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Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Looking on the bright side ...

I must admit, against all the odds, that there are glimmers of pleasure in this global crisis. Rather than the free-market approach of letting 520,000 of us die, the government have opted for a national lockdown, which will see the UK's deaths this year rise only from the usual 600,000 to 620,000. Call it the People's Covid Strategy if you like - and it certainly depends on co-operation from everyone. And as in WWII, when the population had to make most of the sacrifices, there will be a reckoning to be paid. First, an evening-out of social inequality; back then it took the effects of a universal ration, in which even the King had the Buckingham Palace baths marked with the max 5" water level and the princesses had ration books, to persuade the masses to comply. Second, a universal service obligation. And finally, deep and permanent changes to society to enshrine fairness, equity and limits to the pre-war inequalities.

Jeremy Warner in the 'graph has somewhat stolen my thunder with this observation
Once the pinup boy for sailing close to the wind entrepreneurialism, and as such a mentor to many, Richard Branson is now widely demonised; the gist of it is how dare a tax exile with estimated wealth of £4bn ask for a bailout by UK taxpayers. Nevermind that thousands of jobs are at risk, he can, as one well-known Dragon’s Den celebrity investor put it, “b***** off”.
Anyone on Twitter yesterday cannot have failed to notice the universal hostility toward Richard Branson - and particularly to the thought that a taxpayer funded bailout should help his airline whilst he retained his £4bn personal fortune. It was revelatory. Thatcher's poster boy is now a figure of mass hatred. It must have sent a shudder through the 0.1% of the mega-wealthy, and be causing a little anxiety amongst the 1% who have so benefited from Globalism. That's going to be part of the price of this war - demands for an end to obscene rewards. And yes, I'd go along with that.

Another pleasure has been the utter helplessness of Labour. They so want to protest and be angry about something, but they can't find it. The nadir must be yesterday's demand for Covid victims to be classified according to self-identified gender as well as ethnicity and sexuality. Sweeties, men die more because we express greater levels of ACE2, to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds in cell-invasion. It doesn't help being a trannie. As far as Covid-19 is concerned, you're still a bloke.

A downside, as I posted a few days ago, is that Whitehall reform is on hold - we actually need a central command and control structure during the crisis. But this is not a reason, or an excuse, for maintaining a Big Central State once we have beaten this thing. Much more on this as time goes on.

And finally, the world's nation states have just amply demonstrated that supranational government is a pointless chimera, and that the people are best served by less Europe, not more, and by less UN. In concert yesterday, the leaders of the US, UK, Germany, France and Japanese, the G7, all announced co-ordinated bailouts of hundreds of billions. If everyone prints money, it doesn't count. And not a peep from the irrelevant EU or UN. The nation state is back.

And even though there's yet no hint of a vaccine, minds in the UK are already turning to a post-Globalist world; AI, computer printing, strategic national capacity. And our effects on our environment are quickly becoming manifest; clear water and visible fish in Venice's canals, and here blue skies free of contrails, and the deafening loudness of spring birdsong. We may not want to give up this green-ness, not want to go back to the filth and degradation. Universal basic incomes are also being mentioned without hoots of derision.

If you look, there's a silver lining to most clouds.


Michael said...

Back when Richard Branson started renting an aircraft, after making a few quid from flogging records from ply-wood boxes in a shop by The Clocktower in Brighton, everyone thought he was just mad.

I'm not actually sure he's worth that much, but like Barry in 'Auf Wiedersehn Pet', a lot of his money may well be in some sort of mortgage with The West Bromwich and District Building Societaye...

Sackerson said...

One reason for keeping your money offshore is to hide how little you have.

DeeDee99 said...

Oh, I don't mind if Branson has a taxpayer-funded bailout. As long as it isn't British taxpayers funding it.

He can ask his beloved EU for it.

Anonymous said...

Why are some billionaires loved by the BBC? First Branson and then those crooks that started

I guess it's not what you know but who you know.

Jack the dog said...

Not sure I share your optimism Radders, as a nation we have never recovered from the vast extension of govt powers first in the First and then the Second WW.

And once these clowns get their chubby fingers on the lvers of even more power they'll never surrender it willingly.

