25 May 2013

A modern dilemma

So little time, so much telly to watch.  Simon Hoggart explains the problem:

Do other readers suffer from TV guilt? I have seen only three episodes of The Wire. Admit this to friends, and they look as if you had given up driving lessons after a fortnight. Pathetic and useless.
We have seven episodes of Borgen II recorded but not viewed. People say things like: "You're not watching Game of Thrones? Ohmigod! Well at least there'll be the box set."
We didn't see Treme. Nor a single episode of Spiral. Or Dexter. We stopped watching Mad Men about two years ago. I wouldn't know how to access Netflix. We are up with The Fall (brilliant – makes Belfast appear to be full of delightful people and a lot of homicidal maniacs, so no change there) and we did manage all of Broadchurch. But we lost The Politician's Husband, and still have a Foyle's War to watch.
Life was so much simpler in pre-video days when everyone refused invitations because the Forsyte Saga was on. Now we all just have a long list of unwatched shows, all of which, it seems, our friends are raving about. I feel as outdated as if I wore a Fair Isle sweater, ate Pot Noodle and had a two-bar electric fire in the sitting room.

I am reaching the stage where I find it difficult to cope with serials.  There are too many of them and, by the time the following week comes around, the impetus has been lost.  More convenient to wait for the box-set and then have a splurge on successive evenings, so that the narrative remains fresh (and comprehensible).

And, anyway, what's wrong with Fair Isle sweaters and pot noodle?


20 May 2013

Score draw?

Not terribly convincing.  City AM reports:

AN INDEPENDENT Scotland would find it difficult to guarantee savers deposits in banks, the Treasury has claimed in a new report out today, leaving bank and building society customers vulnerable.
Currently depositors are guaranteed up to £85,000, with the government bailing out savers in a failed bank and the rest of the industry paying that debt back over the following years – as in the case of failed Icelandic banks and Bradford and Bingley.
But the government today argues that such a guarantee would be difficult to put in place in Scotland.
As the sector is dominated by RBS and the Bank of Scotland, any failure would place a huge burden on the remaining bank, which the Treasury argues would be unable to cope.

First, if either of Scotland's two banks fell over, the overwhelming majority of depositors would be in the rest of the UK, so that it would fall to the UK Treasury (and ultimately the English banks) to meet the bulk of the guarantee.  Second, if the two Scottish banks are taken out of the equation, the situation in the rest of the UK would be dominated by two English banks (Barclays and HSBC).  If either of them fell over, the English would be in exactly the same position as the Treasury suggests the Scots would be.

16 May 2013

Forward to the past

So Gideon thinks that things are getting better:
George Osborne has warned that changing course on the economy would take Britain “back to square one” as he insisted that his strategy is working.
Did we ever leave square one?  The government's debt is continuing to increase, unemployment is continuing to increase and gdp remains well below the level which he inherited.


15 May 2013

Omnishambles (again)

This amendment to the gracious speech - The Guardian explains the ins and outs:
1. David Cameron says he is relaxed about Tory MPs voting for an amendment criticising the Queen's speech - even though he has been taking steps to try to stop them voting for it.
2. Conservative ministers will not be voting for the amendment - even though, in calling for an EU referendum bill, it is simply asserting Conservative party policy.
3. Conservative ministers and Conservative backbenchers will be voting differently (some in favour of the amendment, some abstaining) - even though Cameron insists they want the same thing.
4. Actually voting against the amendment would probably be the most rebellious thing a Tory MP could do - even though normally government MPs are whipped to oppose amendments criticising the Queen's speech.
5. Labour MPs will be voting against the amendment - even though this means they are effectively voting to spare the government's Queen's speech from criticism.
6. Lib Dem MPs will be voting against the amendment - even though Nick Clegg told MPs at PMQs today that a future referendum on Europe was inevitable.

And the band played "Believe it if you like"

Big Dave is taking a tough line.  The Independent reports:

David Cameron has ruled out any  further concessions to his hardline Eurosceptic MPs as they prepared to defy him by staging a Commons revolt today.
The Prime Minister tried to end the damaging impression that he is being pushed around by rebel Conservative backbenchers yesterday, as his party rushed out a Draft European Union (Referendum) Bill.

Nobody believes him, of course, least of all his rebellious backbenchers.  The man has all the spine of a jellyfish, as has been amply demonstrated by the list of u-turns he has performed since taking office.  And stamping his feet in a fit of childish temper is unlikely to convince anyone ...

14 May 2013

Quote of the day

From a Telegraph blogger (here), anent Cameron's euro-tribulations (should that be euro-contortions?):
I literally have no idea what David Cameron thinks he’s doing. And I’m pretty sure David Cameron has no idea either. 



Management jargon reaches football.  Here is a gnomic utterance from Manchester City:
"Despite everyone's best efforts, the club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season's Uefa Champions League. This, combined with an identified need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club, has meant that the decision has been taken to find a new manager for the 2013-14 season and beyond."
Ah yes, the lack of a holistic approach.  What does that mean, exactly?  The Guardian tries to explain:
The reference to a "holistic approach" suggests a sea change in philosophy from top to bottom of the club, driven by the chief executive, Ferran Soriano, and Txiki Begiristain, the director of football. This may include playing 4-3-3 throughout the academy and in the first team. Following the removal of Mancini, who could be a divisive figure, there may also be a hope that the club will be more cohesive.
How banal.  A holistic approach means nothing more than adopting a consistent 4-3-3 formation, together with an absence of arguments.  The Guardian's football commentators need to raise their game;  what does Nietzsche have to say about the over-lapping wingback? 


11 May 2013

Closing stable doors

Hmm, yet another banking crisis.  Perhaps the ratings agency has over-reacted?

The Co-operative Bank is trying to reassure its customers that it would not need a multimillion-pound taxpayer bailout after its debt was downgraded to junk status and its chief executive suddenly quit.
The move by the ratings agency Moody's to take the axe to the Manchester-based bank's credit rating followed weeks of speculation about its financial position after it posted £600m losses in March and then pulled out of a deal to buy 632 branches from Lloyds Banking Group.
Moody's warned that the bank might need "external support" – perhaps from its parent group which owns grocers, pharmacies and funeral homes – if it could not bolster its financial position. The agency cited concerns about the Co-operative incurring more losses from loans to property companies and the slow integration of the Britannia Building Society, which the Co-operative took over three years ago.
The City was stunned by the scale of the downgrade – six notches – which will raise the price at which the bank borrows on the financial markets and illustrates the speed at which the agency believes the bank's finances have deteriorated.

I am nevertheless bound to wonder why the Bank of England and its clutch of regulatory agencies failed to head off this situation at the pass.  Or were they sleeping again?

04 May 2013

Worth a read

Marina gets it:

The smaller British politics gets, the more it feels that you might as well judge a politician by that key question: could you honestly bear to have a pint with them? I could bear to have a pint with Nigel Farage. Not anyone else in his party, you understand. But a pint and a fag with Farage, and probably a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, which I'd tear down the seam and spread out on the table while Nigel told some story against himself.
I think after five or six pints Nigel might start airing a few views I couldn't warm to, so I wouldn't stick around. But I could stand one pint with him, quite possibly even a pint and a half. With Messrs Nicholas Clegg, Edward Miliband and David Cameron, however, I would cross continents to avoid taking even a fluid ounce. The other leaders – and I do think we must refer to them in the same breath as Farage, just because it annoys them so hilariously much – look about as convivial as haemorrhoids. They have spent the week of the local elections looking like pompous arses, while the affable semi-berk Farage has led Ukip to the biggest surge by a fourth party in England since the second world war.

Shame that the usual crew of commentators in the Westminster bubble are lost up their own fundaments.

03 May 2013

A flash in the pan ...

... or a game-changer?  So UKIP appears to have done rather a lot better than expected in the English local elections, with 42 gains after 7 of the 34 councils have declared, while taking a 26% share of the vote.  It is now entirely possible that they will end up with over 200 seats gained.  We can now revise upwards UKIP's prospects at next year's European elections where, in England at least, they may end up as the largest party, in terms of both seats and votes.

So where would that leave Scotland as it approaches the independence referendum in the autumn of next year?  If England under UKIP or, more likely, under a UKIP-influenced Tory Party bent on tacking to the right, is revealing its poujadiste, xenophobic, little Englander, anti-European tendencies, would Scotland want to remain in a United Kingdom?