Media Matters

The Dark lord Emperor Palpatine Rupert Murdoch has a habit of using the media to get the outcome in an election he wants. However, at the same time, not wanting to suffer payback, he’ll back the likely winner at the last minute. This behaviour can lead to all sorts of absurdities.

Take the fact that the Sun in Scotland backed the SNP….but the Sun in England backed the Tories in order to STOP the SNP taking power :??:. Clearly he must have been assuming nobody would read the Sun both sides of the border on the same day.

Another way of interpreting this is that its all part of an anti-labour ploy. Murdoch is no doubt calculating that if labour can be deprived of enough votes such that the Tories will end up as the largest party this will give him the outcome he wants.

However, this “the largest party rules” gambit ignores the fact that if the Tories are faced with a left wing majority, then even if he’s backed up by UKIP and the DUP or the lib dems, the opposition can still outvote him. The result is likely to be chaos and a very short lived minority government, likely leading to either a left wing coalition or a fresh election.

Certainly what this does demonstrate is that if there’s anything a future government does, its bring in some rules to prevent anyone wielding this sort of power over the media.

Sour Grapes
Meanwhile, UKIP leader Farage continues his delusions of a BBC “bias”, against him to strange new levels. He’s reported the Beeb to the police due to a joke made about him on “Have I got News for You”. Ignoring the hypocrisy that when ever his lot get caught being racists, he claims its just a joke….but when someone makes a joke about him, he calls the cops :no:.

Of course the fact that the joke was made by Camilla Long, a right wing Journalist from the Times (another Murdoch outlet) with an aristocratic background (like Farage) does sort of debunk his claims of the Beeb being at the centre of some sort of commie pinko conspiracy against him. As I’ve pointed out before, with regards to climate change, the Beeb has actually been criticised not for being too left wing, but for failing to take a firm enough position based on the established scientific consensus.

The reality is that he’s a vain egotistical leader, wholly unfit to hold any sort of government post…in fact, I’m watching “Downfall” right now and why is it I’m finding a similarity between’s Farage’s rants and infamous Downfall meme.

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News Roundup

Election
The election campaign rolls on. The tabloids seem to have worked out that UKIP ain’t going to win enough seats to hold the balance of power alone (as I pointed out before it would take a DUP alliance to help). So the consequences of the last 5 years of them running stories about how that Farage fellow is a lovely chap, is likely to backfire almost as badly as their previous articles along a similar theme in the 30’s.

So they’ve been devoting the last few days to printing stories that swallow the most absurd tosh the Tories come up with, or making “red Ed” out to be some sort of comic book villain under the sway of the evil nasty Nicola and rowdy roddy piper Alex Salmond.

Take for example the latest one from the Tories promising to enact a law that will make it illegal for a chancellor to raise certain taxes. This is a policy, which might sound crowd pleasing, but when analysed rationally it is so silly its difficult to believe anyone would propose it.

The whole point of government is to make sure sufficient revenue is raised by taxes to pay for public services. If the government abdicates its responsibility to raise tax, then inevitably it can’t increase public spending and the inevitable effects of any economic downturn, currency fluctuations, demographic changes, etc. is that the state will either be forced into making significant cuts in public services, or borrowing heavily. The end result is likely to be to reduce the UK to the same position as the US congress, where the Republicans will fight tooth and nail to defend spending in their district, but will immediately pull on their tea bagging hat and t-shirt the minute the President tries to raise taxes or borrow to pay for it. In short this is a policy whose likely outcome is national bankruptcy and a roll back of public services unseen in UK history.

As for the “red Ed” narrative, the most radical thing Ed could do is eat another bacon roll ;D. The whole reason why so many are voting for the likes of the SNP or Welsh Nationalists is because of the fear that he’ll become another Tony Blair, move to the right and a year from now he’ll be authorising torture and wars on behalf of the Americans while humming along to Boney M.

And it is supremely ironic the Tories making a fuss about how “destabilising” it would be to the UK for the SNP to end up in power, ignoring their record in Scotland, when he is almost certainly going to be forced to rely not just on UKIP but also the Ulster DUP, which as the potential to be far more destabilising. Why is it that he’s not coming under any pressure to rule out a DUP or UKIP coalition? Perhaps because that would mean him fecking off to Chipping Norton, as it would make it all but impossible for him to win.

The fact is that if all the party leaders were to stick to their guns and refuse to enter into the coalition arrangements they’ve been ruling out, the likely outcome of this election will either be a minority Tory or Labour government who will struggle to get anything passed, even a budget or a Queen’s speech. Or a Tory government with a wafer thin majority propped up by the DUP and UKIP. Any such governments will be extremely unstable and will likely collapse, something which the fixed term parliament rules the Tories introduced this parliament could well make a perfect recipe for chaos.

In short, its likely that either the party leaders, in particular the lib dem’s and/or labour will have to abandon these promises (should be easy for Nick Clegg, he’s got experience of that!) for the good of the country. Or about a year from now the Queen will be forced to step in, dissolve parliament and declare another election.

Rent Controls
THe one vaguely radical policy that labour has come out with is a plan to bring in rent controls. Naturally the Tories went into full fanatic freak out mode, painting a bleak picture that ignores the fact that many other countries have rent control, New York being a good example, so this isn’t that radical a policy. If anything I’d argue that labour’s policy doesn’t go far enough.

In essence we have an out of control property bubble in the UK. This favours few people, as I outlined in a prior post. Particularly when you consider that bubbles always burst.

And we in Ireland are the proof of that. As a consequence of the Irish property bubble you have many older people who can’t retire as they have the millstone round their neck of a buy-to-let flat they can’t rent out at a rate that will pay the mortgage. Forcing them to work on well past retirement age, pretty much until they drop.

And many of those of the younger generation, who may have bought at the wrong time are similarly crippled with negative equity they can’t shake off. For example, they’ve had to relocate for work purposes (or a growing family) and are stuck trying to rent the old place (again rarely earning enough to pay the mortgage, and that’s assuming they can rent it at all!), as they’ll never be able to sell it without wiping out their finances. All this while renting a new house, because no sane bank would give a mortgage to anyone sitting on so much negative equity. Its like having some sort of ghostly mother in law whom you can’t shake off.

So while landlords might whinge and whine, the fact is everyone will be better off with some form of controls on rent. It would almost make me vote labour…then I heard Jimmy Murphy spreading FUD about the SNP :no:.

Tabloid hate speech
Meanwhile the election has seen a rare intervention by the UN. The UN human rights commissioner has become increasingly worried by the tone of the UK tabloids and their “hate speech” towards, migrants, foreigners and even Scots. She’s pointed out how the language used recently by tabloids, such as describing immigrants as “cockroaches”, is eerily similar to the sort of language the nazi’s used or in the lead up to the Rwandan genocide.

