27 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Two weeks ago, when the Supreme Leader informed the country there was a realistic chance of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, everyone dismissed the idea as scaremongering. It now turns out she was acting on insider information.
Only she knew just how mediocre she really was and that her mediocrity would be inevitably found out. Only she knew that she was planning to release a totally uncosted manifesto with policies that would have to be ditched before the election even took place. Only she knew that she was strong and stable enough to turn a 24 point lead in the polls into a mere five.
As John Cleese once said, " 'It's not the despair.... I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand".

   


23 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
Mrs May repeated her mantra to Andrew Neil last night that the election comes down to whether she or Jeremy Corbyn should negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU. It remains a fairly strong line, although that is like saying that Victoria Beckham would be a better replacement No 8 for the Lions rugby squad in New Zealand than Nicholas Parsons.

   

Election poster of the day



More here


    .

22 May 2017

Not so strong and stable?

The BBC comments on Mrs May's latest u-turn, modifying the proposals for social care in England:
Suddenly, only four days after the Tory manifesto was published, Theresa May has added one rather crucial proposal to her social care plan - a limit or a cap to the amount of money one individual could be asked to pay.
She is adamant that she is not budging on her principles, and was clearly irritated by questions after her speech that said she was backtracking.
But the manifesto did not include the notion of a cap, and just yesterday ministers publicly rejected such an idea.
One senior minister told me "we always knew we were going to need to give protection to those with very high care costs".
They said the prime minister sees trying to fix the social care system "as a big, big deal and she is prepared to use political capital to do it".
But having to clarify the manifesto within days creates a whiff of panic.
And I rather doubt that the addition of an unspecified cap will go very far towards appeasing those opposed to the plan.  Further concessions on the way?

This is what happens when party leaders do not think things through and do not adequately consult their colleagues.  It might be described as a failure of leadership ...

 

21 May 2017

Music of the week

Paranoia of the day

From The Sunday Times (here):
Even the election date has it in for Labour. A change.org petition is demanding the month of May be renamed “Corbyn”. The petitioner rages: “We want a calendar for the many, not the few. The insidious presence of May on our kitchen walls and calendar apps is a clear, unfair advantage to the Conservatives”. 
They may (hah, again) not have noticed that the election date is in June?

 

20 May 2017

A born diplomat


President Trump takes his usual sophisticated dialogue into conversation with the Russians.  The Times reports:
President Trump told the Russian foreign minister that he was relieved to have sacked his FBI director and allegedly described him as “a nut job”.
Barely an hour after Mr Trump had departed Washington for his first foreign trip yesterday, it emerged that the president had used an Oval Office meeting with Sergey Lavrov to explain his decision to dismiss James Comey the previous evening.
According to a document that summarised the meeting, Mr Trump told Mr Lavrov: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job”.
The Talleyrand de nos jours, he is not ...

 

19 May 2017

Quote of the day


And after the Manifesto Launch:
Forward together, the Supreme Leader left alone in her five-car motorcade. The cabinet were left to fend for themselves in the broken down bus.

   

Aw diddums ...

Infamy, they've all got it infamy.  The Independent reports:
Donald Trump has said that “no politician in history...has been treated worse or more unfairly” than him.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” the US President told cadets graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. "
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat worms ...


 

18 May 2017

Not exactly encouraging ...

OK, so he's not an Einstein.  But even so, this seems excessive.  The Times reports:
Speeches at President Trump’s first Nato summit next week will be limited to four minutes, in order to keep him engaged.
Nato officials may also adopt tactics from the White House, such as repeating the president’s name and using maps and graphs, to keep him interested in proceedings. Mr Trump asks his staff to restrict memos to one page and few of his meetings last more than 15 minutes.
The National Security Council officials have taken to including Mr Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned”, a source said yesterday.
Treat him like a child, and he'll act like a child.

   

17 May 2017

Chaos theories

The tide of daily revelations about the state of affairs in the White House is beginning to have an effect on the real world.  Bloomberg reports:
Growing concerns over the turmoil engulfing President Donald Trump’s administration weighed on risk appetite, boosting the yen and gold and sending U.S. stock futures lower.
S&P 500 Index contracts declined with equities across Asia on reports that Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The dollar was already in retreat after a report that the U.S. president shared terrorism intelligence with Russian officials, an action he has since defended. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped for a sixth day, crude extended losses and volatility indexes climbed.
“At the very least the view is that Trump’s economic policies will be delayed over this, and the dollar is being sold,” said Tomoichiro Kubota, an analyst at Matsui Securities Co. in Tokyo. “At the moment there’s a strong sense of investors trying to gauge how far this will go. It’s a situation where you can’t completely rule out the possibility of impeachment down the road, so it’s difficult for investors to buy.”
That pre-supposes that you regard the financial exchanges as part of the real world.

