BHS despite owning it for just 13 months.
  • the consortium put none of its own funds into BHS, instead the £15m it injected into BHS came from a £5m loan from a property company and £10m from Green.
Chappell later claimed allegations by Topp of a death threat were “a nonsense”. After the hearing, he told the Guardian: “What I said to him was ‘when I get back to the office I will fucking sort you out’.” Chappell said he meant he was going to fire Topp but let it go because of the “gravity of what was going on”.

Extraordinary.

08 June 2016

Quote of the day

From The New Statesman (here):
It is the season of bed-wetting. For those who follow politics closely – we anxious few – every new poll, whether from the UK or the US, is arriving freighted with apocalyptic significance.
It’s true that the stakes are high. In five months’ time, we could be standing among the smoking ruins of liberal democracy. The Trump coat of arms will be emblazoned on the dome of the Capitol. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will be making tinny jokes about bulldogs as Vladimir Putin moves tanks to the Finnish border.
On the other hand, the post-war order may be looking remarkably intact, Britain having voted emphatically to Remain, a liberal Atlanticist with unexciting ideas installed in the Oval Office, and the England football team having returned home from France after three matches of unbearable mediocrity.

   

Smile of the day

Here

04 June 2016

Music of the week

Basically, it is Romeo and Juliet, compressed into less than three minutes:




 

01 June 2016

He doesn't like hotdogs ...

Nor is it my favourite.  The Guardian reports:
To my mind, the hotdog is the bastard cousin of the burger. The meat-to-bread ratio tips too far towards the bun, and they’re made with frankfurters, the most disgusting food known to man. Does anyone enjoy their flaccid smoothness, laced with gristle and offputtingly pink? Eating a frankfurter is like licking Cristiano Ronaldo. It mystifies me that Frankfurt – birthplace of Goethe, financial powerhouse, site of two botanical gardens – would want eternal association with mechanically recovered meat paste. It’s not champagne, is it?
Maybe it's the mustard?
   
    

31 May 2016

Brexit - what if?

The Independent indulges itself in some rather wild speculation on the outcome of a vote in favour of Brexit:
Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her desire for another referendum should Britain choose to leave the EU. She has already argued, rightly, that the last independence referendum in Scotland was based on a background of Britain remaining a part of the EU. 
With the backdrop changed so dramatically, based largely on English votes, the calls for another independence vote will be deafening. And this time the Scottish Nationalists know they will win. 
Given a choice between leaping into the unknown handcuffed to England and remaining as part of a stable (if risky) European Union, Scots will take their chances with Europe. More than just avoiding a leap into the unknown, remaining as part of the EU while England leaves represents a once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity for Scotland. 
Every business that might consider leaving England for mainland Europe following a Brexit might instead consider moving to Scotland. Scotland will probably adopt the Euro as currency, is more conveniently situated for mainland Europe than Ireland and has a highly advanced renewable energy sector. 
The numbers don’t even need to be huge for Scotland to emerge as a big economic winner. If 5 per cent of American companies in the UK moved their European HQ north it would be a major economic windfall for the country. 
Plenty of Brexit campaigners want Britain to remain whole; they argue that Scotland wouldn’t become an automatic member of the EU and may not achieve favorable membership terms. But alternatively – and just as likely – the EU desperately, wanting to stick it to England, might fast track Scottish membership, granting the country very favorable terms indeed. Independence is tantalisingly within reach; Sturgeon must be willing the English to do their part.
Aye, well.  There are several unprovable assumptions underlying such an argument.  First, that Scotland votes Remain, while England votes Leave; neither of these propositions may turn out to be valid.  Secondly, that such a situation would necessarily lead to another IndyRef and that Scotland would vote for independence; again, neither of these may prove to be the case.  And thirdly, that - even if Scotland were to adopt the euro - the EU would be prepared to do Scotland any favours in order to stick it to England.

It all might just happen, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

26 May 2016

Do we hate the Chinese that much?

Oh dear!  Sino-Scottish relations are being set back to the levels of the Cold War.  The Times reports:

It has been the favourite tipple of Glaswegians for more than a century. Now Tennent’s lager is poised to be the toast of Beijing.
The Clydeside brewery has struck a deal to distribute drinks in China as it seeks to capitalise on a growing thirst for beer in the world’s second-largest economy. Sales were given a boost in November when David Cameron and President Xi were pictured enjoying a pint of Greene King IPA in an English pub.
Annual consumption of beer in China is forecast to reach about 61 billion litres this year, almost 60 litres per person. C&C, the Dublin drinks group that owns Tennent’s, has agreed a distribution deal with Vandergeeten, a long-established importer of beer into China, which has a portfolio including Leffe, Hoegaarden and Boddingtons.

It's for your own good?

