Saturday 31 December 2011

I Don't Know Where I'm Going

In Open Democracy there has been a long article by Anthony Barnett from July called “After Murdoch” suggesting that the grip that Rupert Murdoch has had on British and related politics may now be on the wane and there is the possibility of some real democratic progress and rebalancing of interests.

This has been countered by Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, in a reality check to the effect that as far as the markets are concerned Newscorp, BSkyB and all the rest are very much still in business and a good bet for the future. Essentially, the whole issue turns on the nature and standing of the UK political class and their capacity for survival in a troubled world.

For those of us with longer memories the 1930’s were a time when the Press Barons also had a firm grip on much of the nation’s thinking with number of politicians and business men at the time colluding with them to steer government policy.

There certainly was a wider and more informed press and a better read public but the history of that time is of a UK that was heading in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons and urged on by the main media.

Today, Murdoch is certainly where the money is and the money is likely to stay with him if he can keep the results up. People are still buying his papers and his TV products and a number of other things. The political class may seem to be at a greater distance but that does not mean they intend to overturn the basis of his media power.

One reason may be that if they do then the only ones to benefit will be the BBC and a few others within the political class and media who are connected. There is no sign at all of a thriving alternative which attracts and inspires majority opinion. The fun and games enjoyed by the demonstrators etc. is not a substitute for a working and effective democracy.

If it is not possible to create a new balance and a constitution that reflects the needs of the population as a whole then something has to give. Given the grotesque incompetence of the Westminster machine in recent years as well as endemic corruption of our own special kind then there is no hope in London.

Europe may have been the option at one stage but that is another entity that is on the point of breaking down or at best going into long term paralysis. Scotland thinks about looking to the North and to recreate the old world of the Baltic Trade and the Hanseatic League. It’s a nice idea but with them all now limited in manufacturing and food production it cannot be enough.

People point to the apparent prosperity in London as though it will revive the economy. Unluckily all those shoppers are buying goods that are largely imported and any profits made will be going offshore. All we have is a lot of low paid labour presiding over flow in and the flows out. The City is now simply a financial entrepot for the movements of capital and cash with little left for the rest of us.

As for the rest of the UK just who owns what? Where are the profits going? Who is taking them? How much stays in the UK economy? When I look through my bills I see a great deal of things going to firms in foreign ownership. Even a good many of our government buildings today are owned offshore.

So what is the reality? We are in the hands of others with not too many choices and even fewer in prospect. It is going to be an interesting year. And I would rather not be living in interesting times, to paraphrase a Chinese saying.

I wonder who will have the last say in the events of 2012 on the future of the UK?

Thursday 29 December 2011

Going Going Nearly Gone

As we teeter on the brink of a New Year, western style, the emphasis is on looking back at 2011. We might be better off looking forward and taking deep breaths.

What things which are in place next week will no longer be in place at the end of 2012? There are too many potential choices to list in any brief blog.

How many governments will go?

Who will start fighting who and who else will be involved, no bets will be taken on the UK?

How many banks or financial organisations will go?

How many currencies and economies will collapse?

How many geophysical disasters will occur and where?

How many hyped up events or happenings scheduled will fail or be a fiasco?

Which famous people will be found out and doing what?

Who amongst us will depart?

Who will make the most monstrous blunder?

Who will be right and who will be wrong?

Who will be richer and who will be poorer, no prizes for this one?

Where and who will be at the wrong end of the biggest disaster?

Who reading this has started to worry?

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Catching Trains To Go To Market

There is so much going on in the real world and so little in our UK domestic main stream media that scratching around elsewhere is the only option.

One item that did attract my attention was picked up on Some Assembly Required with a link to the article below on Baseline Scenario.

As it involves the history of US railways with a different take on the wonders of the late 19th Century so-called “market economy" together with political corruption, fraud and all the rest I could not resist it.

The writer suggests that if we are going back to the past then this is where we are headed, if we have not already arrived.

Anyone for HST2?

