Thursday, 31 March 2016

President Trump - Can He Really Win?

I watched Matt Frei's report on the Trump campaign on British television last night. It seems the Republican Party's own backlash has backfired, predictably since Trump has created a coalition of the disillusioned and angry who hate the establishment. The violence at Trump rallies and the incitement of violence is disturbing, even allowing for selective editing; media editors are in an incredibly powerful position to distort if they so desire. Nonetheless Trump is condemned out of his own mouth and you can't film violence that is not happening.

One of the conclusions of the show was that having obtained a following of the angry and the extreme, the bigots, racists and gay bashers a move to the centre AFTER gaining the republican nomination would disillusion those people and make it impossible for Trump to win. I'm not sure he can credibly back track and that if he did so, that normal, well balanced, right thinking people would be mollified and come over to him. I'm not sure either, if he did so, that a whole load of the current mob would abandon him, but hopefully he can't win with just the loonies.

As an aside, his main republican rival is also a carpet bombing, gay bashing extremist of an at least equally dangerous character. The democrats, imperfect as Hilary is, the closest thing America currently has to offer, that's close to sane sensible governance. I'm assuming Bernie has no chance here.

It really is my hope that neither of the front running republicans can win. I see America as a well educated and generally good place. There's much about America that I love from the NFL to American cars and motorcycles, movies and most of all my American friends. I'd hate to see America go the way of Germany in the 1930s. Hitler too started out as a joke, Hitler too blamed other races for the nation's ills, Hitler too was a bigot and a racist.

What should we do if America were to elect such a leader? Britain has long claimed a 'Special Relationship' with the USA. Personally I think it's a bit of a myth. America does what America wants to do. Tony Blair blindly followed George W. Bush and between them they created the chaos we see in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to the so called 'Arab Spring', to the civil war in Syria and the migrant crisis. The problem with hindsight is you know what happened after the decision you made, but you cannot be a hundred percent sure what would have happened had you gone another way.

That said, I still feel strongly that there's no point in having a friendship if you cannot be candid. As a friend one should be able to say 'I think you're wrong there buddy'. Not 'we'll support you regardless because you're big and strong'. It's school playground stuff. It's as daft as 'my country right or wrong', wrong is wrong and no one should support it. Remember the Nuremberg trials anyone? Your country is not the same as your political leadership either. We wouldn't have allied ourselves to Hitler under any circumstances, so if one of our allies takes its leadership from a Hitleresque character should we not remove ourselves from NATO and encourage our European neighbours to do likewise?

I'm not talking about a break in diplomatic relationships or trade, but a degree of separation might be healthy. America once lurched towards isolationism, if they want to do so now let them learn from the error of their ways and build  their walls. I would like to know what intelligent educated people think in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy and all the developed nations. For I feel it's not just Mexico, Central and Southern America that Trump risks alienating. I believe he would destroy America's standing in the wider world and that none of us should ally ourselves to such a 'leader'. I hope we have the moral fortitude not to although I have some doubts on that score too!

A word about Matt Frei whose report prompted this particular post. Matt is a regular on Channel Four News, a better, more in depth and more human newscast by far than the short, selective BBC stiff upper lip equivalent. On a recent Channel Four News they reported on the plight of Yazidi women who had been kidnapped raped and abused by Islamic State, who are now rescued, yet still effectively homeless and stateless. Channel Four interviewed a campaigner asking that Britain take these people in. A position I support unequivocally. Although Matt Frei was not the interviewer, at the end he leaned across and wished the lady well with her campaign. Thank goodness for a display of humanity in the media.

A little Trump humour!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Rebellion's In The Air

A Tory rebellion is brewing, over the chancellor's cuts to Personal Independence Payments to the disabled. Which are unconscionable. It's a very interesting scenario; Labour will say he's cutting benefits to the disabled to fund tax cuts to the wealthiest, but it's not as simple as that. Don't get me wrong the chancellor is absolutely out of his tree to cut PIPs, especially since he wants to be Prime Minister, but the tax cuts are something separate, they make sense because they are intended to stimulate the economy and often times when you cut taxes revenue actually goes up, and although that's another topic it is true. In addition Labour would try to stimulate the economy by borrowing even more which is bonkers given the size of the debt as my previous post points out.

The Conservative party is divided and in this instance the rebels are right, over Europe another load of rebels are not right in my opinion. Ironically the Conservative party would be more united were they still in coalition with the Lib Dems.  There is nothing like an 'enemy in ones midst' to pull people together, BUT ALSO the Lib Dems would not have stood for a cut in PIPs and no rebellion would have been necessary. I hated the idea of a coalition government, but hell it actually worked, while the divided Conservatives risk bringing the house down over Europe.

On PIPs the media last night cited a disabled lady who lost her home and her job as a result of losing her Personal Independence Payment, an extreme example but I'm sure it's not unique. I don't know what benefits she is claiming now but she said 'I'm now a drain on society'. I'm sure she was being honest and straightforward and we want people who want to work to be able to. I applaud her unreservedly. A civilised country looks after the disabled and we can afford that.

In his budget speech I'm pretty certain I heard the words 'increasing disability budget' escape Osborne's lips, there was something of the sort and it threw me off the scent about PIPs. At one point I wondered if I'd gone over the top in my last post when I said that all politicians are 'manipulative lizards'. Perhaps that was over the top but with the chancellor cutting PIPs and Labour misrepresenting what's going on, many obviously are.

I woke screaming last night after dreaming Trump was in the White House, Boris was in number ten, the Lib Dems had shut up shop completely and we were the pariahs of Europe. Use your vote wisely!

It's about decency

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Well It Could have Been Worse!

Watched The Budget from start to finish and Jeremy Corbin's response too. My first thoughts are that it could have been a lot worse and that there's actually quite a lot to applaud. Of course that's not the whole picture.

The things that cause the most annoyance to me personally are around the political game playing and the over reliance on forecasts. People talk about statistics and lies in the same breath, but I wonder if anyone has ever seen a financial forecast that lasts more than five minutes, let alone comes true, independent or otherwise. Of course you have to make decisions based on the best information available, but you also have to allow for it being wrong and no chancellor ever does that, they all talk with certainty that their predictions will come true and don't bat an eyelid when something else happens.

The Autumn Statement is a case in point, remember autumn? It's not so very long ago, all changed since then.

So, what were the major points and what's good? Osborne started with a brag about how the UK economy is growing faster than any other developed economy and about how the deficit is down by about two thirds and about high employment and fewer benefit claimants. All of which is well and good, but it's not the budget. Then we got the speech about how the global economy is weaker etc, which is why the forecasts have changed.

He said we should 'act now so we don't suffer later', if he's looking to long term stability then I can applaud that, shame Gordon Brown couldn't see the need for stability. Actually he too boasted about an end to boom and bust, then spent far more than he'd any right to and blamed the unforeseen global downturn for our problems. It's never their fault, leave us in a worse position than just about any other country when things turn sour, but it's not Gordon Brown's fault. You can't trust politicians and you can't trust forecasts.

Osborne did say that his plans were designed to fit the independent forecasts, rather than making forecasts to fit his plans, which is something, but actually I think he should plan for the worst case scenario, not some pie in the sky forecast, but that's just me. Of course we got the speech about how the forecasts that we will continue to grow faster than other countries are predicated on staying in the EU. Since I support staying in the EU I think that was worth saying, but not labouring, especially since I'm so sceptical about the forecasts anyway.

In motor racing one chooses tyres according to the weather conditions not what is forecast, in sailing if the forecast is good but it's blowing a gale I wouldn't put out to sea in a small boat. In economics I'm more interested in what's actually happening than what's forecast, so when the chancellor says we should cut our cloth according to our position I think he's right, but it's our actual position right now that counts.

