Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’
We codgers spend a great deal of time and money replacing roof panels which provide the hens with shelter from the monsoons, and this morning saw us in action again. When we arrived at the allotments there was no trace of nine panels which were presumably carried in the direction of Manchester Airport by last night’s gale. Fortunately the hens were locked up before the umpteenth destroyer arrived so we are at least spared a TV programme featuring Chris Packham talking about evidence that, like their geese cousins, chickens can fly in packs.
The result of yet more evidence that our weather patterns are changing was a great deal of hammering, and very unseasonable cursing, followed by the inevitable when Albert bashed the nails on his right hand rather than the ones on the roof. The result of that was first aid accompanied by even more language guaranteed to eliminate us from Santa’s list.
By the time we retired to the hut there was little inclination to take a jaundiced eye to the latest news. As is their habit several of my pals has watched the weekly Prime Minister’s Question Time which provided the usual collection of insults hurled by our dear leader, amongst them his taunting of Ed Balls the “useless Turkey”. But most of us have lost interest in Chief Red Face exploding alongside the nodding Clegg.
Some of the ex servicemen amongst us were also nodding, having spotted headlines featuring a warning from Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton, head of the Defence Staff, that the policy of buying sophisticated weaponry to keep our manufacturers in business is at odds with the one involving halving headcount numbers. Our military is in danger of becoming a ”hollow force”, according to its boss.
But even that lunacy cannot match today’s Baldrick award winner. The Public Accounts Committee has released a report confirming that HMRC, is ”holding back” from using legal sanctions to recover money from large companies which use aggressive schemes to minimise their tax bills. As a result, the Committee claims, the public at large is being forced to “shoulder more of the burden of paying for public services”. The taxman collected less tax in real terms last year and the tax gap between what HMRC estimated it was owed and what it received climbed to a massive £35 billion.
For good measure the angry MPs slammed the taxmen for overestimating by £2.5 billion the amount of money it expected to collect from the much lauded Osborne deal with the Swiss authorities to tackle offshore tax evasion. The ever vigilant Margaret Hodge said that her committee was “astonished to learn that HMRC could not provide an explanation”.
Whilst all this hoo-hah was taking place it was revealed that for the third year in a row Vodaphone has paid no corporate tax whatsoever. Their explanation bore a remarkable resemblance to that of Amazon, Google and many other large companies that enjoy huge profits on sales to the British public.
Mrs Hodge’s view is that HMRC pursues relentlessly tax owed by smaller businesses but “loses its nerve” when it comes to mounting prosecutions against multinational corporations. Given that they have close friends in very high places that is understandable. But the fact remains that so long as the present degree of clemency is shown the Chancellor’s only hope of balancing the books is to cut public services and to make the life of every taxpayer a good deal harder than it need be.
Mrs Hodge will not be getting a peerage any time soon but she and her colleagues are performing a valuable service to the public. The practice of operating one rule for the masses and another for the big boys is a disgraceful betrayal.
Ed Balls may be a “turkey” but even he has worked this out!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the bible and we had the land. They said “Let is pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the bible and they had the land!”……Desmond Tutu Nobel Prize for Peace, 1984
British weather is often grim, but it is never boring in that no two days are the same. Yesterday we skated on thin ice during our morning hen-cleaning, today we switched to mud-wrestling. I consoled myself by remembering my time in Africa when every day was a hot blue-sky day and in due course I yearned for variation. I didn’t mention this to my pals who probably dream about a life of endless sun plus, in Albert’s case, the presence of Lady Gaga dressed only in coconut shells.
In my view a year divided up into seasons is wonderful, always provided that the weather responds appropriately. Sadly the gulf stream plays tricks and there is very indication that Christmas will be anything but white, crisp and even. Both the Met Office and Albert’s seaweed predict torrential rain and howling gales, which prompts the thought that in casting around like a netted fish for ideas to deter the whole of Bulgaria and Romania arriving here in January, our dear leader should perhaps send them videos of Slough at its darkest.
David Cameron sudden announcement of a block on EU migrants’ access to benefits from New Year’s Day certainly suggests that knee-jerking is alive and well in Westminster. Given that we have known for years that the gates open wide as 2014 dawns it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the government is at sixes and sevens over immigration. It knows that even those who have settled here believe that our island is dangerously overcrowded, yet lives in fear at the reactions of Brussels and its Lib Dem pals to any crackdown.
Yesterday’s BBC programme featuring senior officers from the Metropolitan Police touring Romania to calculate the best response to an importation of crime was less than reassuring, and if they continue to dither all three of our major political parties must expect Ukip to be breathing down their necks at the European elections. Many people have lost faith in them and are nearing a state of rebellion over the madness of open borders.
What is about to happen is unfair to all those who have already moved to Britain, and have made positive contributions to our economy and society. In their frustration the indigenous population is now beginning to talk of ‘them’. And whenever society begins to mistakenly apply generalisations injustice follows.
To find an example of this you only have to look at the Banks. Deluged by stories of obscenely high salaries, bonuses, and unethical behaviour people are increasingly turning their anger on everyone working in our once trusted institutions. In reality we need to recognise that the Bank employees we meet on a daily basis are also victims. If you doubt that take a look at the revelations about Lloyds, which was last week fined £28 million for flogging £2billion-worth of ISAs and insurance to customers who didn’t want them. That is merely the latest mis-selling scandal to follow on from others about endowments, payment protection insurance, interest rate swaps, and credit card cover.
Bank of England grandees and City bigwigs blame lax management, but none talk of the treatment of our retail-banking staff. Their lot is akin to the Hunger Games. According to Unite, salaries for the lowest grade staff at Lloyds begin at £13,000, the next grade up starts at £17,000 and the median salary is £27,000. The first two bands account for 45% of all Lloyds employees. 40% of staff in those two bands say they rely on overtime or a second income to make ends meet. Around 12% say they have had to use payday loans in the past year and some reportedly use food banks.
In 2012 the boss of Lloyds, Antonio Horta-Osorio, took home £3.4 million in cash, pension and benefits. Last month he was lined up for a further £2million bonus in shares. Meantime his staff are being laid off if they fail to turn predatory on their customers. Their only shot at getting bonuses, payrises or keeping their jobs is to flog customers financial rubbish. An example came from the watchdogs last week. They cited the Lloyds ‘adviser’ who sold himself, his wife and a colleague a product none wanted just to get his numbers up.
A former employee at the Lloyds-TSB call centre has revealed that a manager listened in to her calls and when a women rang in to report that her husband had died, proceeded to threaten her because she failed to take the opportunity to offer an extra overdraft to cover the cost of the funeral. There are many such stories including those of noticeboards listing those who succeed in exploiting customer contact and those who fail.
In the same way that it is grossly unfair to apply one label all migrants it is equally so to do that with Banks. At the top are people who pocket more in a year than junior staff can hope to receive in a lifetime. They are greedy and corrupt and force staff to act against their consciences to make a living wage.
