May 2008

Brown\’s Management

It\’s a sign of what Brown did:

The blow to tax revenues from the credit crunch is set to send the Chancellor plunging £16 billion or more deeper into the red over the next two years than he has planned, calculations for The Times indicate today.

The estimates of the toll on tax receipts by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research will aggravate the acute financial headache already facing Alistair Darling.

With a general election expected as soon as next year, the Chancellor is already boxed in. A still deeper slide into the red would leave him with little scope for pre-election giveaways or for extra tax and spending measures to help to stave off a recession.

The institute calculates that the severe economic and financial impact of the credit crunch will mean that the Chancellor has to borrow an extra £8 billion in the present financial year, 2008-09, and another £8 billion extra in 2009-10. The £16 billion total is the equivalent of adding nearly 4p to the basic rate of income tax.

The institute also sounded a warning that in a worst-case scenario, should the credit crunch intensify, the extra borrowing needed could double again, to £32 billion over two years. That would inflict on Mr Darling a deficit for this year of £59 billion, or 4 per cent of GDP.

After 15 years of a growing economy, the budget really ought to be in surplus, so as to provide room for an expansion of the deficit when the inevitable return of the business cycle happens.

He\’s spent it all though and looking at the difficulty he\’s having in restraining public sector wage rises, he ain\’t going to be able to get out of this easily.

If we actually have a recession, rather than just a slow down, I really wouldn\’t be surprised to see the PSBR going to 10% of GDP.

An Opportunity

Tens of thousands of cars will become almost worthless as a result of the decision to raise road tax on older models with higher carbon dioxide emissions by up to £245 a year.

Many families will find that they cannot sell their cars even though they are in good working order and no more than seven years old.

The Times revealed yesterday that the Treasury had quietly abolished the exemption from higher road-tax rates for cars that emit more than 225g of CO2 per km and were registered between March 2001 and March 2006.

CAP, which supplies the used car industry with data on residual values, said that many larger cars would be reduced to their scrap value because they would fall into one of the higher tax brackets being introduced for high-emission cars next April.

Hmm, I wonder how many of those will be left hand drive? Could do with a new (or different) car and buying in hte UK and driving down here might be a sensible thing to do….

In The Comments

So, a response piece about how hard the people at Lonely Planet work at writing their guide books. First comment:

Travel writing died the day Max Gogarty retired.

Well done that man!

Language Matters

Just a little note on how events can be described, the way in which attitudes can be changed by the language employed.

But Shell has in recent years been selling off much of its solar business while its rival oil group BP – under new chief executive, Tony Hayward – has also talked about selling part of in its alternative energy division, abandoned a carbon capture scheme in Scotand and moved into the Canadian tar sands for the first time.

It\’s true that BP did abandon the Pêterhead carbon capture scheme. But they did so because the Government (actually Geo. Brown) refused to offer the tax changes necessary to make the sums add up. It\’s also important to note that the tax changes asked for would not have led to a reduction in tax paid in total: they would have been a lower rate per barrel lifted, yes, but more barrels lifted, leading to higher overall revenues.

Brown turned down a free lunch: more revenue and the test of an important technology. The whisper is that the Treasury thought that BP was trying it on and so determined to resist, thinking that the scheme would go ahead even without the tax changes.


So, yes, BP did abandon that scheme, but not quite in the way that today\’s reference to it makes it seem.

That European Cup Final

Tim Newman pointed out that there\’s going to be something of a problem for those fans wanting to get visas to go see the match (sorry, can\’t find the link…oops, here.).

The simmering diplomatic row between Russia and the UK is threatening to prevent thousands of Chelsea and Manchester United fans travelling to Moscow for the first all-English Champions League final as negotiations over the visa requirements descended into acrimony yesterday.

Russia\’s embassy in London promised to process visa applications for the expected 50,000 fans "as quickly as possible", but also accused Britain of imposing an unjust visa regime on Russians travelling to the UK in response to the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Chelsea booked their place in the final last night after a 4-3 aggregate win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The London club\’s fans now join the struggle to find flights and hotels, with remaining flights to Moscow for the May 21 match costing more than £1,500, and only two hotels in the city known to have beds available.

While no final decision has been taken, it is understood that a plan to offer all fans travelling to the match visa exemptions is now off the table, although an exception may be made for those on official charter flights. Russia is also considering waiving the usual requirement if fans produce a letter of invitation and a hotel booking.

It is going to be the most glorious clusterfuck.

You simply will not be able to get a Russian bureaucracy to react or change its ways in the time available. Either they drop visa requirements altogether for the week or it will be absolute chaos.

It\’s Official!

Global warming will stop until at least 2015 because of natural variations in the climate, scientists have said.


Ñow there\’s actually (at least) three different ways to read this. Firstly, as they themselves describe, things like El Nino and changes in the Gulf Stream change the decadal and annual numbers, but those are simply blips around the underlying trend.

Secondly, that there are more negative feedbacks in the system than anyone currently gives credit to (please note that the IPCC\’s own predictions of warming directly from CO2 emmisions is a 1oC rise for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. The larger rises all come from positive feedbacks).

Thirdly, that some are worried about why there hasn\’t been a year warmer than 1998 yet and are cobbling together an explanation which is still consistent with underlying warming.

One and three are not in fact mutually inconsistent: it\’s really your own level of cynicism about the whole idea which will lead you to prefer one or the other.