Poster of the day


h/t Norman



16 May 2017

Stuff for Jeremy and Kezia to think on

Another Labour manifesto and, once again, the focus is on income tax and corporation tax, perhaps understandably, as these - together with VAT - form the bulk of tax receipts at the national level. But is the Labour Party missing a trick or two? Here are some other areas which seem to me to be ripe for attention.
1. When I buy shares on the stock market, I am charged stamp duty of 0.5% of the purchase price, the proceeds of which go to the Treasury. Is there any reason why this should not be increased to 1% or 2%? Certainly, share investors would squeal, but they are not short of a bob or two; otherwise they would not be putting their spare cash into the stock market.
2. I am allowed to earn capital gains on the stock market of up to £11.300 annually before such gains become eligible for income tax. Why is there this exemption from income tax? Like anyone else, I benefit from the standard income tax allowance. Why do share investors get this extra tax benefit?
3. Similarly, I am currently allowed to receive £5000 in share dividends before I have to pay any income tax on such receipts (although that was scheduled to be reduced to £2000 in 2018-2019). Once again, what is the justification for such favourable treatment for those not obviously in need?
4. Of course, in addition to the above, I can avoid any tax liability (other than stamp duty) by putting £20,000 a year into a stocks and shares ISA. Nice for me, but what does it contribute to the common good?
Can we afford these tax fripperies for the middle class when the NHS is going down the plughole, when welfare benefits are being hacked back, when schools are grossly underfunded and when there are serious financial problems providing care for the elderly?

   

In the doghouse again

The dangers of amateurism:



More here.


 

14 May 2017

Music of the week

Pettiness

Trouble at t'mill.  The Sunday Times reports:
The Today programme has long been known for annoying the nation’s politicians. And, with its weekly reach of more than 7m listeners, the Radio 4 show has also not been immune to its own internal rivalry.
Now two of the presenters are understood to have raised concerns with senior BBC bosses about the “uncollegiate” behaviour of Nick Robinson, who joined Today in 2015 after a decade as the corporation’s news-breaking political editor.
One of the presenters went to Gwyneth Williams, controller of Radio 4, while the other went to Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programmes.
Their worries centre on Robinson’s sharp elbows as well as tussles over who is on the rota to appear for big occasions, such as post-budget and after the election when Robinson wants to be on air.
...
With a team of five presenters — Robinson, Humphrys, who has been on Today for three decades, Justin Webb, Mishal Husain and Sarah Montague — there has long been an element of rivalry.
With the exception of Ms Husain (who seems to be relatively normal), the other four are a bunch of patronising plonkers, so far up themselves as to be right pains in their respective fundaments.

Bring back Naughtie, even if he does on occasion ask the most convoluted questions.

 

13 May 2017

Dinner in the White House


Time Magazine explores President Trump's culinary preferences:
The waiters know well Trump’s personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else. 
When you're the Donald, you get to eat what you want, even if it is childish ...


 

12 May 2017

Off the leash


Trump lashes out:
Donald Trump has said that he "was going to fire" former FBI Director James Comey regardless of input from the Department of Justice – contradicting claims from his own White House staff.
"Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey," Mr Trump, said in an interview that marked the president's most extensive comments since the firing of the former FBI Director, whom he referred to as a "showboat" and a "grandstander".
"The FBI has been in turmoil,” Mr Trump claimed. “You know that, I know that, everyone knows that.”
The comments, in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, departed from the White House line: that a meeting with the Justice Department convinced Mr Trump to dismiss Mr Comey. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had claimed that advice and letters from two Justice Department officials swayed Mr Trump's hand.
The FBI may or may not be "in turmoil" but the White House certainly is.  And it is less than dignified for the President to be abusing a former employee.

This would never have happened under President Bartlet - where is CJ Cregg when you need her?

10 May 2017

Quote of the day

The New Statesman gets lost in labels:
No liberal globaliser or free-market ideologue, Mrs May believes in social cohesion and a strong state as well as reducing immigration. Her language is communitarian and softly nationalist. Her government is not neoliberal: more accurately, it is post-Thatcherite. From the beginning, Mrs May has been clear that she would wish to regulate as well as intervene in markets that are perceived to be rigged or broken. Ed Miliband would approve. You could say that she is Britain’s first post-liberal prime minister.
Well yes, you could.  But would it add to the quantum of human knowledge or understanding?

 

09 May 2017

Promises, promises ...

Why do politicians make promises that they know cannot be delivered?  As The Guardian notes:
“Imagine if Jeremy Corbyn were to be prime minister,” the Supreme Leader said. No one in the room, or indeed the country, had been considering this possibility for a second, but the May Team, that happy band of brothers – not to forget a couple of token sisters – closed their eyes and did their best to pretend. Labour’s promises were all undeliverable, Kim Jong-May insisted, before outlining several undeliverable promises herself.
Starting with reducing the number of people coming into the country to the tens of thousands. A target she had consistently failed to get anywhere near during the six years she had been home secretary. There was no contradiction. The Supreme Leader was always right, even when she was wrong. She had got away with it then and she would get away with it now. Anything to get the Ukip vote out. Strong and stable leadership demanded nothing less.
Even if she were to succeed (which is far from being on the cards), what would it do to the economy? Or to the health service, which is reliant on immigration?

The Tories are making ridiculous promises in a cynical attempt to sway those who are concerned about immigration.

 



07 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Observer (here):
There are only two people in the country still trying to sustain the fiction that the general election is competitive. One is Theresa May. “I don’t take anything for granted,” she says, with the most implausible humble-bragging. The other one playing pretendy politics is Jeremy Corbyn, who has to maintain the line that four weeks of further exposure to him, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell will miraculously change the country’s estimation of their suitability to form the next government.
Depressing ...

 

04 May 2017

May's wobbly Wednesday

Just because she's paranoid does not mean that Johnny Foreigner is not out to get her.  The Guardian reports:
As her limo returned to Downing Street from Buckingham Palace, Kim Jong-May strode purposefully towards the lectern set up in front of No 10. It was time to address her subjects.
There were dark forces at work, she said gravely. The lights were going out all over England. She had tried to be reasonable with the enemy by telling them exactly on what terms Britain was prepared to leave the EU. But the untrustworthy Johnny Foreigner had just thrown it back at her. The continental press had deliberately misrepresented her plans for intergalactic domination. Stick-It-Up-Your-Juncker had dared to say he thought the negotiations might involve negotiation. Deadly threats had been made against the UK. 
All of these acts had been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general coronation that would take place on 8 June. There was a global conspiracy at play to make sure she was deposed as Supreme Leader and replaced by the EU collaborator Jeremy Corbyn. Forget the opinion polls that suggested she was heading for a landslide victory. They were just part of a Brussels dirty op. Unknown to everyone in the country but her, the EU had secret agents waiting inside every polling station to stop every Conservative voter.
Only one thing could save Britain at a time like this. “Strong and stable leadership,” she said, sounding ever more deranged and unstable. Kim Jong-May’s eyes glazed over in rapture. All her life she had waited for this moment and now she had got her wish.
What would she be like if Labour actually did pose a threat to her hegemony?

   

02 May 2017

Is Theresa May a bit of a plodder?

I'm beginning to wonder.  Her constant reiteration of "strong and stable leadership", her avoidance of  interaction with any voters other than committed conservatives and her failure to answer perfectly reasonable questions appear to suggest a lack of emotional empathy.  While, by all accounts, the Tory manifesto will say as little as possible about anything.  Now we have reports of this latest bust-up with EU representatives, suggesting that she has yet to come to grips with the realities of the Brexit negotiations.

Is there evidence of a cool tactical brain behind the bland and blunt - if dogged - refusal to engage with her interlocutors?  Or is she just not up to the job?  Who knows?

 

Sticks and stones

Is there any real need for the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to descend to the level of the Foreign Secretary?  The Guardian reports:
Boris Johnson will be subjected to a Boris-style attack on Tuesday from the deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, who will describe the foreign secretary as a “cheese-headed fopdoodle”.
The description follows Johnson’s description of Jeremy Corbyn as a “mutton-headed old mugwump” in his first intervention of the election campaign.
In a speech to the shopworkers’ union Usdaw’s annual delegate meeting in Blackpool, Watson will say: “Boris Johnson is a caggie-handed cheese-headed fopdoodle with a talent for slummocking about.”
A fopdoodle is defined online as a stupid or insignificant fellow, a fool or a simpleton. Cheese-head, confusingly, is a name for a type of screw with a raised cylindrical head, while a slummock is an untidy or slovenly person.
Good fun and all that, if a little strained.  But such name-calling is not raising the tone of the debate; nor is it adding to the enlightenment of the general public.

 

01 May 2017

It has a certain comedic charm

Here

 

Tory tax bombshell!

Well, that's clear enough.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May is likely to abandon the Tories’ “triple tax lock” commitment and has ruled out increases to VAT, but signalled that she could allow a future Conservative government to raise national insurance and income tax.
The prime minister, whose government was recently forced into an embarrassing U-turn over plans to raise national insurance for the self-employed, said she did not want to make promises that she would be unable to keep. As such, she would not commit to renewing her predecessor’s policy that prevented the government from increasing any of the three major taxes: VAT, national insurance and income tax.
So vote Tory and prepare to pay higher taxes.  And, if you''re a pensioner, say cheerio to the triple lock.

