Wednesday, 30 November 2011

German thaw?

Following the initiative of central banks led by the USA Federal Reserve to save the Eurozone, news that there is a thaw in the German position.

The Daily Telegraph is reporting thus:

'Germany is apparently willing to boost the cash available to the IMF via "bilateral loans", after having said at the G20 summit in Cannes in November that it was against such a move. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said this evening:

QuoteWe are prepared to increase the resources of the IMF through bilateral loans. If the IMF wants to widen its freedom to take action by increasing the special drawing rights, then we are prepared to talk about it. But, to be clear, this is about IMF instruments. Naturally, the details would have to be discussed. Bilateral loans are possible in principle.

This could mean that the 17 eurozone nations lend money directly to the IMF, which then passes it on to struggling states. This gets around the problem with the ECB, which is barred from doing exactly that. '

It is all convoluted.  The sooner the ECB has direct powers the better.

Light relief







Original Harry Ramsdens to close?

Back in the early 1970s I, along with a few colleagues, had to attend a residential course in Huddersfield.

One evening we set off  for the bright lights of Bradford.  We didn't find any.  A visit to a pub with damp seeping down the walls was short-lived.  We headed for the cinema.  What a flea-pit.  The film was terrible and we had the ignomy of being thrown out for being too vociferous in our condemnation.

Bradford, we decided, was not for us.  Off we went to Harry Ramsdens in Guiseley for fish and chips. Excellent fare which made up for our earlier disappointments.  On the way out one of our colleagues made the mistake of saying that he thought the fish and chips had been cooked in oil.  Cue two members of the kitchen staff to frogmarch our colleague into the kitchen. He returned chastened to inform us that he was mistaken: not cooking oil but beef dripping was used.

We roared back to Huddersfield, literally.  Our car had lost the rear end of its exhaust.

A chink of light

As siren voices warn that the eurozone has only ten days to be saved, a chink of light that might just work and buy time for the eurozone and the EU to sort themselves out.

The light emanates from the decision of central banks to take the initiative to ease liquidity in the banking system:


Quote from the Daily Telegraph:

Cutting swap costs is the equivalent of interest rate cuts. These banks are now basically providing unlimited US dollars to banks with which to fund themselves. The banks will be hoping this is a turning point in the crisis.
We do not know what caused this decision, we may never know, but the smart money is on the fact that yields on one-year German debt went negative this morning (paying Germany to lend it money).
This may have been a signal that the money markets were a short shove away from complete collapse.

So whilst the politicians dither the central banks come up with a co-ordinated response.

Meanwhile back in disneyland the politicians continue to fret and disagree.,1518,800762,00.html,1518,800700,00.html

Two interesting interviews:,1518,800351,00.html,1518,800421,00.html

Obviously the intervention of the central banks of itself will not save the euro, but it takes some pressure off the banks, improves sentiment in the markets and may be an element of the key to boost the EFSF.  However the role of the ECB has still to be resolved.

All the financial manoeuvring does not resolve basic problems within the eurozone.  Structural changes are essential, not only in eurozone membership, but also how the EU/eurozone manages financial issues.  The issue of democratic deficit has to be addressed.


The EU's euro commissioner Olli Rehn has just warned that leaders must take a leap of faith with cross-border integration at next week's summit - or see the bloc break up.

QuoteWe have arrived at a point in time where serious choices and commitments have to be made.
Economic and monetary union will either have to be completed through much deeper integration or we will have to accept a gradual disintegration of over half a century of European integration.
The problem will be attempting to get a compromise on treaty changes among all 27 states, something which many believe is highly unlikely. One solution could be a series of "inter-governmental agreements" that link small collections of countries.

See also:

On the central banks bazooka:

See also:

More doom and gloom

Two articles from Spiegel:,1518,800700,00.html
Preparing for the worst: the high cost of abandoning the euro.,1518,800351,00.html
Germany must make a decision or the game is over.

East-West Link

Excellent news that the East- West rail link between Bedford and Oxford is to restored. Part of the route is used by passenger trains, but there is gap between Bletchley and Bicester.  Chiltern Railway is planning to upgrade the Oxford-Bicester section of the route and built a new line to join it to the Birmingham Snow Hill-Marylebone route, this enabling a new London-Oxford service  to be provided.

The link  between Aylesbury and the Bedford-Oxford route is restored as part of the scheme.

Re-opening the lines will benefit Milton Keynes in particular, but it will also provide routes for passengers which avoid London or Birmingham. 

The East-West link's long-term objective is to re-open the route between Cambridge and Oxford to provide a through route for freight traffic from Felixstowe to a range of destinations avoiding routes heavily used by passenger trains.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

All a dither

So, the EFSF fund will not halt the euro crisis.  It is only a few weeks ago that the fund was trailed as the answer to the eurozone's problems.  Another instance of too little too late as the politicians. bicker behind the scenes.

See also:

The following from the report indicates just how bad things are:

Raoul Ruparel, of the respected think-tank Open Europe, said: "The fact banks seem to be hesitant to commit to even one-week ECB deposits highlights just how uncertain the situation has become – banks are keen to hold on to any liquidity given that the situation is now so serious it can change from day to day."

problems, problems, problems

Today the spotlight has been on the UK economy and the promise of years of austerity. 

