Election - December 12, 2019


Here we are on the eve of polling.  What should I do? 

Well, I  have been very much helped by today's edition of Private Eye. 
This is the cover. I think it sums it all up. 

So peg on nose I shall go to the polling booth tomorrow and vote for...

Tuesday, 10 December

It seems that the Conservative dirty tricks department is very busy.  The Tories have obviously tried to deflect attention away from BoJ's bizarre behaviour yesterday when he confiscated a journalist's phone which had had the temerity to display a picture of a child being treated on the floor of an A & E at Leeds.  To do this, they told both Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston that one of Matt Hancock's aides had been punched by a Labour supporter at the hospital.  Not true.

In the meantime, Jon Ashworth, Labour's shadow health minister has insisted to a (former) conservative friend that his party has no chance of winning the election and that, if he became PM, Jeez would be a security risk.  Altogether, a ringing endorsement for his own party, and one which somehow seems to have replaced BoJ's reprehensible conduct in the news cycle.  I wonder how that all happened?

John McDonnell was a one man disinformation campaign the other day when he told us that the families would benefit from Labour's largesse to the tune of £6,700 per annum.  What he didn't quite explain, but the Radio 4 programme "More or Less" did this morning, was that the average family must have morphed rather a lot. For his figure to be true, the average family would need to have one pre-school child and another under the age of 10, and each parent would have to have an annual rail season ticket.  A slight distortion of the truth?

Tonight, at midnight, the World Trade Organisation loses two out of its remaining three judges and so becomes a zombie organisation.  Pascal Lamy,
the Director-General of the World Trade Organization for 8 years until 1 September 2013, confirmed the situation on the World at One yesterday, saying that trading on WTO terms would in any event be a disaster for us, even if the WTO were still functioning properly!

Monday, 9 December

Professor Sir John Curtice, knighted one assumes for his services to opinion polls, is certainly the go-to eminence grise for commentary on the polling figures.  In his view, a 6 point overall lead for the Conservatives would give a 50% chance of either a hung parliament or a tiny overall majority for BoJ.  In other words, 6% is a sort of tipping point, with the likelihood of a Conservative working majority going up from there.  The polls at the weekend gave him an overall majority of about 10%, something which for a while now has remained fairly constant. So a BoJ majority government seems to be looming.

What can we expect in these last few days of campaigning, as they all try to avoid dropping clangers and instead drive home the messages which they think will do them the most good?

Well, we already see Labour promising renationalisation of water and the energy sector within the first 100 days in office. Both undesirable and impossible to achieve in anything like that time-scale. They have repeated their pledge to increase by 5% the wages of all public sector workers and increase the minimum wage for all, regardless of age, to £10 per hour. And there will be the £56 billion payment to the Waspis. On 5th February, there will be a budget which will decrease the tax paid by the workers.  All so eminently achievable. They didn't mention the effect on inflation and the international value of the £, but, hey, what do those things matter?

The Conservatives seem to have continued with 'Let's Get Brexit Done' and also gone back to one of their old themes - keeping (European) foreigners out, unless we actually need their particular skill sets, in which case we might let them in as long as they're useful to us.

The Lib-Dems? I'm not very sure, albeit they are not any longer putting revocation of Article 50 at the top of their list.

Here in Coleshill, part of a leave-voting constituency in the West Midlands, we've had quite a bit of literature from Labour, none of it even hinting at their leader's name. Some weeks ago, the local Conservatives kindly sent us a letter from BoJ himself asking us to help to "Get Brexit Done", but with no mention of our local sitting MP,  Craig Tracey. Mr Tracey had a significant majority at the last election and is one of those who voted (twice) against Teresa May's agreement, because it wasn't hard enough.  So not my favourite politician in all the world.
The Lib-Dems sent out a flyer fairly early on, the detail of which I have now forgotten, but which promised the now infamous Article 50 revocation should Jo Swinson become PM.

How shall I vote?  A vote for the Lib-Dems would be wasted, except as a protest and an encouragement to them for the future. Could I vote for Jeez?  I have no desire to bring the benefits of a Venezuelan economy to our shores.  Could I ever bring myself to vote for BoJ and his Brexit lies? Or will I simply spoil my ballot paper? Heather and I will conduct a poll amongst ourselves and see whether any course of action has a working majority.  I may need to get Sir John on the line.

Friday, 6 December

The refrain in Lewis Carroll's 'Lobster Quadrille' is:

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
Won't you join the dance?

Unsurprisingly, it seems that BoJ's response to Andrew Neil's request for a turn around the studio will be 'No'.

Why would he after the mauling received by Jeez and Jo Swinson? In the name of equality of opportunity?  Somewhat doubtful.

When, finally, he's become tired of being world king, perhaps then will be the time to go on Strictly Come Tell the Truth.

Thursday, 5 December - Only one week to go!

I went into the dentist's waiting room this morning and found myself faced with an interview of Boris Johnson by Philip Schofield on the ITV breakfast show.  It was a great relief to be called through to the dentist.

Really, what has it come to when we have a choice between two such awful candidate as BoJ and Jeez. I know of no-one, including my dentist, who thinks otherwise on this topic.

But now we have learned from the Saj that the trade agreement with the EU is a done deal.  It will provide us with tariff-free trade in all respects, whilst at the same time liberating us from all the inconveniences and restrictions attached to being members of the club.  How wonderful.