In most flocks of sheep there are a few black ones. If a sense of justice is to survive we must learn to direct our venom at the bad guys!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Banking staff have been coerced into turning predatory and we are their feedstock!” …..Aditya Chakrabortty
The King of all grumps, Geoffrey Boycott, is probably gnashing his teeth this morning. Some of his disciples on the allotments were inclined to do the same at the news that the all-conquering England cricketers are conquering no more, but their choppers were already engaged in chattering on a very cold morning. But we had no complaints on that score for there are few pleasanter experiences than the sound of an icy crust scrunching like a crème-brulee as one steps out under a blue sky. Whether the chickens see it that way is another matter for suddenly the worms have beak-proof protection.
Many of the morning papers have provided our dear leader with the coverage he sought in return for travelling to Afghanistan. Unfortunately for him they have chosen a somewhat negative interpretation. We believe that he was right to be positive about the role of our troops who have done their brave best in an impossible situation. But he was ill advised to echo the infamous words of George W Bush who, on May 1st 2003, posed whilst wearing a flight suit against a background of a huge sign declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’. That preceded ten years of bloodshed in Iraq culminating in a humiliating withdrawal.
Even the most optimistic believe other than that Afghanistan will suffer the same fate. Many families both in the UK and Afghanistan are in mourning and having heard the Cameron claim must this morning be asking themselves what the mission actually was. If it was to crush the Taliban and to install a Western style democracy by force of arms, the mission has been a failure. The only consolation is that our armed forces have been emasculated to the point where future intervention in any state bigger than the Isle of Wight will be beyond us.
Perhaps we codgers simply failed to understand what Bush and his pal Blair were actually hoping to achieve when they declared their intention to obliterate the forces of evil. That wouldn’t be too surprising since we regularly incur headaches as we try to understand the utterances of politicians. Every day that passes brings another mystery. Today we try in vain to fathom out the announcement by Jeremy Hunt about the NHS introducing 24/7 working.
No one can possibly disagree with the aim. The present arrangement of weekends managed by junior doctors, of overwhelmed A and E departments and GPs who have given low profile a whole new meaning is inadequate. But without substantial additional investment in doctors and nurses how can this possibly be achieved? Our local hospitals are amongst the best in the land but right now, given the massive ‘efficiency savings’ applied, they are unable to afford sufficient consultants to just about cover five days. Hunt’s threat to impose “massive fines” if they fail to man up to provide round-the-clock cover is ridiculous. Such penalties would be charged to already reduced funding and would merely serve to make the situation even worse.
At the core of the supposed plan is the promise to make GPs available at all times. My practice involves two doctors who already hold the maximum number of clinics throughout the week and, given the rocketing number of elderly patients, appointments involve significant delays. Consultations are not infinite, for any doctor whose prime task is diagnosis any increase above the present levels would be dangerous, tired doctors can easily lose their concentration. We are not talking here about stacking shelves in Tesco. One mistake and a patient could die.
Without doubt an increase in GPs and practice nurses would transform things. With appointments available at all times far fewer peo;le would feel the need to resort to A & E. In the case of my practice additional funding for an extra doctor plus two nurses and two receptionists would transform the patient experience but that would cost around an additional £300,000 a year. And there are a vast number of practices across the UK.
Unless the government is prepared to tackle the issue of tax avoidance by almost all of our big companies, plus the effective subsidy of almost £40 billion provided to Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds, there is no possibility of sufficient money becoming available. And we can forget the option of privatisation, having seen the debacle of services transferred to Serco.
As with Afghanistan this mission is one that will never be accomplished so spare us the words of spin-doctors. Only huge investment in real ones will prevent this scary winter being merely the forerunner of even worse ones to come!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Old age is wonderful…A pity it ends so badly!”….Francois Mauriac, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1952.
It was sherry all round this morning when we codgers retired to the allotments ‘hut’ after cleaning out the hens. We had decided that Bill’s 90th birthday merited something stronger than tea, and for once our kindly and quiet spoken pal was the centre of attention. He dismissed theories about healthy living in just two words – sheer luck. Life, according to Bill, is a lottery. He endured the London blitz of 1940 and just five years later was fighting in Europe “hell-bent on revenge”. But Bill will have no truck with today’s nostalgic talk of a community united when the bombs rained down, he remembers vividly the looting of demolished houses and the widespread stealing of jewellery from corpses. He insists that the inherent nature of people is unchanging, there are always “good guys and bad ones”.
Albert asked our hero for the day if his political beliefs have changed over so many years, a subject that he never mentions. It seems that he grew up a “red-hot Liberal”, a faithful disciple of Clement Davies and Jo Grimond. And now? The honest, committed politicians have “long gone” and he doesn’t vote. It seems that Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and all their spin-doctors cut no ice with Bill. Apparently he had toyed with the idea of backing Ed but his latest pronouncements about local authorities being given the right to compulsorily purchase any land that takes their fancy for a spot of building was the last straw.
I suspect that like many old soldiers the treatment of our armed forces by successive governments was for Bill, in reality, the last straw. But he did make another point. He believes that the public has been mesmerised into believing that the working poor are the bad guys. Wages lag behind the cost of living, zero-hour contracts abound and the number of unwilling part-timers rockets. Yet scarcely a voice is raised as Osborne imposes more stealthy assaults on those rendered poor. Contrast that with this morning’s news that Bankers expect their bonuses to soar 44 per cent this year on the back of rising share prices.
Bill has been around for a long time, but claims to have never seen the nation so divided in its attitude to the haves and have-nots. It may be this view that puts him at odds with the majority of his generation over membership of the EU. A poll out today shows over 60% of pensioners are determined to vote for an exit in the unlikely event that a referendum takes place. Bill stands four-square with the majority of under-25s who want to stay in. He shares their view that opportunities for tomorrow’s generation will be too limited in this small island. But he has a but.
In common with most people, both here and in the other major EU states, Bill believes passionately that individual countries must have the power to control their population to one that their infrastructures can cope with. He recalls with pleasure the benefits derived from the wave of immigrants of the fifties and sixties. They filled job vanancies and integrated into our culture seamlessly. Those days are gone, he contends, and a further influx now will lead to overcrowding, resentment and social disorder.
When our dear leader dismissed Dennis Skinner as “past his sell-by date” he revealed his feelings about the views of older people. It is a mistake. Of course tomorrow’s world is about young people, but those who have already travelled the journey are worth listening to. Sometimes the university of life provides lessons that even Eton and Oxbridge cannot supply!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “An intellectual is a man who doesn’t know how to park a bike!”…..Spiro Agnew, US politician.
If my fellow allotments codgers are any indication most people are not focussed on what the media and politicians imagine are today’s burning issues. As we cleaned out the hens this morning I heard no mention of North Korea, Heathrow, immigration, high speed trains or privatisation. The sole topic of conversation was the latest injury suffered by Robin Van Persie. Even the news of the enforced closure of one of Michael Gove’s new dream schools couldn’t match the interest in the Dutchman’s hamstring. It is often said that a revolution in Britain would attract no attention should Manchester United be featuring on the TV, and this morning seemed to confirm the theory.
