Britain’s aircraft carriers, bought but not paid for yet

The Prince of Wales, the newer of the two aircraft carriers costing £3.5bn has broken down in the Solent. I had planned and still plan to write a piece about the 2020-21 Defence Reviews and have already written about it briefly on this blog.  

HMS Prince of Wales R09
HMS Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth, CC Rab Lawrence 2019 BY from flickr

These aircraft carriers, at 64,000 tons are three times bigger than their predecessors which were used to provide air combat capability during the Falklands War. I cannot see a need for such vessels, and it is my view they were authorised to create jobs in the Scottish dockyards that built them albeit under massive US pressure. They are calculated to cost about £3½ bn and the inconvenient truth is they are estimated to have £½m running costs/day!  That makes a fifteen year life time cost of £2.7bn and a full lifetime cost over 50 years of £9.1bn for each aircraft carrier. Over 70% of the whole lifetime cost of the aircraft carriers is running costs and yet to be incurred.

We should sell them, although who would want a ¾ size fleet carrier? Maybe we could sell one each to India and Pakistan, or maybe the Argentines would like one. …

Labour’s Money 2021

Labour’s Money 2021

The Labour Party posted ( mirror ) its 2021 accounts to the Electoral Commission site earlier this week. The papers, the Independent and the Guardian rapidly picked this up. They and Labour List focused on the first deficit in years and the loss of 91,000 members. I look at the numbers and and add the observation that individual donations are very weak, and donations as a whole remain dominated by Trade Union donations. I finsh with a series of questions I think need answering. For more, including charts, 'read more', ...

Energy Prices

Energy Prices

There is a consensus that Energy profiteering is at the centre of the OECD’s inflation crisis. This is exacerbated in the UK due to privatisation and asset stripping of the gas and water companies. Brexit hasn’t helped. This article reviews a number of policy options from left and right. For more, use the 'read more' button ...

What does ‘system update required’ say about Labour’s IT?

What does ‘system update required’ say about Labour’s IT?

As part of the ‘drains up’ undertaken after the 2019 General Election, a coalition calling itself Labour Together undertook a review of what went wrong and as part of that review commissioned an organisation called the "common knowledge co-op" to look at Labour’s IT and its management. They produced a report called “System update required”. (original | mirror ) What did it say? I think this is important, but like so many learning opportunities that challenge power and the bad behaviour of the powerful it seems to me to be dramatically under-valued.

When I first read it, I was outraged. I hoped to summarise it in a sensationalist fashion to see if I could interest someone who might pick it and make things better. What I have written is not that exciting and I suspect little will change because the Party doesn’t have the knowledge and experience and today is led by people who care more about their control and position within the Party than they do in winning an election and becoming a government. I mean they’d be happy to be in Government but it’s more important to them that they control the Party.

In summary, the report says, portfolio management was unacceptably poor and not accountable to the highest levels of management although they too didn’t have clue. There weren’t enough IT staff and the more numerous IT management layer wasn’t good enough. The report makes no mention of ‘requirements management’, nor of any benefits analysis tools to allow an understanding the effectiveness of the software applications provided. Labour’s voter ID/GOTV software is no longer the best. Local adoption of the IT tools is low, partly because of poor commitment to training, partly due to a high turnover of local activists and partly because the Labour machine didn’t care.

In the rest of the article, overleaf, these failings are explored in more detail. ...

Are freeports a bad thing?

Are freeports a bad thing?

There’s some pretty cataclysmic stuff being written about the Freeport/Charter City initiatives. I have had a quick poke around and made this, these notes on my wiki. I think the more cataclysmic predictions are not on the table although it’ll be interesting to see what happens in London Gateway wrt to Amazon , the minimum wage and union recognition. The Baker St. Herald is also on the case, documenting the ideological genesis of the idea of Charter Cities and the powerful network of libertarian billionaires pushing them and their [un]desirable end goals. The Institute of Government seems more sanguine and I note that the Economist article says that they lead to a ‘beggar my neighbour’ policy i.e. that the economic activity they generate is more likely to have come from elsewhere inside the [sterling] customs union.

From the Economist, I draw the conclusion that this is a Tory levelling up/regional policy substituting the market for local government/public money. We should also note that levelling up/regional policy is hard, no UK government has been successful for decades and that the ability to deliver one is more difficult outside the EU/Horizon Europe and having lost the EU levelling up funds.

Freeports basically minimise import duties, they are designed to aid manufacturing to allow them to import raw materials more cheaply and not pay tax on the goods twice i.e. once on the way in and once on the way out, if they are to be exported. While having a freeport in Newcastle may make sense for Nissan, I am unclear how one in London will help the UK’s lawyers and management consultants.