Does anybody want more ads on the telly?  The European Commission appears to think so.  The Times reports:
Broadcasters should be allowed to place more adverts into prime time television and make more liberal use of product placement, the European Commission said yesterday.
Rules on programme sponsorship should also be relaxed, the commission said, as it unveiled proposals aimed at updating the law in the age of Netflix and other on-demand video services.
Under European law, commercial broadcasters are limited to a maximum of 12 minutes of advertising per hour. The commission wants to remove this cap and allow adverts to form up to 20 per cent of output from 7am to 11pm.
Films made for television, cinematographic works and news “could be interrupted more often”, the commission said in a proposal document.
The plans for loosening restrictions on product placement and sponsorship were welcomed by ITV, which said that they would “help to ensure the continued investment in original content”.
A spokesman added: “What is important to us, when it comes to television advertising minutage, is striking the right balance, ensuring that our viewers are not exposed to excessive amounts of advertising and that the quality of their experience is maintained.”
If the ITV spokesman were honest, he would admit that they don't give a toss about the viewers; they only want to maximise their revenue.  ITV should remember that, in certain circumstances, more means less ...

   

Heartless?



More here.

 

Yeurrgh!

24 May 2016

Happy Birthday ...


... to Bob Dylan, 75 today.

Don't that make you feel old?

 

Quote of the day

The Guardian gets a little bit carried away in reporting the Dave and George anti-Brexit roadshow:
Halfway through their hit song With or Without EU, Dave Bono gestured towards George the Edge instructing him to turn the volume down. Moments later, when a reverent silence filled the room, Dave Bono started a meaningful slow hand clap. One by one, the hand-picked audience of employees who fancied an hour off work joined in this rhythmic communion.
“Hello Southampton,” Dave Bono drawled. “Every time I clap my hand another person in the UK loses their job. Think about it.” George the Edge peeled off a power chord and the band went straight back into the chorus. “With or without EU …” The audience all yelled: “With.”
The atrium of the B&Q headquarters on England’s south coast was not the most likely venue for the latest gig in EU2’s Rolling Thunder Bankruptcy Referendum tour, but it served a purpose. If only as the punchy bass line for the gag “Leaving the EU will bring on a DIY recession”, which was repeated far more times than was strictly necessary. Subtlety has never been EU2’s strong point. EU2 did not get where they are today by overestimating the intelligence of their fans – though it’s quite possible they did get where they are today by overestimating quite a few other things.
 
   

Miserable git

Well, what else would you call a guy earning a six figure salary who buys his wife a clapped-out Nissan Micra as a "run-around"?  The BBC reports:
Prime Minister David Cameron has bought a £1,500 used car as a "cheap run-around" for his wife, according to the salesman he bought it from.
Showroom owner Iain Harris, 44, said he thought a call from the PM's security team saying he was interested in the compact car was a "wind-up".
Mr Cameron paid £1,495 for the Nissan Micra in Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, on Friday.

   

22 May 2016

Propaganda


Actually, Turkey is very far from fulfilling the complex requirements for admission to the EU.  Even if it were to join the EU, as with previous entrants, there would be lengthy transitional arrangements barring free movement of Turkish nationals into existing member states.

 



20 May 2016

Dinosaurs

Rubbing salt in the wound?  The Guardian reports:
The veteran golf commentator Peter Alliss has suggested that women who want to play at Muirfield should marry a member.
The 85-year-old former Ryder Cup player was reacting to a vote on accepting women into the club, that narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to bring about change. Muirfield has staged the Open Championship 16 times, most recently in 2013, but it has been taken off the Open rota as a result of women being denied permission to join.
Alliss, one of the most distinctive voices in golf, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The women who are there as wives of husbands, they get all the facilities. If somebody wants to join, well you’d better get married to somebody who’s a member."
Silly old buffer ...

19 May 2016

You have to feel sorry for her

What?  Oh, the Gracious Speech.  The Guardian sets the scene:
The Queen winced. The crown seemed to get heavier every year and her knees were playing up, despite having used the lift in the House of Lords for the first time. As she waited for the members of the House of Commons to turn up, she couldn’t help but notice that a large number of peeresses were sporting Donald Trump haircuts. It wasn’t a good look, even with a diamond tiara. Someone should have a quiet word. At least there were a few familiar faces. It was always good to catch up with the Maltravers Herald Extraordinary and the Rouge Croix Pursuivant.
Rowdy chatter from the far end of the chamber signalled the arrival of the MPs. Some of them had no manners. “My government will continue to...,” she began. A moment’s panic crossed her face. Had someone given her a copy of last year’s Queen’s speech? She could clearly remember announcing the northern powerhouse, a bill of rights and the anti-extremism bill and a number of other bits also felt worryingly familiar. Never mind. Every job had its downsides. The state opening of parliament just happened to be hers.
“Prince Philip and I look forward to the visit of the president of Colombia,” she continued. “Speak for yourself, Liz,” the Duke of Edinburgh muttered under his breath. The Queen was well practised in ignoring her husband’s interventions and pressed on. Something about buses and a space port. Flybe flight 253 from Newquay to Mars will be boarding at gate two. Who wrote this bollocks, as Emily Thornberry would no doubt say? Ah well, nearly there. “Other measures will be laid before you. My lords and members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.” she concluded. Some hope.