Remember that the main reason we have to run around like blue arsed flies just ot get to the end of the month is that half of our output goes to support the activities of our spendthrift and useless corrupt government. The UK may very well be slightly less spendthrift and corrupt than some but that's not due to any merit of our political class; it is that down the centuries we've managed to keep them slightly better in check.

That achievement looks set finally to be flushed down the benghazi.

Freedom is shortly to become a historical curiosity.

jim said...

We have to remember that Churchill lost the 1945 election. He had done a good job running WWII but he and the Tories made a bad mistake. They made noises about going back to the 1930s. The working classes had very bad memories of the 1930s and were having none of it. They remembered what a selfish bunch of bas%^ards Tories were.

Rationing, mutual help, the Women's Institute had all laid a path that Labour could use. Labour back then had none of the stupid baggage it has now. The rest is history. We don't have a collective bad feeling about pre-CV19 times, Labour is hopeless, our problem will be economy recovery.

Come August the worst of CV19 should be over. I doubt the UK will be much better or worse than France/Germany so far as body count is concerned. A recovery will be needed and Boris should have no need of an election. Boris will however need the likes of Branson. The meeja will laud Branson as a hero when spends his loot.

But Brexit is already looking a bit peaky, by October it will probably be in a coma and very hard to revive. If indeed it ever does. People will see it for what it was, an irrelevance, let it die. Because we are not going for some post globalisation nirvanah. All rustic peace and quiet, we can't afford it. The cruise ships will be back in Venice full of Chinese and Indian tourists with English, Italian and French waiters and cleaners on board. We will need the money.

Doonhamer said...

Branson's fall from grace accelerated with those pictures of him in his island bunker, sorry, wine-cellar, while his Minions outside suffered the hurricane.Doonhamer.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I'll always be thankful that Branson enabled Tubular Bells and other, later, Virgin music. But the man appears to me to be a narcissist and when he came out as a strong supporter of the Neo-Hanseatic EU his appeal vanished. Every silver lining has a cloud, so to speak.

Smoking Scot said...

There's a certain satisfaction when media personalities are seen to be in trouble. Sinclair with his electric trike, Jammie Oliver with his restaurants (expect his few remaining to go belly up as well as other celebrity chef's places).

In this case Virgin is in fact a good airline and is a casualty of government action. All airlines are in the same boat and the Italians have chucked money at Alitalia already; same with Germany and Lufthansa. There will be more, including American airlines.

They are crucial assets, not just for paying passengers, but freight, mail, diplomatic pouches and so on and I go along with governments providing assistance with the crucial ones.

The question is whether Virgin Atlantic falls into that category? Well our lot didn't think Flybe to be worth it - and Branson as a 10% (?) part owner will have to take the hit.

That's an issue with all things "Virgin"; Brandon's mush slapped all over them.

Branson the person is a hugely successful entrepreneur. He's taken massive risks and created a conglomerate that's into the leisure sector big time. Even Virgin Money has done good - and taken over the Clydesdale Bank. I admire what he's done, however - like many others - see his opinions on big issues to be fatuous and unhelpful, same with film and stage actors - especially Sean Connery.

One reason for success is because he's got good people running them. Branson needs to step aside and let the people who actually run the business do the talking.

Mr Ecks said...

You are as big a moron as Cheese Jim.

THe EU is going to die.

If Blojo had any sense he'd take the same route as Iceland in 2008 and take the pain. I and many others would gladly turn out to settle the account of leftist dross like Jim and Cheese.

But Blojo is a BluLabour buffoon--so he will hyper-inflate like all the other morons.

Coro is a bucket of nothing. There were never any 520 thou deaths on the cards outside liars and bullshitters fantasies.

Raedwald said...

SS - If Branson offered to put in £1 of his personal fortune for every £ the taxpayers put in to save Virgin Air, he might just rescue his reputation.

Mark said...

And I'm sure he could offset against tax too

Dave_G said...

Most rich peoples wealth is a factor of their share value which is already taking a massive hit and still has a long way to go.

But there are two ways to approach the coming financial crisis. The banks way is to have limitless printing of fiat - benefits THEM (duh) and no-one else. The other way would be to (temporarily) halt ALL taxes - on energy in particular imho - whereby the PEOPLE benefit and, ultimately, the wealth is returned where it belongs and not in the hands of the 1%ers.

