Saturday, 19 March 2016

F1: I woke up at 5 a.m. for this

Empty Track

It's been a ritual of mine for many years. March is the start of the F1 season. It usually coincides with my birthday, so I'm happy. And for the first race in Australia I get up ridiculously early for qualifying and the race as it's on really early in Britain.

This year has been no different. What is different is the disappointment. Not because my favourite driver didn't so well, because he did and he's on pole. But because F1 is a laughing stock. The new qualifying procedures left drivers in the pits having done their laps and being knocked out. It was all wrapped up with four minutes to go. As the chequered flag came out, Lewis Hamilton was at the back of pits signing autographs. Damon Hill on Sky quipped that he could have waved the chequered flag for himself.

It was all so predictable. Drivers, mechanics, engineers all warned that this was likely to happen but the F1 bigwigs put their fingers in their ears and blew raspberries. Well you guys now have a raspberry creme brulée all over your faces.

There's many things wrong with F1. Qualifying wasn't one of them, in fact it was the only thing working well and now that has been turned into a joke.

How did F1 get here? Actually, it started with a good proposal from Bernie to have an hour long qualifying race on the Saturday. The TV companies complained though, they need the breaks between qualifying sessions for advertising as most don't interrupt the races. Once the hare had been set running on changes to qualifying, something was bound to be done and they came up with this crackpot scheme which sounds good on paper but would always be optimised to being boring. It is terrible.

Change it back, now! Don't try to tinker with the steaming pile you have created. Just change it back.

The main problems with F1 stem from it's governance. Team principals can veto changes but have a vested interest in keeping it the same way (for successful teams) and changing it (for failing teams). Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA don't have the power to impose, and there needs to be someone to set the direction, though I think Bernie has lost the plot. The way teams are paid is incredibly unfair, too, and needs to be changed too.

If the governance was sorted, maybe we could get some good regulations formed to make cars which can overtake. I like the ideas of faster, wider cars with bigger tyres. Reduce the aerodynamics, reduce the number of planes on the front wing, take away some of the turning vanes and barge boards. Increase the ground effects and mechanical grip.

If these three things were fixed, F1 would be on the mend.

Instead F1 is heading in the wrong direction, and today proved it.


Monday, 29 February 2016

The question the Remain camp has to answer: What does IN look like?

Ever since the EU referendum campaign started, the INners have been shouting out 'What does Out look like?'. Today Dan Hodges sent the same in a tweet:

I don't know the fine details, but I'm pretty sure that Out will look like the UK having control over all its legislation again, but having to adhere to EU constraints on products and services we supply to the EU. It may be that we have some requirement to adhere to a portion of free movement of peoples, but we are a big country and will have clout when the negotiations happen. I also think we will have free trade with the EU as it is in nobody's interest to put up trade barriers.

And that's where I would expect to be 2 years after we vote to leave. I expect we'll be in the same position 5 years after that, and 10 years and 15...

The OUTters need to be throwing the question back at the INners. What does IN look like? I know what it will look like in one year. It will have a Euro & migrant crisis. I think it will be the same state in two years.

But what about 5 years after? Will the Euro still be in crisis, will the problem be solved and how? What about the migrant crisis? Will Shengen be restored or will it have completely dissolved? Will Greece still be a member or will it have been thrown out. Will the banking union be complete? Will there be Euro-bonds? What about 5 years after that? Will there be a Euro-army? Will there be two Euro-zones? Will the EU have taken our place on the UN security council? Will Turkey be a member? Will Ukraine? Will the migrants let in by Angela Merkel have German citizenship and be making their way en mass to the UK? What about a further 5 years after that? Will there be a country called Europe?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions and I doubt the remain camp do too. In my mind the bigger unknowns are with IN rather than OUT.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Why it's time to leave the sinking ship

After the outcome of the EU draft text was released this weekend, I made a quick post to say that I had decided that we should now leave the EU. I've now found the time to give my reasons.

It has been a journey for me. I thought for a long time that our destiny was better served by being a member of a large trading block, with shared regulation to tackle problems such as climate change. Over time my enthusiasm has lessened as the EU has pushed ever further into grabbing more powers whilst being completely inept at handling the responsibilities it already has. The EU has been pushing my buttons for a while and the renegotiation was the last chance to keep me wanting to stay in.

