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


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 ...



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 ...