The Plain English site
Thursday July 31st 2014

Presentation Lab

Latest books

Syndicate this content

Older Articles

Categories

Snapshots for 30 June, 2014

12:50 pm Cameron's ex-media chief Coulson to face payments re-trial http://reut.rs/1nXFLNv via @reuters

GLASTONBURY and its Winnebagos, air-conditioned yurts, Chardonnay and designer hippies........ reminds me of more innocent days:

Snapshots for 27 June, 2014

9:53 am  We have learned (again) that David Cameron is not a tactician but a merely a talker and purveyor of quioxotic promises, who has been unable to come anywhere near blocking the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission President. We have a quote which crystallises the futility of Cameron's stance. It is from Belgium's former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt - himself blackballed by Britain for the EU job a decade ago: "Arguing that the commission president should not be a federalist is like saying that the next pope should not be a Catholic."


9:39 am #EU If David Cameron cannot even block an "old guard" federalist as commission chief, what chance does he stand of clawing back significant powers from Brussels? After the P.M's massive "FAIL",  look out for face-saving EU consolation prizes, such as EU leaders allowing the UK a few business-friendly policies and a maybe a key commission post to oversee reforms such as the internal market portfolio. No doubt, DC's spinmeisters are already hovering over their keyboards, ready to rewrite this latest EU cock-up as a great tactical victory.


8:06 am  Prime Minister David Cameron should have negotiated quietly with other European leaders and built an anti-Juncker alliance by arguing his case through reason and gentle persuasion. Unfortunately, as usual, he could not resist the temptation to gob-off and get everyone's back up by giving his customary impression of a petulant schoolboy. The argument is now lost and Jean-Claude Juncker WILL become head of the EU executive.

Snapshots for 26 June, 2014

4:10 pm  Did the BBC man REALLY just say "THREE BITES AND YOU'RE OUT!" ??????


4:06 pm Tweeting blind from spygun.com. Hope Tweets are coming through!!   :)


Suarez2:55 pm  "I ate his shoulder with some Ñoquis and a nice Tannat Libero"


1:03 pm There are two groups of the odious Savile's victims who will never hear politicians' apologies for his vile assaults: Those who have died and those who were dead at the time of the assault.


11:32 am Errol Damelin who resigned from WONGA this month, just before the solids hit the air conditioning, owns 16.8 MILLION  Wonga shares through Castle Bridge Ventures which is based in the British Virgin Islands......PROPER British Capitalism!


11:24 am Presumably after its deception of impersonating a Solicitor, Wonga will be calculating the compensation to its victims at a rate of five YEARS at 5852% ....and what excuses will the OFT and  FCA be offering for not throwing the book at the company?


7:36 am #UKIP What does Nigel Farage do between elections? Have you noticed that he only appears when there are seats to be fought?  I like to think that he's in an earth-filled coffin in a castle somewhere near Salzburg.....


7:27 am Good to hear that, rather than those sugar-laden fruit juices, schools are going back to providing pupils with WATER........which I believe is some sort of mixer... :)


7:19 am Prime Minister David Cameron used to work in Public Relations? Not much evidence of that this week...#Coulson #Juncker  However, he is very lucky that it is only Miliband who faces him across the Dispatch Box.

Cameron in the “you know what”…..Again!

Cameron in the “you know what”…..Again!

The judge in the British phone-hacking trial criticised Prime Minister David Cameron  for not waiting until all verdicts were in before commenting on Andy Coulson, his former media chief who is facing jail. Less than two hours after yesterday's verdict, Cameron issued what he called a "full and frank" apology, saying he had taken Coulson's assurances of innocence at the time at face value, something he now realised was a mistake. The jury was however still deliberating on two further charges on Coulson. "I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdicts" the judge, John Saunders, said in court. "My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done. Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge." In addition, the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, referred to Coulson as "a Criminal" ! The jury was discharged today after failing to reach agreement on whether Coulson was guilty of authorising illegal payments and it would now seem that Coulson will NOT be tried on the two remaining charges against [...]

Government to shoot-up Pfizer?

Government to shoot-up Pfizer?

Select Committee members can do a bit of grandstanding, Prime Ministers deliver a bit of macho jive talk - but the fact is that politicians can do jack-s*** about the Pfizer/Astra Zeneca  deal . They CANNOT influence board or even management decisions. Read carefully what DC said this week: " Our entire approach is based on TRYING to secure the best possible deal in terms of jobs, investment and science. And that is why I believe it was absolutely right to ask the cabinet secretary to ENGAGE with Pfizer, just as we're engaging with AstraZeneca, and I do find it extraordinary that we've been criticised for this." Meaningless twaddle. The Enterprise Act only allows government to intervene in the case of mergers affecting NATIONAL SECURITY or MEDIA OWNERSHIP. After the Kraft takeover of Cadbury's and subsequent events, the Takeover Code was amended in 2011 so that nowadays, the bidding company has to publish INFORMATION as to the anticipated effects of the takeover and employees are able to give their VIEWS.  All irrrelevant window-dressing which does NOT affect future management decisions. Let's PLEASE stop all the pretence.

Snapshots for 1 May, 2014

2:27 pm  #Ukraine. The Blitzkreig-like advance of ethnic-Russian militia in the eastern provinces is working so efficiently and meeting with so little resistance that one could be forgiven for suspecting that there is a plan and that there always has been a plan! In fact the capitulation by local authorities and officials suggests either complicity or possibly French military advisers!  :)


10:41 am  The IMF's austerity conditions for #Ukraine, in return for cash handouts will prepare the country for membership of the EU's "Indentured Servitude Club".....alongside near-neighbours such as Greece....... The short to mid-term future looks very bleak for members of the ISC........Nowadays, the population-at-large paying for the crimes of its politicians and bankers appears to be the generally accepted norm!

In Praise of Motivation.

In Praise of Motivation.

