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Brexonomics: are the entrails good or bad?

“Donald Trump showered Nigel Farage with praise as the leader who had helped Britain regain control of its borders”. – BBC News report, 25 August

Watching the KKKonservatives

By: Laura Facebook, Chief Political Correspondent ©2016. @laurasweeplace

If I’d had breakfast yet, I’d be hard put to keep it down. As it is, undigested coffee is seeping uncontrollably from the corners of my mouth.

Homo Ubiquitous, that man Farage has popped-up again, this time as the star turn at a Trump convention in, of all places, Mississippi, urging Republican voters to ‘get their boots on’ and go out and vote for the 70-year-old New Yorker as the quickest way to ‘smash’ the political establishment.

That’s the same establishment, presumably, that guarantees the 14th Amendment rights of Afro-Americans in Mississippi ?

The noisome apparition has been greeted ecstatically by the KKKonservatives of the new American right; the so-called ‘alt-right’ who, political commentators are increasingly noting, are attempting a re-set by giving new intellectual weight and respectability to the sameold ideas of racial separatism, virulent antisemitism and Aryan superiority propounded back in the C19th by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

(Add to that some forthright ideas on gender balance, and you can turn the clock back to the 1950s, basically, before the shame of Vietnam, when Murca was great, cars had fins and women with domestic appliances ruled the kitchen.)

The report continues: ‘Mr Farage spoke about when President Obama came to the UK and urged voters to remain in the EU. “He talked down to us,” he said, “he treated us as nothing.”‘

Do we detect faint racialist overtones in that remark? Short, that is, of using the uppity n-word? It seems the real insecurity Trump (who believes nothing himself) is tapping into is not immigration, income inequality, gay marriage or terrorism: it’s letting women and blacks upstairs in the White House.

Trump has for some time been feeding on the absurd idea that Farage, a demagogic succubus on the European Parliament, from which he hypocritically draws a generous salary and even more generous expenses, is some kind of rallying point for disaffected British rednecks dreaming of overthrowing a rigged political system that has failed to deliver prosperity and equality – respec’ – for the white working-class, encouraged multiculturalism and recklessly imported dangerous foreign elements in the name of soft-left liberalism.

A privately educated, former City commodities broker, Farage presents shamelessly at the saloon-bar of publicity as a pub-going, warm-beer-drinking, anti-smoking-banning, anti-corporatist, anti-political-correctness, spivvily dressed Good ol’ Boy, embodying all the solid British lower-middle-class virtues of literary fiction: Mr Pooter Goes to War Against The Foreigners. He would not look or sound out of place in a 1950s Ealing comedy movie.

Trump in turn has hailed Farage as the author of Brexit – the liberator from European tyranny of oppressed Sunderland fish-porters; and has wrapped himself in our Union flag, whose several symbolic components he doesn’t understand, comparing Brexit to the freedom he proposes to deliver to traduced white America from the global corporatism of the corrupt State in Washington DC – a corporatism his supporters seem unable or unwilling to accept he personally espouses with every dollar deposited in the Bank of Donald.

(Has no-one noticed, btw, that Washington is currently threatening dire economic reprisals against the EU for suggesting big US tech corporates might pay their tax in the countries where they make huge profits, instead of in countries where they don’t? Just this knowledge must surely… no, forget it. We’re not interested in reality, only reality TV.)

Farage, let us recall, could not even persuade the deeply disaffected voters of Thanet South last year to put him in Westminster, despite the endless uncritical publicity afforded to him by the petrified wankers at BBC News, and what the Telegraph – a newspaper often called the Tory bible – reported on 16 June this year:

“An analysis of election records shows that Ukip was potentially £10,500 over the legal spending limit of £15,000 in the constituency.”

A finding naturally denied by the shambolic proto-party, even for whom its founder, Farage, a notorious expenses-eater careless of protocol, has proved too toxic.

But so what of it? The end, as Trump might say, surely justifies the means. Brexit and the Great American revival, both bear a pallid resemblance to the so-called Arab Spring: the street-protest of the over-governed.

Yet both carry the danger of a repressive backlash amid the death of democracy. Real revolutions often start with moments like these, and always end in imaginative new tyrannies.

 

We have a representative democracy, not mob rule: I voted for my local MP, not for you lot. I did not give you permission to take away my citizenship of Europe.

The Brexit paradox

People on the telly are still reminding me, it was immigration that was the number one reason people voted to Leave.

So, there’s a paradox here.

Proposition a) holds that the UK has been filling with unwanted foreign labour by the million, ‘swamping’ our services, our limited housing stock and culture, whatever Brexit voters mean by culture; stealing our jobs, undercutting our wages.

Proposition b) however argues that, of the three key labour market indicators: numbers unemployed, job vacancies and wages, we find the first is continuing month-on-month to come down, the second to go up, and the third also to go up, by about 2.5 per cent a year.

