The Bank That Almost Broke Britain, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, narrator Blythe Duff and director Leo Burley.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bmbhzb/the-bank-that-almost-broke-britain

hubris

noun

  1. excessive pride or self-confidence.

Remember Blythe Duff, the actress who played Detective Jackie Reid in Taggart whose famous catchphrase, ‘Where’s the body?’ became much parroted. Ten years on Blythe Duff is the narrator in search of the body of capitalism, the rise and fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the biggest bailout in British history, around a trillion pounds, much of it going to prop up the nominally Scottish bank that was too big to fail.

Let’s put that into perspective. A trillion pounds of taxpayer’s money would build ten hospitals the size of the Queen Elizabeth  in Glasgow. It would build three new RBS headquarters in Edinburgh at Gogaburn £350 million, attended by the Queen, get you a fly past by the Red Arrows and with a nice view and corporate logos. Her Majesty did ask the difficult question, why did economists not see this coming?

And, equally, she could ask the same question now.  No one held to account. Fred Goodwin CEO of RBS kept his index-linked pension of £700 000 a year, but he did lose his knighthood. I’d love to be given that choice, knighthood or £700 000 a year public money for running up one of the biggest debts in history?

The interesting thing about this programme is Fred Goodwin was one of the bosses trust funds trusted. He was an accountant and megalomaniac bully to his workforce that slashed costs and kept buying even when the party was over. I laughed when I heard his nominal boss, Sir George Mathewson, admitted he’d lost a lot of money when Goodwin issued a new tranche of RBS shares worth…nothing now. I’ll chalk that one up for the little guy.

This is an insider account, with all the key players available, with the exception of the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who promised an end to boom and bust. The programme ends on a happy note, if you’re a banker, RBS announced earlier this year that it is, finally, in profit.

I see no profit. I see only loses. The losers have been the poorest in society. The culprits are the Laurel and Hardy of British politics Chancellor George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron who propagated the malicious lie that the impending collapse of the British economy wasn’t down to banks and bankers, but poor people who like Oliver Twist with a begging bowl kept demanding more. Austerity was not for the rich, but for the poor. This is Britain’s shame. And Laurel and Hardy led us into another fine mess, before disappearing back, like Fred Goodwin, into comfortable prosperity. Only the poor pay the full price of nationalised debt. Too big to fail. Too wee to matter.

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Bloody Scotland (2017)

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I’m familiar with the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival. I’m vain enough to imagine my work may appear in it someday, but the chance seem as remote as Rangers winning ten-in-a-row. Historic Scotland asked novelists  whom they considered to be the top twelve crime writers in Scotland to write a story for them. The starting point was not character, or plot, but place. Easy-peasy for any writer or would-be writer and as reading is the engine of writing it gives me the chance to look at some seasoned writers’ work.

My favourite stories were Kinneil House, Sanctuary, written by Sara Sheridan. This inspired me and was a jumping off point to write a story of my own. Edinburgh Castle, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, written by Denise Mina – with echoes of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin – ran Sheridan’s story close and I’d gauge it here as my second favourite. It’s all a matter of interpretation, of course. There’s no story stinkers, but there are a few predictable turns and not unexpected endings.

Maeshowe, Orkahowe, by Lin Anderson – haunting.

The Hermit’s Castle, Ancient and Modern, by Val McDermid – Old Testament justice.

Stanley Mills, Kissing the Shuttle, by E S Thomson – incestuous.

The Forth Bridge, Painting the Forth Bridge, by Doug Johnstone – no return ticket.

Bothwell Castle, The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle, by Chris Brookmyre – gallus.

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, Stevenson’s Castle, by Stuart MacBride – Janus-faced.

Crookston Castle, History Lessons, by Gordon Brown –old school.

Crossraguel Abbey, Come Friendly Bombs, by Louise Welsh – eat your heart out.

St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross, The Twa Corbie of Cardross by Craig Robertson– Bard and Burns and corvines too.

Mousa Broch, The Return, by Ann Cleeves – doppelganger revenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Coalition Channel 4, 9pm.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/coalition/on-demand/57947-001

Timing is everything in politics. Growth in the economy. A few weeks from another Tory triumph, or another patchy coalition? Scriptwriter James Graham looks backwards to what happened five-years ago, when the Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Liberals. For me it’s a case of who do I hate the most.

In Ten Days that Shook the World, American socialist and journalist John Reed chronicled the rise of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia.  Here we have five days of farce and melodrama in which public school boys David Cameron (Mark Dexter) makes googly eyes at Nick Clegg (Bertie [Wooster] Carvel) and woos him with talk of a partnership of equals, with a similar background and views. He bathes in a steam of money, rips his shirt off for the viewers and says ‘Damn it Nick, look at my portfolio. We could be so happy together.’

Standing outside this duo is two people. The bearish Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve) waiting for a chance, waiting for a dance. It’s an arranged marriage. Gordon even has the audacity to return to number 10 Downing Street, even though his Labour Party polled less seats than the Tories. In a phone call Gordon pleads with Nick that the Tory’s polled less the 30% of the popular vote. 70% didn’t want them in power. They didn’t have a popular mandate, but really Nick, it’s up to you to do the right thing. He also has to remind the supercilious civil servant who runs the place that he is still –technically- Prime minister. Inside a briefing room his team find they have already been erased from history, their computer files deleted and their encrypted codes no longer work.

