Frances Ryan, again with the maths

“I can make a meal out of a tin of beans. Sometimes there’s not a lot in the cupboard, you know?” Richard, 57, explains from his one-bed flat in Kingston upon Thames. Richard has a degenerative spinal disease as well as arthritis and breathing problems: a walking frame is his only way to move around the flat, and he needs a ventilator at night. It’s been over a decade since he was well enough to work – as a stager fitter and then a chauffeur – and his only income is disability living allowance. His wife is a nurse but with no pay NHS rise in years, in Richard’s words, the two of them are “absolutely broke”.

Richard has gum problems but he can’t afford a dentist. The rent on the flat alone sets them back £1,100 a month. It’s one of eight crammed into a converted Victorian house. The walls are so thin, Richard explains, that they can hear their neighbours’ conversations at night. “I paid £35 a week in my teens round here,” Richard tells me. “Nowadays, people just think of a number and double it.”

So, let’s go back to the teens of someone now 57 shall we? Erm, meh, call it 1976?

4.33 times the weekly rent to get us monthly. £151.55. That’s in 1976 money, which in 2016 money is £1,001.00. That’s just the straight inflation change there, not the wage or income value.

We’ve a real term rise of 10% in that rent over near four decades. That really doesn’t sound like the Terror of the Ages now, does it?

Further, what does a nurse make these days? Obviously this is one who has done this for some time. £30k (don’t forget, seniority brings rises, as does some portion of London Weighting)? What’s he going to be getting in that disability allowance? Looks like higher rate for mobility, and just add in lower for care. £80 a week?

Sure, that’s not a lot. Pretty shitty life for 2 people in fact. It’s also over median household income isn’t it….actually, it’s substantially over it. And it also means that rent is only a little above 30% of income, which is usually the “affordability” cut off, isn’t it (that’s a US definition by the way)?

After rent, council tax, gas and electric, there’s not much left for food.

Actually, the killer there is more likely to be income tax and NI. Showing that the problem might well be too much government, no?

But as ever, actually shuffling through the numbers presented by Frances Ryan tells us that these people suffering in that absolute poverty she rails against aren’t in fact doing that badly.

Anyone who knows more about this than I want to actually run through that household budget? For I can’t see that they’re trying to eat on £20 a week or anything. The major assumption is going to have to be what’s her nursing pay rate.

All quite true Mr Lammy

But if you are on the 22nd floor of a tower block, the state literally has your life in its hands. It is the state that told you to stay put in the case of a fire. It is the state that failed to install working fire alarms. It is the state that you rely on to come up the stairwell to save you and your family from a burning building.

And given that state’s obvious incompetence we should be trying to change that power it holds over people, shouldn’t we?

Like, reduce it?

You’ll have to do better than this Tom Watson, you’ll have to do better than this

That can’t be allowed to happen this time. The Competition and Markets Authority must conduct a thorough review of the proposed Fox takeover, taking all the time it needs to assess its likely impact on the provision of news and entertainment in the UK. The deal would make the UK’s dominant media company – which has a near 35% share of the newspaper market – more dominant still.

The papers are owned by News Corp. The bid for Sky is from Fox.

They really are separate companies you know.

So, does he get the titles back?

When in 2012 disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally confessed to the most “sophisticated, professionalised and successful” doping programme the world had ever seen, he became sport’s ultimate bogeyman.

His admission that for years he took a suite of supposedly performance-enhancing drugs, most prominently erythropoietin (EPO), saw him stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic medals, his career and reputation in tatters.

So it may be with a certain queasiness that he learns today about the results of ground-breaking new research which suggests his prolonged campaign of abuse was pointless – because EPO confers no advantage at all.

If this is true then he did it all himself, thus gets the titles back, no?

Well, no, obviously not. He attempted to cheat which is enough. But logically, if EPO doesn’t work, then those wins are legit as efforts at least, even if not by the rules.

Although, umm, look, let’s think of something we really know doesn’t work. The St. Christopher medal. Kissing it, not uncommon among a certain level of religiosity in Catholics when partaking in a journey, could be said to be an attempt to cheat, asking for divine intervention. That it doesn’t help is obvious, that it’s an attempt to cheat is at least arguable, so, should anyone who does that be disqualified?


There are quite obviously things which don’t work and we allow them, things we think at least might work and we don’t, we call that cheating. Thus when we prove that something doesn’t work does it stop being cheating?

Czechs dress for the climate, not the weather

Something I’ve just noted. Cold summer’s day, rain and rain. OK, Central Europe etc. But they’re all still in shorts and t-shirts getting wet. And thinking about it, same in winter, they’re all out with coats, scarves, hats, gloves, even when it’s a decent warm day.