A lot of pretentious nonsense is talked and written about "motivation" and there are many  motivational speakers who travel the world, giving strung-out executives a quick fix of "feelgood" which then dissipates just in time for a subsequent seminar and the next fix....and so on. It has become a huge industry but related more to entertainment than to personal development. Whenever I train executives, the motivational advice which I give them is disarmingly simple but devastatingly effective. So for a moment let's forget Maslow, Hertzberg and the rest of the showbiz that is  "The Motivation Industry". I learned this many years ago from an American called Tom Haggai. We met during one of his many motivational gigs and I do believe that he is still travelling and motivating.......and he is very good at it. The advice is PRAISE YOUR STAFF. Even when they screw up. Tom said that he learned that simple lesson when his son came home from school with the MOST appalling grades on his report. In common with the vast majority of parents, Tom berated his son and told him that he was very disappointed in  him. Several months later, his son came back with even worse grades and of course, Tom went through the same routine [...]

Nationalism – the Root Cause of Everything!

Nationalism – the Root Cause of Everything!

"Nationalism carries with it contradictions" was the view of Ernest Gellner, the British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist. It is these contradictions which fuel the pockets of political and social instability which the world constantly experiences. In the good old days of huge empires, from  Rome to the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian, there existed a sort of (imposed) stability but when these empires collapsed, the concept of Nationalism took hold. Nationalism, in its most primitive form, is based on common language, nationality and territory. It is politics in its most primitive form and something which disaffected minorities always turn to in times of real or imagined political strife. Nowadays, nationalism is still what society attempts to overlay on its territory, imagining that it continues to be the glue which binds those of a common language....and indeed that is just still the case but we are approaching a time when possibly, a new concept of nationalism needs to be assembled. The Americans have certainly been the most successful so far at instilling the idea of nationalism to its people ("First and foremost, I'm an AMERICAN!") but then again, they started late and have had the opportunities offered [...]

Cinderella Law? Bend Over!

Cinderella Law? Bend Over!

It has been confirmed that the government is considering whether to introduce a new offence of Emotional Cruelty to Children. It is aimed at parents "who deny their children affection"  and is the result of a campaign for a "Cinderella Law" from ACTION FOR CHILDREN. The British Empire became what it was through the actions of the emotionally damaged, as have successive British governments. It is the emotionally damaged who make the world go round! We live in a country where it is not unusual for a child to be packed off to Boarding School at the age of SIX. Surely, THAT is the ultimate example of parent-child emotional deprivation...with the added frisson of the possibility of sexual and physical abuse! There aren't enough Social Workers to deal with THAT ! The average foreigner's caricature of an English gent is that of an emotionally-crippled, uncaring and unfeeling toff..... and bearing in mind that worldwide, we're mainly represented by members of the Government, who can blame them? A Cinderella Law, properly implemented is in danger of not-only putting hundreds of well-to-do parents in the Dock but ripping apart the fabric of British Society.

The Little Englander v The Europhile

The Little Englander v The Europhile

Whilst cocky Nigel Farage is looking increasingly like a pink Kermit the Frog, EU-enthusiast Nick Clegg retains the boyish charm and earnestness which won him so many plaudits after the 2010 "I agree with Nick" pre-election debates with Cameron and Brown. Nowadays, Farage's studied arrogance and increasing belief in his own publicity is beginning to water-down both his image and the argument. I say THE argument because he is also coming across as a one-trick pony and thus in danger of being perceived as the head of a right-wing pressure group rather than the Leader of a bona fide Political Party. I am not saying that he's not a good bloke  but had he debated Britain's Defence system or the changes in Education, he would have gained more credibility. Instead, we had yet more déjà vu! He is probably regretting the fact than post-January 1st 2014 we are NOT being overrun by screaming hairy hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians heading over the hill from Newhaven to the nearest Benefits Office. David Cameron has been very quick to respond to Nigel's xenophobic hysterics and has an ongoing charm-offensive in place, aimed at the "at-risk" Nutty Right Wing of the Conservative Party. DC and Nigel both know that come the General [...]

#MH370 : What if…..

#MH370 : What if…..

The red mark on the map is the location of the American Military Base on Diego Garcia, which is is a coral atoll and part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The disappearance of the flight has been the subject of many conspiracy theories......ranging from alien abduction to an on-board bomb. A couple of days ago, INMARSAT, a British company completed some very subtle calculations and announced the most likely resting place of flight MH370....somewhere near the bottom of the above map, to the west of Australia. We have all taken Inmarsat's calculations at face value but the discovery that a recent addition to this company's Board was General C. Robert Kehler, United States Air Force (Retired), puts a slight "spin" on the facts. Until November, General Kehler was  Commander, US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). So, we have a heavily-protected US base which has nuclear rockets pointed a several targets on the Asian mainland. We have a (possibly) deranged pilot who is rumoured to have Diego Garcia programmed into his home-built aircraft simulator. What if the pilot had decided to crash Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 into the Diego Garcia Base? Remember that he didn't disappear from radar by accident. He [...]

We’re SO lucky !!

We’re SO lucky !!

TONITE, while me and  'er indoors  go to the Bingo & then to the boozer, I'll tell the kids to go to the railway to see if there's any discarded coal. Then, as a special treat, they can stand outside the pub with crisps, lemonade and maybe share a Woodbine! We're celebrating because I heard on the bus that Chancellor wassisname says we're going to get £15 grand and we can have it all at once! It's all because of the dificit or something.  The bloke said it was a percentage (whatever THAT is ??!) of GHQ or it could have been ATM! Then , because we're quite strict  with the young 'uns (ha! ha!) it's in bed by midnight for them! After all, they're only six and eight. We give them ten minutes start because once we get going, me and the missus can get quite noisy!  One day we hope they can have their own room and we've been looking at bed sheets in that Argos Book! Busy day tomorrow - it's the Friday family trip to Tesco for a bit of light shoplifting and then off  to the food bank. #GodblessyerChancellor

Gideon’s Pensioner, Bingo & Beer Budget 2014

Gideon’s Pensioner, Bingo & Beer Budget 2014

Above is the official "Budget Diagram" just issued by H.M.  Treasury. Presumably we have to provide the crayons. The most remarkable thing about this Budget was how small the numbers were - and I remember when ONE BILLION was a lot of money! The ubiquitous "Scheme" was in there. This one was £3 billion to boost exports. As UK exports only represent a tiny percentage of GDP and because it is only "a scheme"...no harm done there! UK potholes cost motorists about £730 million per year and cover  a surface area of about 300 square miles. Therefore £200 million "made available for Local Authorities to bid for" seems a bit parsimonious...but nowhere near as mean as only £140 million for repairs and maintenance to flood defences. We not only need to patch up the damage but we need NEW flood defences. Presumably, the government's resolve dissipated soon after the last COBRA meeting and when the last retina was reattached..... The first "headline grabber" was scrapping VAT on air ambulance services and inshore rescue boats as well as scrapping Inheritance Tax for members of emergency services. As the current IHT threshold is £325,000 , THAT won't bother too many firemen and ambulance drivers' descendants and neither will the [...]