Looking over their shoulders is the patron saint of politicians Winston Churchill, who manages to be both a Liberal and Conservative politician that led a coalition government to Great Britain’s greatest victory, (prior to the 1966 World Cup win). Churchill featured in the last 1926 government of Ramsay McDonald between Labour and Liberal. David is shown on a stair vacillating (a politician’s equivalent of masturbation) about going all the way with young Nicky, below a giant portrait of Winston. And fresh-faced Nick is initially shown after the debates shown on live council telly, and cited publicly, as the most popular politician since Churchill. Adoring crowds gather to cheer his every pronouncement. (Boris Johnson, the future Tory leader, has of course written a biography of the great man).

Poor old Gordon, jilted and pushed around, has to watch on live TV David and Nicky dancing. Peter Mandelson (Mark Gatiss) is the most sympathetic of a cast of unsympathetic characters. He has to rein the old bear in and remind him that in real politics there’s still a chance. Prod him not to say too much in impassioned and earnest late-night phone calls.

Nicky squirms in the old bear’s presence. When Gordon in an act of daring and self-sacrifice steps aside and promises Nicky he can choose a new Labour beau from the catalogue, there is a moment when it might all happen. History might have been changed. Mark Gatiss might have been the new Churchill and the bubble economics of inflated house prices and helping rich people get richer at the expense of everyone else might not have been quite so dramatic. Nicky isn’t sure. He can’t make his mind up. Will her? Or won’t he?

Step in Paddy Ashdown with a Churchillian speech, most often seen coming out of the side of the mouth of Burgess Meredith in Rocky movies. Cue music.  If you want it now Nicky. You worked for it. You worked damned hard for it. You got to go out and get it. I will Paddy. I’ll do it for you. Freeze-frame: Nicky Deputy Prime Minister on the podium with a cheering crowd below him.

http://www.abctales.com/story/celticman/king-dole

Quote

William Keegan (2014) Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment. Austerity 1945-51 and 2010 –

rich man poor menIn response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Can Be Taught!.”

William Keegan (2014) Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment. Austerity 1945-51 and 2010 –

The first question when purchasing a book about economics is it worth the money? Let’s look at the evidence. The book costs £10 or thereabouts. This includes delivery. Not bad. But it is very short—or concise—depending on your definition. Large borders on the page. Empty spaces. Empty pages to seem more value for your buck, or pound sterling. Notes. Index. I’d guess less than 50 000 words. You can read it in one sitting. And there is a tendency to repeat the same story or telling phrase twice or thrice in different parts. ‘Pushing on a piece of string’ to describe monetary policy or ‘sadomonetarism’ for the government’s reliance on this as a tool to adjust consumer activity is a favourite.

William Keegan writes for the Observer. Anyone familiar with his work knows that he is an advocate of Keynesian expansion during times of economic contraction in the economy. He does not shirk from using words like Depression.   In the aftermath of the banking crisis of 2007-8 and its aftermath when our then Prime Minister Gordon Brown ‘saved the world’ by galvanising world-wide support for government intervention and injecting government money into banks to keep them afloat and save economies going into free-fall, as they did in the 1930s, there was little or no talk of austerity—not even from the Conservative frontbenches.

That came with Osborne and his crony crew of Cameron and Boris Johnson that run government for the rich. Post-second-world- war London like the rest of the nation suffered from shortages of just about everything. ‘Economists calculated that, in order to balance the books, exports would need to rise not only to pre-war levels, but to 75% above those levels.’ In addition to this the flow of cash that supported the British economy, the Land Lease agreement, running at ‘£2 billion a year’ (multiply that by 100 for nowadays) was, with the war ended, abruptly terminated.  The winter of 1946-7 was one of the coldest on record. Nationwide power cuts. A debt ratio of around 148% more than can be produced by all the goods and service that Britain could produce in any one year.

Osborne’s great con trick was a debt ratio inherited from Gordon Brown and Labour of around 7% and making most observers believe that this was insufferable and like Greece, the road to bankruptcy. As Keegan shows John Major’s government ran a greater debt to GDP ratio. And it’s worth noting if the Greek government went to the troika that issued their loans and were asked to pay it back in fourteen years, bond renewal, as the current government has, and not six months then most governments, of whatever political persuasion, would hardly constitute it as a crisis.

Lots can happen in that time. Even a rudderless ship eventually hits shore. With a growing population and expansion from a low starting point in the economy grass roots of economic expansion have begun to appear. Osborne claims credit for this. Austerity works, even when it doesn’t. His failure to use fiscal policy, build a nation for the future when money literally costs virtually nothing is short-sighted and stupid. By measuring Britain’s progress prior to the shock of 2008 Osborne by IMF projection has set back the county by several years.

Listen, who cares? The problem with Keegan’s polemic is those reading it are already aware of this. Just as they are aware of Tory government’s attack on welfare abuse as a Trojan horse to dismantle the welfare state and increase the flow of money to crony capitalists like themselves.

Those who believe all is light in the world of Tory finance and the government is doing a grand job would not pay for Keegan’s book. The problem isn’t preaching to the converted. The problem comes when the Conservatives win the next election and begin in earnest to dismantle the welfare state. What is to be done?