Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Election round-up

We're two weeks into the General Election campaign and so I thought I'd give my thoughts on what we've seen.

The Tories have so far had a lacklustre campaign, based solely around Theresa May. There have been very few policy pledges and so far nothing to write home about. I'm wondering if the Tories are keeping their powder dry and will wait for Labour to show their hand before bringing out new policies. For their sake, I hope so. If they are going to win big anyway, it's better if they have a radical manifesto.

The Labour party have shown quite a lot of policies so far, and on the surface they look attractive. More money for NHS workers, more money for schools, more money for police forces to recruit 10000/250000 officers (depending on which paper Diane Aboot is reading), more money for social care. Of course the common theme is "more money". Now the left is in control of Labour they only have one answer for every problem. I wonder what their answer is to the problem of the £50 billion deficit!

The flip side of all the spending, is tax rises. Corporation Tax up, Capital Gains Tax up, Vat on private schools up, Fees on private health care. It's quite easy to see where this is going. The behavioural changes of tax increases means that in the long run, the tax take will be reduced, and so the tax rises will have to spread wider. Corporation tax gong up by a third is certainly going to have an effect. Since it has been reduced the tax take from corporate profits has gone up from £43Bn to £49Bn. No wonder Labour see this as a magic money tree.

The Lib Dems have had a bad start, with a whole week taken over by whether Tim Farron thinks gay sex is a sin. There have been mentions of 1p tax rise for the NHS, which is nice and won't be too bad but will have very little effect. One thing that struck me this morning is that Tim Farron has ruled out any pacts or deals with other parties, which means that there is no point to the LibDems. Unless they are an alternative government then a minor party can only ever have influence by teaming up with a larger party. They have been confined to irrelevance, and back to an old Lib Dem position. They finally found some realism going into the 2010 election.

UKIP are finished, and they know it.

The Greens have been banging on about a progressive alliance, but no one else is taking the bait. I don't know what other policies they may have.

Let's see where we get to in a couple of weeks time when the manifestos have been published.


P..S. I'm looking forward to the Question Time editions with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Both of them tend to stay away from the general public and go to events of loyalists. She will have to appear not robotic and he will have to keep his temper in check.

Monday, 24 April 2017

What an absolute shower! Part One...

This is a little commentary on the Labour Party during this election campaign.

It's been less than a week since the election was called. At the end of last week Dawn Butler had a car crash interview on the PM programme with Eddie Mair. In it she was trying to claim that Theresa May had rigged the election, by calling it! It's a pretty unusual claim. She then said it had been rigged because the PM had got around the Fixed Term Parliament's Act, but when challenged that Labour had voted for it she had no real response. She then claimed it had been rigged because the Tories were reducing the number of MPs to 600. When asked how many MPs there would be after the election, she had to say the truth: there would be 650 (the boundary changes come in next year). It was a horrific interview!

Jeremy Corbyn managed to last at least a few days without getting into serious trouble but then came his 'big' Sunday interview with Andrew Marr. The first question posed was very hypothetical, if Jeremy Corbyn was elected the first task would be to write letters to the nuclear submarine captains with instructions what to do if Britain had been struck and there was no command structure. Corbyn responded: 'I would stress that we believe in a non nuclear world'. Well, I'm sure the sub captains will find that very reassuring. He went on: 'We believe in peaceful negotiations, and shall try to get the 6 parties together for talks on Korea'. Sure, that's all well and good PM, should I press the button?

When asked if the policy was still for trident renewal, he said the manifesto was not finished yet and that it was up for discussion. Today on the Daily Politics the shadow defence spokeswoman, Nia Griffiths, distanced herself and said the Labour Party policy is to renew trident. Great, but we know, as do all our enemies, that if they strike first, our sub commanders will open envelopes with nothing better than a 'Get Well Soon' message inside! Not much of a deterrence, but then Corbyn doesn't quite understand that principle!

When Corbyn, finally squeaked out something approaching a decent answer to Andrew Marr on the submarine question it was 'Wait for orders' - which would be great if Downing Street had not been annihilated.

The other interesting question was about a drone strike on the leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, if the defence and intelligence staff had good knowledge of his whereabouts. Again Corbyn could not say, 'let's take out the bastard' and made usual noises about negotiation and it would be better if he was not around but without any decisive action.

As expected, a complete shower. He will need to answer some of these questions better soon.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Snap. Didn't see that coming

Theresa May surprised everyone today by putting the wheels in motion for a General Election on 8th June. Normally there are rumours in the weekend papers, but this weekend there were some rumours that she wouldn't face the next election due to not enjoying being PM and with overtones of ill health. When Gordon Brown became PM there were rumours for weeks, which is why it did so much damage when he bottled it.