They’re dressing for the climate, not the weather.

Then, as has been said, we English are the only people who take weather seriously because we’re the only people who have it, everyone else does just have a climate.


Dr. Keith Crainshraw says:
June 29 2017 at 8:05 am
In Europe again? Your wife must be very understanding (or wondering who the strange person in the house is at the weekend 🙂 ). Your dedication to the cause with all this travelling is to be applauded.

Aren’t divorces fun?

But almost six years after their £12million fairy-tale nuptials, Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Petra is divorcing her husband James Stunt in what could be the biggest settlement in celebrity history.
Questions have been raised before around the source of Mr Stunt’s money, with the businessman known for keeping his life extremely private.

There’s a prenup in place.

My assumption, one which could be entirely incorrect of course, has always been that he’s not actually got any – or perhaps not much – money of his own. He’s been spending her inheritance in my opinion.

But the joy of a contested divorce like this is that we’ll all find out, won’t we?

So just why is Africa poor?

Why is Africa so poor? You asked Google – here’s the answer
Eliza Anyangwe

As you might have guessed, it’s tax avoidance, private companies and slavery. This is The Guardian after all.

The actual answer is “Because they’ve not had an industrial revolution yet.”

The only thing we know of that makes the people rich is an industrial revolution. In the absence of one the people will be poor.


Don’t think so really George

Should the EU referendum result be annulled? For the past year I’ve been arguing that this would mean defying a democratic decision – even if it was informed by lies. Democracy is not negotiable. But what if this was not a democratic decision? What if it failed to meet the accepted criteria for a free and fair choice? If that were the case, should the result still stand? Surely it should not.

The complaint is over £425,000 sent through the DUP.

OK, I have no knowledge at all about this but say it was dodgy.

Next, how much did the EU funnel and coordinate on the other side?


I wonder whether Snippa Spud will comment here?

Given the wide nature of his expertise the Infinite Monkey should be able to manage something.

Co-operative Bank will cut its historic ties with the Co-operative Group and impose heavy losses on retail bondholders as part of a £700m rescue deal with its US hedge fund owners to avert a collapse.

Perhaps the insistence that it was just fine for people with no knowledge of banking to run a bank could be rethought?

This latest plan, which will be voted on by all the lender’s investors, will see £250m of new equity injected into the bank and at least £443m raised from a debt-for-equity swap, helping to shore up its capital position.

It will deal a blow to retail investors, who will receive cash from the deal. Those holding less than £100,000 in bonds will only get back 45p in the pound of their initial investment, with the total payout capped at £13.5m.

However, institutional investors will suffer even heavier losses and will receive roughly 15p in the pound in shares, although they will increase their equity stakes in the bank.

Possibly there could be a reconsideration of bond investments in nice local and cuddly projects as a manner of financing pensions?

What opportunities to explain the new economics there are here!

For example, if banks simply create money then how did this one run out of it?

Trussell Trust food bank report

Over one-third of households were currently waiting on a
benefit application or benefit payment they had recently
applied for. While some had only recently filed their
applications (i.e. 20% had made their application within
the past two weeks), for the majority, it had been 2-6
weeks since their initial application. Most were waiting on
decisions or payments for ESA or JSA. The fact that they
needed to use food banks during this time highlights the
economic vulnerability of households who are waiting for
benefit payments to arrive.


The financial vulnerability of households using food
banks was clear when we looked more closely at their
financial circumstances. Household incomes in the
past month were very low. After income equivalisation
(Department for Work & Pensions 2017), most households
reported incomes in the range of £100 to £500 per
month; the average income of the sample was £319.43.
About 16% of households reported having no income in
the past month.
For over one-third of households, their income in the
past month was less than it had been three months prior,
indicating a recent income shock. The most common
reasons reported for income losses were: loss of a benefit
(21%), benefit sanction (17%), benefit transition (16%),
change in benefit allowance (15%), or job loss (14%).

Those are actually subsequent paragraphs. And we might well be tempted to add two and two together there. To reach the conclusion that the State is shite at reacting to income changes and getting the benefits system to swing into action.

You know, maybe?

Anyone with any bright ideas about how to get a centralised bureaucracy to act more efficiently might like to send them, on a postcard, to No 10 Downing Street.

Piss ups and breweries come to mind

The absence of the ability to organise them that is:

The Government’s austerity policy descended into chaos today as Downing Street suggested it was ready to abandon a 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, only to insist hours later that the cap remained in place.

The “U-turn on a U-turn” was blamed on the ongoing “war” between Theresa May and Philip Hammond, after the Treasury reportedly demanded a retraction of the announcement. It led to speculation that the Chancellor had been intending to claim credit for the policy change at his next budget.

Three Cabinet ministers appeared to have been briefed that the pay cap was coming to an end as they openly talked about the need to consider lifting it, and Sir Oliver Letwin, the influential backbench MP, even went into detail about how taxes would have to be increased to fund it.

Why not actually have the balls to speak the truth?

Everyones’ wages have gone down, why shouldn’t public sector pay stand still?

I approve of this

In the video, the Arkansas Capitol dome can be seen lit against the night sky as the Dodge Dart accelerates to 10, then 20 mph.

“Oh my goodness,” a man says as he flicks on the car’s lights. “Freedom!”

The vehicle speeds up the hill, and the last thing that comes into view before a crash is a large, newly installed monument.

Authorities say the man in the video is Michael Tate Reed, an alleged serial destroyer of Ten Commandments monuments.

He was arrested by state capitol police officers at the scene early Wednesday, according to Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state. Reed is charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief and defacing objects of public interest.

The laddie, as they say, seems to have some issues. Issues amenable perhaps to a judicious does of lithium. And yet, and yet……..

Sure, it’s the destruction of someone elses’ property, that’s bad. But it is property, not people, and he seems to be around for being punished for it. Leave aside that lithium issue and regard it instead as an extreme free speech one. Boy’s got the right to make his view known, as long as he’s willing to take the consequences of doing so. As I’m just fine with Banksy doing so–as long as he is willing to pay the damages.

Nowt wrong with idea of a cappuccino economy

The idea that underpins this suggestion is that neither the state or private sector is inherently better than the other. It is obviously the case that to get the best out of the economy you need both. The cappuccino is a metaphor for this this.

The state is the cup. The economy exists within it for the purposes of this example. (Of course it extends beyond it but that is for another blog; just think about the coffee shop if you want to anticipate the direction travel).

The espresso on the bottom is the government. It shapes and moulds the whole thing. If it is good, then pretty much the whole thing will be, and vice versa.

The frothy milk is the private sector that builds on the foundation of the state.

And on the top is some chocolate or nutmeg which is the thing we all see, and because in real life this represents the frivolities that feature in Sunday colour supplements we think that the private sector, that almost always produces them, is the source of the fun things in life when in fact without the state, and the mundane functions of the market, they would not be possible.

The reality is that in practice a cappuccino stands or falls as a whole. It’s hot frothy milk without the espresso. It is just an espresso without the milk. Both are acquired tastes for some. Many think the compromise – with the fun bits on top – is best. But most importantly, when drunk you can’t tell the component elements apart.

OK. Fine in fact.

My aim is for a cappuccino economy: one where state and private sectors both flourish because each is allowed to do what it does best. We’re a long way from being there right now.

I agree.

And in my opinion that’s because the espresso is too weak right now. We need an extra shot.

Ah, no, that’s where I don’t. This is also where Ritchie’s complete absence of any economic hinterland shows. For the idea is some 240 years old:

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

Entirely true that we need that espresso of decent governance. But it’s strong stuff, we only need a little.

Well, no, not really

This is utterly bizarre. What Carney is saying is that if business tries to improve UK productivity, or if it tries to increase employment, or if it tries to deliver growth then he will snub it out. The economic idiocy of making inflation the highest economic priority is apparent again. And remember, the greatest beneficiary of this policy are the best off because low inflation preserves the real value of the debts the wealthiest are owed by the very many who owe them.

Those who really benefit from low inflation are those who own bonds. You know, those bonds which we should all invest in because Spudda’s Green Plan will make us do so?

What in Hell is The Guardian talking about now?

Brexit will cement disenfranchisement of millions of citizens

Err, what?

Brexit Britain will be home to 3 million second-class European Union “settled citizens” who have been fingerprinted, registered and issued with a residence identity document and with no vote in general elections.

That is the “between the lines” message of the British government’s offer on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit. The 3 million EU nationals will be joining the ranks of at least 1 million foreign nationals from outside the EU with “indefinite leave to remain” status who already form a largely invisible disenfranchised subclass in Britain.

Umm, those 3 million don’t have a GE vote right now either. Because, you know, they’re not citizens?

It gets worse:

The UK offer cements that disenfranchisement for the future. It means that together with those non-EU foreign nationals without the right to vote in Westminster elections, Britain now has a large section of its adult population numbering more than 4 million who are long-term residents but have no power at the ballot box to influence the national government.

It is true that Irish nationals and Commonwealth citizens do have the right to vote for an MP – but to have such a large group of disenfranchised citizens with a stake in the country is not good for Britain’s democracy.

Yes, the argument really is that non-citizens should get the vote.