28 February, 2015


Apparently England's one-day cricket captain, Eoin Morgan, has refused to sing the national anthem.

In football, cricket and other sports England are brilliant on a day-to-day basis but rubbish at internationals. This is because they don't set much store by playing for their country, school having taught them that multi-culturalism is the important thing.

Mr Morgan should be told that if he doesn't sing the national anthem, and sing it lustily, not only will he not be captain, he won't be in the team.

Let 'em die

Also more tosh on Radio 4 about the number of pandas.

These creatures were carnivores which became too lazy to hunt and sat on their backsides eating bamboo. The bamboo doesn't have enough protein so they rarely have sex so they are going extinct.

Have no sympathy for pandas. They seem to want to go extinct and we should let them.

Je suis Spock

Incredibly I heard a discussion on BBC radio to the effect that the reason we liked Star Trek's Mr Spock was that he suffered racial confusion, not being quite human. It made him nicer.

For Heaven's sake, Mr Spock was a character in a TV science fiction. Let's try to get through the death of the actor who played him without resorting to drivel about modern self-awareness angst. He was a Vulcan with pointy ears.

No one is ever this nice to John Redwood.

23 February, 2015

La Barcaccia

Appalling scenes in Rome last week as Dutch football fans rioted and damaged a fountain.

Read about it in The Commentator - it's free!

22 February, 2015

Greece again

There has been a lot of talk about winning and losing, and very little about what is best for the people of Greece.

It seems Mr. Tsipras has given a fair bit more than Mrs Merkel but he went into the game with a very weak hand. The idea had been to unite the austerity-condemning governments of France, Spain and Italy into persuading the Germans to give way. Each of these has said publicly that austerity was not the solution but by the time it came to the crunch not one of them backed him. Tsipras must feel let down.

In the end, all Merkel had to do was make sure there was nothing Spain's extreme left party could seize on to upset the elections there later this year.

In fact the Greek people are not best served either by the German austerity plan or by the extreme left policies of Varufakis. Greece can never be competitive using the same money as the Germans.

Most people in Greece want to stay in the euro because they think it is stable money. What it means though is that instead of devaluing the currency when their inefficiencies catch up with them, they have to devalue internally - reducing wage rates to subsistence level.

Mr Tsipras will now have four months to hold an honest discussion with the Greek people. Do they want decades more of this, or would they like a drachma they can devalue, making tourism more attractive, exports cheaper?

It may be we haven't heard the end of this.

18 February, 2015


There's a lot of confusion in the press and the markets today to the effect that Greece will request an extension of its bailout, thus constituting something of a climbdown.

My information however is that it has merely requested an extension of the loan, not of the restrictions and targets that go with it, which would constitute the opposite.

Sometimes it is better to keep quiet than say the wrong thing.

17 February, 2015


After the appalling killing of a Jordanian pilot, Jordan has joined seriously in the fight against Islamic State. Now with the murder of a number of Egyptian Copts, Egypt has joined.

This is as it should be: ISIS has killed remarkably few westerners but captured thousands of square miles of land in the middle east and slaughtered thousands of fellow muslims.

This is not our fight. We must make sure they have all the kit they need and let them get on with it.

The first thing which needs to happen is for Saudi and Qatar to find which of their citizens is shovelling money towards these madmen and stop it.

16 February, 2015


A conversation I have had this morning

'Hello Mr. Hedges, this is the anti-fraud department at XXXX Bank. Can we ask you some questions about your finances?'


'I'm afraid we need to confirm your details'

'Send me a letter'

'No, it has to be done over the 'phone in case we have any questions'

'Are you the people who keep writing to me saying there is a lot of fraud about and I shouldn't give my details to anyone?

'Weeeel, we do need this.'

'But I don't know who you are'

'I said I was from the bank'

So I called the bank: 'has one of your imbeciles operatives called me this morning?'


'Is this normal practice?'

'I don't know'.

Good grief.

14 February, 2015

Tax, when to pay

Possibly to Ed Milliband's annoyance, the people seem to be getting bored or confused or both on this business of tax avoidance.

Rather than spread malicious feeling about rich people (Stanley, now Lord, Fink was a commidities trader who was posted to Geneva by his company and opened an account with the Geneva branch of the bank he used in England) Mr Milliband needs some definition.

Tax evasion, we know, is illegal. The reason people haven't been prosecuted is that the tax office set up a scheme where you could pay a fine. Prosecution is expensive and time consuming - you have to prove the person knew what he was doing was illegal, which lets off someone who has just joined a scheme he was advised was OK. The fine gets the money back but lets the guilty off.

Tax avoidance, by contrast is perfectly legal. If you work for yourself and in a good year put a bit more into your pension, you are avoiding tax. Also if you give money to charity. As Stanley Fink put it 'everyone does it'.

What Milliband needs is to define something which is between these two.

It is possible to tighten up the definition of schemes which do nothing except save tax. But these can already be outlawed and the law is allowed to 'pierce the veil' behind foreign companies and trusts to determine their real purpose. There is something you can do here but not much.

Milliband's best shot would be to undertake to prosecute anyone above a certain amount of evasion. But this would be expensive, both in the costs of prosecution and in the loss of what can be clawed back from the penitent. Also it would require a lot more staff at HMRC.

Perhaps smearing the rich and successful is his best option.


11 February, 2015

Pas Charlie

It seems the British police asked newspaper distributor John Menzies for a list of newsagents stocking Charlie Hebdo and, incredibly, were given it.

Plod has now been round to the newsagents to ask details of the people who bought it.

Perhaps David Cameron who, you will recall, posed on the freedom of speech rally in Paris, could explain whether he thinks this a good thing.

08 February, 2015

The Commentator

Do read the Commentator, high quality journalism which is free.

My latest article is about the political importance of barbers.


A report shows that 1,000 people a month are dying unnecessarily in the British Health Service.

I can't say I'm surprised, but the next time I hear about 'our NHS' being the envy of the world I am going to boil over.

Our Ukraine

'Are Merkel and Hollande going to sell out Ukraine?' asked one paper.

Now, stop me if I've said this before, but I'm sure Merkel and Hollande need to take this on board as well.

The status quo ante in Ukraine wasn't great, but it worked. Ukraine is a large, bankrupt country which is ethnically around 75% European. It survives on rustbucket industries, subsistence farming and handouts.

The deal was that Ukraine had its independence and Russia had a buffer state on its border with Europe, in return for which it provided the handouts, some say as much as $20 billion a year.

After finding its post-independence, pro European government corrupt, Ukraine voted in President Viktor Yannukovic, a Ukrainian-Russian.

Unbelievably, the European Union grew covetous of Ukraine, dignitaries flew down there to glad hand the pro-European bit and a deal was offered to Yannukovic. It was nowhere near enough: the Europeans had no idea what they were doing, and the president knew that unless his people were to starve they would have to stick with Russia, which was at least signing cheques.

But a pro-European mob, strongly supported by the West (the Americans let all this go on, Putin-baiting at someone else's expense being just their idea of fun) overthrew Yannukovic and held elections which were boycotted by the Russian minority, obviously.

So the situation is that the Europeans have to face a massive bill to support a country with an economy still based in the 1950s, and Putin has lost his buffer zone.

Ukraine had faced break up as soon as Europe started to get involved. Putin will have to be given the East and Europe will have to be given the bill for the West.

The people that have really been sold out are the European taxpayers (that's you and me, unless we leave the EU).