Meanwhile, problems in euroland continue to mount.  Today, the yield on Italy's sovereign debt went well beyond 7.5%.  So much for market confidence in the puppet installed by the EU to run the country and his band of non-elected appointees.

Spiegel carries an interesting article on how isolated Germany is on its stance on the euro, something this blog has mentioned numerous times.  Will German steadfastness, intransigence or bloody-mindedness (take your pick) prevail?  The title of the article is wrong.  Germany is more isolated.  At least the USA has the support of Blair in Iraq.,1518,800618,00.html

Finally,  an article on the German Constitutional Court  and posisble changes to its powers?  Now who was the last German Chancellor to sweep away constitutional provisions which potentially  stood in his way?,1518,800465,00.html

Monday, 28 November 2011

Away from the Great Wen.

Below is an article by Allan Massie from today's Daily Telegraph.

'Last Friday I was in Newcastle for a book festival. My event was held in the library of the Literary and Philosophical Society, an institution of which I’m (mildly) ashamed to say I knew nothing. It was founded in 1793 as a “conversation club” and its handsome building in the Westgate dates from 1822. Since then it has encouraged the sciences as well as the arts. It was there that George Stephenson showed his miner’s lamp and Sir Joseph Evans demonstrated the electric light bulb in 1879. Indeed the Lit & Phil, as it is commonly known, was the first building in the country to be lit by electricity. Its library – the largest independent one in Britain outside London – is beautiful and flourishing with some 2,000 members.
I came away thinking it was a splendid place, and also reflecting how much England suffered in the 20th century from its metropolitan bias. A healthy country needs strong provinces such as England had in the Victorian Age, the exceptional century in its history, when so much of the cultural and intellectual vitality of the nation was to be found in the North and Midlands rather than in London. Manchester gave the lead in economics and was the first city to have a great resident orchestra, the HallĂ©. Lord Macaulay delivered a speech extolling “the loveliness and intelligence of Leeds”. Birmingham, with Joseph Chamberlain as mayor, embarked on an ambitious, even revolutionary, programme of town planning.
Throughout the North and Midlands imposing municipal buildings, libraries, art galleries, concert halls and universities were built. Most of the centre of Newcastle was constructed over 30 years between 1830 and 1860. It suffered from vile redevelopment in the 1960s, but much that is handsome remains, including the magnificent Grey Street. Centralisation is debilitating. London’s dominance has been bad for England. The strength of Germany’s economy owes much to the country’s federal structure, which has encouraged provincial enterprise and self-confidence.'

I know well some of the great cities of the North and Midlands.  I concur with the sentiments expressed by the author of this piece.  It is why I support the decision to electrify the railway between Leeds and Manchester which will help cut 45 minutes off travel time between Newcastle and Liverpool.  It is why I oppose HS2 which is London-centric and will suck the vitality out of provincial cities.  At one time there was huge civic pride in the achievements of provincial cities and I hope the decision to have elected mayors in some of then  will be a step back to those times.

I cannot help but think that the numerous local government re-organisations have had  a deleterious effect on communities as people have lost a sense of being, as have the councils with their artificial boundaries.  The mistake is going to be repeated with the proposed parliamentary constituency boundaries.  Some of the proposals throw together very strange bed-fellows and will heighten the feeling of dislocation between citizens and politicians.

Another turn of the screw.

The bad news continues:

Like the word metatasising in the articleHad to look it up.

A blog from the past

I wrote the item linked to in January this year. Contrary to the statement there are minor changes to the article I submitted, all grammatical.

Sadly the English Democrats did not take my advice, indeed look to be heading in the opposite direction to the one I commended to them.

Heritage railways

A visit to an heritage railway does not mean always that you can have a ride on a train pulled by a steam locomotive.  When I visited the Mid-Norfolk line travel was courtesy of a diesel multiple unit of 1960s vintage.

In my part of the world we are well served by heritage railways: Kent & East Sussex, Bluebell, Spa Valley and Romney Hythe and Dymchurch, the latter being narrow gauge.  This year the Spa Valley Railway opened the line between Groombridge and  Eridge and it is possible new to travel by a Southern train on the Oxted-Uckfield line, change at Eridge and thence by the Spa Valley to Tunbridge Wells.

Soon, the Bluebell will have cleared the mountain of rubbish in a cutting and made a connection with the Southern at East Grinstead.  See:

The Rother Valley Railway is slowly re-building bridges on the line from Robertsbridge and plans to make an end-on connection just west of Bodiam with the Kent & East Sussex Railway.


A holiday would not be complete without a ride on a heritage railway.  So far I have travelled the East Somerset, West Somerset, Ffestiniog (the orginal railway had only one 'f'), Paignton and Dartmouth, Watercress, South Devon, Talyllyn,  Barnstaple & Lynton, North Norfolk, Swanage, North Yorkshire Moors and Brecon Mountain railways.

