30 March 2018

Does it matter?

Image result for gkn

Unless you are a GKN employee, probably not.  But the Melrose victory signals a warning for complacent management.  The Guardian reports:
On day one of Melrose’s bid for GKN in January, everybody in the City knew one thing. GKN, a 259-year old company that made cannonballs for Waterloo and Spitfires in the second world war, was doomed if its management mounted a defence based on its recent financial record.
GKN had disappointed its shareholders too often and three months previously had confessed to discovering a pile of overvalued stock in its US aerospace division. Credibility was low and GKN was up against a takeover specialist with a big City fanclub and a keen sense of when to pounce. As Melrose’s chairman, Christopher “Jock” Miller, volunteered, his firm had been watching GKN for years. The bidder was ready for action; the target wasn’t.
Miller and his two Melrose co-founders, who shared a £120m bonus pot last year from the proceeds of past deals, could wave a financial CV with an eye-catching boast: a pound invested in their company at launch in 2003 is now worth £18. The firm’s turnaround techniques have been condemned by the Unite union and some MPs as ugly asset-stripping – a charge Melrose fiercely rejects – but City fund managers have largely ignored that debate, as GKN knew they would.
I was a GKN shareholder but sold out (at a handsome profit) when Melrose made its initial bid.  I remain a Melrose shareholder.

I don't know what should be the moral of this tale ...


Rousing the country to apathy

The Maybot on her travels.  The Guardian reports:
There are few things more guaranteed to induce a sense of national panic than the prime minister announcing she is doing a whistle-stop tour of the country to reassure everyone that leaving the EU wasn’t going to be quite as bad as they feared. To mark the year to go till Brexit day, Theresa May started out by spending a few minutes at a textile factory in Ayr. Shortly after she left, most of the workers were checking to see if the factory was about to close.
Quite why the prime minister puts herself and the nation through such ordeals is something of a mystery. She finds it hard enough to look one of her cabinet ministers in the eye and clearly feels even more uncomfortable meeting ordinary people. The feeling is mutual. Her smiles are more like gurns and her conversation is mostly notable for its silences. At her second stop of the day, she sucked the life out of a children’s daycare centre in Northumberland and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she headed off.
Next on the itinerary was Bangor in Northern Ireland, where she had a private lunch with four farmers. One of them was dragged out to discuss on Sky News how it felt to have drawn the short straw. The poor man looked totally traumatised by the experience as he described how the prime minister had done absolutely nothing to convince them that she had a solution to the Irish border question. Partly because she didn’t have one, but also because she had barely said a word.

29 March 2018

Brexit progress?

From The Times Red Box:
Getting a deal for the whole of the UK will not be easy. It certainly hasn't been so far.
There was the question of the timetable, which Davis said would be the "big row of the summer" before caving in and agreeing to settle the divorce bill first. There was Boris Johnson telling Brussels to "go whistle" in its demands for divorce payments before agreeing to pay £50 billion, possibly more, possibly for ever. 
Freedom of movement was going to end on exit day in March 2019, and now it isn't. We would take back control of our fishing waters on exit day, and now we're not. We were going to tell the European Courts of Justice to get stuffed, but maybe not just yet, if at all.
And then there is Ireland. The never-ending, apparently insoluble question of preventing a hard border while having separate customs and trading regimes on either side of it. No amount of smart technology or likening it to driving out of Camden has yet found a way of keeping Northern Ireland in the UK while also open to Ireland.
Just about sums it up ...



The great Stephane Audran


There are times when you wonder why politicians such as Theresa May make such a fuss about reducing the level of immigration (for example to "tens of thousands" as you may remember) when they appear utterly incapable of establishing and administering a system of immigration control.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May’s long-promised system of “100% exit checks” at Britain’s borders is so unreliable that it contains no departure records for more than 600,000 people who should have left the country in the past two years, a watchdog has revealed.
A report by David Bolt, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said that the system also contains a growing “unmatched pot” of more than 201,000 records of departures of people for whom there is no Home Office record that they ever entered the country.
Bolt quoted Home Office staff complaining that they had been “mis-sold the programme”, that it was “rushed” and “flawed” and that inside the department there had been no comprehension of the vast and complicated nature of the data and the patterns it showed.
"Because it was not possible to to be certain about a person’s movements they could not rely on it as evidence of immigration (non) compliance,” the chief inspector said.
 Will it get better after Brexit?  Don't make me laugh ...

22 March 2018

Captain Haddock and the blistering blue barnacles

The ‘Fishing for Leave’ boat passes the Houses of Parliament on the Thames in London.

The Guardian reports:
As the 10-metre fishing boat Holladays R8 – aka HMS Brexit – approached Embankment Pier on the Thames shortly after 8.30am, a Transport for London official came running down the jetty.
“You can’t tie up here,” he yelled.
“Why not?” the skipper shouted back.
“Because you don’t have a permit.”
No one had apparently thought of that when the protest against the government’s concession on remaining in the common fisheries policy for the best part of two extra years had been planned. After someone casually tossed two dead fish overboard to stick it to the Man, the boat motored back into the middle of the river and proceeded to potter round in circles for several minutes. As a metaphor for the futility of Brexit, it could hardly be bettered. Piss up. Organise. Brewery.
As HMS Brexit rocked listlessly on the water a police boat appeared alongside. Farage was thrilled. Martyrdom awaited. Let him be arrested for fly-tipping. But the police seemed more concerned for the wellbeing of all those on board than about any illegality. Farage had fought the law and the law hadn’t really given a toss. Much like everyone else.