US wing nuttery
As I pointed out last week, come 2016, its looking likely to be Hilary Clinton versus some random nut job from the Tea Party. A couple of her Republican rivals have declared, notably the likes of Ted Cruz (A Canadian fence jumper, who wants to crack down on immigration…and presumably doesn’t know what irony is!), Marco Rubio (Cuban exile, known for his anti-science and climate change denial wing-nuttery) and the man who puts the “batshit” in crazy, Rand Paul, famous for suffering from a condition known as “diarrhoea of the mouth”.

Seriously, just put Ran Paul into Google and it usually tries to suggest “nuts”. No doubt he’ll attract many of his father’s “Paulastinans” to his banner. Which is somewhat ironic, given that his daddy was the most corrupt politicians in congress. He only managed to hold onto his seat for so long because of his habit of sticking a rider onto a popular bill, one which he was sure would pass (even thought he’d then vote against it!), giving money to his district. At the same time he was calling for massive cuts in public spending, the public spending in his district quadrupled over a decade!. So again, irony doesn’t seem to be a strong point for the Pauls.

So if Hilary’s lucky, the GOP will pick some wing nut and she’ll have an easy sail to the White House. There’s also a possibly of Jeb Bush running. While slightly less insane, he is the same guy who feels that votes should be counted…until the guy you want to win does. He also has a number of items of very dirty linen in his closet (money laundering, drugs, fraud….usual for a Bush really!). And you thought our politicians were bad!

Game of Thrones
Speaking of corrupt royal dynasties, the Saudi king announced changes to the Royal line of succession this week. This upgraded a number of the younger generation into the line of succession, while relegating a number of the older members out of the line of succession.

While this is good news, a number of those now passed over for kingship were basically hardliners, or nutters…or both! So this does suggest a softer more reform orientated Saudi Arabia in future (who know maybe they’ll let the women drive the car out of the garage for her husband! :))). But it also does bring with it risks. Obviously those now out of favour may not take this slight likely. Others may not want to wait for those in the line ahead of them to pop their clogs.

In short, I’d argue that Game of Thrones is now required viewing for all Saudi princes. In which case I recommend avoiding all weddings, dwarves, pigeon pies, crazy religious groups, dire wolves, icewalls & ice giants, high places and sharp pointy things in general.

Its a Sin
The Pope has muttered various things suggesting anyone calling themselves “Christian” should do what the good book says, appears to increasing sign’s that he’s going to make a action on climate change a major issue. Already the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has issued a report which states “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity“.

And the Vatican’s position has been endorsed by the leader of the US Episcopal church, who described climate denial as “sinful”.

Needless to say this has put the fear of god (if you’ll pardon the pun) into the climate skeptics. After all the last thing the oil companies need right now is to start receiving papal bulls and priests showing up at drill sites waving crucifixes. Several skeptics quickly rushed to Rome to try an seek an audience with the pope. However these plans came a cropper when one of the priests there insisted on blessing them with holy water prior to them entering the Vatican, upon which they promptly exploded :)).

Either way, climate deniers best hope that the climate is warming, cos as far as the church is concerned, they may need to get used to warm places! I’m reminded of that song from the 80’s now.

Not quite Club Med

One has to comment on the awful crisis in the Mediterranean, with hundreds now feared drown over the last few weeks. The people smugglers, who are almost certainly working with the Italian mafia, seem quite happy to trade people’s lives for millions in profits.

Of course if we were to follow the UKIP response, sending out gunboats to shoot migrants, that wouldn’t solve the problem – it would just move it somewhere else (i.e. they’d start squeezing into cargo ships or the luggage compartments of aircraft, perhaps they’d start using makeshift subs like the drug cartels). Furthermore, by the time most of them are intercepted, they are stuck in a sinking ship or a dingy in the middle of the ocean, they can’t go back even if they wanted too. And what if they refuse to turn around (and many are that desperate they won’t turn), what then? And its hardly moral or fair to be sending them towards ISIS controlled parts of Libya.

Ultimately, its about supply and demand. Europe is doing well, compared to the rest of the world, there are jobs here. On the other hand, the numerous wars ongoing, notably in Syria and Libya, is driving many towards Europe. The economy’s of many African countries has been devastated by Western policies, corrupt governments in league with corporations as well as the increasing effects of climate change. In short, until something is done to reverse these factors, many will still try to risk these crossings.

This is exactly why the West made a huge mistake not taking a harder line on the Assad regime earlier in the crisis, just to placate Putin. And similarly the “big society” response to Libya has not worked out well.

Certainly not all those coming are refugee’s. Quite a few of them are the poor and the desperate lured by the bright lights and tales of the streets of Europe being paved with gold…although the traffickers often leave out the little details such as the high living costs and the fact that they’ll be saddled with a massive debt to pay off the traffickers (incidentally this debunks the UKIP myth that they come to claim benefits, most are here to work so they can send money home to their families).

There are certainly a number of things the EU should be doing in the short term. All aimed and producing a system that is both tough, but fair. Certainly a crack down on the people smugglers would be a good idea. However it must also target the parts of the network in Europe, in other words organised crime, as well as harsher penalties for bosses caught using illegal migrant labour. Fines to companies flouting immigration rules (often paying below the minimum wage) should be made sufficiently harsh that no company would risk it as well as criminal charges and actual jail time for the boss.

And where are they getting all these ships from? The smugglers have shown up with increasingly larger and larger ships. For quite some time environmentalists have been trying to raise the issue of how ships are disposed off. Rather than shipping companies paying the cost of dismantling a ship laden with toxic materials in the West, they instead sell them to some third party in the developing world. Who then renames the ship and runs it into a beach in India and dismantles it, often using poorly paid migrant labour where health and safety as well as environmental protections are non-existent. So it would seem the chickens are coming home to roost, and there is a need to bring in laws that require shipping firms to take cradle to grave responsibility for their ships, much like a car owner is required to pay for its safe disposal.

Also many migrants show up without passports. This is a deliberate tactic to make it harder for them to be send back. I would argue for a change in the rules in which any such individuals are automatically presumed to be economic migrants and not refugees and are send back as soon as possible (that process might take longer, but the point is they know if they show up without documents they will be sent back). While this might seem harsh, once word’s gets out, genuine refugee’s won’t risk jeopardising their asylum application by doing so.

Also I would argue that this is an EU wide problem. The rest of the EU needs too take in its share of these migrants and share the burden. Equally however, there should be a rigid rule that migrants whoo abscond from the country they are sent to while their application is being processed (as many do), should again be presumed to be economic migrants and put on the top of the deportations list.

Of course the obstacle to this will be politicians like Farage. Indeed he’ll no doubt argue this is another reason why the UK should leave the EU. Cameron seems to be toeing the UKIP line by refusing to take in any of these migrants, even though the ultimate destination for many is the UK. However, if the UK left the EU, then the rEU will have very little incentive to stop these migrants reaching Britain. I can envisage them organising free shuttle buses to the English Channel in the hope that they’ll abscond and become the UK’s problem. In essence what we’re seeing off Italy will be move to off Ramsgate.