Still plenty to go.  In particular I am looking forward to visiting the Severn Valley, Midland Railway Centre, Great Central, Gloucestershire-Warwickshire and Llangollen railways.  The East Lancashire is on my list, but it might prove a tad difficult to persuade my wife to spend a holiday in Bury.

2012 will see us visiting Wales and I have plans to visit the West Highland Railway.

Railway infrastructure developments

In a few weeks time the government will announce its intentions regarding the HS2 link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, along with a branch to Heathrow  See:

Readers of this blog know that I am not in favour of ploughing so much money into this scheme which will offer only marginal improvement in travel time between Birmingham and London.  I accept it will cut times between Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle to London, but my fear is it will only add to London's pull and do little for the likes of Manchester et al.

However, there is some good news around.

The government has approved funding arrangements for the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve which will enable through trains between Burnley and Manchester via Rochdale.

The government has announced spending plans to boost the economy.


The major scheme is to electrify the line between Leeds and Manchester, the effect of which will be to reduce travel time between Liverpool and Newcastle by 45 minutes.

Improvement will be made to the Tyne and Wear metro system.

In London, the Northern Line will be extended to Battersea, so long as an agreement can be reached between the developers of the old Battersea power station site and the government.  Interesting as this scheme is it is a pity that more pressing developments in London were not considered, including the West Hampstead interchange, expanding the Docklands Light Railway to Euston and Kings Cross/St Pancras, Croydon Tramlink, extending the Piccadilly Line to Staines and Slough, or the Bakerloo Line extended at the southern end.

Sadly, no place for the Lewes-Uckfield link in the proposals.

The abyss beckons

Further to my post yesterday:

I note Spiegel has an article today entitled:

Euro Zone on the brink: A Continent Stares into the Abyss.,1518,800285,00.html

Also an article on 'elite' bonds well worth a read.  The tectonic plates in Europe may be on the move.,1518,800332,00.html

See also:

Taking criticism

I have stated before that a person who hands out criticism must be prepared to take it. To this end I publish in full all comments sent to this blog..  I do not publish comments received on Twitter etc.

Recently I was described as being an 'armchair/keyboard activist', and I am of course.  However, I can lay claim to being active in the community.  Reluctantly I am publishing a  list of activities I have engaged in  to counter the criticism I have received.  I shall not publish this post on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ .

1. Current

Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource:  Director. (Former Chair of Fundraising Committee)

West Kent Community Groups Forum: Member

Communities Food Community Interest Company: Founder & Director

2. Former

ACT NOW (Autism Campaigners Together): National Campaign Coordinator.

The Bridge Trust Corporation: (Single person homelessness)   Vice-Chair. (Chair of Fundraising Committee)

Kent Credit Union (proposed) Stakeholder Group: Member

Tunbridge Wells Crisis Recovery: (Drugs and alcoholism): Director

Tunbridge Wells Churches’ Social Responsibility Group: Project Developer, Secretary, Chair.

Good Neighbour Project (Brighter Futures):   Chair

Allsorts Edenbridge Holiday Playgroup Club: Chair

Stangrove Area Community Action Group, Edenbridge: Adviser and Acting Chair

Stanhope REACT, Ashford: (Community Group): Director, Company Secretary and Chair      

Good Neighbour Project (Charity): Chair

LINk Kent Working Group: Elected Member

Sherwood Pre-School Playgroup (Panda): Chair

Voluntary Action West Kent: (previously West Kent Council for Voluntary Service):   Vice- Chair and Chair

St George’s Children’s Community Project: Trustee

Age Concern Tunbridge Wells: Trustee

West Kent Community Legal Services Partnership: Member

High Weald Housing Association: Director

Number One Community Trust: Vice-Chair and Chair. (Acting Manager X 2)

Rusthall Community & Youth Project: Chair and Treasurer

Tunbridge Wells Shopmobility:  Trustee and Secretary

Weald of Kent Crossroads: Chair

Molyneux Almshouses: Trustee

netCredit Union Development Agency (Essex Savers Credit Union): consultant

Bishopsdown Primary School: Governor

St Paul’s Rusthall CofE Controlled Infant: Governor

St Paul’s Rusthall CofE Aided Junior: Governor

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Community Plan Steering Group 2003-4: Chair

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council: Councillor, 1996-2000 (Chair: Audit and Performance Review Committee 1997)

West Kent Savers Credit Union Development Group: Convenor

Tunbridge Wells Community Safety Partnership: Various sub-committees.

CORE – Community of Oak Road Residents: Adviser

Sherwood Peoples’ Action: Adviser

West Kent Service Advisory Team for Older People with Mental Health Issues (KCC Social Services and Invicta Health Trust): Member

Kent County Council: Tunbridge Wells Youth & Community Area Committee: Member

Kent Industrial Mission: Member

St. Peter’s Church, Tunbridge Wells: Parochial Church Council: Member

St. Peter’s Tunbridge Wells CoE Controlled Primary: Governor

Prayer Book Society, Rochester Diocese Branch: Secretary

South Ashford Community Forum: Member

Stanhope PACT: Secretary

Connexions Partnership Reference Group:  Member

Kent County Council Social Services District Partnership  Group:  Member

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Homelessness Strategy Groups:
Adults, Young People                                                                       Member

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Thoughtful article on the future of the EU

Away from the hand-to-hand economic battle, an interesting interview.,1518,799173,00.html

Measured and perceptive.

