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Friday 18 May 2018

Teds and Target 2 - the coming news agenda

Slang is fascinating. A bottom-up generated change in language reflects a substantial forming or modification of outlook. I'm surprised we don't have chairs in Slang at the new universities. I write this as I found this week two new slang terms for the Germans, both words born of common parents here in the trans-Alpine region. The first is Italian. Tudro is not a kind word; it means oafish, unimaginative, lacking feeling or sensibility and is pure Italian. The second is from the British army stationed in southern Austria at the war's end, guarding hundreds of thousands of broken, dispirited, rumpled, at-heel German troops. A score could be herded by one man with a loosely carried Lee-Enfield. They were no longer Huns, Krauts or Jerries - the swagger, the insolence, the arrogance had been beaten out of them in battle. So for their British guards they became Teds, from the Italian Tedeschi. I like Teds.

With the news agenda swinging round like an oil tanker at bow-anchor to Italy, AEP starts the move with a piece in the Telegraph (£)  on how the new Italian government's finance proposals have 'enraged' the Teds. It's all about Target 2, or T2 as we shall say. There are some useful papers on T2 about - Here from FT Alphaville, and Here from Forbes, if, like me you need a crash course. I suspect over the next year we'll all be hearing a lot more about T2 in the news. The headline is that the Bundesbank is owed nearly a trillion Euros by the rest of the Eurozone, whilst Spain and Italy have heavy T2 debts. Martin Selmayr is turning his death-gaze from West to South. A couple of interesting points, if I've read the briefings right -

- National banks are given an allocation of Euros to print. Printing more than the allocation creates a debit with the ECB. Germany's Bundesbank has been printing hundreds of billions of excess Euros possibly to offset their trillion-Euro T2 credit with the ECB 

- QE money created by the Bank of Italy has been substantially invested by the Italian market in, erm, Germany, substantially increasing Italy's T2 liability and Germany's T2 credit

- Germany's huge T2 credit now forms by far the biggest asset of the Bundesbank, having overtaken in the early noughties the previous biggest Bundesbank assets of loans to German banks. 

- Germany is not quite alone in having a substantial T2 credit; the Netherlands and Luxembourg are also in the creditors club. So expect some commensurate alignments. 

Right. Off to the Herrenfriseur, then.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

MPs get it right on Carillion - now we need action

I can find no redeeming behaviour on the part of the venal and hubristic directors of Carillion in the Commons select committees report. Greed, recklessness, irresponsibility, immorality - directors, in the words of Frank Field, more interested in stuffing their mouths with gold than with their fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities. 

As I've written previously, I've seen this culpable recklessness time after time in the Construction industry - loss leading bids for contracts with a naive hope that profit can be screwed from contract variations, a prioritising of turnover over profitability, a childish drive for size. It's unforgivable and I don't forgive it. 

Those who suffer are the trades, workers and sub-contractors - working people, living from contract to contract, often at the slenderest of margins strained by late payment or settlement of accounts, ordinary grafters with families and mortgages and car leases to pay. Men and women I know and like and will always defend. And those fat carousing bastards at Carillion thieved millions without compunction. Shame on them. 

Equally culpable are the crooks at the big 4 audit firms - KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and EY - also excoriated by the Commons report. In return for fat audit fees, these crim bastards send in teams of juniors and trainees to test-check documents, interrogate computer systems and generally to record time spent and accumulate fat box files of dross to demonstrate due diligence, whilst happily ignoring a global picture of impending failure. Shame on these bastards, too. 

My only solution is the American one. We don't need any more regulations, any more accounting codes, any more restrictions on doing business, any more restraints on responsible capitalism. What we have are adequate. We must not make business any harder or more onerous or burdensome. No, what we need are post-hoc retributive measures - that if a firm fails, as Carillion did, and if that failure was due to the malfeasance of directors and auditors, as it was at Carillion, it should mean long jail terms. Twenty years and more. And not for the junior trainees at the Big Four but for the directors. These bastards must face real penalties.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Miliband the Bottler crawls back - the first of many

David Miliband, the man termed a 'coward' by journalists for getting the press all excited about challenging Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership and then bottling it, has crawled back to the UK from his 'charidy work' in the US hoping no doubt to win a place leading a new left-centre party without having to fight anyone for it. Their rallying point is to reverse Britain's democratic decision to leave the EU. But then he was a man scorned as a popular brand of seedless orange - a reference to his lack of fertility rather than his faith, I gather.