I completely understand the PMs move. I am sure that she didn't want this election right now and that she meant what she had said when ruled out the election, but apparently on her walking holiday over Easter it dawned on her that to secure Brexit she needed to face down those in parliament determined to frustrate the will of the referendum, and at the same time secure an increase majority for her programme. She would also be able to ditch some of the commitments that David Cameron had made (such as no increase in NI whatsoever).

The timing is brilliant. Just before negotiations really begin, but after Article 50 has been invoked, ensuring that she gets the mandate for her version of Brexit as set out in the white paper.

I've heard a bit of rubbish today though. Firstly, that it's undemocratic for a PM to be able to decide the timing of a general election. How is that undemocratic? If you don't like what she has to offer you can vote against it.

Secondly, that it's political opportunism. Well of course. What PM wouldn't choose the timing of the General Election if they could? Tony Blair did it, Thatcher did it, Harold Wilson did it twice. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act was to re-assure the LibDems that the Tories wouldn't run at the earliest opportunity and bring down the coalition. And if you think that is cynical, it's called coalition politics.

Thirdly, from Paul Mason - the extreme left winger - that now is the time for a progressive alliance. How many times have were heard this? It's not going to happen, especially with that Mason's goon Corbyn running the Labour party!

Anyway, we have 7 full weeks before the election, and it's time to see what this new set of leaders make of it. I expect Theresa May to be competent but remote (she's already said that she won't be in leaders debates). Corbyn to be a catastrophe for his party but with a good start to the campaign descending into rancour and division (let's just wait until he really loses his temper when he has to face the real public and not one of his rallies). Farron will have quite a good campaign and the LibDems will do well. Nuttall will be practically invisible.

I expect Ruth Davidson to really take Nicola Sturgeon on too!

I predict at the end, the Tories will be on 44%, Labour on 25%, LibDems on 18%, UKIP 5%. There will be a Tory Majority of 100ish.

The question following the election is who will be the new Labour leader!

Looking forward to this next campaign.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Breaking: Article 50 has triggered, the world has not fallen in

Two weeks ago Theresa May triggered Article 50. So far there has been no major change discernible, even Sterling has stayed relatively stable.

We were told everything was going to go to crap as soon as the referendum delivered the 'leave' vote, and it didn't. Then it was going to be when Article 50 was triggered, and it hasn't. I'm guess that we'll continue to get these warnings through the negotiations and then again when we finally leave. Has anybody heard about the boy who cried wolf?

Just one more thing, if I see another Remainer say that we didn't vote for an extreme/hard/soft/welsh/blue/poor Brexit I will scream. They have no idea. Just like Remainers didn't vote for a single state EU/new EU settlement/two speed Europe/seven speed Europe/EU with benefits. They have no idea. The simple fact is people voted to leave the EU, and it was explained to them in literature and interviews by the leaders of both campaigns that it meant leaving the single market and ECJ. Now don't treat people as fools.


F1 2017 is here

Usually I give a brief look at how the new F1 season is looking but I'm a bit late this year!

We've already had two races in to the season. Vettel has won one, Hamilton the other. Both are leading the championship. It has already become clear that the Mercedes and Ferraris are equally matched, as are their two lead drivers. Whilst Bottas and Raikkonen are a little behind their lead drivers, it looks like the constructors championship will be extremely tight too!

Red Bull have been 30 to 40 seconds back in both races and a bit of a disappointment quite frankly. The reset in the regulations was supposed to be Adrian Newey's chance to catch up, but the car looks clean though under-developed where the Mercedes and Ferrari are the real deal. Maybe they will get there, but I suspect it will be too late to have a huge impact on the championship.

Williams are looking quite good, as are Toro Rosso, but Force India and Renault have quite a bit of catch up to do. The huge disappointment, yet again, is McLaren. The engine yet again is under powered, too thirsty and too unreliable. Alonso is putting a brave face on it, but he won't be there next year. I would not be surprised at all if he walked out mid-year. He has wasted a large amount of his career in non championship winning cars, and that is partly his fault for the way he treated management in his first stint at McLaren.

What about the new rules?

Good so far. The cars have the right shape, the tyres are back to being wide, the rear-wing lower again. It's like the last 19 years have not happened! Apart for the tail fin and the far too complicated wings, flips and flaps. Looking back to last year's car and they already look wrong, just like I felt when they were first introduced.

China showed that overtaking is possible but difficult. Just like it was without DRS. I guess DRS was invented when the rear wings were higher and are just less effective with the lower wings.

I'm liking it so far and the championship race ahead is going to be very exciting. This could be a classic season.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Theresa May's Brexit speech

Today the Prime Minister gave a reasonably detailed view of the Government's position for Brexit.

I have one thing to say: Wow. Just Wow.

The speech ticked every box. It was ambitious but realistic, sound and measured, detailed but not too detailed. It confirmed what I have been saying for a long time, we'll be out of the single market, will have control over our laws, be practically out of the customs union, and have a comprehensive free trade deal.

She even did enough to say that we are prepared to walk away : "no deal is better than a bad deal" and made a little threat about what we can withdraw from.

I was immensely proud and pleased.

Afterwards I started thinking about the post Brexit world and the contrast to what we've had for all of my life.

Imagine not having those horrendous EU summits every few months where we get ganged up on, where we are forced to swallow some horrible new centralisation. Let's forget all those treaties transferring more powers to the EU. Let's forget all the bashing about taking away our rebate. Let's forget having to choose between a bunch of nobodies to run the most powerful bodies, and then have our choices ignored. Let's ignore all the directives. Let's forget about the wasteful French farmers. Let's forget the ratchet driving towards ever closer union.

Let's think of the new trade deals we can do. Let's think of the laws we can enact, the freedoms we can have again. Let's privatise the railways in the way we want. Let's become the embodiment of free trade. Let's import from Africa with no import tariffs helping to reduce poverty. Let us be free.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Theresa May after 6 months verdict

It's now six months since Theresa May became Prime Minister. It has been a time of deep thinking about the EU and a few nuggets of policy about grammar schools and the 'shared society'.

On the EU I think Mrs May has just about got it right. She gave away the broad brush of the deal we will have in her first speech to the Tory conference, control over our borders, control over our laws, and the best trade deal we can do. That means outside the single market, outside the customs union and withe a wide ranging free trade agreement.

In the 6 months since, we've been told that she doesn't know what she wants, she doesn't know how to do it, there's no plan, and that we can have a soft/hard/clean/dirty/scottish/red/white/blue/grey Brexit. She did not want a commentary, and she's just had speculation.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the speech which sets out the direction. It has been widely trailed as saying that we'll be outside the single market, customs union etc....just like she has said all along. I believe she will go as far as saying it but implying it.

She wants to show that Britain is willing to walk away completely from the EU. This is something David Cameron should have done, but he didn't and so he got a crap deal. Mrs May will show we are willing to walk away and the EU will really start to believe it. The EU will then have to look at the numbers and know that it really needs to have a good relationship with Britain. Only then can we make a good deal. Mrs May is playing this just right.

It now looks like we may get the right deal for Britain. Hurray.

On Mrs May's other policies, I think it is too early to say. I like the idea of more grammar schools but it is not a big issue for most people. I like the 'shared society' idea, but then I liked the 'big society', let's see if it turns into something more concrete. I wish she had someone a bit more effective for Prisons, I think Liz Truss is out of her depth. I liked the way Michael Gove was driving reform, and hope someone will pick this up.

I do like the way that she is running the government, A lot less spin, and just getting on with it.

Let's see the speech tomorrow, I hope it will clarify most of Brexit.


Monday, 2 January 2017

Reflections on 2016

2016 will go down as a bit of a crazy year. For some people it will be the worst of years, and for some it will be best of years. For me, it's a bit of both.

First the negative.

There were a lot of celebrity deaths this year. The BBC Radio 4 programme "More or Less" looked into it a little and their conclusions were that maybe there's a lot of famous people who became celebrities along with mass TV ownership in the 60's and 70's, and these celebrities are now reaching the ages when they start to die off. If that is the case then we'll have to get used to this many celebrity deaths.

Of course, if you look at the people who have died there's quite a lot in their 80s and 90s who one could say had a good run, other's who have died earlier than they should have but had lives with drugs and alcohol, and others for which cancer took them too soon. For me, the saddest are Victoria Wood for the works we have now missed from her genius pen and Carrie Fisher who had put all the bad things in the past and was full of the joy of life.

The other negative was Donald Trump being elected as President. I still can't quite believe how someone so unsuitable for the job has landed it. After all the horrible things he said in the campaign to different groups, such as Mexicans, disabled and women he still managed to nail it where it mattered. It goes to show how unfavourable the US finds Hillary Clinton, that she wasn't able to beat him. Maybe we will be surprised and he won't turn out to be a disaster but I wouldn't bet any money on it!