On the very brink of the abyss

Well, my dear devoted reader, you cannot say you were not warned.  The situation in the eurozone is so dire that respected commentators are suggesting the USA Federal Reserve should come charging to the aid of beleaguered eurozone countries and buy sovereign debt.  If the ECB won't, the Fed will and Germany can go hang.  John Wayne rides again.

Would the American public stand for it and what might the electoral consequences be for Obama?

An apocalyptic article by Evans who manages to mention the dreaded 'f' word at the end of the article.

See also:

IMF to the rescue?

Any IMF involvement in European rescue packages would be partly underwritten by British taxpayers, which could leave this country liable if Italy and Spain did not repay any international loan.
Britain provides 4.5 per cent of the IMF’s funding and would, therefore, face a potential liability to an Italian package of up to €27 billion (£23 billion).

Another year gone

The AGM of Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource Limited is later this week.  Can it be a year since I attended the 2010 AGM?   

Good planning by our finance officer and the chairman ensured we stayed within budget last year and have a realistic financial  plan for the current year.  We have managed to maintain the quality of services to our clients and adapt, at the behest of service commissioners of statutory organisations, changes to the what we provide.

Please visit our website:

BNP: a busted flush?

It is reported today that the English Democrats' National Council has ratified the membership of former BNP big cheese, Eddy Butler.  He is not the first senior former BNP member to join, but is certainly the most influential.  Now he is a member of the ED other ex-BNP members may follow.  Having accepted Butler, the ED is effectively declaring an open door for ex-BNP members to join.  Many ED members have left as ex-BNP members have migrated to the ED. 

I expect the press (the Guardian in particular following its hatchet job report on the ED AGM) will keep a close watch on the ED, as it will not be long before power shifts to the ex-BNP members.  Hopes the ED might have that there will be a big influx of new ex-BNP members may be dashed by developments elsewhere.

An organisation named the Brent Group, supported by Andrew Brons MEP has been busy setting up a 'parallel' organisation to the BNP.


Brons is the Honourary (sic) President of the Group.

Add to the mix the close collaboration being forged between the English Defence League and the  British Freedom Party. there are now three organisations contesting more or less the same ground for members.  Of course the Griffin led BNP is still operational, just.  I am loathe to recite the Last Rites over the BNP, as anything seems possible on the fevered right of British politics.  Somehow though I don't see anything other than BNP's demise as likely, so we may be spared  the sight of Lazarus Griffin.  No pheonix rising from the ashes of the financial fire within the BNP.

Washington Times catches up.

Excellent article in the Washington Times.

Behind the curve, as often is the case with the USA, on what is happening in Europe, nevertheless a powerful review of the democratic deficit in the EU.

My devoted reader will have a keen sense of deja vu.

Food poverty

Food poverty is not something new, it has been around for years.  It is gaining  publicity through the efforts of organisations seeking to bring relief to those in food poverty, but also because the articulate middle-classes are being affected. 

An interesting article may be found here:

The numbers quoted in the report are woefully on the low side.

A right carry on

Recent declarations of undying love and affection between the English Defence League and the British Freedom Party have come as a surprise to some given the titles of the parties.  But no matter, time will tell if this is a match made in heaven or hell.  I note John Bull has been commandeered to the cause.

Meanwhile the English Democrats, have taken to calling themselves 'The English Democratic Party'
in a forlorn attempt to be distinguishable from the far-right English Democratic Party. 

Two examples below of the fodder fed to the troops:

Remember, this garbage emanates from a supposedly serious political party.  Now I have no problem with the ED policy of seeking an English parliament.  However who are the 'We English (who) share a communal history, language and culture'?   What is the culture we share?

The ED is a small insignificant party with a manifesto stating it is a civic nationalist party.  Once you begin to articulate ideas about communal history and culture the emphasis changes.  The ED has become the home of many ex-BNP members.  Have all the ED's immigrants from the BNP forsaken their previous convictions?  What will be the longer-term impact of their membership on the ED, particularly as there has been an exodus of long - standing ED members  concerned at the scale and influence of ex-BNP immigration?

Parish Councils and Councillors

Most people become a parish, district or county councillor, because they wish to do something for their community.  Very few parish councillors are motivated by an overriding desire to further a political career, or a wish to exercise power, or simply because they like the cachet of the title 'councillor'.

Others do 'their bit' for the community by becoming school governors, members of the management committees of voluntary organisations, or volunteering to take on work which will benefit the community: scout leaders, assistants at lunch clubs, youth work.  The list is almost endless.

There are those who take public office and engage in voluntary work. 

All activity for the community is commendable, though it is spoilt by the inevitable self-promoters who like to collect awards, which makes one wonder what their true motivation is.

Most voluntary organisations will snap up a volunteer.  However, a person wishing to be a councillor has to be elected and the electorate will vote in some candidates and reject others.  There is one other important relationship between councillors and the electorate.  Councils have statutory authority to extract money from the pockets of the electorate and then spend it.