For my own part I did feel that the growing row about the impending arrival of zillions of Romanians and Bulgarians merited a passing interest. This morning we learn that over seventy Conservative MPs are planning a revolt and it seems that only the massed ranks of Lib Drem and Labour MPs can save our dear leader from defeat. Why he is so fearful of further offence to the unelected Laszlo Andor, the Hungarian EU Commissioner, is a mystery. Andor this week suggested that David Cameron is weakening the “European spirit” by announcing that immigrants must be able to speak English, so heaven knows what he would say if we stopped them from coming altogether.
Yet the point about language seems what Basil Fawlty described as bleedin’ obvious. If I decided to exercise my right to live in Hungary I would regard learning the lingo as essential. But language is a side-issue, the simple truth is that this small island is already overcrowded and its infrastructure is in danger of collapse. This has nothing to do with racism, some of our allotmenteers are Polish but they share the view that right now we simply cannot accommodate more migrants. Some of the parliamentary rebels are asking just what Brussels can actually do if we defy the EU open borders directive. Good question, particularly since Germany and France have already done so. David Cameron’s stance is puzzling for one devoted to political sound bites. Were he to have the courage to announce a ban the odds are that his party would no longer be trailing in the polls!
But an even greater mystery is his reluctance to go head-to-head with the energy companies. Few now believe the talk about competition driving prices down and quality of service up. The extent of the failure of the UK’s energy market is exposed by new research published by consultants Vaasaett. It shows that competition between the “Big Six” firms has fallen to a record low. The proportion of households switching suppliers has almost halved in seven years – making it easier for gas and electricity suplliers to hike their prices in a stale market.
The fact that only 11 per cent have made the attempt to change suppliers fuels suspicions that the Big Six, which have all hiked their prices significantly above inflation in recent weks, are taking advantage of the problems people experience in changing providers. An even greater factor is the fact – not mere suspicion – that all the tariffs are similar. The cartel has us in its grip, this is in reality a cartel.
On this issue, as on immigration, our dear leader seems out of touch with public opinion. Dynamic action on both would transform his election prospects but he dithers on. Perhaps he too is totally preoccupied with Van Persie’s leg?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Democratic principles do not flourish on empty stomachs!”….George C Marshall, Nobel Prize for Peace, 1953.
I missed the hen-cleaning this morning, having been summoned for a post-op review of my left eye. The NHS clinic was spotlessly clean, the staff were friendly and I was seen on time. The lady next to me in the waiting area was reading the Daily Mail which had banner headlines about the “National Health Shambles”, and for the zillionth time I wondered why the Rothermere press is so intent on the destruction of morale in our hospitals. Yes there are inevitably problems in so vast an undertaking, but I cannot recall the Mail ever reporting a success story. Presumably their aim is to urge on the right-wing privatisation devotees.
If so it should perhaps keep an eye on the private companies being awarded responsibility for taking over public services. G4S and Serco landed substantial contracts and are presumably seen as perfect examples of efficiency and top-class customer service. Both are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over their Ministry of Justice contracts and allegations regarding the way they have charged the government. Both were yesterday stripped of their contracts and another of the Whitehall favourites, Capita, have been invited to take over. Presumably the government is working to a plan involving handing public services to a succession of companies in the belief that if enough are tried one will eventually prove honest and reliable. Meantime the taxpayer continues to incur greater costs than applied when the state provided essential services.
Being a man of narrow vision our dear leader has probably missed such scandals. Yesterday he incurred the wrath of Judge Robin Johnson, having declared himself to be “on Team Nigella” at a time when his friend was involved in a crown court trial. We can only hope that his string-pullers are warning him against sounding off about another of his close friends at present spending her time in court!
It feels good to contrast all this with some positive news. Those of us who constantly pray for a eureka moment for cancer researchers are over the moon at the discovery made in regard to the drug anastrozole. A study, funded by Cancer Research UK and led by Queen Mary University of London, tracked 4,000 postmenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer and found that those who took anastrozole for five years were less likely to develop the disease. It may not be eureka but the news demonstrates that there are real possibilities of breakthroughs. Everyone who has ever donated can walk tall today!
Of course we still have the mystery as to why research into such a scourge is so fragmented and David Cameron was right to suggest to other world leaders that on cancer, Alzheimer’s and other horrors there must be a case for closer co-operation. As things stand there must be a distinct possibility that right now any number of research groups are working on the self same study.
But for now Cancer Research and Queen Mary University have earned three cheers. Four perhaps since the much vaunted private sector are not even worthy of one!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The world could get along very well without literature; it could get along even better without men!”…..Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1964.
It was, as they say, a bit nippy on the allotments this morning. We recently acquired a stock of black hoods which pull down over the head to protect the jaw and neck ,and a casual observer might have concluded that the Great Train Robbers were planning a repeat performance had they seen us cleaning out the hens. The problem is that they are all of one Eric Pickles size and whilst some of us were struggling to breath, others such as Albert wouldn’t struggle to accommodate Lady Gaga as a mascot.
Most of the chatter this morning centred around the 50th anniversary of Dr Who, and last night’s excellent programme on the Beeb. It focussed on the doubts expressed by the top brass when the idea of a story line featuring space travel and Daleks was first muted. The screening of the first ever episode coincided with the assassination of President Kennedy and the faint-hearted reached for the axe. The enthusiastic producer was ordered to make no more than four half-hour slots of “the crap”. One week later over ten million tuned in and the crap became pure honey. Fifty years on the idea of revisiting Agincourt still enthrals those of us who find todays world less than exciting.
Beneath last night’s glitz about Bill Hartnell there was, whether intended or otherwise, an underlying moral. Never abandon a dream at the first hurdle. It should surely be adopted by our dear leader in regard to his “Vote blue, go green” promise of just three years ago. According to the Sun he has become unnerved by the ever-rising energy prices to the extent that he has taken to storming around his personal tardis ordering all and sundry to get rid of this “green crap”.
That would, we believe, be a huge mistake. Yes, the so-called big six energy suppliers need to be brought to heel and subjected to real competition, but the fate of the environment is even more important. Over the past few days new scientific evidence has emerged suggesting that, contrary to popular belief, the earth’s climate has continued to warm over the past fifteen years. Given the succession of appalling weather events that shouldn’t surprise us. It all reinfiorces the view that we owe it to future generations to hold our nerve and to continue to set an example by reducing greenhouse gases.
And there is another reason for urging our dear leader to hold his nerve. Yes, there is good reason to question expenditure on windmills that cost more than they will ever save, but it is folly to abandon projects such as insulation which, to quote Nick Clegg, will keep bills down in the long run by preventing the present horrendous waste.
