ELECTION 2017

EU DIRTY TRICKS – WE COULD WALK AWAY!!

True to form, the British Bolshevik Corporation has enthusiastically embraced with almost unbridled glee, the fake news coming out of Brussels on what was allegedly said at the PM’s dinner last week at Downing Street for Mr Juncker, the President of the European Commission .

However, all credit to Mrs May who has chosen to react in a calm and dignified manner to the BBC’s almost hysterical news reports, and their attempt to influence minds during this vital campaign. Whatever happened to fair and objective reporting??

Fake or real news, Mrs May can be trusted to stick to her guns by entering the discussions on Brexit with the power brokers of the EU in a cordial but determined effort to get a comprehensive free trade agreement with Europe, as much in their interests as well as ours, and to guarantee the future of both EU and British citizens living and working in each other’s countries.

It will quickly become apparent whether the strategy to be adopted by the EU negotiators at the Brexit talks is to be constructive and whether they are honestly looking for an outcome fair to all. Anything less will strengthen the hand of those of us who firmly believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for Britain. 

In the past week there has been a perceived shift by the principle EU power brokers to a more aggressive hard ball position. Should the other 27 EU nations prove to be deliberately obstructive and obtuse in the talks, little time should be wasted in giving them verbal notice that we intend to walk away unless they change their tune.

In the meantime, current polls in Scotland put the Unionist parties on track to regain some 13/14 seats from the dominant SNP, the Conservatives taking 10/11. This really would be one in the eye for Mrs Sturgeon who could then no longer claim she has a mandate to hold a 2nd Independence referendum. Bombaychatterbox might be really sorry to see one SNP member at Westminster lose his seat, as he doesn’t know anyone else who can frequently speak rubbish on TV for a full 5 minutes without taking a single breath! Except some others in the same party, that is.

Pending the release of the Conservative election manifesto, Mrs May has committed to not raising taxes as a general principle of Tory policy, and that in particular there will be no increase in VAT. Excellent news, but instead, why doesn’t the Government  consider an actual reduction in VAT?

Such a step would provide a stimulus to the UK economy in the run up to Brexit, resulting in higher consumer demand and extra jobs. A reduction from 20% to 10% in housing renovation and repair, for example, could provide a £7Bn stimulus to the wider UK economy in the short to medium term.

The pressing issue of Social Care, and how to pay for it, is also under scrutiny by the Government. Valuable work on this critical topic has been done by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, and others. Much of the research has been based on the release of equity in peoples’ homes to pay for long term care. However, it is reckoned that some 30% of the population will need this at some point in their lives. Not all of these people will own their own homes.

Is it too much to expect the much vaunted insurance and financial sectors in the City to find a social conscience? Its not asking much of them. Why don’t they come up with an alternative care insurance plan which Government could implement in the medium term? Of course, insurance cover would need to be arranged on the basis of the individual paying say, 70% costs by way of regular premiums going into a scheme from an early age, and the Government doing its part in say, providing 30%. If it happens in other countries, why cant we find the means here?                                                                       

Bombaychatterbox has argued previously that the Chancellor should now sell off the public stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland. The sale of this disaster according to some estimates, would bring in some £20Bn. Rather than see all the proceeds being sunk into the NHS, part could be used to initially fund such a care insurance scheme, with the rest going towards establishing a “State Mortgage Lending Corporation’.

The advantage with the latter is that the funds raised would remain in the lending sector and could be utilised by first time borrowers and others to secure housing loans on softer terms than they could from a High Street lender. Developers could also be considered for loans on preferred terms to build social housing.

No doubt the ruling Conservatives will prioritise in their manifesto what they see as electorally attractive. However, I for one will be most disappointed if they do not address, and preferably ban, the disgrace of zero-hour contracts. No 21st century worker should be subjected to this form of employer domination, and from what we hear, sometimes intimidation.

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THE SILK KING =

THE ENDURING MYSTERY 

This Easter Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the mysterious disappearance of the great Jim Thompson (James Harrison Wilson Thompson – born 21 March 1906) who was the name behind the Thai silk industry in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The event has gone almost unnoticed except by those who have always been fascinated by the abrupt manner of his vanishing without trace on 26 March 1967 from the Cameron Highlands, a hill station which is in Pahang, the biggest state on the Malay Peninsula. 

Thompson, the son of a prominent Delaware family, Princeton graduate and architectural student at the University of Pennsylvania, wartime operative in the OSS, which was the forerunner of the CIA, disappeared while going for a walk alone after lunch. He was last sighted at around 4pm when he briefly visited the Lutheran mission bungalow, but after that he vanished completely without trace, despite an extensive search.

The case immediately generated almost unprecedented intense worldwide media publicity and speculation. Most press reports maintained that he’d either been kidnapped or murdered, perhaps due to his wartime connections, had been eliminated by powerful business rivals, or had voluntarily gone elsewhere in Asia in a high powered attempt to help negotiate the end of the then raging Vietnam conflict.

Many years later, some bones were discovered at the hill resort, but no effort was made to link them to Thompson as they were found at a site far from where he was thought to have been on that fateful day.

Residing in Pahang and based a little further south of the Cameron Highlands until 1966, I’ve always been inclined to support many of my Malay and Chinese friends who took the view that Thompson had strayed too far off the road and had in fact been taken by a tiger. Indeed, there were unconfirmed reports at the time of the presence of such a beast in the area. Besides, tiger sightings in the state were not uncommon in those days and many of us knew the possible locations.

The mystery took on a further macabre dimension when Jim Thompson’s sister was brutally murdered in Chester County, PA, just a few months after his disappearance; this murder remains unsolved. However, investigators could find no provable link with her brother.

Despite predation, maybe one day whatever remains of Thompson will be found in the jungle proving that he simply could not find the way back to his bungalow after wandering off the beaten track?

TILLERSON – THE TOOTHLESS TIGER

THE G7 FAINTHEARTS –

For reasons of self-interest, the G7 foreign ministers refused to back UK Foreign Secretary Johnson’s proposed further sanctions against Russia for its complicity in the gas attack on innocent civilians last week in Syria. They have therefore denied the US Sec of State an important weapon with which to threaten the thug Putin on his mission today to Moscow. 

While Tillerson’s behind the scenes talks with Russian foreign minister Lavrov will no doubt be tough, the threat of added sanctions to an economy which is already under severe strain would have been crucial. In 2015 Russia was isolated with its economy in tatters. While a subsequent economic collapse was avoided, and oil prices rebounded somewhat, short term forecasts for the Russian economy remain dire. The ongoing Eastern Ukraine conflict and Western sanctions can only make the current economic situation worse. 

Unless oil prices plunge again, the IMF has forecast a return to growth. However, with oil and gas in 2015 accounting for some 44% of government revenues, the commodity price slump has hit hard with high inflation hurting families and government coffers taking a hit. The World Bank predicted that poverty rates were set to return to 2007 levels, threatening nearly ten years of gains.

According to The Times, Russia’s Reserve Fund had shrunk by two thirds since 2014 and was expected to run out by this year unless there was a ‘significant’ rise in oil prices. Once these reserves are fully drawn, the Russian government indicated that it may have to start drawing down from the National Wealth Fund to cover budget shortfalls. But this fund is meant to finance future pensions and investment projects.

It is apparent therefore that Putin can ill afford further stresses to his pro-market economic policies. Importantly, he has so far been able to avoid social unrest but this will not last forever. According to outside sources, nearly half of young people in Russia now look to the net and foreign reports for their daily dose of real news, not the fake stuff churned out by the Putin-controlled media.

As we all know, the West’s past policies in both Iraq and Libya can only be described as disastrous. So far our record in Syria has been far from inspiring. There is little doubt that the alternative to the Syrian tyrant Assad, as things now stand, is a radical Islamist regime. As unpalatable as it sounds, we may need to keep Assad on for the short term as his immediate overthrow would not be in anyone’s interest.

To avoid this chaotic scenario, let us hope that Tillerson tonight will manage to somehow engage Putin’s cooperation towards adopting a strategy on Syria which will at least lower the current bellicosity between the great powers. We might even dare to hope for something more. Could there still be a place for the old-fashioned stick AND carrot approach in international diplomacy?

MIDNIGHT 29 MARCH 2019

WE WILL STAND ON OUR OWN!

The 730 days to Brexit countdown begins today as Article 50 is triggered in Brussels. Its perhaps worth reminding ourselves that Britain’s exit from the EU need never have happened had the former PM Cameron come back from Brussels with just one or two concessions. Plainly, he thought his communication skills could win the referendum battle for his remain side without some meaningful movement on issues from other member states. Some maintain he didn’t try hard enough. Many in the UK were particularly unhappy over the free movement of peoples across our borders. The European Court of Justice’s supremacy in this country over certain matters also created much resentment.

Undoubtedly, the UK joining up to the original European free trade area was an excellent idea. However, over the past 40 years, this community of economic cooperation slowly morphed into a federalist structure reaching into many aspects of people’s lives in all member states. Not all interference was bad, but its overarching influence was seen to be increasingly dictatorial. People in the UK became ever more resentful of the not so faceless, non-elected bureaucrats in Brussels.

Despite the unending pessimistic drivel churned out by the BBC since the referendum result became known – not for nothing is it known to many as the British Bolshevik Corporation – there is a definite mood of optimism in the country that we have the right kind of leader in Mrs May who will deliver the best for Britain in the negotiations ahead. 

These should not be seen just as tough, as all these parrot-like commentators keep telling us, but also as sensible. The contents of the PM’s letter to Donald Tusk later today will be revealing on the likely tone of these negotiations, but in a gesture of goodwill and positivity, I hope Mrs May straight away will confirm her readiness to guarantee the future rights of the 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK.

The EU negotiators will also need to be sensible. It is surely impossible for them to go into the talks thinking they hold a stronger hand than we do. If so, there is little doubt that they will soon feel the heavy hand of German car and French wine exporters, to name but two.

Best of British, Mrs May!

WELL DONE RUTH DAVIDSON!

THE SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE LEADER PUTS ANDREW MARR IN HIS PLACE –

No one watching this morning’s Andrew Marr show on BBC1 could have been left in any doubt about this so called impartial commentator’s position on the Scottish Independence issue. 

Davidson put in a sterling and feisty performance against a truculent Marr who constantly interrupted her clear and spontaneous answers to his hostile grilling. He was simply not interested apparently in the majority public opinion in Scotland which undoubtedly is that we need another referendum like we need a hole in the head.

It is well known that Ms Davidson had to be dragged kicking and screaming across her own self-imposed red line some years ago on what is now known as Devo-max. This is roughly the devolution of the majority government powers from Westminster to Edinburgh, with the exception of defence and foreign affairs. 

However, that is in the past, and Ms Davidson’s insistence today on being heard in a hostile setting is tribute to her skill as a communicator. Of particular note was her message that the media generally in London should learn the difference between what the SNP want, and the very different views of the majority of Scots.

Anyone looking for a clear and unambiguous definition of the UK Government’s stand on the upcoming Brexit negotiations with the EU vis-a-vis Scotland, can do no better than listen to what Davidson insisted on saying despite Marr’s constant interruptions.

Its time Marr took a holiday!

THE BIZARRE SHAKING HANDS WITH THE UNBELIEVABLE

MRS MAY PLAYS IT RIGHT –

NOW FOR A FEW FINISHING TOUCHES – TO THE SNP!

Discard the headlines in most of today’s British press as many of us know that Mrs Sturgeon’s curve ball on a proposed Indyref2 next year had been expected by Downing Street for some time.

This blog has consistently argued that not only should Mrs May decide the timing of any second Scottish referendum, but that the deciding vote on such a vital issue as the split-up of the UK should be a minimum of 60%.

It is to be hoped that the Tory leadership in Scotland is actively pursuing this latter aspect with the Prime Minister. However, so far there has been a deafening silence from its Holyrood leader and others at the top. If it does come to a second referendum, for whatever reason, it should also be remembered that independent estimates put the number of Scots who voted Yes for independence two years ago, but who voted for Brexit, at some 400,000! These people obviously will be a prime target of any future No campaign. There is headway to be made from this group.

Sturgeon’s consistent attempts to turn Scotland into the poor man of Europe are both despicable and bizarre as she knows that the economic argument for independence will become even more unwinnable as the Brexit negotiations get underway. She is gambling on winning a referendum in the short term, largely based on the emotional vote of her core support, as opposed to the chances of losing it in say, two years down the road. By then it will have become crystal clear to everyone that in order to survive as an independent country, any Scottish government would have to either increase taxes dramatically, or seriously cut spending. 

This would obviously have major adverse effects on all our public services, in particular education and health. It must also be remembered that the Scottish deficit is £15Bn, 9.5% of our GDP compared to 4% for the UK as a whole. This figure is the highest in the EU and way ahead of Greece even at 7.2%!!

What about the currency? If a separate Scotland joined the EU, as current rules require, it would almost certainly have to use the Euro. As we all know, this has been a monumental disaster for the many countries in the EU with widely differing economic systems and problems. Does Sturgeon want Scotland to join the same sinking ship?

The SNP’s determination to ruin the country against all good economic sense is unbelievable. 

So Mrs May’s equal determination to play the long game in order to preserve the Union is much to be admired. In fact, her best course is to withhold approval for any second referendum until after the next Holyrood elections in 2021 when a proper mandate for this will be readily apparent or otherwise.

THE ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND –

SELL—–SELL—–SELL

We shall all be paying close attention tomorrow to see what’s in the Budget for us, but one measure we’re unlikely to see is the announcement that the Government has decided to sell the public stake in this disastrous entity called a bank.

As the latest results for this albatross outfit which is owned 72% by the British taxpayer makes such dismal reading, serious thought must now be given to selling off the disaster. In February its chief executive announced that he would take his £1m bonus for last year and that the bank will pay out total bonuses of £343M!

This is despite racking up its ninth year of losses, some £7bn! We are told that the so called bank will return to the black next year despite potentially high cost legal claims by the US Dept of Justice. There will also have to be severe cost-cutting, job losses and branch closures. In view of RBS’s track record, why should we believe that it will turn the corner by 2018? What other unanticipated disasters may be looming? The total losses made by RBS since 2008 amount to a staggering £58bn!

There have been previous calls to sell off the public stake in RBS which according to some estimates would bring in £20bn. It has also been suggested that this money should go to help the NHS or to help buffer the impact of Brexit.

However, a more sensible course would be to use the £20bn raised from a sale to establish a ‘State Mortgage Lending Corporation’. The money would then remain in the lending sector and could be utilised by say, first time borrowers to secure loans for housing on better and possibly softer terms than they can currently obtain from a high street lender. Builders may also be able to obtain loans on easier conditions for low cost housing.

While it made good sense for the nation to bail RBS out of its misery in the 2008 financial crisis for the common good, now is the time to divest.

Think again Chancellor.