Initial negotiations
Let's first look at the Bloomberg speech David Cameron in January 2013. In this great oratory the Prime Minister spoke eloquently about how as Britain we had a different outlook but shared many aims of the EU for prosperity and peace. He set out a series of issues on which he wanted fundamental reform.
  • Fix the issues regarding the Euro and our place outside the Eurozone should not diminish our influence. We should not have Eurozone policies foisted on us.
  • Increase EU competitiveness by restricting regulation.
  • The EU is seen as remote from the people
In answer to these issues he made some suggestions. He wanted to limit the size of the EU commission, control its spending, simplify its controlling structures and complete the single market. He wanted flexibility without the same level of integration, and to abandon the principle of 'ever closer union'. He wanted power to be placed back with member states and a more significant role for national parliaments. He mentioned legal judgements of the European Court of Human Rights should be subservient to the EU. 

When I heard this speech I thought "some good ideas, maybe not far enough in some cases but enough to convince me."

When this was filtered into negotiating points by November 2015, it became:
  • Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
  • Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the "burden" of red tape
  • Exempting Britain from "ever-closer union" and bolstering national parliaments
  • Restricting EU migrants' access to in-work benefits such as tax credits ad child benefit for 4 years. 

At this stage, completion of the single market had become protection, there was still mention of boosting competitiveness and exempting Britain from ever-closer union. But there is no mention of the size of the commission, its spending, the controlling structures, or the position of the ECHR. At this stage about half his proposals had disappeared. 

Finally, this week the draft was published which had:
  • Removing Britain from the compulsion of 'ever closer union' and red card system for national parliaments to block legislation from the commision (if 55% of parliaments agreed)
  • Some words about strengthening the internal market.
  • Some words about there being more than one currency in the EU.
  • A gradual increase in in-work benefits and child benefit to be paid at the rate of country from where the migrate came

As can be seen, the migrants access to benefits has been watered down, boosting competitiveness has been reduced to the same loose words as previous treaties, and that there being more than one currency in the EU is self evident. We will be removed from ever closer union but the red card system will never fly, not enough national parliaments would ever organise to block a regulation.

A disappointment.

A big disappointment.

I have no reason to believe that the EU would be any better if the draft is enacted. There would be very little change. Rules and regulations would come from on high as now, our parliament would be as subservient as it is now. The EU will be just as un-democratic. They would continue to ride roughshod, in fact I believe more so as I will explain later,

Overall position
We now know that the renegotiation is pretty insignificant so let's look at the overall position of the arguments in favour of the EU or Brexit.

The main reason for being in the EU is access to the single market. But do we need to be a member for access? Norway, Iceland, Switzerland all have access, but still have to adhere to regulations without much influence. Canada has access with not quite so onerous terms. If we were to leave I'm pretty sure that during the negotiations to leave we would quickly have an arrangement for access to the free market. The other countries would not want to put up barriers to the fifth largest economy in the world. 

And how much influence do we have anyway? We've objected to regulations 55 times since David Cameron came to power, and 55 times we've been outvoted. So no influence.

Erm, is there any other reason we would want to be a member of the EU? I can't think of any.

So, what problems would we be rid of or alleviate by not being a member?

  • The British parliament would regain full sovereignty
  • We would be able to get rid of the hated Common Agriculture and Fisheries policy and stop the crazy incentives for growing stuff we don't need
  • We would regain full control of our borders and be able handle immigration in the way we wanted
  • We would not have regulations foisted upon us arbitrarily, we would only need to abide by regulations to trade with the single market when trading with the single market
  • We would be free of the EU attempts to try to get a common foreign policy
  • We would be able to set our own VAT rates in the way we wished
  • We would be free of threats to take away our seat as a permanent member of the UN security council and to set up an EU army.
  • We would be able to sign free trade agreements with other major trading partners such as the US, China and India (we have been waiting for 40 years for the EU to do such things)
  • We would be able to save money being spent by the EU bureaucracy
  • Our EU contributions could be spent at home in better ways and we could be forever rid of our EU partners trying to reduce our EU rebate
  • We would be able to provide aid to some badly hit industries such as steel
  • The democratic deficit would be vastly reduced

There are so many political reasons to leave, but the arguments will inevitable come down to economic arguments. Will we be better off?

The arguments are often made that three million jobs are dependent upon our membership of the EU, which may be true. But they don't mean to say that we would lose 3m jobs they just mean to sound like that. There is no reason to believe that we would lose jobs, many investors in Britain have gone out of their way to say that it wouldn't matter to them.