If David Cameron is in the mood for crap-cutting there is plenty to go at without jeopardising the planet. He could put ideology aside and examine the wisdom of privatising every conceivable service. We now know that contracting out parts of the probation service to Serco has put the public at risk, and torpedoed the prospect of offenders seeing the error of their ways. We now know that the one railway franchise in public ownership is producing a handsome profit and a better service than any of the for-profit ventures, and there is no justification for change.
He could resolve to stop his endless point-scoring which convinces no one and merely serves to bring politicians into even greater public contempt. What is the point of devoting his time and volatile emotions to the Labour links with the Reverend Flowers when to do so merely prompts the opposition to exhume for the umpteenth time his own links with the Murdoch clan and all the old stories of donor influence? Right now we all know that our political parties are corrupt, wouldn’t it be better to break the cancerous mould?
Above all else it would surely be a giant step forward toward saving our democracy were the prime minister to give a lead in listening to the people, instead of employing an army of spin-doctors to bombard them with propaganda as transparent as a stripper’s chemise.
By way of a start he should perhaps glance at the latest opinion poll on the need to counter global warming. Almost 70 per cent see this as anything but “green crap”!
PS; Observant readers may by now have noticed an apparent reluctance to mention the Brisbane Test match. We can only suggest that instead of an 82-page booklet on what to eat, the England team should perhaps have been provided with one on how to bat!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Some people go to India to find the mystery of life. I’m still trying to work out how to start my car!”……Rodney Dangerfield
Britain’s spiralling cost of living will force more people into crippling personal debt which already totals a breath-taking £1.4 trillion. UK households now owe the equivalent of 94 per cent of the country’s economic output for the whole of last year. But such tributes to the much heralded economic recovery passed my fellow codgers by this morning. As we cleaned out the hens they had more important matters on their minds – can Brad Hadden stand in the way of the cock-a-hoop England bowlers when play resumes in the Brisbane Test?
Even the revelation that it was the latter-day Keir Hardie, Tony Blair, that gave the US the go-ahead to spy on millions of Britons failed to deflect them from arguments about the selection of Tremlett. In fact the only concession to what is happening in the real world the Barmy Army of the allotments made today was a chat about yesterday’s PM Question Time, possibly the only more entertainingly abusive forum than the Brisbane crowd.
If there existed a Royal College for abuse our dear leader would by now be its president. Yesterday found him at his very best. His usual attack centres on Unite’s Len McCluskey, but a new target has emerged in the shape of the Reverend Paul Flowers. Clearly David Cameron has missed the news that the 2008 bank crash was masterminded by an assortment of Moonies, Tory card sharps and Doctor Who fans.
Crocodile tears cascaded down those rosy cheeks as he implored anyone – meaning Ed Miliband – to assist his zillionth inquiry aimed at proving that Labour are a bunch of rotten eggs. The jaw-dropping hypocrisy was magnificent. Never mind that the coalition encouraged Co-op bankers to expand while regulators slept, here was a villain who had dined nightly at chez Miliband and who was a godfather to even the children that Ed has yet to generate.
At this point the Speaker called the accused. Guess what – we were then treated to a list of Dave’s dodgy dozen including such intimates now appearing in a court case that Ed was not allowed to mention. Things were getting out of hand and, as so often, it was left to brother Meacher to light the fuse. He had only reached a description of Mali having outperformed the UK economy when our dear leader cried that he had clearly been out on the town with the Reverend and had taken mind-altering substances. In truth Mr Meacher has inhaled nothing more mind-altering than Tony Benn’s dairies and he protested to headmaster Bercow who sent the whole lot of them home.
The pity is that so many of us confine our parliamentary viewing to the Abuse Show for it is the select committees that provide any real insight. Yesterday the Business and Skills version was preoccupied with the bankers, and demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the incompetent Reverend was far from unusual, he represents the norm.
The committee spent over two hours questioning senior staff from Goldman Sachs and UBS, the banks that led the Royal Mail giveaway. Based on their ‘expert’ advice the Coalition sold 60% of Royal Mail at 330p a share, thus valuing the company at £3.3 billion. Yesterday the shares were changing hands at 550p, representing a loss to the British taxpayer of £2.2 billion, enough to fund several train-loads of soldiers, nurses and social workers.
So far the banks that priced and marketed the shares have been paid £12.7 million and stand to get a further £4.2 million if Uncle Vince Cable thinks they warrant it. Staggering. Adrian Bailey, who chairs the committee, concluded that “The government, in view of what has happened subsequently, would be mad to give them yet more money”. Since it is, it probably will. In mitigation, the bankers made clear that such transactions are impossible to forecast in advance, thus consigning their Experts label into the waste-paper basket.
But all is not lost. Yesterday the identity of the next City of Culture was revealed. It is Hull, a choice we codgers have regularly advocated. How could a city that has two-Jags Prescott as its culture bedrock have been ignored for so long?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “To reward the private sector that lost the taxpayer potentially billions and, in these days of austerity, would be a very politically dangerous thing to do!”…..Adrian Bailey, chairman of the Business and Skills select committee.
“I’m hearing an awful lot of stuff from you about how wonderful you are, and what great expertise you have. Can I, as a taxpayer, assume that all this is the cult of the high priest and meant to say you are much better at your job than you are, and you have failed the taxpayer”….Brian Binley, Conservative member of committee.
Albert’s arrival for this morning’s hen-cleaning attracted rather more attention than is usually the case. His face was covered in paint. It was, he told us, the result of a demonstration he staged last night for his grand children of the noble art of Halloween conversion. In the absence of make-up he used gloss paint left over from his kitchen redecoration. We couldn’t help but wonder how Mrs Albert felt this morning when she awoke to find a pint-sized Dracula next to her. But the world is full of fools.
Some of them earn their living from foolery, others are just plain daft. Amongst the former, and head and shoulders above the rest, are to be found our favourites, the incomparable Eric and little Ernie. But yesterday we for the first time began to fear that their domination of the memory hall of double acts is under threat. We tuned in to PM’s Question Time and realised that if the Beeb feels inclined to update its Christmas schedule our heroes may vanish from our screens for ever. Morecambe and Wise were brilliant but were they really as hilarious as the Dave and Ed Show?
As if to consolidate his role as Eric, our dear leader yesterday sported, for the first time, glasses similar to the great man. He had clearly practised before the mirror, for his frequent routine of flicking them back up his nose was a perfect re-creation. We expected him to tug at Ed’s wig and to slap his chubby cheeks but even an Old Etonian couldn’t reach across the despatch box. But the verbals were splendid.
The script writers had chosen energy prices as the background, and Dave was quickly off the mark by triumphantly accusing little Ed of rejecting the Tory policy of switching suppliers yet proceeding to switch his own. Presumable Bletchley Park had extracted this gem from their recordings. But Ed was up to it. Of course he wants to pay less for his fuel; he just doesn’t think it should be so expensive in the first place. His script writer had him respond that Dave was in cahoots with the big six, who were now the big seven. “The only thing people need to do is switch prime minister”, he squeaked. Goalless draw so far.
