POSTINGS

18-Nov-2021

More Of The Same

Despite the long gap since our previous post many important issues seem little changed. The problems with having a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and England/Scotland/Wales still exist and the threat of triggering Article 16 is still being waved around as a promise / threat. While the fishing rights and disputes seem as unresolved as the never-ending stream of economic migrants fleeing France for a better life in the UK. Even Lord Sugar has been asking the key question - what makes the UK so attractive? And conversely what makes Greece, Italy, Germany, etc less attractive. So far the only obvious beneficiaries of the traffic are the people smugglers and UK lawyers - but there is also the darker threat of foreign powers aiming at creating civil unrest.

man8The Covid pandemic still rolls on with infection numbers in the UK now up to 277,000 last week - despite the vast number of vaccine doses given out to date. Official figures state that 50.7 million first, 46.1 million second and 13.9 third doses have now been issued - so that’s over 110 million shots in total. A monumental task added to the workloads of already over-stretched medical resources - with no real end in sight. How soon before the expert advisors start calling for a fourth round of vaccinations? How much will it all add to the nation’s tax bill?

And on the issue of national finances this quote from our previous post - very likely that inflation will jump - and by much more than the Bank of England predicted - seems to be coming true; despite the Governor of the Bank trying his best to wish it away. With higher wages, staff shortages, steep fuel increases and supply chain struggles the Bank’s hopes of any inflation being a blip seem naively optimistic.

But at least today’s updated plans for rail improvements have given a little clearer direction for public transport outside of London - but even this can expect some vocal opposition. But then you can’t please everyone ...

tags: virus, economy, vaccine, unrest, interest

 

27-Sep-2021

Still In Turmoil

After a two month gap in postings the hope was to have seen significant improvements. But looking around we see remarkably little in the way of problem resolution. To quote a posting from February this year .. the world, as seen from Europe, seems to be becoming less rational, less predictable and more volatile. The pressures at all levels - from individuals to whole continents - are triggering actions and decisions that would be inconceivable just a few years ago. Everything from Taliban to volcanoes have created more troubles.

deskchair1The covid pandemic stills rolls on - with large parts of the world untreated. With the UK starting out giving third doses - often using a different vaccine to the first two - while also beginning annual flu jabs - the medical staff involved must see this as a never-ending struggle.

Despite everything that has been done last week saw 241,000 new UK covid infections meaning that hundreds of thousands are not able to go to work or school. The shortage of HGV and tanker drivers illustrates how the pandemic has combined with an absence of EU workers and little economic planning to trigger a crisis.

Trying to look ahead through the growing panic it seems very likely that inflation will jump - and by much more than the Bank of England predicted. This would be bad news all round ...

Trying to be less downbeat, events at a local level have been quite benign - and even though Autumn is starting to bite, the Spring and Summer have been pleasantly warm. Warm enough to have the new sun lounger in action and forget about problems that we have no power to resolve ..

tags: virus, economy, vaccine, unrest, interest

 

17-Jul-2021

Another Exit In Name Only

Well .. we have waited the required five weeks before our next opportunity to escape from the Government’s Covid restrictions. But next Monday’s billing as Freedom Day looking increasingly like a name taken from George Orwell’s 1984 new speak - being almost the complete opposite of the actual experience.

Man2The broad announcement that all (most) of the restrictions will be repealed next Monday - breaks down in practice. Firstly because there are so many politicians claiming they set the rules - not just Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but also regional mayors. This lack of common ground means that the rules could change at random on different days in different places.

Then the move to personal responsibility rather than Government requirements has the unintended consequence that companies - and public services - will be looking to avoid claims against them and enforcing their own versions of infection control.

So come Freedom Day wearing a face covering will not be a legal requirement - in England - but going shopping at Sainsbury’s or travelling by train would still require one to be worn. And anyone travelling over a land border between England and Scotland or Wales would need to know what they can or cannot do on a daily basis ... And travelling from, say, Essex into London could be equally disjointed.

But looking further ahead we must assume that the number of new Covid infections is likely to keep growing - along with an exponential (expotential?) growth in contacts to be traced (and pinged) for self-isolation- to the point where the politicians reverse gear and put all the restrictions back.

The vaccination programme may have taken the sting out of Covid but 2021 will not see the end of its debilitating effects. In fact they could be around for decades ...

tags: Covid, travel, holiday, rules, restrictions, freedom

 

22-Jun-2021

Magic Money

Today saw the publication of the official Government borrowing figures for May. And they were better than expected - at only 24,300 million!

As so often this needs to be translated into a figure that most people could quantify. How about - the Government has spent 368 more per person this month than it receives in income. Not bad considering the situation. But May was a good month compared to the ones before. Looking at the total “overspend” to date we have a national debt of 2.2 trillion. Which I think means 2,200,000,000,000 - or some 33,000 per person. A figure which is just about the same as the UK’s annual economic output.

MunsterManThe only reason the UK economy is not in trouble is the fact that so many other countries are in similar situations.

However we cannot continue spending - or giving away - money we have not got. A problem that the current Chancellor of the Exchequer seems well aware of - but finds his steps to correct being vetoed or diluted by politicians with concerns that reduced spending will cost them votes.

Instead more and more schemes for extra spending seem to appear with frightening frequency. A few random examples being - a  new Royal yacht, a bridge from Scotland to Ireland and now paying everyone in the country a basic income just for being alive.

This latest free money scheme is supported by both the Welsh and Scottish local governments. With the Welsh version even getting as far as estimated payment levels and a pilot scheme proposal. So Wales could be trying out 5,000 people each being given weekly payments of 120.48 (ages 0-17), 213.59 (ages 18-64) and 195.90 (ages 65+).

Apparently this will be a boost to the economy and encourage everyone to be more productive - but no one knows exactly how or why that would happen. If the scheme meant scrapping all the other government payments - and the armies of civil servants who administer them - then the scheme would have a chance. But that does not seem to be on the cards.

So what would Grandads think of this latest scheme?  Well a move from my current 166.98 to 195.90 per week would be a welcome 17% increase. And Grandma’s increase from 84.33 per week would be an amazing 232%. So why would anyone on a basic state pension complain? And at the opposite end of the age scale this level of children’s income would help give a family of four a total of 668 per week - equal to an annual income of 34,743. Nice!

The only problem is .. someone will have to fund these levels of expenditure. And currently economists keep warning the Government that it cannot afford to increase state pensions by even a couple of percent. So what chance for the figures being floated for the Wales pilot scheme? They would, after all, greatly increase the pension bill.

In fact why waste so much time and money on a scheme with no chance of being adopted? But it may still get the go ahead - and become like HS2; a must-do project without any net benefits. Finally there is a real danger that all the attempts to boost the economy will go too far and start a surge in inflation ... then things will really get tough ...

tags: money, limitless, populist, uneconomic

 

9-Jun-2021

Exit Opportunity

As both sides of the Covid restrictions debate put their cases to either end or extend it is clear that any choice will cause an outcry from someone.

The steady increase in new case numbers is ammunition for the extenders while the low hospital admissions and deaths encourages those hoping for an end to the restrictions. With five days to go until the decision day for England the current favourite looks to be a compromise that lifts some of the restrictions but keeps the politicians in control - and in the media spotlight. So most likely indoor venues such as theatres and cinemas will re-open as planned - but with face masks as a requirement until a further review in another five weeks.

gettingajob1Despite this easing overseas travel will remain problematic - since so many destinations are not ready to accept foreign tourists. An issue that the UK media seems to have gone quiet about in recent months. In fact many British sun-seekers seem oblivious to the conditions in their chosen destinations.

Some anti-government figures have expressed opinions that the UK Covid death toll is the worst in Europe because of government mishandling of the response. And it is true that 127,854 UK deaths is a shocking total. But after some digging into the international statistics the actual wider data is eye-opening.

Italy is recorded with 126,767 Covid deaths just one place behind the UK in the available statistics. While France is two places lower with 110,137 deaths reported. So in total reported numbers the UK is the worst nation in Europe. However ... UK death statistics include cases where Covid was not the actual cause; a different approach to many other countries’ health stats.