   

It's only 25 big ones ...


I don't suppose he needed to increase his mortgage:
Former Prime Minister David Cameron has found a new way to chillax with his morning edition of City A.M. after he bought a £25,000 "shepherd's hut" for his garden.
The hut, made by Oxfordshire-based Red Sky Shepherd's Hut, now sits in the Camerons' garden.
 Nice for some ...

   

30 April 2017

Is this the best she could come up with?


Pretty vacuous stuff:
May, on her first visit to Scotland since calling the election, said: “My message to the people of Scotland is clear – every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in the Brexit negotiations. That will strengthen the Union, strengthen the economy and the UK and Scotland together will flourish because if Scotland is flourishing, the rest of the United Kingdom is flourishing, too. That’s really important because, as prime minister of the United Kingdom, I want to see every part of our country succeed.”
Really?  Does anyone seriously think that the rest of the EU cares tuppence about how many votes St Theresa gets?  Or that it will in any way influence their negotiating position?  Or that, if Scotland flourishes, the rest of the UK will be also be flourishing?

 

29 April 2017

Gorgeous and free?


Patsy has been at the gin.  The Times reports:
Joanna Lumley has hit back at critics of the garden bridge after the mayor of London withdrew his support for the project yesterday.
The actress, who played Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, said she feared that Britain was in danger of becoming “a nation that pulls the shutters down” and said the tree-covered walkway across the Thames, which was her idea, had fallen victim to party politics.
“It was so well received when it was first suggested that all this has come as a shock,” she said. “I had this slightly hippie dream of putting something gorgeous and free in the middle of London to bring beauty and peace to tired commuters, so for those of us who have loved this idea for some time the news is absolutely shattering, devastating.
The Guardian (aka Miseryguts) has a different story:
Launched as a privately sponsored gift to the city, Joanna Lumley’s “tiara for the Thames” had soon gobbled up £60m of public cash and the promise of an extra £3.5m a year for evermore. It was quickly revealed to be more a corporate events space than public crossing, a planted branding opportunity just 200 metres from an existing bridge, where groups would have to register and visitors would be tracked via their mobile phones. It was relentlessly exposed to be the product of the “chumocracy”, flouting all the usual rules of procurement. The miracle is that it ever got so far, and that so much public money has already been flushed into the Thames.
The blame lies firmly with former mayor Boris Johnson, the one actor in this sorry saga who refused to comply with Margaret Hodge’s recent inquiry into the project. Her investigation found multiple failings from the start, from the Garden Bridge Trust’s shaky business case (which put a lot of faith in the lucrative potential of selling T-shirts and pens), to a tendering process that was “not open, fair or competitive”, to confusion as to what the project was even for, concluding that the bridge should be scrapped before it burned through any more cash. And it all comes back to Boris.
I guess the tired London commuters will have to seek elsewhere for their beauty and peace.  Not that anyone outside the M25 gives a damn ...


 


26 April 2017

The Dear Leader is in Wales

From The Guardian (here):
Eight minutes earlier than planned, a commotion at the main entrance put everyone on full alert. Once again the placards, all of them identical, were thrust into the air and this time they stayed there as Kim Jong-May was greeted with rapture. She smiled awkwardly. The Supreme Leader isn’t entirely comfortable meeting ordinary people, even when they have been hand-picked for their devotion.
After a brief introduction from the Welsh secretary, Alun Cairns, whose Vale of Glamorgan constituency is next door to Bridgend, Kim Jong-May stepped on to the platform to address her loyal subjects. “This is the most important election in my lifetime,” she began. Primarily because it was the only one in which she had ever stood as Supreme Leader. And what she wanted was a mandate so large she would still be in power long after she and everyone else in the room had died. Even eternity wasn’t long enough. Her eyes scoured the room for the merest hint of dissent. None came. No one dared even blink. Or breathe.
Kim Jong-May told herself to relax and try harder to engage with her people, but she wasn’t entirely sure how to do so. It was so hard to do empathy when everyone in the room was weak and unstable. She willed her eyes to convey warmth, but they remained ice-cold. “What this country needs is strong and stable leadership,” she continued. “And only I can provide that strong and stable leadership.” Anything less was unthinkable.

   

22 April 2017

Music of the week

If you have never heard of Zizi Jeanmaire or Sacha Distel, this is probably not for you ...

21 April 2017

More wishful thinking?

It is surely not as bad as The Times intimates:
A charismatic leader with a competent team running on a left-wing programme would lose an election to Theresa May. Labour is insulting the electorate by putting up a man of no charisma and little intellect who, on small matters like Britain and the EU, has nothing to say. It is a recipe for catastrophe and the only question is how bad it gets. Spare yourself the inevitable “oh, but Trump”, “oh, but Brexit”, “oh, but Le Pen” nonsense. Labour is putting a cast-iron solid dud in front of the British people and they are going to deliver the message to Mr Corbyn that his own party has struggled to articulate.
Or is it?