It seems though that what he was referring to was the political statement attached to Boris's clucking, oven-ready agreement.  Which of course commits neither us, nor them, to any such thing.  It sets out broad aims, but does not go into the compromises which we would have to make in order to have such favoured status. But such is the panic on the Brexit side that they will tell us such obvious lies.

And then there was the announcement this morning by Annunciata, she of Rees-Mogg lineage.  She and three other Brexit Party candidates, MEPs all, have decided that they will ask the voters to vote Conservative rather than for their Brexit Party.  They apparently fear that by splitting the Brexit vote in Labour-held seats, they may not reach the promised land after all.  What a (rather late) display of intelligence.  But not of principle - although they have resigned from the Brexit Party, what they haven't done is resigned their seats in the European Parliament.

I do hope that President Trump will soon recover from having been ever so slightly mocked by other world leaders during the reception at Buck House the other day.  Considering the insults he throws around, you'd think he'd be able to take some ribbing, wouldn't you?  But then narcissists don't do self-awareness.

Monday, 2 December - update

I had thought that I was joking when I said in my post on 18th November:

Jezza has told the CBI conference that he is not the enemy of business, even though his list of intended nationalised industries is growing, with the latest victim being our broadband services. Once nationalised, then we shall get it for free. So when he nationalises water and the trains, will we get them for free as well?

We have now heard from Jeez that all train fares will be reduced by 25% by a Labour government and will actually be free for those under the age of 16. So then, has he been reading the collected thoughts of Chairman Buckingham? Is it all my fault? Should I offer my services as a policy adviser?

Monday, 2 December

I have felt unable to comment on the terrible events in London on Friday afternoon.  There is a very good reason for this.  I don't have all the facts.  It seems, however, that the principle actors in the political world have such a detailed knowledge of what occurred that they are able to allocate blame and even make decisions about the changes to the law which they consider to be necessary.  Such omniscience.  If only they had had such all-encompassing knowledge before this tragedy had occurred.

I am neither 'lock them up and throw away the key' nor a believer that everyone can be put on the true path.  If only life were so simple. However, it seems to me that someone motivated by religion will present much greater resistance to change than someone motivated to commit 'secular' crimes by all the usual factors.

From the comment made subsequently by the father of Jack Merritt, clearly his son thought that no-one was beyond redemption.  Having some knowledge of history, I would have to disagree with such a belief, but that is no reason to think that we can know in advance who will prove to be totally recalcitrant and who will be persuadable.  In turn, that means that we should be putting the effort and, yes, the money, into rehabilitation, into doing all we can to turn people away from repeating the horrors of their past. Recidivism is in itself a very significant social evil and so to be combated - if nothing else, for our own benefit.

Saturday, 30 November

I suppose that I should have pointed out that BoJ's announcement yesterday about our protectionist future was also apparently the answer to the long-outstanding, hitherto unanswered question:

What laws, currently imposed on us by being part of the EU, do the Brexiteers want to change?

Standing with his fellow Brexiteers, the Govester and the former Labour party MP Gisela Stuart, he made the following announcement:

Today we are setting out specific ways in which we will change EU law so we can enjoy the benefits of Brexit without delay.

We’ll back British businesses, by ensuring the public sector buys British.

We’ll scrap the Tampon Tax.

And we’ll back British industry, by making sure we can intervene when great British businesses are struggling.

These are just some of the benefits which will directly result from leaving the EU.

That's it? Can't they even now think of another specific example?

As for the VAT on tampons, it's already at the lowest permissible rate of 5%, rather than the standard rate of 20%.  In response to public pressure, however, a number of supermarkets have already reduced their prices to negate the effect of even the 5% rate.  If the government wanted to go further then, rather than leaving the EU, it could instead have
provided a subsidy to all sellers of tampons to enable them to reduce their prices so as to remove the effect of the 5% VAT. This is permissible providing that no one seller, product or manufacturer is given more favourable treatment than another.  Simples.

Friday, 29 November

Is BoJ following in El Presidente Trump's protectionist footsteps?  Or might he just be a closet Socialist? He's certainly no longer a free-market capitalist. Whatever the underlying 'philosophy', he is now saying that, post-brexit, the newly liberated government would be able to offer state aid to uncompetitive, failing industries. 
What?!!  This, of course, is not permitted under EU regulations and exclusion of provision of state aid is generally a condition of the sort of  trade agreement that Boris says we shall be able to benefit from.

And, he said, public bodies would be encouraged to adopt a "Buy British" policy to boost local economies. Again, it is obvious that such measures would cause major difficulties in striking a trade deal with the EU, or indeed anyone else. 

But obviously Boris still believes in cake and eating it.  We're all going to get very fat.  Or perhaps not.

Thursday, 28 November

And still two weeks to go of this dire campaign...

Tonight, Channel 4 highlighted the no-show of Nige and Bozza with melting blocks of ice in the 'leaders debate' on climate change.  We were out at a screening in the cinema of Present Laughter from the Old Vic, so I haven't yet had the benefit of the collected wisdom of those who did take part.  I suspect though that our evening had rather more laughs and I'm not sure that I shall bother to depress myself by watching the debate - it seems likely from the polling figures that the only person whose views will matter was not present. 

But how did we get to the stage that the Preservatives are, or at least were on the day of polling, on course for a 68 seat majority?  Is it what BoJo has said or what the others have been saying that has made the difference? I suspect that it's what Jezza and Co have been saying - those spending figures seem to keep growing - and sometimes not saying - like an apology for antisemitism. Jobo on the other hand seems to quite enjoy apologising.  I guess that with his past he must have had quite a lot of practice.

There is one potential benefit from BoJ having a substantial majority.  He would not be so obviously in hock to the ERG and so might have a bit more room for manoeuvre in his negotiations with the EU. And, in other news, it looks as though Dominic Raab, Ian Duncan Smith and one or two other Brexit or bust candidates are on course to lose their seats. Oops.

When you see the spending figures put side by side, it really is astonishing to see the contrast. Initially, I thought that BoJ was making unrealistic promises (as now confirmed by the IFS), but put alongside the spending promised by the Corbynites, it's almost small change.  The IFS considers that a Labour government couldn't even spend what they had promised to spend, never mind fund it through taxation on the rich.  And, unsurprisingly, the IFS is now considered
by both Conservatives and Labour to be unreliable in its assessments, although very much supported by the LibDems who got a big tick from them for their homework. So much for objectivity in politics.

Added to the spending figures in the Labour manifesto, we now have another £56 billion to be borrowed in order to fulfil a new promise: this time to compensate the ladies who had payment of their pensions postponed beyond the original qualifying age of 60.  That so many of them are not exactly in dire financial straights, or that many were very much aware of the coming changes, are factors apparently not considered. And neither is the fact that those on means-tested benefits would lose their benefits in proportion to the 'compensation' received and so would end up with no, or a minimal net gain.  The priorities of the scheme are all wrong when my wife would be one of the higher net beneficiaries.  Sorry dearest...

Sunday, 24 November

It's all about trust.

Although we can trust that Jezza and McDonnell, his avowed Marxist chum, would try to implement what they've put in their manifesto, the country would suffer extremely badly if they succeeded. We would be going back to the 70s, with the Unions in charge, inflation reducing the value of our income and inefficient nationalised industries. After all, who ever in response to the question: “Who should run a dynamic, successful business?” said “Bureaucrats”.

We can also trust Bozza to 'Get Brexit Done', but only in the sense that, with a majority in the Commons, he would get his Brexit agreement into law.  Again, though, what effect would it have on the UK? Their manifesto, published today, tells us that under no circumstances will the one year transition period be extended. Which means that, as I anticipated
some time ago would happen, the European Research Group will be calling the shots.  Boris says it will be simple to negotiate the new agreement because we already share the same standards and indeed laws with the EU. 

But that isn't really the point.  He wants to be able to change the law.  He and his ERG mates tell us that they do not want to have proscriptive laws and regulations dictated by Brussels telling us exactly how things should be done. They want instead to have a system under which, as long as we achieve the desired outcome, how we get there should be of no consequence. Like that's a simple thing to achieve!? 

But if we believe the manifesto, then we have to complete our negotiations with the EU for a bilateral trade agreement within the one year transition period or crash out on WTO terms – which is actually the ERG's preferred option.
According to the commentators, no-one has yet done a deal with the EU in under 3 years. And see my post on 13 November regarding the coming zombification of the WTO on 10 December.

So then, we have Jezza and McDonnell wanting to bankrupt the country by spending really eye-watering sums of money we haven't got, and so automatically putting their beloved NHS at risk.  And then we have Bozza determined to finalise Brexit regardless of the consequences on our economy.

So then in both cases, ironically, I'd prefer my trust in what they say to be completely misplaced!

Thursday, 21 November

Three weeks to go!

Yesterday saw the publication of the Liberal Party manifesto and, today, the Labour manifesto.

The Liberals seem finally to have accepted that they are not going to have a majority in the next House of Commons.  Instead, as regards Brexit, they say that they will support another referendum. They will not go into coalition - once bitten, twice shy - but will instead support measures proposed by any minority government on an individual basis.

The Labour manifesto is 'radical and ambitious'. Corby welcomes the 'hatred' of him by the rich and powerful. He has promised widespread spending, based on the state getting massively involved in so many more aspects of our daily lives, from the supply of energy to the postal service and public transport, whether buses or trains.  And of course, broadband, free of charge.

All of this will be paid for by tax increases on the rich and companies and a windfall tax on oil companies together with massive state borrowing.  ITV's Robert Peston raised my perennial question concerning how on earth we could possibly stay within the EU and at the same time engage in nationalisation of so many services when it would clearly be contrary to EU competition law. Sensible answer came there none. And, even if we had a deal with the EU post-Brexit, it would inevitably require the proverbial level playing field in terms of not having state aid which EU members could not indulge in.  I despair.

As for the proposed treatment of Capital Gains Tax as if it were income in the year the gain is realised, how is this fair?  Gains accrue over many years and are diminished in real terms by inflation over that period.  No allowance is apparently to be made for this.  Surely the gain, netted to allow for inflation, should be spread back over the tax years of the period over which the gain has accrued and subject to tax accordingly.  It should not be subject to an unfairly high rate of tax by taxing it all in the year of disposal.

The scale of state involvement is significantly more than in their 2017 manifesto, to which Corbo attributed their improvement in the opinion polls and better than expected result in the election itself. So now he's going for broke, putting in all the things he's always wanted to see, in the hope that they'll swing it for him this time around. 

Of course, what he doesn't take into account was the increasingly dismal campaign run by Madame May in 2017, which so damaged the Conservative Party's prospects and thus automatically benefited Labour. I'm not convinced that Bozza's campaign is that good, but I suspect it's going down better than Teresa's ever did.  So then, we'll see what happens in 3 weeks' time.

We're still waiting for the Tory manifesto, but it seems that contrary to Bozza's assurance that the manifesto would include a plan to deal with Social Care, it won't.  Instead the Health Secretary has said that proposals would be put to parliament for discussion in order to arrive at cross-party agreement. His one red line would be that a person's house would not need to be sold in order to fund care.  Quite what this means is unclear.  Does it mean that it would be ring-fenced completely, or that its sale would be postponed until the death of the owner (Mrs May's death-tax)?

Monday, 18 November

For car crash TV, the interview by Emily Maitliss with his princeship, Andy, was a real winner: 

"Jeffrey Epstein’s house was very convenient and staying there was the “honourable and right thing to do...My judgement was coloured by my tendency to be too honourable.”

That's just weird. But the question now is what effect it will have on other people suffering from EES (Extreme Entitlement Syndrome). Can Boris persuade us that he is not like other entitled toffs? Will Jacob ever again be able to recline on the front benches of Parliament?

But the gobbling up of space in the news agenda today by the Andy dissection has meant that our would-be political leaders' thoughts have not had much of an airing.

So then, here are one or two extracts from today's offerings: 

Boris has decided not to lower Corporation Tax next year, as intended - in order to try to find the money he needs to fund our great NHS.  The captains of industry at the CBI conference, while regretting the decision didn't seem too worried by it.  There was much talk, though, of CBI members' opposition to Brexit. Bozza wasn't impressed by the obvious economic consequences of Brexit, citing instead the clear democratic will of the people.

Jezza has told the CBI conference that he is not the enemy of business, even though his list of intended nationalised industries is growing, with the latest victim being our broadband services. Once nationalised, then we shall get it for free. So when he nationalises water and the trains, will we get them for free as well?  Of course all this is contrary to EU competition law, as it would eliminate any private competition. Nobody can compete with free, funded by the tax-payer. So, does it mean that we now have an answer to the conundrum - what would Jezza campaign for in the referendum after getting his new deal?  Clearly it would have to be leave and certainly not remain!

I'm not really very sure what Jo Swinson told the CBI, but she and the Scot Nats failed to persuade the High Court that their human rights, or whatever, were being trampled on by ITV's failure to agree to include them in the party leaders' debate tomorrow evening, now only featuring Bozza and Jezza.

Thursday, 14 November

I am now officially lost.  It seems that the much-discussed 32 hour/4 day week week is not something which is to be imposed on employers/employees after all.  It is rather that, according to the shadow health minister, Jonathan Ashworth, if we see improvements in productivity as a result of AI or whatever over the next 10 years, then it may be that a norm of a 32 hour week can be aimed at. There is no way that it will be imposed on anyone (?) and especially not the staff working in the NHS.  So what does this amount to?  Well, nothing really. It seems to have been a cheap publicity stunt.  What a surprise.

Mr Ashworth himself, is a model of productivity.  His web-site says:

"Every week I stand up for people here and I’m always out and about across Leicester helping thousands upon thousands of local people with issues and problems.  I’m always on your side and always fighting your corner."   That's pretty impressive.

We now look forward to disentangling Labour's policy on immigration. Do they want to reduce it or let it rip? 

The Conservatives give the impression of greater transparency, but...  We know that Pretti Patel for the Conservatives has said that they will reduce immigration. At the same time, they want to introduce an 'Australian style points system'.  The difficulty is that they can't give us any details of the criteria to be applied. If this points system is different from an arbitrary limit on numbers, then it should mean that the points system is not adjusted at the whim of politicians.  Any bets on that?

Wednesday, 13 November

This post is about the WTO - the World Trade Organisation. OK, so it may not seem very relevant, but stay with me. 

We are told that a no-deal Brexit would be on WTO terms.  Indeed, should Boris win an actual majority in this election, it will include many Conservative MPs who would actually favour a no-deal Brexit, and so on WTO terms, rather than even contemplate extending the one-year transition period his agreement allows for negotiation of a bi-lateral agreement with the EU.

But unless something seismic happens, then the WTO will cease to be a functioning organisation on 10th December - in just one month's time.

How can this be?  Well, it's long been the stance of the USA that the WTO Appellate Body overreaches itself and introduces new provisions into the international agreements over which it adjudicates.  It would say it does this to make sense of often ambiguous provisions in those agreements, just as the American Supreme Court does in connection with the US constitution.  Preventing this from happening, even if the members of the WTO all agreed with the American position, is actually extremely difficult.

But leaving aside the rights and wrongs of this argument, the US has for some time now had a policy of blocking the appointment of Judges to the WTO's Appellate Body. On 10th December, two of the last three judges standing will come to the end of their terms of appointment; the Appellate Body will cease to be quorate and so will be unable to rule on appeals.  The standard WTO process calls for ad hoc panels to issue rulings on disputes over member country compliance with their WTO rights and obligations. These are though subject to review by the Appellate Body.  Decisions by the Appellate Body are final and binding, and generally respected by disputing parties. 

Post December 10th this year, even though there will be no Appellate Body competent to hear them, appeals will still be able to be made against panel rulings.  And while the appeal remains 'undecided' the dispute between the countries involved will remain on ice, with no enforcement action being permitted under WTO rules in connection with the panel's decision.  So then the WTO will become a zombie organisation, requiring reference of disputes between its members to its disputes resolution procedure, but in fact unable to resolve them.

That sounds like a recipe for the resumption of trade wars, with, yes you've guessed it, the biggest countries winning!  A good time to be leaving one of the largest trade blocs, the EU.  I don't think I've heard Boris or the ERG mention this.  I wonder why?

For more information please click here and here

Tuesday, 12 November - update

The National Farmers Union has issued its policy wish list for the next government.  Apart from asking for extra subsidy, they also ask for:

"A commitment that future trade policy will not allow the imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce in the UK, undermining British farm businesses."

Seems unexceptionable at first sight, if rather poorly worded, but according to the NFU spokesperson, amongst other countries, the USA has no real food production standards.  If the NFU's policy were adopted, therefore, the much-vaunted FTA with the USA would be at best a damp squib, as failure to include agricultural products would mean that one of the main reasons for doing the deal from the USA's point of view would be absent.  And if we did agree to accept food produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK, then our farmers would be massively disadvantaged, not to mention the effect on our health as a result.  Interesting conundrum for Boris & Co.

Tuesday, 12 November

And so where are we today?  Nigel Brexit himself has decided that what he said (was it only last week?) about Boris's deal not being Brexit at all, and possibly worse than staying in the EU, has now been forgotten.  It's gone the same way as his original intention to stand (for the 8th time) for Parliament. He will not now be putting up Brexit Party candidates in any Conservative-held constituency. This, in his opinion, will increase the chance of getting the proposed non-Brexit over the line.  The excuse, sorry reason, given for this is that Boris has indicated a willingness to embrace a Canada-style agreement as the basis for our free-trade agreement with the EU.  The fact that his suitably named money man, Arron Banks, has said that they were shooting themselves in the foot by putting up candidates in Conservative-held seats is, I'm sure, of only marginal importance. It also means that here in sunny Coleshill, part of North Warwickshire, with its Brexit loving Conservative MP, Craig Tracey, I shall not have the joy of engaging in a door-step debate with the intended Brexit candidate, whoever that was going to be. I shall have to make do with the others.

Now, it may not seem of great relevance to this election, but what can we make of Comrade Corbyn's tweet disapproving of the downfall of former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales?  He has said that it was a coup.  In fact, the people have been on the streets in Bolivia for some time now, trying to persuade Evostick to go, following a clearly rigged general election.  But Morales is, or was, one of the group of socialist leaders in South America so beloved of Mr Corbyn and friends.  So enamoured of them is Mr Corbyn that he doesn't now seem to be able to look beyond their identity as Socialists and see election fraud for what it is.  Fraud with intent to defeat democracy.  He seems to be determined to support those who subscribe to socialism whatever activities they engage in, even if it produces dictatorship.  The benefits of socialism apparently trump everything. Perhaps not a good look for a potential British Prime Minister, especially as he is normally so anti-Trump?  Sorry...

Friday, 8 November

Now we've had the great reveal - how much the main parties are going to borrow and spend. 

The Saj has decided to adopt Labour's borrowing target of £25 billion extra from their 2017 general election manifesto, even though the Conservatives derided it then as totally profligate. In order to draw a distinction between the parties, MacDo has decided to at least double last time's figure should the great Allotmenteer get into power.

Old MacDonell tells us that the borrowing and spending is to fix global warming and the broken social system, although there's no definition of what this means. He claims that the amount is unprecedented in Europe or indeed anywhere-else in the Northern hemisphere. Perhaps he's got his ideas from the Southern hemisphere. Venezuela anyone?

In the meantime, the highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that even managing to spend that amount of money would just not be feasible, at least in the early years of the program.  It would amount to close on £2,000 per household per year.  So that's probably the answer: give it to us.  We'll soon spend it!

Oh, and under Labour, employees would be entitled to choose their own working hours as part of a shake-up of workplace law.  There is already a right, after working for a company for 6 months, to apply for flexible working, a request which the employer is obliged to respond to in a 'reasonable manner'.  Under the new regs, a right to choose what hours you work will be the default position from day one.  I'm afraid that although it's nice to be able to choose when you work, it's also quite nice for the company to be able to function efficiently - and, in my experience, that requires that most people are working for most of the normal working day.

Thursday, 7 November

Truthiness is the concept for today.  In the sense that we may question whether BoJo's speech yesterday launching his party's campaign had any.

He said: "[My deal] delivers everything I wanted when I campaigned for Brexit.”

Reality:  It's a reheated version of the May deal, which he voted against on numerous occasions.

He said:   “We can leave the EU as one UK, whole and entire and perfect as promised.”

Reality:   He told the Democratic Unionist Party at its conference last year that regulatory checks and customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would damage the “fabric of the Union”.  Under his deal there will be both.  So, an outright lie.

He said:  “If we can get this deal over the line . . . then we can release that pent-up flood of investment. Hundreds of billions are waiting to pour into the UK

Truth:  Many firms have put off investment decisions due to Brexit uncertainty. But it doesn't mean that investments will flow in if Britain leaves the EU by the end of January. Most companies will wait to see what, if any, free trade deal is agreed.

Truthiness is also the word we need to think about when reading Tom Watson's letter explaining his decision to resign as deputy dawg for the Labour party and not to stand again as a candidate for his constituency in West Bromwich.  He has a fitness/weight loss book coming out and wishes to cash in on this by becoming a personal trainer.  Really?  He also wishes, in the time-honoured phrase, to spend more time with his family.  But no mention of his fundamental disagreement over Labour policy?  Come on!

Wednesday, 6 November

It seems that the Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP has revealed another area of his expertise. No longer is he just the English Language Tsar and the arbiter of scientific units (Imperial of course). He has now added to his portfolio of skills that of fire safety expert. Apparently all that the people in Grenfell Tower had to do when faced with the inferno they were caught up in was to exercise their common sense and get out of the building, rather than follow the Fire Service instruction to stay put.  It's nice to know that we have people cleverer than us in charge, such as the Mogg. as his mate, the no doubt equally clever, the Hon Andrew Bridgen MP told us.

But of course they are neither of them MPs any more, as Parliament has been dissolved. They are now ordinary citizens without their former super-powers and never to be heard of again.  Just wishful thinking.

I was delighted that the Green Party takes the view that they can borrow £100 billion per year over the next 10 years if they take office.  I think that's a trillion pounds all told.  We would be adding around 50% to our national borrowing. Not much in the great scheme of things obviously and so it will have no effect at all on the rates of interest available to us on the money markets.  In fact, at the moment the government can borrow money for a period of 10 years at a rate of 0.76%.  It will obviously not worry the markets in the slightest if our borrowing starts to look like that of Italy and Greece. Hmm. 

The borrowed dosh will be invested in building zero-carbon houses at the rate of 200,000 per year and retro-fitting the housing stock we already have with insulation.  I take it that they don't intend to sell on any of the houses in order to recoup any of the money borrowed.  I get the impression that they would like to replace the council house stock we used to have.  So if they rent out the houses up and down the land at an average of £600 per month, then they would gross about £1.5 billion p.a. per 200,000 houses.  If each house cost £200,000 to build, then that's a total cost of £40 billion.  Unless they make a charge, which I don't think is what they're proposing, there's no return on the insulation cost for the government and so they would still only be making £1.5 billion on the entire borrowing of £100 billion per year - 1.5%.  If they do make a charge for the insulation from those able to afford it, leaving the buyers to recoup the cost over the next 10 years, then I suspect that the uptake, as with other such schemes in the past, will be very low.

Quite how long it would take to pay off all this borrowing is difficult to imagine.  It certainly wouldn't be in my lifetime, even if I do as well as my mother and get to receive a telegram, albeit from King Charles III, or even perhaps King Wills.  And where do we get the labour required for all this?  We certainly haven't a prayer of finding it without very substantial help from other parts of the world - i.e. immigrants. 

And Mr Corbyn announced the other day that he was going to pay for TV licences for all those over 74 years old.  I am a great supporter of the BBC, but bearing in mind that even the older people in our community use subscription services, why would he baulk at also paying for a Netflix subscription for me when I hit the required age or pay for my friend's Sky service? Or is all that capitalism too much for an old Marxist to accept?

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

We know that Boris has been promising a spending splurge as an inducement to us all to vote for him. He has at the same time been promising tax cuts.  I'm not sure what he's done with the original Conservative Party.  I suspect it's been taken hostage and is currently languishing in a damp cellar somewhere.

Mr Corbyn has promised even more extravagant spending, accompanied by a promise to increase taxes on the rich and reduce taxes on the poor. He and his sidekick John McDonell want to rewrite the rules of economics, amongst other things expropriating shares in companies for the benefit of, yes, the workers, but also the Government.  In other words an extra tax on companies.  They are also going to renationalise everything that has been privatised by successive Tory and Labour governments. Ironically, in order to do this, they will have to issue government bonds on that dreadful capitalist thing, the money market. 

But not only will Mr Corbyn try to upend the capitalist system, he will introduce a 32 hour/4 day week on the basis that work shouldn't be the 'purpose of life'.  This at a time when the French government is trying to untie its economy from the constraints of the 35 hour week!  Truly, our politicians live in a little local bubble.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Fascinating thought.  Nigel, who has long complained that anyone-else in his position would by now have been offered a knighthood or a seat in the Lords in recognition of his manifest services to politics, now complains that he has recently been offered a peerage, twice, by the Conservatives.  He’s complaining about it, because he says it was offered in order to shut him up! 

I’m not quite sure how being given a place in the Upper Chamber shuts you up, but presumably he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement – an agreement not to disclose why he would thenceforth become strangely silent.  That was always going to work.

But we’re left asking ourselves what honour would be appropriate.  He is not intending to stand for a constituency, but instead to tread the length and breadth of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland, in support of his crusade to get others elected.  So then, I don’t think an ordinary Baronetcy would be nearly sufficient - they are, after all, normally tied to a particular town. 

And so I have been searching my mind for someone similar, someone of strong opinions, with an image as a hard drinker and smoker.  Now I don’t know why, but unbidden came into my mind John Wayne, or ‘The Duke’ as he was known.  So how about Duke Farage of Great Britain?  Would that be a sufficient honour?  We can't offer much more!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The classic definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again but expecting a different result.  It is perhaps for this reason that Niggel Farage has decided not to present himself, yet again, as a Parliamentary candidate.  The reason he has actually given is that his energies would be better used travelling the length and breadth of the country supporting the 600 candidates the Brexit Party is apparently going to field.  One is coming to a constituency near you and, unfortunately, me.

The polls are interesting this morning, with a bit of a bounce for Corbyn and the opposite (whatever that might be) for the Brexit Party.  Obviously it’s far too early to see any reliable trends, but I have the feeling that if the Brexit Party hasn’t been able to get a bounce out of Farage’s interview with the Trumpmeister the other day, then I suspect that he has every reason not to feel very confident of success. Probably very sensible not to stand – and risk looking foolish yet again.  And if by any chance he did succeed, then he couldn't also be an MEP.  He would have to content himself with the meagre salary and expenses of a British MP.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Mr Trump kindly consented to be interviewed on LBC on Thursday evening by his BFF, LBC presenter and Brexit Party leader, Niggel Farage.  Mr Trump is of the opinion that BoJo and Nigel should combine for the coming election. They'd win sooo many seats.  Perhaps they could campaign under the name BoFa or NiJo.  During the interview, El Presidente said how difficult the EU were to negotiate with, but that he could bring out something big to overcome them.  He also said that he had a magic wand. Suggestions on a post-card please. He went on to say that the terms of the Boris version of the leaving agreement meant that a trade deal of any size couldn’t be negotiated with the USA, although he didn’t explain why. 

Strangely, at the launch event for the Brexit Party the following day, the Nigel said pretty much the same thing - you might even think that he had written the President's script.  He called for Boris's agreement to be abandoned and for there to be a non-aggression pact between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party, dividing up the constituencies on the basis of which party was the more likely to displace an incumbent Labour MP. 

Interviewed on Friday on 'The World at One', Mark François fulminated against the whole concept, saying that Nige, had, in effect called BoJo a liar as a precursor to proposing to negotiate with him - not a good idea.  In his view, to say that the agreement meant that we couldn’t do a worthwhile trade agreement with the US of A was just nonsense.  Monsieur François asserted that he and the other Spartans of the ERG would never have given it their blessing if this had been true!  I have to confess that I have difficulty in seeing Mark François or most of the others as Spartans.  They all look too unfit and too well fed.

I suspect that Corbyn will in any event make the most of the President's intervention to claim that it’s confirmation that ‘Our NHS’ is about to be sold to American billionaires. 

What Bojee Wojee will do, I haven’t a clue. In response to Nige’s overtures, he’s said that he won’t do a deal with the Brexit Party - but then he’s said a lot of things!

PS  I see from his column in the Times this morning that Matthew Parris has now resigned from the Conservative Party and is joining the swelling ranks of those intending to vote for the Lib-Dems.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

General election anyone?  Well, whether we like it or not, that's what we're going to have on 12th December.  We shall be able to choose between our dishonest, narcissistic PM and a bunch of right wing extremists on the one hand and the Marxist leader of the Opposition and erstwhile columnist for the Morning Star and his Momentum fan-club on the other. 

Or just possibly, we might like to back the Lib-Dems and their PM in waiting, Jo Swinson.  Despite some encouraging poll numbers (although not nearly good enough), I can't see the Lib-Dems managing to get the votes in the constituencies needed to get 326 MPs in the next Parliament. 

So what happens next? Johnson is good at campaigning, but I doubt that the present 12% Conservative lead will hold up until polling day, because campaigning is also Corbyn's forte.  Of course, we are seeing numerous moderate MPs from both the Conservative and Labour parties deciding not to stand in this election and so both parties will, in their new incarnations, be even more extreme than they already are. 

I'm not going to try to predict the outcome of the election, but if Boris and the Preservatives were to get back in by a squeak, what then?  Does the ERG flex its muscles so that we leave on no-deal terms or will it be on the basis of the BoJo agreement?  Will Parliament ever regain its reputation after the mauling which Johnson is going to continue to give it as an integral part of his electioneering?  Silly, I know, but I had thought that getting back our parliamentary sovereignty was what Brexit was all about.  I must have missed something.

Paul Buckingham

25 October 2019

Whilst visiting Johnstown Castle in Ireland, just prior to Halloween,  I was privileged to meet the Honourable Member for the 18th century who graciously consented to be photographed in a recumbent position.

20 October 2019

And so Super Saturday turned into a debacle.  Yet another defeat for the indomitable BoJo, mainly thanks to the former conservative, Oliver Letwin, and the DUP

The difficulty, which was there right from the beginning, is that any iteration of a Brexit deal which conforms with the Good Friday Agreement means that some part or the whole of the UK remains subject to EU law even though we would have no say in its making.  Obviously Boris has decided that NI is the part of the UK which should be sacrificed in order to ‘liberate’ the rest of this Sceptred Isle and so finally achieve the nirvana of Brexit.

That he should have given the infamous assurances to the DUP conference and now so obviously have put them in the bin is, I’m afraid typical of Boris and per se justifies the Letwin approach, based, as it is, on a complete distrust of anything he says.  He and others will, it seems, now support the deal granted that we have now made the application for the extension.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods even now because, as the chief whip said yesterday (to reassure the Spartans), there could still be a no-deal Brexit if the transition period provided for by the deal expires without either an extension to it or its replacement by a free trade agreement with the EU.

We shall therefore need yet another piece of legislation to compel the government to extend the transition period until a free trade agreement is actually in place.  That though only works if Boris is not returned with an absolute majority and so able to repeal any such legislative block.

In the meantime, we have the DUP going rogue and suggesting they may support a people’s vote.

C’est compliqué, n’est-ce pas?

Paul Buckingham

17th October 2019

And now we have an agreement.  At least we have an agreement between BoJo and his henchpersons and the leaders of the other 27 European states.  We are still awaiting approval by the European Parliament, but this is very likely to be forthcoming. 

The next major step is, of course, the attempt to get approval from our Parliament on Saturday. 

It looks as though most of the de-whipped 21 will vote for it.  They will be accompanied by the members of the ERG, but the erstwhile BFF of the ERG, the DUP, have already said ‘No!’ as only they can.  It seems that they can’t accept that they won’t have a veto when it comes to the first 4 year approval of the agreement by Stormont.  Instead, the decision will be by a simple majority. 

Now, it is true that the Good Friday agreement is based on consent for all major decisions by both Protestants and Catholics.  And yes, I know that Ian Paisley (the original and only), with Martin McGuinness became an integral part of the Chuckle Brothers as First Minister of Northern Ireland and so able to exercise power in 2007.  But this was after the Ulster Unionists, previously the largest party (who had accepted the GFA) in Northern Ireland were defeated in 2005.  Until the St Andrew's agreement in 2007, the DUP had been violently opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, so I’m not sure what to make of their bleating about its partial non-implementation being unfair at this stage.  No, I am sure.  Tough.

So if they stick to their guns – and their para-military friends do have quite a lot of them – what will happen?  Well it seems that the Liberals won’t vote for the agreement unless it’s tied to a second referendum.  Likewise the SNP.  Labour won’t vote for the agreement but I'm not sure if they would want a second referendum.

Of course, the opposition could take control of the order paper again and try to force through legislation requiring another referendum to approve the agreement but, technically, I can see quite a lot of problems with that idea.  All it needs is an election returning a majority Boris government before the referendum takes place.  Boris can then immediately repeal the legislation. Hanging on without an election until after the referendum would need a BoJo minority government to remain in office for the next 5/6 months or a single-policy caretaker government to survive for that period – that’s how long a referendum takes to organise.  I’m not sure that either option is really feasible.

Did Boris/Dominic have a master plan all along?  Maybe it was this - Boris to go for an agreement which was very similar to Teresa’s, with a replacement for the back-stop which was just as unacceptable to the DUP, but which in other respects was apparently better. In particular, we are told that from day 1, we shall be able to nail those long-awaited bi-lateral trade agreements.  Those which all those other countries have been itching to sign with us. This then puts him in good light with the ERG who ditch the DUP.

Boris then has an election in which he puts himself forward as the man with the agreement ready for confirmation if only he can get enough of those pesky MPs to be on his side.  He says that he wants a majority in order to implement his plan. 

Of course it doesn’t mean that he has to implement it if re-elected.  He could still go for a no-deal Brexit if the ERG re-grouped following a win with only a small majority for the Conservatives.  I don’t think that he would want to, mainly because I don’t think that he has any particular belief in a no-deal Brexit, or indeed any kind of Brexit.  Like Ian Paisley, what he wants is to have power.  But to keep power, he might do anything, including doing obeisance to Mark François and the Honourable Member for the 18th century and his antique Bentleys.

Of course the DUP may crack.  Enough Labour MPs may vote for the agreement on Saturday.  It’s possible, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

It looks as though we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Paul Buckingham

26 September 2019

I felt like dancing in the aisles when Lady Hale and the Supremes gave their unanimous verdict* on the government's blatant refusal to follow the conventions and instead prorogue Parliament in order, quite simply, to shut it up.

As a retired lawyer, I’d been following with interest the arguments put by both sides and, as far as I could see, the government simply hadn’t put up a case, beyond perhaps “It’s high politics”.  Low politics, more likely. And when Lord Kerr asked the government's QC what was to prevent prorogation at the whim of the government for a year instead of 5 weeks, my hopes were certainly raised.

As Milord Peter Hennessey has been pointing out for some years now, our constitution is based on everyone being ‘good chaps’ (or chapesses) and so knowing where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie - and acting accordingly.  But, when they’re spivs instead, then the whole edifice comes crumbling down – or not, thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court.  What it means now is very murky, with Boris showing that he’s even less of a good chap with his calling into question the Court’s decision.

As for the Queen, Lady Hale made it clear that her Maj is, in effect, just a cypher in all of this and so not to blame for the illegality. What a relief.  I think it means that she can, with a clear conscience, now lock Boris 'the Narcissist' Johnson and Jacob “the Spiv” Mogg in the Tower.

One day, I suppose, we shall see an end to all of this, hopefully from within the EU and not from outside.

Paul Buckingham

26 September 2019

* https://www.supremecourt.uk/watch/uksc-2019-0192/judgment.html

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