We are also told that half of our trade is with Europe, which is true, but it is declining. It used to be more than half, it is now less than half. The continent's economy has been in poor shape for far too long and there doesn't appear to be much appetite for change. Do we need to be continually shackled to this aging behemoth?

We need to raise our sights on the rest of the world where new opportunities lie. So I have come to the conclusion being in or out of the EU will not have much of a difference on how wealthy we are as a country or individually in the short term. 

In the longer term though, with increasing globalisation, I think a large organisation such as the EU is doomed to gradually fail while smaller, faster acting countries will sweep all before them. We should be a part of the fast thinking free world, able to exploit new opportunities and not be tethered to the ideas of the last fifty years. I think we will be better off in the longer term being outside the EU.

We have also seen how undemocratic the EU is. Greece and Italy had Prime Ministers foisted upon them. Portugal elected left leaning anti-austerity parties in their election but has been told not to allow them to form a Government by the EU.

When the public has a say, and the EU elite does not like what it hears it either asks the public to think again or finds a way to ignore them completely.

As for Britain, we are seen as trouble makers sniping from the sidelines and are brushed aside as much as possible.

We finally have our chance to have a say. What does it imply that even if we have the chance to leave, we choose to stay? They will then completely ignore us and be deaf to our whinging, even more than now. We will be locked in forever. We will not be able to threaten to leave again and be taken seriously.

I fear staying far more than leaving.

It is time to go.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

EU Turn if you want to. I want to: Tatty Bye

Today David Cameron unveiled his plans for a renegotiation of our arrangement with the EU.

When he announced in his Bloomberg speech that he was planning for a comprehensive renegotiation of Britain's place in the EU I was ecstatic. Finally a Prime Minister who would have the guts to take us back to a trading relationship with our EU partners. We could lay the EU matter to rest at last knowing there would be no more power grabs from the bureaucrats.

By the time of the election I was disappointed, three platitudinous aims worthy of an EdStone and one small tactic to try to nudge immigrants into not coming here. Nothing about the ruinous Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies, nothing about the primacy of the British parliament, nothing about protecting our service industries such as finance away from the loony schemes on the continent. Still, I thought, maybe he was trying to give us low expectations so that we could be amazed by the sheer scale of his renegotiation when it was revealed.

It's become clear, and today's reveal makes it crystal clear, that we haven't even got the crappy aims of the manifesto.

It's with a heavy heart that I will have to refuse the appeal of the Prime Minister and vote Leave at the referendum. I will give my fuller reasons this weekend, but it has come time to get off the fence, and say that I don't think we can ever get a good deal from Europe and so it would be better for us to be out.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Report of Reports

This week there have been two reports published into the failures of the 2015 General Election, one by the Labour party and one by the pollsters.

The Labour Party's report shows how far the party has to travel in order to be electable. Not by the eloquent way in which it describes how Labour had piecemeal populist policies, but no overriding economic plan. Or by the way in which it aptly suggests that they chose the wrong leader in 2010 and couldn't ever recover from that. Or even that Labour became a complete joke with the EdStone.

No, the report didn't tackle these issues. It said that Labour had let them be blamed for the economic crisis but it wasn't their fault. Ed Miliband was a great leader, but those nasty media types had it in for him. Or that their policies were great but most people didn't know about them.

Ostriches and sand come to mind.

Labour lost due to the horrible Tories, the nasty media, and I guess, the public's stupidity. Not a problem with Labour at all.

It should be remembered that only three Labour leaders have ever commanded a majority in parliament in their 100 year odd history. In my lifetime there has only been one, in which there have been three Tory PMs. The only Labour leader in recent times to be successful has been the one nearest the centre of the electorate and not on the left. This is where the public is. And if there is no viable centre, the public likes to dress to the right rather than the less.

Since the election Labour has moved even further left under Jeremy Corbyn. I guess Labour will have to wait for the next electoral disaster report.

The second report went into the reasons why the pollsters got it all wrong in the lead up to the election. This report was more reasoned and explained that the methodologies weren't really to blame. It also said that there wasn't much bunching of polls, although that is slightly hard to believe. Their main finding was that they hadn't sampled enough Tories.

