Are we too far gone?

With the ever increasing number of companies departing our shores either specifically because of Brexit or for some other reason (but Brexit being part of the reason why the decision has been taken now) I have to ask…is it too late to save ourselves?

Assuming we could stop the juggernaut that is Brexit, what would happen to all those businesses that have already decided to leave?

Would Honda and Nissan change their minds all of sudden? Would the assorted banks and financial institutions reverse course bring their money back (or not send it out) and reinvest in the UK or has the damage been done?

I fear that the latter is true. Faced with uncertainty businesses have been left without a political direction for too long and they’ve made their own plans now. Those do not involve further investment, or indeed even stopping, in the UK!

London had become the unofficial capital of the financial world and it was no exaggeration to say that the City of London could have become its own nation state (within the E.U. of course!). Now, whilst banks will remain (assuming we don’t descend into total anarchy and return to the barter system of course!), their HQs are moving abroad, as is their money.

Could we recapture our position or have we broken the bonds of trust with businesses so far that any reversal of Article 50 would be viewed skeptically as just temporary?

Everyone who said this would happen were accused of being part of Project Fear, and maybe they were fear mongering at the time, but right now, as it has come to pass, the real issue is whether the damage has already been done?

Sure we could return to the E.U., but will we ever regain our position in the world again? Dare I say it, could reversing Brexit now actually do more harm than good?

At least if we follow through with Brexit we could wipe the proverbial slate clean, start again. If we simply reverse course, it’s unlikely we could reclaim our position in the world and it’s unlikely we could ever rebuild trust again, but if we started again with something new, something different could we reinvent ourselves?

I’m not pretending it’s that easy (or that May or this Government could actually reinvent us on this way), but we have to start somewhere in solving this problem and maybe the best place to start is acceptance of an inevitable and working out how we start again…

Another nail in the coffin

Surprise surprise the EU doesn’t like May’s Brexit plan! That now makes her MPs that support Brexit, her MPs that don’t, those that voted out and those that voted Remain!

When does it become obvious that your plan is not a good one, and what do you do next?

Adam Hills got it spot on last night in the Last Leg, May is trying to negotiate a Brexit deal that satisfies the leavers and remainers and keeps the EU happy, she is still trying to have her cake and eat it, still trying to placate all sides.

The problem is she can’t, any deal that results in is leaving is unsatisfactory to remainers and any deal that looks like we’ll still be tied to the EU, allows some degree of freedom of movement or involves payments to the EU will not satisfy Leave voters.

Sixteen months on and she still doesn’t know what Brexit is meant to mean, other than the circular argument that it means Brexit!

May’s continued dithering is precipitating the financial crisis that we all feared. Businesses are not investing in an economy where they cannot be certain of a return on their investment. Consumers are not confident to spend when they fear they could be out of a job in eight months!

Business is crying out for decisive action, it doesn’t really matter which side she falls on down on, as long as a side is picked so business can plan. The Chequers deal was accepted by business as decisive action, but this weeks attempts to change that agreement to make it more palatable to the leavers have removed that minor degree of certainty.

Clarity is needed, a proper plan needs to be put in place. To achieve that May must first pick a side. She can’t keep dancing around he issue, she can’t deliver an acceptable compromise, in this case there will be winners and losers and she needs to be ok with that.

May needs to show decisive leadership, form a plan and follow it, obviously leaving flexibility to be able to negotiate some positions without compromising central vision.

What that plan is depends on which side she comes down on, for me I hope she comes down on continuing relations as best as possible (personally I’d like her to completely reverse course, but that’s not going to happen), but I’ll support a well thought out plan either way because it will provide clarity and may unblock our economy one way or another! We cannot continue in this limbo until next year.

As for replacing her with Boris or Gove…sorry but you don’t give the keys to the asylum to the patients!

And so in conclusion…

So after 300 pages of waffle and policy, watching a few interviews and reading about 8 weeks of news coverage I’ve come to my conclusion on who I will vote for on Thursday…Labour.

For those of you who are interested here is my reasoning.

Primarily I’m voting Labour because they stand the best chance of winning this constituency seat other the Tories.  Don’t get me wrong, Royston Smith seems like a decent guy and in other circumstances I’d probably vote for him (I did in 2015), but it is his party’s leader and her policies that I disagree with and so, sorry Royston, but I will be casting my vote for your opponent.

All in all the Lib Dems were the party that I would most want win, I agree with their policies and I think that they are realistic to implement.  That said, in Southampton at least, the Lib Dems are unlikely to get the level of support that they need to win the seat. Therefore, as I do not want the Tories to win, I will be voting for Labour, but that may not be the case in your constituency.

I am happy to vote for Labour, I agree mostly with their manifesto I just think they are making some quite broad assumptions on people’s willingness to pay.

Fundamentally I think we need a big change, we quite simply cannot go on the way that we are, another five years of Tory rule will see our health service in tatters, our schools failing, our infrastructure crumbling and our place in the world seriously diminished following a disastrous Brexit negotiation.

The Tory manifesto really smacks of having been rushed out and should be marked ‘must try harder’.  Really and truly this is the Maybot’s open goal, Labour were in disarray, she holds the ticket as the only party supporting a hard Brexit and she was enjoying poll leads that had not been seen since Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher.  Had she called a real snap election, i.e. the shortest possible time frame, then she might actually have won the majority she was looking for.  As it is she gave us 8 weeks, launched a disastrous manifesto which put her immediately on the back foot and then the terrorist attacks have not helped her.  Two days before the election she is level pegging with Jeremy Corbyn one of the lease popular Labour leaders of all time!

I think that of all the parties Labour offers the most change but my concern, and why I would prefer a Lib Dem win, is that they achieve this through improperly costed tax increases, borrowing and savings.  They have promised large commitments but have assumed that everyone will just happily pay more taxes and like it.  We know that this is not true.

My view of the Lib Dem manifesto is that it is planned out and that commitments are mostly properly costed, pledges are not too ‘pie in the sky’ and their positions on the NHS and Education I fully support.  I also agree with their stance on the EU, namely that we should see what we can get then put it to a public vote – Labour’s stance is dreaming that they will get what they want.

I would therefore urge anyone who can vote Lib Dem and see them win to do so, but failing that pick the most popular party that isn’t the Tories (and if that still does not help then vote with your heart).

Like May says we only need 6 seats to dislodge her, that should be easy enough between Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens.

Come on everyone, we’ve got 48 hours to save Britain from the Maybot and her Tory monsters, all we have to do is flip 6 seats from the Tories and we can be reasonably assured that May will not be leading this country for the next 5 years!!!!

Which wolf are you going to feed?

There is an ancient Cherokee Parable told by a grandfather to his grandson about a fight inside of him. between two wolves, one good and one evil.  The child’s asks his grandfather which one wins, and his grandfather asks the question simple “The one you feed”.

I heard this parable in a film I watching today with my eldest and it got me thinking about the awful events we’ve witnessed in Manchester, London, Paris, Brussels, Iraq, Afghanistan and Florida (to name but a few).

Let’s face it the War on Terrorism has failed, we have killed many terrorists (along with many innocent bystanders) but are we really any safer?

As we sit back and take in the events of this weekend the inevitable questions are asked about how and why.

Many will call for the internment of anyone with links to those terrorist organisations or who has ever expressed any agreement with them – some will call for us to go even farther than that.

Some will say it’s time to change how we deal with them, diplomacy not bombs, missing the point that ‘they’ don’t want to compromise.

Many will recognise that what they was not reflective of Islam and that they were not muslims.  Others will say that this is a lie and demand we inter all Muslims.

Most will talk about carrying on regardless, about not letting them win and that we should not let them change us, but how can we not?  Even the strongest amongst us have become more wary about the people around them and such a response is not much comfort to the victims friends and family.

We will have to endure the media analysing this from every angle, by Wednesday we’ll know more about the suspect than the security services could ever have found out.  We’ll all say we don’t want to know their names or what happened to make them this way, but we’ll have no choice to see what we don’t want to see as the media will flood our senses from every angle.

The fact remains though that we cannot keep repeating the same mistakes and expect a different result.

Innocents are murdered here and we respond by bombing some far off land, killing jihadis and innocent bystanders alike.  It’s not solving the problem, it’s not making us safer but it is giving those warped preachers of hate more fuel for the fires they create.

Doing nothing is not an option though, but as diplomacy is not an option, as ‘they’ don’t want to compromise and we can’t give them what they want, we need to find another way.

We are at, and probably have been for a while, a cross roads where we can  either keep on doing what we’re doing in the vague hope that by stupidly following a pattern will eventually present the result we want, or we can change paths and find a new way.

Changing path’s is never easy because it implies that we’ve failed, but that’s not a bad thing, ask any company boss and they will tell you it’s not about the fail, but about what you do from it that matters.

Changing our response to terrorist is a huge challenge, but do we really have another choice?

Our response needs to be methodical and logical and in my personal view the first place to start is to stop bombing the Middle East and Africa every time there is an attack.  This sort of response is not helpful and isn’t solving the problem. Yes to abandon this policy is giving ISIS a propaganda dream, but it’s a small loss of face to remove a recruiting banner for radical preachers and ISIS alike.

Next I would propose that we should view jihadis as having an illness that needs treatment rather than a crime that needs punishing, so that we can take preemptive measures to detain and treat rather than having to prosecute.

This would not remove the need for controversial secret courts but would allow the use an existing framework (Mental Health tribunals) as a basis to create these new secret courts.

The courts only need to consider whether a person is a potential threat and if they exhibit signs or behaviour associated to radicalisation.  Those that are found to be in need of treatment would not be locked up, but would be taken to centres near to family and friends (allowing full visitation rights) that would provide the ‘patients’ with a assistance in the form of access to those who understand both the psychology and religious reasons for such behaviour.

This is controversial step I realise, it means removing the threat of prosecution in the first instance and detaining people without trial – something for both sides to disagree with.  It would, however, provide a platform to try and de-programme those who have been radicalised with the aim of returning them back to society.

I would say that the next big hurdle would be asking communities to look out for changes in those they love and care about, and telling the authorities when necessary so treatment can be provided.

It’s a monumental change for some as it cuts right to the core of their culture and their personal identity, but if we are to succeed we need to break the protection that allows people to turn a blind eye to radicalisation in their communities for fear of what the repercussions are.  If we can show that potential jihadis are not being imprisoned, but are being treated sensitively, then may this will help overcome this cultural hurdle.

These two methods may help us tackle radicalisation for the future and hopefully ‘right the ship’ but it cannot help make people feel safe if we do nothing with the problems we have right now.

To that end I believe we need to ensure all preachers of hate on all sides (whether they be Imams or leaders of the EDL for example) can be removed, prosecuted and imprisoned for tens of years not just a few months at a time.  Where possible deportation should be considered but only after the end of their sentence.  Whilst imprisoned they should be kept away from those they could influence for the duration of their stay or participate in so called ‘deprogramming’ that will seek to de-radicalise their beliefs (and yes I do hold that EDL have radical beliefs).

This may mean a curtailment of the Freedom of Speech for many (some would say all), but should we not see this is temporary curtailment as being expedient to solving this problem?

We also need to ensure that armed response units have the power to deal with would be terrorists, have the right to shoot first (but on a strict rules of engagement basis, so a commanding officer sets the parameters of any operation) and have the threat of prosecution removed as a general basis (with only those who have genuinely done something wrong being prosecuted), their identities hidden and protected (and that of their families) for the duration of their lives.

Where someone survives the commission of such atrocities they should be treated both as a criminal and as being broken, so whilst they are prosecuted and isolated in jail, they are also given the necessary ‘deprogramming’ as a matter of course.

I realise that the above may be controversial, but we need to find a different way to deal with this problem.  It may come across a bit totalitarian in parts, but is what we are doing really working for us?

*update – I forgot the feeding the good wolf section!*

On top of these methods to curtail the problem we must not forget that we can do far more by encouraging integration, making it easier, ensuring that their are jobs.  

This does not mean banning face coverings or stopping Sharia Law, on the contrary, we need to stop the obsession with banning the burka and realise that for many Muslims Sharia Law is as important as secular law.

We should stop the ghettoisation of communities, multiculturalism was meant to expose us all to new cultures, not to coral people into small enclaves where they stick together.

This starts with my generation, a generation that has grown up far more tolerant than the last, and following on to the next generation that is almost fully integrated in some places.  We need to keep up cultural and religious education, but it is important that children are taught to question religious dogma as well as secular dogma.Edit

It’s a long road, but we need to start somewhere, otherwise the future is going to be a very bleak place indeed.

One size doesn’t fit all

How should our economy be run?

For the first time in a while we have a genuine difference between the two main parties and a compromise from the Lib Dems.

Labour have reverted to form and opted for tax and spend with a side of borrowing and spending.  The Tories meanwhile will cut taxes at the top, lift the poorest out of taxation, slash spending and reduce the size of the state.

Labour will also borrow to invest in infrastructure, which is not as bad as it sounds since, if directly properly onto project that will help raise business and our GDP the increase in output will pay off the loans in real terms.  The danger is that this willingness to borrow may backfire if they are forced to borrow to cover day to day spend when their tax intake doesn’t reach the expected levels.

The Lib Dems are somewhere in between and are the only party promising to raises taxes for all (1% to pay for NHS investment).

Labour have helpfully supplied their workings out, but have been shown to have over assumed on the willingness to pay and made a few statements about unspecific funds from unspecific taxes.  Not to mention the potential trebling of Council Tax bills if their Land Value Tax comes in.

The Tories meanwhile have seemingly plucked figures out of thin air and presented them as fact.

The Lib Dems want to increase taxes for everyone but whether it will yield the £6b return they expect is another question.  There is also the point that £6b will be swallowed up very quickly by the NHS unless there is some form of sensible reform (not cutting salaries or freezing them or making redundancies or closing hospitals I would add).

Truly the answer to who has the best solution is whoever you ideologically side with.

Without doubt the Tories position will result in more suffering for front line services, failing infrastructure and cuts/efficiency savings for all in the public sector.  Expect cuts, cuts and more cuts and everything to get worse for it.

Labour assume that if they tax it people will pay it which we know is simply not the case.

I am generally a low tax, reduced exemption (loop hole) kind of person.  The system is broken and we do need to increase funding to services but I believe this can be done by reversing some cuts and re-directing them at genuine inefficiencies, such as people doing jobs they don’t need to, bizarre procurement arrangements that mean replacing a light bulb in the NHS can cost £50 plus VAT and removing duplication of roles and petty bureaucracy.  I also think we need to close as many loopholes as possible and have a general rule of ‘if it looks like income and smells like income then it is income and should be taxed’ – meaning that these celebrities and rich people who set up service companies and avoid income tax by selling their image and services to employers who then pay for that service and the person behind the company is paid in dividends and by director loans would be stopped.

We probably should be looking at how we can increase taxes in a sensible way on the very wealthiest (top 1% of people and companies), but we need to first find a way to stop them legally avoiding paying.  For companies this may be a turnover tax rather than a profits tax, for people this may be bringing in general anti-avoidance provisions to stop exemptions being used for nefarious reasons.

I don’t agree with Labour’s position that anyone on £80k or more is wealthy because it depends on you arrive at that figure.  If you were given a job with that salary out of university say then yes, you would be very wealthy, or were given a sudden massive pay rise (like Mr Corbyn who went from back bench MP to Leader of Opposition with a doubling of his salary over night) then yes there is cause to say that you have more money than you need.

If, however, you arrive at this salary through years of toil and labour you will have, without a doubt, already spent close to that amount and a small pay rise that tips you over the £80k threshold and into the next tax band is going to hurt (particularly as you lose your personal allowance at this tax band).  It is a simple fact that people live according to what they can afford.  When you’re on £20k a year £80k seems like a massive sum, but if you work your way to that sum you will have slowly increased what you spend you money on and so your ‘spare’ income is going to be minimal.

I appreciate this is a little bit of ‘boo hoo so the rich person can’t afford his Porsche this year’ and if you’re a staunch socialist then you will not agree with me and that’s fine. The problem is though, if you remove the incentive to work harder in a money economy then people wonder why bother.  There is the excellent example of the man in America who slashed his salary as CEO so that everyone was paid the same.  A nice gesture right? Wrong, his company failed in a year because those that worked hard did still but were paid the same as the dossers who did nothing.  The incentive to work hard had gone and those people left to go elsewhere leaving the company with the dossers who paid handsomely for surfing Facebook all day!

If you have a money economy the incentive to work hard is more money.  Do not get me wrong, I don’t agree with this, I dream of a day without money where people get what they need and we all do something we love and enjoy and offer our skills and services freely to each other without expecting anything in return but knowing that if a builder builds you a house that you could offer them something in return even if it is not expected.  That is, however, a long, long, long way off!

Anyway, and for what it’s worth, based on the economy I would have to support the Lib Dems.  I cannot support more Tory cuts, and whilst I like some of the Labour plans, I think they rather over assume what they can collect in taxes which will just increase borrowing to pay for day to day expenses rather than for investing in infrastructure.  I also worry that the Land Value Tax is going to punish those who live in nicer areas.   The Lib Dems may not have all the answers but I’m willing to pay 1% more than I am at the moment if it means the NHS gets better funding.

A home for all

In my opinion, the right to a home (or shelter at the very least) should be a fundamental human right and not something that is in an investment for the future or at least that should be a secondary function of home owning.

The manifestos all say pretty much the same on housing and that is build more and do something about the leasehold debacle.  Labour and the Lib Dems talk of direct commissioning and Council House building whereas the Tories just point back to the recent White Paper.

Quite frankly this is disappointing.  Housing has been a fundamental problem for a long time now and the problem is getting worse.  We need to build a minimum of 250,000 homes each and every year just to keep up with demand.  At present we have a build rate of between 150,000 and 175,000, meaning that there is a chronic deficit between what we need and what we’re building.

None of the parties are taking the housing crisis seriously, putting aside direct commissioning – a policy that may well have previously delivered homes, but was inefficient, expensive and gave us a generation of homes that now need replacing due to how badly they were built!

Saying you are going to build more homes does not make them happen, you’d have thought they would have realised this by now!

To get more homes built we need to get the system out of the way, an easier planning process would be a start along with a national standard for home size and quality.  Removing time consuming planning agreements to collect contributions and replacing them with CIL would also speed matters up.  Moving affordable housing provision so that it is set as a national standard would save time.

Accepting that you can’t force house builders to build more or more quickly than they can sell (you can shorten planning permission validity but all this will result in his builders applying for  permission only to build what they can build in a shorter term), and allowing direct commissioning would help to increase supply, but it needs to be tightly controlled so that we don’t get the inefficient badly built homes of the past.

All in, whilst there is, technically, more detail in the Tory manifesto (when you include the White Paper) it doesn’t really provide a real answer to the problem.  Labour and the Lib Dems both call for direct commissioning but also don’t really solve the problem.  So I’m not any of them have the right idea!

Leaving Las Brussels…

In a turn up for the books all three major parties are promising not to reverse the Brexit vote (given Lib Dem opposition to Brexit I fully expected a volte face on the issue).  

What divides them is how far they will go to support the Brexit decision.

The Tories will take us all the way down the rabbit hole not stopping until we are out no matter what it does to the country and the economy.  The Tories are stating that no deal is better than a bad deal – many have questioned the logic of someone negotiating something worse than no deal but I think the point is that if getting a deal costs £90b in the divorce bill then no deal is better…given that the EU will not negotiate the divorce and future relationship in tandem it means someone has a big decision on how much they are willing to bet on the potential for a new deal (nothing like a game of roulette with a nations economy and its people’s welfare!).

Labour and the Lib Dems have pretty much the same approach, live with the vote and negotiate something that some call a soft Brexit, but Ehich I would call EU lite!

Labour and the Lib Dems essentially want all the trappings of EU membership with none of pesky draw backs – or as some might say having your cake and eating it!

The difference is that the Lib Dems will offer a new referendum on the final deal whereas Labour will only offer a meaningful parliamentary vote (whatever that means in human).

The choice is simple really, if you want to leave the EU potentially with no safety net or back up plan, then vote Tory.  If you want the chance to back out then vote Lib Dem, if you want some bizarre half way house that requires you putting your faith in your MP to represent your interests then vote Labour!

Personally, as a Remain voter I’m with the Lib Dems – as a pragmatist I accept Brexit but believe that the last referendum was a con.  The referendum last year was not decided on facts but on media peddled lies.

On top of this I don’t trust any of the parties to negotiate a decent settlement.  Those who want a hard Brexit may vote Tory only to find May giving away more than they were willing to in the final decision (again how much is too much for a divorce bill?).  Likewise Labour nor the Lib Dems will agree to a hard Brexit which for many is intolerable, Brexit means Brexit and therefore not delivering on it is a breach of the democratic will of the nation.

On this issue it’s up to you, I’m sick of the whole remainers/Brexitbore debate.   I am pleased that all parties accept the will of the people but I’m with the Lib Dems on the public being given the last say on the issue – only I would offer Deal/No Deal/Remain as the choices).