An intermediate pause to events could be achieved by temporarily halting debt and loan interest repayments but the benefits of that stop as soon as the debt payments restart.

We all know what's going to happen though. The banks are going to be first in the queue to have a rescue plan and WE will end up paying for it. There's more than enough history to prove that.

More talk about the financial (engineered) crisis please and less about the scaremongering (and fake imho) covid-19 BS. The virus/economic link between the two is far too..... convenient for my liking.

Dave_G said...

.... reminder.

We hear quite a bit about the deaths from the virus but NOTHING about the background of those that die from it. I heard ONE example of a younger person dying but they had (apparently) leukemia as a side issue.....

The reason we don't hear about them is that they were probably all 80+ and 95% of the way towards the afterlife to begin with. Even in America (I'm told) of the deaths there some 23 were all from ONE nursing home.

No doubt the deaths that WILL be reported on will be the young, fit, inevitably photogenic youngsters just so we get the 'right impression' of how things are going. Even then we won't be told of underlying issues or mistakes that (possibly) pre-empted their demise.

I'm not alone in starting to question the veracity of the issues behind the covid scare and the current level of reaction is far, far away and above what I BELIEVE to be the real case. If you look at (just) the numbers it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about.

Dave_G said... again (sorry)

Re Italy.

We report 9.8% excess mortality in 2015 compared to 2014, with seasonal and age distribution patterns in line with national figures. All-cause mortality in the elderly population is 36% higher (risk ratio [RR]=1.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27-1.45) in subjects not vaccinated against seasonal flu compared to vaccinated subjects, with risk of death for influenza or pneumonia being 43% higher (RR=1.43, 95% CI 1.02-2.00) in unvaccinated subjects.

Clearly Italy has a problem - well established - of convincing the elderly to take flu vaccination with the attendant increase (as above) in mortality which seems to be NORMAL for the Italians given their position.

Is the current situation simply one of intransigent negligence towards vaccinations?

Mark Wadsworth said...

"the government have opted for a national lockdown, which will see the UK's deaths this year rise only from the usual 600,000 to 620,000"

My thoughts exactly. And of the 20,000, many of those would have been in the 600,000 anyway.

Smoking Scot said...

@ Raedwald

Not sure how much he's putting in himself, nor are we likely to find out.

However, looking at the broad picture, I'd be inclined to take a look at what his firms pay in corporation tax and his employees pay in income tax as well as NI contributions.

I suspect it'll be vastly in excess of any bridging the airline needs right now. Though I am aware that his hotels will be going through a very rough patch as well.

It seems to me that Branson doesn't care about his reputation. At his age, it'll be his legacy - and that speaks for itself.

JPM said...

I see that the euro is up to around 91p against Sterling as against 83p just a few weeks back.

Bitcoin is down to about a third of its value - $4.5-5.5k as against just under $15k a couple of months back.

It has rallied a little since the Chinese stabilised their country, however.

But yes, there is good news to be found.

Those people who recently thought Italy too risky for their holidays this year may well find that Italy is fine come summer, but will not allow people from the UK across its borders on health grounds.

Who'd 'a' thought it eh?

Smoking Scot said...

Bob Carney did. Rates went down from 0.75 to 0.25% on 10 March and Sterling tanked. Carney's last day was 15 March, leaving his successor virtually no wiggle room, except to drop it to negative, if the need arises.

It'll help exporters a little while frustrating savers.

Very few people use Bitcoin as a store of value. Not all, they take the long term view - and that speaks for itself. Most however use it to circumvent capital controls and the proceeds of bribes. So Chinese officials are back to their old habits in a big way.

The rest, well that's just ghoulish speculation. It ain't nice to watch someone you give a shit about bubble away with lungs full of sputum, until the last couple of hours when it becomes a distinctive rattle. The death rattle. Then all is quiet. I can attest to the process, though I did not know his name.

Mark said...

Damn useful that floating exchange rate.

How I envy those countries using the reichmark at massively disadvantageous fixed rates.

Domo said...

