Thursday, 24 July 2014

Housing - a vote winner?

Many buy-to-letters are drawn from what one could call the affluent working-class, or ordinary people with a bit of capital and enough security to borrow. Whilst the idea of a 'citizen-landlordery' is fine, and much preferable to most of the social housing shambles (instant slums; just as I predicted a couple of years ago, they turned an 18th century pub down the road into a block of slum flats for Nigerian young mothers, with tablecloths nailed up at the windows and bags of used nappies just flung out on the footway), the problem is that these entrepreneurial buy-to-letters are competing directly for the same houses as the people who want to live in them, thus inflating the market. The only gainers are the dreadful crooked banks.

We have a history in this country of working-class landlordism. I think it was Skullion, the Sharpe character, who owned a small terrace of cottages in Oxford, whose rents would provide his pension when he finished portering. And indeed in truth this was not uncommon; this was the class who were the bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and roofers; well placed to throw-up themselves with their own resources a terrace of six or ten or a dozen 2-bed artisan's cottages, not large but neat, practical and attractive, each with a 10-foot front garden filled with hollyhocks and lupins. Today in Oxford I expect such things would fetch half a mill each, when the original building cost was, what, fifteen pounds?  

And surely this is exactly what our own buy-to-letters should be encouraged to do, on brownfield and infill sites here in London, too small to be of interest to the major housebuilders. Shaun Spiers in the Telegraph suggests we should divert housebuilding from large speculative building firms to smaller ones; I don't think this is the answer. Leave the volume firms alone, and allow the buy-to-letters to build for income rather than build for an instant sale profit, to become build-to-letters.  

And yes, there's a massive landbank here in London ideal for such investment; the old goods yards, wagon parks and disused land held by Network Rail under the fiction that it's 'operational' land and thus sacrosanct, on the basis of the fiction that our goods transport system may one day return from road to rail. Every suburban London station is gifted with such surplus land - sometimes already used as the station car-park, but often just overgrown with weeds and rubbish behind chain link fences, just waiting for a neat terrace of plain, simple homes designed and built by ordinary people. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Kermits agree to tut at Oligarchs

In an unprecedented hardening of sanctions against Russia, France has agreed that mayors may tut at visiting Russian Oligarchs, but has asked that this should be 'not very loudly'. Business owners in the South of France, temporary home to many wealthy oligarchs in the Summer months, were aghast at the extent of the sanctions; a spokesman said
"Our Russian guests spend millions on handbags and designer bling and keep most of the shops on the Rue d'Antibes open; how secure are they going to feel if they know that Monsieur the Mayor may pop out and 'tut' at them? These measures will hit ordinary French people hard" 
Shares in LVMH fell again today on speculation that the tutting may affect the export of the most expensive and tasteless champagne brands and that sales to Russia will be hit badly. "The oligarchs are amongst the few people in the world prepared to pay $10,000 a bottle for third-rate fizz so long as the bottle is pink and has Swarovski crystals on it" said a spokesman for Louis Roederer. 

Mr Hollande was still rejecting calls today for the tut to be downgraded to a frown. "France is committed to strong and meaningful sanctions" he said "and a frown just doesn't have the same impact as a tut".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Ukraine - unintended consequences

As the smoke starts to clear around the downing of MH17, the fall-out could have effects unwanted and unforeseen by the key political actors. It now seems likely that the aircraft was shot down by drunken, undisciplined separatists using a missile provided by Russian intelligence. It also seems likely - as Richard North explains in detail, and as we suggested on Saturday 19th - that not only the US but the Ukrainian authorities knew beforehand that the separatists had long-range Doppler-shift SAMs. It also seems likely that the intelligence services of nations inside the 'magic circle' warned their national civil aviation authorities of the threat, who in turn warned national carriers. BA, Easyjet, Qantas and several other 'old commonwealth' carriers had already diverted.

Why Ukraine, or the US, did not explicitly issue warnings via ICAO or IATA is subject to speculation. The US would have wanted to protect the extent of its intelligence, Ukraine would have wanted to preserve the desperately needed millions from overflight fees. Both maintained the public fiction that the only threat was from MANPADS, ineffective at higher altitudes. It's even possible that there may have been those in Ukraine who considered such an event as MH17 as politically advantageous, or that the US found the commercial air corridor a useful cover for its own intelligence-gathering overflights. This will all come out in the wash over the next ten years or so.  

It's the reactions to the incident that may cause changes unwelcome to the key actors;
  • Russia will quietly disown the separatist militias and weapons and munitions supply will end. Their behaviour and lack of disciplined control around the crash site has condemned them.
  • Sanctions will hit Eurozone industry hard, as Der Spiegel reports. Asia and Australasia will benefit. 
  • Eurozone banks, already weak as eggshells, may fall - many are massively exposed to Russian loans, which may default and cause crashes, making Hypo Alpine Adria look like an overdraft breach.
  • Western governments need to leave a door open for Putin - and this is likely to be pressure for a settlement involving limited autonomy for parts of Eastern Ukraine and the protection of the Russian language there. Cameron included the option in his speech, as Angus Roxburgh reports in the Guardian
  • Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the chap who looks like a Jewish paedophile, acting as Ukraine PM, who is bitterly opposed to preserving Russian identity and together with his negative TV image is likely to be the replaceable element, dumped by the Oligarchs.
  • With Autumn on the way, Putin will cut-off the gas to Ukraine to secure concessions for the Russian minority, and the EU will decline to make up the difference.
There are still more developments to come - with the MSM again lagging behind the informal sector in putting it all together.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Labour's gobby Berger gets slapping

Labour's truly revolting Luciana 'Lucretia' Berger. surely one of the most pointless of the non-entity apparatchiks stuffed on the Labour benches, has earned a well-deserved slapping after getting over-gobby about Dave Babe Priti Patel.

She really does prove one thing - that women can be as great dick-heads as can men.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Salmond's Whisky, tartan trews and 'adult' TV spree

Like a lighthouse keeper in a brothel, Alec Salmond has been unable to restrain himself. facts have emerged about his splurging tens of thousands of tax funds on luxury hotels, fripperies and 'subsistence' (nudge, nudge) including charging a pair of tartan trews at £250 to the taxpayer. None of this will be surprising; there are few politicians who can resist stealing from the public pot when in power - the heady combination of narcissism and public office convinces many of them that they are no longer liable to normal rules. Salmond's truly vulgar tastes - lots of gilt and marble baths - extend to just about every kitsch overblown international hotel at which he could find an excuse to stay. But apart from laughing at the audacity, pretentiousness and sheer vulgar greed of the wee man, the story has a deadly serious side. 

Salmond, like Gorbals Mick, is not a Scotsman who wants his fellow countrymen to know how deeply he has thrust his snout into the trough; he managed to hold off FOI enquiries on the basis that telling the public how much of their taxes he had stolen would 'compromise his security'. Damn right it will - possibly right to the doors of Barlinnie Jail. In this he has secured the support of his top placemen at Police Scotland - the national police force he set up. And this is exactly the sort of centralised police corruption we warned so strongly against when Salmond abolished the local and accountable constabularies. That its failure should come so soon and in an attempt to hide the wee man's own corruption is telling. Or perhaps the police bosses have something to hide themselves?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

MH17 - Hard questions for the US to answer

We have become used over the past few months to a constant stream of intelligence from US satellite and airborne surveillance, channelled through the Ukrainian authority. It has effectively monitored the size, composition and formation of Russian units on the border, has spotted the movement of just three tanks across the border from Russia to Ukraine and has provided Ukrainian units with detailed intelligence on the armour and other fixed defences of the rebels. It is quite inconceivable that the US did not know of the presence of a SAM 11 (BUK) air defence system deep in rebel territory - and particularly so if its target-acquisition radar had been active. 

They question they must answer is who did they tell. No airline in the world would continue to route flights over an area if it had been warned explicitly of the risk of a live SAM 11 system in unstable hands. So just who did the US tell? 

Thursday, 17 July 2014


The people of the Netherlands are more than capable of making sure the right thing is done over the behaviour of the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica in 1995. Their 2002 report on the disgrace has already caused the resignation of one PM, Wim Kok. And I'm going to resist scoring any cheap xenophobic points, for we are by no means immune from their behaviour.

No. What comes to mind is a line from the 1992 film 'A Few Good Men';
Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!
Dawson: Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves.