Sunday 14 August 2016

Brexitwatch: 'take control' means lose control

‘Take control’ was always a bit of an odd slogan for the Brexiters – dominated as they are by laissez faire right wingers who have happily watched the commanding heights of our economy – the car industry, the railways, etc – sold off to foreign companies. Indeed, apparently two-thirds of our major manufacturing companies are now in overseas hands.

Since Brexit, we have lost even more control. The fall in the pound and slump in shares it caused meant our businesses could be snapped up at knock-down prices. So, for example, Pinewood Studios has gone to the Americans, hi-tech trailblazer ARM was bought by the Japanese, and Qatar has increased its share in the company that owns British Airways.

Another foreign-owned enterprise is Hinkley Point nuclear power station. It looks as though Theresa May would dearly love to cancel it because of the eye-watering price for electricity it commits us to paying, but, the Chinese are major investors, and they have made it clear that if it does not go ahead, they will be severely displeased.

As the Brexiters’ ‘plan’ involves us cosying up to people like the Chinese to replace the trading partners in Europe we are turning our back on, it will be interesting to see how much ‘control’ they dare exercise over Hinkley Point. 

Monday 8 August 2016

Brexitwatch: turkeys vote for Christmas - 2

In spite of receiving £60m worth of subsidies from the EU every year, the people of Cornwall voted 57-43 to leave. Europe contributed to a whole swathe of things – such as the Eden Project, education, broadband, and other infrastructure in the county.

To considerable derision from those had voted to stay, within hours of the referendum result, Cornwall’s representatives were rattling the begging bowl demanding that they should not lose the EU subsidies they had just voted to get rid of.

Apparently they were relying on assurances from leading Brexiters that they would not lose out if they opted to kill the golden goose. It is not clear on what authority Boris, Fox, Leadsom and co gave these promises.

Perhaps the Cornish should now ask them to have a whip round. After all, however the rest of us may have suffered, they have done very nicely out of Brexit. It might also be worth approaching the 5 local MPs who campaigned to leave.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Brexitwatch: turkeys vote for Christmas - 1

About 60 per cent of Britain's old age pensioners voted for Brexit. But in many ways they have the most to lose from leaving the EU.  About 75,000 of the people working in adult care, such as old people’s homes, come from the EU.

This work is notoriously poorly paid, and replacing them could prove very difficult. Already the sector has 70,000 unfilled vacancies. As the population ages, an independent report by two NGOs reckons that by 2020, it will be short of 200,000 workers.

It is a similar story in the NHS. One doctor in every ten, and one nurse in every 25 comes from Europe.

The Express, one of the most virulently anti-EU propaganda sheets, is now panicking about the effects of Brexit, warning pensioners: ‘your retirement funds are set to shrink’ because of falling interest rates and rising inflation. Not to mention the fall of the pound. Should have thought of that before you urged people to vote Leave.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Coups d’état; what is the chance of succeeding?

Last month’s coup d’état against Turkey’s President Erdogan failed, but between 1950 and 2010, on average a coup had a 50-50 chance of succeeding.

Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne from the University of Kentucky examined 450 from that 60 year period, and found that 227 – 49.7% – were successful. And the plotters seemed to be improving, because those mounted since 2003 had a 70% success rate.

But coups have become less common. Their heyday was the 1960s, when there were about 15 a year. By the first decade of the new millennium that was down to 5 a year. One reason may be that the world is getting richer. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler of Oxford University found that if people’s average incomes doubled, the risk of a coup fell by more than a quarter.

As to the ingredients of a successful coup, there seems a fair degree of consensus – detain key leaders, take over key media outlets, control key transport arteries. The Turkish plotters failed to  implement these properly, but perhaps a new factor was at play – social media, which President Erdogan used very effectively to rally support.