Thursday, 12 October 2017

Project Fear And Reality

I see Brexiteers going on about 'Project Fear' every time someone issues a warning about a possible consequence of Brexit. 'Project Fear' is actually an invention of honest Boris and his colleagues such as 'easiest negotiation in history' Liam Fox and 'difficult and complex' negotiation David Davis.

It must be very nice to have no fear, but as someone who taught skydiving full time for six years, who has raced single seater cars and solo motorcycles and sailed thousands of Blue Water Miles, my observation is that fear keeps you alive. A lack of fear can have the opposite effect, which is fine if it's just you, but the Brexiteers want to take the rest of us with them.

Warnings have value too, if I saw someone about to step out in front of a bus I'd shout a warning, I wouldn't hold back in case I scared them.

Brexiteers are desperate to make out that the Remain camp lied, because they know just how deceitful, dishonest and manipulative their campaign truly was. Some of the warnings from the Remain camp may prove too dire, but many of the claims of Leave were laughable, there is a difference.

Within days of the referendum we got the knee jerk reaction of the Bank Of England, cutting the near impossible to cut interest rates, printing money and encouraging lending and surprise surprise people spent money and Brexiteers crowed that everything was fine, the economy was booming. Long before Article 50 was even triggered. Which says everything you need about their understanding of how things work.

In fact the pound promptly fell and short term exports went up, but the downside of increased costs of raw materials and price rises of imported goods, including essentials like food are now being felt. Meanwhile other countries like Canada and the USA are raising interest rates. Given a weak pound and rising inflation we should naturally raise our interest rates, but suddenly the Bank Of England seems to have become aware that household debt is at record levels and raising interest rates will hurt people and stop them spending, oops and oh dear, damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Many of the warnings of so called 'Project Fear' are coming true and more will follow. We pay our National Debt in pounds by the way, no likelihood of that coming down anytime soon, that's the debt by the way, not the deficit, if you don't appreciate the difference you shouldn't be voting.

Many things are happening which weren't warned about, for one thing there is a shortage of prison officers, police officers, doctors, nurses and teachers and what is the government doing? Well nothing really, the day job of government is completely forgotten due to Brexit. There is also a crisis in social care; someone I know who qualified for nursing care months ago just died without ever receiving it and of course the Universal Credit scheme is shambolic and most of those who face retirement in the next few years are unsure what pension they'll get. Arch Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith was the man who improved everything so much in many of these areas.

Not sure but it may also have been his idea to pay housing benefit direct to the claimant, and not to the landlord. Someone I know will soon be evicting a tenant who has spent all her housing benefit on herself rather than pay the rent. One upshot is that the landlord who hasn't had an income will pay less tax to the treasury, perhaps an unforeseen circumstance the government might regret. Another is that the local council will have to re house the tenant and her children and quite possibly the tenant will declare bankruptcy so that no one gets paid back.

The politicians pushing Brexit are clearly not the sharpest knives and none of the huge problems mentioned above are being dealt with, largely because of the obsession with Brexit and the lack of money. Deride the warnings as 'Project Fear' if you like, did you hear about the guy who did a bungee jump without clipping on first? It's true, a lack of fear makes you careless.

Malcolm Snook

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Who Is Really Losing And Who is Winning?

One of the saddest things in this very realistic article from The Independent is the number of high quality professionals we're losing in academia and elsewhere. It's politically correct apparently for Remainers  to be known as Remoaners, but it's not politically correct to call Brexiteers stupid, so I won't, but I do hope people wake up to the realities sooner rather than later.

I can understand that a lot of British people, especially in my generation have a problem with immigration. We're told to be proud of our multiculturalism and tolerance and that's a view I subscribe to, but British culture has to be part of multiculturalism and must not be suppressed. Christmas is Christmas not winter festival and so on.

The thing is immigration has been going on for years and years, historic governments welcomed people from Uganda, the West Indies, Hong Kong, India and many other places. Those people brought new and good things to this country, where would we be without our national dish which appears to be curry, not steak and kidney pie.