But ultimately, what’s going to stem this human tide is cutting off the supply. i.e. tackling the many messes the West has inflicted on other parts of the world. Ultimately if Africa gets richer, less people will want to travel to the West. Take Ireland for example. Thanks to the EU Ireland went from a country whose principle export was people (mostly to Britain!) to being a net receiver of migrants.

In short, you could argue this is payback for colonialism. The West needs to realise there is a price to be paid for its actions. Failing to tackle climate change for example will, in the long term, mean more refugee’s. Similarly cutting overseas aid (as the Tories, Republican in the US or UKIP talk of doing) or failing to prosecute Western Corporations who engage in corrupt exploitative practices, will mean more refugees washing up on the shores of Europe. Long term this is the only way the flow of migrants will be turned off.

Reserves v’s Resources

This is a reposting of something I put up on my energy blog recently regarding recent stories claiming large oil and gas finds:

In amongst the election news there’s been a lot of news on the oil and gas front that’s had my spider senses tingling….as in I sense the distinct consistency of grade A Bull$hit!

Consider the story of what was described as “the world’s largest oil field” under Gatwick in South Eastern England, with talk of “up to 100 billion barrels of oil”. This comes on the back of media reports over the last few years highlighting the scale of the UK’s shale gas and shale oil resources. Consider for example this typically Cornocopian piece from a libertarian.

A clue to the truth behind all this can be gained by actually bothering to read the report from the BGS that sparked all of this speculation. And in particular skipping to the bottom and checking out the references. You will immediately note how quite a few of them are not new, some go back many years to as early as the 1960’s. This is not really surprising because its long been known by geologists that this formation of shale existed for quite some time. What the BGS has been attempting to clarify recently is how big this hunk of rock is and what level of gas and oil is concentrated within in it, i.e. how big are the resources of gas and oil within the formation.

There is a world of a difference between saying there’s 100 billion in resources (i.e. gas/oil that is we know is located in a certain area, but may not be economic or technically possible to extract) under our feet and 100 billion in reserves (oil and gas which we know can be accessed and drilled economically).

Incidentally, anyone who wants to know more about the process of oil discovery and drilling, I’d advise taking a look at this webseries of video’s  by an Oil and Gas professor (Dr Lau), who does a good overview of the topic.

A quick look at figure 2 will help illustrate the point I’m making. As you can see only about 7% of the world’s fossil fuel resources are classified as reserves. The rest is certainly there, it exists, but the problem is that much if it isn’t necessarily in a form that’s easily extractable. It could be too deep to drill into, it could be under a mile of ocean, the rock between us and it may present problems, there could be a large underground aquifer between us and the oil (a significant problem for much of the UK’s shale resources in fact), the oil/gas might be in lots of little fields that are too far apart to be economic to drill, or it might be in waters claimed by another country. Or more often than not, a combination of factors may apply.

And a big part of the problem here is that its often far from clear, when a company starts drilling, what the situation is. Many people have this image of an oil well as being like a tank of oil under the ground. Actually a more accurate view is that of a lair of sand, soil, gravel or “source rock” trapped between two impermeable barriers. So less a tank and more a sponge….but a sponge buried under several miles of earth and rock! While the oil immediately close to our drill might well flow up naturally under pressure, or it can be pumped out, stuff further way is harder to access. We have to drill more holes…at a couple of million a pop. Or even start pumping stuff down there to force the oil out. Fracking may be called for to stimulate flow.

At some point, and we won’t necessarily know when, we’ll no longer be getting enough oil or gas out of our well to make it economically sensible to keep production going. So the well is capped. And keep in mind the industry average for oil well recovery ratios (what comes out v’s what stay’s in the ground) is about 40%, with a range of about 10-55% for conventional production. That is to say that on average 60% of the oil in a typical field is left in the ground. And recovery ratio’s tend to be poorer in new oil fields (particularly with unconventional oil and gas), largely because the drillers are still feeling they’re way around the underground elephant.

So if for example in this Gatwick field we were to identify a reservoir of oil with say 1 million barrels in place and let’s assume we can recover that for a cost of $10 million, would it be worth our while to drill? The media or the cornucopian’s types will probably say, well of course, but let’s think about that.

At current oil prices (let’s assume $60/bbl) and assuming average rates of recovery (so 400,000 bbl actually recovered), we’ll make $24 million, which doesn’t sound bad. But what if we end up only getting 10% out? Or because of unexpected complications (e.g. a load of FoE protesters occupies the rig for several months, we hit several gas pockets, we end up drilling a dry hole and need to start again, etc.) our costs jump to £30 million. Or perhaps several of these things happen, what then? Well, in this case we’re loosing our shirts is what happens, even if the oil price goes up to $120!

And this is the reason why a lot of oil finds worldwide will turn out to be minions that the oil majors simply chuck back in the sea and ignore, hence the massive difference between global reserves and resources.

To draw an analogy, if we were to assume you could book all resources and treat them as reserves, then nobody by the sea, such as a ship wreck survivor, could ever die of thirst, as after all he’s surrounded by water. However if we consider the amount of trouble its going to be to separate out the water from its salt content, we realise he’s going to be struggling to extract enough to survive. And only then if he can build some sort of solar still. Listen to the cornucopian’s and they’ll have you believe he’ll have a swimming pool with a jacuzzi up and running by his first week! B) By contrast, someone by a small mountain pond, is in a substantially better position. While his water resource is smaller, its in an easily accessible form. So long as he doesn’t over-produce and drain the pond dry, he’s always going to have at least some water available.

Hence why talk in the UK comparing the Gatwick find to Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia is laughable. Is it being seriously suggested that the UK holds more oil than the rest of Europe (including Russia and central Asia) combined? Ghawar field, represents a proven reserve of oil that has been producing for 50 years, while only relatively small quantities of oil have been produced in Southern England. Again to give you a comparison, Ghawar’s peak production is in the order of 5 million barrels a day (out of a Saudi total close to 10 million bbl/day), oil fields in Southern England output about 20,000 bbl/day.

Similarly any suggestion that the US holds “100 years of shale gas” is simply not accurate. This analysis assumes that 100% of Shale resources could be recovered (they can’t!), with a recovery factor of 100% (shale formations tend to have recovery factors well below the 40% mention earlier). A more reasoned analysis suggests 11 to 21 years of supply. The EIA estimates that Shale Gas has increased US resources by 27% and worldwide by 32%. A lot of gas yes, but not quite the massive game changer that is often suggested.

This brings us to the final point in figure 2, production v’s reserves. Again you will notice that annually only about 1.2% of world energy reserves are produced per year, or if we focus on oil alone, about 8% comes out per year. The fact is we can’t simply extract oil or gas at any arbitrary rate of our choosing. A higher production rate often means more drilling, more pumps, more costs and again beyond a certain tipping point, its not going to be economic nor technically feasible to up production. Too high a rate of production also risks causing technical problems, which will in the long term limit the amount of oil we ultimately extract from our reservoir. So large reserves, nevermind large resources don’t automatically mean a high rate of production.