Friday 23 December 2011

Season's Grumbling

As the last few days have been spent in running round like a scalded cat dealing with this and that, none of which has to do with festivities, cheeriness is far from being the mood of the moment.

So despite all those messages that people have been sending to each other blissfully wishing happiness, prosperity and bright futures for all, I have picked up on a couple of items which fit my current state of mind.

They are both from Zero Hedge, the laugh a minute commentary on the state of world finance. The first explains why central planning, particularly in money matters, is likely to devastate the world economy.

The second is a take on how governments manage to go about this. The fun thing is the lead item which mentions government selling unwanted buildings. In many cases these will be not just the army barracks and offices suggested but also hospitals, schools and care homes, UK style.

May I take this opportunity to hope that I will be completely wrong and it will not be half as bad as many suggest.

As for geophysics, it has been quite a few days since a really big earthquake whilst there have few quite damaging events, notably Christchurch in New Zealand. Let us hope the next big one is deep sea and nowhere near an urban area.

Time to sign off for a few days or so.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Join The Pudding Club

We liked to think of the Empire as a big club of the right sort of chaps all as one in a common cause of mutual trade based on a single currency. To that end were many ways of getting the message across.

The King’s Christmas Pudding was one of them, the recipe from around 1930, give or take five years is above.

How many happy families in Britain were persuaded that this was for them is not known, but there must have been a few who made the attempt, indigestion or IBS regardless.

Our Empire is long gone as are the trading patterns on which it is based. We bought, or rather were sold, into Europe.

This was intended to be a union of the right sort of chaps all as one with trade in common and with a single currency.

So what might be the equivalent Euro pudding of today?

Superannuated frog meat marinaded in retsina tossed with sauerkraut fried in olive oil and laced with bitter Seville oranges?

The US version might be anything you find in a Walmart throwaway bin cooked in The Grapes Of Wrath.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Weighty Matters

For a change, here is something completely different from the Irish Times.

Rosita Boland looks at the first edition of “Women’s Weekly” in 1911 and finds much of it strangely familiar. The picture comes from 1911 Census dot co dot uk.

It is unlikely that my Mum saw it at the time or the following editions in the next few years. Grannie had other priorities and little time available. Also, in those days every penny counted.

As the article points out it would not be long before the world became a different and more dangerous place.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Monday 19 December 2011

Finding False Figures And Flying

Was it like this when the dinosaurs disappeared? Was it a gradual collapse of the ecology and environment necessary to their survival and reproduction? Why did all those magnificent creatures, large, dominating, strong with immense powers fail in their struggle to exist?

So what has been the “ecology” and “environment” of the human race over the last fifty years and perhaps a little more. In all the many and various economic and political theories created to explain what we are and do and how the ordinary business of life is transacted we seem to have lost sight of what happens.

It now appears that in a world where markets, economies and money are critical we have built our present systems for survival on false markets, false economic systems and with false money.

So it is all beginning to break down. Unluckily we think we have governments that have authority and powers and are able to deal with matters. In turn many of us are beginning to realise that amongst the falsities is false government in many forms.

The USA, proud of its democracy and independence is now neither democratic nor independent. Europe, once a series of combinations of national governments has become a supra-national entity that cannot even govern its own administrative services.

The constitutional mess that is the UK cannot even govern its politician’s expense accounts. Go round the world and there seem to be very few states that can exert anything like the powers they once did.

Where does sovereignty now lie across the earth? Not much of it is with governments, if any organisations have that quality it seems to be corporate bodies in finance. These have the advantage of not being based anywhere except in places where they store information in their computer systems.

But they are dependent on the way they create false money and the ways that is sent around the various false markets and how far the false economies can be kept going to provide the base for it.

Also they depend on the false governments to co-operate to keep the peasants quiet and paying and able to continue piling up the debt on which the whole financial ecosystem depends.

Santa Claus may not be around next year. He will have maxed out his credit card, failed his criminal records check, be unable to pay off the elves and also barred for not doing the due diligence. Also, no border control will let him in.

