Thursday, November 28, 2013

London - a capital crime

Deutsche Bank describes Britain as “two nations” – an island of wealth within the M25 and a hinterland of poverty everywhere else.
This is the latest in a long line of pronouncements. The London Standard recently described London as “a world class city state attached to an Eastern European economy”.
Much of this is London-centric provincialism of the worst sort but, in so far as it’s true, it’s because the Great Wen is the seat of power and Londoners are so blind to life north of Watford they keep all the wealth and jobs for themselves.
Oliver Harvey, a Deutsche Bank economist, says economic output per person employed in London is roughly double the UK average; from 1997-2008 the difference in gross value added per person between London and the rest of the UK exploded from £10,000 to £18,000 and has remained roughly constant since then.
The biggest change, apparently, is that London is increasingly detached from the fortunes of the old industrial heartlands. The evidence also suggests that not only does London suffer less from recessions than the rest of the UK, it now tends to bounce back more quickly.
I'm not sure it's as bad as it appears. There are several reasons for this including the question of how you define London and, for that matter, a London business.
If KPMG does work in Germany, is the revenue generated allocated to London specifically or the UK in general? The answer is London because the Head Office is there but it is debatable if it should be credited to the London GVA account.
The fact is that London and the provinces are interdependent and it is misleading to suggest one could prosper without the other. 
More to the point, London may be doing well but much of its personal wealth is built on a wholly artificial house-price spiral which will one day kick people in the teeth (maybe when the Russians go broke); it's living costs are therefore exorbitant forcing up pay rates but resulting in lower standards of living; it is heavily dependent on migrant labour at exploitative, rock-bottom pay rates which create a downward spiral of poverty amid all this prosperity; and as the seat of Government, the centre for the media and the location of head offices, it is guilty of a self-congratulatory, self-justifying financial conspiracy against the rest of the country (no wonder the Scots want to escape). 
The answer is devolution of power, closure of most Government offices in London and their move to the provinces, no matter how much the civil servants kick and scream as did the BBC luvvies forced to move to Manchester.  
An example of the State bias towards London can be seen in the recent debate about arts funding. You will find London gets a vastly excessive subsidy at the expense of the provinces largely because the decision-makers prefer to go to the Opera in London than in Buxton.
The truth is that London-centric policies are denying the rest of the country an opportunity to compete.
A CBI study a few years ago showed State spending on rail transport in London was ten times per head the rate of spending in the provinces.
This simply reinforces the disparity between the capital and the rest, helping to create the vicious circle where it is perceived that the best facilities are in London and therefore sucking into the city all the talented people who would be happier, wealthier and wiser if they stayed well away from the M25.
We may be doomed to get HS2 but that is almost entirely for London's benefit – rich Londoners will be able to pay royal visits to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and still be back home in time to see the latest subsidised play at the laughably-named "national" theatre in London.
HS2 will also benefit London by spreading the commuter belt even further, allowing more poor saps to travel daily to the capital from the provinces to get to work.
It will suck more life out of reasonably prosperous cities like Birmingham but the CBI, city council etc short-sightedly think HS2 is a good idea because they would like the building work, the repair shops etc that it will bring.
Meanwhile the line is to arrive into Euston, that monstrous sixties carbuncle which is already jam-packed, instead of to St Pancras where you could easily change trains for Eurostar.
There is still no direct rail connection between the provinces and the Channel Tunnel even though we were promised such a thing long before the route was opened. Why is it assumed that provincials have no business heading to France or Belgium (and vice-versa)?
Meanwhile look at the scandal over a new "London airport". No doubt it will end up at Heathrow or, if not, at Boris Island.
Why is there any need for another London airport at all when the regional airports (Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, even Luton) could be expanded to deal with any genuine capacity demand perfectly easily?
This would spread prosperity around the country, it would be cheaper to achieve and less disruptive for Londoners. Yet the attitude seems to be – as always – that if it isn't in London it doesn't really exist.
London is guilty of creating a brain drain from the provinces as a result of this vicious circle. All major investment is London-centric (hell, even the blasted Olympics went to London; when Birmingham bid for them a few years ago, nobody outside the region had a good word to say for it – why? For that matter, why is the national football stadium in London?).
All this investment in London encourages businesses to headquarter there. That sucks in talented people. That, in turn, requires more state investment and so it goes on.
The regions' death spiral has to be broken but that would cost London money, jobs etc and as all the decision-makers are in London, it will never happen. Look at how little money Michael Heseltine has managed to wring out of the treasury for the Local Enterprise Partnerships as an example of the way London dominates and refuses to release any of the reins of power.
There is a chance that in the near future the Palace of Westminster will have to close for refurbishment and MPs will be obliged to meet elsewhere. It would be instructive to force them to meet in the provinces, away from London, and take the civil service with them. If that happened, you would suddenly see a boost in state spending in the area chosen as the seat of parliament because suddenly the people in power would be forced to look at the world from a different perspective.
The poverty in many old towns and cities, the joblessness, the lack of economic growth and the drain on the State that this represents (through benefits etc) are almost entirely due to the London-centric attitude of too many influential people in this country (petty London provincialism, even among exiled Scots, Brummies, Scousers etc).
A balanced economy requires a balanced attitude to London but that would require a massive withdrawal of public investment in the capital. This would be politically unacceptable in London because the place is so crowded already the voters would not put up with it.
Yet it is all an illusion: the City creates money out of thin air and, when it disappears, the provincial taxpayer has to bail out the banks while Londoners continue to receive their eye-watering bonuses while house prices are utterly absurd because London is now the money-laundering capital of the world, welcoming Russian crooks with suitcases full of cash stolen from a country which is in irreversible financial decline.
Pay rates may be lower in the provinces but if you judged the question by standard of living and one of Dave's happiness indexes, I suspect you would find a different answer.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Brussels' useful idiots

Do the BBC and the CBI seriously think free trade between Britain and the European Union would cease if this country withdrew from the super-state?
This week Britain’s bosses’ organisation has been issuing dire warnings about the (completely invented) number of jobs that would disappear if we voted to leave the EU.
Then the BBC treated us to the not-unreasonable comments of Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn saying the company would have to “reconsider” its investments in Britain if we left the EU.
All he said was: "If anything has to change, we [would] need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future."
Of course they would.
That does not mean they would close down, shut up shop and move to Hungary as the BBC implies.

What Mr Ghosn and any other sensible industrialist would need to know is that Britain’s trade links with Europe were unharmed.
They may discover they have been improved, which would, we must assume, lead to a reconsideration leading to extra investment not less.

What the propagandists for the EU are trying to do – and not without success – is terrify us into believing that withdrawal would lead to the shut-down of UK plc as a trading nation.
It’s complete nonsense.
This country runs an estimated £70 billion-a-year trade deficit with the EU (and a £13 billion surplus with the rest of the world). That means we import from other European countries a whole lot more than we sell to them.
There is absolutely no chance that they would seek to impose some sort of trade barriers on the UK when they would have more to lose than we would.
Withdrawal from the EU does not mean an end to free trade. Nobody in their right mind wants that. If some sort of trade war were to ensure, the EU would be the biggest loser. So it’s just not going to happen.
The CBI, the BBC and all the other outlets for Brussels propaganda really should acknowledge this as a fact rather than trying to frighten people into submission.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Scottish independence - give us a vote

Now we are paying to keep Scotland in the UK with English jobs in Portsmouth, abandoning centuries of ship-building, I have signed the Downing Street petition calling for a UK-wide referendum on Scottish independence. We all have a right to vote on such a basic question.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Murder on the Brussels Express

Coming soon:  Murder, greed, betrayal, politics – and the Eurovision Song Contest.

A famous headmaster murdered. A petty criminal convicted.

Retired MP Acton Trussell is attacked, poisoned and kidnapped as he tries to uncover the truth behind the murder of the man who educated three Prime Ministers.

Spies. Russian Gangsters. Financial collapse. Quantitative easing. EU bureaucrats. Murder on the high-speed train to the European super-state.

And A Song For Europe – which England might actually win.



Playing politics with people's jobs

The man who should be most relieved the Grangemouth dispute has ended reasonably happily is the MP who was responsible for the whole fiasco – Tom Watson.
In the game of chicken between Unite and Ineos over the future of Grangemouth petrochemical plant, the trade union blinked first.
It’s caved in and the plant will stay open, preserving 800 jobs (for the time being at least).
What seems to have escaped notice is that the roots of all the trouble were not so much industrial as political – and at the centre of it all is Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East.
Grangemouth is in the Falkirk Parliamentary constituency. Mr Watson was at the centre of Unite’s attempt to fix the process for the selection of a new Labour candidate for the seat in advance of the 2015 General Election.
In his capacity as the Labour Party’s General Election co-ordinator, Mr Watson was trying to engineer the selection of Karie Murphy.
Ms Murphy worked for Mr Watson.
Not only that but she is friends with, and he is a former flat-mate of, Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite.
Things fell apart when Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, complained of Mr McCluskey: “Instead of defending what happened in Falkirk, Len McCluskey should be facing up to his responsibilities. He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there, he should be facing up to it.”
Mr Watson quit as Labour election supremo and Ms Murphy stood down as a potential candidate even though a subsequent internal inquiry cleared her of wrong-doing.
What has all this to do with Grangemouth? The answer is that the chairman of the Falkirk constituency party at the time of the scandal was Stevie Deans.
Mr Deans was also the Unite convener at Grangemouth. He was accused of signing up Unite members at Grangemouth to the local Falkirk Labour Party to secure Ms Murphy’s selection.
He may have been cleared by the Labour Party’s internal inquiry but Ineos mounted its own investigation into his “alleged inappropriate use of company resources”.
The union reacted with fury, called a strike ballot which won 80 per cent support and the row escalated into a bosses-versus-unions conflict which led to the announcement of Grangemouth’s closure.
The union’s action was described as “the stupidest of strikes for the most idiotic of reasons” by Eric Joyce, the sitting MP for Falkirk who is quitting at the next election after attacking three MPs during a drunken brawl.
Mr Watson has been vocal in his condemnation of Ineos and its boss Jim Ratcliffe, who he described as "billionaire hedge-fund manager [who] was on his yacht in the Mediterranean" at the time, conducting talks via intermediaries.
"Tax avoidance disguises the profitability of this site," Mr Watson added, calling on the government to take action.
He has also said: “Too often it feels like it’s always the little guys that get steamrolled by powerful corporates. Even as an MP I feel powerless to act.”
And he complains that, in disputes such as this, “the little guy always loses”.
The truth is, though, that if Mr Watson had not tried to fix the Falkirk selection process in favour of his, and his union’s, favoured candidate, it’s quite likely none of this would have happened.
If he had allowed plain, ordinary, decent democracy to run its course, who knows, his chum Ms Murphy might have got the job anyway?
Sadly for Mr Watson, as a conspirator his record is not impressive. He it was who led the failed 2006 “curry-house coup” plotted in Wolverhampton and aimed at replacing Prime Minister Tony Blair with Gordon Brown.
It didn’t go according to plan, won no support and cost Mr Watson his job – until a grateful Mr Brown later became PM and rewarded his party disloyalty with a job as a Cabinet Office Minister.
These days the fat blogger – Mr Watson is 18 stone and keen on issuing propaganda via the internet – regards himself as the scourge of the media after he cross-questioned News International boss Rupert Murdoch.
He is one of those wanting to impose state control of the press. No doubt if and when he succeeds in this aim he will silence anyone who suggests that his serial chicanery is not quite as noble and altruistic as the likes to think it is.
At one point in his Commons interrogation of Mr Murdoch, he accused the publisher of being like a Mafia boss. To which we can only conclude: It takes one to know one.