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 ...



More here.



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


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


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.


16 May 2016

Fake bomb at Old Trafford

Interesting that neither The Guardian nor The Times is prepared to name the so-called "private company" that failed to take away the fake bomb in the toilets at Old Trafford after a "training exercise" earlier in the week, causing the evacuation of the stadium and the postponement of the match.  Nor is the BBC.

Why not?


Silly Boris

The Independent is less than impressed by Boris comparing the EU with Hitler:
Contemplating the latest droplet of Hitlerian idiocy, this one from Boris Johnson’s noble brow, all manner of laws, acronyms and Latin phrases come to mind.
Whenever anyone makes reference to the Fuhrer, you think of Godwin’s Law, which effectively states that the longer any debate (specifically on the internet) continues, the closer to 100 per cent grows the likelihood that Adolf will be cited.
Other reference points include HDS (Hitler Derangement Syndrome); “reductio ad Hitlerum”; PLMHF (Post-London Mayoral Hitler Fixation; see Kenneth Livingstone); and the general rule of thumb that regardless of the subject – EU membership, fracking, how to grow cherry tomatoes in an east-facing garden – an argument is lost the instant someone brings you-know-who out of the closet.
All the above may apply to Boris’s comparison between Hitler’s dream of rediscovering “the golden age of peace and prosperity under the Romans” with the EU’s attempt “to do this by different methods.” But the acronym of choice is DBS. 
Don’t. Be. Silly.



14 May 2016

Music of the week

Feeling belligerent?

See daughters!

Dave has family problems, as revealed by SamCam's diary:
Well I have never known Nancy so cross with Dave, he’s like, I was only saying what everybody thinks, she’s like, Dad, do you know how long I SPENT crafting that Churchill speech “the serried rows of white headstones”, total Project Fear gold, & now all anybody can talk about is Nigeria & tax havens & all because YOU could not stop showing off, you should be ashamed of yourself at your age :((( Dave’s like, wait Nancy, the Queen did it too, how come I am in trouble when she did the exact same thing? Nancy’s like, hello, was the Queen idiotic enough to call a referendum, honestly Dad you do not deserve to win, if you want to embarrass yourself go ahead, but have you thought how it makes ME look, & canunot check your phone while I’m talking, there are weeks to go & we have already used up war, pestilence & famine, I was saving death for later, but so what, nobody seems to care :(

12 May 2016

Silly money

The Guardian reports on the BBC's travails over high salaries for presenters:
Gary Lineker, Chris Evans and Graham Norton will be among a group of BBC stars forced to declare how much they are paid as part of plans unveiled in a white paper on the future of the corporation published on Thursday.
The BBC will be told to reveal the pay of presenters who earn more than the £450,000 a year paid to director general Tony Hall – a plan described as a “poachers’ charter” by media executives who say rivals could use the new rules to pick off the BBC’s best-paid presenters.
How much do they get paid?
The three-year contract Evans negotiated with the BBC last year is thought to have netted him as much as £2m a year for presenting Top Gear and his Radio 2 breakfast show.
Other high earners at the BBC include: Match of the Day presenter Lineker (on a reported £2m); Norton (just under £2m); and Clare Balding (as much as £2m). None of these figures have been confirmed by the BBC.
Would anybody care if these four were "poached" by Sky or ITV?  (Nobody else would be daft enough to pay them these kind of salaries.)  It's not as if they were particularly good at their jobs.

11 May 2016

Lost in space

Iain Duncan Smith is oblivious to his internal contradictions:
The EU’s institutions, Mr Duncan Smith said, were “irredeemably unwieldy”, its processes as slow-moving as treacle. It is unlikely ever to agree on a trade deal with the United States. Yet on Day 1 of Brexit, Brussels will bend over backwards to sort us out with a great deal.
“We are the fifth largest economy in the world,” he said. “Are you telling me that we aren’t going to be able to arrive at a deal that is particular to the UK? I don’t think so. I think that they will do that straight away.”
And not only will the Eurocrats be burning the midnight oil to sort us out with a splendid deal, but they will suddenly decide that reform is the way ahead for themselves. “Brexit might be the shock to the EU system that is so desperately needed,” Mr Duncan Smith said. “Given we are so uninfluential inside the EU, our maximum moment of influence might be in leaving.”
He is a mass of contradictions. Brussels is incompetent but will be efficient once we leave; it is never going to improve but seemingly eager to reform; and Britain should leave because it is the most European-friendly thing to do.
 Imagine - this guy was once the leader of the Tory Party ...


We're a' doomed, I tell ya

Project Fear is becoming ridiculous.  The Times reports:
Leaving the European Union would immediately cause the value of the pound to plummet by as much as 20 per cent, while income tax would have to rise to counter cuts in migration, a respected think tank has warned.
A vote to leave would result in a “significant shock to the UK economy”, the non-partisan National Institute for Economic and Social Research has said, as it presented prospects for the UK up to 2030 in the event of Brexit.
The think tank looked at trading scenarios that the UK might face following a vote to leave the EU, including models in which Britain had the same deal as Switzerland or Norway. Yet in every model analysed, wages, household consumption and trade suffered.
Seven plagues next ...


