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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Commonwealth, not EU, is UK's Trade Future

Matthew D'Ancona writing in the 'Standard' this week on the inevitability of a Referendum, said
My sense is that the voters — about 50 per cent — who wish to leave do so not because they regard the EU as big and scary but precisely the opposite: as it has grown in size, it has diminished in relevance. It is as naff as a malfunctioning Betamax recorder. The danger is not colonisation by Eurocrats and the treachery of British collaborateurs; the danger is the EU’s obsolescence.
And it's this realisation, that the EU is actually past it's sell-by date, a useful Derby & Joan club for moribund economies but not the place for a dynamic nation like the UK, that now needs reinforcing. The EU isn't the future, it's the past. It's working population is ageing and shrinking, and the most it can aspire to in the future is second-rate economic status. Economist Ruth Lea points at the alternative;
As the forces of 21st century globalisation gather pace, the Commonwealth countries are expected to grow in relative importance, while continental Europe continues its relative decline. And there are sound business reasons to consider these countries as trading partners. In the longer term, the UK needs to shift its focus from a relatively stagnant Europe to the world’s future growth markets.
The potential advantages of a Commonwealth Free Trade Association are enormous; as the Royal Commonwealth Society say:-
A study commissioned for the CHOGM in 1997 found that Commonwealth economies experienced an average of ten to fifteen percent lower costs in doing business with another Commonwealth nation than with a non-member state. The various shared attributes created what the study’s authors named the ‘Commonwealth Effect.’

If the Commonwealth today were an economic bloc, it would be equal in size to the United States; it would have thirteen of the worlds fastest growing economies; it would possess most of the world’s leading knowledge economies outside of the US; it would have one third of the world’s population; and would represent forty percent of the membership of the World Trade Organisation.
With an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon commercial ethos of 'a fair Go' and 'Can Do' rather than a Latin legalistic hell of bureaucracy and ineptitude, the world's fastest growing middle classes (the driver of consumer-led growth), and in many cases a common legal and commercial framework the manifold advantages of hitching our wagon to the Commonwealth couldn't be clearer.

Friday, 22 June 2012

'Bunnies can and will go to France'

Younger readers will not recognise the reference; it was from a love letter from the Leader of the Liberal Party Jeremy Thorpe, revealed in court during his trial for Attempted Murder in 1979. He had allegedly tried to kill his gay boyfriend, groom Norman Scott, and was acquitted on this day. 

Well, it kept us well entertained in 1979; Mrs Thatcher had just moved into Number Ten, and the court revelations about dog-shooting, pillow-biting and Thorpe's hidden life were the sprinkles on the Sundae. Auberon Waugh stood in Thorpe's constituency under the banner 'A better deal for your dog', 'Scott of the arse antics' became a breakfast time villain and there was even a single. How dreary is Nick Clegg in comparison to the flamboyant and Mercurial Thorpe. Parliament is surely a less colourful place.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Peter Cummings: The face of banking greed

The 150,000 savers in failed Christmas Club firm Farepak were left with nothing when HBOS chief Peter Cummings allegedly decided that their savings, a measly £4m that the bank termed 'Doris money' would be taken to offset Farepak's £31m debts, instead of being secured in a special Trust, as Farpak's directors pleaded with Cummings to do. British taxpayers eventually stumped up £37,000,000,000 to sort out Cummings' mess - an irony not lost on Farpak customers, who lost out twice to HBOS. 

Cummings has already been handed a warning notice and fine by the FSA for his conduct at HBOS.

Carr should have used Livingstone's scam

I'm not condemning Jimmy Carr - after all, my own legal tax avoidance saves me some £2,000 a year in tax - but as it seems that it may not have been 'legal' after all, and he faces having to find up to £3.3m per year to repay to HMRC, perhaps he should have taken advice from those doyens of left-wing tax avoidance, Ken Livingstone and the Guardian, whose schemes seem far more robust?

Perhaps the Guardian should share its expertise with its readers - a series of Saturday supplements, say, under the banner "How to be a Socialist and Pay No Tax"? 

The end of the 'thirteenth' in Europe?

It's not just Greece that pays its public servants a thirteenth and even a fourteenth month's salary as annual bonus(es); 'Gazeta' reports today that changes are coming into force for Poland's 122,000 civil servants that would effectively make the 'thirteenth' a performance-related bonus rather than a right, together with cuts in retirement benefits and in-service training grants. However, the changes are intended to introduce Anglo-Saxon style labour market flexibility rather than save money; and they will only apply to new employees,  not yet to be rolled out to the whole of the Polish public sector.