So, if I am on the management committee of a charity, most people will have little interest in what I do as I am not taking their money.  However councillors are in the public eye and likely to be the subject of criticism, positive and negative.   A person elected to public office has to expect to be criticised: it goes with the territory.  It really will not do for councillors to say that they are doing their bit for the community, as though that should exclude them from criticism.  If you don't like the heat in the kitchen, leave, after all councillors choose to stand for public office and there are many other ways in which they may serve the community, hidden from the glare of public opinion.

Councillors have to make decisions which are not popular, as the councillors in Penshurst know well  having voted to recommend approval of a planning application for social housing, much to the ire of many of the villagers.

Which brings me to this article:

The proposals seem to be sensible on first impression and I support localism and devolving power downwards.  However, there are problems to be overcome.  Planning committees exercise a quasi-judicial function, which put simply means that applications have to be considered objectively in the context of the planning framework.  In other words, the planning framework, and nothing else, has to be guide councillors to making decisions.  The problem is that parish councillors know many residents personally (or have a prejudiced opinion of a resident), and knowing or having an opinion on an applicant, or a supporter or objector raises the issue of conflict of interest. The risk is that of  'doing a mate a favour'. 

It seems to be rather a strange proposition that people would be encouraged to become a parish councillor if parish councils had greater powers. After all, isn't the mantra: we wish to do something for our community the primary consideration?

More Rusthall Matters

I have been informed that the Parish Council intends to move the item which permits the public to address the Council from the end of the agenda and place it after the item on the minutes of the previous meeting.  A welcome development.

A number of matters I hope the Council will consider:

  • Street Lighting: On some roads the street lights are masked by the branches of trees which have grown to such an extent that the street lights are almost completely hidden. The consequence is obvious, so please, let the axeman cometh.
  • Dangerous crossing (1): Every morning and evening parents and children have to cross the busy Lower Green Road and during the day there is a steady procession of people crossing. People are left to fend for themselves and matters are not helped by there being parked cars which block visibly in both directions for both pedestrians and motorists.
  • Dangerous crossing (2): Crossing the A264 at the top of the Terry Path  would be assisted by the provision of a pedestrian island.

Rusthall Matters

The local press has an item on Rusthall Club, in which it is named as Rusthall Working Men's Club.  Has the name been changed back to its original form or is it simply habit?

A few weeks ago I commented on the financial insecurity of the club:

Now, a fresh face has joined the committee following the Club's AGM and has set about making a number of changes.  I wish her well.

Many years ago I attended the AGM of a club in my home town and by the end of the meeting I was treasurer and had the power to do what I wished, from raising bar prices to closing the club.  The first thing I did was to raise bar prices by 15%.  Howls of protest, but things soon settled down.  The previous club management had paid cash to casual staff, without any supporting paperwork.  A visit from the Inland Revenue to review the paperwork for the previous six years landed the club with a hefty bill.

To overcome this body blow one of our members organised an event which proved to be a godsend financially.  Advertised as The Alternative Tupperware Party, the event was held in the function room and drew a huge crowd of heavy drinkers, drawn mostly from the town's professionals who could afford the very steep admission price. The 'star' turn was Dickie Pleasant, The Pheasant Plucker and his retinue of  female strippers.  It was a wild night of filthy jokes and women stripping, almost but not quite, to the bare buff.

Somehow, I cannot see a similar event being held at the Rusthall Club.

Is this how it will be?

Thought provoking article by Liam Halligan.

As I read it, Halligan is stating that German self-interest will triumph over team Europe.  Likely outcome is a fudge, although I do agree that some of the peripheral states will leave the eurozone. I  have posted previously articles on the 'new' Europe.  It remains to be seen if Germany will support major reforms of the EU which will require nations to forgo sovereignty in the economic sphere.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A political tinderbox

As the eurozone lurches towards its demise, unless Germany makes a U-turn in its rejection of the ECB as a bank of last resort and the issue of stability bonds, concern is surfacing as to consequences of the currency's demise.

I have held the view for a long time that the political and social consequences of a disorderly break-up of the eurozone will be dramatic.  The imposition of new governments, controlled by EU stooges,  in Italy and Greece, the riots in Greece and massive demonstrations in a number of countries all point to impending social chaos.  The question is: how long will Germany continue its current policies on the eurozone?   The political elite in Europe has been behind the curve since the eurozone crisis started in 2009 (although the cause of the crisis really began with the admittance of nations to the eurozone which did not meet entry criteria, a reckless interest policy by the ECB, and failure to maintain adequate monitoring and corrective action of basket economies).

The accident waiting to happen was triggered by the consequences of the banking failures in 2008, but even without that, the disaster would have unfolded.

Will sovereign debt contagion be followed by social unrest contagion?  The likelihood is that it will. And then what?

Thought provoking article

An excellent article:

You may wish to read the article in conjunction with those which are listed on the post below.

A closed pub.