Snapshots for 4 March, 2014

10:02 am  My father's family is from Lubaczow, which is as near to the Polish-Ukranian border as you can get...so I recognise and understand the collective Ukranian psyche. They are a bloody-minded people who will NOT take any shit from Russia. There is TOO much history. Imagine the relationship between a cat and a dog and you may begin to understand. AT BEST, they only tolerate each other..........


9:48 am  #UKRAINE: Usually, before a country moves from Despotism to becoming a fully-fledged Republic, there is ALWAYS a brief brush with Anarchy. In Ukranie's case, it has temporarily moved from home-grown Despotism to the threat of an alternative flavour of Despotism, but on this occasion, delivered by a foreign power. This will soon pass and the country will be able to  get on with the Anarchy before finally settling down to being a mature republic. However, as Egypt is currently showing, the cycle may have to be repeated several times before the appearance of those mythical sunny uplands of political stability.

FALLING INFLATION with Rising Prices?

FALLING INFLATION with Rising Prices?

When you are told that inflation is falling, you would naturally expect  prices to be falling . That ain't necessarily so! Many years ago, when I worked for a very large bank, I sent a team of people into town in order to find out whether the average British adult understood percentages. The answer was a resounding "No!" MOST of the people we interviewed had NO IDEA about percentages! Banks, supermarkets and even the government know very well that most people are either thick or at best borderline thick as far as simple arithmetic is concerned and they take full advantage. Supermarkets "mix and match" their prices, so that you need to have the brain of a Stephen Hawking to decide whether it would be cheaper to buy three bags of crisps for the price of two or perhaps two at a different price with  one free  or maybe six bags with 10% extra. By the time you've made several purchases like this, you can leave a supermarket mentally exhausted. Banks will be paying you interest at anything from 0 .01% p.a to  3.00% with maybe an introductory offer of three months with an additional 1.5%. Interest on credits is calculated from the day AFETR your deposit but debit interest on withdrawals is applied on the day of the debit. [...]

Snapshots for 18 February, 2014

9:13 am After insurance industry leaders have had today's meeting with the Prime Minister, they're having a meeting with Miliband Minor. It's going to be a LONG day.


9:10 am When a CEO or Prime Minister has to handle a crisis personally, that suggests just one thing: He has a poor management structure under him or he doesn't trust the people HE  hired to complete the job effectively........ Either way, HE appointed them and is now doing THEIR job.


9:02 am  Another day, another meeting for David Cameron! This time it's with insurance industry leaders! Just to help DC with the nuances of insurance: INSURANCE is betting on something which MIGHT happen. ASSURANCE is betting on something which definitely WILL happen. Hence Life Assurance (you will DEFINITELY die) & nowadays, thanks to years of mismanagement and under- investment, we EFFECTIVELY have Flood ASSURANCE. Local Authorities and Central Government have placed the insurance industry in an impossible position. Insurance industry leaders will be "asked" not to increase premiums by too much by a government which is partly responsible for insurance claims which are already estimated to be well in excess of £1 BILLION.

Snapshots for 14 February, 2014

9:25 am  Roger Lloys Pack's funeral took place yesterday. He , of course was best-known as "Trigger" from Only Fools and Horses. According to his daughter Emily, Roger's final words to his family were "I'm fine"....... R.I.P


9:10 am  The odds are that a chunk of YOUR pension fund is invested by a Fund Manager (on your behalf) in Bank Shares. Over the years, lower dividends, as a result of those comedy bank bonuses will have an appreciable effect on your retirement fund. Who cares? You should. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/feb/13/lloyds-bank-ceo-antonio-horta-osorio-bonus-profit

Snapshots for 13 February, 2014

5:04 pm  The debate about the Scots using the Pound Sterling after  "Independence Day" is all very interesting but pointless because they are quite at liberty to use whichever currency they like.  However, there would be a problem  for instance, if interest rates moved and the variation didn't suit their spluttering (yes!) economy, King Sean and his jester Sal Mond would have to  rethink their Ruritanian/Wallace dreams and go back to the Withdrawing Board! BTW, there will be no independence because in the final analysis, the Scots are a VERY pragmatic race and  WILL "do the right thing" (sorry!) and remain where they belong - a much-cherished and loved part of the UNITED Kingdom. THAT is why today's macho posturing by an "irrelevant" such as Chancellor Gideon is....er......irrelevant.


8:24 am  The #flooding has amplified a major misjudgement by politicians of every political party. They continue to imagine that the spouting of platitudes and looking sympathetic in front of cameras is somehow "reassuring" to the public. Here's a "heads-up":  Voters certainly used to be reassured by politicians' Royal visits.......but unfortunately that was when politicians were respected. That started to dip after 1945 and was finally buried when MPs were caught thieving from the taxpayer in 2009.  They should do something useful: STAY AWAY.


8:07 am  What Governor Mark Carney was saying yesterday (in the nicest possible way) was than a few quarters of insipid above-zero growth does not immediately and definitely signify an economic recovery. Unlike politicians, who will extrapolate from a single quarter......but ONLY if if it is positive. Mr Carney is rapidly showing that he is his own man who tells it how it is. A very refreshing change.

The FLOODS: An inept response?

The FLOODS: An inept response?

As a manager and director I have always attempted to create a "No Surprises" regime. In the last few years, I have been showing businesses how to achieve that for themselves through a combination of Business Control and honest Management Audit. "No Surprises Management" is not a magic formula for corporate bliss but it does demonstrate how many of the factors which CAN affect an organisation can be controlled or mitigated. Most of us have heard of Crisis Management, which, to put it simply, is responding to a crisis after it has occurred. For many years, the skill or otherwise of Management has been measured on its ability to deal with a crisis. Our Coalition government is currently coming under a lot of criticism because it is not able to demonstrate that it has any idea of how to deal with the current flooding crisis. That is because it appears to be formulating policy on the hoof. The sheer volume of meetings (COBRA #23) also points to a lack of policy and organisation. However, we have to understand that a collection of political academics, ex-local councillors, union men, administrators and sons of self-made parents have never been told how to deal with a crisis - so we should not really expect too much. It is becoming [...]

Snapshots for 12 February, 2014

6:55 pm  Legal Highs cause a very small fraction of the deaths caused by Tobacco and Alcohol. End of debate.


6:29 pm BBC News Editors need to up their game as far as reportage of the #flooding is concerned. They write of "Records", they give us meaningless Statistics, with their newsreaders almost delighting in the scale of the tragedy. This sensationalist and voyeuristic style of delivery with reporters standing by blown-over trees, collapsed walls and wind-blown beaches serve absolutely no useful purpose. Asking victims with ruined lives the "How do you FEEL?" question is lazy and adds absolutely nothing to the debate.......and incidentally,  just because the Thames Valley is now flooding, is NO excuse to totally ignore the hell that West Country victims continue to experience.


5:12 pm  First Eric and now Patrick! DC really IS getting the BIG BOYS in! Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mc Loughlin says that when David Cameron said "Whatever it takes" to help UK flood victims, he did NOT mean "blank cheque". That is because what DC said was untrue.....and we ALL knew it! ...."Whatever it takes" does NOT necessarily mean "Whatever it takes." That's because there ARE occasions when badly-prepared political statements are no more than macho nonsense designed ONLY for newspaper headlines. #COBRA451


9:55 am Bank of England: Presumably, interest rates will be going up AND down, either side of the 7% unemployment rate?  :)


9:49 am  There was a classic "No shit, Sherlock?!" moment from "an expert" on the radio this morning: "With all the rain, wind and flooding, certain people will become depressed." It good to see that a Psychology degree is not always a waste of time.


9:42 am  I have a funny feeling that the Draghi-like "Whatever it takes" promise by David Cameron to United Kingdom flood victims will come back to haunt him. It was a VERY ill-advised thing he said, merely  in order to placate the press. Once quotas, amounts, conditions and timescales start being published by his government, he will end up looking as if he'd broken another promise and performed yet another U-turn. For the moment though, let's sit back and count the COBRA meetings.

Snapshots for 29 January, 2014

3:14 pm  Chancellor Gideon has said the rest of Britain might be unwilling to let an independent Scotland keep the pound! The SNP has responded by suggesting that Scotland might in return refuse to take on its share of Britain's 1.2 TRILLION pounds of government debt. Can Alex Salmond actually see beyond the over-romanticised notions of  "FREEDOM!".....  driven by blind idealism and Sean Connery?


3:05 pm  EUROZONE: The ECB has cut interest rates to a record low, pumped extra liquidity into the banking system and announced a fresh government bond purchase programme.... but the measures have so far not managed to unclog lending to the real economy. Watch for another slowdown....in spite of everyone attempting to talk it all UP!

Snapshots for 21 January, 2014

1:35 pm  There was an unseemly exhibition of grandstanding  by Tim Yeo MP at this morning's Energy and Climate Change Select Committee meeting as  he told  #energy bosses "you are exploiting your privileged monopoly position" and neglecting customers! The Electricity Supplier CEOs were lined up like fairground ducks in front of the committee and all came across as reasonable guys who knew that in spite of the fact that they had done their level best, it had been impossible to reconnect every customer over the Christmas period. Yet more evidence that Members of Parliament are NOT fit to even be involved in such an inquiry and as for the Committee's Chairman, Tim Yeo....anyone would think that he either had other things on his mind or that he was trying too hard to impress!

Snapshots for 13 January, 2014

9:21 am Remember John Gummer in 1990 when he tried to feed his daughter a beefburger to try to convince the public re the safety of British beef? How about David Cameron doing something similar by being present (with the cameras) at the first FRACKING test drilling in Witney? We'd ALL love to be convinced!!

Christmas Leftovers

Christmas Leftovers

I've already published a version of this recipe and have adapted it for the traditional Yule turkey and ham which usually ends up in sandwiches, curries or pies. Many years ago, I was driving through East Germany (don't ask!)  and heard this on my car radio. It was read out on an English-speaking radio station and the presenter was obviously reading it for the first time, because after he'd read it out, he appeared to have a  severe coughing fit. I won't bother with a list of ingredients because there aren't many but I guarantee that you WILL want to try this: Preheat your oven to LOW but DO NOT attempt this dish in a gas oven. Use Electric or better-still, an Aga ! Take equal quantities of turkey and ham...but if you have no ham, then cooked sausage-meat will do. 500g of each is ideal but the weight may be varied. Place the meat in the middle of a large sheet of foil (with a bit of luck, you should have some turkey foil left over). Fashion the meat into a log shape, season with salt and pepper and fold the foil around it. Then roll it in the foil as tightly as possible and twist the ends so that you have an object resembling a large boiled sweet. Place this on the rack of a high-sided roasting tin - the sort that in [...]

MERRY CHRISTMAS, children!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, children!

...............and tonight's the night!!

Euro Christmas Wishes

Euro Christmas Wishes

My best wishes for an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender non-specific celebration of the Winter Solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a   fiscally successful, personally fulfilling  recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Gregorian calendar year 2014. This of course does not imply any disrespect to other calendars which, in certain cases, are accepted to predate the generally accepted measurement method and are not considered to be any less valid. If you live within the Eurozone, we shall of course meet in one month's time to discuss the above wishes and possibly renegotiate them as they are always subject to clarification or withdrawal. Moreover they can be withdrawn should one member not be in full agreement or should they personally not perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings, the above-mentioned fiscal success and ongoing cooperation from the Holy banking system. The Wisher also accepts without [...]

Christmas Spirit.

Christmas Spirit.

One Christmas morning a few years ago, an army chaplain decided to join some squaddies in their armoured vehicle for a routine patrol in downtown Baghdad. As they drove through the dry dusty streets, they were only too aware of the possible dangers that they either saw or imagined in every person or pile of rubble that they came across.  As usual, they drove at walking pace. Within about ten minutes, they found themselves surrounded by a silent crowd. They soon realised that there was nothing to fear because the "crowd" consisted of about 20 skinny-looking, shabbily-dressed young children. They had that beige monochromatic look that we are all used to seeing in television reports - thin dusty faces, sand-matted hair , barefoot with beige and white ripped clothes. These were street kids. The chaplain signalled the driver to stop. The children came closer and closer, until some were actually touching the hot metal of the vehicle's bodywork. The chaplain, being the good man that he was, always carried sweets - not chocolate, because that tended to melt in these temperatures - just a paper bag full of ordinary boiled sweets. He leaned out of his window, held the open bag of  sweets and smiled at the kids. The children all [...]

2014 Predictions – PART DEUX!

The first episode of my 2014 predictions has already been published and can be found HERE. Below are my final predictions for the year and contain some extrapolations based on the government's current air-brained and totally unrealistic attitude which is largely based on surveys and statistical "facts" - usually NOT based on a statistically significant time-span. However, one has to admit that there are other predictions which are based in hope rather than fact!! See if you can spot the ones which are totally ridiculous! And PLEASE don't accuse me of being silly! They started it! 1. Chancellor Gideon Osborne will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. 2. President Bashar al-Assad will win the Nobel peace Prize, in tandem with Tony Blair....for services to Syria and Iraq respectively. 3. The British Economy will recover and outgrow China. 4. British banks will lend money to SMEs WITHOUT blackmailing (for themselves) large chunks of equity participation. 5. There will be NO tax give-aways in the lead-up to the next General Election. 6. The French economy will recover and outstrip that of Germany. 7. Angela Merkel will become engaged to Sylvio Berlusconi. 8. Compulsory Bulgarian and Romanian will be taught in [...]

Snapshots for 20 December, 2013

10:37 am  Remember, Chancellor Gideon: There are NO reasons - only excuses! By the way  the United Kingdom's trade deficit widened to £10.0 BILLION in Q3  from £5.0 billion in Q3, representing 5.1% of GDP. Spin that! http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_347294.pdf

Snapshots for 18 December, 2013

5:18 pm  What sort of twat sees a fireman outside Waitrose with tinsel on his high-viz jacket & drops a pound coin into his Latte?


5:13 pm  Is the Home Office ABSOLUTELY sure that the United Kingdom can attract Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to this land of Elitism, Noncery, Government Racism, Xenophobia, crooked Lords and SHOCKING Educational standards?


2:15 pm  RIP Ronnie Biggs. Mind you, the Great Train Robbery (including the cost of the investigation) pales into insignificance alongside HS2.


2:04 pm  Chancellor Gideon has claimed that "the taxpayer" has made a profit on the sale of Lloyds Bank shares. That is NOT true. It is yet another example of the half-truths and selective statistics which have come to characterize this government. The money to buy Lloyds shares in the first place, was BORROWED. That had an attendant cost. Therefore, if fees and costs are deducted from the share sale, "the taxpayer" made a LOSS. Gideon is becoming Brownesque in his ability to dispose of national assets.


11:14 am Our Education System is catching up with the NHS!!  1.56 MILLION people work for the NHS. Meanwhile, 1.49 MILLION are employed in Education. Approximately 450,000 of them are teachers.


11:09 am Currently, 30.1 MILLION people are employed in the UK....... Of those, 8.15 MILLION ( 27%) are part-time!

PMQ “gesture”!!

PMQ “gesture”!!

The Prime Minister spotted Ed Balls making a brand new hand gesture during PMQs. One suspects that it might have been this:

The Inequality and Iniquity of Growth.

The Inequality and Iniquity of Growth.

This Christmas there will be millions of puzzled and sometimes hungry people staring at their televisions. Their hunger is easily explained - they are poor but what will confuse them will be the newsflashes showing smiling people shopping and talking about 'Tablets' at £500 each, Champagne, and a million other expensive items and yes...even Christmas turkeys! Then they will see celebrity chefs cooking Brussels sprouts with pancetta, more champagne, the perennial debate about goose fat versus oil on roasties and how we'll ALL be 'over-indulging' and falling asleep on the sofa! An alien world which some will have tasted but sadly, too many - especially children, will never inhabit. This (to them) is a 'make-believe' world of plenty. They know it exists somewhere near them but it is like the parallel universe of science fiction....there but impossible to access. They see shiny, smug politicians saying words about 'the recession being over'....something the poor haven't been too acutely aware of because what the politician calls 'recession' and 'austerity', they call "LIFE". 'The economy' appears to be doing very well! ..............By the way....what is that? The disparity between the most affluent Brits and the rest is [...]

2014 Predictions – PART ONE

2014 Predictions – PART ONE

Predicting the future has always been a mug's game. For instance, I continue to believe that the markets are all in the wrong place and overpriced and I predicted the FTSE at about 4500 - but then again, I could not have predicted the collective madness of Quantitative Easing and the real fear that politicians have of the banks. I used to understand investment...but not any more. Cheap virtual cash continues to fund the markets and to keep them artificially high. The politicians feel that they have to please the banks first and only then the voter. Governments are no longer in control of events. Nowadays, finance drives politics and politicians have become the bankers' lackeys. For as long as banks and governments continue to mutually gorge themselves on virtual cash and governments do not have the courage to increase interest rates and taxes in order to join us in the real world, there is a very real possibility that the current economic situation will become the status quo. These predictions are in no particular order. 1. The disconnect between economic data and the quality of life is fueling populism. It is also fueling right-wing extremism and anti-government sentiment. I fully expect the equivalent of the Arab Spring [...]