Ed then asked why Dave has gone from being Rambo to Bambi in “four short years”. He could have used Toughie to Tufty or Arafat to Puddytat but script writers are paid by the hour. Dave’s had him respond that Ed was a “one-trick pony that has run out of road”. They will have to sharpen up for a Christmas Show since one-trick ponies, or even 90-trick ponies, perform not on the road but in a circus ring. But the show roared on.
Dave called Ed a “seven-weAk day man” and said that he created a “pathetic spectacle”. We loved the way he then waved his new Specsavers as he said it. As with all good double acts the half-hour was over in a flash and Dave stalked out with his very best I-have-better-things-to-do-with-my-time-than-argue-with-you closing line. We almost expected the pair to return with ‘Bring me sunshine’.
It was only later that we remembered that the pair are supposedly involved, albeit in a vague way, in running the country, and we amused ourselves by playing the parlour game of Do They Know That..?
Do they know that Iain Duncan Smith is not as daft as John Major suggests? Five Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision that his “back to work” scheme is legally flawed. IDS, as he is known to his wife, has fast tracked an Act through parliament which validates the scheme retrospectively, and has managed it without anyone noticing.
Do they know that the World Health Organisation has warned that our record level of youth joblessness is a “health time bomb”? Prof Sir Michael Marmot says that the UK is “failing too many of our children, women and young people on a grand scale”. For good measure he said yesterday that the UK’s poverty rate is comparable to that of Hungary but even they do more to “redistribute wealth”. As we speak IDS is probably slipping through legislation banning Marmots.
It is probable that they are also not aware that a record number of teachers were caught cheating in GCSE, AS and A-level exams this year, or that enemies of the less-than-funny Michael Gove are putting it down to his passion for employing unqualified teachers. We are sure that had Dave known this he would have taken urgent steps to block the impressionable Jeremy Hunt from launching his copycat scheme to use G4S as a replacement for qualified doctors.
It is a pity that they didn’t know that the official estimate is that our energy companies are systematically overcharging customrrs by £3.7 billion a year, for that snippet would have provided rich pickings for their script writers. And had they realised that the big six no longer pay corporation tax the range of jokes would have been even greater.
Even they must know that the newspapers and politicians are now daggers-drawn over press regulation, although since Nick Clegg went to get her Majesty’s signature it is possible that he hasn’t told them. But either way they are well advised to feign ignorance since both politicians are press are held in equal odium by the public and jokes would be bound to offend someone.
But we are being somewhat harsh. Dave has other things on his mind right now, as would anyone whose best friends are in court. And Ed has to decide whether he really supports HS2 or must do what his backbenchers tell him to do. And both men are just a week away from their next show.
So we should leave them to their promising showbiz careers and leave IDS to deal with affairs of state! On second thoughts, leave it to Big Eric Pickles and ignore the news that his £7.5 billion scheme to encourage the building of new homes is now reported to be building them in areas of plentiful supplies.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “No news is good news; no journalists is even better!”….Nicholas Bentley
Heads were being scratched with some vigour on the allotments this morning. We are painfully aware of the vulnerability of our chicken empire to high winds and, having heard the forecast of an approaching hurricane, Bob had been in touch with the regional weathermen. They advised that we tie down anything likely to be likely to succumb to an 80mph wind. We can lock Albert in but what about the hens? Stand by for the first sighting in the UK of a flock of flying hens. At least they will not constitute a danger to aircraft heading in to Manchester since flights are to be suspended. Once we had settled in our cosy ‘shed’ for a brew we gave up worrying about it and reminded ourselves that it’s better to laugh than cry.
With this intention in mind we saw today’s news in a less depressing light. Not difficult since most of the morning papers are still banging on about the antics of the global surveillance network. Both the British and American governments have again reminded us that it is essential in defending our security. Clearly that explains why they have tapped the phone calls of Angela Merkel. She doesn’t look the type, but that’s always the way with radical Islamic Jihadists who’ve worked their way into being Chancellor of Germany so they can inflict holy war upon the infidels.
They’ve probably already decoded her messages about the strength of the Euro, and realised that it really means strap the explosive to your chest extra tight as that Velcro tends to come undone, and if those explosives spill all over the bus you’ll feel a right fool. But despite yesterday’s stout defence of the spies by our dear leader we cannot help wondering why they failed to tap Berlusconi. Those calls could have been put on sale, to be downloaded for a dollar each or put on an 0898 number to wipe out the US and UK national debts.
Even stranger is yesterday’s furore about high speed rail. David Cameron seized on a statement by Ed the Balls to the effect that Labour will not sign a blank cheque, hardly a surprising view given that the projected cost rises by the day. We have noted that the cost of ministerial advisers has risen by over a million pounds this year and can only assume that numeracy is not one of their strengths given constnt claims that one cannot estimate such things “to the nearest billion”. Given that the national debt is now at record levels it does seem to us that Brother Balls is for once exercising prudence, not, as suggested by Dave, an unparralled lack of patriotism.
Of course when compared with the horrendous mess that Messrs Lansley and Hunt have made of the NHS, HS2 is an example of perfect planning. The Lib Dems nodded through the destruction on the grounds that competition laws would prevent any serious attempt at privatisation. The reality has been the precise opposite. The regulator Monitor has just realised this, and yesterday said that it would be “mad” to enforce the Lansley competition rules leaving commissioners to “spend all their time running competitive processes because they’re terrified that they’re going to get into trouble if they don’t. Too late now.
So far 63% of all NHS contracts have been put out to tender by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), now run by just a handful of GPs. The 211 CCGs are widely regarded as no match for the foreign-owned private sector in the art of writing complex contracts. Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act forces them to put all but a few services out or risk any putative bidder challenging them in court. Bringing competition law into the NHS means no one can control these unleashed forces. Privatisation rushes on – £11 billion already – but private providers escape the NHS duty of openness or freedom for whistleblowers. Hospitals are losing their ‘profitable’ work, nurses are being sacked by the busload, ambulance and A&E times are growing, the social care crisis is blocking beds with winter approaching.
Even those brave souls who advocated privatisation expected there to be a cohesive plan. The reality is fragmentation and inevitable chaos as shared services, such as the cancer network, are scrapped given that they contravene competition laws. The case of the NHS is no longer an argument about conflicting ideologies, it is a monumental cock-up hatched up by Andrew Lansley who, even his friends acknowledge, is to planning what Eric Pickles is to dieting. Our dear leader did eventually sack him, but then appointed a charming chap whose experience of planning was confined to building battleships out of bog-rolls on Blue Peter.
Even our favourite Uncle, Vince Cable, has become a mirth-provider. It now transpires that one of the world’s largest investment banks advised him that they could sell Royal Mail for £10 billion, three times the value he decided to proceed with. JP Morgan last night declined to comment but well-placed sources revealed that several other leading valuers had pressed for a minimum of £8 billion. The result of the bargain price sale is that major German investors are offering big profits for quick sales of shares and the possibility of our Royal Mail being owned by the German government are growing by the day. Perhaps the Queen’s head will be replaced on our stamps by that of Angela Merkel, always assuming that our spies fail to prove her Jihadist credentials.
If we have so far failed to lighten your mood, may we recommend the latest thoughts from Prince Charles. He fears that being King will be much like being in prison. We knew from the Daily Mail that prisoners have a life of luxury, but hadn’t realised that this includes an army of flunkies, a wardrobe of many uniforms complete with medals galore, and everyone entering the cell being obliged to bow and use the term Royal Highness. But one learns something new very day.
It’s a funny old world if you decide to make it so!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober!”…..Logan Pearsall Smith
It was good to see the sun this morning, even though its heating switch was in the off position. Having read of impending gale-force winds we codgers were thankful for small mercies as we cleaned out the hens whilst dressed in the manner of Eskimo Nell. Brass monkeys would have fled the scene but we wizened northerners are made of tougher stuff. Not everyone shares that view, she-who-must-be-obeyed contends that where there is no sense there is no feeling.
Either way our dear leader was the focus of attention when we thawed out with our brew. Yesterday he incurred the wrath of his arch enemy, little John Bercow, when he turned a terrible brick colour and declared Ed Miliband to be a conman. As my old Gran used to say it takes one to know one. As a nation we love the concept of National Days, and the calendar is packed with such, ranging from the Rose through to Ferret breeding. Henceforth our Playboy versions will mark October 23 as National Conman Day.
It follows that yesterday was in retrospect the inaugural occasion. A quick resume revealed that we are off to a prolific start. We positioned our dear leader’s sleight of hand in regard to Stafford Hospital near the top of the list. The prime minister labelled the hospital a national disgrace, a place in which dehydration is only avoided by drinking from flower vases. Just days later over 50,000 locals paraded through Stafford in support of their “treasured hospital”, and it was revealed that vases have been banned for the past half century. Perhaps we should have a conman of the year award?
Our dear leader would be up there amongst the favourites. Yesterday he strengthened his claim by suddenly announcing that Miliband’s green taxes were to blame for the continual rise in energy prices, and promised to “roll them back”. It did seem to contradict his election slogan of “Vote blue to go green”, and it did seem to bemuse his LibDem partners who promised to ensure that his promise will never see the light of day. But it was a textbook example of a first-class con – promise something which cannot be delivered due to the intransigence of others.
But completion for the honour would be intense. The police yesterday staked their claim with what must have been the most beguiling performance before a Commons select committee of all time. Jerry Reekes-Williams, of West Mercia police, reported on his investigation of the trio that gave to the media versions of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell that directly contradicted the conversation recorded on the Mitchell’s tape-recorder. The officers, said the investigator, were not guilty of lying, but they did mislead by “putting weight on certain words and phrases”. The trio followed with a demonstration in the art of evasion so wearisome that Keith Vaz, the normally tolerant chairman of the committee, was moved to ask if they imagined the questioning to be “some sort of TV panel show”.
But even they probably felt less uncomfortable than the American and British security surveillance lot when Angela Merkel became uncharacteristically heated at the discovery that they have been busy hacking into her mobile phone. Catlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security spokeswoman failed her comman test when she replied that “We are not monitoring , and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel”, thus revealing that they have done so in the past. Come back Edward Snowden, all is forgiven!
It was no surprise to find Michael Gove, who always gives the impression of someone auditioning for the part of a villain in a Bond movie, up there amongst the champion conman contenders. Having declarer that his beloved ‘free schools’ are carefully vetted he was unmasked by a leaked Department for Education document. His signature appears below a proposal to “reduce financial analysis”, and for good measure the suggestion is coloured in green with “Yes, cut” scrawled alongside.
Another contender in the conman stakes must be Gorgeous George Osborne. He is about to trumpet the news that the economy is at last enjoying strong growth. Sadly for him a study about to be released by Manchester University reveals that the top 20% of earning households are enjoying most of the growth, and that the north/south divide has widened dramatically. Our hero may well forget to mention that the ‘recovery’ is somewhat selective!
No list of conmen would be complete without mention of the tax avoiders. Every day brings more names of offenders and today official figures show that £35billion was uncollected last year, a figure far in excess of all the cuts imposed on what the gorgeous one calls “ordinary people”. Today’s new names include the Gondola Group, which owns Pizza Express, Zizzi and Ask. It has avoided UK corporation tax to the extent of £77m since it was bought by the Cinven private equity fund in 2006. But is unfair to single out any one avoider, the practice is almost universal including even the recipients if our lottery flutters, Camelot.
Having said all that it has to be admitted that the banks are still the most likely contenders for the Cameron conmen award. Take a bow Barclays, who may no longer pay you interest on your current account but still know how to maintain gigantic bonuses despite the EU cap. Barclay’s cunning plan is to hand out a third payment to bankers in addition to basic salary and traditional bonuses. The payment will probably take the form of a monthly allowance , paid in cash in addition to salary but not taken into account when bonuses are calculated.
Aspiring conmen such as politicians, police , spies and business gurus can eat their hearts out. When it comes to the noble art of conmanship our banks are still without equal!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects”…..Herodotus
I may have inadvertently given the impression that our team of chicken-breeders consists solely of geezers so ancient that they make the Young Mr Grace of ‘Are You Being Served’ fame look like a spring chicken. I say this having been prodded by Tony and Phil, two students who join us each weekend after their weekly stint of part-time work at the Martin Mere Wildlife Centre. Unlike most of my pals, who regard such things as the work of the devil, they read the blog and feel that they deserve a mention.
What they think of us ancient ones is not on record, but it was not difficult to guess this morning they pulled me from the pond when I emulated Albert’s recent misadventure. I was carrying a paving slab and tripped. A near tidal wave followed as I attempted to free my left arm from beneath a submerged rock. I missed the usual gathering for a brew, and dripped home whilst attracting some very strange looks from early joggers.
Today’s thoughts are therefore my own, as I sit in my underpants in front of the lounge electric fire. Not a pretty sight. Neither in my view are the ever increasing number of wind farms in this area. From my bedroom window I can see hordes of the monsters pockmarking and destroying what was a beautiful landscape. If we wish to trim a tree on the allotments we face weeks of negotiation with planning officers, if we wanted to erect a wind-maker the answer would be how soon.
What puzzles me about the enthusiasm for wind farms is the sheer uselessness of the things. In warmer windy months – when least needed – they can produce so much energy that they overload the system. In cold, windless months – when most needed – they can stand as lifeless and useless as asthmatic giraffes. Last winter the contribution of wind turbines to overall energy production in the UK fell to lows of 0.1 per cent.
Yet there is a surge in plans for yet more. Popular? For those seeking quick profit the answer is in the affirmative. No great surprise given that an analysis of the industry’s figures reveals that Britain’s largest energy firms received almost £900m last year through a consumer subsidy added to household bills. The subsidy is worth £200m more than the income generated from the electricity actually produced by wind farms.
SSE, the company that last week announced an 8% hike in energy prices, received £213m in consumer subsidies from its fleet of on and offshore wind farms. Its total income from wind farms was in the region of £373m. With low running costs, the surplus made from operating its wind farms is calculated at £277m. Add up the totals for the ‘big six’ companies and you have a total surplus of £1.1 billion. Wind farms are a licence to print money.
Figures such as these seldom get a hearing as the Lib Dem chattering classes maintain their endless chorus about the environment, seemingly oblivious to the fact that their beloved turbines are contributing little, costing a great deal and destroying the very environment they seek to save. The very same voices rise in volume if anyone dares to mention immigration. Racists, they scream. But worrying about a creaking infrastructure does not make the critic a racist. Racists are repugnant bigots, people who fear the total collapse of every facility and service are simply fearful of what we are allowing to happen.
A new EU report reveals that more than 600,000 unemployed EU migrants are now living in the UK at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone. The number of “non-active” EU migrants in Britain rose by 42% between 2006 and 2012, and is still rocketing. A major factor is that use of services here is free at the point if delivery. In most EU countries it is dependent on past contributions. In France for example the cost of migrants to the health system is a mere £3.4m, a fraction of the NHS cost.
To make things even worse Laszlo Andor, the socialist EU commissioner in charge of employment and social exclusion, is to bring a court case to make it even easier for EU migrants to claim benefits in Britain. He is to challenge a scheme that makes certain benefits available only to migrants from the EU who are “economically active”. If he succeeds, the Department for Work and Pensions warn, Britain will become even more attractive to people wanting to live off the state.
It would all make even the guests at the Mad Hatter’s tea party foam at the mouth. Yesterday we reported on a ‘secret’ deal being cobbled together by Angela Merkel and David Cameron to protect British bankers and the German car giants. If our dear leader imagines that protection of our bankers will serve to persuade us that EU membership is a dream ticket, he is mistaken. Yes, we need and welcome productive migrants but our borders must become no-entry zones for others.
These stories alone are causing me to wonder about the prospect of politicians controlling the press. Were the press to be at the mercy of politicians would we ever hear the truth about actions that threaten our environment and lifestyles? For me Edward Snowden was a hero, why should the politicos have the power to monitor every aspect of our lives? I have to admit also that the Daily Mail and others nauseate me, but the answer is not to control them in Orwellian style, but to refrain from buying them.
Tomorrow I shall keep well clear of the murky depths of our pond, thus enabling me to reflect the balanced view of others whose views are varied. Its called democracy, something that on a national level is rapidly becoming as rare as hen’s teeth!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “When Ann Widdecombe read out the Ten Commandments at Westminster Abbey it sounded as though she had written them herself!”…Father Michael Seed.
Albert has a new all-weather coat. It is hardly a headline to match those concerning Sally Bercow’s saucy tattoo, but anything remotely unusual on the allotments raises the eyebrows of codgers stuck in a rut deep enough to hide Eric Pickles. The coat is rather large but Albert assures us that he will “grow into it”, unlikely since he is 82 and shrivelling. We were surprised to learn that the garment was made in Germany, even more surprised that our little Englander regards German quality as ahead of ours. Perhaps we should alert the Daily Mail that we have another candidate for its list of people who hate Britain.
But the coat story fades into insignificance when compared to the news that our dear leader has held secret talks with Angela Merkel. Perhaps I should describe them as intended to be secret since the spin-doctors took less than three days to pop behind the bike sheds to spill the beans to reporters from The Times. Apparently the dynamic duo are cooking up a deal to protect the German car industry, and to provide David Cameron with evidence that he has renegotiated British EU membership.
In exchange for supporting the exclusion of German cars from new carbon emission laws, our dear leader will be allowed, by the uncrowned Queen of Europe, to win exclusion from EU law of the British banking sector. Perhaps the noise level behind those bike sheds was too high and someone misheard those whispered asides for concessions for bankers are not the number one priority on the Ukip list!
On one thing we can rely, the British taxpayer will fare badly in whatever eventually emerges. That assumes that there are any taxpayers left, for today we learn that the gap between what Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs should receive annually and what it actually gets now stands at £35 billion. This is revealed in a report from the taxmen who admit that the gap is increasing year on year. The report was released at 4.00pm yesterday and at 4.20pm Margaret Hodge, chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, announced that she will be recalling the head of HMRC to give evidence about the “ridiculous” failure of tax-collectors to collect tax.
Mrs Hodge added that, other than when dealing with chip-shops, our taxmen are “neither assertive or aggressive” and poured fuel on the fire by explaining that the declared gap doesn’t include the tax avoidance of companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Google who run ‘profit shifting schemes’. One expert last night estimated their evasion at around £12 billion which brings the total of uncollected tax to £47 billion.
And the tax avoidance schemes are mounting. The controversial payday lender Wonga is the latest firm to alter its tax structure to reduce UK tax liability. Wonga is now lending to UK customers through its Swiss operation even though it does not offer loans to people in Switzerland. The company denies the move is aimed at tax avoidance. Perhaps its bean-counters simply prefer Swiss chocolate?
To crown a bad week for the ever-shrinking band of Brits who still pay tax, it is now clear that Royal Mail was underpriced in the rushed privatisation. The company’s shares surged 38% yesterday and the signs are that the taxpayer has been robbed of at least £650m. Never mind, today’s Telegraph tells us that the hedge firm which features Gorgeous George Osborne’s best man amongst its stars obtained a £50 million stake in Royal Mail. Last night a spokesman for the Treasury stressed that the chancellor had not been in touch with his buddy Peter Davies. As if he would!
If all this comes across as a gaint moan that is because that is what it is. Yesterday we learned that the Red Cross is to launch a food-aid appeal for the UK, today we learn that the coalition is turning a blind eye to tax avoidance on a scale never before witnessed in this country.
In an attempt to be balanced we grant that this may all be down to incompetence rather than a tendency to favour the rich. Perhaps such a case could cite the badger cull. Environment Minister Paterson has blamed the failure on the difficulty of shooting animals in the dark, and has added that the badgers “shifted the goalposts”. Now he is talking of trying gas, although its ever rocketing cost would make that “expensive”.
As we gloomily munched our Tesco doughnuts this morning we reflected yet again on the need for big men at the top. Send for Pickles, we demand!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ”Some people get so rich that they lose all respect for humanity. That’s how rich I want to get!”….Rita Rudner
Whilst the rest of the nation was this morning overwhelmed with excitement about the latest hirings and firings of Messrs Cameron and Miliband plus the news that the badger cull has proved a fiasco, we codgers devoted our morning to an argument about brooms. We can debate religion or politics without getting hot under the collar, but any mention of brooms turns our brew-time into a carbon-copy of Prime Minister’s Question Time.
A few weeks ago we decided that sweeping the paths around the hen-runs is taking up a disproportionate amount of our time. Catalogues were pored over as if they were the holy grail, and an order was placed for a dozen ‘Super Sweepers’. Super was not the adjective used by some of my pals when the crate was opened. Too bloody big was the general reaction and, since then, the gang has become divided between those who delight in clearing the width of a path in one stroke and those who bang on endlessly about their arthritis.
Leader of the anti-brigade is Albert. At weekends he leads the local Silver Prize Marching Band with a drum big enough to house Eric Pickles so one can only conclude that those who suffer from what he calls Arthur-it is should turn to drum-therapy. It is all very depressing, perhaps we should call for a judicial review,.
But when it comes to depressive influences brooms trail a long way behind economists. I often wonder what their Christmas parties are like – probably even less fun that a convocation of insurance loss adjusters. I say this having waded through an article in this weeks Spectator under the heading ‘Britannia uber alles’. I was enticed by the introductory blurb which prophesies that the UK economy will one day overtake Germany.
Being weary of attempting to follow the endless arguments put forward by Gorgeous George Osborne and his arch enemy Ed the Balls, I grasped at the apparent reassurance we all earnestly yearn for. It was only when I reached the conclusion that this transformation will only occur after 2050 that my enthusiasm waned somewhat.
Right now, Germany is by far the top European economy with a GDP of $3.6 trillion. France stands at $2.7 trillion, the UK at $2.2 trillion and Italy at $2.1 trillion. The next decade, we are told, will be much better for us. The Italian economy is forecast to shrink and France, with an annual growth rare of only 0.1% looks unlikely to hold on to second place. That leaves the Germans who are very good at making stuff. And there are a lot of them, 82 million compared with 62 million Brits.
Why is Britian expected to seize the crown? Because Germany is forecast to have a sharply declining population that, according to a report last year by the Population Reference Bureau, will be down to 64 million by 2050. By contrast the UK will by then house 80 million and, assuming that the Germans do not achieve miracles in productivity, hey presto we will be the economic giants of the EU.
When economists publish findings based on the equivalent of studying the entrails of sheep for many a month they always expect us to provide a standing ovation. That rarely happens because there are usually points of detail that hit us like a bucket of cold water. In this particular case there are two.
The first is that most if us will be dead before Cameron the younger crows triumphantly before promising an in/out EU referendum. The second is that this amazing change in our national fortunes is dependent on a population explosion capable of making our existing crowded roads and street look empty by comparison. The glorious day will only arrive in 2050, but between now and then we will spend more and more time in traffic jams and NHS waiting rooms. Restful maybe, but hardly conducive to the productivity of an ant colony.
Nothing could match this expert projection for its depressive effect. Well almost nothing, since news that Osborne is now the bookmaker’s favourite to replace our dear leader just about beats it!
Having plumbed the depths of economic stargazing I have concluded that studying brooms is a much happier preoccupation!
QUOTE OF THE DAY; “By 2030 the UK , if it manages to combine faster growth with better demographics, will overtake Germany. Every multinational will want a stake in the British market and migrants will flock here in ever greater numbers. If we do better than our neighbours, one day soon we’ll have something to celebrate!”…..Matthew Lynn.
The nightly ritual of locking in the hens was somewhat delayed last night. We had not allowed for the Conservative Party conference when we went to Manchester for a charity event, and we found ourselves caught up in a howling mob. Not the one inside the conference centre but the one massing outside it. According to the police there were over 50,000 protestors, it felt to us like the whole world and his banner-bearing wife.
If the banners were any indication the grievances were many, ranging from NHS cuts and Rupert Murdoch through to warning bells for cats. The overall impression we gained as we were jostled around was that our dear leader is not generally held in the affection which we codgers bestow on a daily basis. The result was that we were too late for our event and, to make things worse, had to wait for what seemed a lifetime for a train home from Oxford Road due to cancellations caused by an escaped puma on the line at Wigan. At least I think that was what the garbled announcement said, it was hard to be sure given that the massed ranks of the beneficiaries of private enterprise were chanting slogans.
At the time we were less than sure as to why Murdoch featured amongst the placards. Given this morning’s headlines it may be that the bearers knew something we didn’t – not a difficult achievement. It seems that our dear leader stands accused of misleading Leveson on his friendship with Rebekah Brooks. Leading journalist Matthew D’Ancona has timed the publication of his new book, ‘In It Together’, to coincide with the gathering of the Tory great and good, and claims that David Cameron misled the Leveson inquiry when he said that his friendship with Rebekah developed only after her marriage to his Eton contemporary and confidante Charlie Brooks.
According to D’Ancona, a journalist with close links to 10 Downing Street, it was Rebekah who brought Cameron closer to Charlie, not the other way round. Brooks, says D’Ancona, got very close to the PM by a “mixture of charm and persuasion”. Her charm, he reports, enabled her to “break through Cameron’s armour”. Given that Ms Brooks faces trial in October, and that no action has been taken on implementation of Leveson, the coming month may well prove a troublesome one for our hero!
In fact a quick scan of this morning’s papers suggests that the Gods that descended on Manchester yesterday are troubled indeed. Several organs report that the decision to bring forward the Help to Buy scheme was only made when Miliband the younger announced his package of measures aimed at curbing the cost of living. Every economist quoted contends that there is a real chance these subsidised mortgages will create another boom-bust, and it is interesting to note that Gorgeous George Osborne has included in the small print an arrangement allowing the Bank of England the right to call a halt should house prices start to rocket. That is a huge political gamble given that the new Governor Mark Carney, although hand-picked by Osborne, is nobody’s fool or poodle!
There is less political risk in Osborne’s other wheeze, the one involving the long-term unemployed reporting daily to job centres. This will be applauded by many but not by the already hard-pressed centre staff, whose numbers have already been cut. The likelihood is that those reporting will find them selves permanently encamped in the queues which, even now, move at the pace of Eric Pickles in a sack-race.
Amongst Conservative activists the mere mention of the Lib Dems brings extra furrows to troubled brows, and there was apparently a good deal of off-stage chatter about the possibility of coming to an agreement with Ukip. The plan being touted by even some ministers is a repeat of the deal Ramsay MacDonald struck with Lloyd George many moons ago. The Labour Party was given a clear run in seats that they could win in exchange for their not contesting Liberal potential gains. But we all know what happened to MacDonald!
Arguably the greatest worry amongst the Cameroons is that of image. They desperately wish to dispel the idea that the party is dominated by the better-heeled. They probably feel somewhat troubled by the much vaunted Aussie humour of their new PR guru, Lynton Crosby. At a well publicised pre-conference briefing for MPs, Mr Crosby said that he had been startled by the expensive jewellery when he attended a fund-raising dinner in the prime minister’s seat of Witney/Chipping Norton. “if just one of the ladies had sold just one earring we could have funded the Tory party for three months”, he said.
With friends like that who needs enemies, even if they do come in batches of fifty thousand?
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “We ought never do wrong when people are looking!”…Mark Twain