20 March 2018

That "agreement"

The Times reports:
The most serious stumbling blocks to an orderly Brexit may in fact be those the negotiating teams are already struggling with. Britain’s insistence on leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ in its entirety has left unanswered the question of what is to replace it when London and Brussels disagree on matters of mutual commercial interest. The European Commission says it awaits a British proposal. On the Irish border, Brussels’ language on full regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland and the Republic remains in the transition deal as a “backstop” even though Mrs May has called it a scenario to which no British prime minister could agree. Even so, her negotiators are engaging in this vital debate on the EU’s terms. Amid justified optimism, two big cans have been kicked down the road. If they are not clanging loudly, it is because they are still full of fudge.
Throw in the fact that there is no provision for any possible extension of the transition period and I am far from sure that any optimism is justified.

16 March 2018

Quote of the day

From Jeremy Corbyn (here):
 "When I go home every night, I put my tracksuit on. I feel very comfortable in it. You can do anything in a track suit. You can go out. It's great! Although people round here make me stop going out in it. They say, 'If you are the leader of the Labour party, you can't go out in your trackie'!"
If it's good enough for Jeremy, it's good enough for me.



    Private Pike addresses the nation

    Image result for gavin williamson

    From The Guardian (here):
    The nation – no, the world – wanted to hear Britain’s defence minister make his first formal statement at a time of national crisis. “The Russians should go away and shut up,” he said. So yah, boo, sucks. Your mum. That was telling them. International diplomacy reduced to a catch-phrase on a 70s TV game show. Jim Bowen would be turning in his grave at not having come up with that one.
    Inside the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin was thrown into a state of profound confusion. No one had ever talked to him like that before. At least, not since nursery school. Should he go away and then shut up? Or shut up first and then go away? Or both at the same time, getting steadily quieter as he went away? Decisions, decisions.
    Stupid boy  ...

    10 March 2018

    Walking back?

    Will the meeting ever happen?  Has Trump jumped the gun with his urge to make an announcement?  The Guardian reports:
    Donald Trump will take a hardline position at his planned summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House said on Friday, as US officials scrambled to keep pace with the president after his sudden acceptance of Kim’s offer to talk.
    In briefings after the surprise announcement – which would be the first ever meeting of leaders of the two countries – US officials made no mention of possible concessions that Trump might offer, other than saying that severe sanctions would stay in place until North Korea took verifiable steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.
    At the daily White House briefing, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders even cast doubt on Trump’s acceptance of the offer of a summit, suggesting it was dependent on preconditions.
    “Let’s be very clear. The United States has made zero concessions but North Korea has made some promises. This meeting won’t take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.”
    Sanders did not specify what actions the US required Pyongyang to take, and whether the demands amounted to more than the requirement of a pause in missile and nuclear testing, which Pyongyang appears to have already agreed to.
    The White House later appeared to minimise the impact of Sanders’ remarks, with one official telling the Wall Street Journal: “The invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands.”
    Later, on Friday evening, Trump added to the confusion with a tweet about the meeting in which he added a qualifying phrase: “if completed”.
    As ever, the White House appears to be making it up as it goes along.  Considered policy-making is a stranger to the current US administration.



    07 March 2018

    Map of the day

    The Mezzogiorno votes one way, the industrial north votes another.  Dove andiamo!


    The richest man in the world

    Jess Bezos with his wife MacKenzie. The Amazon founder is worth $112 billion, according to Forbes magazine

    If Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, he could afford to buy a dinner jacket that fits.  And has he never heard of a cummerbund?


    06 March 2018

    Quote of the day

    A cri de coeur from a New Statesman contributor:
    I don’t care that 52 per cent of the British electorate voted for Brexit. I don’t care that there were more of them than there are of us. They’re wrong. Leaving the European Union is a bloody stupid idea. It’ll reduce our trade, weaken our economy, hurt the depressed parts of the country most, severely damage relations with our neighbours, put the entire existence of the union at risk, reduce our ability to shape our own destiny, make it harder for us to travel in Europe, and make our mobile phone bills higher when we do. A government that implements Brexit, knowing full well that it will make us all poorer and less secure, as Theresa May clearly does, is a government that is going to get a Chamberlain-level rating in the history books.
    I don’t care that it was the will of the people. That is not a meaningful statement. The will of the people can change. The will of the people can be wrong. The will of the people is fucking stupid.


    04 March 2018

    Not difficult to guess

    The Observer summarises the choice:
    Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit gives Theresa May a chance to show backbone on human rights. Or she could sell more weapons.
    I think we can predict that the latter will take precedence over the former.


    In praise of Edinburgh bus-drivers ...

    ... especially female ones:


    01 March 2018

    Billy no-mates

    Official Portrait of President Donald Trump.jpg

    I doubt that many will feel any sympathy.  Politico explains:
    Even Richard Nixon had Bebe Rebozo.
    And by the end, he was still pacing the halls, talking to the paintings.
    Donald Trump is close to having no one.
    He’s got his literal family—though his son-in-law is reeling from the controversy over his security clearance, there have been enough off moments in public to feed speculation about the state of his relationship with the first lady, and Donald Trump Jr. said in India last week that given all the president is dealing with, he feels “it’s almost trite to call him just to say hello.”
    With Hope Hicks leaving the White House, longtime body man Keith Schiller long gone, there is no metaphorical family, no core group of aides who’ve been through the ringer together, come out beaten but bound forever, trusting each other, trusting the president and having him trust them.
    Every president gets lonely. It’s a lonely job. But the president who spent his life desperately seeking attention and getting all of it anyone could ever want might be the loneliest one ever.
    He’s about to get lonelier.
    I leave you to guess at who is to blame for his loneliness ...