Brexit to where?
The attempted Brexit is a prime example of the saying ‘A Camel is a Horse designed by a Committee’. We were sold the promise of a graceful and sleek thoroughbred ready to jump out of the starting gate but what we have instead is a broken-down old camel with nowhere to go.
But our Brexit comedy hasn’t been all bad because we have learned a great deal.
Firstly, we have learned that Westminster is too big. Too many MPs with too many opinions and too much pathological self-interest.
Secondly, that ghastly Westminster mélange of lawyers, councillors, teachers, union men, media people, public school retards, political researchers, hedge fund managers, celebs, graduate socialists and professional nationalists is no longer fit for purpose….and forget that ‘Parliament has to reflect Society’ mantra. If that is indeed the case, we have to bear in mind that the average UK citizen is a knuckle-dragging thicko who cannot calculate percentages and struggles to put together a sentence (in English). Just watch any vox pop on the evening news.
Thirdly, we have learned that leadership is not an option. It is a necessity and parliament does not have it (on any side).
Fourthly, it has once again been confirmed that Analyticals rarely make good leaders. Our Prime Minister is a Geography graduate and ex-Bank of England wonk who finds it impossible to create a consensus. Gordon Brown was the last analytical leader and his decision-making and leadership credentials are equally legendary.
Finally, the most overused phrase in politics is ‘We need to……’ as in ‘We need to show some consensus’ or ‘We need to do something about knife crime.’
What the United Kingdom really needs is a new cheerleader, some joined-up management and an urgent cull in and around London’s SW1A postcode.
Government Strategies For A Dead Horse
I have been studying the decision-making and initiative delivery record of Theresa May’s government and as far as I can see, she manages by delivering statements of intent , plus a very clever device which appears to be problem-solving action but in fact, is totally meaningless.
It begins with three words: “We have allocated…..” This phrase is followed by a large number.
Grenfell? “We have allocated……….”
NHS? “We have allocated…..”
This muddly and often protracted management method can be explained by analogy and the wisdom of those without PPE degrees, MBAs and other letters after their names.
The well-known and slightly modified analogy below should also be studied carefully by the real experts in dead horse flogging – Tory High Command – especially when choosing Party leaders.
The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to another is that if you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
However, in modern government, because of the heavy
investment and re-election factors to be taken into consideration, other strategies
need to be tried with dead horses, including the following:
Remember Hale and Pace when they were funny? This isn’t about them – but it is about Management, Organisation and Decision Making – with maybe a quick nod to Leadership.
The context? The ramshackle mélange of lawyers, doctors, local government employees, lecturers, teachers, journalists, farmers, political organisers and city types which makes up the UK Parliament.
Some of them even end up running Departments of State with massive resources and budgets which are measured in tens or even hundreds of millions. Many are unsuitable for management and even less suitable for leadership but………. with a system which promotes from within a very limited talent pool, the strangest of people rise to the sort of power which those of us who grew up in a mostly meritocratic and competitive corporate environment can only marvel at.
Four out of our five most recent Chancellors were either Lawyers or History graduates! Our present Prime Minister studied Geography. Our Foreign Secretary is an Oxford Classics graduate (that’s Latin and Greek to you and me) and our Defence Secretary has a degree in Social Sciences!
There are English graduates and Philosophy degrees. There’s a medical doctor and even a media person. There’s a statistical sprinkling of those ubiquitous Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates but some say that PPE graduates never quite learn enough about any one subject…….ideal MP fodder!!
But you may ask ‘What has a degree got to do with anything?’
On the face of it – nothing at all….but it is Organisation and Management which run departments with Leadership showing the way…..and if there is no leadership and an inability or unwillingness to take decisions, there is a lack of progress with decisions being consigned to investigations, reviews, inquiries and commissions – which in reality are no more than misused government devices which cleverly disguise intransigence and moribund passivity into action.
The only other place I have seen such a disparate band of individuals attempting to act as a team was a motley crew of so-called ‘middle management’ in a very well-known company’s marketing department. There were graduates of every flavour imaginable – but they neither had to lead, manage nor take decisions. The corporate damage that they could inflict was negligible.
The clue as to the unsuitability of many (most) MPs to administer billions of pounds on our behalf is to be found in the type of individual who chose to study a particular subject…..but there’s more…..
So-called ‘Communication Skills’, exemplified by an ability to talk whilst being insulted is certainly not related to any ability to lead or manage and yet, it is the skill which is prized above all others.
Currently, (as always) there is talk of future reform of the House of Lords reform and hopefully that is where any reform will remain….in the future.
Before training its beady eye on the Other Place, the House of Commons would do well to pause and think about its own fitness for purpose.
Q: How many MPs work at the House of Commons?
A: About 10% of them.
Tokenism in the Cabinet
Without sounding disingenuous or racist, I was very disappointed that Mrs May chose her new Home Secretary with an all-too-obvious reference to the Dulux Autumn Shades Colour Chart.
Sajid Javid is only average but of course, he does have the advantage of being of Pakistani extraction. He was quite at home being bland and keeping out of trouble in low key ministerial jobs as well as providing the Cabinet with its token Asian.
He is an ineffectual ‘good guy’ who had already been promoted to well above his level of incompetence – an attribute he shares with Mrs May.
However, he does NOT deserve the poisoned chalice of the Home Office.
THE DEFICIT MYTH – We’re STILL underperforming the #EU ……..#GE2015
THE DEFICIT has been a constant in our ears ever since someone at Conservative HQ discovered that because the GDP was exceptionally low in 2010, THE DEFICIT was a high percentage of it.
In fact, it was about 10%.
Gradually, because the GDP has increased, THE DEFICIT has gradually become a lower percentage of the GDP.
It is now of the order of 5%……..or as Messrs Cameron and Osborne prefer: “We have HALVED the deficit!”.
Yes…from 10% to 5%.
The graph above shows that as far as THE DEFICIT is concerned, the United Kingdom continues to UNDERPERFORM the European Union.
(If you click on the “EXPLORE DATA” link on the above graph, you will land on the official Eurostat page where you can add other countries to the graph for comparison and have as much fun with statistics as our Coalition Government did!)
Camron and Karney the Head Banker – A Fable
(A government FAILS to persuade bankers to lend to the common people.)
The Gates to Economic Recovery and New Prosperity were being guarded by the Bankers.
A tired and bedraggled band of travellers stood before them. They were led by Camron, the legendary economic illusionist and Prime Minister of the Ukshire.
The Chancellor Gideon, the Cabinet and other Uks were busying themselves with trying to appear invisible – an ancient trick modeled after the mythical Bank Elders.
Camron raised his pink chin so as to appear less terrified than he really was. He tried one of his famed rictus-like smiles. “Please let us in! We have cleared The Mess!” .
After he had spoken, he looked round to his band of followers for their approval – for that was their job. They made the customary grunting and “Hear! hear! The Mess! The Mess!” noises of approval.
The Bankers were confused and even a little frightened but nevertheless, were obliged to follow their elders’ orders.
“You have to pay to come in,” oozed the Banker as he counted heads and flicked at his abacus. His fingers were a blur as he remembered: “…then there’s the insurance…..and other charges”. The abacus was smoking.
“But we have already collected and given you all the gold that we could find. And you did promise than when our coffers were empty, we could come in. It is getting so cold out here. We are tired and hungry and we can see that behind the gates there is sunshine and the New Prosperity. If you will not let us in, would you please lend us a little of our own gold back, so that we can eat . Many are dying – even the hard-working people”
” That is not our problem. WE hear that there are Food Banks for the poor! You enjoyed the Old Prosperity when we gave you more than we had and now, we have no more to lend. Anyway, you look as if you would not be able to repay it.”
” But who are all those smiling happy people who I can see through the gates?”
” They are the Bankers. It is the time of the Feast of Bonus and they are celebrating and making merry. Are you a Banker?”
” No I am not but there are occasions when I am speaking to an audience – I imagine that I can hear a whisper in the audience.”
” And what is this ‘whisper’ ?”sneered the Banker.
” It seems that there are some who think that I am a Banker – because that is the sacred word that imagine I hear. On some occasions, I can hear it several times. There must be many who think that I am a banker. Can I at least come in? Just to see?”
” Why should anyone think that you are a Banker? Do you receive a bonus? Do you have large expense account? How big are your share options?”
” I have none of the Sacred Trappings – I am merely the Prime Minister of the Uks but there are those who see me nearly as important as a Banker. In fact, sometimes I hear whispers which make me think that the people wish me to be in charge not only of the Cabinet, the country but of even …………………the Bankers.”
Camron immediately looked down at his feet because he sensed that he may have gone too far. His entourage cowered.
The Chancellor Gideon tried to make himself even more invisible and only just stopped himself from laughing by biting so hard into the back of his own forefinger that blood flowed from the wound. As you would expect, it was a clear liquid.
Shocked, the two Gatekeeper Bankers took a step back. They had never heard such a preposterously outrageous claim. “In charge of the Bankers???? Who? You?!!”
They knew in that instant that they were dealing with a “Dangerous” but decided to continue the dialogue and try to learn more.They didn’t usually have contact with people.
They had heard the legend that one day, a simple creature would come to the Gates and become “In Charge”. No-one quite knew what this strange phrase meant but they wanted to be sure.
Was this “The One?”. They doubted it because the legend of the god Euro suggested that the one who would one day be in charge, was to be a red-headed female called Merkil from the Land of the Goths.
But the pink-faced stranger had just used the sacred “In Charge” words!
It was a joke among Bankers because they knew that no-one but a Banker could be “in charge”…… They were the chosen ones. They used to serve the people but now the people served them.
” Are you ill? What are the people saying?” The Banker took out his Magic Blackberry and punched at some buttons. His eyes did not leave Camron’s pink face, who continued:
” Sometimes when I am speaking in riddles to the people of The Deficit and suchlike – I seem to hear not just “Banker” but also “King” Banker. That is the phrase! They call me a “Right King Banker”. That is the phrase I hear.”
” But can you talk in riddles? Can you make money disappear? Are you so self-serving, selfish and thick-skinned that you can ignore the criticisms of all those around you? How good are you at offering help to those who do not need it? Were you unpopular at school? Have you ever given money and then changed your mind and taken it back? Well…… have you. Do you have the Gift of Sneer ?”
It was like a bolt of lightning. Camron knew! He was The One !!
He tried his smile once again. Some recoiled in disgust but there were those within earshot who were also beginning to believe that perhaps Camron was “The One”.
Camron certainly believed it. He would ask for an Inquiry – just to be sure. He liked an Inquiry – that most holy of Ministerial Sacraments. Meanwhile, he decided to take the bull by the horns – he would assert himself.
” Bring the Head Banker to see me here at the Gates. Tell him that David of Camenor (for that was his real name) wishes to see him!”
There were gasps. Humans, Uks and Bankers looked at each other. For what seemed like an eternity, there was a cold, dark silence – just like the one which would follow a joke made by the Prophet Milibrand the Younger!
Just as suddenly, the beyond-dead atmosphere was broken by a commotion inside the Gates. Word had been sent to the Head Banker. There was no going back!
Eventually, a short man in a black silk pinstriped suit appeared at the gates. His gold tooth and diamond in his chunky gold pinkie ring flashed as he removed his Fedora. The black overcoat remained draped over his shoulders as he approached Camron.
Camron noticed that the Head Banker’s white silk tie matched the handkerchief tumbling out of his breast-pocket. He briefly imagined his own finger in the Head Bankers chunky ring!
They stood toe-to-toe. It was the Banker who spoke.
Camron felt more resolute than he had ever done in his life. This was his destiny! He would be the saviour of the people. This was his time. He cleared his throat.
” On behalf of the people, I command you to lend them the money so that they may enter the Gates of Prosperity.”
It was the briefest and most “to the point” statement that Camron had ever made – and he’d managed it without an Inquiry! He felt quite exhilarated and just in case someone was sketching this historic moment, he struck a heroic pose and focused his bloodshot piggy eyes on the horizon.
Karney the Head Banker moved even closer. They exchanged knowing smiles, although the Head Banker’s eyes retained all the charm of two bullet holes .
Almost imperceptibly, as Camron leaned to wards him, the Banker’s expression changed.
Swiftly, he brought his knee up.
Cameron in the “you know what”…..Again!
The judge in the British phone-hacking trial criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for not waiting until all verdicts were in before commenting on Andy Coulson, his former media chief who is facing jail.
Less than two hours after yesterday’s verdict, Cameron issued what he called a “full and frank” apology, saying he had taken Coulson’s assurances of innocence at the time at face value, something he now realised was a mistake.
The jury was however still deliberating on two further charges on Coulson.
“I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdicts” the judge, John Saunders, said in court.
“My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done. Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge.”
In addition, the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, referred to Coulson as “a Criminal” !
The jury was discharged today after failing to reach agreement on whether Coulson was guilty of authorising illegal payments and it would now seem that Coulson will NOT be tried on the two remaining charges against him because of the premature outbursts by clueless politicians.
In spite of Cameron’s very dramatic waving-about of the Leveson report during PMQs, like some executive Teddy Bear or talisman designed to protect him from any suggestion of wrongdoing in hiring Coulson….he still doesn’t get it!
The Root Cause of this mess is not “I am innocent of negligence because I was given ASSURANCES ” but in the amateurish recruitment procedures on Planet Politics.
“I hear that he’s a good bloke”……….” I knew his father”………… We were at the same school”…….”I shagged his sister”….etc…. STILL take precedence over ability.
Coulson was “recommended”…..and of course, the Conservatives needed to please their benefactor Rupert Murdoch.
( It was Chancellor Osborne who did the recommending…….. What’s his game?)
Featherbedding the Banks
What the bankers are holding
A report was published today by the New Economics Foundation about the “hidden subsidies” currently enjoyed by the British banking industry. It is evident that the language, techniques and accounting procedures used within the banking system are such that they obscure both the full extent of the support that banks are accepting from the taxpayer and the comparatively small amount of “banking skill” that banks executives contribute to their own “profits”.
Since 2008, known public support for the financial sector has been unprecedented in scale.
Since the Bank of England came to the rescue of Northern Rock in 2007, with a £25 billion emergency borrowing facility, the sums have grown. Subsequent systemic bank failures meant that the public purse would have to support the whole financial sector, not just individual banks.
Many schemes of different types were introduced. They all lacked transparency so that the amounts are still hard to summarise. Together,the schemes added up to £1.2 trillion of backing to the banking system, equivalent to about 85 per cent of the UK’s national 2009 income.
The UK scale of intervention, in spite of the vast differences in GDP was comparable to that of the United States.
But is it possible that there is still more to the story? Research from the Bank of England, the Office of Fair Trading, the Institutional Investors Council and Moneyfacts (which provides independent rate comparisons) reveals a range of other hidden subsidies to the big banks.
Chancellor George Osborne’s recently announced bank levy is minuscule in comparison to all the bank subsidies which we do not know about. The Chancellor was pulling a very small rabbit from a very large hat. The Independent Commission on Banking has yet to publish a complete list of the de facto hidden subsidies currently being enjoyed by the banks. What we know so far amounts to no more than scratching the surface.
Increased scrutiny of the financial system in the wake of the banking crisis has shed light on a number of practices previously taken for granted, which now might be viewed in a different light. The sheer complexity of modern banking (itself one of the conditions that brought on the crisis) has worked to shield the sector from difficult questions. But with the dust of public interventions now settling, a number of anomalies are emerging.
The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy. Having concluded that our major banks are “too big to fail”, the government now provides a public guarantee. That effectively is insurance against a bank going bust. In business terms, this gives the banks a huge commercial advantage over other organisations. All commercial enterprises need to borrow money and the banks are no exception. However, they can borrow money much more cheaply than any other type of company because of the fact that the public is guaranteeing anything that they borrow.
Answers from leading auditors questioned by the Treasury Select Committee confirm this. The hidden subsidies save the banks a large amount of money – at least £30 billion annually– and thus helps them generate “unearned” profits. To put it simply, they save billions on the cost of their own borrowing and so make MUCH MORE profit that they would have done without that taxpayers guarantee.
It also means that when the banks pay bonuses to senior staff for “performance” as well as dividends to institutional investors, the rewards of the public’s “insurance” are headed in the wrong direction. They should be coming back to the taxpayer.
The quantitative easing windfall subsidy. When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity (cash), the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called “quantitative easing”. Many people refer to this as “printing money”. However, there is slightly more finesse within the system than a bit of pressure applied to a printing press button .
Take Government Gilts, for instance.(Gilts are bonds issued by governments and they pay a fixed ate of interest twice a year. Governments use Gilts to raise money)
The Bank of England is not permitted to buy UK gilts directly from the Government as this is considered to be “monetising” government debt, or in other words directly funding government expenditure through “creating money” .
Instead the Debt Management Office first sells the gilts to banks and other investors and then the Bank of England buys them back from the banks at a higher price, with money that it has “created” . The bankers then reward themselves for completing these “deals.”
That gives the banks “new” money plus a cut of every trade.
The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy. Thanks to an apparent lack of forward planning (and understanding), the government has created a paradox which really has placed the banks “between a rock and a hard place”. They have been given two contradictory goals by the government. The first is to lend money (which is what caused the majority of their problems in the first place) and the second is to hold onto their money so that they can rebuild their capital.
The banks could manage this problem in any number of ways. However, they have taken the easy option which is to charge more when they lend and at the same time, pay less to their own savers and investors. The difference between what the banks charge their borrowers and pay their savers is known as the “interest rate spread” or margin.
So the government, by way of using the taxpayer to guarantee that banks cannot fail to repay their debts has meant that banks can now “buy-in” money cheaply and resell it at a vast profit. That also means that they don’t have to pay their private savers very much at all. Technically, they are punishing the very people who are subsidising them .
As a matter of interest, there was a time when banks and building societies had an operating margin (Difference between what they charged borrowers and what they paid investors) of 4%.That means that in today’s climate, borrowers could be charged say 10% and savers could be paid 6%. That excludes mortgagors whose borrowings are secured – their rates could easily be of the order of 3% .
Although the banks have taken the “screw the client”option, they could speed-up their recapitalisation through eliminating bonus payments and dividends. The banks’ hidden subsidy created through overcharging their customers is estimated at £2.5 billion per year.
The Fake Money Subsidy. The nature of money is such that when a bank grants a loan, it does not have the money. It is allowed to create money to hand-over and makes a profit from the interest rate which it charges. That is another form of subsidy – as the government has effectively given banks another licence to print money. Money is “lent into existence”. The old days when banks only lent money left by savers have gone.
So if this is considered another subsidy, it is worth tens of billions per year.
The whole essence of the contemporary monetary system is the creation of money out of nothing, through the medium of lending.
The government and the taxpayer are no longer dealing with individual banks. We are dealing with a very powerful cartel which not-only negotiates as a single organism but has left the very concept of “competition” far behind. Furthermore, if you study the various interest rate charges and products, you may be forgiven for assuming that price-fixing appears to be taking place.
The UK retail banking industry is unusually concentrated. Not only do the largest five mortgage lenders have a market share of 82% but the range of providers was much diminished by the demutualisations of the late 1990s. This concentration of the market has all but killed competition.
Mortgages: Current mortgage interest rates, compared to the bank base rate and the rates at which banks “buy in” money suggest that the banks are profiting greatly from their mortgage clients.
Using figures from Moneyfacts on the average rates offered for the benchmark two year tracker mortgage since June 2007, we can see that rates have fallen from 6 per cent to 3.5 per cent. But the Bank of England base rate has fallen by much more – from 5.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent. The mortgage interest rate spread has therefore increased from around 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent.
Some readjustment in mortgage pricing was necessary, but even taking a conservative view of long-term spreads as being around 2 per cent, the increase to 3 per cent since the crash represents additional interest revenue of around £1.6 billion per year from 2009 gross lending and a further £1.5 billion per year from 2010 gross lending.
Increasing the margin on new mortgages has certainly been a factor in bolstering bank profits since the crash. Furthermore, despite the reductions in base rates and wholesale funding costs, key lending rates have hardly moved since the crash.
It seems therefore that the burden of “rebuilding” bank balance sheets is being borne by bank customers and certainly NOT by bank shareholders and their executives.
Sneaky Fees: It is not only in retail banking that the customer is getting a raw deal. A study by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) into the equity underwriting market, published in January 2011, found that “the market lacks effective competition on price”. This followed an earlier report by the Institutional Investor Council (IIC) which tracked how total fees for raising equity capital, using rights issues, had increased over the past decade.
It has risen from 2% per cent to as much as 4%. Within this, the amount kept by the organising investment banks in their roles as broker, underwriter and adviserhad risen threefold from 0.75 per cent to 2.25 per cent! There appears to be little justification for bank fees trebling and would explain for instance why a bank such as Barclays Capital (the investment arm of the bank is now generating more profit than its retail arm)
Investment banks have collected over £1billion in “excess” fees and over 90% of that has been generated since the 2008 crash.
Banking is the only business which, when in trouble increases its prices. It can do this because it has a captive audience.
It therefore seems a nonsense for Government to state that it would be desirable for London to remain “competitive” as a global financial centre.
There is nothing competitive about London except bank bonuses. Competition used to be viewed as being based on the cost to the customer and not the income of the company’s officers.
And so…….The really frightening statistic is that notes and coins represent only about 3% of the total money supply. The rest is created as new credit.
According to analysts. estimates, the largest four UK banks are set to report profits before tax for 2010 of around £22 billion between them. By 2012 this is expected to more than double to over £45 billion, as analysts predict a return to “business as usual” for Britain’s large banks.
The same banks had total staff costs for 2009 of around £37 billion, with over £7 billion being paid out in the form of bonuses that were concentrated amongst their elite.
The hidden subsidies to UK banks from taxpayers and bank customers are very similar in scale to current bank profits.
This indicates that far from being efficient, the UK banking sector is deficient and that overall levels of dividends and remuneration, including bonuses are far higher than is economically justified.
William Hague – a tribute
The article below appeared in the Daily Mirror on 5th March 201o and is reproduced here with the full permission of the author Brian Reade.
When you have finished reading about William Hague, you may perceive that Brian Reade is probably not the Chairman of Hague Fan Club – and you would be right.
I have been Socialist-bashing ever since I could open a notepad but for the sake of balance I do believe that we should have an insight into the lives and more-importantly, the characters of all the main players in the forthcoming General Election. In the last year we have all come to learn that what really appears to separate politicians (of any Party) is nothing more than size of wallet plus position on the Odious Scale. Idealism seems to have given way to the ugly spectre of self-interest.
William Hague has had a long history within the Tory Party and as Brian describes below, he is the Conservatives’ Malvolio – having had greatness thrust “up him” rather than “upon him”. He is also one of the few Tories who has proved that there is life after death.
The Daily Mirror has several heavy-duty writers of conviction but I’ve always considered Brian Reade as the most perceptive and incisive . Enjoy some of the most genially-executed knife-work you’ll ever see.
For three decades he was a political joke beyond parody.
William Jefferson Hague, the geeky nerd who spent his youthful nights studying Hansard and memorising Churchill’s speeches. Who at 16 wowed a Tory conference with that shrill, hectoring speech. The gormless leader who at 36 thought he was being passed the Thatcher ite Flame, only to find it a poisoned chalice handed to any chump foolish enough to take it.
The Original Tory Boy who tried to win the yoof vote by wearing a baseball cap to the Notting Hill Carnival and a theme park, only for Tory writer Simon Heffer to say he resembled “a child molester on day release”.
Unabashed, he told GQ magazine he spent his youth downing 14 pints a day. No-one swallowed it. Not least a local pub owner who called him a liar and labelled him Billy Fizz.
Eventually The Youngest Fogey in the West became Billy Bandwagon, leaping onto every passing rightwing cause to ingratiate himself with the party’s core vote.
He was The Fighting Foetus, The Dome-Headed Tyke, in thrall to his party’s Loony Right, and he fought the 2001 election on a puerile Save The Pound platform. The Tories gained just one seat. He was a political failure at 40, leaving them so battered turned to Iain Duncan Smith.
But even critics admitted he was not just a caricature. His combative displays at Prime Minister’s Questions hinted at a cunning careerist behind the joke exterior.
The next decade showed the real Hague – an avaricious animal ready to oil his way into the good books of any individual or organisation that could line his pockets and keep him close to the Tory throne.
So successful was he that he earned more than any other sitting MP. David Cameron made him Shadow Foreign Secretary and called him “my deputy in all but name”.
It is Hague, not George Osborne, from whom Cameron takes most advice, which is why the Michael Ashcroft affair goes right to the top of the Tory chain of command.
Ashcroft is Hague’s man. Friends call the two “extraordinarily close”, with Ashcroft admitting a “mutual chemistry” the instant they met in 1997. So Ashcroft’s outing as a non-dom, who went back on a pledge to pay tax here to gain a peerage, casts a long shadow over Hague’s integrity.
It was Hague who persuaded him to bankroll the party in 1998. Hague who begged Tony Blair to make him a Lord.
Hague who refused to give a clear answer when asked nine times by Jeremy Paxman and four times by Andrew Marr if Ashcroft paid tax on his overseas earnings.
Maybe he didn’t know him that well. He had only been travelling on the billionaire’s jets and staying on his yacht for 11 years.
He only let Ashcroft accompany him to Cuba and the US last year and attend key meetings. They were so close that when Hague ennobled him, both gave a “clear and unequivocal… solemn and binding” JAshcrofts assurance he would become permanently resident in Britain. Only for the lord to spend a decade avoiding full UK taxes.
As former civil service chief Lord Turnbull said on Wednesday, it was Hague’s responsibilty as his “sponsor” to ensure he fulfilled that assurance. “We were taking Hague’s word that he had negotiated this deal and it turns out that he had negotiated a deal with a loophole,” said Lord Turnbull.
Hague claims he has only known of his chum’s tax status for a few months. The Times called him “evasive and weak.”
But his devotion to wealth is no surprise to friends. After quitting as Tory leader he was the first MP to earn £1million in a year, thanks to consultancies, newspaper columns and speeches. Commons documents last year showed £235,000 in “remunerated employment” including £50,000 as “parliamentary advisor to JCB” and £25,000 for a speech in Brussels.
There are directorships at AES Engineering and AMT-SYBEX Group, four trips overseas funded by private firms, a helicopter ride to Crewe and honorary membership of the Carlton club.
The expenses scandal also raised questions.
Despite his fortune he got the taxpayer to pay his mortgage interest and £4,000-a-year service charge on his £1million second home in London.
His claim of £61,995 between April 2004 and March 2007 was almost up to the maximum of £64,646. A senior Labour source added: “He’s been using taxpayers’ cash to help build a property empire.”
Then there are the freebies, such as £800 tickets for him and his wife to attend a Tory ball, paid for by a private finance firm.
The London Evening Standard asked why one of the wealthiest MPs chose to “accept the hospitality of others at this event?” Questions were also asked over a 2008 Barclays jolly to Italy’s Lake Como on the day global markets went into freefall. The Daily Mail wrote: “The VIP treatment… was at odds with the restraint and austerity David Cameron imposed on his party”.
Labour’s Richard Caborn blasted: “On the one hand Cameron is trying to distance himself from his chums in the City by slagging off bankers’ bonuses. On the other hand his right-hand man is jetting off to join a £500,000 bankers’ banquet in Italy.”
Cameron wants to show the Tories are the party of the ordinary guy. But thanks to the Ashcroft affair, it may be backfiring.
Behind the exaggerated Yorkshire twang, Hague is no Man of The People. His father owned a soft drinks company and Hague attended Oxford University. He now owns £1million homes in Yorkshire and London.
And he remains passionate about axeing inheritance tax for the super-rich and says: “I believe in it strongly. If we’re going to create a savings culture rather than a debt culture, we need to show we are serious.”
Hague believes the Tories will win by scaring the electorate. He is currently asking voters how they might feel waking up on the morning after polls close to find Gordon Brown still in government.
Maybe he should ask how they would feel if Billy Bandwagon finally made it there.
Octavius – over to you.
There are people who will vote for a politician because he has a pretty face, looks honest or has a good voice. What fires an important section of the electorate is not logic but emotion. Perception, prejudice and superficiality are the new Gods and it is only in recent years that politicians have become conscious of the fact that complicated economic and social policies are not the primary route to votes from an increasingly apathetic and intellectually impenetrable electorate. They need to tap into the electorate’s emotions. They need to SELL.
There are only TEN recognised Emotional Buying Triggers ( EBTs): Ego, Status, Prestige, Greed, Fear of Loss, Pride of Ownership, Ambition, Health, Security and Sex. All selling is based around combinations of these 10 EBTs.
For instance, television car advertisements: Status, Pride of Ownership, Ego. M&S food: Status, Ego, Health. The most powerful EBT is SEX and that is why many advertisements and promotions tap-into it so frequently. Exactly the same rules now apply to persuading the jaded but still-susceptible voter.
Emotionally, there are large blocks of voters to whom politicians cannot sell. These are the individuals who are tied to a particular party by blood and bigotry. ” My father was Labour, his father was Labour etc etc.” If you canvas these people and start talking interest rates, percentages, policies, their eyes glaze over.
When politicians talk of GDP, Fiscal Stimuli, Quantitative Easing, they are not talking to the man in the street, they are addressing Times, Guardian, Independent, Mirror or Telegraph analysts and journalists or they want to direct messages towards bankers, corporate investors or other politicians. The “man in the street” needs blander and more digestible messages – something that he has been conditioned for.
Admittedly, there is a small percentage of voters that does analyse the economic slurry which is discharged by Whitehall and then reported, interpreted and mangled in a variety of ways by a deeply partisan press. Whether the journalist is Labour, Conservative or Liberal, his or her views are as strong as those of the voter who will vote for his Party but only because he has always voted for the Party. Voters read specific newspapers and follow specific journalists, not for reasons of debate but simply for the warm milky comfort of having their own views and opinions reinforced.
In an election, the target is not the die-hard voter – the one who will vote for his party even if the candidate is a cardboard cut-out. The target is the so-called “floating voter”. The sales pitch has to be for him.
So, which buying triggers do the political parties usually attempt to tickle? Security, Fear of Loss, Ambition and Health have always been favourites. Greed is another quite powerful trigger. In the final analysis, our primary concern is not the economy but ourselves. “What’s in it for me?” The BNP is an excellent example of a party which is constantly tapping into Fear of Loss (of our sovereignty and way of life) and Security (the implication that we may somehow be in economic and physical danger from immigrants).
The above buying triggers have been tapped-into for years and apply to all parties. A new “edge” was needed and not surprisingly, it was the emotional buying trigger of SEX – totally overlooked by politicians for many years which suddenly became the prime catalyst.
Let’s face it, most politicians were (and still are) “spuds”. That is to say, ordinary men and women who were obviously chosen for their abilities and not for their looks. Nowadays, that is not enough – especially for the people at the top – the party leaders.
Here in the United Kingdom, Tony Blair was the first politician to present himself as “Political Totty” and surrounded himself with even more totty. Remember Blair’s Babes? Blair had learned the Cult of Personality from Bill Clinton, who some think may have “overworked” the “boyish good looks” angle. The result, as we all know, was public disgrace and a dry-cleaning bill.
Much of Tony Blair’s appeal was superficial – the slim good looks, the ready smile, the Bambi eyes etc. You may have noticed that when he appeared before the Chilcot Committee a couple of weeks ago, the soft-blush bloom of youth had faded and much of his appeal had dissipated. Consequently (and possibly unfairly) we were pre-judging his words because there were no buying triggers left for him to tap-into.
There is little doubt that Gordon Brown is also going to attempt to tap-into our most basic EBT. His appearance on the Piers Morgan programme was designed to let us see Brown as a “bit of a lad” who had finally settled down and in spite of the setbacks and personal tragedies, has immersed himself into a loving family relationship with a handsome woman who dotes on him. Hey, that’s sexy.
Setting aside Morgan’s “lêche-cul” style of interviewing, the editing, tempo and content produced a superficial but morbidly interesting piece of television. The Ill-tempered, chaotic, gauche Billy-no-mates was airbrushed before our very eyes into a deep, emotional, loving, modest man who will work for charity when he finally retires from politics. Celebrity Mr and Mrs cannot be too far away.
