Changes beyond our horizon that no one chooses to see.

How pathetically limited is our self-obsessed Brexit election, not only do we look at the UK and what will happen to it, we also omit to look at the EU and what will happen to it, but much worse, is that we seem to have lost the chalk altogether when it comes to looking at the future. We seem to be sluggishly waking up to the environmental issues but what about the changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

What really matters is the incomes of our people looking forward, how many people will be employed and our GDP.  The great elephant in the room which everyone seems to be ignoring is the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is happening before our very eyes.  There’s none so blind, as will not see!

An automated society is staring us in the face yet no one seems to notice.  The consequence worldwide is the loss of many jobs and the increase in casual or part time labour.  Casual, off piste, non-taxable, earnings are already at £200Bn and this sector is rising fast and is expected to more than double very quickly to £455Bn.  50% of companies will trim their workforce in the next 5 years and all those laid off will need re-training.  No one as far as I can see has made this a major issue in our present election campaign.

There is an unquestionable move from a majority of poor, to a majority of the middle class, and Asia will account for a huge proportion of this, in short order.  This means a fantastically major change in market demand.  Again, no one seems vaguely interested in this in our present election.

Automation will replace 11% of female jobs and 9% of male jobs in the next 20 years.  The growth will be in information and communication technology where key jobs are so far male dominate world-wide by a ratio of 4 to 1.  This is despite 50% plus of university undergraduates being female.  Something needs to change!

In the past thirty years one dollar invested in digital technology has increased GDP by a ratio of 20 to 1.  Whereas other non-digital investments have yielded lass that 15% of this. By 2025 it is estimated that close to a quarter of global GDP will come from digital technologies including artificial intelligence etc..  This does not include the value of intangible assets of networks, data, and other services.

By its very nature the Fourth Industrial Revolution will run counter to current thinking in that it will generally have a deflationary effect i.e. Loss of low skill jobs, increase in gig/part time work economy.

Should we therefore amend the way we measure GDP, in more qualitative terms, In the Fourth Industrial Revolution we will need to take account of the intangible benefits which are presently zero priced such as Google Maps or innumerable free knowledge based information sources.

Change indeed! When will politics catch up?


Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

It must be apparent even to the donkey in the White House, that global warming is now an emergency. Australia and California are burning, whilst many of the worlds great rivers and lakes are either overflowing or drying up. Something is most definitely changing. Our planet is in danger of environmental collapse, the evidence gets stronger by the day. Mind you, wiping out the human race may be not a bad idea, it depends on your point of view. For me, it’s a no-brainer, I believe in life as we know it. Despite the arrogance and stupidity of man, there remains an overwhelming mix of goodness, creativity and beauty of human kind that to me is beyond argument.

Now, it seems, the present is a great challenge for all that goodness, creativity and yes shear beauty of our world. To do nothing, or even ‘not enough’ would deny our humanity It’s only an idea of a half wit, but it seems that water is the great issue, using it, guarding it, caring for it and cherishing it and managing it.

I am aware that the absorption of carbon gasses is a key issue, ‘global warming’ relies on the reduction of these gasses. Cannot the two issues be made part of one another. The hydrogen cell, for example is a completely clean power source that produces only water. Of course, there are many associated difficulties in the creation of electricity and batteries. Nevertheless the human race has shown time and again that it can solve most physical and chemical dilemmas.

There are many options out there from harvesting wind and sea power, to the renewal of our farming techniques and reforestation. All have their part to play. However if the great players of the world economy are driven by short term goals then these aspirations will not be enough.

The world needs half witted populists like a hole in the head, but that is what seems be the prevailing trend. A clown in the White House, a lunatic in Brazil, a megalomaniac in Russia and a inward looking buffoons in Europe.

Whilst half the world dies of thirst the other half fights typhoons and floods, we wring our hands. Wake up! Migration, poverty, fire and flood are all to do with water too much of it, too little of it. Even to a halfwit like me it seems that the carbon gasses and water are inextricably linked and it is time we woke up to the fact and did something,

Planting a tree, selling your car or walking some more, turning down the heating and appreciating the wonder of water, all matter very much indeed. But what really makes a difference is voting for someone who has sense, who does not fear innovation, who thinks about the time after we’ve gone. Then, and only then, if people of this ilk come to power, will the world have a chance.

He says, she says – who cares?

We are now in the midst of elections, and no one I have talked to have a clear grasp of who they are going to vote for. Tribal party lines have been washed away on the tide of Brexit. The main ‘idee fix’ of the Conservative party led by the ‘Mop Head’ is Brexit, so much is clear. The reason to vote for Labour is less clear, though there is a strong under-current of radical social change led, sadly, by the intellectually challenged Marxist.

The conservative party is working hard and monotonously on Brexit whilst Labour who have no idea what to do about Brexit, have touted an amazing number of quite revolutionary ideas like the four day week, and re-nationalisation of key national assets like rail and power.

The danger for Labour I think is that their message is too wild and woolly. Some very good ideas are being lost in the confusion of so many policies which are to say the least hard to rationalise. For example the ‘four day week’. ‘We work to live’ says the Shadow Chancellor, but a four day week will need at 20% more people to man the NHS which is already shambolic on weekends. The Shadow health Minister had not thought it through, so he kept shtum.

I have not so far mentioned the Lib Dems who are led by a pleasant young lady whose name escapes most of the electorate. She bangs on about revoking article 50 which is at least clear. The rest of her policies are a shallow attempt to attract the less radical centre. The Lib Dems would do well to work harder on environmental policies and merge with the Greens. Half the world is already either under water or burning, if they cannot capitalise on that then, it will be a sorry campaign.

A very low percentage of the electorate trust the ‘Mop Head’ as a person. It is widely acknowledged that he has little or no grasp of detail and is a serial liar, not to mention his behaviour with the ladies. So what is it that keeps him in the fight, why is he leading the polls? He’s not even a good speaker when he is in ad lib situations. He blusters, and when in trouble (which is often) he bursts into Ancient Greek or Latin. Yet as of today he leads the polls by a street. Why?

1 His idea to complete an exit from Europe, is simple. Everyone knows what a chaotic issue this has been.
2 He is an amusing guy, he makes most people smile. Especially when he talks unmitigated rubbish. ‘It’s OK, that’s just Boris.’ Ha ha!
3 He appears despite all the cockups to be bright.

The opposition must be weak, why else would a ‘Mop Head@ be so far in the polls?

1 JC is not the sharpest tack in the box, and he’s boring.
2 His message is confused, and even though there are some great ideas they are obfuscated.
3 As an orator he is dreadful.

For the Lib Dems and the Greens, well, they seem to be lost because the main ideas are negative.

1 Stop Brexit – let’s revoke article 50.
2 The leaders are anonymous, they have no charisma or charm
3 They have few known policies except those which ask the electorate to sacrifice things.

In Scotland things are quite different. There is leadership, clear ideas and a cultural element.

1 Like her or loath her the leader of the SNP is just that – a leader.
2 Her ideas are strong and clear, remain in the EU, Independence for Scotland.
3 She may frighten the unionists – largely conservatives.

Then of course there is the Brexit party. Our Nigel universally known for one idea and the value of a pint of beer.

1 The simplest idea of the lot except it is too simple, he has no other discernible ideas.
2 He is a good orator and appeals to the lost legions of yesteryear.
3 He could end up screwing the conservatives by splitting their vote.

As I asked in my last blog, which idea will prevail? I think it will be a simple one, proffered and led by the most personable leader, ‘Mop head’ or not!

The Election Mix – which idea will win?

Here are some of the prevailing ideas that are held across the UK and there follows ways in which the groups may think and consequently vote. There are so many groups and so many motivations that the traditional tribal lines may well be scrambled. One thing is for sure, The electorate is more conscious of its choices than it has ever been.

I’m working class – I vote labour, I always have, I always will.

I’m a professional manager, I make a few bob – I vote Tory, always will.

I’m retired, I’m struggling a bit with health and lack of wealth – I vote Lib Dem, maybe I’ll change!

I’m an academic, I think we should stay in the EU – I’ll vote Lib Dem.

I’m a thinker – a plague on all their houses I won’t vote at all.

I’m a Scottish national and I want independence- I’ll vote SNP.

I speak Welsh, I’m a farmer – I’ll vote Plaid Cymru.

I’m on benefits, who will look after me best – I’ll vote labour.

I’m old, I want the good old days, – I’ll vote whoever guarantee Brexit.

I’m a student, who wasn’t a socialist at my age? – I’ll vote Labour or maybe Lib Dem.

There are so many profiles. But Brexit has driven a wedge through them all, which makes the upcoming election so unpredictable.  On the surface it seems most people are fed up with the whole political system and want to see the Brexit ‘thing’ come to an end.

The options and prevailing attitudes are, in no particular order:

 I don’t care, and I won’t vote for those wonks in Parliament, who don’t take any notice of what I say.

Let’s get on and vote for resolution respecting democratic choice, vote Tory or Brexit.

I want us to stay on the EU, I want another vote, I didn’t know what I was voting for last time.  I’m confused, I think I’ll vote Labour. But what about Corbyn, McDonald and Co.?

I definitely want to stay in the EU, but can I vote for the Lib Dems?  They never seem to make much of a difference.

I want to leave the EU, let’s vote for Boris, at least he seems to have a plan. The Tory elite are not covering themselves with glory, bunch of clowns, privileged toffs, liars and hypocrites – still, they have a plan

I want to leave the EU without a deal, a clean pair of heals, let’s go let’s vote for Nigel and his Brexit party. However he has no other politics or ideas. A waste of vote?

I want independence for Scotland (Wales) and we’ll stand on our own two feet in the EU.

I want to know who will look after me, that’s what counts, I can’t manage – does anybody care?

Add all these up and what do you get?

Who wins? Which dominant idea will prevail?. 

 Boris Johnson wants Brexit and Government,

Jeremy Corbyn wants Socialism/Marxism (Does he want Government?).

The apart from the Nationalists in Scotland it’s hard to see what will be an alternative dominant idea.

Negativity and no change seldom win arguments, even for the Lib Dems.

Elections and promises.

It is amazing how gullible we all are.  Every election is a competition of who can promise us the most.  It starts at the ideology level, the aspirants as opposed to the social engineers. Low tax for high earners to encourage enterprise, versus fair contributions to make the country more equal.

One political Holy Grail is the NHS.  It is a cup that will never be filled, as exponential demand grows with both medical advances and an aging population.  Add to that the enormity of the social care crisis and we can all see that the future at the very least will be contentious.

One side rants about the apparent immediate take over by private enterprise whilst the other denies it. The abolition of private medicine is an ideal of the social engineers, an anathema to the aspirers.  They believe that choice is a fundamental democratic right!  Even if having that choice is dependent on the ability to pay.

The issues are very muddy whatever your politics, but every political party salesman/woman oversimplifies the choice and option. Yet it is obvious that even the definition of the problem and the possible improvements and long term goals are extremely complex.

It is not a matter of how much money our Government throws at these issues. (I will spend more than you!- I hope I have it to spend- who cares?) The problem is ethical, financial, and practical. It is a choice between say, health care and policing, it is the balancing of resources to deliver a civilised society.

And so we return to the political roots of our political system. The Right, Left, Centre, Nationalist and Green. Add to that the notions of national identity and our place in Europe and the picture gets more and more complex.

The history of British politics remains routed in tribal and class identity.  This may well be blurred by the Brexit conundrum. 

It seems to me that certain larger than life politicians, all populists are thriving on oversimplified promises of which there is little chance of delivery.  The sad thing is our gullibility will let in the political fantasies of the fibbers and downright tricksters of this cynical political age.

We don’t know what we don’t know

I have spent some considerable time researching the ins and outs, truths and lies, and shades of opinion about Brexit. I continue to be astonished by the ignorance that attends arguments on both sides.

It seems to me that the most important issues to understand are the cultural issues that drive the factions, this way or that. There is growing support for the belief that future financial modelling can mean whatever the modeller wants it to mean.

I enumerate some of the dominant ideas on both sides of the fence,

1 Leave:

We are the only country in Europe who have never been invaded. (Since mediaeval times.) Consequently we need to keep our independence and do our own thing.  We won the war so we are better soldiers etc. and we don’t need these less than reliable neighbours telling what to do. We led the world from the middle ages and our influence remains strong, far and wide.  If we stay in Europe we will lose our voice.

Keep control of our borders, keep our NHS etc. for us the Brits!

The EU is a vast bureaucracy, with a bunch of petty bureaucrats from tin pot places like Belgium and Luxembourg telling us what to do.

We have the best judicial system in the world, we don’t want judges in Brussels or Strasbourg making decisions beyond our control.

2 Stay:

EU is second biggest trading block in the world, over 50% of our exports rely on the EU.  Imports likewise.  Free trade with such a huge trading block underpins our prosperity and to leave would be absolute folly and result in huge detriment to our financial and wealth prospects.  Many thousands of jobs will be lost.

The EU has been the biggest and most lasting influence for peace in Europe for the last half century or more.  To fragment such an edifice of solidarity and mutual support is madness.

The cooperation in non- trade matters, as in science and education is phenomenal and gives member states huge advantages both as lead contributors and supporters.

3 Don’t knows:

I’d like the benefits of being in the EU but I like the idea of being a free agent in the world. In fact I have very little idea of what I want, nor in many cases do I care.

These illustrations are far from exhaustive, but I can see the appeal of the first two.  For the third ‘Ignorance is bliss’.

You could summarise (with some trepidation) Leave: Living in the past.  Stay: Fear of change, comfort in status quo.

The snag is these dominant ideas are very narrow.  Yes they are easy to assimilate, but they really are less than half the story.    Neither argument addresses key issues such as the economic instability of the Euro, the implications for NATO, or indeed what is going on in the rest of the world. 

The electorate is virtually equally divided (give or take 4%) and that voting opinion is founded on these much oversimplified dominant ideas.

Taking the Brexit issue in isolation, the prospects are that politicians will hammer home these oversimplified arguments and polarise the Leavers and the Remainers. 

The prospect for the next election is bleak. And whatever you believe, the winner will be ignorance, delivering oversimplified ideas and promises which no one will be able to execute or deliver.

Understanding Brexit 3.

Whilst all the Brits are arguing about Brexit, it seems that there are only two sides of the conflict, it all boils down to ‘stay’ or ‘leave’.  Not many people are asking;  What is it we are staying with, or leaving?  What are the aims of the EU and what does the future hold for the EU? What are the lessons to learn from our actual experience?

We all agree that the EU has evolved from the EEC.   A trading alliance has evolved into a political federated group of nations.

The aims of a federal Europe are peace and prosperity for its member states. Its history has certainly delivered a relatively peaceful period in mainland Europe, though conflicts have continued on the European perimeters, particularly on the Eastern fringes.  The EU has survived a number of issues but has shown itself hesitant and unsure about its collective defence.  This has been exacerbated by the eccentric USA leadership and the NATO alliance.

The Eurozone quarterly economic growth was confirmed at 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2019, slowing from a 0.4 percent expansion in the previous period. UK performance is slightly ahead at 0.3 percent. Germany’s gross domestic product shrank while Italy’s economy stagnated, Spain’s GDP growth slowed and the French economy expanded at the same pace as in the first quarter.

Most countries in the EU were meant to pass certain minimum standards before joining the Euro currency. Sadly, political enthusiasm got the better of the establishment with the consequent disaster for the PIGS.  Looking forward Italy for example has 130% of GDP as debt, Greece at 182%,Portugal 123% Belgium 105%,  this is not sustainable and it is hard to see how the European Central Bank will keep the Euro from an early crash.

The UK pays a net figure into the EU each year.  This figure is £9bn.

This made up of an allocated budget contribution of £17Bn less a rebate of $4bn plus and inward grant to UK’s least prosperous areas of $4bn, (such as Wales and the Cornwall).

The UK’s budget net contribution is about £9bn, but this varies year on year and is forecast to grow.

Boris Johnsons original red bus claim that £350mn a week could be spent on the NHS was an exaggeration of 100% , the real figure we pay to the EU net per week is closer to half that amount.

This 9bn per annum is by no means a reflection of the costs or benefits of being a member of the EU.

We can be pretty sure about how much cash we put in, but it’s difficult to be sure about how much, if anything, comes back in economic benefits.

So overall we paid in £8.9 billion more than we got back. 

The Treasury figures show payments the EU makes directly to the private sector, such as research grants. In 2016, these were worth an estimated £2.3 billion, so including them could reduce our net contribution further still.

The money we get back will be spent on things the government may or may not choose to fund upon leaving the EU. It’s not enough to look at the net contribution in isolation because what we get back isn’t fully under our control.

A membership fee isn’t the same as the total economic cost or benefit of EU membership.

Being in the EU costs money but does it also create trade, jobs and investment that are worth more?

We can be pretty sure about how much cash we put in, but it’s difficult to be sure about how much, if anything, comes back in economic benefits.