I have two conclusions, for those who think that Freeports will damage local democracy, the issue threatening local democracy is money. The Government are squeezing local government budgets to the extent that some are going under, and others are reduced to performing statutory tasks only. The second is that this Brexit Government has admitted that it cannot install the legally required import tax collection system on EU imports; I wonder if Freeports are a means of disguising yet another Brexit failure.  …

On Labour’s disciplinary rules

On Labour’s disciplinary rules

As part of the ‘drains up’ undertaken after the 2019 General Election, a coalition calling itself Labour Together undertook a review of what went wrong and as part of that review commissioned an organisation called the "common knowledge co-op" to look at Labour’s IT and its management. They produced a report called “System update required”. (original | mirror ) What did it say? I think this is important, but like so many learning opportunities that challenge power and the bad behaviour of the powerful it seems to me to be dramatically under-valued.

Flow Chart of the LP Complaints process

For more, see overleaf ...



The Bank of England was made ‘independent’ of the Treasury in 1997, although not really, so that it could take the blame for any decisions to increase interest rates, such as those taken earlier this week (£) when the Bank increased bank rate to fight inflation.

How does that work? Inflation is believed to have one of two causes, one is that there is too much demand, chasing too few goods and consumers bid up prices. The other is that import prices are rising and thus have an impact on the domestic price level. These are known as demand-pull, or cost push. The current inflation would seem to be caused by the increase in the cost of imports especially primary energy products, exacerbated by a fall in the exchange rate.

The monetarist theory is that there is a real world and money view of the economy.


Prices x Product = Money Supply x Velocity of Money

PQ = Mv

This equation is derived via definitions and algebra and thus there is no proof of causality. Monetarists say that reducing the money supply will reduce prices. This assumes that in the short term both the velocity of money and the amount of product are static. Recent econometric studies suggest that the velocity is not constant, and there has always been a problem of defining what money supply is as it must include some credit and so is very difficult to constrain. We should note that consumer credit can be increased very rapidly so can no longer be consider static.

There can be no doubt from studying economic history, that increasing interest rates to reduce the money supply causes a recession, unemployment and poverty. It’s also highly likely that unionised workers will demand higher wages to defend their living standards. In a world where business is internationally mobile, business will defend its profits by increasing prices and/or off shoring the work; this is the wage-price spiral where an economy has high inflation, both cost push and demand pull and low growth.

The drivers of growth and/or the floor to a recession are investment, exports or government expenditure, especially benefits. Increasing interest rates makes investment and the national debt more expensive. It makes exports cheaper in their foreign markets but of course the big factor in the export price uplift is Brexit. Higher interest rates increases the income on savings and the expense on business and domestic borrowing. A squeeze on profits will cause capital to go overseas, especially if the exchange rate is high although this may be ameliorate by the increasing yield in bonds. The other cause of the economic malaise is the poor investment rates by both the private and public sector in the UK.

There can be no doubt that increasing interest rates will cause unemployment. This is how it reduces demand.

The other option to monetary policy is product supply, direct investment such as the EU’s Horizon Europe programme or price regulation to cause a profit squeeze, tax the energy companies and banks, build more houses, control profits, transfer income from the wealthy to  the poor because the poor spend more of their income and of course rejoining the EU’s single market to reduce both import and export frictional costs.

High interest rates are a choice, a choice of theory and a choice of policy. The inconvenient truth is no-one knows if it works.


I conclude with some links to key commentators, professional economists. David Blanchflower, writes in the New Statesman, “The Bank of England is recklessly driving the UK into a deep recession”, he warns of the threat of unemployment, elsewhere on his twitter feed he is highly critical of the Bank and its Governor, Andrew Bailey, He is also quoted in a video clip by C4 on twitter, stating that unemployment hurts people more than inflation, which can be seen to be a declining threat. Anne Petifor exposes the role of the global capital markets in ‘managing’ food and energy costs, Richard Murphy provides a modern monetary critique of the theories. I particularly like his calling out of the role of import prices and speculators,

There is a third reason why the BoE policy will not work. It’s not just the assumption that people have too much to spend that the BoE get wrong. They have actually totally failed to identify the proper cause of this inflation.

The inflation we’re suffering is the result of shortages of oil, gas, fertiliser and food, in the main. Some of these are real (food, in particular). Others are being stoked by speculators who are profiting from them, which is why oil companies are declaring such big profits now

Richard Murphy – On Twitter

The featured image has been taken from Blanchflower’s New Statesman article where he asserts its a BoE MPC authored chart. This I assume can e used under the OGL license.  …