Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Where is the Ferrari announcement?

It's been an interesting and also sobering time in F1.

The injury to Jules Bianchi overshadows everything. I read that he hit his head with a force of 92G, it is a wonder that he's still alive. I hope that he manages to make a recovery and can make it back into a car, as he has shown such promise.

The season has been fascinating. For a while it looked like the bad luck would completely destroy Hamilton's campaign, but since Rosberg's error in Spa the momentum has all been with the Brit. In fact the latter half of the season has shown Rosberg is prone to errors under pressure and so far he has yet to better Hamilton in a straight fight.

We're entering the end of the season and mileages on the engines are going to get critical. Is it a possibility that for the last double point race Mercedes decides to have penalties and replace the both engines? Maybe, just in case there is a danger than one of the cars might not finish.

The big news on driver moves is that Sebastien Vettel is leaving Red Bull. He's been out of sorts all year, and when he learnt that Alonso had exercised his get out of Ferrari clause, he leapt upon it. So Vettel to Ferrari. Or is it? The likelihood is yes, but it's weird that Ferrari haven't announced it. Why wouldn't they?

An off the wall thought. It looks like Alonso is heading to McLaren, but they're just trying to tie down the contract. Maybe McLaren have signed Vettel too! It would explain why Ferrari haven't announced Vettel.

Probably not, but you never know! Maybe Ferrari are looking at a way of getting rid of Raikkonen who has been a disappointment this year. Maybe Alonso will take a sabbatical with the aim of getting his backside into a Mercedes in 2016 (in which case I think he may be disappointed).

Looking forward to the last three races, but I don't want double points or reliability problems to settle this championship. If Rosberg wins at the last race with Hamilton out, the win tally could be 11-5 to Hamilton. It would be a travesty.



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Could Douglas Carswell's election as UKIP MP be bad for them?

I quite like Douglas Carswell. He believes in democracy and better structures to support democracy. He is very independently minded. In fact, he could put the Independence into UKIP.

He's now a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond. He will be on our TV screens a lot more as a spokesman for UKIP.

I think though that we'll be seeing some obvious differences of opinion with the leadership of Nigel Farage. He's already been highlighting a different opinion on immigration to the leadership, as he pointedly mentioned it in his victory speech in Clacton.

For now, though, he is the only UKIP MP and although not the leader he is now the most senior elected representative of the party. A full on general election campaign, this time round, will be looking for major differences of opinion between the leader and its first MP. Expect there to be more controversies.

I think it's likely Carswell will win re-election in 2015, but what happens if La Farage does not become MP? The differences could get more extreme.  I foresee fireworks! In fact I can imagine a leadership challenge which Carswell might win. Afterwards, though, if Farage is not leader he would be very grumbly and UKIP could lose it's best electoral asset, as Carswell doesn't have the common touch of the current leader.

We might just be in the phase of peak UKIP, it might be downhill from here. It's possible we've just witnessed a new Kilroy-Silk moment.


Nick Clegg's Speech: Verdict

A bit dull as he was only talking to his own base.

He did the usual 'plague on both your houses' section which is now getting so old it needs a pension. Lambasting Labour for breaking the economy and Tories for being mean. Only the Lib Dems can save us! In which case Lord help us.

The big offer was some improvements on mental health. Whilst worthy, it doesn't exactly set the pulse racing.

He was trying to gee up his own base for the election next year rather than talking to the electorate. As I say, rather dull.

The Lib Dems, although in Government, increasingly seem like an irrelevance.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

UKIP want Labour to win

Most commentators think that UKIP would prefer there to be a Tory Prime Minister and a European referendum campaign rather than a Labour PM. Not true.

The nightmare scenario for UKIP is that the Tories win, David Cameron wins some marginal powers back and manages to sell it to the country in the referendum.

In much the same way that the Scottish referendum was David Cameron's gamble in that would take independence off the table for a generation, UKIP think the same is possibly true about the EU.

Any way in which Labour win and deny us another referendum will further the calls for us to be out.

It's possible, though, that they could get us out of the EU sooner rather than later. Though, it would be a pretty big gamble on their part. In this scenario, they'd need David Cameron to win and hold the referendum. After a period of stability, we may be about to see a bigger Euro problem than we had two years ago.

EU interest rates are at rock bottom and it looks like there may be a period of deflation. At the moment inflation is 0.3% and looking to go lower. Growth is anaemic. Germany is faltering. France and Italy are sick. The ECB would have no options, it would be up to EU Governments to save their economies - difficult given their levels of debt!

Given this back drop we may actually see more convulsions than we did in sovereign debt crisis. If Britain can keep growing while the EU, including Germany, starts to really have difficulties then maybe the whole Euro and even the EU could be on the table. Maybe then we'd want to be out.

As I say, a lot of things have to happen for this scenario to occur. But you never know.


Cameron Speech: Verdict

What a difference a week makes! Last week we had Ed Miliband's forget-athon, a real lesson in why he should not be Prime Minister. This week David Cameron made the best conference speech of his premiership.