The current flood of immigrants from places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are on the whole genuine refugees from genuine conflict. Tony Blair and George Bush Junior are in many ways culpable, for what happened there; in Libya David Cameron is also at least partly culpable. People are starving in Yemen and whilst it is the Saudis who bombed and blockaded the ports, we sold them, and continue to sell them bloody weapons.

We should own up to our part and start being part of the solution not part of the problem. Furthermore and in addition to our governments being largely responsible for creating the plight of the boat people in the Mediterranean it is also a European wide problem. These people are landing in Greece and Italy not the UK as a first stop. Indeed David Cameron sent the Royal Navy to pick people out of the sea, good decision, and then dump them on Italy, somewhat less ethical.

Since it's a European wide problem at least in part created by us then turning our backs on Europe now is pretty reprehensible behaviour. If we pay a heavy price whilst Europe prospers then good luck to them. People in this country whinged about Europe for forty years and won one vote, they're the real moaners. Remainers should demonstrate the same sticking power AND a positive attitude not a negative one. I realise my posts are full of doom and gloom right now, but I positively hope we can sort the mess we've created out!

Who is this guy??!!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

No, In Fact People Did Vote To Make Themselves Poorer

Within weeks and in some cases within days of the European referendum Brexit people were crowing about the fact that the economy was booming, which says more about their understanding of time scales than much else.

Mark Carney and The Bank Of England, printed money, flooded the High Street banks with it, cut the almost impossible to cut interest rates further and encouraged lending and borrowing. Entirely unnecessarily in my view, since 52% of the population, buoyed by euphoria would have gone on a spending spree anyway and those who foresaw inflation might well have brought forward some purchases they would have made anyway.

So where are we now? The latest Economic and Construction Market Report shows another decline in construction in May, retail sales are down by 1.2%, inflation is up to 2.9%, there is a hung Parliament scrabbling still, as I write this, to do a deal with one side of the Irish conflict to prop themselves up and Philip Hammond's speech seems at odds with the views of the PM.

Mark Carney has signalled that he's scared to raise interest rates to prop up the currency, because of the high levels of household and personal debt. That despite several of his colleagues voting to raise rates already. The National Debt is vast but people only talk about the deficit because that's less scary. The Labour Party talk about the world's second most indebted country as wealthy and there is a state of crisis in education, prisons, policing, social care and other parts of the NHS.

Meanwhile politicians talk about what they want from Brexit; what they want doesn't matter one iota but what they get certainly does. People, we are told by Chancellor Hammond, did not vote in the referendum to make themselves poorer, but actually they did.

Some voted to make themselves poorer because they didn't believe there would be consequences. Some were so anti European they voted for Brexit knowing damn well they'd be worse off but didn't care. Some like many in Wales started screaming that they didn't want to lose European grants and subsidies the morning after the vote!

The Yanks have started raising interest rates and have signalled that there are more rate rises to come on their side of the pond. The dollar isn't likely to fall in relation to the pound on that basis. Our currency is now undervalued, but not by so very much I suppose because our economy will bomb. Why do I say that? Well, people already in debt and facing inflation with no prospect of wage increases will cut back on their spending.

The Tories brag about thousands of new jobs, but most are low paid, or part time, or zero hours contracts or a combination. With our currency falling in value shares have risen, largely because UK companies paid in dollars get more pounds in effect. The idea of investing is to buy when prices are low and sell when they are high, not that brilliant Chancellor Gordon Brown quite grasped that. Mr Goldfinger.

When the currency is weak, shares are artificially high, risks are high and volatility and political uncertainty reign, then many investors simply don't invest, they wait and see. So, if people aren't spending and people aren't investing and trade with Europe is at risk expect to see the super strong economy we're constantly told we have, despite the enormous and ever rising national debt start to trip and stumble.