Snapshots for 6 December, 2013

11:55 am  "One of the most difficult things is not to change society -- but to change yourself." (Nelson Mandela.) http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/05/opinion/battersby-nelson-mandela/

Chancellor Gideon – Fact or Fiction?

Chancellor Gideon – Fact or Fiction?

One of the greatest pleasures in life used to be for someone to read a great work of fiction to you out loud. You would sink back, close your eyes and let it wash over you ......and all that you had to do is to compose the pictures! Unfortunately, reading out-loud is a dying art and now a pleasure only enjoyed by young children and the infirm. So imagine the frisson of  anticipation ahead of listening to Chancellor Gideon reading The Autumn Statement - (I have always been a great fan of realistic fiction!)  I closed my eyes, kicked back...but...the pictures just wouldn't come. All I could visualise was a smug fat boy with a Caligula haircut and eyes with all the charm of two bullet holes,  reading with all the conviction of a posh grocer reading a Fortnum's shopping list. GDP..blah blah....Growth...blah blah....Deficit...blah....and so on. Then, after the "de rigeur" and customary:  "Hard-working people" , "Mess they left behind" and "Tough decisions" plus the recently conceived "It will be less that it WOULD have been"....all from the Coalition Book of Platitudes, came something about the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) moving ever closer to life expectancy! I felt myself slowly emerging from the Treasury-induced [...]

Snapshots for 1 December, 2013

2:59 pm  Chancellor Gideon's Autumn Statement will be no more than the Conservative Party jumping out of the General Election starting blocks, as the "Giveaway Season" begins. It will be just like the Christmas Sales but you get your own money back! By definition, it is money that is currently being wasted elsewhere.


2:59 pm  One very important question: Given the recent spate of scandals (which appear to be ongoing), has the Coalition government done enough to reform the banking industry? Er......No. In fact, they appear to have done bugger all.


2:59 pm  I know that it's not fashionable...but I have great admiration for Cherie Blair...and feel very sorry for her as she has to sit quietly as the current S**t Storm centred on her hubby and the wife of a media crumbly gathers pace.


2:59 pm  A big UP to Jim Murphy MP   #TheClutha


2:59 pm  Cannot think WHY Chancellor Gideon  has had the Treasury refitted. Is it worth it? After all, according to the latest numbers, his tenure appears to be VERY finite! MILLIONS have been spent....and I bet that IKEA didn't even get a look-in!!   :)   #inthistogether #10MILLION


2:59 pm  #blair ....I bet that I can name at least ONE former P.M who would NEVER be accused of suspected "knobbage"  :)


2:59 pm  BOOKTRUST is a charity with a fab Mission Statement: To Promote Reading...What could POSSIBLY screw that up? Only political meddling which looks like "naughtiness with intent" and an embarrassment to Nick Clegg, his wife as well as the Cabinet Office. Statement please. No spin.....

Snapshots for 30 November, 2013

12:32 pm  There are those who say that the Liberal Democrats have lost their Mojo. Remember the good old days (WAS it only three years ago?) when Norman Baker and Vince Cable would get stuck into the government and create hell for the then Prime Minister - the one whose name will not be mentioned?........In May 2010, when the small question of Coalition arose, the Tories weren't taking any chances and did exactly the right thing  - they muzzled both of these outspoken old radicals (or, should I say, what passes for "radical" among Libdems). The pair of them suffered the political equivalent of castration. Now look at them....OK, their suits are a bit more expensive and people call them "Minister"....but what real use are they? Their strength  used to be in their independence....they WERE the Libdem Mojo. Unfortunately, come May 2015...it will be too late for a sudden change of suit and style because their electoral credibility will have gone with the Ministerial limo.......Both Norman and Vince will find it nigh on impossible to fit into those old grey suits and tweed jackets worn by the common people they once were.


11:58 am  The United Kingdom's Bankers and top City people don't REALLY appreciate austerity. Why? Because last year, the average banker salary increased by ONE THIRD and the income for the top 2,700 was in the region of £1.6 million EACH. Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Cable have clearly demonstrated themselves to be no more than helpless bystanders. There was the usual macho rhetoric, both pre and post the 2010 General Election but, as usual, it was nothing more than empty words. "In this together"? DON'T make me laugh.


11:43 am  The late Margaret Thatcher is being criticised for holding some of her assets in offshore trusts. Well, through the magic of PFI, The Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, as well as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ALL pay rent to companies whose tax bills are "optimised" because they're registered offshore.

Snapshots for 15 November, 2013

2:22 pm  Here's something that has been highlighted in Neon since May 2010:  Despite many years of a mythical populist "democracy", after innumerable elections where the "will of the people" supposedly prevailed, despite all the comedy Socialist rhetoric, despite  millions of tons of environment-endangering  hot air about inclusive growth, despite promises of meritocracy and being "in this together", the United Kingdom remains a strong and stable plutocracy. Our politicians haven’t let us down, with even poor MPs being caught attempting to acquire plutocratic mannerisms, even if that meant being forced to steal from the taxpayer. Needless to say, there are side-effects, such as poverty, debt, homelessness and misery for the masses, but that’s the price they have to pay for growth and "reducing the deficit".

Snapshots for 13 November, 2013

5:21 pm #NHS Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is probably a very impressive chap - especially to politicians who are impressed by letters both BEFORE and AFTER one's name. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this eminently qualified DOCTOR is now viewed as the Mutt's Nuts on NHS ORGANISATION & MANAGEMENT! (It is called the "Halo Effect" which simply means that if someone exhibits expertise in one area, it is naturally assumed that they can tackle ANYTHING. In this case, it is  a doctor as a management expert!) Sir Brucie on O&M is the equivalent of me attempting a hip replacement or open heart surgery....and I've watched HOUSE! .................I  used to serve on the NHS MHRA  committee - me and loads of eminent medics. I can tell you that from an organisational point of view, the ones I spoke to did not know their bottom from a hole in the ground....and they didn't want to! Another screw-up by the No 10 Senior Common Room? Or (hopefully) this will be YET another report which they ignore.