Yesterday I travelled to meet a fellow director of the Communities Food Community Interest Company. The autumnal scenery was pleasant enough, but I regretted not having time to stop off at the Elephants Head on the way to Lamberhurst.  From there, I set off for Goudhurst.  A clear fine sunny day, you could see for miles.  Along the route passed one of the few remaining hop pickers living quarters and then the climb to Goudhurst.

Goudhurst is an attractive village, but can be a traffic nightmare.  Fortunately plain sailing and I was on my way to my destination, the Bull as Sissinghurst.

Catastrophe.  The pub is closed, the landlord has gone.  The owners of the pub have placed notices in windows intimating that closure is temporary.  But will it?  Located next to the primary school and church at the end of the shopping area., the pub has a large car park.  The pub owners may well see an opportunity to knock the pub down and build a few houses on the site.

However, it is possible that the pub might survive as I understand the new Localism Act (for want of looking up the correct title) makes provision for community assets to be purchased by the community.

Where to go for our meeting?  Biddenden  is 4 miles away.  Cranbrook is not the easiest place to park and our time was limited.  Our decision?  We headed for Sissinghurst Castle cafe.

Down the pan

Have the English Democrats been outmanoeuvred by the EDL/BFP link-up?  See:

A new force on the political scene?

The right in English politics is re-ordering, again.

The English Defence League, a protest movement, is linking up with the British Freedom Party.  The latter has a number of ex-BNP members.  There could be an EDL or BFP candidate standing in your area soon.


This development will come as a blow to the English Democrats who have also been recruiting ex-BNP members and as a consequence have lost a number of moderate key activists.  Outflanked on the right, the ED is coming under pressure from UKIP. UKIP is likely to embrace the policy which is the raison d'etre of the ED: the creation of an English parliament.

The squeeze is on for the ED.  UKIP and the EDL have high profiles, whereas the ED only appears as an occasional blip on the press radar.

Meanwhile, the BNP continues to function, just.  Heavily in debt, leaking members and ridden with internal strife, it is hanging on. 

The parties will continue to fight amongst themselves, busying themselves with the usual character assassinations, arguing over civic and ethnic nationalism, English 'culture' and immigration.  Meanwhile, in the real world of eurozone crisis, unemployment and poverty, people worry about their future oblivious to the issues which animate the right.

Yes, immigration is a concern to many, but it is not perceived by the majority of the population to be a matter to be questioned primarily on cultural or ethnic grounds.  We need to be vigilant and counter the vileness of people who peddle cultural or ethnic nationalism.


More woe on the sovereign debt front.

Belgium had its credit rating downgraded.

After an auction of six month debt, stock markets retreated and the yield on Italy's benchmark 10-year bonds widened further to 7.273pc - a level at which other debt-laden eurozone nations were forced to seek bailouts.

Germany is in the firing line for a downgrade following the failure earlier this week to sell all the bonds on offer.

Hungary, not in the eurozone, has had its debt downgraded to junk status as it seeks help from the IMF and EU.

Fires everywhere.  In the eurozone, the firemen (the ECB) are confined at German insistence to the fire-station.  What started as a small fire  is now raging out of control and will destroy everthing in its path.

More fun in Uncles' party.

The English Democrats have excelled in the stupidity stakes.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Is that the EDP, or the EDP, or the TEDP site?

The machinations of some of the minor political parties never fail to amuse. I draw your attention to the following:

The English Democrats Party (it prefers to be known as the 'English Democrats')  has the following website:

So, not state-of-the-art, but better than some.  Not a catchy URL though, 'voteenglish'.  Wasn't 'englishdemocrats' available?

There is another party with the initials EDP - The English Democractic Party which has the following website:

The latter EDP is right-wing, very much so.

In an attempt to avoid the casual political punter becoming confused, the English Democrats have come up with the following website:

Peruse this page and you are informed that it is the website of the English Democrats, yet part way down are the words:

'Welcome to The English Democratic Party'

Confused?   Not to worry, enlightenment is at hand.

Clearly the English Democrats are worried that a person might go to the EDP site- that is the English Democratic Party site and become confused and befuddled into thinking they were on the EDP site - that is the English Democrats Party's site.  Some none too bright people in the English Democrats then thought it would be a good idea to set up a site with an almost identical URL to the English Democratic site, which is all well and good except that the new site claims to be that of The English Democratic Party, which as far as I am aware does not exist as an entity. 

Quite why the English Democrats are worried about the English Democratic Party I cannot imagine, unless it is the fact that the number of ex-BNP members joining the English Democrats may lead to confusion between the two.

Meanwhile the real world and serious politics goes on, rightly oblivious to this nonsense.

Update: 26 December 2011.

I have come across a Facebook page entitled 'The English Democrats' as distinct from 'English Democrats'.  is it for real, or a spoof?

The 'New' Europe

Attention is turning towards consideration of a 'new' Europe , an EU which places emphasis on democracy as the cornerstone.  The following articles are well with a read.,1518,799237,00.html
A philosopher's mission to save the EU,1518,799292,00.html
The great  leap forward: on search of a united Europe.

Two problem areas:,1518,799935,00.html
Merkel and Sarkozy are viewed with suspicion,1518,799803,00.html
The return of 'Madame Non'.