Which when you think about it - is obvious, after all that was the outcome. But what they mean is that the voters they contacted - and had responses from - were more likely to be Labour voters and so were more represented. The theory is that Tories are less likely to answer the phone to pollsters and have less time to fill in online polls. That's probably a reasonable theory, but it's difficult to make adjustments, maybe they have to add more weight to the Tory voters. They already have to do this since the 1992 election fiasco. But it makes you wonder if the bias is so great smaller fluctuations will be exaggerated.

There's two ways joe public can handle these polls until any new polling techniques have been proven to tally accurately with election results. On normal voting intention polls, add three percent to the Tory percentage and subtract three from the Labour percentage.

Alternatively, if you just want to know who will win the general election for sure forget voting intention polls and look at the leader ratings, and who the voters trust with the economy. If both these are favouring one party (and they invariably do) then that party will win. This has been proven in each election since 1979 even in 1992 and 2015.

Maybe this is the last time to discuss the 2015 GE, but it's making me want to watch the election programmes again!


Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Labour re-shuffle has finally come to an end

Starting at Monday lunchtime, the Labour party has been having a re-shuffle, and it has finally come to an end. Four days later. The longest re-shuffle in history. So it must be a real night of the long knives with lots of changes then? Not at all. Two sackings from the front bench, and one move.

After briefing in December that Hilary Benn was going to be sacked, that Diane Abbott was going to be the new Foreign Secretary there was no change in this respect.

Michael Dugher was sacked, as was Pat McFadden. Maria Eagle was moved from defence to make way for Emily Thornberry, Corbyn's fellow unilateralist.

Dugher and McFadden were dismissed as being disloyal and incompetent - which when compared against Corbyn's record is pretty laughable.

The supposedly even handed review of Trident looks like a joke now, with both Thornberry and Ken Livingstone both being unilateralists. Livingstone even went so far to say we should pull out of NATO today.

Following the front bench re-shuffle, three shadow ministers went onto resign, one live on TV. There were bitter tweets from MPs. Some MPs have blocked other MPs on twitter. There was a spat between Diane Abbott and Jonathan Reynolds.

This is a party at war with itself. 

To think that 8 months ago this party could have formed the Government. We had a lucky escape.

To Corbyn's credit, the re-shuffle has slightly moved the front bench his way, but Labour is heading for oblivion whilst the moderates do nothing but snipe. They need to act and soon, otherwise Labour will pass into history.


Saturday, 2 January 2016

2015 rolls into 2016

It's that time of year again when I have to review my predictions from the last year and make some new ones. So let's review the last year:

  1. The economy will continue to recover, and will grow by 2.5% this year. Wages growth will really begin to outstrip inflation. 1 point
  2. The General Election will be close, final tally Tories 36%, Labour 31%, Lib Dems 10%, UKIP 12%. 1 point (very close)
  3. Tories and Lib Dems will form a second coalition. 0 points
  4. Lewis Hamilton will win the F1 World Championship again. 1 point
  5. Sebastien Vettel will not perform as well as Alonso at Ferrari, and Ferrari will end the year in greater turmoil with Raikkonen being sacked. 0 points
  6. Labour will have a leadership election with Chukka Umuna winning. 1/4 points
  7. Vince Cable will lose his seat in the election (hopefully) 1 point
  8. UKIP will gain 2 seats at the General Election, but Rochester & Strood will not be one of them. Douglas Carswell will be re-elected. 1/2 point
  9. Hilary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul will all run for the US Presidential primaries. 1 point
  10. Nick Clegg will resign the leadership of the Lib Dems. 1 point

Overall 6.75 points is not bad. I was caught out by Ferrari being a lot stronger than planned, and who could have predicted Jeremy Corbyn being elected as Labour leader?

Now for 2016.

  1. Lewis Hamilton will win the F1 World Championship again.
  2. Sebastien Vettel will be second in the F1 World Championship and will win more races.
  3. Nico Rosberg will leave Mercedes at the end of the year, and Raikkonen will retire.
  4. It will be Hilary Clinton vs Marco Rubio for the US presidency.
  5. Marco Rubio will win the presidency.
  6. The EU referendum will happen this year with Remain winning by roughly 58% to 42%
  7. The Tories will beat Labour in the local elections by a small margin, with the Lib Dems coming back quite strongly in third.
  8. There will be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership
  9. Douglas Carswell will leave UKIP and stay independent
  10. At least 2 MPs will defect from Labour

Let's see how well we go this year.