Our actual position is that if you factor in all liabilities including state and public sector pensions, the current national debt is close to £4.8 trillion, some £78,000 for every person in the UK. Even not factoring those things in it's close to £1.7 trillion. And what if interest rates go up, or we lose our international credit rating which helps keep our rates low? 

Then there's personal debt, mortgages, loans, credit cards and student debt, we're drowning in debt. And so many people think deficit is debt, even a BBC interviewer talking to Farage after the budget. However, as intelligent people know, the deficit is the difference between tax receipts and government spending, the deficit is just the amount the debt goes up each year. When they talk about a ten billion surplus FORECAST for 2020 they're suggesting that in 2020 for the first time in years they'll reduce the trillions we owe by a tiny fraction. That is NOT a surplus.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom, employment is actually up despite some caveats we'll come to later and the National Debt is actually a tiny bit lower at this moment than the previous forecast (that word again). The chancellor has missed his target on the debt as a percentage of gdp though. Personally I think if he'd sold off Lloyds Bank he might have plugged that particular gap, but I do also think he was right to delay that share sale given the uncertainty in the markets. I'm surprised he didn't mention it in a way.

Extra borrowing this year will probably be over £70 billion I say extra because that's borrowing over and above the huge debt we're carrying, I'd actually not only like to see no deficit but in fact no debt at all. Conventional wisdom is that countries are big enough to carry debt, but why would you want to? Of course many businesses carry debt to invest and that's what Labour want, to borrow more to stimulate the economy, but how many politicians are successful businessmen? I wouldn't trust them to invest a penny of mine; except I do every time I pay tax!

After the lectures, which moved on to child poverty, pensioner poverty and the gender pay gap, we got more forecasts and more dogma, but we did eventually get some actual information about what's going to happen and one statement which I whole heartedly agree with, even if I'm not sure our politicians can deliver it given the figures above - 'security means living within our means'.

So, we got some action against tax avoidance and evasion, closing loopholes left open by Labour, for example some companies currently borrow in the UK to invest overseas, but claim the interest on the loans against UK taxable profits. Overseas companies will store goods here and sell in the UK online, via EBAY for example, but get around VAT competing unfairly with small UK High Street businesses.

Closing those sorts of loopholes is to be applauded I feel, even though consumers may pay more in some cases. He then announced a reduction in Corporation Tax which will help small businesses as a well as large and encourage businesses to invest in the UK. It's sensible, but it's one of the things, the latter that is, that Corbin objected to; which is why as much as I applaud Labour's desire for fairness, they just cannot be trusted with the economy, which at the end of the day pays for everything we hold dear.

So called micro entrepreneurs are to get tax free allowances and small businesses will get business rates relief, six hundred small businesses will, we're told, pay no business rates at all now and since I was once a small businessman I think that's great. Large stores which make our High Streets what they are, and who employ vast numbers of people now we're a service based economy and don't make anything, will see their rates simplified, which is something I suppose. The statement that we don't make anything is of course an exaggeration, but it's a shame we don't make much more.

Stamp duty has been re-jigged and I think the new system will probably be fairer, ninety percent of property buyers should pay less it's said and nine percent will pay more. Looks like the bands have moved upwards, which, given the price of housing makes perfect sense, don't know what happened to the other one percent but apparently the chancellor reckons the changes will also net the treasury another five hundred million. Nice conjuring trick but refer back to the size of the national debt and in monetary terms, as it affects the nation, it's hardly worth mentioning!

The chancellor then goaded the SNP who had based their economic predictions for Scotland, had it become independent, on oil revenue at prices from before the recent drop. Of course just like Gordon Brown they'd have blamed someone else. Actually Scotland entered into union with the rest of us when it was bankrupt. It's funny that the Scots are famously reputed to be tight wads but cannot save money. I disclaim responsibility for their reputation.

