Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

26 to 1 – auf wiedersehen Grossbritannien!

Notwithstanding my own thoughts about Cameron’s folly, the view of Europe’s media is very interesting indeed. Today I have scanned the German media and found, without exception, that the UK is isolated, will continue to be so, and is the butt of many jokes. ZDF is never shy of inserting amusing graphics into its reports. Last night the map of Europe had the UK sprouting sails and heading west. The broadcaster was also keen to utilise those very useful statues by Anthony Gormley (right) that are gradually submerged by the oncoming tide to make some obscure point! Images of Victoria and allusions to empire also accompany harsh commentary.

Incredulity, is perhaps, the word that sums up much of the thinking in Germany. The Suedeutsche Zeitung broadsheet newspaper this morning dedicated a whole page to Cameron. He was thoroughly caricatured and that British sense of ‘fog cuts off the continent’ mentality was again exploited.

How interesting, moreover, that it is that a few weeks and months ago we were discussing which country will be leaving the Eurozone. Now the talk is about the ‘inevitable’ exit of the UK from the EU. What an image, also, of Cameron travelling back to Chequers, his country retreat, and inviting 30 or so fellow sceptics for dinner and a toast to a crazy and inept decision and negotiating position. Would it not have been better to have invited 30 ‘wise’ people to discuss how to move forward, how to retrieve the situation? This is not a time for backslapping, surely?

Then on the Today programme, this morning, George Osborne defended Cameron and the decision. John Humphrys expressed that European incredulity. And Osborne failed to explain how the decision was in the UK’s interest. Does it protect the City? Not according to the Editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber, also interviewed by Humphrys immediately prior to Osborne’s interview. Again, I have recorded these two interviews and uploaded here. The financial institutions will trade where it is in their best interests. Suddenly Frankfurt looks attractive.

What about the Coalition? The German media say little about it; it is incidental. In the UK, what should we expect? One would think that Clegg would call time and force a General Election. He surely senses, though, that that would be the end of his party. They would no longer be in coalition. The ‘power’ and privilege will have gone. For the German TV, Miliband is also a marginal figure. It is all about Cameron.

Osborne seems to think that the UK is going to be able to stop the 26 from using the institutions of the EU to establish a political and fiscal union. The UK is going to tell the other members that they cannot have their discussions over the Eurozone in EU buildings – I think not!

It is clear from the reporting in Germany that the UK is on its way out of the Union. I sense not only is it that the UK is on the way out, but it is also a case of good-riddance!

I was anxious going across the border last night. The border guard scrutinised my passport closer than normal. I suspect, when I depart tomorrow evening, they will not even look at it. Good riddance, Englander.

Michael Heseltine was also on Today – his interview is worth listening to (0810); he does his best not to criticise, but clearly he was not at the Chequers dinner last night.

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Giving Northern Rock away

The sale of Northern Rock  to Virgin at a loss to the taxpayer of £450m demonstrates something. First, nothing has been learned from recent experience. All this nonsense about bringing competition to the high street is meaningless in the world of financial services. One would have thought that if the government had wanted to develop competition then a second option might have been better.

That second option might have been remutualisation. Was it not the demutualisation of Northern Rock that got it into bother in the first place? And what happened to the government’s proclaimed love affair with co-operative ownership? I would have thought that mutual ownership was a viable and desirable option. The high street would have benefitted, businesses short of capital might have benefitted? But oh no. The taxpayer subsidises the transfer of a valuable asset – tens of thousands of viable mortgages – to an already very wealthy man. However, Jill Treanor writing in the Guardian on 2 December sees that large sums of money will also be transferred to existing senior managers:

The annual report for 2010 states that:

“The company will operate a long-term incentive plan for senior employees that will deliver financial rewards if the company achieves certain targets over a three year performance period. As the company did not make Ltip [long-term incentive plan] awards in 2010 it is the company’s intention to make awards in 2011 covering 2010 and 2011. The 2010 award will vest in March 2013 and the 2011 in March 2014 or upon successful exit from temporary public ownership if earlier” (emphasis added).

How convenient that the transfer occurs before the close of the year saving all of that unnecessary waiting around until 2014.

Now I understand.