Poland is also going through the same EU-dictated liberalisation of the postal service as the UK, with the State Post Office's monopoly on letters under 50g to end this year. However, unlike the UK, there is no established private sector post service and the levels of junk mail through mass mailings is a fraction of the dross that feeds our recycling bins; in addition, the Post Office there will retain a monopoly on many State mailings tied into other State services.

And as in the UK, consumer credit is alive and well in Poland disguised as contracts for mobile devices. The hunger for iPads, 3G and new phones running Windows Phone 8 is huge, the investment costs in infrastructure technology relatively slight and the market full of opportunity for those selling devices disguised as airtime contracts. 

And finally Euro 2012 has been deemed a success - Polish TV has already earned some 83m PLN (£16m) from the likes of MacDonalds and Coca Cola, even if Poland's own sponsoring lager, Warka, has failed to achieve brand penetration outside of domestic markets; it's still Tyskie for the rest of us.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Towards the waveform collapse

28th May - "Last week Madrid unveiled its latest plan to tackle problems in its banking system, announcing it would make an emergency €19bn injection into Bankia." 

10th June - "The only thing that is absolutely certain is that Mr Rajoy's acceptance of a €100bn (£80bn) credit line marks a new phase in the euro crisis."

19th June - "European leaders are poised to announce a €600 billion deal to bail out Spain and Italy, it emerged at the G20 summit on Tuesday night."

1st July - "EU leaders admit they don't have €3,000 bn this time" ???

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Inflation and Bond Yields

If the UK's 2.8% inflation figure is in line with Bond market expectations then we've still either got some deflation to come, or exchange rate rises on the way, if you follow Frances Wooley's reasoning behind the extraordinary chart below

Convergence during the Euro years (def: Euro, defunct currency, floreat 1998 - 2008) Wooley says wasn't solely down to exchange rate differences per se but risk expectations of inflation, and one can see Brown's insane spending spree pushing the UK's yields way above the Eurozone

The Chart only goes to October 2011; today's 10 year bond yields, with Greece on 26% and Portugal on 11%, are almost a mirror of the spread in 1992/93. In contrast, Germany and the UK's yields have been falling whilst all the others are rising, with about 1.7% for the UK today. 

One thing is very clear; the Eurozone will never achieve the 1998 degree of convergence ever again. .

RIP Gitta Sereny CBE

Sereny's book on the extermination camp at Treblinka, based on many hours of interviews with ex-Commandant Franz Stangl (often misnamed as Franz Strangl, even by a R4 newsreader this morning) is amongst the select list of books that have changed my life. 

With merciless dissection and intellectual rigour, as befitted the stepdaughter of Ludwig von Mises, she searched every micron of Stangl for some extra organ of evil, for some extraordinary badness, some distinguishing flaw that separated him from humanity, gave him some extraordinary capability to organise the killing and burning of up to 20,000 people a day. What she found was just a very ordinary man, a middle-manager loyal to his firm, desirous for the praise of his bosses, a good motivator and manager to his staff, implementing the decisions of the Board with full commitment, never sadistic and actually proud of the way in which he managed mass-death with as little trauma to the 'cargo' as possible, like an exemplary abattoir manager. The dreadful pathos of Into that Darkness is that Sereny needed to, was driven to, finding and exposing an evil man, and the pain of her own realisation that Stangl was no more inherently evil than she was herself was almost as wounding as reading of Stangl's pain as he eventually realised the enormity of his actions. He died of a heart attack some sixteen hours after their final interview. 

Lady Toynbee's answer: Rob the English

Just when you thought you'd read all the fatuous, addle-brained, vacuous and inane solutions to the debt crisis, from farming sunbeams to making computers out of vegetables, along comes Polly with an idea so startling, so original, so simple that we are stunned, amazed and entranced; Europe's crisis can be solved, says Lady Toynbee, by taking all the rich English people's money away and giving it to Greece and Spain.

Miliband must be striking his palm against his considerable forehead this morning "Of course! Why didn't Balls tell me this?" and amidst the pink end of the Coalition will be a quiet muttering of support "Yes, let's seize all the five bedroom houses and any gardens over an acre! Anyone with more than fifty grand in the bank, anyone with three cars - they don't need 'em, let's take it!" 

Toynbee means other people's money, of course; there's no doubt some complex Socialist reason why Tuscan villas and a fat wedge for the Nomenklatura should be exempt, and no doubt good medical grounds for their free champagne on the State...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Alors! The new French MP for London

With 300,000 French living and working in London (and very welcome they are) it was perhaps inevitable that the new French MP for Northern Europe - ten countries, on the face of it - should be known as the MP for London. London is France's sixth biggest city, and accounts for the vast majority of expat Kermits in the new constituency. 