And of the world’s oil resources (conventional and unconventional) annual oil production is but 0.8% of these resources. So you understand how laughable stupid the ravings of some cornocupians, like our libertarian fantasist earlier, sound when they imagine being able to drain the UK’s shale resources away (with a recovery ratio of 100%!) in just 50 years! To draw another analogy if we we’re to send a load of cornocupians to the sides of a large lake and get them to extract water using just spoons and sponges, while I took a small pond and a foot pump, who do you think would achieve a higher rate of production?

So you may enquire given everything I’ve said why are the companies behind these finds spreading such falsehoods. Well for the very same reason why the oil and gas companies are laying off staff. With the recent drops in oil price, nobody wants to invest in finding more oil, which is really bad news if you are head of a oil exploration firm. Of course the best way to attract some suckers investors to fill the company coffers is some good oil fashioned snake oil salesmanship, which the media have been more than happy to promote free of charge. Keep in mind that one of the key promoters of this story also just happens to be a city firm who specialises in oil and gas investment.

Similarly the shale gas promoters have been selling the myth that shale is some new magically energy source developed by professor Dumbledore at Hogwarts. In truth, the first fracking of oil wells dates back to 1949. Certainly the fracking technology used today is very different, the scale is larger, the depth and pressures are different. But the basic idea that we could use it to extract the oil and gas from the shale resources we’ve long known existed is not a new idea.

Anyone who doubts me, go to your universities library some evening and go through the oil and gas journals of a few decades back (say 60’s to 80’s, whatever’s on microfilm was my rationale) and you will see the odd paper or journal pop up relating to “hydraulic fracturing”. I found several going all the way back to the 1960’s….including one crazy one which thought of using fracking to dispose of nuclear waste! 88| (they went a bit nuts in the 60’s, all those drugs! :crazy:).

Again, the oil and gas industry has been attempting to suggest otherwise, as they have a very specific agenda. Which is basically that the existing reserves of oil they hold are rapidly depleting. There reserves are also uncompetitive compared to those held by Middle East producers. And the “let’s steal the Arab’s oil” gambit appears to have failed rather dramatically. So plan B is to con the rest of us into paying over the odds for domestic oil and gas, while ignoring the urgent matter of climate change and the fact that unconventional oil and gas production often comes with a much higher rate of pollution and a higher carbon footprint.

So given these factors, yes you can go with the dodgy “cowboy” fracker, whose offering a “too good too be true” deal. Or do you go with the science, which says we need to engage in a long term strategy to get off oil. Nothing spectacular, but a long term commitment towards energy conservation, renewables and generally living within our means.

Hypocrisy

The attacks on the possibility of an SNP/labour deal continue. Of course it also does tend to suggest that the Tories are engaging in this bout of negative campaigning because they have nothing positive to say about their own policies…unless you think it would be positive to have to endure five more years of austerity, failing public services, more tax cuts to the wealthy and an EU referendum that might destabilise the country? :no:

Instead, and no doubt this policy is driven by the results of focus groups, they prefer to tap into a rich seam of anti-Scottish racism amongst some in England. In essence, its like an election for class president where the campaign message is: don’t vote for Ed, he’s friends with Alex and Nicola and they smell!

However there is also a glaring hypocrisy here. While the Tories are quick to stoke up fear of the SNP “holding the country to ransom”, they are ignoring the fact that its likely to be impossible for them to get in alone, likely leading to a Tory coalition with UKIP and probably the DUP (the Ulster Unionists) as well. This does raise the risk of the DUP (a group of ultra conservatives who are the sort who think listening to disco music is a temptation too far |-|) holding the Tories to ransom on a whole manner of issues, as they seek to gain a bigger share of the pie for Northern Ireland.

And there is history here. Least we forget, part of what sparked the troubles in NI was the fact the Heath government was supportive of its allies the Ulster unionists. Thus when the largely Protestant police forces turned on the Catholic civil rights movement, Heath sat on his hands, leading to a tit for tat escalation that eventually became a full blown insurgency. And there is a deep irony to John Major’s comments regarding the SNP (he must be getting senile in his old age), given that in the failing months of his regime, his government (thanks to defections and rebellious MP’s) was basically propped up by the Unionists. This led to a stalling of the NI peace process, that was only rescued by his defeat in the subsequent election.

So there is good reason to argue that a DUP and Tory alliance would be not in the best interest of the rUK. And while the NI government lurches from one crisis to another, the SNP have actually made a descend job of running Scotland. Why else do you think, despite the referendum loss, so many are voting for them? Its because many north of the border have realised that so long as you tune out whenever the SNP start going on about independence, or Culloden, or the clearances, Mary Queen of Scots :lalala:, they haven’t done a bad job.

And then there’s the UKIP factor, its likely looking at the numbers, the Tories will need the support of both and still only have a tiny majority of a few votes. However with such a wafer thin majority they will run the risk that if only a handful of MP’s going rogue will threaten their hold on power at any vote. Given the nature of how UKIP works, this means they’ll be strutting around Westminster like the lords of the manor, demanding all sorts of things, all too aware that the narrow majority by which the Tories will be holding power allows them to do this.

Take for example, the latest outburst from Farage. As punishment to the Beeb for him making a tit of himself in last week’s debate, he wants the license fee cut by 2/3’s. Can you imagine if he was in government and these sort of dictates were being issued on a weekly basis? Or UKIP/DUP MP’s demanding, like the Tea Party in the US, all sorts of crazy things (cuts to anything with the word “gay” or “environment” in it, massive pork barrel spending in their district, etc.).

Furthermore, while UKIP and the DUP might seem like good bed fellows, I suspect they’ll fall out pretty quickly. Particularly once the DUP work out that the consequences of Brexit and the loss of the open border to Ireland means that it will become impossible for the current peace process to continue and impossible for the NI economy to compete with an Irish euro economy with cheaper goods, lower taxes yet a higher GDP. In short the DUP will face the choice of whether they want to become Irish, or move to Scotland….and become Scottish when they break away! (again a likely consequence of Brexit). Already there’s tension between UKIP and the DUP, so its difficult to see any government containing both parties going the full term.

By contrast, labour should, if they get sufficient seats, be in a much stronger position. Add up all the votes for the left leaning parties and they’ll likely have a comfortable majority. In theory they won’t need to form any coalition, but could rely on a minority government approach as, even if the SNP were to go rogue (which they won’t), they would still get enough votes from the remaining parties of the left, to get their way on virtually every issue, other than perhaps Trident for example (of course they could rely on the Tories for that, same as the Tories relied on labour after the lib dems ruled out voting for that).