Oh yes, people voted to make themselves poorer alright.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Best Prime Minister Britain Never Had

Rising inflation, record levels of personal and household debt, no prospect of raising interest rates to protect the pound as a result and now a threat to the City Of London. So the warnings of Cameron and Osborne were a myth were they?

On Channel 4 News a Dutch comedian mourned the loss of Nick Clegg, 'the best Prime Minister Britain never had', she wasn't joking though. I concur.

Mrs May said, when preparing us for the election that the country was coming together, only parliament was not, I wonder if she can see that the country is divided now. Probably not since her disgraceful negotiations with the DUP threaten to divide the Irish too.

The English will no doubt be delighted to send their money across the Irish Sea too.

Macron is far more plausible than May, don't think for a moment that things will be easy.

Malcolm Snook

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Hypocrisy Goes On And On

I wonder if the penny has yet dropped with many Brexit voters, that a vote for Brexit was a vote for chaos, and we have it now in spades. Worse still we have hypocrisy in spades too. In order to try and cling to power the Tories are trying to cobble together a deal with the DUP, Northern Ireland's homophobic, anti abortion religious zealots.

The DUP we are told are not pushing that agenda, it's money they want, so England can subsidise Northern Ireland to a greater degree than it already does, maybe they'll overtake the Scots for subsidies from English tax payers.

That won't be the end though, no one seems to have a practical solution to the problem of the border with the south once it is a foreign entity outside of a united Europe. I'm no fan of Sinn Fein, but they are not the IRA. I understand why Sinn Fein doesn't take its seats at Westminster, but maybe they now should, maybe people would understand. It would weaken Mrs May and the DUP still further.

Aside from the border issue there's the risk to the Good Friday agreement, which demands, in fact guarantees, impartiality on the part of the Westminster Government, how can they possibly be impartial when the DUP is keeping them in power? Brexit voters may well have started Northern Ireland back on the road to death and destruction.

Hypocrisy is not just apparent in the Tories getting into bed with people who do not share our values, nor is it just a case of breaking the pledge of impartiality in return for peace. Hypocrisy is rampant elsewhere in the party too and no more so than in the case of one Boris Johnson, liar and hypocrite in chief.

It's not right to accuse someone of dishonesty and hypocrisy without backing it up, so a little reminder. Mr Johnson has Turkish heritage and has made television programmes about Turkey. When he used fear of his own people to encourage people to vote for Brexit he knew full well that there was no prospect of Turkey joining the EU, now, or probably for a generation at least. That is cynical hypocrisy, his other lies are perhaps better known, since he tried to distance himself from them the day after the referendum. The idea that the NHS will be better off financially is laughable and what happens if European doctors and nurses leave too?

His dishonesty and hypocrisy were then rewarded by Mrs May with one of the most senior offices of state. Now he is the bookies favourite to be the next Prime Minister. I wonder if a foppish, upper class, liar and hypocrite will ever be the people's choice. Given what happened in the referendum and in the US elections anything could happen.

Isn't it amazing how sensible the French and the Dutch have been compared with us (and the Americans). EU negotiator Sophia in 't Veld was on Andrew Marr today and I was struck by her reasonableness. However, that does not mean that any UK negotiator will get what they want, all we hear is what they want; what matters is what they get and whoever negotiates for the UK they can be sure the EU is better prepared than the chaotic UK.

Things are not looking good, but dishonesty and hypocrisy will never, can never, be the road to salvation.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Let's Calm It Down A Little

For a political blogger I have been strangely quiet of late, all through the local elections and in the face of a general election too. Well, I have been busy on other projects which I hope will do some good for society and maybe earn me a crust as well. I haven't stopped caring about politics, but I may give up being the voice in the wilderness.

Mrs May isn't right about much in my view, but she is right that this is an especially crucial time. It needn't have been so perilous if it weren't for that stupid referendum, but it is. Even the Tories have put back balancing the books by years, whilst the loony left wants to borrow more, ending austerity at a stroke and passing a Greek style economy on to the kids.