Also we had the BBC losing Bake off to channel 4. Not a huge story, but for me it is a picture of 'Love productions' the independent company behind the baking tent show putting money ahead of a proven formula. I think they have killed the golden goose and it will fizzle out on Channel 4 without Mary, Mel & Sue. A similar thing could be said for the new Top Gear, it just wasn't as good without Jeremy, Richard and James. Camaraderie amongst presenters cannot be guaranteed.

For me, I was disappointed Lewis Hamilton was beaten to the F1 World Championship, not by Nico Rosberg but by uncharacteristic unreliability. I'm happy for Nico and I'm sure the new champ walked away because he knew he would never be able to do it again - it's best to leave asking 'what could have been'.

Now to the positives.

When David Cameron came back from the EU with barely any concessions to put to the British people I was extremely disappointed. I liked the ex-PM, and after hearing his Bloomberg speech in which he put forward a new manifesto for the EU, I thought he had it spot on. He watered it down for the 2015 manifesto, then watered it further for the negotiation and he came back with mush.

In my mind: 'If the EU is not ready to be more flexible to its second largest contributor of funds when the EU is undergoing problems in all areas then it's time we left.' I had already become deeply disillusioned by the EU project, but this was the icing on the Out cake.

I then became a fervent brexiteer. I think we can make a big success of being a beacon of free trade, and demonstrating that we can be a leading nation in the world again. I seriously think the EU is in danger of completely unravelling over the next few years. The Euro is a disaster, the Schengen agreement is showing to be similar after adding so many poorer nations, but there appears to be no appetite to fix it. For every problem the answer is more Europe.

I was disappointed with project fear, which thankfully has not happened - as I expected.

Overall, I'm really happy we have decided to leave and I think we will be proved right in the end, but it has been traumatic to the British psyche and I regret that.

This a positive for the Tory party, as the bearded wonder is still there guaranteeing the next Tory Government. It's bad for the country and disastrous for the Labour party which is now heading towards oblivion.

The Olympics were marvellous, and Team GB were amazing. I watch a lot of it this time and the cycling and gymnastics stood out for me. I loved it.

Roll on 2017.


2016 is over, here comes 2017

Every year I try to predict what will happen, I usually get around half of them right. I have a feeling that when I mark myself for 2016 I'll be lucky to get any predictions correct. What a year with so many surprises.

Ok, now to copy and paste last year's predictions, and see the marks:

  1. Lewis Hamilton will win the F1 World Championship again. 0 points
  2. Sebastien Vettel will be second in the F1 World Championship and will win more races. 0 points
  3. Nico Rosberg will leave Mercedes at the end of the year, and Raikkonen will retire. 0.5 points, Rosberg did leave!
  4. It will be Hilary Clinton vs Marco Rubio for the US presidency. 0.5 points, it was Hilary Clinton but I really though Trump would have been found out!
  5. Marco Rubio will win the presidency. 0 points.
  6. The EU referendum will happen this year with Remain winning by roughly 58% to 42%. 0 points, completely wrong.
  7. The Tories will beat Labour in the local elections by a small margin, with the Lib Dems coming back quite strongly in third. 0.5 point, Lib Dems came bac strongly but Labout just pipped the Tories.
  8. There will be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. 1 point
  9. Douglas Carswell will leave UKIP and stay independent. 0 points
  10. At least 2 MPs will defect from Labour. 0 points

In total that makes 2.5 points which is pretty pathetic compared to last years' 6.75 points, but given the year we've had I'd take it!

Which makes me come to this year's predictions. Let's see how I fair this year.

  1. Lewis Hamilton will regain the F1 World Championship
  2. Daniel Ricciardo will be second in the F1 World Championship and it will get tense with Max Verstappen who'll come third.
  3. Ferrari will fall further into disarray, with Vettel and Raikonnen leaving at the end of the year.
  4. Francois Fillon will beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French Presidency, Emmanuel Macron will be pipped in the previous round.
  5. Angela Merkel will remain German Chancellor
  6. There will be another Eurozone crisis following Greece intransigence.
  7. Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March as predicted by the Prime Minister
  8. A rough outline of Brexit will be presented. Not a member of the Single Market, a free trade agreement on goods, no free movement of peoples and a sector-by-sector membership of the customs union (wheich we'll not get).
  9. The parties will stay roughly where they are in the polls, Tories 40%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 10%, UKIP 9%.
  10. 2 more Labour MPs will either defect or resign.
  11. In the Copeland By-Election Labour will narrowly beat the Tories, by less than 2000 votes. UKIP will be a distant third.