The Lunatics are on the Grass

 

“The lunatics are in my hall
“The papers hold their folded faces to the floor
“And every day, the paper-boy brings more” (Pink Floyd, Brain Damage)

More than forty years after Pink Floyd released “Dark Side of the Moon”, the lunacy continues and only the faces in the photos have changed.  Each day, I read the newspapers with increasing concern.  Is it old age?  Or am I right to be so stunned that I struggle to find the coherent thread that links the stories? And so I decided to explore that link.

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Who’s Who in the Office

This week, The Times reported under the headline “American psycho on the path to power“, a study by the University of Oxford assessing the extent to which characters  were psychopaths.  Allocating a score of up to 28 in each of 8 characteristics, the Psychopathic Personality Inventory determined that Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump, is more psychopathic than Hitler, Napoleon and Nero.

I recall management training courses characterising certain people in the workplace, which I thought worth summarising here.  There have been many authoritative studies around work-personalities. This is not one of them, and it is intended to amuse.
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Quarterly tax returns – HMRC’s thirst for knowledge

… about us.

HMRC published its consultation papers on 15th August called “Making Tax Digital” along with a series of other matters. Originally it was called “Making Tax Easier”. I assume they omitted the words, “to Collect” in error.  The Telegraph focused on the draconian penalty regime proposed (The Telegraph, 16 August 2016).  The Times was most interested in the new proposed powers of HMRC to penalise advisers involved in tax avoidance.

These proposals go to the heart of the relationship between government and the people. HMRC seeks powers to require unpaid work from citizens and will find itself destroying the understanding that used to exist. The relationship appears to be broken, and it seems like time to rethink it.

For centuries, tax was understood as government taking a share and using it as it saw fit. Excess taxation toppled Kings. Now, the people, and sometimes the media, are complicit in creating the illusion that tax equates to charity.  Tax is necessary for society to work, but it is not inherently a benign thing.

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“Our wills and fates do so contrary run…

London Skyline

“… that our devices still are overthrown.
Our thoughts are ours, their end none of our own.” (W Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Similarly, the Romans said: “men make plans and the gods laugh”, and nowadays folk say “random, yeah?”.  What we know is that things never turn out as we expect.

Who would have thought that within a few little weeks, we would have voted to leave the EU, seen markets panic and re-stabilise, seen a Prime Minister resign and a new one take his place, our second female Prime Minister,  seen Boris Johnson in the political wilderness only to emerge within a fortnight as the new Foreign Secretary, see England knocked out of Euro 2016 and Portugal the winner, and Andy Murray winning Wimbledon again?  Well, one of those events was fairly predictable.  

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Survey: Has the Brexit Vote Affected You?

UPDATE: The survey below has now closed.  We are really grateful to those who took part and we will be conducting further research in due course.  Please do check back to take part in future surveys.  Our report is available here.

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First there was a vote.  A little more than a week later, we have no political authority in the country and Her Majesty must be thinking something like, “Well that’s a great 90th birthday present guys – I really could do without having to wade in and take control at my time of life” (I am sure the Royal thoughts are more eloquently put).  Apart from Parliament self-destructing, vast numbers of petition signing people threatening to hold their breath till they turn blue, and the leaders of the European Countries getting severe indigestion and threatening handbags at dawn, nothing has actually happened yet. Surely it is not news that half the UK doesn’t like being in the EU, and half does?

Never the less, based on this startling revelation, the banks have downgraded the UK’s credit, Sterling has sunk and rumours abound about the next knee jerk.  In the meantime, Mr Osborne may be thinking of making the UK a corporate tax haven, something we would all welcome?  Some question how on earth government can allow a fractional majority of the votes cast and less than 50% of the voting population to force a change as momentous as our removal from the EU. This is the same government, I think, that has said that, to go on strike in a key industry, a union should have a 60% majority?

We have now heard anecdotally that some overseas businesses are reviewing or deferring decisions to invest in the UK, while others say it is business as usual, and some report increases in sales.  With all the confusion, we would like to find some clarity.  Please would you tell us a little about your experience, and how the EU Referendum is or may be affecting you, by answering a few questions on our survey page?  The survey is open to anyone, but it can only be completed once by each person.  At the end of the survey, you can optionally leave your details and we will use them to contact you with any interesting results.

It takes about three or four minutes to complete.
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Don’t Ask Me What I Think of EU

One of the funniest comments I heard about Brexit this morning, as we awoke to its being a reality, was in response to the question of how Brussels will react. The answer was given “they will be completely shocked”. If it is true, it tells us all we need to know. There was a referendum in the UK yesterday; it was always going to be close. This is not a shocking result, and anyone who is shocked by the outcome must surely be open to accusations of some degree of arrogance.

Politicians will disagree about the political, and economists will disagree about the economic effects.  In my previous blogs I have been clear that I do not believe we can predict what will happen in this Brexit scenario, so speculation is as good as we can get. A look back at history does tell us that humans, economies and people generally are far more resilient than we fear and no doubt we will be living in very interesting times. We should be more than cautious as pundits supply endless opinions on how Brexit will impact on business.

But what of your business and what can we learn?

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