Interesting article on returning to sovereign state currencies:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A21 dualling?

The BBC reports that underspending on revenue budgets may be transferred to capital infrastructure schemes.  Should this prove to be the case let us hope that dualling the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury figures high on the list.  The road has a terrible safety record. 

One major element in the scheme is major improvements to the roundabout at which roads lead off to the new hospital and the trading/retail estate.

See also:

Ever closer to the rocks

Mrs Merkel repeated her opposition to stability bonds at a meeting today with her French and Italian counterparts and emphasised again that the ECB has no part to play in fiscal policy.  The markets responded by tearing off south.

However, Germany has been shaken by the failure to sell all the sovereign debt it auctioned earlier this week and the realisation that it is no use having a strong export economy should conditions in other countries reduce demand.  Spiegel Online suggests that opposition to debt pooling (stability bonds) may be 'shrinking'.

It is 'a no-brainer' to think that Germany is holding out for ever closer union, indeed fiscal and political union as the price to be paid for granting the ECB greater powers and agreeing to stability bonds.  The current insistence on the EC monitoring the fiscal position in individual countries and seeking the imposition of penalties for countries which do not follow fiscal policies is but a staging post. 

Discussion has moved on to the structure of the 'new' Europe - how it will achieve democratic legitimacy, how the EC will be reigned in and the division of federal and state powers.

In the UK much of the antipathy towards the EU centres on the issues of democratic deficit, the EC bureaucracy and the slow and the apparently unstoppable accretion of power to the EU by extending the remit of competencies.  Should the 'new' Europe resolve these issues, what then of UK membership?,1518,799550,00.html
A complete disaster.
France and Germany plan changes to EU treaties.,1518,799692,00.html
German resistance to debt pooling may be sinking.,1518,799719,00.html
The crisis has hit the entire core of the eurozone.,1518,799292,00.html
The great leap foward: in search of a united Europe.
Eurogedden!!  A must read

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

On the rocks

When the eurozone set sail it lacked a captain and a navigator.  Two years ago minor steering problems led to a loss of direction. The ship was at the mercy of tide and current.  Then the engine failed and the good ship eurozone drifted ever closer to the rocks.  Now it is almost on the rocks and destruction is inevitable.

When the eurozone was launched it was noted that without fiscal and political union it would fail.  One size did not fit all, countries needed different interest rates and a central bank as lender of last resort as their economies did not converge.    The concerns were ignored, after all the eurozone was a staging post to the creation of a United States of Europe, but shush, don't tell the citizens.

When things started to go wrong the responses were always late and inadequate.  Eventually EU commissars and governments realised they had under-estimated the danger of contagion in one country spreading to the rest.  But not to worry, the EFSF tug would save the eurozone by pulling it away from the rocks. Unfortunately the tug owners, China in particular, turned down the invitation to throw the eurozone a line.

So the cry went up that fiscal and political union was the answer. Unfortunately the tide and currents, the markets, kept driving the eurozone towards the rocks.

The EC then played it joker - eurobonds, cunningly renamed stability bonds.  The one country with the power to stay the currents and tides, Germany, does not want to participate as it is of the opinion that the bonds will not deal with the need to have a common fiscal policy, nor would Germany permit the ECB to extend its role.

Germany is the economic engine of the eurozone and Mrs Merkel, the chief engineer, fears that Germany will be called upon to prop up the rest of the eurozone.  But now even greater threats have appeared.  The German economy is slowing and even its bonds are not being snapped up by the markets.  The engine cannot be coaxed back into life and the chief engineer is squabbling with the rest of the crewe.

A disaster of epic proportions is imminent.  Soon it will  be very country for itself, but the danger is so severe that the lifeboats will be smashed, as will the ship.,1518,799397,00.html,1518,799550,00.html

Falling asleep on the train

The sight of fatigued men and women fast asleep on their train journey home is not a pretty one. Beer bellied men snoring, women who look as though they are recovering from a night out with the girls, glazed expressions.  Passengers, who in the morning would have complained vociferously had their train been delayed, slump is resignation when their homeward bound train is late. The joys of the daily commute.

Most passengers rouse themselves in time to alight at the station they planned to, but a few don't.  Luckily for those travelling to the final stop of a train, railway staff are on hand to make sure passengers are not carried off to the sidings.  However should a passenger fail to alight at an intermediate station and be 'carried over',  he or she may be lucky and find a train to back-track to the desired destination.  But not always.  I wouldn't relish being stuck in Hastings for the night.

Some passengers used to display a note inviting their fellow travellers to wake them up at a particular station.

Of course being carried-over to Hastings was a ready made excuse for parties intent on a tryst in a seedy Hastings hotel.  Too far for a taxi back to Tunbridge Wells.

Slow train from Tunbridge Wells.

In 1931 a Schools class steam locomotive pulling 12 carriages ran non-stop between Tunbridge Wells and Cannon Street in 46 minutes.

In 2011 a modern electric train takes 52 minutes with two stops - High Brooms and London Bridge for the 33 mile journey.  Such is progress.