That is, if you believe in Santa.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Puff Puff Politics

Looking at the EU and Eurozone crisis to day reminds me of the past. Going back to the 1960’s and beyond one of the main causes of problems on the railways and difficulties in operation was trying to keep all the freight moving as well as providing the passenger services that people wanted to have.

What happened in this juggling was that too many compromises had to be made for the whole system to work properly with bottlenecks all over the place and the differing requirements of the various kinds of traffic.

So British Railways came to regard passengers as a necessary nuisance whilst trying to keep hold of its freight traffic against the competition of roads and then motorways. It did not succeed.

At that time a lot of freight was coal when much of the economy and household heating depended on it. This was carried in five ton wagons which did not have air braking; had four wheels, often in poor condition and were prone to derail in the bumping and banging involved in halts or crossing complex points, especially when in a train of “empties”.

So it could take only one small truck at the wrong point in the network to cause chaos because it came off the track in routine working. This problem had been known for nearly a century yet neither the railways companies, the government nor in its first years British Railways been able to sort it out.

Going into the 1960’s British Railways were faced with major conflicting issues and one of the keys to this was dealing with the problem of the five ton coal trucks.

The EU today reminds me vividly of one of those coal trains with a long line of trucks clanging and banging as they start, stop and try to change direction. Such coal trains because of their lack of effective braking could not go at any great speed, indeed 30 mph was high risk over much of the track.

In short the model of the EU and the Eurozone and its place in the network of global finance and politics has become unworkable in the conditions of the second decade of the 21st Century. It may have served up to a point through until the 1990’s but has become increasingly prone to chaos in its routine working.

It cannot go at speed, it takes up far too much time to move from one place to another, it is continually derailed by basic working failures, it is a traditional way of functioning that is hopelessly out of place in modern conditions and it is now in state when it prevents any satisfactory solution to communication or other problems.

I recall working on the platform when a coal train was going through and seeing one of the trucks suddenly jump the track and everything stopped. We had express trains due and worse with major cross country parcels trains following. I said to the foreman “How does this work?” He replied “It never expletive does.”

Looking over the Channel I have exactly the same feeling.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Seasonal Sparks Of Ill Will

So much for Christmas joy and good will; our electricity company, EDF, has done a Scrooge possibly on a good many of its customers.

And guess what, they have stuck us with a bill that bears no relation to our past payments and has come a month after we paid off our last quarterly bill both on time and in full. The bill has to be paid by 27th December, if I am right the day of St. John the Evangelist, a nice choice.

It is lucky we keep an annotated copy of past bills and the rest, the result of a bitter row over their misuse of direct debits several years ago. So any estimate or costing can be disputed on the basis of their own figures.

The essence of the problem, as you may guess, is the introduction of a new online system embodied in an “improved” computer service. This has taken a long while and has caused a lot of grief, notably to all those people with either little time to spare or who lack the obsessive capacity to pursue a disagreement relentlessly.

Sadly, this all new computer system, which has required new customer numbers does not have access to any previous bills or payments. It does have the last meter readings, although the listing of those does not match the actual readings on many of the meters installed.

However, our meters were actually read by a man from EDF who came a couple of weeks ago checking all the local meters. These readings do not appear on their website and apparently it is not the practice to use them for billing.

Are you still with me? So just before Christmas I and many others are being asked to fork out another quarterly bill at a level of about 50% more than the actual use costs around a month after than the last quarterly bill.

These figures are fixed by EDF with apparently no appeal and have the effect of a direct debit even although I have made it clear that this kind of billing system has been a cause of dispute in the past.

Which rules are they trying to get round by forcing this on customers?

Why are they doing this? Well, for one it would mean a huge cash flow free of interest into their accounts and one that would rack up in coming months. We would all be giving EDF a large free loan with no benefit whatsoever.

EDF is a French company, so are us poor Brit’s providing an indirect bail out to French banks in trouble?