Rumour has it that the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron is being advised by friend and confidant, Octavius Black who, in spite of a moneyed background and public school education, is quite street-wise. That is good because in order to cement his voter-appeal, Cameron needs to lose the off-duty Barbour image and gently pull his wife more and more into the limelight. His media advisers are probably already talking to ITV and BBC with the usual demands for “balance” (equal air time).
The one-on-one interview must sound appealing to the Cameron camp but they should beware of comparisons with Brown and they certainly should not accede to any requests from Piers Morgan. Cameron must start by tempering his behaviour at the Dispatch Box because the nation now sees Brown as a cuddly old Badger who is doing his very best and who, although occasionally tetchy, seems quite trustworthy and competent. The last thing that they want to witness is the unedifying spectacle of a Mr Toad tearing down the hill, making lots of noise and being an all-round pain-in-the-a**e.
Who said “This is not about personalities.” ?
Oh yes it is. Octavius – it’s over to you.
Octavius’ trouble and strife.
You may be forgiven for thinking that someone with a monicker like Octavius Black was a either a mad musician chained to a Gothic cathedral pipe-organ, a Hogwarts Master of the Dark Arts or maybe even a Transformer. He is none of those but he is quite a strong Centre of Influence within the Conservative Party.
Here are some clues: He is a multi-millionaire who lives in Notting Hill. He is an Old Etonian and for a long time has been a frequent dinner guest at the Camerons’. Oh yes, he is married to Joanne Cash who is not-only a barrister but is the “Is she?Isn’t she?” prospective Conservative candidate for the Tory safe seat of Westminster North. She resigned and then she didn’t – all in the space of three days.
Octavius Black runs a company called The Mind Gym, which describes itself as “a place to discover how to use your mind more effectively”. He advises David Cameron on an “informal basis”. Octavius is a cross between a PR man, an image guru and a snake-oil salesman.
His relationship with Cameron has the worrying shades of Margaret Thatcher’s fascination with Rollo Clifford and the Pacific Institute. Most of these organisations are of the old-fashioned American “motivational”-type outfit and can be most eloquently summed up by that most distinguished of all management gurus, Bob the Builder: “Can we fix it? Yes. We. Can!” Bar-room psychology in a bespoke suit and large fee.
The main worry should be that just like her Thatcherness, Dave may end up playing without the full complement of marbles – but it’s early days yet.
So here we have Dave’s close chum who advises Dave and whose missus is the in-out-in-out prospective Conservative candidate, or as a well-known commentator recently described her: “She is the Okey-Cokey candidate for Westminster North.”
Ms Cash is one of Dave’s Debs. Blair had his “Babes” – who were mostly 30-something semi-glam Westminster ballast with lipstick. All that they had to do was to sit, smile, keep their knees together and vote. Whereas Dave’s Debs tend to be posh tarts with degrees so, if elected, will not-only be decorative but useful.
It looks as if Cameron is hiring slightly more up-market Debs and quite right too. So what is the problem?
Ms Cash was “imposed” on the Westminster North constituency and the local Party machine has never been 100% behind her. This eventually resulted in an inevitable “spat” between the winsome Joanne Cash and the local party party chief , Amanda Sayers. So what was this “Storm in a C-cup”?
Earlier this week, Ms Sayers was going to be re-elected as constituency chairman. Joanne Cash attempted to “block” the re-election but is spite of that, Ms Sayers prevailed and was duly elected.
It seems that Ms Cash then stamped her foot and had one of those “It’s her or me” moments .
Ms Cash resigned as candidate, flounced out and Cameron was immediately informed. He wasted no time in hitting the phones to gather support for his stroppy protegé.
That resulted in Amanda Sayers being dumped as local Conservative Party chairman. The local party agent, Jonathan Fraser-Howells then resigned in protest, among dark mutterings of the “lack of democracy” in Westminster North. It was over in a flash.
Joanne Cash is back in place as the Tory candidate and apparently is preening and gloating over the de-elected Amanda Sayers who is now probably somewhere in West London sticking pins into and pulling the limbs off a Barbie doll in a blue dress.
David Cameron was right to want to support his friend but is he beginning to show leadership “blind-spots”? He appears to have dived into the affray with both boots instead of maybe distancing himself, taking some advice from Octavius and engineering some sort of “win-win” situation for both Joanne and Amanda.
A Conservative “cat-fight” is never pleasant but Amanda Sayers knew that she was taking on a close chum of the party leader and was therefore placing herself in an unnecessarily vulnerable and ultimately untenable position. She too is a barrister and would have been totally aware of not-only what she was doing but also the “end-play”.
Eventually, she may be given the consolation prize of a safe Tory seat to contest and could well end up sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with her rival on the back benches. We can’t wait!
Meanwhile, the prospective Conservative candidate for Westminster North is (once again) Joanne Cash. Watch this space.