Pre-Budget 2017: No Direction Home

Another Budget: another opportunity to criticise government. Inevitably some will pay more to, or get less from, government. The Press have predetermined that this is a “make or break” Budget for Mr Hammond who must try to fit a large square peg into an impossibly small, round hole. 

He has to meet the popular expectation of entitlement and an even stronger belief that someone else should pick up the tab. Yet, this same population has also set a course into unchartered waters known as Brexit. Continue reading “Pre-Budget 2017: No Direction Home”

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.

Continue reading “The Lunatics are on the Grass”

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?

Continue reading “Don’t Ask Me What I Think of EU”

Nothing to Hide, Anything to Fear?

Alcatraz.jpg

We often hear, “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”?  Were it true, we would not object to the idea that some gentleman from the secret service might listen as we whisper sweet nothings, joke with close friends in a politically incorrect manner, or discuss a private business deal?

Privacy and secrecy are very much a part of business. Confidentiality is fundamental in professional life. Businesses work hard to create contact lists, customer lists, know-how and techniques, and guards them jealously.  Sometimes a non-disclosure agreement is needed to enter into any discussions with companies.  So let us not pretend that transparency in business is widely accepted as beneficial.  It has long been established that there is a need for a balance between the right to privacy, and the public’s right to protection.

But on which side of this balance do the new People of Significant Control Regulations sit?

Continue reading “Nothing to Hide, Anything to Fear?”

Government and Doctors; Just another brick in the wall

There is something inevitable in the march of government to control every element of our lives.  Those who know me, know I am hardly an anarchist.  Yet I feel great distress when I see Parliament, the beating heart of our liberal democracy, “cracking down” as I see it written in the papers, on freedom.  Today it was reported in The Times that doctors, those evil ne’er do wells who scrounge on society to gain knowledge and experience so that, despicably, they might cure the sick and save lives, and thereby, cynically destroy the pensions of those who would have survived anyway, will be forced to enter into contractual obligations to work in the NHS for some time after qualifying.  This used to be called servitude, I fear.

Let us completely forget that these same people, whose typical earnings working for the NHS might double those of a London tube driver as they reach the top of their profession, are the highest performing academics in the land, who must give up at least seven years of their lives to impoverished study to reach their heady status.  Let us also forget that these folk may indeed have just a little more value to society than, well most politicians, lawyers and accountants.  Let us cast from our minds that doctors use their knowledge to heal us and our children. Oh… And let us also ignore the fact that the NHS is a monopoly employer, the only choice in the UK for a Junior Doctor to work, even now.  In doing this, we wage a righteous war on those who have the effrontery to consider that hard work, intelligence and achievement, along with helping society and humanity should ever be rewarded.  But what has this got to do with business?
Continue reading “Government and Doctors; Just another brick in the wall”

Libor Liberty

Today it was reported that a banker has gone to jail for fourteen years for fixing LIBOR. I cannot help but feel that somehow, something does not sit right here. Can a single individual truly fix the inter-bank lending rate? If so, should we blame him when he does so, or should we blame the system? Is it only me that sees this as having something of the scapegoat about it?

Banking is all about buying and selling money, and taking margins between the two. So, a banker will always do his best to get the best margin he can in any financial transaction; that is his job. Now it does seem that Mr Hayes may have gone out of his way to manipulate the system in a manner that is unacceptable, but he could not have done so single handed. Nor could he have done so if the system he was manipulating were sufficiently robust to prevent manipulation.
Continue reading “Libor Liberty”