When the PM's back is against the wall he really can turn it on, and he did. He's shown that he can do the no notes speaking before - in fact it was he who started the trend - but he has eschewed this tactic to be more prime ministerial. And it works.

The speech was serious when it needed to be. He mentioned Patrick Churchill, a D-day veteran. In this year of remembrance it was a fitting tribute. He did not go on about all the people he met whilst walking around the leafy suburbs of Hampstead Heath who managed to speak Ed Miliband-ese.

The PM did not revert to the Tory comfort zone either. He was visibly moved to tears when mentioned the anger he feels when being accused of not caring about the NHS. He also said he would banish exclusive zero hour contracts and modern day slavery.

The PM obviously got into his stride when talking about raising the personal allowances at the 20% and 40% bands. I would have wished he'd raised the level at which National Insurance starts being paid, rather than the personal allowance. This would really help the lower paid being taken out of income taxes altogether. Its about time NI was rolled into income tax completely by the way!

He was good on Europe, but I want him to kill off a line of attack by saying that he would be prepared to recommend leaving if he cannot get what he wants. Maybe he can't make himself a hostage to fortune as then he'd need to outline his exact dividing lines.

He laid into the hypocracy of Labour's education policies, though it hasn't changed them in 40 years - it's not about to start doing so now. I wish he'd really go for them on the brass neck they have about English Votes for English Laws.

It was a great speech, whether it translates into a change in the polls is difficult to say. But it should. Anyone with an iota of common sense can see that there can only be one realistic candidate for PM after the next election. Ed Miliband is a walking disaster, and he'd turn this country into one.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ed Miliband Conference Speech: Verdict

What a long, turgid, affair. Oh dear me. By far his worst conference speech.

It was long on anecdotes with Gareth, Elizabeth and all, but it didn't add up to much. For policies, we had some extra money for the NHS, voting for 16 and 17 year olds, a mansion tax and extra taxes on tobacco companies.

You can tell when Labour are operating the core vote strategy, they focus on the NHS. I remember a tweet from Dan Hodges, commentator, and son of Glenda Jackson MP, who said when they start banging on about NHS you know that they know they'll lose. I'm not so sure but I'm not plugged into the party like Dan was. They'll reverse the NHS changes made by the coalition. Does that ring a bell? Yes, when Labour came into power in 1997 they reversed the previous Tory hospital organisation and then 5 years later started to bring it back. Will they ever learn?

The mansion 4 bedroom semi tax has been spent twice now, to bring the deficit down and fund the NHS. A new tax. There's also a new tax on tobacco companies, as if they don't pay a lot anyway with duties. There will no doubt be more bank taxes too.

Whatever the problem, the answer is always the same. A new or increased tax to provide increased Government spending. If not, use borrowing for increased spending.

What was striking was that there was no mention of the deficit. We now know that he meant to mention it, but forgot. It's so easy to forget the most pressing issue affecting the country today. Immigrations was forgotten too. Another doorstep high priority.

Talking of a current issue which Labour has no answer to, the impact of devolution and English votes for English laws, Mr Miliband said David Cameron was trying to divide the nation.

Since the referendum I have felt more and more incensed by repeated claims that we shouldn't rush the answer, and have some constitutional convention. Who rushed into lots of devolution as soon as they were elected last time? Labour. They created this monster of an issue and did not bother to seek out answers to the unbalanced state they created in 13 years of power. It's because it suited them to brush it under the carpet. It's extremely rich for them now to accuse the Tories of trying to solve this problem to their advantage!

Anyway, back to the speech. Oh must I? If this man is Prime Minister next May I may have to go on Prozac. He's the least impressive leader since Iain Duncan-Smith.


By the way, funny that Rachel Reeves, shadow pension secretary didn't know what the standard state pension was - she thought it was just below £100. I fact it's £113. You'd think she'd know. Yesterday she seemed to not quite know the difference between capital and current spending. This lady is supposed to be in the next group to be leader. Give me strength.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Indyref: The time is nearly upon us

We don't have many referendums in the UK but usually they are for big questions. The referendum today is the biggest I've experienced.

I'm still convinced that it will be a No vote, but maybe closer than my prediction of 60/40, maybe even 55/45. We shall soon see.

The mammoth TV coverage will soon start, and I'm a sucker for it!

Bring it on Mr Dimbleby Edwards.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Scottish Independence: One week to go.

We're into the last few days of the Scottish Independence referendum and I thought I'd write some of my thoughts down.

Firstly, about the question. I heard some people asking why 'Devo-Max' is not on the ballot paper. Imagine a not too unlikely scenario where Independence gets 45%, 'Devo-Max' gets 40% and no change gets 15%. What should happen then? It would be wrong to go to Independence as it would not have a majority (on something so crucial). 'Devo-Max' would have come second so it would be weird for it to be enacted, and so the most likely thing to happen would be no change, when it came third! That's why it had to be a straightforward yes/no question.