Meanwhile, those on the exit side who currently have no option other than voting Conservative or not voting at all are watching carefully for the emergence of a new pro-Brexit party before 2022 for whom to cast a ballot. Nothing too right-wing - neo-Thatcherite would do nicely. With a little clear water between the new party and the politics of race-hate that characterises those scorned as 'Gammons' by the new left (who in return, it's fair to say, are termed 'Soy-Boys'). Racists in need of a home can always try one of the far-right clones on offer - I think there are currently two, but I may be mistaken. Neither will win anything, but their members can console themselves with the racial purity of their votes or something.  And I know some of you will give me a kicking for that - but I feel obliged to re-state from time to time that I support a distinct British identity open to anyone of whatever colour, creed, sex or faith, that I am utterly hostile to ideologies inimical with Britishness but welcoming to any minority persons wanting to join the club.  

New parties of left and right may rise, but they will also become subsumed into our parliamentary duopoly. Or rather 2½ party system. It all comes down to votes - the blue party now needs to consolidate Hovis-land and the red party needs quinoa-chewers and Waitrose-shoppers. 

Does this mean the poles are about to flip? That the Conservatives, traditionally the party of the South-East of England, becomes the party of the Midlands and North, whilst Labour deserts its Northern heartlands and settles-in within the M25? Interesting.

So of course we'll see all the dags, liggers and chancers such as Miliband drifting back; prepare for names and faces you haven't seen for a decade or more suddenly doing interviews on 'Today' or popping up on 'Newsnight'. We're in for another of those major political re-alignments. Now is the time for the millionaires and billionaires to place their stakes and buy their players, currently on options contracts of course until Brexit pans out a little more.  

One thing is certain; those of we polemicists who subside on a mix of satire and cruel invective won't be short of targets for a year or two.  

Sunday 13 May 2018

The technocrats who hate and fear British democracy

David Runciman, the owner of a first rate pedigree but a second rate mind, uses space in the Observer today to convince us that we don't need democracy any more. The core of his argument is that the 'wrong' people keep winning democratic elections, so democracy must be broken. How much better if things were decided by savvy, opinionated, metropolitan young things swiping their i-phone screens rather than we 'confused' voters.

This is just the latest in a series of establishment campaigns to undermine democracy in favour of direct technocratic rule by an establishment elite - and few scribblers can be more elite than the Honourable David Runciman, Eton and Trinity, heir to a Viscountcy. 

I really won't waste either your time or mine demolishing his feeble arguments one by one. It's thin, pissy, jejune stuff and you can do so yourselves. 

The differences between congruent, stable nations with stark electoral processes such as the UK and weak, unstable, fractured or dangerous nations with electoral systems designed to impede, dilute, mediate or limit the effect of democracy such as Italy and Germany have evolved in reaction to specific conditions prevalent in each nation. For all the admitted 'unfairness' of FPTP for UK Parliamentary elections, it works here.

Runciman completely neglects to mention the surpranational body that does very well with hardly any democracy at all - the EU. And it's probably just as well that the treasonous authors of the FCO EU strategy document (FCO 30/1048) from 1971 are all dead - though that would not prevent future governments, like that of Charles II on Restoration, from digging them up and re-purposing their remains. 

Runciman's musings are by no means original. "The operations of democracy seem decreasingly fitted to control the all-embracing regulatory activities of the Civil Service" wrote this dangerous mandarin with an easy acceptance that assumed technocratic rule to be inevitable, with the more 'democratic' front-dressing the EU adopted the greater and faster the bleeding of British sovereignty.  

Well, I hate to puncture the little bladders of these self-obsessed elitists, but they're wrong. Deeply, utterly, absolutely and irrevocably wrong. They're themselves only only here and free to express their deviant views because the British people fought for democratic freedom over centuries of struggle - and two aspects of that freedom, universal suffrage and the secret ballot, are not and will never be up for trade or replacement.  

The votes of the British people may appear an inconvenient impediment to these technocratic elitists, but we're not giving them up.