   

Wishful thinking?

Could Corbyn do the business after all?  The Independent indulges itself:
Corbyn is a natural and life-long campaigner. Some of those at his London rally noted that he seemed more cheerful and at ease than he had for months. Leadership, in the sense of management, may not be his forte, but he has no problem commanding a platform. Remember, too, that Labour membership in the country at large is at a record level, and includes many young voters. At these new grassroots, it is, of course, a different Labour from the New Labour that won three elections. But it is a Labour that reflects the experience of three failed wars and the banking crisis and the failure to bring those responsible for any of these national catastrophes to account. Corbyn’s talk about the system being “rigged” has resonance.  
As the surprise showing of the leftist candidate in France has shown, and that of Bernie Sanders in the US before him, there is a new following for what looks rather like old, ideological, socialism – Corbyn’s socialism, as it happens. Whether he can hijack the electoral agenda away from Theresa May’s brand of patriotic Brexit and towards the policies he was starting to formulate, predicated on old ideas of social justice, is a question. But the battle between the two could be what this election comes to be about.
And if, just if, the polls were wrong (it does happen), and the Prime Minister failed to increase her majority or even suffered defeat, what then? Would that bring Brexit back into play? How does the will of the people as expressed in a referendum stack up against the will of the people as expressed in a parliamentary vote? Could the referendum be rerun? Dream on, you will say. But this is a general election – another – and the campaign is yet young.
Dream on is about right.

 

19 April 2017

Quote of the day

The Guardian  explains why Mrs May decided to call an election:
The problem was the opposition. They were doing the wrong thing by opposing her. Never mind that they weren’t being very effective, the problem was that they existed at all. They were a nuisance. Come to think of it, President Erdo─čan had a point in clamping down on any dissent. “At this moment of national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division,” May said. She had changed her mind over Brexit when she had spotted the opportunity to become prime minister and she couldn’t for the life of her understand why other people couldn’t be so flexible with their principles.
“The country is coming together,” she continued, waving away the inconvenient truth that no one could remember a time when it had been more split. “But Westminster is not.” Labour MPs had said they might vote against a deal with the EU if they thought it wasn’t good enough. How very dare they!
The Lib Dems – all nine of them – had threatened to grind government business to a standstill. The SNP had promised to be the SNP. Life had become just impossible for her. Her opponents had tried to take advantage of her small majority, so now she was going to punish them by wiping them out completely.

   

A hiding to nothing?

The Independent thinks that an early general election will favour the SNP:
Nicola Sturgeon must be rubbing her hands with glee at this moment.
In the aftermath of Theresa May’s announcement to hold a snap election, Sturgeon knows how most Scots will receive the news: badly.
Provided May is allowed to hold the election by Parliament, it will most likely lead to a Conservative victory and further degradation of the opposition – one poll predicts the Conservatives will end up with a 100-seat lead in Parliament. So long 2020: May could stay in power until 2022.
Sturgeon’s tweet after the news hit the nail on the head: “The Tories see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts. Let's stand up for Scotland. #GE17,” she said.
Me, I'm not so sure.  The SNP already holds 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.  The best that Sturgeon can hope for is three gains and no losses, a relatively modest return which would do little to increase the SNP's influence at Westminster.  On the other hand, even one or two losses would be portrayed by unionists as a roll-back of the SNP tide.  And would an increased overall majority for the Tories increase the prospects of an IndyRef2 in the short to medium term?

   

 

18 April 2017

It's a point of view ...

... on the imminent general election.  From The New Statesman:
The universe has existed for around 13bn years. The earth for 4bn, complex life for 500m, modern humans for 200,000 years. The average human lifespan is around 80.
Who gives a crap who wins this thing? In cosmic terms we’ll all be dead in a blink of an eye anyway.
Anyway. Is it still too early to start drinking?
 

Jusqu'au bout

It becomes de plus en plus interessant.  Bloomberg reports:
France’s presidential race enters its final stretch with no clear winner in sight as the main contenders scrap for votes in a flurry of campaign rallies.
...
According to Elabe’s latest poll, released Monday, support for Macron stands at 24 percent, while Le Pen is at 23 percent. Fillon holds 21 percent, followed by Melenchon at 18 percent. Le Pen has threatened to take France out of the EU, while Melenchon wants to renegotiate the bloc’s treaties, including the one that keeps the country in the euro. Macron would defeat any of his rivals in the runoff, the survey showed, so long as he can get there.

Only 5 days until the first round.

 

14 April 2017

Sounds good, but ...