I personally don't want Scotland to leave the Union, I have many Scottish friends who would then be foreigners. It's difficult to imagine the end of Britain as we know it. I do believe that we are better together.

Looking at the arguments, it appears that the Yes camp have been a bit disingenuous with some of the figures regarding oil revenues, NHS spending etc. and tax figures. The No camp has been more negative, which I suppose was always likely given the nature of the question and risks involved. The better arguments for Yes are through self-determination which appeals to the heart.

The No camp has focused on the question of the currency, which is important - especially as the Yes campaign has stated they intend to use the Pound in a currency union with residual UK (rUK). The UK party leaders have said they won't allow it, but the SNP keep pushing that it will happen anyway. This is especially disingenuous as the rUK would not enter a currency union with a foreign nation, as we have shied away from joining the Euro area. The SNP should have had the nerve to go with a new currency as a backup option.

The implications on the military are immense and not thought through well enough.

Alec Salmond has also repeatedly talked about policies implemented by London by the Tories such as the 'Bedroom Tax' as reasons for independence but that is very short term. Some people think that Scotland would be a socialist haven if independence occurred, but I can see that Scottish politics would eventually move rightwards, as socialist policies increasingly failed and taxing and spending went out of fashion. For the rest of the UK, we may have more Tory Governments initially but the present equilibrium would eventually reassert itself.

Do I think there will be a Yes vote? No, I think the fear of the unknown is a major driver, also I believe that there are quite a lot of people who say they'll vote Yes but will actually vote No - due to the perceived disloyalty of voting 'against Scotland'.

That does not mean that the status quo will remain. If we do get 'Devo-Max' as promised by the UK party leaders there will have to be wider constitutional change for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wales will certainly demand more powers, and how can England continue to be Governed by Scots and Welsh MPs in such circumstances? There's no way it could continue without the so-called West Lothian question being answered. There would have to be an English Parliament over English only issues.

The days of the existing Union is over, we need to fully think out the future of a more federal UK and this must be put to the people. It cannot be knocked up by the party leaders in a hasty fashion to scare off the Yes voters!

RIP GB 1707-2014.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Rosberg vs Hamilton: It's war

It's been brewing for a while, but the race at Spa was the end of the cold war. We're now at Defcon 4 in the Formula 1 season.

The incidents that have brought us here are: Hamilton defending aggressively at Bahrain and using the extra-special powerful setting, Rosberg using the extra-special powerful setting in Spain, Rosberg having his 'off' at Monaco ruining Hamilton's lap and finally Hamilton refusing team-orders at Hungary.

You could say it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. Indeed, my own interpretation was that it was all pretty fair and evened up - although the Monaco incident did look suspect but I gave Rosberg the benefit of the doubt.

The race at Spa looked like it was going to be a great ding-dong battle until Rosberg clipped Hamilton's rear left tyre on lap two going into Les Combes. It was a clumsy attempt at a pass by Rosberg but looked like a cack-handed misjudgement.

That was until Lewis Hamilton appeared after the debrief in front of the press, reportedly nearly tearful, and said that Rosberg had done it on 'purpose' to 'make a point'. Maybe fanciful, and Toto Wolff denied that it had been on purpose, but agreed that Rosberg had said he'd wanted to 'make a point'. To me this infers that Rosberg had not deliberately decided to crash into Hamilton at the beginning of the race, but would - if the moment arose - not back out of possible contact in wheel to wheel combat.

Looking at the video footage Rosberg decides he's not going to be able to pass Hamilton and turn's left to avoid contact - and then changes his mind and turns right again leaving Hamilton to drive into him while following the racing line. Given that Hamilton was well ahead and could not have seen exactly where Rosberg was at that time, he had no option and Rosberg cannot complain about not being given enough room.

Rosberg chose to collide with Hamilton in that split moment. He had the lead in the championship, so if both went out so be it. He made his point. Hamilton said that he did not know how to race Rosberg any more, now that Rosberg has shown an unpredictability, nearly worthy of Pastor Maldonado!

Where to go from here? Niki Lauda squarely blamed Rosberg and Toto Wolff was incandescent with rage. They said there would be consequences but it's difficult to see what. We don't know the mind of Paddy Lowe, but obviously he's been with Lewis Hamilton ever since McLaren so knows him well.

If they make some changes to team orders, it will probably favour Rosberg even if that is not the intention. In which case Rosberggets what he wants. They could fire Rosberg but that's inconceivable. They can't dock points from him, as that is up to the FIA.

I think the only way to punish Rosberg, lay down the law, and make sure this does not happen in the future is to bench Rosberg. Bring in Antony Davidson or Heikki Kovalainen for one race, someone who will still get points for Mercedes but leave Rosberg on the sidelines as he watches his 29 point lead get reduced.

It would obviously enrage Rosberg but would be payback and let him know that the team calls the shots.

Do I think they'll do it. No. I expect there will be some changes to team orders and I think F1 will be the poorer. Unfortunately.