Taxes on oil industry profits were duly reduced drastically, but I have to say that they're not making any money and ten percent of nothing is still nothing, he could have given them a lot more really and sounded truly generous. We had another little brag about what the Tories are doing for Scotland and Wales with infrastructure to link North Wales with the so called Northern powerhouse for example, and a fifty percent reduction in River Severn crossing tolls, well in 2018!

If the speech had been half as long without the preening and jam in the future it might actually have been impressive. HS3 the high speed rail project to link Manchester and Leeds got the go ahead, as did four lanes for the M62 and improvements to a couple of A roads, 66 and 69 I think, my pen struggling to keep up, but it's academic. It's all good, but whether it's enough to really create a Northern Powerhouse remains to be seen.

I don't know what the costs of infrastructure projects in the North actually are but London already has Crossrail one East to West and will get Crossrail two North to South, which is great. Whether the north and south of the country and the regions are being treated equitably I'm less certain. No time to analyse that yet.

Spending on flood defences in York, Leeds, The Calder Valley and Cumbria are to be boosted with a seven hundred million investment, which is good for residents and jobs, but it's to be paid for by a hike in insurance premium tax, so, since we all need some sort of insurance, we're all going to pay for the false economy of cutting flood defence budgets in the first place and I wonder what insurance premiums for people in the affected areas will be!

Hull's City Of Culture project will get some help as will museums who take exhibitions on the road, all good, but tiny details in what's supposed to be about the most important thing of all, making the economy sound, which if done would pay for so much more.

A major plank was education and a plan to drive local authorities out of education altogether and make all schools self governing academies. In the long run it might make schools better. However, as a kid I passed the eleven plus, just, and went to a school which became comprehensive the following year. The upheaval and change did my education nothing but harm and those changes disrupted the education of many of my generation. Politicians must learn to stop meddling. As Corbin said afterwards, class sizes and teachers leaving the profession are more important matters.

Osborne repeatedly lectured us on how this was a budget for our kids and grandkids, but actually meddling in education is more about showing himself to be a big hitter and a future prime minister, not just the chancellor; just as Boris's joining Brexit is about his career prospects not the nation's prospects.

They're all on the gravy train for fame and fortune. Naturally for all the big talk there was nothing to help students who are getting into debt and being taught that debt is how you live these days. In fact I would also suggest that the schools budget has effectively been cut, since although it's neither up nor down, the schools are paying for a pay rise for teachers, leaving less for other things.

Another thing I applaud however, is a new tax based on sugar levels in sugary kids drinks, which I'm sure is right, even though Cameron said it was wrong not so long ago. The manufacturers will probably reduce sugar levels, whilst any increase in prices will hopefully make parents think twice. We're told that the revenue raised from this measure will be spent on sport in schools. Great if it happens, applaud that, not sure how they'll do it since Thatcher's Tories sold off the school playing fields which have now been built over. The forecast, that word again, is that the measure will bring in five hundred and twenty million pounds. I wonder if the accuracy of that forecast will ever be revealed and where the money will really end up.

Big announcement, but again look at that figure and relate it to the national debt.

Fuel duty, that is tax on petrol and diesel to you and me, is frozen again. Politicians love to present a freeze as a tax cut, but then they're a bunch of manipulative lizards on the whole. Applaud the freeze though, taking advantage of the fall in fuel prices would have been dirty and it's not just about private motorists, so much is delivered by road that it makes a considerable difference to other prices and to inflation as well.

Tobacco duty to rise as previously announced, fine, help for the pub trade, by freezing duty on beer and scotch, well, again I don't know how much it helps, we've lost thousands of pubs already, but at least he's not made a bad situation worse.

Help for the self employed with the abolition of class two National Insurance, excellent. Capital Gains Tax reduction, headline rate from 28% to 20%, 18% down to 10% for most, also excellent because it encourages enterprise and investment. I imagine the Labour party won't see that, just as they won't see the benefits of reducing Corporation Tax. However not profiteering on petrol and diesel, National Insurance changes, Corporation and Capital Gains taxes reductions should all be a stimulus, as should help with business rates and closing tax loopholes; properly presented it could have been a great budget speech.

Next we had the funniest moment of the day, although behind it was something rather unfortunate for all of us had we the sense to see it. The chancellor talked about people not investing in pensions, the complication in the system, well that's true, but it's politicians who made it so. When talking about taxes on pensions and his new plans he made a hilarious jibe about keeping the lump sum and abolishing the Lib Dems, in a right good one two he suggested 'from midnight tonight'.

Of course the Tories went hard at Lib Dem strongholds in the last election and decimated the party. Fact is though that the Lib Dems actually brought some fair minded liberalness to what many see as an unfeeling government. Actually the coalition worked surprisingly well and one of the Liberals key policies is now seen as a Tory one.

Increasing the threshold at which tax is paid is something I've advocated for years. What the hell is the point of taxing people before they've earned enough to live and then paying it back to them in low income support, the bureaucratic waste is beyond stupid. And by raising the threshold you make it worth coming off benefits and going to work. I've been bleating about it for years, the Lib Dems made it happen, Osborne has raised it to eleven thousand pounds this year with a proposal to raise it to eleven and a half next year. Still not enough, I don't know how anyone feeds themselves, houses themselves, clothes themselves, pays local taxes and has some basic quality of life, transport etc on less than one thousand pounds a month.

It lifts the poorest people out of taxation and poverty to a degree, it allows people to spend, it's an absolute no brainer, it has to be popular, it's the Lib Dems who made it happen and the Tories are doubtless drip feeding it in so they can brag about it year on year.

More chest out macho stuff from Osborne at this point; we're told that under Gordon Brown one pound in every four of government spending was borrowed and now it's only one pound in every fourteen. I imagine that's true even if I don't trust statistics much more than forecasts and if so it's a start. Anyone who's read my articles before will know I have nothing but contempt for Gordon Brown, starting with his pension raid when he too was chancellor. Don't worry though his pension will be fine, especially since he got the top job without anyone voting him in other than his own cronies.

This chancellor is right about pensions being overly complicated and about young people having difficulty saving and being conflicted, because they want to save for a home as well as for a pension. So what has he done? He's introduced a 'Lifetime ISA' for people under forty, for every four thousand pounds people save towards a house or a pension the government will chip in a grand. Actually I think that's excellent to add to the other excellent measures listed above.

For old codgers like me, the ISA allowance goes up from fifteen thousand a year to twenty; since I haven't had fifteen grand to put aside for as long as I can remember, it helps me not a jot, nor millions like me, still, if you do have a windfall, sell up, well, what I'm saying is there may be occasions when ordinary people might benefit.

The forty two thousand pounds per annum threshold at which people start paying higher rate tax is being raised to forty five thousand. Quiet applause for that one, I think it's a populist move, however I'm in favour of low taxation generally and I do believe the middle classes are the powerhouse of the economy, so a little bit to the good.

That's about it really. It must be hard for the leader of the opposition to respond instantly, I'd prefer they were given time to consider. Naturally they have a speech three quarters prepared based on their own dogma and that's what we got, a litany of accusations of failure as if we should trust the idiots who wrecked the economy to fix it. On TV the other day the shadow chancellor couldn't help slipping in the line 'of course we'd borrow'. What he meant was borrow more, Labour will never learn.

Much of what Corbin said was nonsense, like the chancellor he could have done much better keeping it short and making only valid and important points. Mixed in with the dross about hedge fund managers were a couple of good points about care of the elderly for example, he referred to government standing by while the steel industry bled, and I'd like to see Britain make things too. He talked about the Northern Powerhouse being outsourced to London, I don't know enough detail to comment. He referred to local government budgets and the closing of libraries, swimming pools having shorter hours and suchlike.

Now I care about libraries and sports facilities, I really do, we need a strong economy to pay for them and I don't trust Labour to deliver it, in fact as tired as people get of hearing that Labour broke the bank it's no less true for the repetition. He made a valid point about security coming from knowing you've got a job and what you're going to earn, he was attacking zero hours contracts and I agree they're a fix, a fiddle and they're wrong. He continued about in work poverty but the increase in the personal allowance, from the now almost obliterated Lib Dems remember is doing more to address that than Labour's tax and then wastefully give out here and there policies ever did.

He talked about the gender pay gap but his claims that Labour would be able to end it are pure speculation, politicians have to make unsupportable claims, why do they do that? He did make some valid points about NHS debt and policing budgets.

To summarise, some very good measures to help ordinary people and stimulate the economy mixed in with a load of puffed up bull and a load of small announcements politically motivated which affect the big picture not at all. Way better than it could have been, despite some promises which doubtless won't come to fruition, like spending on school sports. Lib Dem Susan Kramer commented that some of the infrastructure announcements had been announced by her when she was in government and that it would be nice if they stopped announcing things repeatedly and actually did them!

Bring back the Lib Dems at the next election, they've lurched to the right, I'm thinking especially about the vote to bomb Syria without a strategy, but it was the signal or lesson they took from the election I think, since the polls did not predict such a swing to the Tories whose aim is now to wipe the Lib Dems off the map completely. Many a true word spoken in jest, but we don't want to become divided between extremes as America is and look what's happening there. We must keep a middle ground party or live with the consequences.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Same Old, Same Old

Budget week, oh heck, Labour let slip that of course they would borrow, but only to invest of course, well apart from raising public sector pay to keep the votes coming in, while the Tories play the fear card, governments love to keep us in fear, and the media commentators push their own agendas.

Andrew Marr accused the Tories of doing too much to help the middle classes this morning. Actually the Lib Dems pushed for the raising of the tax threshold and quite right too. What the hell is the point of taxing people BEFORE they've earned enough to live on. It goes back to the days of King John! Only today we then waste a whole heap of admin money paying it back in income support, again to win votes!

Not paying tax until you have enough to live on is RIGHT and it helps poor people too. The chancellor is no friend to many investors  and entrepreneurs either, but that's another subject. We'll see what happens in the budget and then comment, but I can't help predicting the same old, same old entrenched positions form both doctrines.

Only thing the chancellor and his shadow agree on is staying in Europe and for once Osborne put the case well, this may not be word perfect but in effect 'solving major problems like the migration crisis requires international cooperation', quite right cooperation, not division, engagement. Marr brought up the spectre of Turkey getting visa free travel and EU membership. That would be dangerous given the current repressive, religious government there for sure, but I think our European partners know that.

Marr also pointed to a Eurozone in crisis, I've been following exchange rates, the Euro is holding up at this moment.

Finally, a new Lib Dem memoir exposes the inside workings of the coalition. It seems to reveal some pretty dodgy personalities, but then I've always been somewhat skeptical about our politicians. That's what happens in a divorce. Personally I feel the coalition worked pretty well, shame people were too scared of Ed to vote Lib Dem and they're now exposing the Tories failings in book form rather than tempering them.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

What a bunfight!

Watched Question Time the other night from Dundee. My goodness, I had no idea, Scottish politicians are even more misleading than English ones. They were using expressions like 'that's false' right left and centre, when what they meant was 'you're a damn liar'. Someone in the audience actually asked 'how are we supposed to know the truth?' It was an utter disgrace as a debate, a real bunfight, the only one with any dignity and common sense was a young looking English guest journalist, yes a journalist!! Would you Adam and Eve it!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


So Europe thinks it's cutting a deal with the Turkish Government led by President Erdogan. I'm a fan of the European Union, but we need more solidarity with one another not less. Britain is not part of the deal and the Danes have an opt out too. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland are also hostile to the deal, Germany, The Netherlands and others are in, but the feelings of the people in Germany remain to be seen. Sweden too has been open to asylum seekers and desperate immigrants, but maybe things will change there, it's hard to say. Europe seems to be slamming its doors. Or trying to by proxy.