I think we should be told.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Changing World

According to research by members of Tel Aviv University on a site of human occupation of around 400,000 years ago, even before my time, they suggest that one of the keys to human development was the elephant in the habitation.

The old Homo erectus they believe existed largely on a diet of elephants. These are animals that are slow moving, very big, easy to spot and bring down, they provided a rich long term store of nutrients at relatively little effort or thought.

Then for various reasons the elephants died out and those humans faced an era of severe austerity for which they were ill equipped. From somewhere another breed of humans emerged, faster, quicker and much cleverer and able to find, kill and feed on a wide range of smaller and more mobile animals.

Homo sapiens then made the world their own and happily chased all sorts of animals for food until a relatively short time ago they decided on a different form of diet, one based on farming. This was thought to have a number of advantages.

One of these was the creation of urban areas which became power blocks to dominate their local areas. These power blocks became bigger and bigger and with the growth in the number of this breed of humans more and more became based in urban areas and their immediate hinterlands.

For many reasons these humans retained a capacity for thought at an advanced level together with a variety of skills of survival, social interaction and substantial physical capability. When we look at what recent generations could do and did it is astonishing in comparison with most of the humans of today.

Now when looking at my fellow humans and their activities they seems to be an increasingly useless and physically incapable lot. They know little, have few skills, have poorer and poorer language capability, more and more limited abilities in complex social interaction and are completely dependent on others.

As I look about me and think back not too many years they seem to be another species in the long chain of human development.

The question is whether homo sapiens is giving way now to homo stupidus?

Monday 12 December 2011

2012, Jubilee, Olympics And A Snap Election?

When Her Majesty succeeded her father in 1952 she was monarch of an Empire in the process of being ended in collapse by her Ministers and a United Kingdom glued together by increasing social spending and promises for the future. It was pinch and scrape for most but there was a hope for better things.

By 1977, at 25 years the glue had begun to fail because much of the spending had been badly handled and too many promises could not be afforded. So her Ministers had opted for a rough and ready merger with Europe, dumped what was left of the vision of Empire, collapsed the nation’s finances and had brought in the IMF to supervise her Silver Jubilee.

In 2002, at the 50 year Golden Jubilee the difficulties in her family and other changes made the celebrations more muted. Especially in that she now had Ministers pathologically resentful about being upstaged by anyone or anything. This lot on the back of cheap oil and cheap money had sold out to financial interests and allowed Europe to collapse our sovereignty.

So in the 2012 Diamond Jubilee, Her Majesty will be presiding over Ministers who have witnessed the collapse of Europe triggered by a collapse in the financial sector with all the prospect of a collapse in any real future for the UK. The question now at the end of 2011 is which Ministers might these be?

There are all the signs to an ancient election watcher that the Prime Minister could be in process of getting his nags to the starting tapes for an early snap election when the runes and the weather forecasts are right. Could it be February?

If he calls the race right we could be looking at a Conservative Government very different in membership from the present Coalition Collection, now going at sale price as the lease runs out.

If he is wrong we will be looking at a Labour Government whose functioning model will probably resemble Fred Karno (see Wikipedia) more than any of the usual political philosophers. These Ministers could finish the job off in the way of collapses.

Either way the Olympics Ceremonies may be amongst the last she undertakes of a UK in any visible shape economically or politically. She will have gone from being the heir to a huge Empire to being the last monarch of the UK. What will History make of this?

By the time of the next Jubilee Her Majesty may find herself in Tamworth as Queen of Mercia, or if she is lucky down at Winchester as Queen of Wessex. If it is worse it will be Edinburgh as Queen of Scotland trying to sort out all the factions. The really bad one would be York or Durham as Queen of Northumbria.

The locomotive above was built for the LMS in 1935 and was named “Silver Jubilee” for King George V.

Happy New Year.

Saturday 10 December 2011

When Digging Holes Know When To Stop Digging

With Cameron saving the Hedge Funds, Sarkozy trying to save his skin and Merkel desperate to save the Landesbanks, it was always going to be very difficult. Then there is the disconnection between most of media reporting and reality.

Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England says the situation is impossible for the UK to control. President Obama on the other hand has implored Cameron to exercise some control to save the Euro in order to save his Presidential election prospects from a Euro bust.

However, something is changing notably the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation that might deliver a cooler spell in the coming years, hat tip AK Haart, which could have marginal economic effects at a time when the margins are critical.

Amidst all the excitement at what is going on in outer space with planets in far galaxies and super Black Holes, Nicholas Shaxson points out that there is a Black Hole rather nearer home:

As for what was really going on in Brussels, another hole of a different kind, Richard North has his own ideas:

I hope that the first footer for 2012 will be able to find a piece of coal. We might need it.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Happy Holiday

With many of the Western economies unable to stand much in the way of oil price increases and many of the Middle Eastern countries unable to cope with much in the way of oil price reductions the basics are not looking good.

At the same time China needs to keep trading to keep its economy on the go and to enable their balance of payments surplus to fund the need for savings and growth. The same Western economies recently run on consumerism, debt and many with balance of payments deficits cannot continue on this basis.

Elsewhere, it is being pointed out that the Euro crisis is not simply about debt. It is about gross distortions and imbalance in the balances of payments as well. To do something about the debt will impact on the balances.

The whole lot has been kept going by free and unlimited flows of capital in a global market and these are dictated not by national interests or indeed rational markets but by the need to rack up the figures and keep things moving.

So some are saying that just as other things will have to change so will the whole notion of free capital flows and unchecked financial operations, much of it tax light or free. But the means to do this are beyond most governments.

Also, some governments see their role is to defend these free capital flows because of their local interests and the influence wielded by those running the companies involved.

Consequently there is little coordination of policies despite all the meetings and the spin as politicians frantically try to put together deals to keep the various shows on the road.

The chaos mongers are taking bets on which is the next big one to go in the world of banks and finance. There are a select group of leading candidates any one of which could cause a major panic and lead to bigger but not better bail outs and the rest.

Enjoy the festive season.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Prayer For Today

Today is St. Nicholas’s Day, celebrated around Europe and the Balkans by a number of Christian faiths. The story takes various forms and different aspects but essentially he was a one man benefits agency over the turn of the 3rd and 4th Centuries.

The story has taken another form in some particular Western countries with the Saint being better known as Santa Claus or metamorphosed into Father Christmas. In our way of thinking he comes up with gifts and goodies for the kids until they learn better.

This week we have stories that suggest that not only are saints or the lessons they taught not much taken notice of but that the essence of our society is taking away rather than giving.

One of our leading banks, HSBC (aka Shanghai Lil’s) has been fined and required to compensate by the FSA for £40 million because of gross malpractice. Apparently, after HSBC took over a known and respected financial firm NHFA in 2005 the targets they were set and the methods of operation they were encouraged to use royally screwed vulnerable 80 year olds trying to cover any future care costs.

Also, their has been disquiet in Parliament that because of the lack of financial controls in the companies that own Care Homes and the extractive policies they have adopted there is another major crash impending.

Southern Cross last year failed putting 31,000 very old in care homes at risk. This is a sector in difficulty and now failing to provide for or deal with the most extreme cases of need.

Not only have the aged had a pensions squeeze of one sort or another and the interest rates on savings drastically reduced many have been the losers in one bank fiasco or another.

Sir Fred Goodwin, late of RBS, may have accepted a reduced pension to the pittance of about half a million a year but some of his former customers were reduced to almost zero.

The reductions in local government spending are alleged to mean reduced care cover and less financial support coupled with higher charges with what is called “Care In The Community”. Many of those affected will be getting much less and their home districts now do not offer much in the way of community.

Those living in retirement flat developments also have been on the wrong end of property management services putting financial extraction to meet targets set by speculative investors way ahead of services. A large part of this sector is now in trouble and may end up controlled by some of the most rapacious private equity firms.

Recently, some of the stories emerging from the NHS and the hospitals have been suggesting that absence of care or of any expertise in dealing with the old in the context of a target driven management culture has caused major failures.

Perhaps all we can do is pray to St. Nicholas.

Monday 5 December 2011

The End Of Government As We Know It

Well, I told you so. Today a brief item slipped into the news mentioned that there is to be a hurried recruitment of 24,000 people to beef up security for the Olympics. Quite who they will be is not clear but added costs of £271 million are flagged.

Also, not clear is how they are to be organised, trained and deployed. This is not looking good. The costs admitted are probably only the calculation of what will be paid out. What will not be admitted is all the other hidden costs. Think half a billion or so and you may get close.

Was it on Tuesday 12 May 2009 when I posted a longish think piece on Olympics Security, never mind other later items referring to this? How come the vast number of civil servants, consultants and those in all the agencies and organisations who were charged with running the show did not realise what would be needed?

It is just another gross example of the gathering collapse of government and administration in the UK. “The Mail” today had an item in its money section that has been picked up on the web. Within the HMRC tax authority there is now a group of whistle blowers called “Dissent” campaigning against what they call the endemic corruption, ineptitude and mismanagement in that department.

So we have a financial crisis in which fiscal policy is a critical area and where the government needs to raise its revenue effectively and fairly. Yet the HMRC staff is up in arms against the failures of their bosses to run the revenue collection either fairly or properly.

Add to this some of the other blunders and barmier passages of events in the last few months, there is a long list of them and it raises the question of can this lot do anything right or trusted with any of our money?

Last night, Robert Peston in the first part of a two part series “The Party’s Over, How The West Went Bust” attempted an explanation of the present troubles. At least he was not being optimistic. One striking aspect of this was when he was talking to people in China about their urge to save.

The message was simply that they needed to have money in hand in the event of illness, to pay their way without credits and for their old age. China may be communist but there is a singular lack of social security or cheap health facilities.

The inference, which was not picked up, was that we can no longer continue to have open access and provision on demand for either social security, pensions or health. In short the implication is that we cannot afford to have a National Health Service of the kind we have had in the past.

So what kind of mess will our government make of the transition from a society which has come to expect so much to one that is going to get so little?

Sunday 4 December 2011

Money May Not Make The World Go Round

Managing a currency is not easy, even if a state has considerable control over its affairs and has a high level of self sufficiency. Managing a currency that serves many other countries one way or another, has an international role in trade and banking but is critical to the health of your own economy is exceptionally difficult.

Looking down the centuries of history the lesson is that it is impossible to do without periods of severe stress, endless difficult “no right answer” decisions and the certainty of eventual collapse due to the internal contradictions, war or unforeseen disaster.

In other words, the game is up for the period when we have had three major currency systems operating on this basis. The Euro issues are well enough known in our media as we see what is happening at present.

The Dollar, once under the control of the US Government but which has come to have a life of its own has just been used to save the Euro. The price will have to be paid by additional strains on that currency which is already vulnerable and in trouble.

The UK pound, that once ruled the waves, is in a kind of Mexican Standoff with both the Euro and the Dollar. Were the UK to be remotely independent and in control of its own affairs then it might find its own solution.

But it has handed so many powers to the EU, for so long has been Airstrip One for the USA and has allowed The City to become so embroiled with Wall Street activities that it now in a deep deep hole.

The USA wants us to help to sort out and buttress the Euro. The Euro wants us to give financial support but otherwise stay out of the way because we will only mess up. The City wants us to use the opportunities offered by the Euro’s troubles to bash the Euro. Wall Street also wants to bash the Euro but nobody to know.

At one time London was central to the financial and money systems of the Empire. We know how that ended after we ran out of money in the 1940’s. Then we had thirty years of trying to run an economy that kept the Sterling Area afloat. That ended badly with a wreck of an economy saved by North Sea Oil and Gas.

On that basis we moved on to a “service” economy expansion with financial services being a major feature, tied in to a network of tax havens and global systems. That is now at an end but we cannot accept that it has gone for good.

Also gone is the Euro as it was intended to be and whose future is clouded at least. Then there is the dollar and how long it can continue in its present form. The one certainty is that its past role is finished as well.

So what are we left with?

Friday 2 December 2011

Hide And Seek

Number One Hyde Park has been well publicised in the media as the ultimate London property development. The prices are said to be from £3 million plus for a shoebox one bedroom flat to £36 million for a posh penthouse.

In its way it is a microcosm of the insanities of the UK property market as well as an extreme example of how wrong our money system is going. The latest information is that a large number of the flats are not paying in council tax to the local authority.

This is Westminster Council, the home of our seat of government where you might expect a greater attention and drive to get in the revenues. But it seems there are obstacles. The first is that the developers and sellers of the flats claim that they do not “know” who owns them.

That the Candy brothers are less able to identify their customers than the chap who sells garden sheds down the road from us is a source of wonder to me given the extent and nature of administrative and legal services available to them, but there you go. Even the biggest beasts can be totally incompetent.

Or perhaps it might raise some interesting questions about the sales tactics. One matter is how the prices were originally “benchmarked”. There is the smell of the “huckster’s plant” about this. Have someone put up a big bid early and all else will follow.

Candy brothers are well connected with other London property players so they would not have too much trouble finding a helpful friend. Especially, as amongst their closer contacts there were some who really needed to protect whatever wealth they could rescue from the demands of anxious creditors and others.

Legally, of course it is all shipshape and trim and not a speck to be seen. The owners of the flats are all business people with complex financial structures. These are the kind that disappear wealth from beyond these shores through a chain of secrecy jurisdictions to a place that nobody can find.

Least of all the tax gatherers of Westminster City Council. What is really odd about the whole business is the annual Council Tax payable is reported to be £1375 a flat. This figure may surprise most readers and it is likely that very many people would be delighted to have any flat or home, Knightsbridge or wherever where the total Council tax payable was as low as this.

How did they manage it? If it is correct it must be legal. Yet there are the most elaborate arrangements in place to avoid it on behalf of some of the richest people on the planet. Or would they rather not be identified for reasons we can only speculate about?

The problems relating to this kind of thing in the property world are well known. Apparently, the covering up of ownership information enables avoidance of stamp duty and a range of other taxable charges and expenses.

Quite how much in total a wealthy property investor can avoid or evade is astonishing. The national estimates for this are staggering in the context of our present fiscal situation.

From what is known about some of the flats from the back of my personal random memory between the ears came a little voice saying “’Ullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo.” Names emerged from the mist of Scotch there. These are well known to many people in and around the London elite and their connections.

That the owners are truly anonymous is highly unlikely. If I am right not only do many know who they are but they are also major donors to the Conservative Party with a direct line to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

And nobody dare breathe a word.

Thursday 1 December 2011

LSE Resignations Required

The Woolf Report on the questions arising from the Libyan connections at LSE and the award of a Ph.D. degree to Saif Al Gaddafi has been published. There has been a good deal said about this in the past and the damage done to the reputation and standing of the School. The full report is here:

It is lucky perhaps that the report has emerged in a week when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has presented the Autumn Statement, the strike of public sector workers over pensions has dominated the media, notably the BBC, and the Euro and world financial situation had reached crisis point.

Additionally, in the last couple of weeks in the UK media there has been a lot of attention paid to the nature of investigative journalism. It is striking that so much of this is directed at personal interest stories and there is almost a complete absence of attention to major political and financial matters, such as who is buying whom?

From my reading of the report and the questions that arise in my mind in my purely personal opinion it is time for Peter Sutherland, Chairman of the Council and Court of Governors of the LSE to resign forthwith. It is also my view that Cherie Blair, unmentioned in the report, should consider her position as Governor.

The picture above is a bridge school in the Student Common Room possibly at about the time when Lord Woolf was studying there. Would he have been going to win the rubber or just engaging in a defensive ploy?