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.
Kim Philby achieved the professional distinction of being ordered to catch himself. Theresa May is the only politician to have achieved the same status through her fumbling of the Windrush mess. The only difference is that non-one knew about Philby but everyone knows that Mrs May has been the root cause of the government’s current difficulties but no-one is saying it.
Unfortunately, Bunter Soames has been told to express the Conservative Party’s unconditional backing for the punch-drunk and inept Amber Rudd who is taking a media beating on May’s behalf. That usually indicates the beginning of the end.
From Windrush to Bum’s Rush.
Power, authority, legitimacy, trust and dependence are the five base ingredients and starting point for creating exactly the right environment, or recipe, for sexual exploitation of the vulnerable to take place.
It is no coincidence therefore that the hot beds of child molestation and sexual exploitation are to be found in some concentration within the types of organisation where the victims often depend on, or ‘respect’ the perpetrators.
Religious groups, charitable organisations, schools, institutions (I include political institutions) and families are all environments which provide an ideal infrastructure for potentially destructive sexual encounters to take place. Read More
In Praise of the Psychopath
One of the most misused and least understood words in the English language is ‘psychopath’.
Thanks to the media, as well as the arts, the word is confused with ‘violent psychopath’.
Many years ago when I was still cavorting on the corporate stage, I asked one of my American ‘matrix’ bosses (who went on to head up one of the world’s biggest banks) what his ideal senior manager was. He studied me intently and replied, ‘An entrepreneurial psychopath with an MBA’………….. Read More
Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry…..Two reasons to vote for……..well…..ANYONE else!!!
Here are a few snippets which confirm what have always been my biggest fears about politicians – Incompetence, xenophobia, racial bigotry and the triumph of bullshit over substance. These two lovelies are among the finest exponents. This is a must watch video:
(Conservatives and Libdems to follow!!)
(With thanks to Politics UK – you NAUGHTY people!)
Beyond Fashion with Paclantic
Beijing Fashion Week reminds us that today’s Chinese designers are very much in demand, both at home as well as all over the world, notably the West, where they are being increasingly recognised by both American and European fashion houses as being totally ‘on-trend’ and pointing the way forward for the rest of the fashion industry.
The exhibitors at this month’s Beijing Fashion Week are going to be showing everything from the high-end of the market, right down to everyday streetwear, including the most highly accelerating sector, which is children’s clothing. Read More
The Ugly Spectre of EU Self-interest……
A recent survey has indicated that most companies based in the eurozone believe a British decision to leave the European Union would hurt the region as it struggles with a sluggish economy and a migration crisis.
79% of firms based in the eurozone said a Brexit would be bad for the area, with less than 4% saying it would have a positive impact, according to the report from accountants Grant Thornton.
“What’s abundantly clear from our research is that European business leaders overwhelmingly view a Brexit as a negative development for the EU,” Francesca Lagerberg, a senior tax partner at Grant Thornton, said.
She said business confidence was strong considering the various potential threats the region faced from low growth, high unemployment, migration and a potential Brexit.
“Any one of these flaring up over the next few months could see that optimism wobble if the economic shocks undermine business leaders’ ability to plan and invest,” she added.
The survey was based on interviews with more than 2,500 senior executives conducted in January and February.
The result is in keeping with the view of senior business leaders in Britain who are largely in favour of Britain staying in the EU. Most economists expect an exit would deal a blow to Britain’s economy in both the short- and longer-term.
The Grant Thornton report showed 68 percent of British-based firms believe Brexit would have a negative impact on Europe.
Parts of the eurozone have struggled with a debt crisis in recent years which, on the heels of the global financial crisis, has stifled growth and left many unemployed. Unfortunately, quite a high percentage of Europe’s unemployed appear to be headed for the UK.
In addition, many recent migrants to the EU stated their first choice of refuge as the UK. Many of those will be arriving here in a few years….when Germany and other states hand them EU citizenship.
The region as a whole remains at odds over how to contain the continuing flow of migrants to the region.
It is regrettable that neither the UK political leadership, nor the Brussels Commissars have any idea about Managing Change on a macro scale because the sociological change within the #EU is probably they biggest issue that will need to be addressed within the next five to ten years.
Both sides are doing their best to frighten the electorate into voting for their point of view. There has also been an attempt at what can only be described as The Blackmail of a Nation – especially by the IN camp and the leadership’s foreign banking and political friends..
The fact is that BOTH sides have valid arguments but instead of helping the average UK citizen to make a reasonable choice whilst at the same time preparing for change, BOTH sides prefer to persuade through the medium of fantasy rhetoric, insinuation and slur.
Meanwhile, mainland Europe, surrounded by the Ring of Chaos, which encompasses Ukraine, then east to Turkey and south to North Africa, sits and waits for more handouts and UK opportunities for its unemployed.
No birds in Muirfield!
If you’re lucky enough to travel to Muirfield to play golf, make sure that you remember to set you watch back 200 years. Forsooth!
A favourite quote
Albert Einstein was asked how he thought that World War 3 would be fought. He said that he didn’t know but that he knew how World War 4 would be fought – with sticks and stones.
|“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”
– Albert Einstein
Brexit – Summary , so far……
Cameron’s ‘in crowd’ has expanded offshore to include the foreign senior banking community. Here in the UK, the ‘IN’ conspiracy has now recruited some senior corporate ‘suits’.
Meanwhile, Boris is looking increasingly shambolic and isolated plus, he does not appear to be appealing to the great unwashed.
The two main messages are either “Watch out for hordes of migrants and we could do it alone if we wanted to” or, more worryingly: “The UK is effectively imprisoned within the #EU with no way out without damaging EVERYTHING!”
Both messages are negative – especially now that it would appear that the Cameron camp has admitted that even if we wanted to leave – we can’t. We’re trapped!
Today it was the turn of Spain’s 800,000 permatanned British residents to have the fear of God put into them…..as if the Spanish economy would even think about risking the loss of such a vast slice of revenue!
The one aspect of the debate I cannot agree with and that is the perceived danger from millions of low-level migrants. Once the UK economy collapses, no-one will want to come here.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the ECB’s Mario Draghi to pontificate.
Brexit Fun with Statistics
Good to see the Cameron #EU ‘In-Crowd’ adopting the official government policy of spouting meaningless and spurious statistics in order to try and prove that being a member of the European Union is compulsory if one is to maintain economic success , which, incidentally, is something which continues to elude the United Kingdom – in spite of Chancellor Gideon’s creative use of percentages.
Here are some more numbers:
- Six out of ten of the world’s biggest economies are not members of the EU. If the UK Brexited, SEVEN out of ten of the world’s most powerful economies would not be members of the EU.
- According to Bloomberg , of the world’s top ten fastest-growing economies, not one is a member of the EU.
- If we look at real GDP growth rate, the highest performer within the EU is Ireland and is placed only 44th(!) in the world.
What Cameron is REALLY saying is very simple: He does NOT believe that he, Chancellor Gideon and the rest of the current crop of Westminster PPE and History Grads have the collective ability to run an economy without the bureaucratic and legal crutch of the Brussels Commissars.
Lagarde, Brexit & Panic
It was the IMF’s Christine Lagarde’s turn today.
She says that Brexit would have “assez mauvais to très , très mauvais” consequences but was not particularly specific.
“Pretty bad to very, very bad” is once again a judgement and not a prediction….and if she wants to see “very, very bad”, she should keep a closer eye on Greece’s problems!
Make no mistake, just like Mark Carney before her, prior to issuing her predictable statement, she would have been on the phone to Chancellor Gideon or David Cameron for approval of this latest piece of the well-choreographed scaremongering pro-EU referendum jigsaw. So WHO is next to have been recruited by the ‘IN’ camp?
One suspects that either this weekend or possibly on Monday, it will be the turn of the ECB’s Mario (il Papa) Draghi to instil a bit of ‘panico’ among us gullible Brits!
It started with Obama and they’re travelling East……..
Believe it or not, I have no particular view as to whether or not we should remain within the European Union but if we are minded to believe the sharp suited Westminster Europhiles (and Jeremy Corbyn), we should not take what is looking increasingly like the foolhardy and dangerous option of Brexit………. Of course, the other team is busy painting a picture of an economic Utopia, unencumbered by the tyrannical drag-chute of EU integration.
The only unsurprising phenomenon about the whole debate is that because we know of no other way, two teams were hastily put together and, as is the case with every other debate, confrontation has been the order of the day.
I would have considered David Cameron far more statesmanlike had he addressed the nation in a far more neutral way, outlining the pros and cons for both possible outcomes. Unfortunately, we only know one way and that is through the medium of opinion-fuelled conflict. Hence the Boris and Cameron camps both treating the debate more like a prizefight rather than what could have been a comradely discussion.
The most outrageous claims have come from the ‘stay in’ camp.
‘Each family will be £4300 per year worse off’, ‘mortgage rates will increase’, ‘house prices will fall’, ‘we are safer within the European Union.’ etc. are all no more than conjecture.
The fact is that whether we are in or out will make little difference to the average man in the street and given the politicians’, pollsters’ and economists’ track records on any sort of prediction, we should all be wary of all the nonsense which has been produced as implied ‘fact’.
Sadly, most of the United Kingdom’s voting population is not very ‘politically-bright’ – hence the outrageous claims made by both sides. It is the only way that they are able to communicate with the slack-jawed Mr and Mrs Average because proper economic and sovereignty arguments are far too complicated without being reduced to single sentence soundbites.
If only the government had had the foresight to produce a single ‘for and against’ document, clearly showing that the argument is largely opinion rather than fact-based, Mr and Mrs Average would not have to be subjected to the increasingly hysterical rhetoric of the Westminster wide-boys.
However, tell someone that their property value is going to fall and contrary to world trends, interest rates are mysteriously going to increase, you begin to understand that scaremongering by both sides is the only way forward.
What is it that we are being asked to keep or abandon?
What is in place at the moment is a self-amplifying bureaucracy which has arrived at the stage where it exists to perpetuate itself rather than be there for the good of the European Community. We have a European legal system whose main function appears to be to impose itself on EU member states plus a European economy which continues to be in terminal decline. There is a massive migration problem-without-end, with the prospect of an increased internal EU migration issue as a result of the proposed future membership of Turkey and Albania. That is the organisation of which we are currently a member.
The question is very straightforward: Do we want to belong to a totally unaudited association of failing and near bankrupt economies, overrun by unwanted (yes!) migrants and presided over by an inwardly-focused, self-amplifying bureaucracy – or should we be looking outwards to the rest of the world whilst maintaining relations only with the European states we can and WANT to do business with – without worrying about regulations governing what we eat or the amperage of our hairdryers and toasters!
The MOST frightening aspect of leaving the European Union is no more than a quite natural fear of CHANGE.
With very few exceptions, politicians have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of preventing crises and they are certainly very frightened of being accused of creating a crisis such as they imagine might occur if we left the EU.
They surmise, quite correctly, that they would not be able to deal with it, and it is no accident that both David Cameron and George Osborne are at the desperate forefront of trying to keep us in the European Union because they would be the ones expected to deal with any Brexit fallout for which they are not professionally equipped.
Their motivation is fear, whereas the leaders of the Brexit campaign are driven by no more than a misplaced ambition to rule.
The stakes within the EU debate have very little to do with pragmatism or principle. They are to do with power and we as voters would do well to remember that.
The subtext of the Brexit debate is a battle for the leadership of BOTH of our main political parties.
Terribly intrusive reportage by the Mail. They should show John “Shagger” Whittingdale a bit of respect. The fact that this unlikely knobmeister is managing to score at a rate which should at least put him on the England subs bench at Euro 2016 is obviously causing the po-faced ones at the Mail some discomfort. Power to his elbow….and all other parts of his soon-to-be ex-Cabinet anatomy.
The Panama Papers reminded me of something that I have been thinking about for many years. What makes senior, specifically LEADER politicians so rich? Very often, all they have had is a career in politics, which as we all know, does not pay very well and yet they suddenly appear at the top of the pile with both the A-list film-star lifestyle as well as the mega-bloated bank account plus the services of sleazy bankers and agents for offshore tax havens.
As far as I can see, the only advantage they have over normal mortals is not ability, diligence, a business sense or even an entrepreneurial spirit. The only thing they do have is proximity to tax payer cash. For instance, the salary of a KGB colonel is not all that great and neither is the salary of a President-Prime Minister-President measured in millions. How then is that individual managing to measure his wealth in BILLIONS? It’s a conundrum.
There has been some criticism of UK Prime Minister David Cameron because his father was in the offshore tax-optimisation game. Of course, it is manifestly unfair to blame DC because, even though his school fees may have been paid out of an offshore Trust Fund ‘run’ by Nominee Directors of a Brass Plaque ‘Company’ located somewhere in a Central American Banana Republic , he cannot be held responsible for his father’s actions – anymore than the son of a bank robber can be held responsible for being clothed and fed on the proceeds of a bank heist………although bank robbers are often stripped of assets and their offspring allowed to go hungry. But hey….!
Cameron deploying his “We’ll do everything we can to help” mantra. This time it is aimed at the British steel industry. Certain commentators have suggested that Dave is probably thinking about re-nationalising steel! He’d rather be rogered by a pig wearing a red rosette….It won’t be long before we’re importing steel from China. Remember, this government does NOT have a long-term plan – only fine words. Time to say ‘tata’ to our steel industry.
Lionel Messi has offered to auction his boots in aid of an Egyptian charity. Unfortunately, no-one has briefed the Barcelona star on Arab antipathy towards shoes and boots. Remember that Libyan mob hitting Gaddafi with the soles of their shoes? Remember that Iraqi mob hitting that pulled-down statue of Saddam with their shoes…..and what about that shoe thrown at George W Bush? Now the Egyptian people feel insulted that Messi has offered his ‘shoes’ instead of his shirt. Funny old world.
#Cameron – a first assessment.
Every government is remembered by its Prime Minister and just a couple of headline achievements and policies. So far, David Cameron has built quite an arsenal of happy memories to be remembered by. Here are 20……..and they’re beginning to look very worrying.
- Very dodgy Statistics with the Ministry of Statistics (ONS) admitting its over-reliance on surveys.