If Virgin Air goes under, its assets will be purchased by its rivals, or even new airlines.
Or, if it wants money, let it raise it via a share issue.
If Virgin wants my money, why shouldnt it have to give me equity in exchange?
Instead we get "the right sort" propped up at the public expense

Span Ows said...

JPM £/€ exchange [faceplam]

Smoking Scot said...

@ Domo

At this time there are only predators and asset strippers interested in buying or financing airlines and Virgin's exhausted their credit lines from banks.

Issuing new shares or trying the bond market are essentially pie in the sky options.

At some point it may suit them to declare bankruptcy, in which case their assets will be seized by their bankers first, then down the line to share holders, who'll get pennies if they're lucky.

They own a few planes, but most of their fleet is leased, so nothing there. Biggest asset are landing slots at Heathrow.

Their 8,000 employees are a slight problem. If made redundant they'll face the same difficulties as others in the industry. Thomas Cooks, Flybe, Monarch all left their trail.

Taxpayers do pick up the tab with unemployed and retraining, so yes it makes sense to stop the charade and get it done now.

On the other hand it is my belief that we haven't begun to see corporate casualties and as the virus progresses, meaning closing all places where people congregate, we will see many. If we go to full lockdown then expect up to 15% unemployed, maybe more if it runs through summer.

So it's the rock or hard place for taxpayers.

I'm not convinced the airline is a crucial asset, I said that in my first post. However if - as is likely - our government bails out BA, then I can see why Branson wants the same.

Jack the dog said...

Smoker. - the planes staff and landing slots will end up being used by whatever other airline satisfies the latent demand currently satisfied by Virgin.

There is no case to be made for tax payer support.

Dave_G said...

How many people believe we are facing a financial crisis rather than a Corona crisis? Without investigating the virus on a conspiracy theory basis the notion that the financial system could carry on as it was, without a crisis happening ANYWAY is to be discussed - but the situation as it stands is one of a clear and definite FINANCIAL issue.

There are 1257 hospitals across the UK and (to date) 104 deaths from CV. One death per 12 hospitals. The news reports the majority of these deaths are people between the ages 55-99 (mainly the upper end) which, by any inspection, is 'normal' - my own mother passed away a few weeks ago at age 80 - not from CV - and such deaths happen every day with no hysteria attached.

Anyone get the feeling we're being manipulated? I'm waiting for the inevitable legislation that affects people directly and will never be repealed. Every 'crisis' gives .Gov the opportunity to take more pizz.

It's so convenient that it's suspicious in its own right. I can guarantee that if the CV crisis comes to nothing then .Gov will be strutting around saying "our measures worked" - in exactly the same way as Climate activists would claim the world is saved if temperatures drop (never mind that a solar minimum cycle has begun).

The more we see this virus resulting in financial restructuring the more convinced I become we're being manipulated.

Stop debt and loan repayments or stop taxation - methods that will help the PEOPLE and (not so much) the corporates - the banks won't lose anything as the debt/loans could restart where they left off afterwards.

The measures being put in place are already significantly advantaging the 'usual suspects' and the PEOPLE are going to get right royally fucked over YET AGAIN.

Cynical? Moi?

Raedwald said...

With a permanent downturn in air travel a likely outcome of this (and this isn't necessarily a bad thing) airlines will go to the wall. If we're back to subsidising our national carriers - and Italy has already done it with Alitalia - why should we waste money on Virgin? It's a tired 80s brand with big shoulder pads and a gas guzzling fleet.

I can't see Ryan Air coming through - but they're Ireland's problem.

BA and easyjet should suit a new downsized UK operator spread. And LHR can hardly complain now about that runway.

People haven't forgotten the £2m he scammed from the NHS.

Anonymous said...

@Raedwald - you need to replace those rose tinted lenses. you might care to read up on Boris' "Last Gasp" initiative, in the same vein as "f**k business".

Raedwald said...

Oh grow up. You're like some tiresome infant.

JPM said...

The euro's at 94p now.

Any ideas why?


Mark said...

Because you're a troll?

terence patrick hewett said...

Anyone who sports knitwear like Branson's deserves everything they get.

terence patrick hewett said...

He makes good pickle though.

Span Ows said...