The good news is that the delightful Axelle Lemaire sounds as good as she looks - she's just done an interview for R4's 'Today' - the bad news is that not only is she a member of Hollande's socialist party but - gasp! - spent a number of years as a Commons researcher for a Labour MP (which one?). She also found time to do an LLM at Kings; her election page HERE

Seems a fair exchange, though; we get Axelle and they get ...

Another breathing space

With the UK press unable to decide whether to be upbeat or downbeat on the outcome of the Greek elections, the Indie includes a hint of trouble to come;
The near dead-heat in the election does not bode well for decisive government in Greece. Pasok and the coalition with New Democracy implemented tax rises and wage and pension cuts but stalled over reforms such as privatisation or dismantling the system of Tammany Hall-type cronyism and jobs for votes that had previously been at the heart of the political system.
In other words, the corrupt actors who got Greece into this mess in the first place need to reverse their own corruption to meet the austerity targets insisted upon by Germany. It is savage irony that it has been German firms who have largely benefited by grossly overpriced contracts and kickbacks in the past; a former Socialist Party defence minister is accused of pocketing $24m in bribes for a submarine order with German firm Ferrostaal, and Siemans has had to agree a payback of $355m for past corrupt payments. Corruptly inflated contract prices are estimated to have cost Greece over $2.6bn during the 1990s alone. 

The catch-22 faced by New Democracy and Pasok is that corruption is widely tolerated in Greece so long as there is a trickle-down, so long as everyone gets a snout in the pork barrel. If everyone shares, they turn a blind eye to corrupt politicians. If those same politicians take the pork barrels away, the electorate's tolerance of corruption disappears, and bent politicians find themselves very exposed and vulnerable. 

So whilst ND and Pasok politicians can no doubt take a huge corrupt skim of the $50bn capital proceeds of privatisations demanded by the IMF, they lose the opportunity to give out State jobs in grossly overmanned enterprises such as the water companies, which will have to shed jobs and cut costs once privatised. That not only means lost votes, but real anger and retribution from a volatile and energised electorate.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

GPs strike - An unmissable opportunity

This Thursday's strike by GPs to preserve their padded pensions has little public sympathy; the taxpayer has already stuffed their mouths with gold under Labour's insane spendfest in paying them obscene salaries foir less work.

Primary care Trusts should look upon the strike as an unmissable opportunity to dismiss any striking doctors summarily, then immediately offer them new contracts on an appropriate local base salary - about £65k for London. I guarantee that any vacant posts will be filled within weeks.

London 2012 - Whores, drugs and corruption

Imagine the likes of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose face of public virtue hid a life of private vice in which prostitutes were hired for sex parties across the globe and where chasing hotel cleaners down a corridor with his yard waving in the wind was fair play. Now multiply him into scores of rich, powerful men in their sixties and upward, an international cosmopolitan amoral exploitative malbolge of filth that encompasses all the vice of Dante's eighth circle; pandery, seduction, flattery, taboo breach, barratry, hypocrisy, theft, fraud, peculation, trickery, perjury, impostry and schism. Now here you have the parasitic maggot-heap that clusters around international 'sport', a maggot-heap with whole floors reserved this Summer in London's top brothels International hotels and a fleet of Zil limousines with darkened windows and no doubt with little hand mirrors and safety razor blades in the seat pockets. 

Already even before the games have started the maggots from the National Olympics Committees have been selling off their non-transferable tickets to top events; I don't know why anyone is surprised. After all, they'll be sprawled in their luxury hotel suites with Lithuanian hookers and piles of Columbian marching powder when the 100m is run. And the hypocrisy of the maggots is nothing as to the hypocrisy of their hosts; whilst Newham and Tower Hamlets Councils like zealous Quakers close manky massage parlours and harass street prostitutes off the street in advance of the games, the thousand dollar spray-tanned Natashas of Mayfair and Shepherd Market with their iPhone booking systems remain untouched and preserved, inviolate sperm-dumps for the Olympic elite, who would no more think of using a heroin-scabbed £10 street whore from Plaistow than flying economy class.

The athletes will be subject to a battery of drugs tests at every stage of the competition; why not the IOC and the NOC members who come to London, the FIFA corrupt who ride around in their Zils? Do they and we both condone and accept so easily their private vice? And what of the sexual exploitation of young athletes by befouled satyrs? Lavrenti Beria was not unique in using his position to 'audition' young gymnasts for places in the national team, you wouldn't let many of the international sports maggots near your own children, yet we pretend they're fit persons to lead international sport?