There's always a "but".  Earlier this week, The Guardian reported:
Early investors in “punk” beer firm BrewDog will be able to bank a hefty profit this week. An injection of cash from a private equity house valued the company at £1bn, 10 years after it began life in its co-founder’s mother’s garage.
San Francisco-based TSG Consumer Partners agreed to buy 22% of BrewDog, whose idiosyncratic beers and international network of bars have won it a cult following, in a deal worth £213m.
Some £100m will be invested in the business while TSG, which also owns US brewer Pabst, also spent £113m buying shares from existing investors, according to the Sunday Times.
Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie are understood to have made £100m between them as a result of the deal, a decade after they used a £20,000 bank loan to start brewing in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
BrewDog’s army of nearly 50,000 “Equity Punks”, its name for investors in four previous rounds of crowdfunding, will be able to sell up to 15% of their shares from this week, the company said.
Watt told investors that they stand make a return of 2,800% if they were among those who bought in at the first opportunity in 2010.
I am one of those early investors and was looking forward to that 2800% return.  My initial investment of £3250 would now be worth over £90,000.  Whoopee!  The sale of 15% of my shares would return over £12,000.

I have now received Brewdog's offer to buy 15% of my shares.  Alas, the price they are offering is a mere £13.18 per share, limited to a maximum sale of 40 shares.  That delivers a paltry £527.20.

So, while Messrs Watt and Dickie are laughing all the way to the bank with their £100 million, it would appear that whatever largesse is available is not being fairly shared with the ordinary shareholders.

That will teach me to invest in start-ups.  And, no, I have not sold my forty shares.  Maybe at some point in the future, a proper market for BrewDog shares will be established.

 

08 April 2017

Music of the week

Quote of the day

Matthew Parris in The Times (here):
... what next? You’d have to be exceptionally sanguine to feel any confidence that President Trump has given sustained attention to this question. But a choice faces him. Is there now a new US policy of regime change in Syria? Or (as Mr Trump’s earlier campaign messaging suggested) is there not?
Translate those alternatives into real terms. Is Thursday night’s strike a message to Bashar al-Assad that it is curtains for his presidency? Or a message that if he wants to be left alone he had better stick to barrel-bombing and mass executions and steer clear of evident chemical attacks? The US secretary of state’s hints earlier on Thursday that there is now “no place” for Assad in Syria do not grow less opaque under close textual analysis and my guess is that Rex Tillerson hasn’t the least idea which way Washington should jump. My guess would also be that at this stage the president himself hasn’t the least idea.
A case of not looking before leaping?

   

07 April 2017

Deterrence?

The Times reports:
The United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian airfield last night in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians.
On President Trump’s orders, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airfield in western Syria. Officials said the base was used to stage a gas attack which killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, in a rebel-held town in Idlib province on Tuesday.
Mr Trump said it was vital that America deter the use of chemical weapons and urged “all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria”.
The way to end slaughter and bloodshed is by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airfield?  Just asking ...

 

Phenomenal!

A cheap night out?

The BBC reports:
Former US president Barack Obama is to make his first visit to Scotland when he addresses business leaders in the capital next month.
He will also answer questions from the audience at the event, which is being held to raise money for charity.
The dinner in Edinburgh on 26 May is thought to be one of his first major addresses since his term as president came to an end.
The event at the EICC is being organised by The Hunter Foundation.
The charity was set up by leading businessman and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter.Tickets for a table of 10 at the dinner are expected to go on sale for approximately £5,000.
£500 a head?  They could quadruple that and the EICC would still be packed to the gunwales.

05 April 2017

Getting down and dirty

By their friends shall ye know them.  The Guardian reports:
Liam Fox’s declaration of “shared values” with Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines leader whose war on drugs has killed 7,000 people, has prompted dismay about the government’s approach to human rights as it seeks post-Brexit trade deals.
The international trade secretary, who will also visit Malaysia and Indonesia on his trip, said in an article published in local media that he wanted Britain to build a stronger relationship with the Philippines based on “a foundation of shared values and shared interests”.
As Fox visited the Philippines, Theresa May was in Saudi Arabia as part of a wider government effort to shore up the UK’s trading position after Brexit. Speaking to the BBC, she refused to criticise the government’s bombardment of Yemen, which is estimated to have killed more than 10,000 civilians and displaced more than 3 million people.
And so, by pandering to corrupt dictators, the UK sinks into an amoral morass of cynicism ...

 

31 March 2017

Not sure how this is going to work ...

As The Independent puts it, the Great Repeal Bill "will see every piece of EU law affecting the UK brought onto the UK statute book on the day of Brexit, with ministers then given the powers to adjust parts to make them workable in the UK and potentially ditch parts they do not like".

Now I am not a lawyer but I used to have a working knowledge of the EU regulations governing EU Structural Funds.  These funds, administered by the EU Commission, provide grants for economic and social development, particularly for regions whose GDP is well below the EU average.  This is beneficial for areas in the UK such as the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Northern Ireland.

The EU regulations provide - among other things - that the grants are awarded by the Member State and reclaimed from the EU Commission.  The individual projects supported in this way are required to conform with the Commission's priorities as set out in the regulations; they also have to form part of an overall programme for the area concerned which has to be submitted by the Member State for prior approval by the Commission.  The Member State seeks reimbursement on a prescribed schedule from the Commission of the grants it has paid out, as well as making periodic reports to the Commission in a prescribed form, detailing progress against the targets set out in the original area programme.  All very bureaucratic.

Back to the Great Repeal Bill.  Given the central position of the Commission in the processes, it makes no real sense to simply cut and paste the various EU regulations on Structural Funds into the UK Statute Book.  If the Structural Funds policy is to continue, the rules will need to be completely re-written.  And who knows if the policy will continue after Brexit?

Some further complications:

1.  The current Structural Funds programmes run until 2020, beyond Brexit, and the Commission reimbursement will (in theory at least) continue into 2021, while the EU auditing process is scheduled to continue thereafter.

2.  The role of the Member State in the above processes is devolved - where geographically appropriate - to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.  And they therefore have a considerable interest in what will happen.

All very difficult. And this is only one relatively minor policy field among the myriad that needs to be sorted.  I am glad that I am retired.

   

   

29 March 2017

Below the bottom


It may be sexist nonsense, but at least The Guardian is paying some attention to the Scottish Parliament:
A pair of legs stood up and the body attached to them prepared to speak. There were so many things Nicola Sturgeon’s shapely shanks would have liked to say. About how the Daily Mail had said how much more attractive they were than Theresa May’s famously long extremities. About how the prime minister had been so intimated – or was that seduced? – by her luscious legs that she had immediately gone on the back foot. About how if all the Little Laydeez of Scotland were to vote for independence, then they too could have pins like her.
Six days ago the debate on the second Scottish referendum had been suspended after the attack on Westminster. Sturgeon began by adopting a more conciliatory note than she had when opening the debate the previous week, emphasising shared values, democracy and differences of opinion that were sincerely held.
“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” muttered Nicola’s legs. “What’s any of this got to do with us?”
“Just shut up and keep yourselves to yourselves,” replied Sturgeon.
Nicola’s legs tried to unsheathe themselves by poking out from behind her lectern, but the first minister managed to rein them back in. Trust Sturgeon’s head and torso to spoil the fun, thought the legs.

How do male politicians compete?

25 March 2017

Music of the week

Not waving but drowning

Far from draining the swamp, President Trump seems to be floundering in it:
Donald Trump's flagship healthcare bill has been killed off after failing to secure enough support from Republicans, in a major embarrassment for the US President during his first attempt at passing legislation through the House.
The decision, made just minutes before the vote was due to take place, will be viewed as a significant set back for Mr Trump, who has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare.
He is learning that governing is more difficult than it may appear..

24 March 2017

Happy birthday ...

... to Archie Gemmell, 70 years old today.  Was it really nearly 40 years ago?




 

The parliamentary sketchwriters rise to the occasion

From The Times (here):
Tobias Ellwood, the Bournemouth MP who had tried to save the life of the fallen policeman, stood by the door, his arms folded. As tributes were paid to his heroism, he looked at his feet and seemed to swallow hard.
When Matthew Offord (C, Hendon) suggested his colleague deserved an honour, Mr Ellwood shook his head. He did not want to be the story. “The honourable and gallant member”, a formula that only Mr Robertson correctly gave to this former soldier, seemed especially apt. Several MPs and one doorkeeper came over to shake Mr Ellwood’s hand or to pat him on the shoulder.

From The Guardian (here):
Conservative MP James Cleverly made the most moving contribution. He had known PC Palmer from when they were both in the army together and he was in tears as he remembered his old friend. Cleverly called for Palmer to be recognised with a posthumous award. May insisted Palmer would not be forgotten.
All the while, Ellwood stood at the back of the chamber, his arms crossed, holding his feelings in, as colleagues praised his actions.
He looked in pain, as if he would much rather be anywhere else but knew he couldn’t not be there.
As MPs drifted away, many, including Corbyn, stopped to touch his arm and thank him for what he had done. Ellwood half-smiled, but gave little away. Whatever he was thinking and feeling was for him and him alone. 

 

23 March 2017

Science of the day


The Guardian reports:
The most radical shakeup of the dinosaur family tree in a century has led scientists to propose an unlikely origin for the prehistoric beasts: an obscure cat-sized creature found in Scotland.
I guess I always knew that some of my compatriots were dinosaurs ...