I would assume that labour would have the good sense to sit down with either the SNP or lib dems. Then agree a formal coalition (and I think we can ignore Miliband’s promises not to deal with the SNP as it was a promise extracted under false pretences) or an informal arrangement (we’ll pass bill X and Y from you’re manifesto if you support Z and W from ours). And again, the point of such an arrangement would be to ensure they aren’t clinging to power (as likely will be the Tories if they get in) by a handful of votes. They’ll have enough of a majority to see off any sizeable rebellion by either the SNP or the smaller left wing parties.

By contrast, what the Tories seem to be offering is a hodge-podge coalition cobbled together from closet racist, ultra conservatives and the very swivel eyed loons Cameron was complaining about a last year.

Hilary for President?

Last week saw Hilary Clinton end speculation and declare herself as a candidate for President. This caused both cheers and a lot of groans from both those on the right and quite a few on the left. I don’t think many in the UK realise what a derisive figure she is. I recall how Top Gear‘s James May drove across the Southern States with “Hilary Clinton for President” written on his car and was lucky to live, having been chased across several counties by banjo playing hillbillies for it!

Firstly, one has to comment on the fact the Hilary has been quietly campaigning for President pretty much since she left here secretary of State job in 2013. Given that the election won’t be till 2016, this means she could spend as long trying to become President as she might actually spend doing the job. And many of her likely rivals are in a similar boat. Several of the Republicans, such as Rich Perry and Mike Huckabee are into multiple campaigns now, so again they could spend many times longer trying to get the job than they spend doing it. Which is sort of a damning indictment of the shortcomings of US politics.

But I digress, what is so controversial about Hilary? Well to understand that you have to remember who she is and her role during the Clinton administration. Hilary, unlike many previous first ladies, was much more willing to get involved in politics, rather than perform the traditional first lady role of flower arranging, generally looking pretty and respond to any question of politics by saying something about “world peace”.

This is not to say there hadn’t been intelligent women with strong opinions in the White House before. Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Patty Nixon (to name a few). However by and large there has been a certain role Americans, particularly those on the right, have come to expect a President’s wife to perform (a Stepford wife!). Its worth remembering that for all its propaganda to the contrary America is a very backward and conservative country compared to Europe. Consider that they don’t even have any women on US bank notes!

So along comes Hilary and not only does she get political, but she starts proposing things like universal health coverage. Now you may well say, why that sounds like a great idea, why didn’t any of her male colleagues think of that one? Well because they knew that if they proposed the same thing they’d end up with a burning cross on their lawn by the following morning! As the assumption in the US is (thanks to this thing called “fox news”) that this is “socialism” :>.

Now to be fair, its not really correct to call such a policy as socialist. As this video blogger points out the US spends more of its taxes subsidising private health care than most EU nations, even though its system is fully private and the Europeans get universal coverage. And to be clear I’m referring now to only what the US pays for healthcare via taxes, which adjusted for inflation (America is richer than the EU, we’d expect them to pay more in absolute terms), is much greater than what any Europeans pay. On top of this US citizens pay several thousand or more each per year, overall spending many times more than Europeans for less service that covers fewer people.

If that’s what Americans define as “socialism” then I assume “socialism” means something very different the other side of the pond, cos it seems to mean “being very sensible with money”.

But again, I digress. This and similar statements by Hilary (gun control for example) led to her being labelled a socialist. And the right were quite critical of her because of her husband. The traditional tactic of republicans up till then had been to try and paint democrats as big government socialists who ran up debts. However, Clinton was very much to the right of the democratic party. Plus he’d managed to do what every Republican president has promised to do but utterly failed to do – he balanced the US budget and started paying off the deficit. Mention this to Republicans and some will literally start rolling on the ground and chewing the carpet.

But suffice to say, it mean they couldn’t tar Clinton with the socialist brush, so they went after his wife. As Adam Curtis discusses in the second episode of his series “the power of nightmares”, Clinton’s neoconservative enemies, aided by their allies in the right wing media also began creating a series of myths and conspiracy theories around the Clinton’s. Virtually all of which was completely fiction, as an insider to the smear campaign, David Brock, later revealed.

Of course, the President had committed some misdemeanour’s, which notably led to the Lewinsky affair. Now while I’m not going to apologise for Clinton’s actions, but if the bar for impeachment is screwing you’re secretary and lying about it, well I presume G. W. Bush should have gotten the electric chair then for his numerous crimes (lying to congress, an illegal war or two, worse financial crisis in history). And what about Ronald Reagan and the Iran Contra affair…which may have involved high treason charges being brought against him had he been caught! And of course the sexual exploits of JFK are practically legendary.

But again I digress. What really infuriated the Republicans was how Hilary stood by her man. Now this is hardly surprising given that they’d spend the last couple of years accusing her of being everything under the sun. Although one has to question why she’s still doing so 15 years later. But either way, its easy to see in this context why she’s viewed in the way that she is. And why Republicans seem to go into some sort of berserker rage whenever her name is mentioned.

Again this is not to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to criticise her. Contrary to the rumours she’s much more of a centrist than other democrats. Also one has to wonder that the reason she hasn’t dumped Bill is for political reasons. So one has to ask whether someone who is that desperate for the job of President that they’d stay in a loveless marriage, is really the best person for the job.

Certainly the opinion polls do put her out in front, but then again most of those on the Republican side who’ve declared are the usual gallery of Tea Party ghouls, nut jobs like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.

Its possible that the Republicans could mount some serious challenge, for example Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell or Rudy Giuliani. However most of these candidates either bare the taint of G.W. Bush, or they would be unacceptable to the Tea Party….because they ain’t batshit crazy enough!

Of course if its Hilary v’s some random nutter, then its very likely to be her in the White House come 2016. However, given her history, it would be a bit of a gamble for the democrats to pick her for the nomination. Actually my main hope is that she’ll scare the Republicans straight. They’ll realise the only way they can stop her is by putting forward someone vaguely sane. This will force the Republicans to confront the Tea Party and hopefully run them out of the GOP. That could result in Hilary getting a run for her money, but at least it would mean we in Europe won’t need to worry about getting some nutter in charge of the nuclear briefcase.

The European Disaster Movie

Europe’s not really been a key issue in this election so far, but it will become eventually I suppose. Farage :crazy: made an attempt to do so last night. Although he seemed to spend more of his time having a go at the audience (Farage’s dog whistle politics act tend to only work with a compliant audience who clap obediently at suitable pauses….or scream sieg heil :))).

I caught a rather scary Storyville episode on i-player the other week, which traced the rise and rise of populist euroskeptic parties and the danger they pose. One of the effects of the financial crisis, and the lack of political leadership, has been to create a power vacuum which has been filled by a variety of parties promoting increasingly insane policies. And there are many myths that have engrained themselves with EU voters that simply aren’t true.

As one Dutch commentator points out, if the government does a crap job, everyone says okay let’s vote in a new government. You’ll hear very few, outside of a few tinfoil hat wearing libertarian circles, calling for us to get rid of the government altogether (and turn the country into Somalia!)….but euroskeptic parties can basically do the same thing and get away with it, even though this is an equally insane suggestion.

I’ve dug into the follies of UKIP before, plus the fact that they are not really a free-market orientated party, but some sort of neo-national socialist hybrid. Well it might be worth looking at their French allies, the Front National, under Marine Le Pen, daughter of Algerian War criminal and part time nazi sympathiser Jean-Marie Le Pen. They have been riding high in the polls and are predicted to at least make the second round of voting in next year’s French presidential election.

Marine Le Pen supports policies ranging from withdrawal from the EU, NATO, WTO, etc., restoring “family values”, cutting taxes, increasing public spending….and much else. Frankly her policies are so obviously contradictory its hard to be specific about anything. For example she’s on record of both being in favour of a phase out of French nuclear power…but also wanting to see it expanded! :??:

Her “family values” position falls flat when you realise she’s divorced….twice! (nothing wrong with that, but its a bit rich her saying to women to stay in a loveless, perhaps abusive, marriage when she won’t).

So suffice to say, the bulk of FN policy is to blame the EU and nasty evil hobbits Jews immigrants for everything wrong with France – ever! Of course, as I’ve pointed out before with regard to Britain, most of the myths about immigration are simply that – myths and outright lies. In France too, much of what FN spout is similarly, racist dog whistling with no foundation in facts.

No country for young men
Indeed to concentrate on the issue of employment, for it is the high rates of unemployment in France that is driving many towards the FN. However migrants and French are after different sorts of jobs. Part of the problem in Europe over the last few years is that the number of entry level jobs for young graduates has dried up, largely because large firms aren’t hiring, but also because there’s been a slow down in staff moving jobs. And France, with its many state owned or state supported companies, has seen this rather acutely.

This is largely because many salaried workers are afraid to change jobs because they fear they either won’t get a job elsewhere or won’t get as good a deal, notably due to changes in pension policy (I just changed jobs myself and my pension’s taken a bit of a hit 88|). Equally, their immediate boss is unwilling to sack people, because he knows that anyone who leaves (be it through redundancy, retirement or otherwise) won’t be replaced.

So its not so much a glass ceiling, but a grey haired one. The mainstream parties have proposed policies to solve this ranging from making it easier for firms to sack workers, privatisation (ya that worked out great in the UK!), raising the minimum wage, changes to pensions, encouraging apprenticeships and internships, more spending on education, higher taxes for the wealthy (to fund these policies), etc. However it is the very act of trying to implement these policies that is exactly what’s made the mainstream parties in France so unpopular! The idea that the FN can some how defy economic gravity is of course bonkers.

Kicking out migrants will not help French people find jobs. In fact it could have the opposite effect, by driving away entrepreneurs and others looking to invest in the country. The result is very likely to be scenes of crops rotting in the fields (notably on French vineyards) and it being impossible to get a taxi in Paris, or find a shop open after 5pm on a Sunday. Hardly progress is it?

Death spiral of an economy
As for leaving the EU, well what currency is she planning on using afterwards? Not the Euro, as you need to be an EU member for that. Probably they’d bring back the Franc. However, given the economic disruption this would cause, that currency will struggle to compete against the Euro (backed up by the Germans and other more vibrant low debt and growing economies in Eastern Europe) and thus the Franc would probably rapidly loose value.

Given that many French companies, such as for example Airbus, depend on integrated manufacturing, any trade barrier (such as leaving the EU) will make their operations impossible, so they could well up stakes and leave. Indeed Renault, that most French of firms, could well be tempted to move operations to Romania and Eastern Europe, where it already has a substantial stake in car production (the irony, French auto workers leaving France to seek work in Romania!). And many of those migrants the FN want to kick out are helping to offset the fact that France is an ageing country with fewer and fewer French paying the taxes for more and more retirees. Losing them would throw France into an instant deficit spiral that its not going to be easy to pull out of.

Like Greece, these factors would make it impossible for France to service its public debts, inevitably leading to a default. Except while the Germans (and the French!) are holding the bag when it comes to Greek debt, a lot of France’s debt is held by investors within France. So a banking collapse is very likely and its quite probable that all of these bigoted French pensioners voting for FN could well loose all of their savings and pension pot. As well as making it impossible for the French government to fund the state pension or healthcare costs of the elderly.

Reassuringly cheap
I’m reminded of those Stella adverts a few years ago, where French peasants go to various extraordinary lengths just to earn one pint of cheap Belgian beer. Well that could become an everyday reality for many French if the FN have their way. And keep in mind that before the EU came along, many in rural France, as with the rest of Europe, were desperately poor.

I can even envisage, a couple of years out from a National Front victory, the following conversation being had by set of Eastern European middle class couples:

“Well we normally go to Croatia this time of year for some sunshine, but seeing as we’re trying to save due to the new house, we decided to economise and went to France instead….Okay, it was tough filling in all those visa forms…oh! and the security at the airport was terrible….and there was the worry about crime….so many poor people there, and old people begging everywhere….but everything was so cheap….I mean we got that sparkling wine, in this little vineyard, what was it called….Bollinger or something….ya, just 200,000 francs a bottle….that’s about 8 euro’s….beautiful, way better than the Australian stuff…..Then there was the Louvre, which is where all those paintings in the Chinese national gallery we saw last year came from….and we got to see the Eiffel tower….before it got dismantled….ya, some Dubai billionaire has bought it and plans to put it up in his casino resort…we should visit that sometime…but next year we think we’ll risk it again and go to England, we heard that since those UKIP guys took over you can stay in one of the Queen’s old palaces now for next to nothing, just a few hundred thousand sterling a night…..”

I recall suggesting before that any pensioners thinking of voting UKIP should taste cat food first as that will likely be their stable diet if UKIP take over. Well to French pensioners I’d suggest just learning how to go through dustbins and the mandarin or German for “spare change please”.

Of course for the well heeled old money who bankroll the FN, this would be excellent news. As not since the days of Louis the XIIII have they been able to lord over their fellow French men. And naturally the Russians, who also help to finance the National Front, would be trilled to see France take a turn for the worse, particularly if she left NATO. Indeed its worth remembering the links between UKIP and Russia too (the spirit of Vidkun Quisling is alive and well it would seem!)

The lesson of history
I’ve heard some argue that the best thing to do is let these eurosceptic parties take power. More often than not the bulk of their supporters are simply angry morons voting anti-establishment to make themselves feel better. Of course once their party is actually part of the government, much of their support will evaporate as they’ll be shown to be no better, if not far worse, than any of the other parties.

However, this analysis ignores the enormous damage that such parties could do. Its equivalent to arguing that we should let a suicidal person take over the controls of an airliner, as it might make him feel better. Ya, but he could well put the airplane into a fatal dive which the pilot can’t safely pull out of. Similarly, letting the likes of Front National or UKIP take charge of a major country and they could screw things up so badly as to make it impossible for the damage to be undone.

And least we forget, this is how Hitler got into power. The other right wing parties who helped him into power assumed that once he was inside the glass house of democracy, he couldn’t throw rocks anymore, the hypocrisies in his policies would be exposed and he’d be driven from office and quickly forgotten about. However, they didn’t figure on him ending democracy altogether.

I mean if France or England left the EU, would they be allowed back in? Certainly not under the same conditions that they currently enjoy and certainly not without rolling back many of the very things these far-right parties propose. An impoverished France or England would have pass certain economic tests (which won’t be easy) and would have to homogeneous (and there’s a good chance the UK could break up, with similar issues in France). Failure to meet these conditions, would invalidate any membership application. Nevermind the very strong chance of either state being simply blackballed by other nations (such as by a newly independent Scotland!) for a variety of reasons.

Solutions
So what’s to be done? Well firstly, accept why these parties are gaining support actually has very little to do with immigration, as in truth immigration isn’t the cause of anything they blame it for. Yes there are issues with the small minority of migrants (often from outside the EU) who are here for less than genuine reasons (asylum or to seek work). But these are issues best tackled via a common EU policy, something which leaving the EU will make less likely. Also there are issues of some migrants not integrating (when in Rome and all that). However, this is a problem that often gets exaggerated and there are other solutions to it.

The main reason driving Euroscepticism is in truth the present economic situation and a lack of EU solidarity when it comes to dealing with it. Much like the Marshall plan was used to rebuild Europe post-war we need a new EU funded Marshall plan to help struggling EU economies to recover.

We need the people in states like Greece (or France) to accept that things aren’t going to go back to the way they were. Because the period prior to the crash represented a dangerous unsustainable bubble. Sacrifices will have to be made, although at the same time help is needed for these economies to rebuild themselves. Recall that the core principle of the EU has always been the cooperation is better than conflict. The national rivalry that existed prior to the EU, something UKIP or FN seem intent on reviving, condemned the continent to war after war.

European Army WTF?

I almost chocked during the election debate when Farage :crazy: brought up his delusions that France is trying to replace NATO with a European army. Choked that is with laughter.

Well what would stop a European army…probably the fact that many EU states aren’t members of NATO, such as Ireland, and often have clauses in their constitution making it clear they can never be part of such a force. Ireland has in the past received opt-outs on this matter in order to maintain our long standing policy of neutrality. A policy shared by several other EU states such as Sweden, Finland and Austria.

The idea that Britain, a nuclear armed state with (by EU standards) a relatively large armed forces, could somehow by threatened by the Germans or French, into becoming part of some EU army, when much smaller nations like Ireland have managed to get opt outs, is just crazy.

Certainly it is true the EU now shares a common policy on defence. And it has put in place measures to ensure a rapid reaction force to deal with crises such a repeat of the Balkans civil war. However only in the paranoid mind of a one-balled nazi loon could this be considered a “European Army“.

For starters, where’s the chain of command? An army without a change of command, ain’t an army. This is why NATO devotes a lot of effort towards the organisation of its chain of command. And keep in mind that politicians can’t directly command troops. If Cameron were to phone up a bunch of squadies, they would probably put the phone down and write it off as a prank call. Their orders have to come down via the designated chain of command, and btw the Queen is at the top of that, not the PM, nor the French President or the EU president.

Is Farage suggesting that an Irish general could march onto a British military base tomorrow, pull rank and borrow a few tanks and helicopters to go invade Belgium for the weekend….or perhaps get the squadies to perform the military fairy dance?

Furthermore, to return to the issue, which is that Farage claims the EU is this dictatorial institute which you can’t get anywhere with. Then why are they granting concessions on defence to Ireland, a nation with 1/12th the population of the UK? Well because Ireland has negotiated with our EU colleagues in a pro-active manner, rather than blundering in and calling everyone “fritz” or “frogs” and demanding this and that. A little bit of manners can open all sorts of doors.

What’s wrong with Right to Buy

Why is that, Cameron while pitching his party’s manifesto, reminded me of Arthur Daley. Roll up, roll up, right to buy for every punter, only cost you….you’re life savings!…and you’re kids future!

What’s wrong with right to buy? Well, next time the bill comes in from your mortgage company and you realise you’re paying half you’re take home pay meeting it, you can thank Maggie Thatcher and her right to buy policy. Draw a graph of inflation adjusted property prices and you’ll see they skyrocket after she introduced the right to buy policy. This is largely because the policy deprived councils of much needed property, creating a massive shortage of affordable homes.

The end result was a massive change in the supply and demand factors across the whole of the UK housing market, leading to a steep rise in property prices. And keep in mind that in times past, interest rates were much higher. Which both meant the casino landlord types were taking on a lot more risk by investing in property (discouraging them from doing so). But also meant that anyone with savings, and most people in those days had a few bob stashed away, got a decent rate of return.

Furthermore the right to buy created massive inequality, one of the steepest rises in it in the last century. It pulled the ladder up on those on lower incomes, forcing them to rent, which of course funnelled easy money to those with the money to buy houses. Which in of itself discouraged investment in things like small businesses. The result of right to buy has been to create a society of haves and have nots, where the have nots not only fall further and further behind each year, but their numbers grow.

In short, less of a “property owning democracy” and more of a “property owning oligarchy”. Particularly when you realise how much of the money behind property investment in Britain, in particular around London, is wealthy investors from abroad, up to 80% in some cases. So if you want a future where your kids can’t afford to buy until you die (and if you don’t own a house, then they never will either), and are stuck renting off some slum absentee landlord oil sheik, be my guest and vote Tory.

Election update

A couple of stories from the election I thought I’d follow up on. I also have this handy wee chart with which you can work out who to vote for.

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘Ferrero Rocher’
There is for example the story of Nicola Sturgeon’s “Ferrero Rocher” moment, and her supposed comments to a French ambassador, suggesting that she’d prefer a Cameron government rather than a labour win.

I could potentially see her saying that she’d prefer Cameron because he’s an incompetent upper class twit who could screw up a cup of coffee, very likely be propped up by UKIP and his in/out EU referendum would put Scottish independence back on the agenda. But that’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the Tories.

And even here, the facts don’t quite add up. The Journalism behind this story is described as “dodgy” suggesting this was more a case of the Tories chums in certain newspapers rushing something out to try and discredit Sturgeon after her strong performance in the debates put them into a panic.

It is perhaps more a sign of how increasingly desperate the Tories are becoming, rather that anything indicative of SNP policy.

Trident
The Tories also attacked Labour over Trident, claiming they are the only party committed to renewing the current system come what may. However, this is exactly the problem with their policy, I would argue.

Aside from the more obvious question, do we really want to spend £25 billion on a weapon system we’ll never use…unless we’re all dead! But even if you agree the UK needs nuclear weapons, there are other options. For example fixed silos based on land, or mobile land based missiles.

You could look at copying the Indian policy who plan to use submarines with both attack capability, nuclear ballistic missile systems and cruise missile launch systems. There’s the option of greater co-operation with the French, or indeed with the US. Perhaps buying off either state a license built set of submarines, rather than developing our own one. And of course the option of reducing the number of subs.

Its worth putting all of these options on the table as its likely the security situation will change in the next few decades. As I’ve pointed out before a UK leaving the EU or Scottish independence (which becomes more likely if the UK leaves the EU) would drastically change things as it would mean the loss of air cover over the North sea. Cuts to the Royal navy already make it questionable as to whether they could hold the sea space under which the submarines patrol. And blowing the next twenty years of RN money on subs is unlikely to help. Its entirely possible the Trident fleet could be rendered an expensive “fleet in being” in a few decades time, if certain events happen.

Equally, the growing capability of missile interceptors also threatens to change things. It could well mean the safest place to store the missiles would be land based silos protected by an ABM system, not at sea.

So I’d rather vote for a party whose willing to put all the cards on the table, than one who is committed to bet everything on black. A policy that basically may not work and will waste a lot of money and risk the country’s national security finding out.

Retire before you die
There was a good article out this week from Comedian Frankie Boyle about retirement ages which is worth a read. As always expect his style of dark humour.

NHS fantasies
The Tories are claiming that they’ll find an extra £8 Billion to close the NHS funding gap….Or perhaps the headline should be, the Tories admit they’ve been drastically underfunding the NHS for years.

Of course they are being somewhat guarded as to how they’ll do it. I’m assuming they plan to feel down the back of their sofa’s :P. However the reality, as I mentioned in a prior post, is that this is a drop in the ocean compared to the levels NHS funding actually needs to be increased by.

This would imply an 8% rise in NHS spending, which would be easily wiped out by inflation and the increasing healthcare costs of the UK’s rising population and ageing population. Instead the NHS needs something of a serious overhaul and yes that will be expensive. So much so I can’t see how its possible without a tax rise.

So any party, Tory or labour, claiming they can fix the NHS without pushing up taxes is so deluded they need to visit their local NHS hospital and seek out mental health services :crazy:.

Casino Landlords
One story not making the election news is unfortunately the issue of property. A survey out recently suggested that buy-to-let landlords have seen returns as high as 1,400% since 1996. Now you might well say, well good on them. But consider the consequences.

Firstly, its making it impossible for young first time buyers to get on the property ladder, which is leading to all sorts of inequality. It also means young families need to get a job with a certain income, or its simply not worth their while giving up the DSS or the Council house. So this is putting a burden on the state, as often the state is effectively subsidising these profits by landlords.

Secondly, in case anyone’s got a bad memory, we just had a financial crisis caused by rampant property speculation that almost crashed the entire financial system. So repeating this mistake doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.

Part of the problem with property is that amounts to unhedged commodity speculation. This is one of the riskiest things you can do with money. Get it right and you can win big. Screw it up and you can loose more money than you originally invested. This is why market traders are actually forbidden by the rules from engaging in this sort of speculation, as it can (and has) brought down banks. Essentially what the financial crisis amounted too was the banks getting us to do the speculating for them, essentially bypassing the measures intended to prevent this.

And in other parts of the EU, such as Ireland and Spain we can see what’s likely to happen if things go wrong. Many who bought at the wrong time, often for investment purposes, are now stuck with property they can neither sell nor rent at a rate that will pay the mortgage. Its one of the reasons many in these countries have seen their finances crippled and retirement in the long term rendered impossible.

So while it might be unpopular for the parties to pledge to doing something about it, e.g. tighter regulation of letting agents, new taxes on private renting, more spending on council houses and schemes to encourage more affordable homes. But in the long term the country would be better off.

Clegg phobia and AV
As I mentioned in a prior post, there is a risk that Nick Clegg could loose his seat in Sheffield, thanks to lots of angry students, as his party becomes the liberal democrat….note lack of plural ;D. He is currently 2 points behind labour. However, it should be remembered that the Tories have a strong showing in that district, UKIP and the Greens have been gaining support, so there is an outside chance these other parties could dilute the anti-Clegg vote.

Although I can’t help but point out that if we had the Alternative Vote system he proposed, then its very likely he’d be unseated. The irony! That said I still think the AV system, or better still Proportional Representation, would work out as a better system and a fairer one.

Indeed the Tories will probably be wishing that AV did go through, as their major problem is going to be loosing votes to UKIP in marginal constituencies. Equally the many Scottish Labour supporters who campaigned against AV wouldn’t be facing total wipe out from the SNP if AV existed. So long as they got enough support to prevent a first round SNP win, they’d probably mop up most of the second round votes and take the seat. Pay backs a bitch ain’t it!

Death and taxes
The Tories are talking about scrapping inheritance tax. This is an all too common tactic of the sorts of tea party types in the US…ignoring that one of the reasons why the US colonies broke away from Britain was the lack of any estate tax in the US, allowing wealthy British non-doms to hold all the wealth and power in the colonies, while paying very little if any tax.

The reality is that inheritance tax is one of the fairest taxes you can impose. After all its only charged when you’re dead. And its only applied to the estates of the wealthy, so most people are exempt (I understand the minimum threashold in the UK is about £1m). And its not as if you can take it with you anyway? Or are Cameron and his posh buddies planning on building vast pyramids in the Cotswolds and be buried with all their wealth?…perhaps they’ll also entomb him with Osborne, Farage and Boris Johnson, so they can worship him for all eternity :)).

UKIP’s roll
Speaking of which, rather fortunately, UKIP have been fairly quiet during this election. Perhaps because they realise that any publicity for them tends to be bad publicity. Put their candidates in front of a microphone and they’ll go on and on about how they have to watch what they say, in case they say something racist….then say something racist (its all the fault of em Paki journalists….oh! Damn! There I go again! :)))

About the only story of merit so far has been in relation to one of them getting in trouble with the electoral commission for handing out free sausage rolls. Or another local racist loon UKIP candidate who suggested a lib dem candidate caught HIV on purpose to help get elected.

They’ve also taken a hit due to an endorsement from one of the stars of TOWIE….who is so dumb he can’t pronounce the term “Democrats” (too many syllables, you can see his little mind struggle with that one!).

Kidd on Top
Okay not an election story but worth including. I’ve been avoiding the whole business of Top Gear and who will replace Clarkson, or whether he’ll just buy the rights and set up on some other TV channel.

However I happened to catch Fifth Gear the other night and it had Jodie Kidd on it (talking about some James Bond cars) and I have to say she seemed much better at the job than Clarkson ever was, so she’s got my vote. Although the current rumour mill is it will be Sue Perkins.

Of course there in lie the problem. Quite a number of Clarkson’s fans are the chauvinistic types who regard their car as little more than a “extension” of their inadaquately sized body parts, and who would find their manhood offended by the thought of a woman talking about cars in that sort of way. And suffice to say putting a lesbian comedian in charge would not go down well with the petrol-head brigade.

So we need an alcoholic, small minded racist, prima donna, who hates women to take over the job….which probably explains why some think Katie Hopkins :crazy: would be ideal!