An American General accused Putin of exacerbating the migrant crisis in Syria in order to destabilise Europe, he may well be right. For Russia, who's President is all about power, it's a win, win, support their ally Assad AND cause problems for Europe. So where are we really?

The deal says we take Syrian refugees, deemed as genuine refugees and Turkey takes the others back. What a pantomime; so a boat is intercepted in the Aegean with say ten Syrians on board and ten from elsewhere, it goes back to Turkey and ten other Syrians, already in refugee camps are flown to Europe for resettlement. Does anyone really think this is going to work?

Then the UN throw their lot into the mix talking about legalities. Well, actually legalities and human rights do matter, even if the UN is a compromised and fundamentally flawed organisation. Has anyone noticed that four of the five permanent members of the laughably entitled Security Council are at war in Syria and lets face it, not all on the same side or pursuing the same ends!

The UN does some good in sending humanitarian aid, sometimes, but as a tool to end war it is utterly useless. Have people already forgotten Bosnia? In Bosnia UN peacekeepers kept their weapons holstered while genocide was committed and a UN Colonel even shook hands with the perpetrator. It's true that the powers away from the front line made the position of the troops on the ground untenable, but still it was appalling. Utterly appalling.

In Syria today the USA, Russia, France and to our shame the UK are throwing ordnance around and only Russia has a strategy and the other three don't buy into that one, so what happened to jaw, jaw? The UN and the Security Council is a sad, sad, sorry organisation.

So, the UN is part of the problem, not part of the solution and the European Union, unable to agree and speak, or act as one, is turning to Erdogan. This is a man who uses force to suppress demonstrations, people who don't want a shopping centre built on the last green space in Istanbul, people who want their most popular newspaper to remain free.

In return for his 'help' he wants six billion Euros and EU membership back on the table and visa free travel for Turks, actually weakening the border, or am I the only one who sees that? And he can't be trusted. And he doesn't share our values. Actually he should be tossed out of NATO, for those very reasons.

In the UK Cameron has negotiated the UK out of ever closer union, and most of the British public cheer that. Actually if Europe is ever to speak with one voice and act as one what we need is closer union, but politicians, following what's expedient for themselves won't see that. Wilfully won't see that just as clown Boris has jumped on Brexit in the hope it will suit his career.

Countries like India, China, Russia, the USA have huge populations and of recent times it has made them players on the world stage. Populations in India and China are becoming better educated and more productive, making them more powerful still. As in fact we saw historically in the USA. The USA incidentally once welcomed all and it made them strong. Then they started to clam up, they became more isolationist. What we're seeing in Europe is like the same thing speeded up by a factor of a hundred.

Funny thing is that once we looked down on isolationist ideas. I know immigration causes problems, teaching a class that has a dozen different languages doesn't work. Having more people than there are jobs or housing doesn't work. Nonetheless we should be better at solving problems than doing a deal with Erdogan.

If we can assimilate these people and help them to become productive, contributing members of our society it makes us stronger. There are job vacancies online, all the time and here in Yorkshire it's a shameful fact that for every homeless person there are ten empty homes! Really.

Anecdotes are not statistically valid BUT on TV the other night an interview with a fifteen year old girl fleeing Aleppo where she had been at school. Her English was perfect, damned if I can speak Arabic. She played the violin, as I did at school, her dream to play professionally. Of course they're not all like her, but I'd wager many are, and those who didn't go to school still could.

What we really need is closer integration in Europe and policies which make all of Europe stronger. Stop the bickering and turn a problem into an opportunity, don't do deals with oppressors and don't have them as military allies. Scrap the UN and start over with an organisation that actually works for peace. First though Europe need to be whole. Britain should stay in for our benefit, Europe's benefit, the world's benefit and we should stop throwing our toys out of the pram. There's not too much wrong with British values on the whole, we should help not hinder.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Is Republican The New Lemming?

Do the warnings from history have a best before date? Do people forget, or is it just that later generations disassociate themselves from the lessons of the past? Maybe there is actually a Lemming instinct in humanity, such that suddenly huge sections of society are happy to follow someone into the abyss.

In the 1930s people wondered how a basically civilised, cultured and christian country like Germany could align itself behind the anti-christ. How could Germany turn a blind eye to Gestapo torture and SS genocide, or did they actually back it? Donald Trump has openly said he'd go after families, that's innocent women and children to you and me, he's said that not only does he support waterboarding, but he'd endorse more extreme torture too.

As Hitler blamed his country's ills on another race, so Trump blames Mexicans and Muslims. It's a worry. If you'd toured Germany at the end of 1945 you'd have seen what it is to follow a man like that into the abyss. Of course millions of Germans never did see, because they, like their leader, died in the fall.

Sounds extreme doesn't it. Yet the destructive force of Hitler's weapons, which laid so much to waste, are as nothing compared with Americas nuclear arsenal. Today a man like that could achieve much.

Britain has nurtured what it thinks of as a special relationship with America, although it's really kinda one sided in reality. However, such as it is, it's based on shared values as well as a common tongue. And so I respectfully suggest that IF America elects a President with such different values from our own that we do not also become Lemmings, that we let that relationship go, that we withdraw from NATO and  ask other members to follow that example until sanity is restored.

Torture, murder, war crimes, racism, bigotry and division are not British values. I hope and believe they are not American values either. If Republican is the new Lemming then lets hope for a Democrat landslide.

Protest now.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The Plight Of the Middle Classes

Here in the UK there was a Chancellor of the Exchequer, later Prime Minister although not by popular election, who destroyed, well hugely devalued anyway the pension provisions of hard working middle class people. Some of them took it on the chin but others looked at other ways to provide for their old age. One of those ways was through buying property to rent out.

As with their pension decisions people based their choices on the rules at the time. A new Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is now waging war on those people, forcing them to sell up or lose money, Hobson's choice. The high moral position that he takes is that it will help first time  buyers. Which it won't really.

Now, many of the buy to let investors are slightly older people and when they bought their first homes they had to save for a deposit, there was no such thing as one hundred percent mortgages back then, no help to buy schemes either. Most paid astronomical interest rates too, which skyrocketed with little or no warning. Double figure rates.

Things are not materially worse for first time buyers today unless they are already saddled with huge debt from their education, another wrong brought about by politicians, Tony Blair principally. The really iniquitous thing though is how they (the politicians) seek to divide society.

The attack on buy to let landlords, who on the whole maintain their properties and charge fair rents, is just one example. The rhetoric pitches the landlords against the first time buyers, when actually there is no conflict at all. No one forces you to rent, everyone makes their own decisions, when to leave home, what education to pursue, what career to pursue, when to get married, when to start a family, when to buy.

If buy to let landlords flood the market with property, there may be a short term dip in prices. The thing is, that usually when property prices fall there is a corresponding loss of confidence too, it doesn't really help, it's a bit like the old boom and bust Gordon Brown promised to eliminate.

There is a welfare system in the UK, but that's selective too. I know a middle class couple, late middle age and the wife has early dementia. It's a genuine tragedy, but they will pay for her care, probably for years and years, until the husband is left not only with no wife, but also with no future and no proper retirement for himself. Middle class you see, worked all his life.

If they had nothing, had done nothing, owned nothing the state would help. Now no one is saying the state shouldn't help those with nothing, but it does seem iniquitous that those who've contributed all their lives struggle to get help when they really need it, again it's divisive, them and us.

And yet it is the middle classes that are the power house of any economy, it's generally the middle classes who generate the wealth and espouse family values and education and decency, so why are they the enemy of all political parties?

Leading a decent life T shirts.