Daft stuff – you have to laugh

Monday 27th November 2017

Some supreme silliness from the past few days.

First , the idea that the more democratic the  media, the better the news. Tell that to the thousands of Black Friday shoppers on Oxford Street when Twitter and who  knows what other social media exploded with the fear that a terrorist attack was underway.

They all must  have been terrified and angry as Oxford Street went into lockdown and armed police flooded the areas a result of it.

And just in case anyone wasn’t scared enough, those two veterans of urban terrorism reportage  Olly Murs and Russell Brand stirred up a bit more senseless panic with their on the scene comments. Panic had driven normal shoppers into dangerous herd – imagine what targetted social media could do with a mob.

I don’t want to wander down the road of exploring the various political factional advantages of ‘false news’ – that’s something which has been around forever  but which has become more invasive through social media – but I would turn your attention to something similarly dishonest which is a reminder of the bigger battles to come.

Labour’s on a wave right now, surfing the shambles that is Conservative Party ‘policy’. That might explain the behaviour of its shadow chancellor after the Budget.   When pressed  about the cost of his alternative vision of UK plc, he waved away any idea that he should know the detail of the figures. This is the same man who a few weeks ago blithely informed the beasts on the money market desks around the world that there were plenty of plans to defend the pound in the event of a Labour victory and a run on sterling – I doubt that the pound would suffer ,but that’s for another time –  the point is that finance ministers never talk their battle plans, unless they wish to be rubbished and their currency beggared. Look at South Africa.

Never mind Labour’s current obsessions with snowflakes’ sensitivities, sexuality and gender politics – John McDonnell  and his team of advisers need to answer the big questions , even though  they feel  they can avoid them because they’re in opposition, and don’t have access to the nation’s accounts. Neither do I, but I confidently predict that as with the hapless last Labour Treasury Secretary Liam Byrne’s stupid letter to the incoming Tory Chancellor, ‘there’s nothing left.’

Well of course – there never has been and never will be . But a help is to allow businesses to make a taxable profit. Managing ‘there’s nothing left’ is what you do as a Chancellor.

So on to profits – and there’s productivity. It’s a dismal word from the pretty dismal science that is economics. The UK’s bad at it, as the Budget recognised , so today the government stepped in – unveiling a long awaited industrial  strategy aimed at tackling productivity shortcomings in sectors like cars construction and the life sciences.  If you can be bothered, the 255-page white paper tries to prove that the government has the vision. It needs to do something, because after Hammond’s speech, the UK’s financial watchdog cut economic growth forecasts and highlighted longstanding productivity problems.

Yup – on the industrial strategy thing, you’d be a bit of a sad case, like me, to remember the last big attempt  –  the Industrial Economic Development Office, and known, not necessarily with affection , as NEDDY. It was set up in July 1961 by the then Chancellor Selwyn Lloyd, took its form from the French Economic Council and it remained an influential player across the 1970s governments of Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and setting future strategy for UK business and industry . I’m guessing that’s why we all thought buying a Ford, the legendary Dagenham dustbin, or a Morris Marina was a good idea.

It presided , like a corpulent town councillor feeding on itself, over a period of extended economic dull fare , which was only swept away by Margaret Thatcher, two decades on. But of course there is still a palimpsest- The Industrial Strategy Commission.

Business and more importantly entrepreneurs don’t  need a Commission . Government going into business – and I’m not talking about all the back channel mega corporate international lobbying – but the sort of work which might be employing you, or which you are creating, is about as useful as a vicar dad dancing at a teenagers’ party.

‘Strategy’ is this – keep taxes and interventions  low, relax planning, make more bricks ( subject of another blog), encourage skilled immigration, and let go. And tax the rewards later.


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