- A Prime Minister incapable of completing a negotiation. (EU)…..Don’t believe me? Wait and see….
- All issues requiring an executive decision being farmed out to Planet Inquiry.
- Food Banks.
- Giving a totally believable impression of being comprehensively out of touch with the ordinary man.
- Nepotism and Cronyism…..referred to as “patronage”.
- The most appalling political speeches.
- Watching the Steel Industry’s final death throes.
- A flat economy with 95% of everything expressed in percentages.
- Too many incomplete undelivered promises and confusion between decree and action.
- The Gatwick v Heathrow saga.
- The inability to motivate Chilcot to complete his Iraq Inquiry.
- A pointless involvement in Syria.
- 2-Nation Politics and the return of toffery.
- Meetings – especially the pointless COBRA ritual.
- Fictional Economic claims.
- Fictional National Security claims – reminiscent of #Blair.
- 2015 Election win by default…Because the alternative (Miliband) was TOO ghastly to contemplate.
- Watching the entire NHS fail.
George Orwell may have been 30 years out, but he was right. Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill must not be allowed to pass into Law. I certainly do not want to traumatize some innocent Plod as he or she scours my web-browsing history…(It was for research purposes!). Rewind 20 years and we have the equivalent of the government saying: “We want to steam-open your letters before you read them but we’ll only have sneaky little peek. Nothing to worry about. It’s all that terrorism y’know! It’s for your own good!”
Hopefully, once again…the House of Lords will protect us from a government which is becoming far too prescriptive and self-important.
Another case of Big Brother is Botching?
Many years ago, I was in East Germany (don’t ask!) and recall a Keep Britain Tidy demonstration being reported in a Russian newspaper. The strapline was “The average Englishman throws his rubbish onto the street.” I knew what they meant but the impression given was horrific. This week, the following article made it to the Independent. Here’s what is being reported about the United Kingdom and its ‘hardworking people’………………..‘Victorian’ diseases rise as Tories fail to tackle food poverty http://bit.ly/1S9nI6A
Which political party is IN TOUCH with the people?
Many years ago, I was asked to chair a Citibank meeting during which the CEO and directors would meet the staff and answer pre-submitted questions. The whole event was started off by the Chief Executive delivering a “Where We Are Now/Where We Would Like To Be” presentation.
In the manner of all Chief Executives with an accountancy background, there were upward-sloping graphs, slides entitled “Return on Equity”, “Return on Income”, a lot about Profit, Expense Overruns, Assets, Take-over Plans etc. After about 15 slides of numbers, there was a final slide which, for some reason, senior management invariably feels obliged to roll out….It is the one about “Our MOST valuable asset…..OUR PEOPLE!”
I believe that it is meant to reassure staff how important they are to the business but having attended many meetings where the CEO only referred to staff as “FTEs” (Full Time Equivalents), that final slide seemed like a bit of an afterthought. ” HR needs an incremental FTE next year.” (In fact, his slides had been prepared by a team of Actuaries and Accountants, so inevitably there had been a slide showing how our FTEs needed to grow in order to deliver some very bullish business plans.)
Then we came to the Q&As. The ones which had been chosen were primarily about the business and its future. As the answers had been rehearsed by various members of the Board, the session went very smoothly and appeared to end on a high.
The CEO turned to me and whisphered ” Before we wrap this up, Richard……let’s take some more questions from the floor…”
I replied “No Paul….Just say a few words of thanks and let them loose on the sausage rolls…..”
The CEO nodded and stood up and addressed to 200-strong audience ” Does anyone have any more questions….Anything you like…….!”
I assume that no-one heard my “Oh, fuck!” as the benignly-smiling Chief Executive waited….
A gnarled hand at the back of the hall went up. It was Harry. He was past retirement age but we’d kept him on as office Postie. He was an old-school Union man who hated all management and their “queer” ways.
Paul the CEO knew Harry because everyone knew Harry, so he was extremely proud to be able to use a first name and demonstrate to everyone what a lovable caring boss he really was. “Yes, Harry….What’s your question?”
“Thank you, Paul,” said Harry “Are you aware that there are no plasters in the fourth floor First Aid Box. I’ve been telling Personnel for ages but they just don’t seem to care…..Not only that…but it’s contrary to Section C of the..blah, blah, blah…..”
“Oh , fuck,” I repeated into my notes.
The smile never left Paul’s face as he turned to me and said in a very loud voice “Richard….Why wasn’t I briefed about this? “
Needless to say, the meeting deteriorated as the staff, emboldened by troublemaker Harry started to ask the REAL questions. The meeting ended with an exhausted Board, an newly-liberated staff and a CEO who wanted me to meet him in his office the following morning.
The Coalition government has made the same mistake as Paul the CEO.
It has spent the last five years telling the voter about its achievements. It has bombarded the voter with statistics. It has told us that there is a “plan”. It has told us that there is a Deficit and that it has to be paid off…….and apart from a very short period last week, when there appeared to be a sudden realisation that it was not making contact with the people, it continues to spout figures and intentions.
As Harry showed the Citibank management, ordinary people are not interested in the Big Picture. What they are interested in though, is enough money in their pockets to deliver self-respect , good health, food and shelter for themselves and their family, freedom from worry and where appropriate, a job which can deliver a future as well as provide their present.
There is only ONE additional concept which every voter supports and which does not affect themselves directly. It is the thought that all vulnerable members of society are respected and catered-for.
The Deficit, “Since Records Began”, taking MILLIONS(!) out of tax etc are the Accountants’ slides which Paul the CEO bored his audience with.
The United Kingdom desperately needs a government and leadership which resonates with its people and not just with a calculator.
The #DPP Lady shows the LAW is not “a ass”
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is quite right in having decided NOT to prosecute Lord Janner for alleged child abuse. Her reasons and rationale are to be found here: http://blog.cps.gov.uk/2015/04/the-decision-not-to-prosecute-lord-janner-statement-from-the-dpp.html
Although her reasons not to prosecute are (quite rightly) based in law, there is also the question of compassion…..something definitely not afforded the hundreds of children who have been abused over the years. However, compassion must never be confused with forgiveness and we must also remember that Greville Janner has never been convicted of child abuse.
Needless to say, this will be a great disappointment to his accusers as well as their families. His family must also be disappointed that he will go to his grave with accusations hanging over him without having had the opportunity to prove his innocence.
However, an old man who possibly may no longer understand either his alleged crimes or even a long legal process and whose medical condition definitely means that he is not a danger to society is certainly not an ideal subject for prosecution.
Janner has not “got away with it” as have many able-bodied and fully compos mentis individuals, who are doubtless still stalking Establishment corridors. His life is over – guilty or not.
Meanwhile a big “up” to Ms Saunders for taking the difficult decision, although she would do society as well as disappointed victims an immeasurable favour if her department and the police fast-tracked some of the many other files on their desks.
Brighton Gin – Raoul-style!
A couple of years ago, I was in Oman, running a Management Audit course for a dozen employees of a well-known petro-chemical conglomerate. The group they had sent me was the usual mix of nationalities, religions and language abilities.
Years of practice meant that I could judge how difficult or easy the week was going to be within a couple of hours of our first meeting. In keeping with my own tradition, I asked the course participants to interview each other and then introduce the person they’d interviewed. That gave me an idea of what they were all about but more importantly, their English Language skills.
We were is a very posh hotel for a week which gave me the opportunity not only to teach them some “hard-skills” but as usual, I planned to spend some time with each delegate informally – especially those who I felt might be “shy” and not ask questions or fully participate.
Having spent many years in hotels all over the world, I have two very simple rules: When I’m working I don’t drink alcohol or eat abnormally. However, this particular course turned out to be an epic which caused me to break one of my rules, for a very unexpected reason.
The Brazilian delegate spoke Linguaphone American (what I call the “tennis-player” accent) and although his English was passable, he was the most withdrawn of the whole group. He was the lone accountant …the others ranged from a couple of crazy drillers from the USA to a petrol station manager from Poland…all wildly extrovert.
On the second night, I asked the Brazilian to sit with me over a drink to see how he felt. We chatted about this and that, he noticed that I was nursing a lime juice. “Don’t you drink alcohol?” he asked.
” I MOST certainly do,” I replied…”but never when I’m running a course.”
” I see you are drinking LIME. Have you ever tasted a proper Vodka and Lime?”
I had only ever had a British Vodka and Lime…you know, the one with a shot of vodka plus a shot of cordial, topped-off with ice. He smiled…..
“Let me make you a REAL Vodka and Lime!”
JUST to be sociable, you understand…I nodded…and that simple nod was to lead to one of the most memorable drinks I have ever tasted.
We both walked up to the bar and he asked whether he could go behind the bar.
The barman said “Yes, of course” and my new Brazilian friend, Raoul was away!
He asked for sugar and fresh limes. A vast quantity of each was brought from the hotel kitchen and he began…and as he worked, I saw his demeanour change from standoffish accountant to Vodka super-hero!
Needless to say, the other course delegates gradually gathered around the bar to witness Raoul’s alchemy.
He cut limes in half and squeezed juice into a jug. Then he sliced limes and ground them with sugar to release oils from the rind (a Mortar and Pestle had been delivered from the kitchen). The green sugary Lime-sludge was deposited in the jug with the Lime juice. Then he crushed ice and threw it into the jug with a Brazilian flourish. Finally, a fresh bottle of vodka was brought from the freezer and glugged over the jug’s ingredients.
By then we were all slavering. Raoul lined up many glasses, placed ice cubes into each and began to pour his elizir. He then popped a swizzle stick in each and casually said “Enjoy!”
And we did! For most of the night……..and Raoul became the most popular (and extroverted) course delegate – although my 9 a.m. training session the following morning felt a bit flat!
You may be forgiven for wondering what precipitated such self-indulgent nostalgia….
Last week I invested in a bottle of Brighton Gin and as soon as I opened it, I knew that this was not just gin…this was GIN….Gin which deserved some care and special attention….and while I am sure that tipping Tonic into it and floating a slice of lemon is perfectly fine, I felt that it deserved more….SO…..
I gave it the FULL Raoul!
Only FOUR ingredients: Lime , sugar, ice and Brighton Gin…..but WHAT a mix!
It was sublime (geddit?), delicious and I have a new hobby….although, for the moment, my wife continues to have me on vision only!
The Paris Love-in.
The Summer of Love, Woodstock and now Je Suis Charlie…….. Love-ins are doubtless very motivational, inspirational and emotionally regenerative but unfortunately, they carry with them a large dose of exponential decay.
Other demonstrations such as Solidarność worked because they were not-only inclusive but they also hinted at revolution and violence……..undercurrents which are (by definition) always missing from love-ins.
Make no mistake, the events in Paris yesterday were wonderful and uplifting but regrettably, not transformational. They were no more than a herd coming together after a few of its members had been attacked and killed by predators. We were all looking for emotional warmth, safety, reassurance, a feeling of belonging and motivation of the sort which only a herd can provide.
It was all terribly emotional but in time, emotions grow dim.
Words of love and respect were spoken by members of all denominations and class. Politicians delivered their obligatory words of defiance. Social and Political commentators provided analysis and words of caution as well as optimism. Mothers brought their children for that “I was there” moment….but feelings will pass and memories fade.
We are currently watching the emergence of a rogue herd which is not yet ready for the pragmatism of rubbing along peacefully with all the other herds. The Islamic State will be “l’étranger” for some time to come. Showing it love and respect is impossible for the rest of us because for the moment, in spite of our numbers, it is they who are the predators and we are the hunted.
However, looking at the magnificent sight of two million individuals sweeping slowly through the streets of Paris reminds us that it is not only time which is on our side but that it will always be a numbers game.
Yesterday, the human herd grew….both in numbers and stature.
Beware – especially #SMEs
Whether you provide a service or whether you make something and no matter how GOOD you are, you need to tell the world about what you produce. THAT means that a large part of your job is Selling!
Whenever I train people to sell, I tend to major on how to get your product or service in front of people and how to turn value into hard cash. A good Sales Presentation IS useful but as MOST entrepreneurs who fail, do so because they don’t distribute or sell their product effectively, I thought that on this occasion, I would cut to the last bit……the very end of a pitch, presentation or meeting – so that you recognise the signals which tell you that you have hit a brick wall and have made an error during your pitch.
I have many years experience of pitching my company to senior management – usually the Chief Executive and even though I’ve completed hundreds of pitches, presentations etc, I still find myself making the occasional mistake – usually by simply misreading my prospect’s signals.
Here are some phrases which you may have already come across….ALL of them indicate that somewhere along the line, you have made a mistake. It’s by no means irredeemable but you DO have a bit more work to do:
” Leave me your card, I’ll get back to you.”
” I need to discuss this with my partner/directors/ wife/ HR Director/ Purchasing Manager/ Accountant/ Solicitor etc etc.”
” Call me in a week’s/Month’s time.”
“Let’s get Christmas/ Easter/ Summer Holidays etc out of the way…then we’ll talk again.”
“Write to me.”
“We’re reorganising/moving premises/installing a new system.”
“At the moment, everything is a bit ‘Up in the air’….I’ll call you when we’re ready.’
“We’ll definitely go ahead in the New Year/ next month/next financial year etc.”
If you look carefully, ALL of the above are stalling statements from someone who has not been persuaded that he or she has a NEED or that YOU are the one to satisfy their need.
So, if after the first one or two follow-up phone calls, letters or emails, you are still being stonewalled…..move on and maybe come back in a few months.
Remember: There are NO reasons…only excuses and bad sales presentations!
A concept which Western negotiators would do well to get to grips with is “MASKIROVKA”…something Russia is very good at! http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/maskirovka ……….. Humanitarian Aid ? OK…if you say so! That scamp Putin is still running circles around everyone. Sanctions? I still remember years ago, the USA quietly asking Russia to please stop printing dollars. For the moment, the contest between Russia and the West appears very uneven. A good starting point would be for the West to LIFT all sanctions and force Putin to make his move 🙂
GLASTONBURY and its Winnebagos, air-conditioned yurts, Chardonnay and designer hippies…….. reminds me of more innocent days:
The IMF’s austerity conditions for #Ukraine, in return for cash handouts will prepare the country for membership of the EU’s “Indentured Servitude Club”.….alongside near-neighbours such as Greece……. The short to mid-term future looks very bleak for members of the ISC……..Nowadays, the population-at-large paying for the crimes of its politicians and bankers appears to be the generally accepted norm!
In Praise of Motivation.
A lot of pretentious nonsense is talked and written about “motivation” and there are many motivational speakers who travel the world, giving strung-out executives a quick fix of “feelgood” which then dissipates just in time for a subsequent seminar and the next fix….and so on. It has become a huge industry but related more to entertainment than to personal development.
Whenever I train executives, the motivational advice which I give them is disarmingly simple but devastatingly effective. So for a moment let’s forget Maslow, Hertzberg and the rest of the showbiz that is “The Motivation Industry”.
I learned this many years ago from an American called Tom Haggai. We met during one of his many motivational gigs and I do believe that he is still travelling and motivating…….and he is very good at it.
The advice is PRAISE YOUR STAFF.
Even when they screw up.
Tom said that he learned that simple lesson when his son came home from school with the MOST appalling grades on his report. In common with the vast majority of parents, Tom berated his son and told him that he was very disappointed in him.
Several months later, his son came back with even worse grades and of course, Tom went through the same routine and really expressed his displeasure at the boy’s continued under-performance.
One day, Tom was talking to a friend about the problems he was having with his son’s terrible grades and how there didn’t seem to be a way to make him work. His friend listened carefully and said: ” You fly around the world motivating top executives and yet you can’t motivate your son? You just criticise him? You can’t motivate your OWN son!?”
Tom thought about this and the next time his son produced his report rather nervously, Tom looked at the grades which by this time were really shocking.
He smiled and said “ Well done, son. You have obviously tried your best. Well done! I’m very pleased and so should you be!”
The boy smiled and hugged his father.
It was not that reaction which surprised the father, but what his son said next: “Thanks, Dad…but I think I can do better.”
From then on, the boy knuckled down and never looked back. It was a miraculous turnaround! He believed that he could do better and he did do better!
If you’re a parent and your young child brings you a piece of paper dripping with paint and there’s water, paint and mess on the kitchen floor, on the table and on the child’s clothes, what do you say?
You look at the coloured chaos on the paper, you smile and you say “Wow…that’s fantastic. Well done! What is it? “
The child tells you that it’s a picture of you…………..but it’s what happens next that is interesting.
In ten minutes, there’s another dripping piece of paper in your hand. This time it’s a car or the cat…… and so on….and so on…….
Soon, you have enough pictures to paper the entire room – and they’re all the result of the child enjoying your praise and attention…..and wanting more.
So, if you want “your people” to over-perform, tell them that they’re GREAT…..and they will be!
There’s yet another related phenomenon which, when used properly and sincerely, is very powerful. The humble COMPLIMENT!
I bet that everyone reading this remembers most if not ALL of the compliments they’ve ever received – even the ones from childhood and I bet that occasionally, you “replay” them in your mind. Why? For TWO reasons. Firstly, we don’t compliment each other enough, so there’s a certain rarity value and secondly, it is the MOST intense psychological experience!
THAT is why you still remember the person who told you that your dress was nice when you were six!
Never forget the power of saying positive things to people.
Cinderella Law? Bend Over!
It has been confirmed that the government is considering whether to introduce a new offence of Emotional Cruelty to Children. It is aimed at parents “who deny their children affection” and is the result of a campaign for a “Cinderella Law” from ACTION FOR CHILDREN.
The British Empire became what it was through the actions of the emotionally damaged, as have successive British governments. It is the emotionally damaged who make the world go round!
We live in a country where it is not unusual for a child to be packed off to Boarding School at the age of SIX. Surely, THAT is the ultimate example of parent-child emotional deprivation…with the added frisson of the possibility of sexual and physical abuse!
There aren’t enough Social Workers to deal with THAT !
The average foreigner’s caricature of an English gent is that of an emotionally-crippled, uncaring and unfeeling toff….. and bearing in mind that worldwide, we’re mainly represented by members of the Government, who can blame them?
A Cinderella Law, properly implemented is in danger of not-only putting hundreds of well-to-do parents in the Dock but ripping apart the fabric of British Society.
#MH370 : What if…..
The red mark on the map is the location of the American Military Base on Diego Garcia, which is is a coral atoll and part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.
The disappearance of the flight has been the subject of many conspiracy theories……ranging from alien abduction to an on-board bomb.
A couple of days ago, INMARSAT, a British company completed some very subtle calculations and announced the most likely resting place of flight MH370….somewhere near the bottom of the above map, to the west of Australia.
We have all taken Inmarsat’s calculations at face value but the discovery that a recent addition to this company’s Board was General C. Robert Kehler, United States Air Force (Retired), puts a slight “spin” on the facts.
Until November, General Kehler was Commander, US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
So, we have a heavily-protected US base which has nuclear rockets pointed a several targets on the Asian mainland.
We have a (possibly) deranged pilot who is rumoured to have Diego Garcia programmed into his home-built aircraft simulator.
What if the pilot had decided to crash Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 into the Diego Garcia Base? Remember that he didn’t disappear from radar by accident. He disappeared at the point where he knew that the plane would be “invisible” to radar.
There was absolutely NO reason to fly South and crash into the ocean.
Last question: WHAT would the USA Military do if they became conscious of what looked like a rogue plane with communications switched off heading towards them at a height of a few thousand feet?
They would blow it out of the sky.
The only issue remaining would be to lay a false trail in order to put the “crash site” as far away as possible from where it was “killed”.
One cannot blame the passengers’ families for being sceptical.
We’re SO lucky !!
TONITE, while me and ‘er indoors go to the Bingo & then to the boozer, I’ll tell the kids to go to the railway to see if there’s any discarded coal. Then, as a special treat, they can stand outside the pub with crisps, lemonade and maybe share a Woodbine!
We’re celebrating because I heard on the bus that Chancellor wassisname says we’re going to get £15 grand and we can have it all at once! It’s all because of the dificit or something. The bloke said it was a percentage (whatever THAT is ??!) of GHQ or it could have been ATM!
Then , because we’re quite strict with the young ‘uns (ha! ha!) it’s in bed by midnight for them! After all, they’re only six and eight. We give them ten minutes start because once we get going, me and the missus can get quite noisy! One day we hope they can have their own room and we’ve been looking at bed sheets in that Argos Book!
Busy day tomorrow – it’s the Friday family trip to Tesco for a bit of light shoplifting and then off to the food bank.
Roger Lloys Pack’s funeral took place yesterday. He , of course was best-known as “Trigger” from Only Fools and Horses. According to his daughter Emily, Roger’s final words to his family were “I’m fine”……. R.I.P
2014 Predictions – PART DEUX!
The first episode of my 2014 predictions has already been published and can be found HERE.
Below are my final predictions for the year and contain some extrapolations based on the government’s current air-brained and totally unrealistic attitude which is largely based on surveys and statistical “facts” – usually NOT based on a statistically significant time-span.
However, one has to admit that there are other predictions which are based in hope rather than fact!! See if you can spot the ones which are totally ridiculous!
And PLEASE don’t accuse me of being silly! They started it!
1. Chancellor Gideon Osborne will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics.
2. President Bashar al-Assad will win the Nobel peace Prize, in tandem with Tony Blair….for services to Syria and Iraq respectively.
3. The British Economy will recover and outgrow China.
4. British banks will lend money to SMEs WITHOUT blackmailing (for themselves) large chunks of equity participation.
5. There will be NO tax give-aways in the lead-up to the next General Election.
6. The French economy will recover and outstrip that of Germany.
7. Angela Merkel will become engaged to Sylvio Berlusconi.
8. Compulsory Bulgarian and Romanian will be taught in English schools.
9. Education Secretary, Michael Gove will stop interfering in the United Kingdom’s education system.
10. David Cameron will fire a Cabinet Minister for being a useless prat.
11. Banks will have completed the “Rebuilding of Balance Sheets”.
12. A thick person from the lower orders will win the X-factor.
13. Pope Benedict will ask for his old job back.
14. Economics journalists will start to write articles in easily-understood English so that EVERYONE understands what they are talking about – even those without an Oxbridge PPE degree!
15. More 65-plus Media and Arts perverts will be brought to book.
16. Manchester United will win the Premier League.
17. Heather Mills wins 2014 Sports personality of the Year.
18. The FTSE 100 will cross 7500. Or 4500! (It all depends on money-printing policy)
19. Yvette Copper will become Labour Leader and Theresa May will lead the Conservative Party into the next General Election.
20. David Attenborough will locate and identify The Big Society (and its bank).
21. Coalition Politicians will stop saying “The Mess THEY left behind” and “Difficult Decisions”.
22. David Cameron will keep talking about renegotiating the UK’s membership of the EU.
23. Richard Dawkins will prove conclusively, the existence of Godociety – with the former being the most likely!.
24. The Coalition Government will stop using the word “percentage” or “percent” in every other sentence.
25. Chancellor Gideon will get rid of his Caligula haircut.
26. Ed Miliband will say something intelligent and produce some economic policies
27. Dennis Rodman will be appointed Chief of Staff of the North Korean Army.
28. A well-known former PR man and art collector will have an arse transplant – but it will reject him.
29. President Obama will DO something and Boris Johnson will stop talking bollocks.
30. The HS2 toy train project will become a very long runway.
31. There will be no further bank mis-selling scandals – and I certainly won’t tell that interest on your bank CREDITS is calculated from the day AFTER the deposit, whereas the interest on Withdrawals is debited immediately.
32. UK property prices will continue to increase For Ever! Capital Gain without end!
33. There will be no further Westminster expenses scandals.
34. UKIP leader, Nigel Farage will be quiet, dignified, restrained and statesmanlike after the UKIP gains in European Elections.
35. Iain Duncan-Smith will say “Sorry!”to all the innocent people he has wronged. Hopefully, just before he collects his P45.
(I am NOT a Global Warming mullah but the image above shows all the world’s water and air to scale.)
The Inequality and Iniquity of Growth.
This Christmas there will be millions of puzzled and sometimes hungry people staring at their televisions. Their hunger is easily explained – they are poor but what will confuse them will be the newsflashes showing smiling people shopping and talking about ‘Tablets’ at £500 each, Champagne, and a million other expensive items and yes…even Christmas turkeys!
Then they will see celebrity chefs cooking Brussels sprouts with pancetta, more champagne, the perennial debate about goose fat versus oil on roasties and how we’ll ALL be ‘over-indulging’ and falling asleep on the sofa! An alien world which some will have tasted but sadly, too many – especially children, will never inhabit.
This (to them) is a ‘make-believe’ world of plenty. They know it exists somewhere near them but it is like the parallel universe of science fiction….there but impossible to access.
They see shiny, smug politicians saying words about ‘the recession being over’….something the poor haven’t been too acutely aware of because what the politician calls ‘recession’ and ‘austerity’, they call “LIFE”.
‘The economy’ appears to be doing very well! …………..By the way….what is that?
The disparity between the most affluent Brits and the rest is hurting the economy. This chasm between rich and poor appears to have become an unacknowledged issue, primarily as the result of too many of the Cabinet belonging to ‘the Affs’. It is apparent that few understand that everyone (up to middle class) has seen their income stagnate, whilst wealthy households have really thrived.
Note: I propose to dispense with euphemisms such as “the well-off” and “society’s disadvantaged”. Let’s stick to rich and poor.
Bonuses, higher salaries, higher profits and exceptional stock market gains are flowing almost exclusively to the already-rich. Proportionately, however, the affluent household ‘spend’ represents much less of their money than that of low and middle-income consumers.
One of the priorities of this government should be to engineer a much broader spending base – one which encompasses the poor……allowing them to actually participate in the economy.
Currently, there is a very distorted picture of consumer spending because it is driven by the rich. The poor and the poorer are doing their best to keep up but inevitably need to borrow in order to spend – thus making themselves even poorer. Meanwhile, many rich are gaining profits from bank or lending company shares which are fueled by the poors’ accelerating poverty….but the rich have something else which the poor have never had: OPTIONS or CHOICE!
One very profitable option this year has been the stock market – but once the markets have calmed down (which they will!) and gains are no longer eye-wateringly high, the affluent (As and Bs) will stop spending or at least, cut back dramatically.
THAT will have an immediate and devastating effect on this virtual economic recovery. SO, it is in the government’s interest to sustain the recovery illusion by keeping interest rates low and Quantitative Easing flowing to the banks so that , from an investment point of view, the equity markets (stocks and shares) remain the only game in town, so that the rich retain their mega spending power for as long as possible – at least until May 2015!
That is a very dangerous game for any government to play.
This is the phenomenon which has created and is sustaining the ever more bitter ‘CLASS’ debate and is in danger of feeding Populism and ultimately, major unrest.
Income Inequality and not airports or trains should be the government’s priority.
There is now little doubt that in spite of government policy, the United Kingdom’s economic growth is picking up….as it is everywhere else (Global Economy!)
NOW, while the mini-recovery lasts, would be a good time for the government to tackle the INEQUALITY OF GROWTH which is not an iniquity but the iniquity of modern times.
“One of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself.” (Nelson Mandela.) http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/05/opinion/battersby-nelson-mandela/
THIS is from China’s state news agency Xinhua: “As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated. A new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing. Instead of honouring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas.” ………….Xinhua added: “Regional tensions amid territorial disputes, fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies…..”
When most people see Malala Youzafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban, they see a heroine. I see a sad, unfortunate girl, impelled and steered by a father’s grasping opportunism. Sorry.
#SYRIA: Does the increasingly isolated Obama, with his barking-mad, cigar-chomping generals, not realise that an attack on Syria will cause markets to tumble, wipe BILLIONS off share prices, accelerate the failure of the “propped-up-by-the Fed” American economy, damage the BRICS countries’ economies, raise oil prices, accelerate the collapse of the Eurozone and probably cause the deaths of thousands more innocent people? There are times when principle has to give way to pragmatism. #Callmehysterical!
What you see in the mirror is never what other people see. Let’s hope that there’s a massive reality check before the s*** hits the fan.
John Kerry – his full statement on SYRIA
President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in #Syria. And last night the president asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week.
I will tell you that as someone who spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it’s important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards.
And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That’s our responsibility: to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the administration and the Congress with responsibility for their security.
Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and rereviewed information regarding this attack. And I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people, who can judge for themselves.
But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people.
That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly.
So, what do we really know that we can talk about? Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened.
We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so. We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions.
We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed, and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas, and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.
And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching, with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.
And we know it was it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors.
And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn’t report: not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.
Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas, and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.
The United States government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders — the doctors, nurses and medics who tried to save them — they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger.
This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.
We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact and actually was afraid that they would be discovered.
We know this.
And we know what they did next. I personally called the foreign minister of Syria, and I said to him, if, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.
Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days. And when the U.N. inspectors finally gained access, that access, as we now know, was restricted and controlled.
In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of that, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence this is common sense, this is evidence, these are facts.
So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know. The question is what are we — we collectively — what are we in the world going to do about it.
As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History if full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference and especially against silence when it mattered most.
Our choices then in history had great consequences, and our choice today has great consequences.
It matters that nearly a hundred years ago, in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again. That was the world’s resolve then. And that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear red line for the international community.
It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That’s why we signed agreements like the START treaty, the New START treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which more than 180 countries, including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, have signed onto.
It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are, and if unchecked, they can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends.
And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries whose policies challenge these international norms are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.
And make no mistake. In an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do — or not do — matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things. We need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing.
It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.
This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?
So our concern is not just about some far-off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world.
It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations. This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us, and it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world.
My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.
America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act. The world is speaking out, and many friends stand ready to respond. the Arab League pledged, quote, “to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.” The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, “to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.”
Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”
The Australian prime minister said he didn’t want history to record that we were, quote, a party to turning such a blind eye.
So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is what we will do. Let me emphasize President Obama, we in the United States, we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who endured regime gunfire and obstructions to their investigation. But as Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, has said again and again, the U.N. investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the U.N. investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons were used. By the definition of their own mandate, the U.N. can’t tell us anything that we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know. And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. cannot galvanize the world to act, as it should.
So let me be clear: We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies and, most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.
Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about.
And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things, we do know.
We also know that we have a president who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria, it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.
The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, we are committed, we remain committed, we believe it’s the primary objective is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table. And we are deeply committed to getting there.
So that is what we know. That’s what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of a planet where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.
Thank you very much.
#SYRIA: The embers of discontent have been glowing ever since the previous owner of the family business that is Syria, President Hafez al-Assad, quelled a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982. Thousands were killed with little reaction from the West……Then in 2011, in the southern city of Daraa , his son and heir, Bashar al-Hassad had 15 children arrested for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. Small, seemingly insignificant events such as this can often change the course of history. The present killing, propaganda and destruction are just another example. The rest of the world has turned a blind-eye to Syria for too long and much irreversible damage has been done not only to its people but to the country’s infrastructure and culture. There is little doubt that the West wants to see a regime change… but the means to achieve that – whether right or wrong, are not to be found in the navigation system of a Cruise missile, the trigger-finger of a jet pilot or a politician’s vanity. There’s still time to talk.
FOR PARENTS: Last year a survey of 19 year-olds indicated that that 285,000 of them had left school at age 16 without a Grade C or higher in both English and Maths and only 21 % of those who had not gained a good grade at age 16 in English continued studying it, along with 23 per cent of those who had not got a C or better in Maths. QUESTION: How many did not continue English and how many studied Maths? That question is very simple arithmetic. However, as a nation, we don’t “do” sums. When I was at Citibank, I organised a voxpops-type street survey in which we asked passers-by to calculate something like “What is 60% of 50?” LESS than HALF of the participants (all adults) were able to give the correct answer……… Today’s much-maligned kids are just as good at arithmetic as their parents…..and by the way….THAT is why most political and economic statistics are presented in percentages rather than in REAL terms! Most of us have NO IDEA what they mean! #NationOFthickos
Egypt: another Iraq or Libya?
After the mess left behind in Iraq and Libya, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. Heroic speechwriter-polished phrases and Churchillian posturing are a remnant of a past when the words ” honour” and “bravery” still had currency.
Today, war is recognised as a filthy misery-spawning industry which, like an appalling Grand Prix Circuit, moves from country to country, leaving no more than a legacy of rubble and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness.
The most bizarre aspect of the whole circus is that the leader of a small cluster of damp islands in the North Sea is always the one who makes the most noise, always hiding behind his younger but much bigger American cousin’s skirts. Collectively, the West feels that its job is to dispense the universally therapeutic remedy of “democracy” – even to those who don’t really want it.
Democracy is not an emollient to be force-fed in the same way that 18th and 19th century missionaries (from exactly the same damp islands) delivered Christianity to the world’s natives.
The Arabs are not even remotely interested in our special brand of democracy. Democracy is their excuse because they know that as soon as they shout “Freedom!” or “Democracy!“, the usual suspects will come riding in, dispensing guns with notions of rescue, egalitarianism and ballot boxes.
Can you imagine revolutions in the Middle East if the family businesses masquerading as governments distributed their oil billions as they should? Would the average Arab be interested in getting shot in the name of “regime change” or “democracy” – if he had a job, enough food, decent housing, a car, TV set, free hospital care for his family and a bit left over? Of course not.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom or unbridled freedom of speech – and that is NOT the product which interests the Egyptian population.
With 77% youth unemployment, their revolution is based in economics not idealism and whatever the West’s response, it will be based on exactly the same criteria.
Screw the Interview
Some of you may have read my “How to get to the top with absolutely NO talent” which gives a few tongue-in-cheek pointers as to what NOT to when attending a job interview.
I thought that it might also be useful to tell you a few other pitfalls – especially as more and more of you will be attending interviews over the next few months (years!).
Turning up on time seems like an obvious piece of advice. Turn-up in plenty of time to ask where the loo is so that you can at least straighten your hair and see how you look after the journey. You know how it when you’ve either walked 100 metres from a train station or walked 20 paces from your car – there is always that rogue gust of wind which messes up your hair or that snap rain shower which makes your suit feel like a dishcloth or washes-away your makeup. Arrive with plenty of time to settle down and convince yourself that you look good!
At some stage during the interview, you will be asked whether you have any questions. There are a couple of things which you definitely never ask about. The first rule is that you never, ever ask about salary, overtime, holidays etc. The function of the first interview is to demonstrate how lucky your prospective employer will be if he is wise enough to hire you. The interviewer needs to know what you can do for his company and not to tell you what they can do for you.
Never ask inane questions about the company. “How many employees do you have?” Do your homework. If you are being interviewed in an Agency pre-selection interview , you can get away with a few inane questions but remember that this type of interviewer sees you as no more than a commodity.
When you are asked the ubiquiotous “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” never reply “In your seat” or any of the other trite replies which the interviewer has heard a million times before. Start your answer with a “Hopefully..” and talk about working hard and progressing. (Every company will lie to you and say that it runs a “meritocracy”).
You want a job. This job. You need to show commitment to the job which you are being hired for.
Another favourite (lazy) interview question is the good old “What are your weaknesses” question. Yes – even now, some interviewers believe that this is an excellent interview question. Although it is a rubbish question, you can put a positive spin on it without appearing too clichéd.
The first rule here is not to give that type of answer which attempts to turn such a ridiculous question into a major positive. You know the sort of thing: ” I tend to be too much of a perfectionist” or ” I put in too many hours” etc etc. The only reaction answers such as these will generate is a yawn.
The correct way to deal with this type of question is to think about skills rather than attributes. For instance , if you need to polish-up your Powerpoint skills or have forgotten a few Excel shortcuts, use those. ” I’m a little bit rusty…..”
In my book, I state quite clearly that you should not lie about qualifications but that things such as GCSEs are rarely checked – so what you say about qualifications is up to you. However do not claim anything that you will not be able to bluff your way through or a qualification which suggests that you will be be able to do the job when you can’t. Lie intelligently. Otherwise you are not-only wasting the interviewers time but your own as well.
Most interviewers realise that you will exaggerate the responsibilities you have in your current and previous jobs – just do not overdo it!
When you are approaching the end of the interview, the interviewer knows that you need to know as soon as possible whether or not you have been successful. The “When?” question is always a pain so don’t ask it. A bad interviewer (and there are lots of those), will sometimes make you believe that you have been successful and too many interviewees spend the interview misinterpreting what the interviewer is saying – especially if at some stage he says “We”, meaning “The Company” and you think that he is including you.
Don’t spend the interview searching for imaginary clues which make you believe that you have the job.
” I need to know as soon as possible because I have other interviews.” is another favourite which practically guarantees that you will not be participating in a second interview or shortlist.
” I really need this job.” or my personal favourite ” I’d do anything to get this job.” do not convey you as a thrusting “go-getter” – just a desperate loser. (I’ve been on the receiving end of both). Avoid!
Finally, I presume that you are wearing a suit (both males and females). If you are, make sure that it is clean and pressed and ladies – do not display your chest – no matter how proud of it you are. It can be an unnecessary distraction and in my experience , does little to enhance your job chances (and I’m a big fan!) – but it is a very common mistake!
Good Luck….and remember the correct mind-set. It is THEY who will be lucky to employ YOU!
Four-year-old Daniel Pelka died of starvation, beating and incomprehensible neglect. The details are in the press. Currently, Social Services executives (as usual) are running for cover and tidying up files as the blame game begins . Meanwhile, we will all be subjected to the customary cries of “Lessons MUST be learned” , “We MUST ensure that this never happens again”, “He was failed by all of us” ,“We have new procedures in place”, followed by the traditional British method of dealing with all Public Service problems – The Inquiry………The real fact is that today, there are many Daniels being beaten and abused and some of them will be known to the Social Services. One or two will die. All I will say to any Social Worker working with children is this: You are taking too much time off work and you attend too many meetings. How do I know that? I’m afraid I cannot tell you but the days that you take off through “stress” are nothing to the stress experienced by a starving unloved child who understands nothing but extreme pain and fear.
A new CBI Report entitled TOMORROW’S GROWTH concludes that relying solely on traditional university courses will not meet the growing demand for proper degree-level technical skills. Consequently, the UK will fail to close its chronic skills gaps without urgent action to boost advanced learn-as-you-earn training and more business-designed degrees. The CBI also warns that businesses need to tackle the perception that A-levels followed by a three-year residential course is the only route to a good career. We in the United Kingdom have created a very high population of “average” prospective British employees, with not enough at either the skilled white-collar level, or the skilled blue-collar end. All you have to do is look at the ethnic origin of surgeons and doctors within the NHS and the nationalities of those doing what we in the UK call the “menial” jobs. Indian and Chinese at one end, with Polish and other European at the other… with a sprinkling of other “ethnics”. Where are the Brits? They are middle-management! Our biggest problem is our own self-perception and that well-known national superiority complex.
Royal Baby – Obsession or Media Hype?
As the world’s media whips itself into a frenzy over Prince William and his wife Kate’s baby, some bemused spectators are wondering if Britain’s royal family really is that fascinating or just hype.
From breathless reports about the baby’s due date to endless speculation about the name and manner of delivery, TV crews from around the world have been delivering almost hourly updates outside the London hospital where Kate is due to give birth.
“You know everybody has babies, and it’s lovely, but I don’t get wildly excited about it,” Rhodes, 88, told CNN.
Recent opinion polls suggest she is not the only one who has not been transfixed by the daily press barrage or glued to some British newspapers’ live web shots of the as-yet unbreached entrance to St Mary’s Hospital in west London.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of Americans surveyed last December when Kate’s pregnancy was announced were very or fairly closely following the news.
Previous studies of interest in eight British royal stories dating back to 1986 – including William and Kate’s sumptuous wedding in April 2011 – found 60 percent did not follow or were not closely following these events.
There was one exception. The 1997 death of William’s mother Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris grabbed the attention of 85 percent of U.S. respondents.
Even in Britain a YouGov poll this week found only 46 percent were very or fairly interested in the birth, which was less than in India, where 57 percent of those surveyed expressed an interest in the arrival of the new royal.
“In Britain there seems to be more cynicism to the royal family, whereas abroad, particularly in America, there is a more romantic imagining of what royal life is like,” said Arianne Chernock, an expert on the history of monarchy at Boston University.
“It helps having a few very charismatic figures, but it has to do with the legacy of Britain and the power it had in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
Wei Zhang from Hong Kong Phoenix TV, camped outside St Mary’s hospital, said there was huge interest in Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, and in mainland China.
People back home, he told Reuters, wanted to see pictures and videos of “the royal family, everything about the royal family. The princes, the queen, everything”.
Chernock said the media fuelled the fascination.
“We are seeing an amplification because of social media, the 24/7 news cycle and the fact there are so many media outlets now,” she told Reuters.
For citizens in countries such as Canada and Australia, two of the 16 realms of which the baby is destined to be the future king or queen, even those who want to get rid of the monarchy admit there is genuine affection and interest.
“The fact is most Australians have nothing but goodwill for the royal family in Britain,” Australian Republican Movement national director David Morris told Reuters. “But that does not mean that we see them as ruling over us.”
So why do people still care about the British royals, who wield no real power and whose position is largely ceremonial?
Part of the fascination stems from the triumph of a highly rated public relations team that over the last decade has rebranded a staid institution, aided by the emergence of media-savvy royals such as William and his younger brother Harry.
Interest was also boosted by the travails of the royal family in the 1990s, with the marriage breakdowns of three of the queen’s children, most notably that of Prince Charles and Diana, which turned them into a celebrity soap opera.
“Twenty-one years ago, everyone talked about the soap opera of the British royal family in tragic and disastrous terms, and fair enough, it’s all come good,” royal historian Robert Lacey told Reuters.
“So if it was a soap opera then, all the more so now.”
Carolyn Harris, a Canadian historian who specialises in European monarchies, said the constant attention creates a familiarity that in turn fans the appeal.
“Audiences worldwide feel as though they watched William and Harry grow up and mourned with them when Princess Diana died in 1997,” she told Reuters.
Author Claudia Joseph, who has penned a biography of Kate, said the huge popularity of Diana and now Kate also helped.
“Everybody’s been waiting for a royal princess to step into Diana’s footsteps. William is immensely popular around the world because of being Diana’s son as well as the way he carries himself,” she told Reuters.
“People like a fairytale, and the idea you can come from nowhere and marry a prince.”
By Michael Holden
(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith and Amritha John in London, and James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Will Waterman)
Immigrants – we NEED them!
According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK needs SEVEN MILLION migrants over the next 50 years to help keep down national debt levels.
The OBR warns that the UK’s ageing population was squeezing public finances and said there was “clear evidence” that migrants, who tend to be working age, have a “positive effect on the public sector’s debt dynamics”.
The OBR has also warned that increasing pensioner numbers and a strained healthcare system means an extra £19 BILLION of spending cuts or tax increases are needed to combat an “unsustainable” pressure on the nation’s public finances.
It IS possible that while we continue to live too long and not produce enough, those much maligned immigrants could be the solution to our economic problems.
That should please UKIP!
HERE’S the Executive Summary of the OBR’s Fiscal Sustainability Report.
Winston S Cameron
David Cameron on yesterday’s barbaric murder in Woolwich: “On our televisions last night, and in our newspapers this morning, we have all seen images that are deeply shocking. The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.”
Sorry Dave but this was a numbingly tragic murder of a young soldier by a psycho. It was not the Blitz or the Battle of Britain.
This was a nutter dispensing uber-violence to an innocent serviceman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time – so please do not imbue the crazy bastard with any higher motive such as “.…trying to divide us”, followed by a shockingly bad speechwriters “counterpoint” : “…bring us together”.
DC’s short “speech” outside No.10 was scrotum-shrinkingly embarrassing and inappropriate. It was “Speechwriting by Numbers” at its very worst.
In future, can we please dispense with the pseudo-Churchillian platitudes and soulless “sincero-talk”. Thank you.
p.s. Either hire a decent speechwriter or next time, ask Boris to do it.
The Eurocrisis isn’t just Financial.
The Eurozone crisis has managed to morph from a plain old currency crisis to a debt crisis, an economic crisis and now, a full-blown political crisis – although no-one seems to have noticed…….. and it’s not just the Eurozone:
In the United Kingdom, people are making increasingly indiscreet noises about the Prime Minister’s leadership capabilities and the Chancellor’s questionable competence, as the cold hand of political instability makes a (so far) half-hearted grab for No 10. Currently it looks as if there is already a swing to the right. Nigel Farage and UKIP no longer look like a bunch of extremist Right-wing loonies and as they gain respectability and seats, they will pose a genuine threat to the status quo.
Here’s a quick Grand Tour:
Greece’s political problems are well-documented and this is where the recent polarisation of national politics began with the success and increasing support of the right-wing Golden Dawn Party. Greece is on its knees.
In France there’s the scandal of a Minister and his secret Swiss Bank account with the consequent investigation of all Ministers – shades of the UK’s MP expenses outrage. President Hollande is keeping a very low profile because , let’s face it….he came to the table without any ideas. His mere presence has allowed Marine le Pen and her Right-wingers to re-emerge blinking into the sunlight, ready to build on her father’s legacy.
Germany’s Bundeskanzlerin Merkel is no longer odds-on to win her autumn election and so, in order to placate her detractors, countries such as Cyprus are being put through the debt-wringer and effectively having to bail themselves out! All in the cause of extra Brownie points for the Merkelator.
Many are anticipating more resignations from within the Cypriot government. Michalis Sarris, the Cypriot finance minister who negotiated Cyprus’s bailout agreement with international creditors has already gone.
Portugal’s Constitutional Court has kicked into touch some of the austerity measures imposed on the country by the Eurozone moneylenders. Now the politicians are wondering about how to plug the fiscal gap and Prime Minister Coelho may resign.
Belgium took 535 days to form a government after its last election and now has a 6-party Cabinet.
Italy is struggling to form a government and will most likely hold another election after President Napolitano comes to the end of his tenure as Head of State on May 15th. Goodness only knows what the reaction of not only the Eurozone but of the Markets would be should Silvio Berlusconi (again) rise from the dead! Italy’s political scene has become so surreal that ONE QUARTER of the vote in the recent election went to a protest movement headed-up by Beppe Grillo – a comedian!
Spain’s politicians, including its Prime Minister are mired in corruption scandals – and now there are anti-Royalist demonstrations as a direct result of the king’s daughter being implicated in a government financial rip-off. Mind you, affluent Spaniards have already pulled about $100 billion out of their Spanish bank accounts. They started running early. It’s only a matter of time before the Basques and Catalans start to make their separatist noises.
The difficulty is that one would normally expect the emergence of the Right to be counterbalanced by a strong showing from the political Left. But what Europe has are weak governments , compounded by even weaker oppositions. No European political party in government has over 50% of the vote……. and the less said about the European Union’s politicians, the better! They seem to have elevated ineptitude into an art form.
Currently, Britain’s Left is being driven by Ed Miliband and the New-Old-New-Who-Knows-Who-Cares Labour Party. They earn their salaries through the medium of being critical. They have shown themselves to be totally bereft of a coherent, cohesive strategy and will be directly responsible for the future success of UKIP.
Leadership (or a lack of it) within Germany’s Social Democratic Party will be the main factor which could give Merkel another few years of power. If that happens, the rest of the Eurozone should begin to consider itself as no more than a motley collection of Vassal States……there to do Germany’s bidding. Unless of course, Germany accepts George Soros’ advice and leaves the Euro.
France does not enjoy having a Socialist President and it is right to be sceptical. President Hollande is now totally ignored by Merkel and is doing what he does best – he keeps out of the way as Germany tightens its stranglehold.
Hollande could have been the Eurozone’s great hope but unfortunately is way out of his depth. France now has a negative bond rating by all three rating services and has lost much of its international respect. It’s precarious banking system is just waiting (like many others) to go “pop!”
The Main Event this year will be Merkel’s re-election so the Eurozone states must not expect any major policy changes until then – and when she wins? More of the same – but without the compassion!
What of Europe’s medium to long-term future? Without some sort of political quantum leap, it will inevitably descend into a collection of Third World states but with running water, TV and a banking system totally independent of its economy and probably with its own flag.
Maggie’s Big Bang.
Although, in common with many others, I feel a sadness for the passing of Margaret Thatcher, there is one major part of her legacy which recent history has shown to have been an over-sold concept – The Big Bang.
That was the day – 27th October 1986 – when London Stock Exchange rules changed. Jobbers and Brokers became one and the stock market free-for-all began.
It also signaled the coming of the modern Investment Bank.
That was also the day that the City of London became Americanised. The day that the MBAs and the suits showed up and eventually turned an old marketplace into a money-circus.
In 1986, I remember walking into an old Stockbroking firm called Scrimgeour Vickers as part of a Citicorp acquisition team. We had bought it and wanted to see exactly what it was that we had bought! I remember lots of frightened pale-looking people sitting in a sea of dark mahogany and typed paper, looking at us as if we had landed from another planet.
The contrast between us in our sharp suits with our management jive talk and these honest folk was striking.
One of them attempted to break the ice by saying: “This building was condemned in 1948!!” How he and his friends laughed! We didn’t. We were far too important for all that!
We fired most of them and installed new procedures, modern desks and computer screens. We were Gods and, without realising it at the time, a real metaphor for what was happening to the whole of financial services; an almost indiscriminate “Out with the old and in with the new!”
A white collar Revolution!
Margaret Thatcher had been unhappy about TWO main things. Firstly, London was in very real danger of losing its position as a major world finance hub and secondly, the City was ruled by an “Old Boys Network”. In place of the elitist public school stranglehold, Margaret Thatcher meant well when she had dreamed of it being replaced by the mythical “Meritocracy” – a place where people with talent and not necessarily “connected” could play their part.
She also wanted unrestrained competition and ultimately total deregulation, leading to more product innovation and the establishment of London as THE world’s financial centre.
Twenty seven years later, London is still the place to make deals and invest …..and still is the world’s biggest financial centre – but at what cost?
The Labour Government’s deregulation of the banks in 1997 unleashed a Frankenstein which was not recognised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) until all the damage had been done. The FSA had been too busy looking through the filing cabinets of provincial insurance brokers whilst the banks had been trusted to carry on being as honest and straightforward as they had always been.
No-one appeared to appreciate that those Bankers were different bankers. In fact, most of them weren’t bankers at all.
They were a strange hybrid of Corporate Entrepreneur, pre-programmed to take risks with other people’s money as if it was their own…..and…..they are still doing it!
The global financial crisis certainly cannot all be blamed on Margaret Thatcher’s hopes and aspirations for Britain. But the creation of increasingly complex and convoluted financial products, deregulation and a total failure of successive governments and their regulators to spot bank wrongdoing, is very much part of her legacy.
Dangerous Dog – or just Playful?
A few years ago a well-known record producer friend of mine was living on his yacht in Antibes marina. One day he decided that he missed his dog.
As he’d left the dog behind in the States , he arranged for the animal to be flown over to France. It was a very large long-haired Alsatian.
The dog was flown to Nice airport in a fibreglass doggy container and his arrival in Nice was announced by a phone call to Nigel which informed him that the dog had eaten its way out of its Porta-Kennel and wouldn’t let anyone near the plane’s baggage hold. That meant that the plane could not be unloaded, causing delays and chaos “all over Europe” (this WAS France!)
Nigel was also told in no uncertain terms that unless he was there within 30 minutes, the dog would be shot.
Nigel leapt into his Corniche and sped-off along the RN7 in the direction of St Laurent du Var and the airport. An hour later, he returned with the dog and a severely depleted wad but he still had the half-pound gold ingot around his neck, swinging on what we all used to think was a solid gold bike chain. (Nige had class!).
Later that evening, I was wandering along the quay towards his yacht because Nigel had called me and said that he had something interesting that he wanted to show me (and probably smoke).
When I finally arrived at his yacht’s pasarail and before I slipped-off my battered Docksiders, I noticed a large wolf-like creature sitting on the aft-deck. It was making a noise like a slightly misfiring diesel “camion” engine. It stared straight at me and growled very gently – it was almost a purr – a cross between irritation and the anticipation of a teatime snack.
I rattled the pasarail and shouted “Nigel! Can you come out and hold onto your fucking wolf!………. Nigel!!”
I heard the wheelhouse door slide open and a rather disshevelled Nigel staggered out. He looked at me and then looked at the dog: “Don’t be such a fucking tart, Dickie. Come aboard. He won’t touch you. He’s as gentle as a kitten.”
Meanwhile, the Alsatian continued to growl and drool.
“Come on! Come aboard” encouraged Nigel.
“Nope!” I said. “Hold onto his collar and THEN I’ll come aboard.”
An exasperated Nigel walked onto the deck and grabbed to dog by the collar. The dog didn’t flinch. It was locked onto me like a heat-seeking missile.
I crossed the pasarail and noticed that the dog was pulling against the 18 inch choke-chain around its neck…..and I was just about to enter his territory!
I made it across. Nigel said, “See! Let him sniff the back of your hand….go on!”
I offered Barnaby (that was the wolf’s name) the back of my hand. He didn’t lick it. He just looked at it before re-locking his gaze onto my eyes.
“They can sense fear, you know Dickie. If he knows you’re scared, he’ll go for you. Tell you what, Dickie, kneel down and let him lick your face. He’s very friendly….Go on! Show him you’re not scared!”
“Are you sure , Nige. He’s growling…..”
I knelt . The wolf was so close that I could hear his heartbeat – but I’m not sure…it may have been mine.
“Go on…..let him see you’re not afraid. He’ll lick you in a minute……”
I’m not sure who was the most surprised at what happened next. The dog leapt at me with it’s mouth wide open. It went for my face. Nigel dragged the dog back but it had already made contact and one of its fangs had caught the underside of my chin and had ripped it open. Nigel dragged the dog away and said “Bad boy.” Then he turned to me…
“Look at that, Dickie ! Look at the fucking mess you’re making. You’re bleeding all over my teak deck. I only had that sanded yesterday. Bastard!”
Nigel turned his back on me and the dog, saying “Hold on. I think I’ve got some tissues in the galley….”
I only just made it back down the pasarail . As soon as Nigel let go of the dog, it came for me again. This time there was no pretence. It is was nothing less than growling, spitting venom. It wanted to eat me!
As I leapt into my Docksiders, Barnaby then just sat down, barked a couple of times and then arranged himself on the aft-deck and stared.
Nigel soon reappeared with some tissues. “What are you doing down there. Been winding Barnaby up again?” He threw the tissues at me “Come on we’ve had our fun. Come on… got something to show you….”
Needless to say, I did not accept Nigel’s kind invitation and the point of the story is nothing to do with my fear of Alsatians. It’s to do with blinkered owners who, like an over-tolerant parent, cannot see or understand that their dog is NOT playful but a psycho-nutter which can “lose-it” in a split second.
I only appreciated the full extend of Nigel’s “denial” when I spotted a contraption on his yacht which looked like a length of scaffold pipe. “What’s that Nige?” I asked….thinking that it was probably something to do with his boat.
“That’s what I take Barnaby for walks with…like a dog-lead, only solid. When we’re out , he gets excited. Bless him! You know, he sees people and gets a bit wound up and tries to bite them and sometimes he tries to bite me..he only wants to play…….the little rascal…so I have to have him on this pipe. That way, he can’t get near me! Good isn’t it!”
Cyprus: A blessing in disguise?
The United States, the Eurozone and even our own administration here in the United Kingdom have shown us that we are fast approaching the time for a major rethink of the Democratic Model.
The Global Economy is becoming permanently unstable and far too technical to be in the hands of gifted amateurs. Or, in the case of the United Kingdom: the “Gentleman Politician”.
By all means, allow the Elected Ones to fanny about with the politics but sharp-end economics should now be in the hands of professionals who do not constantly keep one eye on the opinion polls and the other on their next election.
There have already been attempts to install Technocrats, e.g. Italy and Greece – but these were no more than economists dressed as politicians, who were then expected to play politics. Inevitably, they crashed and burned.
Cyprus is the latest to demonstrate that politics (of any flavour) coupled with an absolute inability to Manage at Macro level is slowly killing economies.
Some may repeat the “But it’s those bankers” mantra…. and to a certain extent they are correct. However, the Root Cause is the politicians’ inability and unwillingness to manage the banks, themselves and the economy.
Cyprus should not only be a very loud wake-up call but also a watershed moment for Western politics.
Media Regulation? No point!
What is the POINT of Regulation? IT DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK!!!!
Before our politicians scratch each others’ eyes out on Monday, fighting over Royal Commissions and Press Regulation, they should consider what good a similar process did to the Financial Services Industry.
Regulation of any sort never works 100%.
Pre the various Financial Services Acts which spawned the Financial Services Authority, the Financial Services Industry was by no means perfect but is was self-regulated.
There was the occasional mis-selling scandal, life assurance salespeople occasionally confused clients’ money with their own and the standard of technical knowledge was below average. Bankers were boring but well-behaved and Building Societies were firmly rooted in the nineteenth century.
Then suddenly, products became more complicated, less client friendly, building societies wanted to be like banks, banks wanted to be like building societies AND insurance companies AND stockbrokers!! Shiny-new MBAs were hired!
………and oh yes………financial product design became marginally MORE complicated than Rocket Science.
More training, more technical knowledge and REGULATION were needed.
So what did all that regulation achieve – apart from creating a self-perpetuating multi-million pound regulation industry?
Well, since the financial regulator arrived on the scene, we’ve been subjected to many new experiences. For starters, there was the 2008 banking meltdown. Then we had PPI mis-selling by the Retail Banks, followed by LIBOR rigging by the Investment Banks. Then of course we had those VERY naughty Interest Rate Swaps which so many SMEs signed up to. There are still many major issues which will have to be dealt with by the regulators, the hugest one being the continued use of Off-Balance Sheet Accounting by the banks.
Regulation? Code of Conduct? Snooping through Filing Cabinets? Reporting Systems? Yet another Quango?
A fat lot of good they all did in financial services!
A basic Media Code of Conduct and SELF-regulation is the ONLY way forward.
Royal Charter or no Royal Charter, self-regulation of the media or a Regulator supported by law and a Bible full of Rules and Regulations will make absolutely NO difference, either to the conduct of individuals or the behaviour of privately-owned media corporations.
Yes, it is an important issue and Lord Justice Leveson has highlighted ALL the right issues but whichever approach is taken, it will make little difference.
The only thing which is important is that the media is NEVER controlled by the State plus that the legislators learn the lesson of the car-crash that is the regulated financial services industry
There’s little point in the medical profession scaremongering about our increasing resistance to antibiotics and the Government’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies taking a leaf out of the No 10 Sound Bite Manual and declaring “Antibiotics should be ranked along with terrorism on a list of threats to the nation” and “It’s a ticking time bomb”. Calm down dear and tell your medical mates to stop dishing-out antibiotics like Smarties. It’s not as if you haven’t known about the dangers for quite a few years now.
Government Immigration Success!!
It looks as if the Coalition Government’s policies are finally working and controlling immigration to the United Kingdom.
The only problem is that it is NOT government immigration policies which are having such a powerful effect on the influx of foreigners.
It is the government’s economic policies which are keeping people away.
No-one wants to come here.
God Bless America!
Need some motivation? Just watch these nice American folk having a good time in the Oklahoma countryside. Just like an English Village Fete but a little noisier:
It was interesting to see the plans and confidence lavished on the Titanic 2 project!
Especially as there will never be a change of course – in spite of the recent Moody’s downgrade!
(Click on the photo for the report.)
I am NOT writing this because I’m a sick dude. I am writing it because I am totally cynical in respect of all of the machinations, exaggerations, theatre and downright nonsense of the senior Men in Frocks who run the Holy Roman Church.
Do NOT be surprised if the Pope Emeritus expires on or soon after the installation of the new Pope…….. and finally goes to meet his God.
It will then be promulgated by the Vatican as a major miracle!
(Do not put it past them!)
Eastleigh. A new beginning?
Eastleigh electors must make sure that they do not waste their vote in the forthcoming by-election.
There was a time when government had nothing to do with Political Parties but sadly, that is no longer the case. Hopefully, one day all politics will return to choosing individuals who are best-suited to manage and lead. Unfortunately that time has not yet come and so we must make the most of what we have.
Every party has individuals who are good at what they do. Their abilities have nothing to do with political allegiance. Even within the present system – those are the people we should be voting for……….The converse is also true.
We should not be ignoring the Liberal candidate because the previous one self-destructed. We should not be ignoring any able Conservative just because we don’t appreciate the Conservative Chancellor’s approach to dealing with the economy. The Labour handling of the 2008 banking crisis and their leader’s dodgy haircut should not influence us if we have a Labour candidate who looks as if he or she has a positive contribution to make.
What should influence us is simple – which INDIVIDUAL do we believe can be entrusted with the responsibility of representing us most effectively. Our vote should NOT be used to punish a national political party or, for instance the fact that “we don’t like the look of them”.
Blind partisan voting will only give us a random chance of voting-in the finest. At best we will elect a few good people – at worst, we will vote-in a total moron simply because we like the colour of his or her rosette. Nowadays, many politicians are just “ballast”. Remember Blair’s Babes or the present crop of Cameron’s Cuties? They sit in Westminster, nod or shake their heads like Muppets while those with proper views do the talking and decision-making. They are there to do nothing more than vote.
Party Politics has evolved into a Game of Two (and a bit!) Packs. Too much energy is given over to political in-fighting rather than concentrating on the needs of the voter. Just look at Prime Minister’s Question Time and the destructive exchanges between the parties. They are playing “Westminster”! (It’s like Monopoly but nowadays, without the money!)
Even local politicians play “Westminster” within their crude facsimiles of the Commons Chamber (they even have a Cabinet!). Local politics has become national politics in miniature!
Consequently a local by-election result is now considered to be a vote either for or against the Government.
In politics, the “management and business classes” have largely given way to the “talking professions” because the ability to debate has become a more precious skill than the ability to say, manage a budget (and it shows!). The old-fashioned free-thinker has given way to the party pack-animal who will normally vote as the party tells him – the ideology of the party has displaced the common-sense of the independently-minded individual.
In spite of all this, we do need to be represented by local people who have the voters interests and not their own ambitions at their core.
The usual voting turnout during a local election (below 40%) gives strength to the “centralist” argument which is in favour of more and more power being taken away from local people and handed to the political party which “handles” your representative. That is just one of the reasons why it is important to vote sensibly. If we do not vote or just vote for a rosette, we give the impression that we do not care about or want local representation by the best local person possible – irrespective of his or her party allegiance.
We have all noticed that the big parties “parachute” external candidates into constituencies. That’s possibly the greatest insult of all because they assume that our county, town or area is unable to produce a candidate capable of representing us in Parliament.
Finally, remember that not all Liberal candidates are vegetarian lecturers and Guardian-reading white-collar public-sector workers. Not all Conservatives are toffs, barristers, middle-managers and skinheads. Not all Labour candidates are teachers, media people and union members and not all UKIP candidates are racist single-issue nutters.
There is a rarely-printed saying in politics – “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” ……………… That’s US – the voters!
So, Eastleigh voters, ignore this week’s media political mud-slinging (it started last week), take a careful look at ALL the by-election candidates, decide which one looks like the best to represent YOU and vote!
The time has come to vote for the individual and not the rosette.
Crushed Nuts 2.
Earlier this week, I promised to print the opening of the sequel to “Crushed Nuts on the Cote d’Azur” which is still on Amazon HERE.
In the original novel, Ermwright swore to kill Dudley (who had absconded with Ermwright’s daughter, Candy) marinade him and have him served up as pâté at a European Union leaders’ banquet.
In the sequel, the à la carte insanity racks up with special appearances from Merkel, Cameron and all the usual Euro suspects.
(For older readers….Apologies to the Fred Emney Estate).
Ermwright pursed his lips, narrowed his piggy eyes, dropped his guts and thought: “There’s nowt as champion as t’smell of yer own fart!”
But as he staggered up from the worn leather wing-chair, he felt a slight stickiness and was immediately glad that he’d worn his mid-brown elephant cord trousers. Just for luck, he let go another one.
Several copies of the Times, Telegraph and BDSM gently rippled in the toxic Ermwright-breeze as he clopped loudly through the forest of Chesterfields on his way to the counter next to the porter’s chair.
Luckily, the other eight-or-so members present were dozing under their newspapers. If they hadn’t been asleep, the Ermwright equivalent of a radioactive stench-cloud which the Chairman of Ermwright Black Pudding International had deposited, would doubtless have bleached their nasal hair, induced extreme projectile-vomiting and ultimately put them into a coma.
Ermwright continued to carpet-bomb with a staccato array of wet farts as he approached the “Club Slave” (his own little joke!).
He could feel the wetness in his underpants – “Ne’er meend,” he thought, “They’ll dry….”
The Club Slave, or Craggs the Butler as he preferred to be known, always appeared to be looking into the distance – except when dealing with Ermwright.
“Sir?” he tipped his head forward as he spoke to the purple-faced apparition leaning and drooling on his highly-polished counter.
“Craggs yer bastard, cannee goo art and gerrus a pair o’ skids. Ah thing ah’s shit mesel’.” offered Ermwright as he pulled at the back of his brown Cords.
Luckily, Craggs was tuned into “Ermwright-speak” and so understood the request as: ‘Mr Craggs, would you please go out and buy me a pair of underpants. I do believe that I have shit myself.’
Craggs was not a snob, even though his father had been a bankrupted baronet. He, along with all the other club members hated Ermwright with a passion and Craggs felt (quite rightly) that as this was the most exclusive London gentlemens’s club, there was no room for a low-life such as Ermwright within the walls of such an august establishment. (To Craggs, the term lowlife’ is applied to anyone who had not attended either Eton or Harrow – preferably the former). The only exceptions were moneyed homosexuals. Craggs liked those!
Speaking of moneyed homosexuals, his happiest time in London and at the Club had been during the good old Cold War days when every operative was either an alcoholic queen working for the KGB or a politician working for the CIA. In those days, the Club was full of them.
Craggs was (and is) what used to be known as a ‘confirmed bachelor’. A childhood at prep school from the age of five, followed by eight years at a well-known public school being beaten and buggered senseless had served to form his extravagantly quirky character.
Although he worked in the West End, home was a tiny but very neat one-bedroom flat above an Estate Agency in Brighton’s Kemptown. There he would spend weekends-in with young friends. Some he’d meet in Brighton clubs, whilst others might be fellow enthusiasts of the more vigorous and often painful indoor pursuits.
Although no-one at the Club was aware, Craggs had met Ermwright in Brighton. To Craggs’ eternal shame, he and Ermwright had “previous”.
After his difficulties with the French president and the Mafia, Ermwright had voluntarily booked himself into an institution which catered to those with major personality defects. Ermwright was, shall we say, overqualified.
The ‘hospital’ happened to be somewhere between Brighton and Eastbourne so that when another inmate invited Ermwright to a ‘soiree’ in Kemptown and it had happened to be in Craggs’ flat – the ‘friendship’ between Craggs and Ermwright was born.
Even on that first meeting there wasn’t much between them – merely a smidge of KY and an inflatable sheep…………..
HS2 high-speed rail route. The Coalition’s next train crash?
Everything that our Coalition government has touched so far has been a train crash. Today’s initiative, announced by the Secretary of State for Transport, will be no exception.
The latest economic miracle-cure is the HS2 high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham ………. and maybe beyond to some of the outer planets such as Manchester and Leeds!
I just want to go on record to say that no matter what the cost assumptions are in respect of this rather grandiose and quite unnecessary scheme, the “guesstimates” made by proponents of the scheme are bound to be incorrect. Why? Because they’re ALWAYS wrong!
The government intends to invest £32.7 billion. Their advisers (whose computations, as we know from bitter experience, are always SO accurate!!!!!) have convinced the Cabinet (and others) that this investment (after factoring-in new job creation, less road congestion and profits from ticket sales etc.) will produce up to £47 billion in benefits!
On the face of it….a “No Brainer”. So…what’s the problem?
The major problem is the Law of Unintended Consequences, such as creating a gradual shift of trade from North to South……. “Accidental” Economic Engineering.
But the most obvious is the cost – and this is why I want to be on the record.
As government is dealing with Private Enterprise it will be ripped off. The Private Sector ALWAYS rips-off the government. It’s a national sport.
I predict that after factoring the pre-scheme aggravation, NIMBYS’ and government lawyers’ fees etc with ongoing expenses such as the crippling financing costs of such a project, this scheme cannot be delivered for less than about £250 billion.
Yes….a quarter of a billion!
£32.7 billion? Don’t make us laugh……and by the way…what do THESE GUYS think? They seem quiet….
(Thanks for your emails . For the moment, I cannot see Twitter or Linkedin. Back later this week.)
It’s Burns Night!
A Happy Burns Night to all you Jocks!
Bagpies, Burns, Haggis and Malt: Listening to the Inharmonious, Reciting the incomprehensible, Consuming the Inedible and Drinking the Toxic.
Have good time!
Dave Camenor and the Banker – a Fable
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 Flashman, the legendary illusionist and Prime Minister of the Ukshire. The Chancellor, the Cabinet and other Uks were busying themselves trying to appear invisible – an ancient trick modeled after the mythical Bank Elders.
Flashman 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!” .
After he had spoken, he looked round to his band of followers who made the customary grunting and “Hear! hear!” noises of approval.
The Bankers were confused and 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.”
” 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”
” That is not our problem. You enjoyed the Old Prosperity when we gave you more than we had. 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. 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 large bonus? Do you have ridiculously 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.”
Flashman immediately looked down at his feet because he sensed that he may have gone too far. His entourage cowered.
The Chancellor tried to make himself even more invisible and tried to stop 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 clear liquid.
The two Bankers both took a step back. They had never heard such an 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.
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 suggested that the one who would one day be in charge, was to be a red-headed female called Merkin 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 Blackberry and punched some buttons. His eyes did not leave Flashman, who continued:
” Sometimes when I am speaking in riddles to the people – I seem to hear not just “Banker” but also “King” Banker. That is the phrase! They call me a ”….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. Flashman 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 Flashman was “The One”.
Flashman 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 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 glistened as he removed his Fedora. The black overcoat remained draped over his shoulders as he approached Flashman.
Flashman 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.
Flashman 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 can enter the Gates of Prosperity.”
It was the briefest and most ” to the point” statement that Flashman 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.
The Head Banker moved even closer. They exchanged a knowing smile.
Almost imperceptibly, the Banker’s expression changed.
Swiftly, he brought his knee up.
NRA:A pointless and ill-judged pro-gun campaign.
NRA, rather inappropriately targets the Obama girls:
Old and Wise.
I post this every year-end in order to remind myself of the irreversible arrow of time. I hope you like it.
A “Happy” Christmas……
My wife and I ALWAYS make the effort to entertain at least one old person during the Christmas Holiday. They really do appreciate it.
Just look at the unbounded joy on this one’s little face!! Bless!
50 Predictions for 2013
Last year’s predictions are HERE.
Some were right, some were nearly right whilst others were nowhere near! That’s because most forecasting is a mixture of extrapolation, conjecture, wishful-thinking and luck…………..apart, that is, political and economic divination , which also includes an unhealthy slice of blind optimism.
My interests are mainly political and economic although the list below contains a few random “fun” ones!
I have not included too much of the blindingly obvious, such as the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, where the United Kingdom will be in the bottom THREE and the most likely winner will be Scandinavian.
Wishful thinking has been avoided. For example I do wish that Mo Farah would stop sticking his hands on his head and doing an impression of a demented Pretzel in a vest!
Conjecture, based on past performance suggests that there will NOT be any banking reorganisation because of vested interests and political cowardice. Governments have it within their power to keep that particular pot boiling for years!
All Eurozone Crisis predictions of the last four years vastly underestimated politicians’ capacity for procrastination, ineptitude and political self-interest.
However, I do perceive that European countries with reasonably strong economies will begin to see the advantage of NOT prolonging the Euro agony and once again, striking out on their own, setting their own interest rates and returning to the Lira or Peseta!
These are my predictions:
1. Gold will skyrocket in value.
2. Brazil will finally become THE place to invest(shares and currency)….but see 41 & 42 below.
3. Germany will accelerate the sale of its Bunds, in spite of the fact that it hopes to sell about only about €250 billion Euros’ worth which is lower than in 2012.
4. As predicted last year, Silvio Berlusconi will reappear in Italian Politics – much to Frau Merkel’s chagrin.
5. Pressure will increase on Chancellor George Osborne to be replaced (It’s the ONLY way that the Coalition can move to Plan B without too much loss of face).
6. The banks will continue to rebuild their balance sheets as the value of their assets diminishes, resulting in an increase of non-bank lending. Credit Unions, peer-to-per lending, asset leasing, community finance organisations and invoice finance will all accelerate as the banking system continues its introspection.
7. United Kingdom property prices will fall by 25%.
8. Frau Merkel will be re-elected and continue as Germany’s Chancellor.
9. Italy will talk about leaving the Euro and readopting the Lira…………..and Berlusconi will be accused of blackmailing Europe.
10. People-power will win-out in Greece and it too will (finally) seriously consider leaving the Euro as its austerity programme is given a violent “thumbs down” by its people.
11. The theoretical €30 billion in French tax hikes will have a negligible effect on its tax “take”. High net worth individuals and businesses will continue the exodus which began in late 2012.
12. Greek banks will begin to totter as loan defaults by Greek borrowers (both personal and commercial) continue to accelerate.
13. The “restructuring” of Spanish banks will fail.
14. David Cameron and other members of the UK Coalition Government will continue to add 100,000 to the ” number of new jobs we have created in the Private Sector” every time they make a speech. By mid-2013, the “figure” will have swollen to over 1.5 million. Unfortunately without the associated increase in tax-take which one may be forgiven for having expected.
15. Japan printing money will result in a currency battle, primarily involving the American dollar.
16. Greek Tax authorities (in spite of all those reorganisation noises!) will still fail to collect the taxes.
17. David Cameron will realise that UKIP is a clear and present danger and will begin the fight-back by the only way possible. He will adopt their policies and reinforce that by continuing to spray copious volumes of testosterone in Brussels.
18. Mario Monti will stand for election in Italy in a last-ditch attempt to maintain the stranglehold on European politics by Goldman Sachs old boys.
19. The Euro will make its annual journey “to the brink”.
20. Protests will accelerate across Europe – into the United Kingdom….as voters wake-up to the politicians’ ineptitude, procrastination and complacency. Voting-out incompetent governments and merely replacing them with incompetent outfits of another flavour will no longer be viewed as the solution.
21. In France, Francois Hollande will continue to demonstrate why the French don’t really appreciate Presidents who are Socialist.
22. The ECB’s Mario Draghi will once again tell the world that he will do “all it takes” to keep the Euro intact…..including the ruination of millions of Euro lives.
23. Someone, somewhere will wake up to the fact that the banking system is not working and has morphed into a fat, ever-hungry cash cow which no longer executes the functions which it was designed for (to support individuals, commerce and government).
24. Youth Unemployment in Greece and Spain will approach 60%.
25. By the end of 2013,the Catalans and the Basques will decide on their self-determination.
26. There will be a massive surge in the Spanish anti-Royalist movement and the Spanish Royal family will feel “unloved” as demands are made for the abdication of King Juan-Carlos.
27.The Franco-German Euro Axis will be consigned to the poubelle of history as Frau Merkel finds herself another “favourite”.
28.There will be an exodus of high-earners from France in protest to the Socialist-style “Politics of Envy” taxes on those earning over €1 million.
29. British P.M David Cameron will continue to bang-on about “the mess that Labour left behind” – THREE years after coming to office. That will remind the electorate that in spite of the PR, the Coalition still has no idea about how to deal with the budget deficit, except to adopt the bad part of the Merkel Model.
30. Japan’s money-printing programme will drive up its inflation, to match (and exceed) that of the USA, possibly achieving “hyper” levels. Then, they’ll print some more!
31. USA: There will be no “Fiscal Cliff”. The cracks in policy will be papered over by compromise and political expediency………. as America lurches towards the next crisis.
32. In the UK, the Church of England will continue to fret about sex-related matters such as gays, gay marriage and lady bishops. Hopefully, some of them will find a bit of time for their God and congregation!
33. The winners of the X-factor and Britain’s got Talent will have no discernible…………talent. (That’s my annual, sure-fire, 24-carat banker!)
34. In Europe (as usual), neither Barroso nor Van Rompuy will say anything REMOTELY interesting or pertinent.
35. Europe will continue to TALK of fiscal and political integration………but that’s what it will remain…..TALK. Why? Because one of the by-products would have to be some form of Debt-Mutualisation which so far, remains a deal-breaker.
36. German resistance to European supervision of the banks will result in the smaller banks remaining unsupervised.
37. In Italy, Mario Monti has clearly demonstrated the usefulness of a government of Technocrats: they have pushed through economic reforms and budget cuts which a properly-elected government would have NO CHANCE of implementing. However, the honeymoon appears to be over and Italy will return to a Berlusconi-led coalition.
38. Bundeskanzlerin Merkel will strengthen her position as de facto European leader as other (weaker, male) European leaders (half of who are on their way out – including the UK administration) continue to defer to her.
39. After the German elections, Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats will form a new coalition with the Social Democrats.
40. Stagnation, Recession and Depression will continue in Europe. Greece will remain in depression (yes!), as will Spain and Portugal.
41. If you’re an investor, you could do worse than keep an eye on Mongolia’s mining boom which will pick up speed in 2013.
42. If you’re a gambling person, here’s an interesting “double”. Lord Patten to resign as BBC Chair . Then, invest your winnings on anything in Macau whose economy is booked to grow by about 15% in 2013.
43. The “in denial” UK Coalition Government will continue to spout meaningless statistics as the retail trade continues its slow-motion collapse and accelerating volumes of businesses go into administration and bankruptcy.
44. The Protestant Church will begin to turn more to Bible-centred Christianity – away from the airy-fairy, trendy, unleaded and flaccid Christianity of the Rowan Williams era. More “splintering”.
45. Last year I predicted a dismembering of the UK’s Coalition government but now realise that it was just wishful thinking. I underestimated how much Tory crap Nick Clegg could swallow. Last year, his capacity seemed infinite. However, for 2013, I predict that Europe will provide the catalyst for an all-out Coalition Civil War.
46. Unless the Chancellor can sell 5G, 6G and all the other “G” Futures and assuming he collects for 4G, there will be a massive government Welfare Review designed to further butcher Public Spending. ( He has no choice because of his rather stunted economic repertoire). That will finally shake the Libdems from their collective coma and fight the Tories. Otherwise…….Libdem Oblivion.
47. “Dead-tree” journalism will continue to atrophy and die with an announcement that at least one major newspaper is to go exclusively digital. (My money is on the Guardian).
48. Massive Solar storms may envelop the Earth which, according to NASA, could render the above predictions both irrelevant and obsolete. Keep an eye on www.swpc.noaa.gov
49. Andrew Mitchell MP will make a return appearance in the Cabinet after the nonsense of allowing the police to investigate themselves in what is increasingly looking like the fit-up of the year.
50. William Hague and Hillary Clinton will keep-on “condemning” the Syrian Authorities as they continue to murder with impunity. Western powers have learned that when they intervene in the Middle East – only one group ever benefits: The Construction Industry.
Not a Graduate? Tough!
It has become fashionable for politicians to spout about “apprenticeships” – although most look and sound as if they may not quite be sure what one is. Although they do know that it is something that the young underclass does at “work” …………whatever that is.
Unlike the Germans, we still consider an apprenticeship as a bit “infra dig” because Mr and Mrs Smith would still prefer Little Johny to “have a degree”.
“He’s the first in our fambly to have letters after ‘is name. We’re so proud!”
This British quest for letters after one’s name is one of the reasons why we continue to fail as a manufacturing nation.
Reality Check: Not everyone can be a desk jockey.
According to the CIPD, SIX OUT OF TEN United Kingdom employers do NOT offer routes into their organisation for non-graduates.
But on the PLUS side, we have one of the best-qualified Unemployment Queues in the Western world.
Buy or Rent?
Remember, if you take a mortgage to “buy” a house, you are effectively RENTING from your bank – but YOU are taking the capital risk plus YOU pay for the maintenance and insurance of the BANK’S asset. If you fall behind with your “rent” to a bank, you have less legal protection that you would have if you were renting from a private landlord.
Nevertheless, we Brits continue to be OBSESSED by “ownership” – or should I say, BORROWING in order to invest in a house. If you think about it, we are doing EXACTLY what the banks are doing – BORROWING in order to invest – except that they may call it “leveraging”.
However, not all nationalities are the same………
For instance while Brits buy, the Germans rent. A town such as Hamburg has 20% home ownership, whereas the German average is only about 40%.
Ever heard of a German Housing Bubble?
(Germany has the HIGHEST proportion of people renting in the European Union.)
Gore and Death
Writer, thinker, wit and contrarian Gore Vidal has died and will be missed. My favourite quote of his:
“There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
The London 2012 Olympic ceremony allowed Danny Boyle to finally shatter the worldwide caricature of the average Englishman as a bowler-hatted, goofy, umbrella-carrying, upper-class twit who laughs and snorts at nothing in particular.
In a few short hours, he has undone years and years of the reinforcement of a negative British stereotype which the world has (unfortunately) continued to perceive through the medium of the uber-twittery of our own Cabinet.
Just for denting the Bertie Wooster archetype he deserves a “Sir”.
Yes, the Olympic Opening Ceremony was quintessentially British but it was also awe-inspiring, rejuvenating, rousing, funny, motivational in-the-extreme and in parts, so enheartening that this July morning, not just a nation but the whole world has woken up re-energised and inspired.
Danny Boyle may be quirky little gonk – but he’s also a genius.
Purely as an unintended by-product, the ceremony also highlighted the soulless robotic construction of Beijing 2008. No pretty girl miming to the singing voice of the plain girl cowering behind a curtain here, thank you. We had real kids. And certainly no over-choreographed Chinese Kraftwerk-like rigidness and rigorism.
We do real – not perfection.
The ceremony proclaimed “This is Great Britain!” with such volume and colour that anyone who saw it will be proud to say “I was there. I saw it.”
Did I say “Sir Danny”?
I meant, of course, “Lord Boyle”….
Chipping Norton Net
David Cameron must be feeling a bit uncomfortable with the thought of his friend Rebekah with friend and former employee Andy Coulson facing the prospect of prison.
Needless to say, both of their initial reactions are of the “I’m totally innocent or I’ve been fitted-up” variety.
Otherwise, there’ll be yet another soap-on-a-rope in the post.
So what did the Lords ever do for us?
We may well caricature the Lords as the Westminster Chapter of God’s Waiting Room, populated by trembling, Zimmer-pushing geriatrics who spend their days farting and dozing on red leather whilst listening to each others’ arteries hardening, with only the occasional trip to nursey’s office to have the colostomy bag emptied………… It’s nothing like that.
The very first thing that strikes you is its very “ordinariness”, its informality and its total lack of pomp.
It is certainly NOT full of self-important, puffed-up, swaggering aristos clipping jug-carrying flunkeys around the earhole, screaming “Another tankard of Port, my man !!”
It is a quiet place. It a a place underpinned by mutual respect and the ability to listen.
None of the raucousness and noisome dissonance of the “other place”. None of the name-calling and playground punchups or “Leave him – he’s not worth it” attitude of the Lower House.
These are the “self-actualised”. Those who “have done it”, “seen it” and who know better.
In general, the House of Commons is anti too much reorganisation of the House of Lords. Ever wondered why?
Is it a rabid dislike of the “hereditaries”? Is it an over-developed sense of “democracy” ? Is it the “They should be elected NOT appointed…” group?
It is none of the above.
Most Honourable and Right Honourable Members of Parliament see the Lords as a reward, something to aspire to, a recognition of their years of selfless sacrifice and a final gift from the Establishment. They covet the ultimate status achievable within the United Kingdom. “Yes, My Lord!” ……It is their Gold Watch.
And why not?
They say that age is a price worth paying for wisdom. The average age within in the House of Lords is 65.
The average age in David Cameron’s Commons sand-pit is about 50.
Mind you, it is David Cameron who has done more to lower the “currency” of a Title than any previous Prime Minister. He ennobled 117 individuals within 12 months of coming to office. That told us a lot about his comparative youth, impetuosity plus his demand to impress. No point in complaining that “there are too many of them” (there are 818 voting Lords) after you have just added over 100 to the fire!
He was also aware that one of the major items on the Libdem shopping list was a reform of the House of Lords and that Nick Clegg needed a bone to play with. That is exactly what he was given. No more.
Currently, the Lords is a patchwork of hereditaries, politicians, lawyers, Anglican bishops and various “sundries” from public and commercial life. That is how it should be.
The alternative is an elected bunch of those bred-nurtured-and-educated purely for politics (it’s already happening in the Commons). Soulless and charisma-free Party wonks to whom commerce and normal life are a matter of wonderment and mystery.
On this occasion, let’s once again do what politicians do best. Leave it alone and wait.
Merkel Gives No Ground on Demands for Oversight in Debt Crisis
(Bloomberg) — Chancellor Angela Merkel gave no ground on Germany’s demands for more European control over member states in return for joint burden-sharing as she conceded that the bloc has yet to master the debt crisis.
The German leader said yesterday she hadn’t softened her stance at last month’s summit in Brussels and that a so-called banking union involving a bloc-wide financial overseer will have to include joint oversight on a “new level.” She chided member states who had sought to slow moves toward greater central control “since the first summit” in the 30-month-old crisis.
“All of these attempts will have no chance with me or with Germany,” Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster ZDF in Berlin.
Two weeks after a European Union summit aimed at bridging differences over crisis resolution, euro leaders are still squabbling over details of how to lift the bloc out of the turmoil. Merkel hardened Germany’s position that any attempt to share burdens in Europe — such as jointly issued euro bonds or common banking bodies — must first be met with greater cooperation and a handover of some sovereignty to Brussels.
The euro fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in more than two years last week, sliding to as low as $1.2163 on July 13. Europe’s most credit-worthy government bonds climbed, with German two-year note yields down to a record minus 0.052 percent, as investors sought havens from the euro crisis.
Diverging rates and capital outflows within the 17-member monetary union signal that the single currency is “slowly unraveling,” Stephen Gallo, senior foreign-exchange strategist at Credit Agricole SA in London, told Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” in a July 13 interview.
“The whole project is unraveling, that’s what’s essentially happening now,” Gallo said.
While Merkel said that Europe is on the “right course” toward putting an end to the crisis, euro-area leaders “haven’t solved the problems conclusively.”
German lawmakers will interrupt their summer vacations and return to Berlin on July 19 to vote to approve 100 billion euros ($122 billion) in rescue loans to Spain. After Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week announced 65 billion euros in welfare cuts and tax increases, Merkel reiterated yesterday that financial assistance would not be doled out without conditions.
“Whoever receives assistance and where liabilities are taken over, there has to be control,” Merkel told ZDF.
French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Spain’s Rajoy have pressed for faster action, including joint liabilities, while Merkel has called jointly issued debt the “wrong way” to fix the crisis. Merkel last month castigated a blueprint for the summit by EU President Herman Van Rompuy as too focused on “collectivization.”
Euro officials this month have also sparred over the timetable for establishing a euro-wide bank supervisor, a benchmark required before they implement one of the decisions from the June 28-29 summit — direct bailout funding for banks. Investors have viewed such a step as a way to sever the link between banking debt and sovereign debt.
Euro-area finance ministers will confer on Friday, July 20, to complete an agreement on Spain’s bank bailout. On July 10, the minister’s announced 30 billion euros of aid would be made available by the end of this month.
Klaus Regling, who heads the euro’s bailout funds, told Welt am Sonntag yesterday that governments could avoid liability for bank rescues under proposals for a regional supervisor. That contradicts German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said July 9 that he expects governments to guarantee loans even if they go directly to banks, Welt said.
Merkel said leaders hadn’t yet reached an agreement on the terms for bank rescues.
German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said euro leaders had caused damage by failing to define more clearly their conclusions at the summit. He told Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad on July 14 that euro nations “should discuss giving up sovereignty with the same openness as the question of how to resolve the debt problem collectively.”
As governments in Spain and Italy struggle under the burden of higher borrowing costs, Weidmann, Germany’s chief central banker and a European Central Bank GoverningCouncil member, told Boersen-Zeitung that Italy’s higher yields don’t justify a request for bailout assistance. Euro bailout funding should be deployed only as a last resort, he said.
“If Italy stays the course on reforms, it’s on a good path,” Weidmann told the newspaper in an interview. Asked whether the euro area’s third-largest economy needs to tap the fund, he said, “No, I don’t see Italy in that situation.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has sought a “debt shield” against spillover from a Spanish banking crisis.
Euro-area leaders have given Spain an extra year, until 2014, to drive its budget deficit below the euro limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product, a concession that may foreshadow leniency for other indebted states in the bloc.
In Greece, an MRB poll published in Athens-based Real News newspaper showed that almost three-quarters of Greeks want Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s coalition government to insist on a renegotiation of the country’s international bailout.
Seventy-four percent in the survey said the government should insist on discussing the terms even if negotiations steer toward the prospect of Greece leaving the euro; 15.5 percent said the government should stick to current conditions.
Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told Welt am Sonntag that he doesn’t want to give Greece more time to meet economic targets.
Merkel, asked the same question during the ZDF interview, said she would await a report by Greece’s international creditors, known as the troika.
With assistance from Tony Czuczka in Berlin, Paul Tugwell in Athens, Guy Johnson in London and Fred Pals in Amsterdam. Editor: Dick Schumacher.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com
House of Lords farce……..
Before MPs vote on whether or not to continue with the reorganisation or reformation of the House of Lords, with the ultimate intent of a totally elected Upper House, they should first consider a few things.
For instance, how many in the House of Commons are de facto “hereditaries”? That is to say, how many have fathers, grandfathers etc who were politicians?
What’s good for the goose…etc!
Will we be given the opportunity to elect The Lords Spiritual? Surely nowadays, a belief in Jesus is not enough of a legitimate credential to be handed a seat in the House of Lords, in spite of our mutant God-Monarch Constitution.
Will retired Members of the House of Commons, or worse still, those who lost an election, were rejected by the electorate, be allowed to contest another election for a seat in the Lords? A seat in the Upper House should NOT be a consolation prize.
Do we REALLY need political parties in the Lords? Is it democratic for both the Commons and the Lords to have the same political majority – because that is exactly what WILL happen if both Houses are elected under the same political banners. Inept bully-boy politicians such as the current crop would automatically wield power totally out of kilter with their ability and mandate.
Why don’t we start small. For instance, by ridding the Lord’s of their fancy dress. You know – the Lords’ Spirituals pretty frocks and the Lords’ Temporal “ermine” robes. The rabbit population would be ever so grateful.
My own suggestion? Leave it. There would only be a problem if they all turned up at once…and, oh yes……increase their daily allowance to at least £500. The present £300 per day is embarrassing. Leave the hair-shirts and ridiculously low wages for the Commons to deal with. They deserve it.
Make no mistake, today’s vote could be the straw which broke the Coalition’s increasingly splintering back.
(By the way, guys. While you’re playing at Lords, the economy is still burning. ………Just thought I’d mention it)
Some may be wondering about the timing of Bob Diamond’s decision to “walk” from what is the best-paid and most high-profile banking job in the UK. Some may believe that he was hounded out by the banking establishment.
I reckon that he walked in order to free himself-up ahead of the ridiculous inquisition by the Treasury Select Committee. I sincerely hope that they leave their briefcases on the table in front of them and remember to wear tin hats – because Barclays Bob is going to give them hell. They will be forced to listen to a few home truths about the conduct of not-only Barclays but the entire politico-banking establishment.
Believe me, Bob knows where ALL the bodies are buried and he’s the first guest at the Wake.
As usual, we’ve had the puerile Punch and Judy exchange between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Both have diminished themselves through their conduct over the last wee. (If that was at all possible)
Meanwhile, the media (and I include the Social Media) have seen an outpouring of hysteria by individuals who hadn’t heard of Libor before last Wednesday. Mob hysteria at its worst.
Mind you, that is so typical here in the UK. First we “denounce”, then the Inquisition, followed by the Inquiry and then it’s back to normal as we look for the next victim.
If there have been transactions which have inflated profits, I hope that in their haste, government Ministers have not forgotten that there may be billions in the Exchequer which will have to be repaid if tax has been generated on illicit transactions. Inflated bonuses have also been subject to millions in taxation.
It’s not only the banks who are going to have a lot to unravel – but of course, these days no-one thinks before they act.
Starting with the baying politicians and media, a breathtaking lack of understanding of complex banking processes has clearly been demonstrated. The same lack of understanding which was exhibited by the Directors of Banks prior-to, during and certainly after the last bank crisis.
Make no mistake both the Bank of England as well as the Financial Services Authority have been complicit. Those pre-Lehmans LIBOR deals, probably saved the British Government from having to bail out Barclays and as other banks have also doubtless been guilty of the same misdemeanours, the Government will have saved billions on the 2008 bailouts.
(What I mean to say is that the banks were bailed out – but they weren’t bailed out enough. The last four years of “rebuilding balance sheets”, non-lending etc have clearly demonstrated that as usual, the government only did half of the job)
It is the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the grubby British Bankers Association which should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock and hopefully after Bob Diamond has said what he really thinks and knows, they’ll be lined up and taken down.
Today, Mr Diamond, I’m on your side.
Show them Hell!
Barclays out of CONTROL?
A few years ago, I moved away from teaching and coaching the “soft” skills of management and have been concentrating much more on the “hard” skills.
One of the hard skills of management, which everyone running a department or process should know, is one which appears to be missing in MOST businesses. It is the art of Business Control.
It is very straightforward: POPS.
POPS is a very simple but effective method of structured management thinking.
If the POLICY, ORGANISATION, PROCEDURES, SUPERVISION Business Controls had been applied to the Banking Industry, we would never have had a financial crisis.
“POLICY” is the high-level control and is the responsibility of the Board and Senior Management. They not-only put together the Policy but their duty is to ensure that everything which happens within the organisation is in keeping with Company Policy.
For instance, if traders fiddle with interest rates and interest rates have been fiddled-with for years without anyone being brought to book – they may be forgiven for assuming that fiddling with interest rates is part of the bank’s Policy and culture.
“ORGANISATION” is about the people. Are the right people doing a particular job? Have they been trained? Have they been communicated with? Do they know what they can and cannot do? Is there a good Management Structure which can report up to Board level?
“PROCEDURES” : For instance, is a trade or block of trades recorded and checked? Are there “snap” checks and audits designed to check that company Procedures are being adhered to.
SUPERVISION is a day-to-day control (so is the Procedures Control). This control is the responsibility of the “one-up” manager. The one who is there – not the one at meetings. Very often , things happen without day-to-day supervision. For instance, if a trader makes a few dodgy deals, a good manager’s responsibility is to (at least) make the trader know that he could be caught.
Here’s an example of how a thorough Management Audit which looks at specific Business Controls can unearth the REAL cause of an issue. It is also surprising how many breakdowns and corporate crises are the result of a bad or non-existent high-level POLICY control.
In 1987, the car-ferry, The Herald of Free Enterprise sank in Zeebrugge Harbour and 193 people died. There appeared to be a very simple explanation for the “accident”. The loading doors at the front of the boat (through which cars entered the boat) had been left open.
However, a proper structured investigation designed to identify the Root Cause of the disaster was needed.
The doors were left open because one man was asleep when he should have pressed the button to close the doors. Therefore, the PROCEDURES control had broken down. The procedure was that when the boat was about to move, a button would be pressed on the bridge. That would trigger the man to press the button to close the doors.
The direct SUPERVISION control was was non-existent because the man who should have pressed the button was managed by a senior man who was only in charge of ferry car-parking and not door-closing.
In addition, there was no PROCEDURE for anyone to confirm to the bridge whether the doors were closed or not. It was assumed that once the “close the doors” button had been pressed, that the doors were closed.
The ORGANISATION control is about the people involved in the process. In this case, the organisation consisted of just ONE lowly manual worker who, on this occasion, was asleep. The First Officer who pressed his button, immediately assumed that once he had pressed it, his job was over.
The last Control is the highest-level – POLICY. This control is administered right at the top of an organisation – by the Senior Management and the Board of Directors.
One may be forgiven for thinking that there is absolutely no way that such a high-level control could possibly have anything at all to do with someone forgetting to close the loading-doors on a ferry.
However, the Root Cause of the Herald Of Free Enterprise disaster WAS a breakdown in the POLICY control.
The Company’s POLICY was to turn the ferry around in 15 minutes.
Consequently, the man who should have pushed the button was tired because he had not slept properly for two days and was already asleep when the boat had docked.
As is often the case, the ultimate responsibility for the sinking belonged to the management.
Today, Barclays banks has a very similar situation in respect of its traders who are alleged to have manipulated LIBOR for purposes of profit!
Was there proper SUPERVISION? Were PROCEDURES in place to guard against improper behaviour? Was the ORGANISATION right? Were the traders only (as far as they understood) acting within Barclays’ POLICY? Did Barclays have a “SELL, SELL, SELL!!!” Policy which encouraged short-cuts and cheating?
A measured, thought-through approach is needed.
The reaction by the media and politicians already suggests that instead, there will be a free-for-all, accusatory, disorganised non-process, preceded by the customary witch-hunt and a Lawyer Benefit in the shape of an inquiry.
What is REALLY NEEDED is a Management Audit delivered by a team of sceptics NOT PAID FOR by Barclays.
That is to say –NOT Pricewaterhouse Coopers and certainly NOT those Muppets at the Financial Services Authority.