These two propositions cannot sit side by side. As more people arrive and take jobs, miraculously more jobs become available, and at higher wages? There is a paradox here, which Brexit voters are unwilling or unable to confront: the world is not as they see it!

I am genuinely sorry to keep trolling these people. I do so, only ironically. Let me address you directly instead.

Why I remain so angry and depressed is because you have effectively imprisoned me on this little island where I was born 67 years ago next month, stuck in a dogshit-strewn urban nightmare among a race of violent, acquisitive, over-sentimentalised, shaven-headed, tattooed barbarians, with a Tory government or worse promoting self-interest for the foreseeable future – Labour will not get back in my lifetime.

You have betrayed the trust others had in our country, put our intellectual capital; and, indeed, your precious sovereignty, up for sale to the least-moral foreign bidder – Chinese investment in buying-up UK businesses is running at £6bn and counting – and condemned millions of your fellow Britons to queue forever at the immigration desks of Bulgarian airports as second-class citizens in the wider (and more important) polity of Europe, where we are about to have lesser rights than the nearest Latvian streetsweeper (not that I am disrespecting streetsweepers, or Latvians. You know what I meant: it’s an analogy.).

No, I am not going to ‘make the best of it’, I will not ‘come together in a spirit of unity and reconciliation’, nor ever accept that you have done the wise, the sensible, the normative thing, nor that your vote was based on any actual knowledge or apprehension other than that which you have gleaned over years from the sleazy, lying headlines of the Daily Express; when it wasn’t inaccurately predicting the next weather doom.

We have a representative democracy, not mob rule. I voted for my local MP, not for you lot and your disappointed whingeing noises, which you imagine pass for political philosophy. I did not give you permission to take away my citizenship of Europe, and you had no right to do it.

Forgive me if I take these matters personally, but just fuck you, okay?

Cretin.

 

Whatever the outcome, people will try to make money out of it if they can.

Follow the money!

By: Sterling Pound, Economics correspondent ©2016 . @willyswinebaruntil4.30

Two months after the referendum, economists, politicians and media pundits still don’t agree on whether ‘Brexit’ has had a good or a bad outcome for the British economy.

The point all of them seem to be missing with the deadly efficiency of an armless man reading Braille is that we haven’t yet exited the EU. Article 50 has not been triggered. Negotiations have not started. It’s probably going to take two years to get the protocols agreed and specialist teams in place qualified to renegotiate dozens of complicated trade deals; and even a week, as they say, is a long time in politics.

Any movement in the economy is therefore likely to be prompted only by international money-market speculators or changes in Government policy that are unlikely to be announced until the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, and is still subject to long-term cycles that remain unaffected by the vote. It takes time to change the course of a supertanker; albeit a rusting one with weeds wrapped around the prop shaft and barnacles fouling its bottom (that’s enough nautical imagery. Ed.).

Whatever the outcome, people will try to make money out of it if they can. That is where you need to look for the causes and effects of Brexit, not in the high street. Follow the money!

The positive indicators hailed by Brexiteers this week have the feeling of grasping at straws and fall apart under the simplest analysis.

The positive news that there are more tourists visiting Britain, for instance.

I ran a sort of hotel for several years, so I know that, to begin with, tourism is cyclical. It has its up years and its down years. This is an up year. Chinese families don’t suddenly decide at the end of June to visit Britain next week, just because there’s been a referendum; Europeans may only be popping over to say goodbye!

A key reason is that many fewer people are going to France, Europe’s most popular destination, this year because of fears of terrorism, wildcat strikes, riots and ‘migrants’. They may be coming here instead. Britain has not had a major terrorist incident for nearly ten years, there are fewer unprocessed ‘migrants’, we last had a riot in 2011 and we have tougher labour laws (yes, we can make our own laws, even in the EU!). The weather hasn’t been too bad, either.

More obviously, the 12 per cent fall in the value of Sterling worldwide has made Britain a cheaper destination.

For the same reason, it has made overseas holidays more expensive for Britons. More of us are ‘staycationing’ (Shudder. Ed.). The summer population swell produced by those two statistics combined is perhaps the main cause of the four per cent increase in consumer spending in July: there are simply more shoppers around.

In addition, rising wages – especially with the ‘living wage’ increase – have marginally offset price rises for the first time since the 2008 crash, releasing pent-up demand. Another attraction was almost certainly the summer sales, with discounting typically at 15 per cent in all of the major high street chains. Borrowing, too, has become a bit cheaper.

So more spending has nothing to do with Brexit boosting confidence, as has been claimed. It may be that in non-food sectors more people are buying now, hedging against future rising prices. Prices will have to rise, because we import more than we export.