If instead we look at deaths per million of population the national positions are much different. And the European counties with the worst figures are -

Hungary 3,101/million
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,902/million
Czechia 2,815/million
Gibraltar 2,791/million
San Marino 2,647/million
North Macedonia 2,624/million
Bulgaria 2,589/million
Montenegro 2,541/million
Slovakia 2,276/million
Belgium 2,153/million
Slovenia 2,112/million
Italy 2,100/million
Croatia 1,985/million
Poland 1,967/million
UK 1,874/million

So relative to population the UK is far from being the outlier in Europe. It would, of course, be far better if the UK was more like New Zealand - with just 5/million!

At least our vaccination programme has mitigated the consequences of infection and greatly reduced the death rate. With almost 60% of the population (77% of adults) now having at least one dose the mass rollout of vaccine has broken the link between infection and serious illness. A programme that has also been successful employed by Gibraltar, Malta, Isle of Man, San Marino and Jersey, amongst others, to cut the risks for both the locals and tourists. In Gibraltar they have gone so far as to have vaccinated more than 100% of its population - by extended its coverage to the EU workers that commute in from Spain.

So will the UK nations be allowed the opportunity to exit from the Covid emergency powers? Or is that old observation that governments take emergency powers but never fully give them back still holding true? We shall soon see ...

tags: Covid, travel, holiday, rules, restrictions, freedom

 

23-May-2021

Rock Bottom

It was not a difficult prediction to make but the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) did indeed end up in last place. And not getting any points from any of the 38 countries in either the jury vote or the public vote was harsh but hard to complain about. The UK entry was just not up to the task.

Man1902And as long as all the best UK singers and song writers have such little regard for the competition we will remain sub-standard performers. The BBC and its various helper organisations seem unable to do anything other than repeat the formula of spin-doctoring a low cost candidate as the next big thing with a fighting chance of stardom. Only for reality to strike when the young hopeful (or faded star) sees the other countries in rehearsals.

We really have reached the point where it is better not to enter rather than waste everyones time. The 8 hours of live TV can still grace the BBC schedules - but without the pretence that a UK entry will do well.

For the record these are the most recent UK Placings in the Eurovision Song Contest
2000 Nicki French 16th out of 24
2001 Lindsay Dracass 15th out of 23
2002 Jessica Garlick 3rd out of 24
2003 Jemini Last place
2004 James Fox 16th out of 24
2005 Javine 22nd out of 24
2006 Daz Sampson 19th out of 24
2007 Scooch 22nd out of 24
2008 Andy Abraham Last place
2009 Jade Ewen 5th out of 25
2010 Josh Dubovie Last place
2011 Blue 11th out of 25
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck Last place
2013 Bonnie Tyler 19th out of 26
2014 Molly 17th out of 26
2015 Electro Velvet 24th out of 27
2016 Joe and Jake 24th out of 26
2017 Lucie Jones 15th out of 26
2018 SuRie 24th out of 26
2019 Michael Rice Last place
2021 James Newman Last place

 

tags; song, contest, BBC, UK, Eurovision, political, substandard

 

12-May-2021

Just Like Old Times

In a sign that things are starting to return to their old ways this week sees contestants in Rotterdam busy rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest next week.

ESC2021As before the UK will get a free pass to the Saturday final - thanks to tax payers funding it with the biggest fees. The UK entry will be James Newman performing 'Embers' - a song where he is one of five co-writers. Let’s hope his efforts are not wasted.

And perhaps 2021 will be the year that the UK does well. But perhaps not. The latest betting puts France, Malta, Switzerland, Italy and Iceland as the most likely winners - with support for the UK down in 23rd place. However in recent years the UK betting support has been more bullish than the actual support amongst voting countries.

Anything better than a place in the bottom five will be an achievement. But there is a real chance that irrespective of the quality of the song the UK will end up in last place - given the attitude of our European friends. It has happened before ...

But don’t despair just remember the motto of our returning compere Mr Norton OK… That’s three minutes we’ll never get back, but look at it this way: We’ll never have to hear that song again.

tags; song, contest, BBC, UK, Eurovision, political

 

22-Apr-2021

By George

GeorgeDragon2021Despite misguided folk trying to put it profoundly beyond the pale St George’s Day remains a source of national pride for many.

Yet today the national flag of England has been all but censored out of existence. And even the Union Flag has now become a target to be dragged down - by vested interests and even sad elements within the BBC.

But without pride in your country, region, town or family we  become drones living pointless lives in a grey world. So tomorrow we will remember, fly the flag and kill the dragon ...

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

tags: icons, hereditary, St George, national, patron

 

3-Apr-2021

Russian Expansion

With Germany dependent on Russian gas and looking for Russian vaccines while experiencing a new wave of Corona Virus infections the chances of meaningful actions by the EU against any Russian military action in the Ukraine look mighty slim.

EU_Army_Badge1wAdding to the EU’s strategic weaknesses are its lukewarm support for NATO, talk of a EU Army but without any boots on the ground and the obvious incompetency of the current leadership - as witnessed by events in Brussels over recent weeks. Imagine what a EU-lead military response would be like!

From the Russian standpoint the West’s struggle with Covid, the EU’s resentment of all things British since Brexit and the fact that now is the Easter Weekend make this an ideal time for Russia to improve its grip over the East. [Russian Orthodox Easter is not until 2-May-2021]

If Russia does make a move then it will hardly be a surprise given that some EU politicians have been poking a stick at the Russian Bear for years - in the belief that the threat of NATO would stop any Russian response.

Let us hope that Russia limits it ambitions - and backs away from a full-scale conflict. Adding World War 3 to the planets troubles would be a step too far ...

tags: conflict, Europe, Crimea, Ukraine, WW3

 

1-Apr-2021

You Heard It Here First

In a surprise move the SNP have announced changes that they claim will strengthen Scotland’s case for EU membership.

Schuko-plug1The first change being the immediate adoption of the Euro electrical plugs and sockets in all homes and offices. A government spokesperson stating that the adoption of the Schuko design was far superior to the old English models and brought Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

The second change being a switch-over to driving on the right and banning the sales of English right-hand drive vehicles. The reasons for this being driving on the left or right does not apply on the many single-track roads, the plentiful supply of second-user left-hand drive limos available in Brussels and to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

The final change announced this morning being the surprise embargo on the importation of Yorkshire Puddings - on the grounds that such English products do not comply with the EU rules for batter-based food products that come into effect today. Rules that are routinely adopted by the Scottish Parliament to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

Interestingly these changes were published online in English, Scots Gaelic .. and French. Yes - to bring Scotland in-line with its future EU partners.

tags: April, fools, false, news

 

23-Mar-2021

The Grass Is Greener

The EU's Green Pass vaccine passport should be in place between 17-May and 1-June 2021 according to reports quoting Eurocrat Margaritis Schinas - the European Commission Vice-President assigned to the Promoting our European Way of Life Department (that is not a joke!). Being an EU scheme it does not cover the UK - or indeed anywhere else.

Get-Away-300So after the threats to block vaccine supplies are played out the next revenge move could well involve the EU requiring travellers to have one of their new passports - while making sure that all UK applicants are either restricted, blocked or forced to pay dearly for the privilege. A move that could make places like Israel, Gibraltar, Australia etc move further up every desirable holiday destinations list.

However quite how travel to the Irish Republic from the non-EU world would work is not clear - and could prove a further problem for the citizens of Northern Ireland. A part of the UK that is being forced to act as a purgatory between the evil UK and the heaven that is the EU. [Do I get my EU funding now?]

Meanwhile the UK news media report that a Covid Status Certificate is being considered for the UK. But also reporting opinions that any UK domestic vaccine passport would be discriminatory and that discriminating on grounds of jabs would be illegal.

Looks like travel companies will have to tread very carefully if they are to avoid expensive litigation ...

tags: Covid, travel, holiday, rules, restrictions, freedom

 

28-Feb-2021

A Winters Tale

We’ve reached the end of a winter that was memorable for both good and bad reasons.

The season was dominated, of course, by daily checks on the impact of the Wuhan virus and the ongoing fight to mitigate the damage it continued to cause. With total UK deaths approaching 123,000 it has been a bruising struggle - with the NHS reporting around 439,000 related hospital admissions since the start of the outbreak over a year ago.

This struggle put pressure on the national government just when it was least prepared. Already facing the complexities of leaving the European Union - and what can only be described as spiteful and revenge-seeking EU politicians. Leaving the EU has certainly upset the feeding trough in Brussels.

ScotlandsFinest1Meanwhile in Scotland SNP politicians still refuse to accept the democratic vote to stick with that more tried and tested union - the United Kingdom. The nationalist argument that things have changed since the 2014 referendum is a ridiculous non-reason. Things always change - often in unpredicted ways.

At least the latest in-fighting between the current and previous First Ministers is a diversion from the normal daily platitudes and attempts at anti-UK one-upmanship put out by the party in power.

But despite everything that has happened and the ongoing problems with the economy, the EU trade blockages and the limits on personal freedoms there is still a positive feeling in the air. Tomorrow sees the start of Spring and with falling deaths and hospital admissions, over 20 million first-dose vaccinations and a timetable for easing restrictions things are looking better. Even the prospect of a tough UK budget next week has not dampened the upbeat mood.

So let’s hope that we don’t get any more serious problems thrown at us - and that this year will see the first steps towards normality worldwide. Even so those face masks could be a common sight for a long while ...

tags: virus, economy, vaccine, union, light, tunnel

 

8-Feb-2021

Ragged Edge

These are far from normal times - but even so the world, as seen from Europe, seems to be becoming less rational, less predictable and more volatile. The pressures at all levels - from individuals to whole continents - are triggering actions and decisions that would be inconceivable just a few years ago.

man21aPaying huge numbers of fit and healthy workers to stay at home. Loaning businesses billions of pounds without even the most basic of checks and safeguards. Governments spending far more than they are receiving for month after month. Trying to vaccinate the entire planet against a virus that can mutate quicker than the protective shots can be distributed. Some corporations making massive profits while others are being forced to close. Travelling more than a few miles from home has been banned. Christmas all but scrapped. The list goes on and on ...

On top of this increasingly distorted picture we have naysayers with a flood of wild claims and false news - some based on their own lack of knowledge but others that can only be regarded as deliberate trouble making. Even people in senior roles are making statements that would be unacceptable in normal times. For example we have the President of the French Republic announcing that a Covid vaccine is almost ineffective for the over 65s - So raising the question do we believe the UK scientific advice and get vaccinated or do we refuse because a politician under pressure says it wont work but may be trying to justify not having enough vaccine for his citizens using a false claim? That could be a life or death choice ...

So lots of pressure in lots of places on lots of people - all making for a very ragged edge to life in 2021 ...

tags: virus, economy, vaccine, danger

 

14-Jan-2021

Viral Threat 2021

Twelve months ago the new Wuhan virus was very much a Chinese problem. One that would not spread worldwide and, like earlier infectious, such as Ebola or SARS,  would be contained before it infected us in the UK. Wrong!

Man1We now have the prospect of UK Covid-related deaths reaching 100,000 before too long. And this is against a backdrop of almost 93 million cases and 2 million deaths world wide. But vaccines have been developed, approved, mass produced and started to be distributed - so deaths and serious infections should start to decline by summer time. If the promises hold true.

Then we, like many countries, will have to assess how our nation gets back to something approaching normal. This is going to be difficult after so much disruption to both the economy and our daily lives. If the Government spends billions to boost business then it could be a catalyst for a new Roaring Twenties. A period where the young and rich party like there’s no tomorrow, the stock markets boom and many old fashions are discarded.

But having already spent billions of borrowed money spending even more restarting damaged businesses might just burst the bubble. And the Roaring Twenties could be followed by an almighty crash ... just like the 1920s.

tags: virus, economy, history lesson, toll, boom, bust

 

Earlier postings ...

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FOOTNOTES

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