Post Election

Time to reflect on the UK’s Election or what might become known as Theresa May’s disaster.

Some of this is extracted from a Goodreads forum discussion.

First turnout.

  • Although pleasing the turnout went up 3% since 2015 we still ended up with only 69% bothering to vote or deciding to vote. i.e. nearly 1/3 of electorate did not care or could not decide.
  • 53 to 48% on UK Brexit out on turnout of 72% of which 62% in Scotland voted to remain in EU and 60% in London did the same. EU vote also included Gibraltar
    55 to 45% on Scotland to stay in UK on 84.5% of eligible Scottish voters – no one else got a say
  • 2015 General election 66.4% turnout with wide variation dependent on constituency. The Conservatives won 36% of that which gave them overall majority of 12 seats in House of Commons

May as P.M

IMHO May got exactly what she deserved. 3 unbelievably bad decisions in under 12 months:

  1. No general election after becoming p.m and failing to seek support across parties for Brexit process after referendum and Cameron’s resignation
  2. Triggering Brexit process but not having election whilst clearly knowing there was a 2 year timetable
  3. Changing mind and having election – again this could have been agreed with other parties based on the Brexit timetable – i.e. the alleged reason of a stable government to agree deal on the timeline

If anything proves that May is not fit to be P.M it should be the above – as if her record as an appalling Home Secretary was any justification for making her leader. I think that was the anyone but Boris Johnson/Michael Gove vote in action. Luckily I was away for a few weeks of the general election campaign but seldom have I seen such a disastrous rabble as the Conservative attempt – again totally controlled by May’s cohorts, at least some of them have had the dignity to resign. Contrast with Scottish campaign run by Scottish Conservatives 1 MP to 13 is staggering.

Now what – the country will have to carry on with May (or have 4 weeks of leadership election) for a period but expect an autumn election – no party can govern without a more formalised agreement as 2010-15 showed – at least Gov was stable – unlike Lib-Lab pact of 70’s. Despite Progressive Alliance discussion Labour would need DUP as well as all the other parties to pass any legislation unless they expect Conservatives to vote for their policies – nationalise railways for example?

Labour

Kudos to Corbyn although losing an election is a funny way of claiming victory. The big losers are SNP but are still the majority in Scotland. My only comment there is if your campaign is entirely based on someone who is not standing i.e. Nicola Sturgeon then don’t be surprised if it get personal. Ditto for heresa May but at least she was standing in her constituency. Labour MPs after this election have 10 less than Labour won under Neil Kinnock in 1987. He resigned as it was seen as a disastrous result. Some Labour commentators have managed to mention the fact that Labour lost.

Some realism at last. To win an outright majority Labour need’s at least another 70 seats. To have a decent majority they need more like another 100. Even with a complete reversal in Scotland (30 back from SNP) a dozen from Wales and no resurgence in Lib Dems, somehow they need another 50 current Conservative seats.

Forecast

If there is another election will Conservatives campaign as badly? Will young turnout (thought to be Labour) be as high will places like Kensington stay with current result. My view:

  • Lib Dems will gain again impact on both Labaour and Conservative but only small number maybe another 5-8
  • Labour will hold more easily in North but lose in South end up same
  • Conservatives will regain Southern losts
  • SNP will again slip back to Labour but might re-gain Conservative wins.
  • Net result – same again but might just give Conservatives 8 seats net gain for overall majority.

I cannot see an alternate candidate for P.M – yes I know people talk about Boris but he does not have enough backing. There is no obvious alternate leader in waiting. I think May will survive for a few months, then again I didn’t expect Cameron to resign and her to become P.M. Let alone to blow the election – I had a bet for 50+ majority. This time I won’t put money on it and a lot can happen between now and then

The BBC’s poll of polls tracker actually showed it. The trend for Labour was up just as it had been for the referendum out vote and the 2015 election Conservative win. What Theresa would give for Cameron’s result now.

Tax

One of the problems of most electorates and the promise of jam tomorrow is misunderstanding how the tax system works and what can really be obtained by raising taxes. The Lib-Dem manifesto was at least partly honest by stating that there needed to be a rise in basic taxation to generate the funds needed for higher spending without just adding to the debt. Remember our UK debt interest payments:

(paying the interest) the public debt amounted to around £43 billion (which is roughly 3% of GDP or 8% of UK government tax income)

This is roughly the same as the defence budget 2/3 of education spending and 1/3 of NHS. In other words this is a staggering amount of money, which is growing daily and current spending activity despite austerity is just adding to it. i.e. the governments since 2008 have made this worse.

If we want more money for these areas (or anything else) don’t treat public spending as a never ending credit card. The difficult austerity measures of 2010-15 were designed to stop increasing this borrowing and failed. The Labour party campaigned (somewhat successfully whilst still losing) for an end to austerity but unless tax intake goes up substantially the debt will rise as day to day borrowing increases i.e. we add to the debt.

It doesn’t mater what you borrow for (infrastructure, deficit, pay) it all adds up to debt – a failing of virtually every country in the world. It’s called living beyond our means – although in most of advanced world it is its not paying our bills. i.e. if we paid more tax privately or from business we could pay this off. Relying on GDP increase to increase taxation is not working.

The other issue on tax is the fallacy that higher earners are not paying their fair share. 25% of £100k a year is £25k. 25% of £20k is £4,000 – ignoring allowances and higher payments (First £11k free of tax for both and higher rate coming in at higher salary) the higher rate tax payer already pays £21k a year more for the same services. So the richer members of society (everyone that pays tax) already give subsidies to the lower paid. At the same time many richer members of society do not use those services e.g. private education and private health/social care.

The old tale of the taxpayers should always be born in mind – yes its glib. For 10 taxpayers substitute ten companies with corporation tax

10 drinkers in a bar who decide to settle their £100 weekly beer bill roughly the same way we pay our taxes. So, the first four men (the poorest) paid nothing; the fifth paid £1; the sixth £3; the seventh £7; the eighth £12; the ninth £18; and the 10th man, the richest, paid £59.

Then the barman decided to give them a £20 discount for being good customers. The group wanted to continue to pay the new £80 bill the same way as before. While the first four men still drank for free, the other six divided up the £20 windfall by following the progressive principle of the tax system. So the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing, making a 100 per cent saving; the sixth man paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33 per cent saving); the seventh man paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28 per cent saving); the eighth £9 instead of £12 (a 25 per cent saving); and the ninth £14 instead of £18 (a 22 per cent saving). The 10th man paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16 per cent saving).

The men then began to compare their savings. “I only got £1 out of the £20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the 10th man, “but he got £10 – the wealthy get all the breaks!” “Wait a minute,” said the first four men, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new system exploits the poor.” So the other nine men surrounded the 10th and beat him up. The next week he didn’t show for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when they came to pay, they discovered they didn’t have enough money between them to pay even half the bill.

Inflation

Unless we as a society do some fundamental re-thinking of tax income we are in danger of the rich man/company walking away. The amount of money raised by just increasing higher rates of tax is small because there are so few. This is always going to result in less income as the ridiculous 90% tax applied in the 70s demonstrated. The same applies to rich companies – i.e. those that generate sufficient profits or dividends. If the are publicly owned then those dividends turn into investment income for our pensions – yes the senior executives pay themselves extortionate amounts. The richest companies in the world (Apple etc.) employ hundreds of people to move money around to avoid whichever country tries to get more of the income even under a current system. If you make it more expensive for them to trade the directors will be duty bound (and financially incentivised) to try a way to avoid it.  Taking their jobs (from Apple store assistants to financial traders) with them.

By the way increasing wages in any organisation increases costs unless there is a corresponding increase in productivity. Cost = goods / services price rise or cost of service for public sector. Thus either price inflation or more tax required issue. Pay seems to come first, productivity a long way behind, if ever.  Have we learned nothing from the high inflation and high interest rates of the 70s and 80s. Of course the young have an excuse. They were promised in Labour’s manifesto free University education, higher wages, and the old more spending on welfare and social care. They are the now generation and have grown up with exceptionally low inflation. This is not a Conservative manifesto it is baic economics. We as a population are childish and naive. We want something for nothing. We all want jam tomorrow. The current political situation is a reflection of lack of honesty from politicians of all parties who have failed to address the major issues of national income and national debt. If we want good health care and good social care then it has to be paid for. That means tax not borrowing. The trident row is another good example, Whatever the merits of a nuclear deterrent the cost argument is farcical. Trident cost is £100bn for whole life i.e. less than the cost of one year’s NHS spending.

I sometimes think the entire population is unable to understand basic mathematics in particular what a percentage is i.e. the tax take example above.  If we really want to sort out public finances.Institue of Financial Studies produced this in 2015. Suggested reading

And a quote from that document my emphasis – “Of the big three taxes:
  • a 1 percentage point rise in all rates of income tax would raise £5.5 billion;
  • a 1 percentage point rise in all employee and self-employed National Insurance
  • contribution (NIC) rates would raise £4.9 billion;
  • a 1 percentage point rise in the main rate of VAT would raise £5.2 billion.
 If we want £10bn more for the NHS per year we need 2% on basic rate and we will all have less to spend.

 

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Long Distance Travel

I thought I would ruminate on the /Cynicism On joy \Cynicism off, of the experience of long distance holidaying. This is one of those long-standing and building rants that has turned what used to be a mildly irritating, but ultimately fulfilling activity, into a nightmare of tiredness and bureaucracy. As an example I will use my recent experience of traveling to the lovely country of Thailand for a holiday.

For the purposes of this exercise I will also skip over the endless search through holiday company web sites for a suitable break meeting certain criteria although I am convinced that not one employee or web designer of these holiday sites has actually used the system for their own break.

I could wax lyrically about the joys of on-line check in and seat allocation on Emirates but I want the blog to be shorter than the actual holiday. Suffice to say that as per holiday shopping sites someone needs to be hired who actually knows how ordinary people use the system. So I can change my seat allocated (no choice at booking) up to an unknown time before for a fee, undisclosed. At on-line check-in 48 hrs before the flight I can then change my seat (and accompanying passengers on same booking) to whatever seats are available, zero in my case, because no one else has tried to change this. The system may be an improvement on first come first served at the airport check-in desk but ease of use is not obvious. We then have the boarding pass fiasco. Email, printed out, phone display if security have not stolen your phone, or all three then on baggage drop off – where you effectively check-in anyway, we got new seats and boarding passes. But I’m jumping ahead.

At this stage we have a holiday booked and have on-line checked in. Now we come to the great how do we get to the airport and what time do we go. Long-haul advice is 3 hours before. Presuming the M3 is not closed, (see way back) for the 18 months of roadworks, that have so far lasted 30 months and are still not finished. The airport, Heathrow is within driving distance, for taxi or car, we can set off. We live just over thirty miles from the airport so we had a taxi (cheaper than parking) or train – add 2 hrs plus need to get to train station.)

18:00 Zulu or GMT – Taxi arrives

This arrived on time unlike last holiday. Due to the planets being aligned and a following wind it only took fifty minutes to travel the 30 miles despite 19 miles of 50 mph roadwork restrictions. I mean single lane roads have 60 why 50 in one way coned slightly narrower motorway with no one working – a regular occurrence which is why 18 month project has so far taken 30. Still at least motorway is open.

18:50 Z – Arrive Heathrow Terminal 3.

Baggage drop off is not open for our flight until 3 hrs before even though we are told to arrive 3 hours before! Still it’s only a few minutes to wait in the queue (line for Americans). We now have the check-in which is not a check-in but still checks passport and tickets. Get new boarding passes.

Go through airport security – main reason we are told it takes hours and to arrive early. Under five minutes (blimey I thought I was dreaming but I can strip and get Kindle, iPad and phone out of bag and into trays pretty quickly) including removing every metallic object on me (except fillings) including shoes, wallet, change, belt. Alarm still goes off – go through body-scanner and hand swipe. Redress

19:20 Z – Departure Hall

What used to be a series of seats is now the Heathrow duty free shopping experience. Every price is more than it cost to get delivered from Amazon. What used to be good deals on booze and fags is now some mecca to madness. We decide to get something to eat to wait the two hrs we have spare till boarding. Food ok drinks over-priced – so much for duty free. Sit around or browsing shops complaining about poor value for money. We can check Amazon whilst in shop as comparison.

21:25 Z – Gate

Go to gate – pass through gate but it’s not the gate – show passport and boarding cards. Go through to boarding lounge. Sit in gate waiting for boarding zone to be called. Emirates ground staff call zone. Ignored by passengers who all rush to board. Then thankfully they get told to wait till their zone is called but they still stand in way. Board plane show boarding pass again

22:00 Z – Scheduled flight time

Still boarding. Doors close 22:15 push back and take off at 22:30

04:30 Z – 08:30 Dubai or Delta time – Arrive Dubai

Disembark – Transit passengers go through security. We’ve just come off a plane for xxxx sake! Repeat process of security at Heathrow but add in pat down by bored security guard. Wait 3 hrs – more non-shopping look at these bargains before repeat of boarding process/fiasco as before. Push back engine start almost on time. Sit on tarmac for 1hr due to air display for Dubai National Day. Clearly not heard of air traffic control

16:00 Z – 23:00 Thailand or Gulf time – Arrive Thailand Phuket

18:30 Z – Leave airport.

Thai immigration – check passport – has 4 planes arrive yet puts only 3 immigration staff on but 3 supervisors who watch. 2 hrs in immigration queue. Get personal transfer car to resort. Pouring down with rain – this is supposed to be dry season! Stopped by Thai police who check our passports – again.

19:45 Z – 02:30 Thailand Time – Arrive in hotel room

Yes we are on holiday!

Fun, good food, lovely beaches, very nice people – not in immigration service. Half way through transfer hotels.img_0107p1030244 img_0165

On-line check-in – same problem with seats can’t print boarding passes over hotel Wi-Fi by pool.

22:00 Z – 05:00 Day of departure

Personal transfer pick up and leave for airport – told over one hour actual 45 mins on empty (except one street’s prostitutes) roads

22:45 Z – 05:45 Check in

Can’t as more than 3 hrs before but need to go through terminal baggage security first. Suitcases open for lots of passengers. Wife gets stuck other side as something in check-in baggage needs to be taken out, wait 15 minutes, seats allocated and baggage drop off by friendly staff.

Security passport and boarding cards – clothes off, scanned clothes back on – not a lot of shopping, have coffee in 28c heat – lovely – do we have to leave?

Wait till boarding same process / fiasco as before. Take-off 20 mins late

+ 6:30 hrs – Arrive Dubai – as above yes including passport and security check for transit – joys of internal train to different terminal.

+ 2:30 hrs – Board for Heathrow

As above, only more gates and called into first gate area by zone where we all then mix then called by zone again fighting past the passengers who ignore the 3 language announcement of which zone is boarding. Also not the one piece of hand luggage allowed. Instead carrying 2 carry-ons plus large handbag and large bag of shopping bargains who wants to board so they can steal all the overhead compartment space. Advice to airlines, get passengers to demonstrate overhead capability with carry-on luggage or just carried-on rather than wheeled across my feet weighing more than my checked-in bag

Push back on time engine start, sit wait 20 minutes, move forward to gate and shut down – sick passenger has to be off loaded. One hour later push back and take off.

21:15 Z – Land London

Passport and Immigration – wife’s new passport does not get through electronic scan so have to wait for her as she re-queues for manual check. My bag in baggage hall – wait 30 mins for wife’s bag.

Get into arrivals – where they filmed Love Actually scene – no taxi driver. – No message on phone. Call taxi firm get voicemail. Wait then note more drivers have arrived find taxi driver who has just got there. He grumpily leads way to car discussing on phone other job which continues in car. Does not appear to be regular taxi firm – outsourced?

Set off – M3 closed for bridge works on project so have to take alternate route – I mean, all they have been doing is supposedly allowing the hard shoulder (as per M42) to be used as peak times. This has saved cost of adding proper lanes according to Highways Agency. Still great project if and when it gets finished. Whilst on holiday they have started to close motorway every night so that can work without traffic – progress – none visible

23:10 Z – Arrive home – why did we go on holiday?

Following day – what time is it why am I so tired do I have to go to work?

Re-Moaners and Trump’eters

Another few weeks drift past and yet the same issues which seem to have been in the news all year, remain.

The US never-ending election still has over 3 weeks to run and just when you think the behaviour and approach of both camps can’t get any worse they manage to achieve it. If it’s not sexual abuse allegations it’s more leaked emails. I pity the American voter. I thought our choice this side of the Atlantic was pretty bad but the candidates there look appalling.

I watched the clip of Gary Johnson who is apparently also standing as a Libertarian Party candidate – I mean really? Over five years into a civil war in Syria and this man who wants to be President of the most powerful nation on earth does not know what Aleppo is?

At least Trump and Clinton have managed to answer some questions on the subject. It’s not unusual for foreign affairs (not the sexual kind) to play little part in a US election, but one might have expected that confrontations with Russia over Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, to have some impact. Likewise relations with China over the Spratley Islands rather than ridiculous notions of simplistic arguments over manufacturing jobs in the US should have some policy. It remains completely unreported what either candidate’s plans for North Korea are. Better not ask Trump but his rhetoric can’t be worse than the accusations from US Security services that NK was behind the Sony attack.

What still amazes many commentators is that Trump is still popular with large swathes of the US electorate despite all the gaffes. It demonstrates how unpopular Clinton is but more importantly how upset many American voters are with the established political class which Clinton embodies.  Here we have some of the parallels with the UK EU debate despite the referendum.

Although there is an element of the moaning bad loser side in some of the pronouncements from what was the remain side, many did set out the risks to the economy an no-vote would bring. Several senior economists have stated that the currency changes that we have seen since end of June were a long overdue correction to Sterling’s position just exasperated by the vote for exit and on-going uncertainty of what that means. In the percentages shown everything is referred to the currency position post 23rd June, failing as usual to mention that Sterling’s value had risen significantly in the lead up to the vote.

Euro over 5 years from here shows a different story than the headlines might have you believe on 19th Oct 2011 the exchange rate was 1.14 and it closed on 14th Oct 2016 at 1.11. In particular, the rise of the pound in 2015 and the lead up to the vote is dramatic. US Dollar to Sterling is a significant fall over the same period 1.57 to 1.21 and the comments on reserve currencies should be concerning, but at the same time interest rates have been signaled upwards in the US and stay the same or lower in the UK which does not help Sterling investors. By the way Euro to US Dollar has gone down from 1.37 to 1.11 in the same time period.

I have picked an arbitrary period but some of us can remember much better and worse Pound to Dollar rates. It reached a low of 1.05 in February 1985 after the ERM fiasco and was as high as 2.11 in November 2007 as sub-prime crashed the dollar

What do we learn from that brief history- currencies fluctuate – sometimes a lot – thousands of traders around the world make money doing that.

Final discussion for today is on Credit Rating Agencies and their comments – yes the same folks that branded those sub-prime investment funds as AAA, are doing all their warnings on where the pound might go next. All the discussion is based on what the UK might do as if what might happen in the Euro (How is Greece by the way and Italy, Portugal, Spain?) will have no impact. Remember Euro zone and other EU exports to the UK, exceed UK Exports to the EU – we both have a lot to lose if we are stupid and put in unnecessary tariffs.  World trade will be damaged if Trump introduced tariffs to protect American jobs and cancels NAFTA. Likewise what will be the impact on the dollar if Trump wins and implements that piece of rhetoric.

Guess what the pound might go up or down or sideways.  Can we moan about currency traders instead?

London’s Sights

Had a great day on Wednesday doing a river dinner cruise on the Thames. This was all to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday – where did those year’s go?

This trip allowed a wonderful perspective on the cityscape. I’ve included some photos below, but it also allows me a link back to books. The covers on my Demise series of spy thrillers: An Agent’s Demise, An Agent’s Rise and, in production, An An Agent’s Prize, use one of the buildings. We had an excellent view of the HQ of the Secret Intelligence Service from the river.

Some wonderful sights to be seen on a lovely evening after the weather cleared

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The Charity Run

Aside

As a complete change from writing and commentary, I have been roped into a marathon relay in aid of my work’s featured charity KidsCo in London. Not sure if the legs will make it as it is the best part of twenty years since I last did any proper running. Anyway it’s a great cause and if you want to you can donate here –KidsCo

The West Lothian Question

I have refrained from blogging about the Scottish Independence referendum on the grounds that anything an English person living in England says on the subject will be ignored or treated as either patronising or irrelevant and probably both. Following last night’s debate, between Alex Salmond First Minister, SNP and leader of the campaign for a Yes vote and Alastair Darling former Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the campaign for a No vote, I felt it was high time I did write something.

Firstly, I am annoyed that I don’t have a vote. There was an act of Union between Scotland and England, Wales and then Ireland and yet only one part of the union is getting a say on the subject as to whether it should continue. This does not seem to be democratic to me. Of course there is no telling what the voting in the rest of the United Kingdom might deliver. Perhaps they might vote Yes!

Secondly, the talk is that if there is a No vote (current poll prediction is 56% for No), Scotland will be offered further devolved powers. In this scenario what about England? We have devolved powers from Westminster to the Northern Irish and Welsh Assemblies and a greater range of devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament. Scotland has always had it’s own legal system for example. Despite current devolved powers Scottish (and Welsh and Northern Irish) MPs and Peers have continued to vote in Parliament on matters that are devolved to the individual nations and principalities. This is the famous West Lothian question and has not been addressed by any of the political parties. As part of any further devolution settlement can we at least address this undemocratic system. As all MPs represent geographical constituencies having no votes on particular subject like NHS in England would only be fair in exchange for devolved powers. Given the ability of any TV programme to count and handle millions of votes in a TV talent contest in a few broadcast minutes it seems inconceivable that our elected representatives cannot agree out of 650 MPs who can vote on any given subject.

Thirdly, demographics matter and one of the comments I heard today was on the relative voting power of London and Scotland. London has 73 constituencies serving a population of 6.5 million living there, whilst Scotland has 59 MPs for 5.3 million. This is out of 650 MPs. The ratio is approximately the same 89,000 eligible voters per MP. Yet London MPs cannot vote on devolved matters but 59 Scottish MPs do when it does not impact their own constituents.

Relative economies are interesting as well. London as 22% of the UKs GDP of $2.5 Trillion dollars (approx $550 billion). Scotland has $214 billion of that. London’s share of the UK minus Scotland would therefore go up to nearly 24% and the runt of the UK would drop to $2.3 Trillion. These figure are I’m sure disputed by the SNP and Yes campaign.

In terms of a democratic and economic deficit it is London that is being ignored and on a wider scale England. Scotland has no prescription charges (nor does Wales) and no University tuition fees for residents. According to the ONS here, Scotland receives £10,152 per head of population of Public Sector spending compared to England’s £8,529. Again who has a democratic and economic deficit? It is not Scotland.

In the end as with all independence movements around the world the vote (at least there is one) will be down to the Scottish voters who turn out and tick a Yes or No vote. In the last Scottish Parliament election in 2011 turnout was 50.4%. I would hope that more than half of the Scottish residents on the electoral role would bother to vote in this referendum, after all the SNP has changed voting rules to allow persons over the age of 16 to vote. Let’s say that the turnout is 100% of the 4 million on the electoral roll; therefore, each campaign needs a minimum of 2,000,001 votes to win. Out of nearly 64 million people in the UK it’s future could be decided by less than 3.2% of the population. How’s that for democracy?

New Books – Philip G Henley

Phenweb Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of two new books by

Philip G Henley

Both available now on Amazon

An Agent’s Rise is the sequel to An Agent’s Demise

Cover Plain Front 300

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Observers Series Part One – The World of Fives is the first in a new science fiction series. Please also see The Interplanetary Geographic Service

World of Fives cover

Available at

Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

“The Persuasive Man” Is Nearly Ready

Just been adding the finishing touches to The Persuasive Man which will be my third book.  I have to register the ISBN and then its all go.  It will only come out on Kindle at first.  At the moment Paperback or hardback sales do not justify taking the time, effort, or cost to create physical versions, although I must confess to liking to have the physical book in my hand, makes it seem real more than an eBook.

I just need a good description for the blurb then I can publish

The Persuasive Man cover