Now who's "fantastically corrupt"?

The gravy train re-fuels when it stops at the station:
Dozens of MPs’ staff were given nearly £1m in redundancy payments prior to the general election just weeks before returning to another publicly funded job, the expenses watchdog has disclosed.
Analysis from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) also showed that staff members related to MPs were paid on average £5,600 more than unrelated staff members during the last parliament.
The disclosures came in a report into MPs’ winding-up costs just before the last general election.
The report shows 125 staff members received £925,000 in tax-free redundancy payments with a break of employment of less than 10 weeks.
In each case, the staff member was made redundant as a result of their employer standing down or losing their seat at the election and entered into a new employment with a different MP within two months of their prior employment ending.

Not my experience

The Guardian reports:
Harrowing accounts of elderly people suffering and dying alone after being sent home from hospital too soon are related in a report from an NHS watchdog, which says too many vulnerable patients are being failed by the discharge system.
Dame Julie Mellor, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman, recounted the experiences of nine patients and their distressed families but added that these were only a fraction of the total number of such cases.
Perhaps the Scottish Health Service has a different practice.  On all three occasions in the past 18 months during which I underwent operations, the Edinburgh Western General was most reluctant to let me go, even although I am a relatively fit elderly person.  On one occasion, I had to discharge myself; on another, I had to get my sister to collect me in order to avoid spending another night in hospital.

I found the experiences intensely frustrating but I have no doubt that the actions of the hospital staff were motivated by the best of intentions.


10 May 2016

Deja vu again

Will the crisis never end?  The Guardian reports:
It’s that time of year again. Greece is running out of money. There are violent protests in Athens. Eurozone finance ministers are gathering in Brussels in an “emergency” conclave to decide what to do next.
The International Monetary Fund has already made it clear what it thinks should happen. It says Europe should cut Greece some slack by easing the terms of its bailout agreement and offering a solid dose of debt relief.
Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, has said that if Germany and its allies in the Eurogroup of finance ministers insist on making unrealistic demands of Greece she will not risk any more of the fund’s money.
This makes sense because it appears clear to all but the hardliners that the situation in Greece has become a mixture of the tragic and the absurd. Tragic, because theThis makes sense because it appears clear to all but the hardliners that the situation in Greece has become a mixture of the tragic and the absurd. Tragic, because the economy has shrunk by a quarter in the past eight years – equivalent to the contraction that the US suffered in the Great Depression – and the unemployment rate is 24.4%. Absurd because most of the €86bn (£68bn) that has been earmarked for Greece – provided it pushes through a raft of demand-destroying measures – will go straight out again to pay the country’s main creditors: the European Central Bank and the IMF. And with each bailout (this is the third since 2010), Greece’s debt mountain gets bigger.
More can-kicking on the cards, I suspect ...

Don't give up the day job, Boris


When is a veto not a veto?

Does Iain Duncan Smith understand the EU processes?  The BBC reports:
Germany had a "de facto veto" over David Cameron's EU renegotiations, ex-minister Iain Duncan Smith has said.
He told the Sun the PM ditched plans in 2014 to demand an emergency brake on migration after Germany objected.
Ahead of a speech on the EU and welfare on Tuesday, Mr Duncan Smith has made his most outspoken attack to date on the PM's attempts to negotiate a better deal for the UK in the EU, which concluded in February, telling the newspaper they had "failed".
The former Conservative leader, who resigned from the cabinet last month in a dispute over disability benefit cuts, described the concessions gained as "very marginal" and suggested that, in return, the UK had lost its veto on future fiscal and political integration within the eurozone.
"The EU knew that our veto was very powerful and we have given it away," he told the newspaper.
It is indeed the case that Germany had a veto over the EU re-negotiations.  And so did every other Member State, right down to tiny Malta.  Which is why Cameron was always going to struggle in his efforts to secure a reasonable deal.  But that’s the way of the EU (except in matters of lesser import, where there is an arrangement for decision by qualified majority).

As for the UK losing its veto on future developments within the eurozone, I cannot see that anything has changed.  As it chose to opt out of the euro, the UK has only ever had a marginal influence on policy decisions made within the eurozone and then only to the extent that any such decisions had a significant impact on the UK itself.  Nothing in the re-negotiations changes this position.  On the other hand, if the UK were to leave the EU, than any remaining formal influence over the EU would be totally lost.

09 May 2016

Don't hold your breath

How long before Cameron actually does anything?  The Times reports:
Britain’s sovereignty over a third of the world’s tax havens makes it “uniquely placed” to reduce corruption by lifting secrecy on the ownership of companies and trusts, a group of 300 leading economists writes today.
It a letter to world leaders before an anti-corruption summit being hosted by David Cameron in London on Thursday, the economists say that there is no justification for tax havens and urge the prime minister to take action to clamp down on them.
Aye, well, it's not gonna happen soon.  The article goes on:
The Times revealed on Saturday that commitments included in draft versions of the summit communiqué had been watered down. A demand that registers of the true ownership of offshore companies should be made public has been reduced to a commitment that law enforcement agencies and others can access the information.
Anything to avoid upsetting his pals in the City ...