The High Speed service between Ashford and St Pancras takes 35 minutes with one stop, at Stratford. Passengers from Tunbridge Wells  and stations to Orpington are paying higher fares to meet the cost of this service, even though journey times on their own route do not match the service provided 80 years ago.

The electric trains are hardly run to their full potential.  On the Ashford - Tonbridge route the trains amble between stations and have long dwell times, although I suspect this is deliberate to encourage passengers from Ashford to London to pay extra to use the High Speed line instead of the 'historic' line to Cannon Street/Charing Cross.

I accept that the slow speed is a consequence of a number of factors:

  • The line between Tonbridge and Orpington is close to maximum capacity at peak times.
  • Line speeds in the London area are constrained by the signalling and flat junctions.
  • The London Bridge bottleneck.
Works to improve capacity at London Bridge and provide grade separated junctions near the country side of the station have commenced, but nothing has been done to address the Tonbridge-Orpington bottleneck.   Nothing is planned.  The government and KCC have nothing in their transport strategies to suggest anything will happen for the next 20 years.

Follow on from previous post on 'Europe'

Rather than place the links on yesterday's post I have decided on a new post.  I will add links during the course of the day.  The proposal for eurobonds, now renamed stability bonds, is going to put added pressure on Germany to change its stance.

The article from Spiegel Online echoes comments I made yesterday concerning the liquidity crisis in Europe.  The fear is that the crisis we are in will turn out much, much worse than that of 2008, no wonder the USA is worried.,1518,799397,00.html

A bit of knock-about from the Daily Express on domestic political matters and the EU:

From the Daily Telegraph today:

10.45 Wow - even German bonds, Europe's belt and braces gold standard, are under pressure today.
Germany failed to get bids for 35pc of the 10-year bonds it sold in an auction today...
The country was only able to get away €3.89bn of a sale with a maximum target of €6bn. However the yield was 1.98pc - which Spain and Italy would give their eye-teeth for...,1518,799550,00.html

More bad news, but expected:

We need the following like the proverbial hole in the head.

Personal stuff

It is a year since we had to have out Jack Russell, Cindy, put down.  We both miss her still.

Rosemary broke her hip on Christmas Eve. Today, I am taking her to the local hospital, hopefully for her final appointment.  It has been a long haul.

We wish to thank you for your support during this difficult time.  Rosemary is almost 100%  but is understandably nervous of wet surfaces and not looking forward to the next bout of snow.

IMF initiative may help.

As USA growth forecast is revised down and debts yields continue to rise in Spain, France is acknowledging its AAA rating is at risk.,1518,799242,00.html
(Broken America)

The USA is concerned also that the problems in the eurozone will cause massive liquidity problems for banks and tip the world back into recession.  Shades of 2008.


In the eurozone Germany is still holding out against a role for the ECB to engage in QE, increased bond buying and also against the creation of eurobonds, now re-named stability bonds.  The German Finance Minister is claiming that a political fix could come as early as December, echoing the view of Mrs Merkel that a political solution of the eurozone's structural problems is the only was out of the impasse.

(Will Merkel change her tune on bonds?)

It is in this context that the IMF initiative has to be seen, as it will provide liquidity for basically sound nations (Italy has a surplus on current account and a government committed to financial rectitude, Spain is not a basket case) which can meet the criteria for the IMF's funding proposals.


Criticism of the German stance on the ECB - namely that it is not permitted by treaty to engage in QE etc - is mounting with accusations that Germany is cherry-picking parts of treaties which support its case, whereas other parts give the ECB an overall power to achieve economic stability.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A beacon leaves.

I had a degree of empathy with the English Democrats as I support withdrawal of the UK from the EU  and the resolution of The West Lothian Question by the creation of an English parliament.  I agree with the principle of symmetric devolution which I understand to mean that parliaments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should have the same powers as distinct from the variations between the parliaments (by whatever name)  in the latter three nations.

My opinion on how the constitutional arrangements of the UK should be changed is based solely on the principle of equitable treatment for all the nations of the Union. I am a civic nationalist.

The English Democrats claim  not to be an ethnic nationalist party, but they are accepting ex-BNP members (some of whoe held a high profile within the BNP). The EDP seeks to defend 'English culture'.  The inroads made by ex BNP members has led to many EDP members leaving, some have joined UKIP.

One of the leading officers of the EDP is Steve Uncles. You may sample his outpourings by going to:

His uncritical support and promotion of this site (he claims not to own it)  is odd, given that it supports a united Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, engages in childish attempts at character assassination and produces a succession of articles one might charitably described as dross.  But then, Mr Uncles states he engages in 'guerilla' tactics.

Recently a leading civic democrat resigned from the EDP. A great loss to the party, as he was a member of the national council, vice-chairman of the SE region (Uncles is chairman and appointed him vice-chairman) and chairman of the Young English Democrats. He also chaired a very active branch of the EDP.

Mr Uncles is in the middle congratulating his (then)new vice-chairman.

Doubtless the EDP will limp on, weighed down by its ex-BNP baggage.  It has lost a number of talented members, people it can ill-afford to lose. 

For more on Mr Uncles go to: