Friday, 17 January 2014
It's been rumoured for a while that Ron and Martin have been at loggerheads. Apparently, Ron wanted to bring back the 2012 McLaren last year when the 2013 model was found to be a dud. He was sceptical of the hiring of Sergio Perez and pushed for his ousting at the ending of last year.
There's been no news on who the team principal will be, but Mr Dennis has made it known that there will be changes. At the meeting at McLaren, the whole staff were present to hear of Ron's comeback but Mr Whitmarsh was not present. If he was certain to remain they would both be there presenting a united front, so one has to wonder! It looks like Ron Dennis will not be on the pit wall, and so who are the candidates?
Possibly, Sam Michael on a temporary basis until a certain Ross Brawn finishes his gardening/fishing leave?
I'll be sorry to see Martin Whitmarsh go, he seems like a thoroughly nice guy but you get marked by your results and McLaren have underperformed for well over a decade.
Interesting times at Woking.
Banker bashing. Again. I've lost count of the number of times that he's had a speech on banking. Monthly he seems to change where the tax on bankers bonus is going to focus, I can't remember this month whether it is for new homes, 'creating' jobs, or a new sheepdog for every second house. Never mind that in the next breath he wants to reduce bankers bonuses - which obviously means he'd get less for his latest pet project spending! But don't let economics get in the way of his economics speech!
This time, he wants to create new challenger banks. He thinks the banks are too big. Remind me, who was it who allowed the banks to get bigger? His gang. Who was it who forced the solvent Lloyds to ruin itself bailing out HBOS? His gang. Who was it who allowed Santander to buy up loads of banks such as Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley ? His gang.
A bit late to start saying the banks are too big now! Never mind bloody hypocritical! Mind you, should we be surprised. Anyway, why does Miliband think its up to the Government to create some new banks. We've already got one big one that we're desperately trying to get rid of. Andrew Neil made the valid point, too, that these banks won't have much capital and so are unlikely to provide large amounts of funding for SME's as required by Mr Miliband. So a load of rubbish really.
Going back to the charge of hypocrisy, earlier this week Mr Miliband found his old note about the squeezed middle down the back of the sofa and decided to read it out again. Everyone knows that if Labour get back in rather than spending cuts there will be tax rises. To get the most bang for your tax increase, it's the middle that gets hit. Labour's usual instrument of torture is via National Insurance. So be very wary of Red Ed's middle-speak, he's no Tony Blair.
So, move along. Nothing to see here.
Saturday, 11 January 2014
One of my favourite columnists is Danny Finkelstein, now a Lord. This week he came up with the idea of having a separate tax for the NHS. The reason for this is so that the public know how much we have to pay for the 'free' health service.
We'd also know how much the cost was going up each year. Let's just say that he doesn't support hypothecation for other areas, just the NHS. There's a lot to agree with here, transparency being the main reason. As costs increase and taxes went up, the unaffordable path of the NHS would have to b tackled.
Lord Finkelstein is a close friend of the Chancellor, and so who knows? It may be more than a fanciful idea!
Thursday, 9 January 2014
The last Government wasted £12Bn on the NHS computer system. I'll say that again. £12Bn. That's mammoth. You have to stand back in disbelief when Labour shadow ministers complain about the £40m misspent on the Universal Benefits project.
For non-IT professionals, I'll give the low down on why IT projects go wrong. The old way of doing projects meant that there would be a desired aim for the project.Project Managers and Analysts would then spend months and months writing requirement specifications, trying to nail down every last item of functionality (what the project should do). When a specification was finally agreed it be outsourced to one of the large IT contractors who would start work on it. After several years, the project would be delivered back and the Government would find out that it didn't do what was necessary.
There would then need to be a re-design, possibly a large one. Maybe there were so many flaws that it had to be completely ditched. Many times the Analysts got some requirements wrong, or needed to add new ones. Political priorities change, new responsibilities get added on. As the end of the project nears it becomes frantic and previously essential features get dropped and scaled down.
This system is called the Waterfall approach, every stage feeds onto the next. The problems are that each stage takes for ever, and you only find out how badly the stage went at the end - several years later.
A new project methodology, called Agile, has changed the way big projects can be tackled. The project starts with little detail and gets broken down into 'stories' and tasks. The stories get fleshed out and implemented in an 'iteration' or 'sprint' which could be a few weeks or nothing more than one month. These sprints contain less than 10 people in the development team, and so there may be more than one team working on different functional areas. At the end of the month, all the implemented stories and collected into a demo and shown.
This way, the project managers and clients can see it develop and point out flaws, or extra requirements and things not liked. The development team can also have a say on what went wrong in the sprint and hopefully make improvements for next time. As time goes by the projects get closer to completion. "Must have" features have to be completed, and "nice to have" are just that. In theory, this means that there should be few surprises, including all the essential features and having been demo'ed to the client throughout.
This latter method is what Francis Maude's team are using. It's certainly better than the old Waterfall method, and its about time.
Although there will be some problems and some money will be misspent, its likely to be much less than before. Let's hope so!
This year there are changes to the aerodynamics. The new single raised exhaust will kill the coanda effect feeding the difuser. The front wing will be narrower and the nose cone will be lower, unfortunately this may bring back the stepped nose. The rear beam wing is gone, but the monkey wing will be back.
The biggest change though is to the engine, or power unit, as we will now have to call it. Out go the 2.4 litre V8s, in comes 1.6 Litre turbo V6s. Unlike the V6s turbos of the pre-1989 era, these will not be 1200 BHP monsters. They will develop around 550 BHP, and be limited to 100 litres of fuel, roughly a third less than now. Rather than KERS for 6.7 seconds, there will be two energy recovery systems; one the kinetic energy from braking and secondly the heat from the exhaust gases. These will be deployed for much longer in the lap (I think 33 seconds) but will take 2 laps to replenish.
This is going to be interesting, and that's why testing is going to be fascinating. No one knows which of the three engines, Mercedes, Ferrari or Renault is the most powerful. No one knows how their ERS systems will compare, what about their patterns of usage and fuel economy. It's all new. So, when testing starts we should see lots of problems and blow ups.
This could last into the first few races of the year. We've got used to reliable cars with most finishing the races. This could all change, and many are predicting pandemonium in the first few races. Most commentators think that it should then settle down. I don't think so! There is a reduced restriction of 5 engines per season. Down from 8.
What does that mean? With all the uncertainty and possible blow ups at the beginning of the year, drivers will be running out of engines - maybe by half way through the season. They then get grid penalties. I'm predicting that towards the end of the year most of the grid will have grid penalties and it will cause major controversy! It should be fascinating!
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Firstly, last years predictions:
- The economy will really start to recover, growing by 1% overall this year. 1 point
- Along with the economy, the Government's fortunes will improve slightly. Polls at the end of the year will be around 38% Labour, 34% Tory, 12% LibDem, 8% UKIP. Pretty close. 1 point.
- Chris Huhne will not go to prison, but he will not return to Government either. 0 points.
- Fernando Alonso will win the World Championship, from Sebastien Vettel. 0 points.
- Lewis Hamilton will win at least one race this year in his new Mercedes. Spot on, 1 point.
- Andrew Mitchell will be exonerated of 'plebgate' and the officer who made the allegations will be found out. Mr Mitchell will return to Government in a mini reshuffle in the late summer. 1/2 point.
- Kate Middleton's baby will be a girl and will carry the name of Elizabeth and Diana in some order. 0 points.
- There will be a monetary scandal involving a cabinet minister forcing them to resign. 0 points.
- David Miliband will agree to join the Labour front bench. 0 points.
- The Eurozone will have a fresh crisis in September when everyone is convinced the problems have been solved. 0 points.
- The economy will grow by 2.5% to 3% this year.
- The opinion polls will end the year at 36% Tory, 35% Labour, 12% LibDem, 10% UKIP.
- The European elections will give Labour the lead, UKIP 2nd (just behind), Tories 3rd and LibDems 4th.
- Lewis Hamilton will win the F1 World Championship.
- The Ferrari power plant will be bad, leading to Alonso ditching them and joining McLaren for 2015.
- Tony Blair will speak out against Ed Miliband's leadership.
- Vince Cable will resign or be sacked (hopefully).
- Peter Mandelson will do Strictly.
- Scotland will vote against independence.
- Gordon Brown will announce he's leaving parliament in 2015.
Monday, 9 December 2013
The more disturbing news is that the final round will be awarded double points. Err, why? Why that one, why not the first one? Surely every round should be worth the same. I believe it's to try to make the championship go to the last round, but we seem to be getting further and further away from what F1 is supposed to be.
Last week there was talk of forcing cars to have two pitstops, limiting lots of strategy options. I know that Bernie mentioned a few years ago of shortcuts which you could use 3 times in a race - I thought he'd been taking the funny pills and there was no chance. I'm not so sure that it won't happen now.
What is happening to the sport I love? The measures recently to try to spice up the action have made it artificial and detract from true talent. Lewis Hamilton is the best overtaker in the business and yet everyone can overtake with DRS. The tyres are so marginal that no-one can be on it for more than a lap.
As soon as you start making it artificial, the flood gates open to more artificial measures. DRS, as Sir Humphrey would say, was the thin end of the wedge.
Please stop before I turn off.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
I'm now looking forward to next year. There's a lot of change with regards to the regulations, but there's a lot of driver moves. Raikkonen to Ferrari, Massa to Williams, possibly Hulkenburg to Lotus (although refusing to go for the last two races may have spiked that), Kevin Magnussen to McLaren, Perez to where? And what about Di Resta?
It's looking interesting. Now lets just have someone build a car better than Red Bull.
Friday, 11 October 2013
Partly this is due to the Government's decision to bring phase two forward. This means that the potential mortgagee only has to pay a 5% deposit and the Government will underwrite the next 20% but even so the bank or building society has to provide the remaining 95%.
Before the financial crisis there had been 95% mortgages, I bought my flat on one such mortgage in 2001 - way before the housing market over-heated. It was a little later that 100% mortgages became available, and even later that 125% mortgages became available which seems to make no sense apart from relying on house price inflation. It did become bizarre. But we are nowhere near that.
Without help to buy you would probably need 20% deposit to buy a house - which puts most property beyond most. If most people can't buy property and are stuck where they are, there will be no reason for new houses to be built unless they're mansions affordable by only people with a stash of cash. House prices would jump higher given the housing shortage.
The purpose behind help to buy is to enable people to jump on the housing ladder, get the market moving, give impetus to build and make everyone feel better.
The basis of debate is whether a more healthy housing market will lead to unsustainable housing inflation and a bubble. We know that it might if we don't build more houses, so we need to get building, but the housing market needs to be moving first. At least the Government has tried to relax planning rules to make it easier.
But do people really believe we're on the verge of a boom only 6 months after talk was of a triple dip and after 5 years of dire horrible news. It's way too early! Get a grip! The IMF revised our growth rates up to 1.4% this year and 1.9% next year, that is no way like boom territory (which is more like 3% against our trend rate).
Even if this did start to cause a boom, the Government can very quickly withdraw support for new mortgages and even close the scheme at a few days notice!
Which makes me think why is this all over the BBC? What would make the impartial BBC devote so much time to a boom where there isn't one? Can't understand it.
The speech was ok. He didn't have any new policies, but was trying to form an argument. It was reasonably effective, but didn't blow your socks off.
I know David Cameron is a good speaker, but he has done the best speeches when his back is against the wall. His speech for the leadership, and again when Gordon Brown was thinking of an immediate General Election were his best. They both were when he did the speech without notes. I believe he thinks this makes him look less Prime Ministerial, but he needs to inspire. Especially now, when he has an upbeat message.
Next year, he either needs to do a speech without notes (but none of the cheesy geekiness of Ed Miliband) or find a Sam Seabourne/Toby Zeigler combo to give his oratory the lift it needs.