   

22 March 2017

Quote of the day

From The Independent (here):
Days before Article 50 is triggered, with Britain wobbling halfway over the cliff edge like the van at the end of The Italian Job, Labour speaks only to itself. Or, more accurately, bits of itself scream at other bits like a loft full of mad aunts and uncles.
On one side of the attic, a leaked tape suggests a planned Momentum-Unite alliance to ensure the far left retains power in perpetuity. On the other, surviving Blairites stagger lividly about beneath the pulverising weight of their sense of entitlement denied. Wandering morosely about in the middle are the undead, whose craving to be rid of Jeremy Corbyn is outmatched only by fear of strengthening him with another laughable leadership challenge.
Meanwhile, Tom Watson, the Glastonbury tent bopper who moonlights as deputy leader, pours petrol on the fire by exaggerating any pact between Jon Lansman of Momentum and Unite’s Len McCluskey into an existential threat.
It's not as bad as that?  In the immortal words of Mr Dalgleish, "mibbes aye, mibbes naw"

   

21 March 2017

All over the shop

So, 29 March is the big day for the invocation of Article 50, thus initiating the negotiations for Brexit.

Do you suppose that the Government have made sensible use of the nine months that have elapsed since the referendum last June?  That they now have a clear idea of what they want from the negotiations and that they have identified their red lines?  That they have been in touch with friendly sources in the rest of the EU to determine what is and is not possible?  That they have identified the key ministers and officials to lead in the negotiations?  In short, that they have a viable plan?

No?  Me neither ...

 

19 March 2017

Am I bovvered?

So, BA is cutting back on the first class perks:
A tasty amuse-bouche with the first drink, fresh flowers in the lavatories, a generously sized washbag and a pair of slippers — all free. These were the little touches that first-class customers with British Airways had come to expect.
Insiders at the airline, however, claim that BA is now cutting back on some of its first-class and business-class perks as it races to cut costs.
My usual mode of airline travel is cattle class on Ryanair where luxuries are non-existent.

   

18 March 2017

Music of the week

Quote of the day

From George Osborne's diary (here):
Friday
So. It’s been announced. There’s quite the uproar. At lunchtime I visit the paper and tell the staff how excited I am to be becoming a top journalist. Then I call Theresa May, to let her know I’m a newspaper editor now, because, well, why not, and how hard can it be?
“I’m surprised you have the time,” she says.
“Stop it,” I say. “It’s only editing a newspaper! It’s like people have forgotten I combined being an MP with running Britain’s economy for six whole years!”
“And how did that go?” says Theresa.
“That’s irrelevant,” I say.

 

17 March 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
First minister’s questions in Scotland is an altogether more enlightening affair than prime minister’s questions down south. Not least because serious questions get asked. And answered. It helps that the two main adversaries, Sturgeon and Conservative Ruth Davidson, are rather sharper than their UK counterparts – not difficult for Davidson as Jeremy Corbyn hit a new low at PMQs the day before by even forgetting to ask a couple of questions. It’s also a major plus that the rest of the chamber manages to listen without sounding like a Bash Street Kids school reunion. When each speaker has finished talking, there is a round of applause. Or silence. It’s disconcertingly polite.

   

Has Theresa May been lured into a trap?


If I were Nicola Sturgeon (which, thank the Lord, I'm not sir), I would not - inwardly - be excessively displeased by the turn of events:
Nicola Sturgeon has accused Theresa May of sealing the fate of the United Kingdom after the prime minister rejected her demand for a second Scottish independence referendum before the Brexit talks conclude.
The first minister said May’s stance was “completely outrageous and unacceptable”, hours after the prime minister had insisted that “now is not the time” for the referendum that the SNP had hoped to stage between autumn 2019 and spring 2019.
Sturgeon said on Thursday: “It’s an argument for independence, really, in a nutshell, that Westminster thinks it has got the right to block the democratically elected mandate of the Scottish government and the majority in the Scottish parliament. History may look back on today and see it as the day the fate of the union was sealed.”
She insisted she would press on with plans for a vote at the Scottish parliament next week seeking its approval to request the legal power from Westminster to stage the referendum on Holyrood’s terms – a vote she is expected to narrowly win with Scottish Green party support.
I am far from sure that the Blessed Nicola actually wanted IndyRef2 at this time (or at least within the next two years) but felt obliged to go along with the bulk of opinion in the SNP, even if the omens for an early referendum were less than propitious (oil, currency, economy and all that).  So now she may be quietly relieved that Theresa has produced the kibosh.  Nicola can once again point to perfidious Westminster, thus keeping the party activists happy while metaphorically girding her loins for a more realistic prospect of a successful IndyRef2 in the early 2020s when Brexit will have been proved to be a catastrophe but the Tories remain likely to be in power for ever and ever.

Well, maybe ...