Extremism is a problem in so many areas and ways, political and religious, just look around at the world. From Trump, to Syria, to North Korea and Libya and that's without the extremism which causes people to blow up themselves and their fellow human beings.

The antidote is to move more towards the centre; to a liberal, common sense, middle of the road position. The current Tories are about as right wing as they've ever been, wedded to big business, despite the rhetoric and the Labour Party as currently led is about as far left as it's ever been. After all those years of Thatcher, followed by all the Blair, Brown years the pendulum is out of control and only a big vote for the centre parties can impede it.

The Tories once spoke of wealth cascading down the generations, but now they want to make old age a lottery and get all the growth people have seen from property price rises for themselves. They also want to raise tax and National Insurance and they're not doing anything to hide their intentions believing Corbyn cannot win.

And now we're getting to the crux. It works for the Tories and the Labour Party and the right wing press to pretend it's a straight choice between Corbyn and May, it isn't. It's looking like a choice between Thatcher and Foot if you're old enough to remember, but it isn't.

As then, so it is now, there's the party that dare not speak its name the Lib Dems, Liberals as was. Whether it's the media which keeps them in the fridge or whether they don't have the financial clout to heat things up I don't know, but this ought to be their time.

Only one major party is pro Europe and only one major party is truly united. The Lib Dems should own the 48 percenters and all those who voted leave but now regret the chaos, and all the protest voters who just wanted to kick Cameron and Osborne and who now wonder what they've unleashed. Not to mention those Brits abroad who have a vote and those Europeans living, working and paying tax here who have a vote.

As well as talking about wealth cascading down the generations, the Tories also used to talk about small business people, helping people who try to help themselves and so on, but no one talks about a meritocracy now. The Labour Party wants to take from the rich and give to the poor, which would have some merit if we were dealing with King John and not 21st Century Britain.

Doesn't matter how hard you work or whether you develop your talents, whether you spend or save, invest or fritter, no we're going to help you, keep everyone the same because we're all equal under our near communist control. You know, like in Russia where everyone is equally poor unless they're part of the system, which isn't so different from North Korea at the other end of the spectrum.

Equality of opportunity I'll go for every time, Governments deciding who gets what can go lose themselves. The Dutch didn't lose the plot in their recent elections, nor the French, why have we all gone mad?

John McDonnell wants to borrow to invest. The OBR, Office For Budget Responsibilty, has, he says, told him he'll get one pound back for every pound he invests, so it'll cost nothing. When something sounds too good to be true it usually is. However, just as Gordon Brown blamed international calamities outside his control so John McDonnell can blame the OBR, so that's alright.

The thing is that both the Tories and the Labour Party are making their plans on the basis of some kind of growth, at a time when we've just stuck two fingers up at our biggest trading partner. Mrs May and David Davis talk about 'what we want, what we want, what we want'. No one dares talk about what we might get. One region of one country held up the Canadian trade deal and all this jingoistic 'they need us more than we need them' is just pathetic.

Plenty of the twenty seven have little to lose by denying a trade deal to the UK, they all have a veto. As for Northern Ireland and the border it's beyond a joke, if you can see how to make a hard border between the UK and a foreign entity whilst ensuring there is no border at all to re invigorate the killing then please tell me how.

It is time for a centre party, the Lib Dems aren't perfect and they will be faced with a crisis in health, in education, in prisons and the likelihood not of growth but of recession, why does no one dare say it? Mrs May talks about bringing people together but people are more polarised than ever, a centre party can actually reach out in both directions, they'll never satisfy all the people but they'll take some of the heat out of things.

Mrs May was nominally for Remain, she's not strong and stable she's an opportunist, she's clawed her way to the top job and wants to go down in history, trouble is we'll all go down with her. Go on give the Lib Dems a go. If only to show you have liberal values, not extremist ideology.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Liferaft In Shark Infested Waters

The latest poll, and we know how we can trust those, suggests the Tories will get 48% of the vote in the general election. An unnatural symmetry at least since 48% of us voted to remain in Europe. If memory serves the Tories got their current majority with about 37%. I doubt they'll get 48%, but if recent months prove anything they prove that any kind of madness is possible.

If the 48% remainers and those European workers who live here, and pay tax here, and who can vote in general elections here, although they were denied a vote in the stupid referendum, all vote LibDem, we'd actually get a liberal minded, centre party in power instead of an extreme left wing party, or an extreme right wing party.

How refreshing would that be! And that's without the hope that a few people who voted Brexit realise they were conned and also vote LibDem. There may also be a few Brits living abroad with a postal vote who were also denied a referendum vote, who see a LibDem vote now as the only way to turn things around.

In her speech announcing the general election Mrs May stated that 'the country is coming together', it's only parliament that isn't according to her. Hopefully we can disabuse her of that gross assumption. She has done less than nothing for the 48%, add in the people with a moral right to vote in the referendum, but no actual vote and Mrs May is failing a full 50% of the population - utterly.

Whether it's worth trying to pull our bacon out of the fire depends a lot on whether the madness and chaos virus has infected the French. The Dutch bless them held on to sanity in their recent elections, but if, encouraged by Brexit and Trump the French vote for the extreme right and Le Pen then a united Europe could be a thing of the past anyway.

If a Le Pen France pulls out of the EU chances are there will be no single European market and there could be a world wide recession, centred on Europe, inspired by Farage, Johnson, Gove and Brexit. Then it almost doesn't matter if we have a right wing dictator in power as our goose will be cooked for years to come anyway. We could be sleepwalking towards an economic catastrophe and even war.

Tribalism has always been just below the surface in Europe and it runs especially strong in Britain, France and Germany. Remainers pointed out that the EU had been a force for peace, but Brexiteers never mentioned the subject, safe in the knowledge that after seventy plus years of peace in Western Europe voters all took peace for granted. Do we never learn?

Of course war between European nations is highly unlikely, even in the event of an economic disaster, but what of Trump and NATO? If Mrs May wins the election she will have more personal power than any British politician in living memory, and her version of Brexit, doing away with European courts and European checks and balances means the Tories can do what they like with our human rights, workers rights, our pensions, privatisations, you name it.

It won't stop her following whatever America tells her to do though, just what hold the USA has on UK governments I've no idea but Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and now May all smile and bend the knee. So war could come again. Funny isn't it that the USA was late to World War One and late to World War Two, in fact Germany declared war on them, not the other way around, and yet when they want us to sacrifice lives for causes they believe in we simply ask how many.

Europe discussed a European Defence Force, but we British scuppered that, looks increasingly sensible to me now. Trump's commitment to NATO is a worry, he might support the UK, but the idea he really cares about Poland or the Baltic states is doubtful at best. Then there's Erdogan and Turkey as NATO members they share our secrets and May has just sold them British military fighter jet technology for a paltry one hundred million pounds.

Erdogan has taken huge new powers, not dissimilar, although his methods are more extreme, from those Mrs May might end up with if she gets her way. Erdogan has accused the west of behaving like crusaders, he is not our best friend NATO or not. Anyway you cut it a European Defence Force looks smart. We of course would be on the outside.

It's interesting to speculate how Germany might react if France did a Frexit. On the face of it a huge problem, but Germany is the biggest and most successful economy in Europe, if it formed a new kind of federation with The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy and some of the eastern European countries, it could become a real superpower.

Lets hope the madness hasn't infected the French as it appears to have and for goodness sake vote LibDem here. The Labour party have ruled out inviting the people to vote on a European deal, so the only hope is a LibDem government. They themselves aren't aiming that high, their aspiration is to become the main opposition, that would be too little too late. The LibDems are a fragile, inflatable liferaft in a huge, shark infested storm, but they are at least a liferaft, there is no other.

Malcolm Snook