Brexiteers are pointing wildly to the benefits for exporters of a lower pound making British goods cheaper abroad. Low-wattage thinkers, they may not recognise the corollaries, that a) lower prices = lower profits = lower tax-take, and b) imports will have to cost more; not just finished goods, but components and raw materials too. Rising ‘factory gate’ prices are a harbinger of trouble ahead.

With fuel prices also rising (a litre of unleaded at my local garage has gone from 99 pence in June, to £1.14p today) many things are going to get more costly in the Autumn. The Bank of England is running out of wriggle-room on interest rates to combat rapid price inflation; which rose to 1.6 per cent last month, four times its previous rate.

Rising oil prices are also good news for Nicola Sturgeon. The main barriers to further SNP ambitions for Scottish independence were the possibility of a Remain vote, now gone; and permanently low oil prices hitting the Scottish economy’s mainstay industry. So Brexit combined with rising oil prices may well cause the breakup of the UK, we’ll have to see.

The most volatile indicator of price rises for imports is surely the fresh groceries sector: in my local supermarket, a 50g pack of trimmed Kenyan stick-beans has gone in the last few days from 50p to 57p, almost exactly matching the fall in the value of the pound.

But unemployment has fallen, hurrah!

Well, despite the ‘swarm’ of immigrant labour that Brexiteers are itching to reverse, unemployment has been falling month on month for several years, job vacancies and wages gradually rising. It’s another long cycle and nothing to do with the Brexit vote.

Unemployment always falls in the summer as seasonal jobs become available and thanks to Ian Duncan Cunt, benefit claimants can now be forced to take them. It hasn’t fallen by nearly as much as it should have in July, only 8,500, so that’s actually a negative indicator.

And look, there’s been no effect on property prices! More people are buying flats and houses!

I wish they’d buy mine, it’s coming up four years it’s been on the market. Only, I’d planned to retire abroad, and with the pound on the floor it’s going to be much more expensive to move.

When I started looking in 2012, I could buy an agreeable €100,000 cottage property in central Portugal for £72,000. It’s now an unaffordable £85,000; the price to me has gone up, but the value hasn’t.

That’s if triggering Article 50 doesn’t ring down the curtain on Britons’ right to buy elsewhere in Europe.

It could be that I become a prisoner in my own country; unable to afford to emigrate and with no automatic right to buy, as a pensioner I’m not economically attractive enough to qualify for permanent residency.

Thanks, irresponsible Brexit thickos.

Have the economists forgotten, George Osborne made it less tax-efficient to buy-to-let? There was a Gadarene rush of speculators to beat the tax change. You can’t buy a property overnight, on average it takes four months to complete a purchase. The bulge is still working through.

Among other reasons for more people buying properties; if indeed they are, property market statistics being only as reliable as whichever building society is publishing them, could simply be that interest rates came down in August, making mortgages cheaper. And another: as rents have become unaffordable, it’s probably cheaper now to buy if you possibly can.

If there are buyers in the market, prices will not fall. So the referendum is unlikely to have had much or any immediate effect on domestic property. Remain economists predict a long, slow decline.

Commercial and investment property however, especially in London, has undoubtedly been hit by a loss of confidence. Investors are waiting to see what happens, and that could mean a two-year moratorium. Some overseas banks, too, have stopped lending to property investors looking to buy in the UK.

Not such good news for London’s obscenely wealthy estate agents, better for ordinary buyers and London’s new and so-far dispiritingly ineffectual mayor, Sadiq Khan.

So, no, Brexit has as yet had little effect; as any sensible person might expect. Economists, politicians and media pundits, however, have to justify their impressive salaries somehow.

Stuck in the UK for the summer hols, Brexonomics is unlikely to resolve the arguments between them anytime soon.

 

Ring-fence

I suppose that can’t be the smudged fingerprint of Brexit being lifted by the Sellotape of news I’ve just received from my mobile service provider, EE – the confusingly Franco-German virtual monopoly owned in the UK by BT?

Namely, news of a slightly above inflation 20 per cent price hike for extra-contractual usage of unimportant services such as mobile-to-mobile, country-to-country and ‘freefone’ 0800 calls?

Accompanied by BT’s usual weasel-shit about needing to invest in 4G?

(That’s the new whatever it is that’s caused a virtual blackout of reception in my area, so when your phone rings you have to rush out into the street to answer it or get a No Service message, and find your neighbours all standing on their doorsteps too, struggling to make calls over the din of the traffic.)

It has nothing to do, I imagine, with the EU ruling that has forced EE to abandon its prohibitively expensive and opaque structure of roaming charges in a virtually borderless Europe? Which may someday soon no longer apply to UK travellers?

 

Postscriptum: Nature Notes

A rose by any other name

The rose bush in my garden is in bloom for the second time since June. It’s not quite normal: this second flush comes usually much later in October.

The rose has long been a poetic metaphor for the transient beauty and fragrance, especially of young women.

Odd therefore that honeybees do not seem to feed on roses: flies do, however.

 

 

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