Snapshots for 2 November, 2013

2:22 pm  Meanwhile, Miliband Minor jumped off the creaking Energy Bandwagon and landed on the next one to come along: The Water Companies. He said: "The water industry needs to be scrutinised to ensure that it is not ripping-off customers."......... SCRUTINISED?!! Well, I've just completed the exercise and can confirm that yes....we are being ripped off. (It took 5 minutes!).......... Now what?


2:14 pm  There's yet another example of the exhortary but meaningless language used by the Prime Minister and favoured by senior Coalition politicians. It is designed to give the impression of imminent action but in fact, is meaningless. This is the PM's spokesman on the subject of senior NHS staff who are made redundant, handed hundreds of thousands of pounds in severance pay and then re-hired by the NHS on similar packages: "The PM is very clear that we need to show more restraint in senior managers' pay and if these people are returning, we should be claiming back some of the money."....You may recall similarly fine words of "restraint" and "clawing back" in respect of bankers' bonuses................ How's that going, Dave? Politico-twaddle.......... http://www.spygun.com/richard-ruzyllo/the-mess-we-were-left-yawn

Snapshots for 28 October, 2013

2:15 pm WHAT has the British government done to help small businesses which it can definitely say has helped? Apart from a couple of "schemes".......... NOTHING.  Yesterday, the Chinese government announced that it would streamline its corporate registration system to ease market access and encourage social investment. Minimum registered capital requirements for limited liability companies, one-person limited liability companies, as well as joint-stock companies with limited liability will be scrapped. According to National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese SMEs provide more than 80% of jobs in Chinese cities. The number of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises represent 99.7 % of the total in China. Here in  the UK, we prefer our earnings to be generated by "intangibles" such as banking and insurance. THAT makes our economy VERY vulnerable to the vagaries of the global economy.

Snapshots for 25 October, 2013

1:44 pm  A rather long "No shit, Sherlock?!" moment - but then again, it is from a EU policymaker: "We basically arrived at a point where transferring more power to the European Commission and 'Brussels' in general to dictate national policies is no longer something that people are ready to agree with...."

Snapshots for 14 October, 2013

9:06 am  THIS is from China's state news agency Xinhua: "As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated. A new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing. Instead of honouring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas." .............Xinhua added: "Regional tensions amid territorial disputes, fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies....."

Snapshots for 10 October, 2013

11:21 am  Foreign Secretary William Hague this morning: "I condemn the abduction of the Libyan Prime Minister...."....... It's NO WONDER the bad guys have released Prime Minister Ali Zeidan so soon! You don't mess with the Haguemeister! When he condemns you - you stay condemned!! Al-Qaeda terrorists are quaking in their sandals!


10:41 am  When most people see Malala Youzafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban, they see a heroine. I see a sad, unfortunate girl, impelled and steered by a father's grasping opportunism. Sorry.

Snapshots for 3 October, 2013

7:10 am United Kingdom economic growth is weak and will remain weak. That means that unemployment will stay high.(It is the same today as it was before the 2010 General Election). No amount of statistical engineering, designed to tart up the government's performance will alter that basic fact. The latest announcement by the Prime Minister of NOT maintaining the right of the 16-25 group to claim benefits means that young graduates will now be starting their adult lives in debt with little or no help from the State which put them in debt. Reminder to the Coalition government: AMBITION is driven by SELF-ESTEEM. What the government is doing is showing that all the talk of encouraging entrepreneurship in young people is nonsense because they are destroying the very mind-set  which they need to nurture.


6:54 am  Currrently, American politicians do NOT appear to be fulfilling their electoral mandate and  instead, are concentrating on a Washington power struggle. Perhaps they too should have their salaries suspended. It might help them to concentrate.

Heads I win, Tails I….er…win?

Heads I win, Tails I….er…win?

The American Dollar is on its way up because everyone has woken up and is rushing towards it as fast as they can. Why this sudden (but expected) reaction? Because no matter what happens in the USA as a result of the battle between the Republicans and Obama, the dollar is the one world currency which will always trade and will always bounce back. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of poorly-paid American employees aren't being paid, never mind that America is quite likely to default on its debts as a result of Congress possibly blocking the raising of the $17 trillion debt ceiling. Those things just DO NOT matter. Why? Because of the numbers. To every other country on Earth a debt ceiling of $17 trillion seems beyond huge! It appears to be beyond management...but you have to remember that the USA's  annual economy is worth approximately the same amount! In addition,  the worldwide trade in the American dollar is about $4 trillion PER DAY  and even though much of the trade is by algo-trading, such vast volumes mean that there is little chance of business suddenly drying up! The dollar trading volume  every FOUR DAYS is roughly equivalent to America's entire debt! So, even if the USA defaults on its debt, the [...]

Snapshots for 28 September, 2013

8:01 am  Post-war German leaders have long argued German interests coincided with the greater European interests. Angela Merkel's singular achievement, vindicated by her latest election victory, is to have kept Germany in the heart of Europe even as terrifying sovereign debt crises exposed the fissures and conflicting interests between states within the euro zone. There is no doubt that the German economy benefited enormously from the euro-driven economic union. But when the crisis broke out, German taxpayers, understandably, did not want to bail out foreign governments and financial institutions caught in the upheaval. Merkel's strategy was to protect the interests of her taxpayers while convincing them that the euro must be kept alive; otherwise the whole European project, the basis of the continent's peace and prosperity, could collapse. To this end, she imposed much-criticised austerity on the hard-hit peripheral states in southern Europe while pledging support to them by committing the equivalent of Germany's annual federal budget to various rescue funds. Merkel preferred the step-by-step approach rather than any grand reform schemes. Euro-zone bonds to lower sovereign borrowing costs? No way. An even tighter banking union than currently planned? Forget it. She perceived that in all these big and ambitious schemes, Germany would be the one that ended up paying the most to support them, thereby putting German taxpayers on the hook. Because of the delicate balancing act she had to pursue, she has been criticised, with reason, for dragging out the crisis rather than resolving it once and for all with a bold plan. But it's highly doubtful that without her cautious approach, German citizens would have gone along in helping the crisis-hit states. And without German backing, no rescue plan could work. Now, finally, the euro-zone economies are showing signs of life. Most likely, they still have a long way to muddle through. Merkel may not have saved Europe. But she deserves credit for preventing a euro-zone break-up. (SCMP)

Snapshots for 27 September, 2013

9:36 am Science used to be the triumph of humanity over superstition but we appear to have forgotten how powerful superstition is. Science is now hostage of the Global Warming superstition. The interesting twist is that we (the human race) have been taught that we are an eternal being. That has given us a certain degree of arrogance which in turn has made us believe that 150 years of human industrial activity has affected the 4.5 billion-year-old Earth to such an extent that there will be irreversible changes.