06 May 2016

Not music of the week

h/t Heather

Election blues

So there you go.

The SNP denied an absolute majority, having lost 6 seats overall, and securing only 63 seats out of the total 129.  They will still be able to govern of course, but will have to be a little more careful than would otherwise be the case.  Not necessarily a Bad Thing.

Congrats to the Greens, who increased their participation from 2 to 6 seats (and forced the LibDems down into 5th place).  Definitely a Good Thing.

Labour walloped, losing 13 seats to end up with 24.  Not a Good Thing, but if they take a tumble to themselves and undergo a serious refresh, then the future may not be wholly gloomy.  But, for all of our sakes, keep hold of the admirable Kezia, my erstwhile fellow blogger.

And the Tories?  Gaining 16 seats, to end up with 31 and the sought-after place as the main opposition.  We will wait and see if that is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.


What is the world coming to?

And so I find that my new MSP is a kick-boxing lesbian Tory.  Not that I am prejudiced, but - horror of horrors - apparently she supports Dunfermline Athletic.


04 May 2016

Bar graph of the day

From The Independent (here):

Crocodile tears?

Apparently, the bookies are crying into their beer about having to pay out on Leicester's footballing success.  The BBC reports:
The betting industry is licking its financial wounds.
"In the history of betting, certainly since it was legalised in 1961, a [single event] winner with odds of 5,000-1 has never happened," says Simon Clare from the betting firm Coral. "Every bookmaker is crying out in pain."
"That's a barometer of what Leicester have done and just how amazing this win is."Jessica Bridges from rival Ladbrokes agrees.
"This is the biggest sporting upset of all time. We've all got a bit of egg on our face."
Bookmakers have been cheering Leicester's success, whilst simultaneously putting their hands in their collective pockets.

Aye, sure.  In reality, most bookmakers are happy to pay out on the occasional long-odds winner. As any serious punter will tell you, bookies only get hurt when the favourites win.  For every lucky punter who backed Leicester, think of the many thousands putting money on the likes of  Manchester Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal - on which bets the bookies did not have to pay out.

The one thing you can be sure of:  whatever the result, the bookies will bemoan their fate.


The Guardian agrees:
Football backers are creatures of habit. They like to bet the “big” teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, and they try to overcome the inevitable short odds by stitching their fortunes together in accumulator bets. If just one team fails to win, the whole bet goes down, and this season, the big names have all been failing with metronomic regularity.
The collective underperformance of the “big” teams is evident in the placed runners behind Leicester. Tottenham started the campaign at 150-1, while West Ham, who could yet sneak into the top four, were 3,000-1.
Alex Donohue, who handles Ladbrokes’ football PR, acknowledged this point on Tuesday. “It’s a falsehood if any bookie says they have lost money overall on Leicester,” Donohue said on Twitter. “£3m is a record net payout for a title winner, but we did well out of Leicester upsetting the odds to get there. No complaints at all.”
The bookies may have made a net loss on the outright “win” market for the Premier League, but that liability was handsomely offset by their winnings from the results of the 380 matches, on the weekend coupons and Sunday’s high-profile televised games in particular.


02 May 2016

Stat of the day

From The Times (here):
The single most depressing number published last week was the revelation from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that 43.8 per cent of British adults pay no income tax.
The proportion has risen sharply during the past decade. As recently as the 2007-08 tax year, according to the IFS, only 34.3 per cent of British adults paid no tax.
The position will worsen as the threshold rises over the next few years.

And the implications?
The implications of Mr Osborne’s deliberate hollowing out of the tax base will have severe consequences for both society and the economy. Getting on for half the adult population are now exempt from and unaffected by the single most effective tool used by the government to raise money. Getting on for half the population, then, in theory have no interest in voting for politicians promising to cut income tax because they don’t pay it; who, presumably, have no problem with politicians raising income tax rates because they don’t pay it themselves; and who, presumably, are uninterested in the cost of providing public services but only in what those services deliver.
And thus, paradoxically, George Osborne is paving the way for a Labour victory in future years.



01 May 2016

Irresponsible research

There are examples of good research and there are examples of bad research.  This is a good one, as reported in The Independent:
Having a glass of wine with your dinner could lead to better mental and physical health and higher self-esteem.
Contrary to UK Government advice suggesting keeping several days ‘alcohol free’, a new study from researchers in Finland, published in the Alcohol and Alcoholism journal, found several glasses of wine per day with an evening meal could actually be good for you.
Researchers from the universities of Helsinki and Tampere studied the drinking habits of almost 2,600 people between 18 and 69, and found that 12 per cent of people who had a glass of wine or two with dinner were the most likely to have good physical and mental health, and rate their self-esteem as ‘high’.
My self-esteem has never been higher.