9:22 am  CLIMATE CHANGE: The Human Race will probably continue to burn Fossil Fuels for another hundred years. Therefore, unless, the scientists can PROVE that any "damage" done to the Earth will be irreversible, then set against the 4.5 BILLION year age of the planet, it is an irrelevance.


9:09 am IPCC Report on GLOBAL WARMING: We should always question and be suspicious of ANY belief system which is over-reliant on consensus rather than evidence. Consensus-building is a socio-political and not a scientific process. The alarmist global-warning "faith" is a fine example of the phenomenon. Having said that, the so-called "scientific evidence" can also be flawed. You may not realise it but even the  "peer review" process of scientific papers is subject to consensus. It too is subjective and on many occasions...selective. In the same way that consensus is built on selectivity, there are still occasions when scientific results which do not follow the "mainstream" can be ignored and buried.   (DISCLAIMER: Other consensus-driven belief systems and faiths are available!)

Snapshots for 19 September, 2013

10:04 am  HOUSING BENEFIT: So far ONE-THIRD of households affected by the Coalition Government's reduced Housing Benefit are said to be in arrears with their rent. Eventually, Local Authorities will HAVE to step in - in spite of the fact that many have a non-eviction policy. Then, the Local Authority will have to ask the Government for more cash to balance its books and to provide alternative housing. The circle will have been squared. This government is ONLY looking at its own balance sheet when making what are life-changing decisions on behalf of the people affected. Luckily for them, the Socio-Economic groups which are suffering are unlikely to be Conservative voters so in effect, they don't matter because they won't affect the Tory vote. Meanwhile, the Tories' self-styled social conscience, the Libdem Party, can do nothing but stand on the sidelines and wring its hands whilst dispensing warm words. Fiscal decisions are all well and good but what about the social aspects of say a small family which has had the same neighbours for years, gone t0 the same pub, the same playgroup and a which has a support structure within an area it knows, being booted out to be rehoused elsewhere?  Just so that an arrogant Works and Pensions Secretary can score a few Brownie Points and a desperate Chancellor can squirrel away a few more quid into empty Treasury coffers. The so-called Bedroom Tax will do for David Cameron what the Poll Tax did for Margaret Thatcher. A scrapping of this nonsense-attempt at Social Engineering would be one U-turn which would be very, very welcome.

Snapshots for 17 September, 2013

1:12 pm  LIBDEM conference: Yesterday, our professional (and perpetual) political bridesmaid, the Liberal Democratic Party rejected calls from party members to relax fiscal discipline and spend more. Instead, the Party pledged broad support for the government's austerity-focussed economic strategy. The Party is assuming that by May 2015, those elusive green shoots will have finally emerged and that they will once again ride into Westminster hanging onto Chancellor Gideon's (straw) coat tails...............(AUSTERITY? It's a well-known fact that if you want to make a horse to run faster, you don't encourage it through a combination of hay and ass-kicking....you pull back on the reins as hard as possible....don't you?)


12:03 pm  The last time we heard a UK  inflation figure, it was 2.8% per year. Today it has been announced that August inflation "fell" to 2.7%. However, the Consumer Price Index has INCREASED from 125.8 (July) to 126.4 (August). That is an increase of 0.6 in ONE MONTH, which when annualised, gives a price inflation figure of 5.7% per year!  This is a situation which we've been amused by for quite a long time now: Inflation falling while prices increase. The magic of numbers! Here is the latest ONS bulletin. The numbers are on page 4:       http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_323760.pdf

UK Economy: I told you so!! But would you listen?!

UK Economy: I told you so!! But would you listen?!

"WTF?!" A single  swallow doesn't make a summer! Now is the time to calm down and  inject a bit of realism into the equation! (Reuters) - British industrial output was flat in July and there was a marked deterioration in the trade balance, official data showed on Friday, taking some of the shine off recent strong economic data. Output in the industrial sector - which makes up about one sixth of Britain's economy - had been expected to edge up by 0.1 percent according to a Reuters poll. The narrower category of manufacturing rose by 0.2 percent, just short of forecasts for a 0.3 percent rise, although June's figure was revised up, the Office for National Statistics said. Signs of a surprisingly strong recovery in Britain's economy have come thick and fast in the past few months. Growth of 0.7 percent in the second quarter could be trumped by an even stronger reading in the third. The Bank of England pledged last month to keep interest rates on hold until unemployment falls to 7 percent, something it does not envisage happening for another three years, but the strength of recent data has encouraged traders to bet rates might rise as soon as next year. Separate figures showed Britain's goods trade deficit [...]

Snapshots for 5 September, 2013

4:10 pm  #SYRIA:  Does the increasingly isolated Obama, with his barking-mad, cigar-chomping generals, not realise that an attack on Syria will cause  markets to tumble, wipe BILLIONS off share prices, accelerate the failure of the "propped-up-by-the Fed" American economy, damage the BRICS countries' economies, raise oil prices, accelerate the collapse of the Eurozone and probably cause the deaths of thousands more innocent people? There are times when principle has to give way to pragmatism.  #Callmehysterical!


3:33 pm  SYRIA: The Pope, spotting an obvious bandwagon,  has urged world leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution". He has also invited 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday "to end the civil war". He obviously does not realise that to the millions of displaced victims of Syria's violence, prayer and (especially) fasting, come quite naturally!


6:38 am  What you see in the mirror is never what other people see. Let's hope that there's a massive reality check before the s*** hits the fan.

 Page 1 of 15  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »