Uncategorized Views

German Cycles give a better Ride

The article was written for OMFIF and is published here with the permission of the author.

By Bob Bischof

Was the headline of an article I wrote for the Guardian in 1994 trying to explain why the post-war business cycles in the two countries were so markedly different, and what mechanisms Germany used to flatten the cycles by anticyclical fiscal and monetary means.

The main one being of course the so-called Kurzarbeit – a kind of furlough system – helping companies in cyclical downturns to keep their staff and to prevent a vicious downward spiral of job losses, falling demand, more job losses etc etc. This system is particularly effective as it is insurance based. During the upswings in the cycle this hypothecated pot swells up and can be released during the downward leg without the cost falling immediately on the public purse.

Both employers and employees are sharing the cost of the unemployment insurance and both benefit – employees in case they are actually made redundant and employers can apply for help with their wage bill and don’t have to go through the expenses of paying for redundancy, when the order book drops and in the next upswing for the re-hiring and re-training cost.

When Peter Mandelson, now Lord Mandelson, was evaluating this during his tenure as President of the Department of Trade and Industry (now BEIS), he dismissed it as unsuitable for the UK, as it would be misused (noting some of the stories about the present furlough system, maybe, he wasn’t too wrong.)

Later Gordon Brown boasted with his famous phrase “no more booms and busts” only to be hit shortly after by the worst kind of recession since the Wall Street crash of 1929/30. In Germany for example unemployment rose by around 200.000 with employees in Kurzarbeit at 1.8 million; in the UK unemployment peaked at over 2 million or 8% of the workforce in 2010/12.

Cyclical ups and downs are as old as described in the bible as the seven fat years and the seven lean years. Business cycles vary in length and can be extended by massive fiscal and/or monetary intervention as we have seen since the 2008/9 banking crises. This time the recovery lasted nearly ten years, but was finally crashed by an unforeseen event, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The policies to get over the economic impact will be the same as in previous recessions. Countries with prudent fiscal policies will fare better than those with lose ones. The same goes of course for private households. In countries with low saving rates and high debt levels, the impact will be more severe and the state has to bail more people out with taxpayers’ money. Once more the Northern European states once again will be first out of the traps with the UK and the South suffering most hardship.

Is it possible to learn the lessons from these re-occurring events? The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak seems to think so, when he changed the current furlough system to the more German type of Kurzarbeit. Changing, however the benefit side of the scheme is one thing, the funding and supervisory side is a lot more difficult.

Firstly, the funding needs to be in place and the idea of anything hypothecated and anti-cyclical is hard to imagine being introduced in the UK let alone the necessary additional tax for employees and employers. Secondly, the question of supervising such a scheme to prevent fraud and supporting lame ducks needs regional input from banks, local communities, job centres and HMRC.

The institute that deals with this in Germany and that reports to the Ministry for Labour is the Bundesagentur fuer Arbeit or short Arbeitsamt, which sports 96,000 full time employees in 156 regional “Arbeitsamters “and 900 local jobcentres.  Interestingly the “Arbeitsamt” has a budget of around Euro 40 billion and is “self-administered” and has a supervisory board with employer and employee representation.

The combination of the latter also plays an important role in the acceptance or not of employer requests for Kurzarbeit support, thus to helping ensure the proper allocation of funding. This infrastructure came in handy when in April this year 155,000 firms received Kurzarbeit support (highest year before was 2008 with 55.000 firms receiving it).

The furlough system had to be created quickly and deficiencies were to be accepted. Let us hope Mr Sunak gets the new scheme right for the long term and can proof Lord Mandelson wrong. It won’t be easy.

Bob Bischof




Do we need a more boring Boris?

This blog was written by Juergen Maier, chairman of the Digital Catapult and formerly managing director of Siemens UK, and published on 13 April 2020.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

“When I was a young chap, I remember having to choose between making my first place of work Siemens in Germany or Siemens in the UK, having done a student industrial placement at both. I chose the UK and remember saying to my friends in a similar factory to mine in Germany how much more fun it is in the UK – ‘We start a bit later, by midday it’s all gone horribly wrong, then we all muck in and we have to work late into the evening, but we get the job done’. ‘You, on the other hand,’ I would say, ‘start early, everything goes to plan, you are back with your families by 4pm, but it’s all so damn boring!’

As my experience grew, I realised that good planning does generally trump firefighting and I spent much of my next thirty years of work trying to marry the best of both worlds. There is, however, no question that the British instinct is to firefight, wing it and under-invest rather than systematically plan. My favourite was a customer who insisted we shipped him a sizeable order of obsolete out-dated technology, so he could keep his already creaking infrastructure going for another 20 years. In Germany, most engineers would have replaced the old technology a long time ago and, if not, would certainly have used its obsolescence as an opportunity to ensure it’s a case of out with the old.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always marvelled at and enjoyed the role of British creativity, ingenuity and flexibility in getting the job done. It is fun. But when it comes to a crisis, admirable as our British fighting spirit is, nothing beats good planning and being incredibly well prepared.

Covid-19, unfortunately a crisis of enormous scale, shows us the virtues of two different cultures. We have all marvelled at the speed with which we can build a number of new Nightingale hospitals. We are cheering on our NHS staff who are doing the most amazing job in unbelievably difficult circumstances. I join in every Thursday in awe of their efforts. We listen with both fear and hope to the daily 5pm Government press-briefing and whilst I know everyone means for all this to turn out for the best, the lack of planning and foresight is very evident. Three weeks ago, we were told of 3.5 million already-ordered antibody tests. Most missed the small print that these tests had not yet been validated and they will probably never arrive. We were told of a significant order placed with Dyson for a brand-new ventilator design, yet these have not been certified for use by the NHS. A less PR-hungry team of excellent UK engineers, with the name of VentilatorChallengeUK did take a more systematic approach to the matter and I am delighted to say that they are now actually delivering ventilators. However, because their approach appeared more realistic and less heroic, it has been too boring to get much of an airing in the over-hyped daily briefings.

And then there were our now much scrutinised deliberations on herd immunity. Right in the middle of a crisis is never a good time to experiment with novel approaches. This should have been thought through well before and sadly it now seems clear that it cost us some critical time.

At the same time, I have been speaking to my family in Germany and Austria and keeping abreast of their approaches. The difference is stark. Calm, measured, planned and reassuring are words that come to mind.

The lockdowns were instant and without delay, having looked at the evidence from China, Italy and others. The leadership was strong and calm, with a strong sense of we are all in this together: not one set of rules for us and another lot for everyone else.

There are no new Nightingale hospitals required, as the existing capacity can cope and has a little spare to help take some patients from neighbouring countries, Italy and France.

Whilst Britain’s promised scaled testing programme is still to arrive, I listened last week to Germany’s antibody testing strategy in great detail, as it scales up this week. It will form a key part of Germany’s exit strategy from this crisis.

There is no Thursday night clapping of the NHS and critical care workers. This may seem unappreciative, but the truth is they feel appreciated all of the time. They are better paid, have got a much better resourced medical infrastructure behind them and have not just suffered 10 years of deep austerity, a major contributor to our relative lack of capacity. Germany entered this crisis with nearly 5 times more critical care beds per capita than the UK.

The conclusion I draw is that our inability to be amongst the best in coping with such a crisis derives from a culture of bad planning, poor upfront investment and making people with less foresight the heroes rather than our systematic and meticulous planners. The same culture is a root cause of our relative poor economic performance over the last decade, something I have written and spoken about a great deal.

So yes, we need to change our culture to champion the people perceived as more ‘boring’ who meticulously plan ahead of time. Where are the people receiving that same praise as our Nightingale builders for having created well thought through pandemic crisis measures well in advance? And there is no lack of good planners. In 2016 Operation Cygnus pointed to the potential collapse of NHS resources in a potential flu pandemic, but the planners that should have been praised were largely ignored. And experts weren’t trendy at the time either, because they were mostly in disagreement with the populist messages of the time.

And at the core is something very fundamental. Our most successful politicians drive this culture from the top. Those who make a media announcement today that has made their party look strong will get the praise, however sketchy their idea is. And whilst we have many, especially in our civil service who do their best to plan and mitigate, they don’t receive that praise and so everyone is encouraged to become a firefighter. I have worked with some incredible teams in our civil service and whilst their instinct is to be strategic and plan ahead, they don’t get the praise or space to do it.

In German there is a wonderful saying that ‘a fish stinks from the head’. All behaviours and all cultures are driven from the top. I had the pleasure of meeting Angela Merkel a couple of times and I have always marvelled at her incredible foresight, yet understated and calm approach. She has become famous for calling boring and unremarkable politics the best type of politics, an approach which helps create a culture of foresight, in which planning is rewarded. I have also met Boris Johnson a number of times and one thing I can say for sure is that it was never boring!

I applauded Boris’s departure from hospital and am pleased he is well. I will also applaud every time I see an approach that, instead of being short term and seat of the pants, however ingenious it might appear, is long term, well planned and much more boring!”

First published at Juergen Maier’s blog on 13 April 2020

My hope for a more boring Boris


Coronavirus has pushed Brexit off the news

By Bob Bischof

The British government seems determined not to raise the issue of a postponement of the negotiations. The reality is, however that not only will they be postponed but Brexit itself is unlikely to happen during the present economic and social upheaval caused by the Corona Virus and in its aftermath.

A crisis like the one we are witnessing now has a small positive in the guise of an internationally unifying and harmonising effect. Country after country is presently giving up its particular social and economic stance in favour of an all out push to save businesses large and small by forking out loans, grants and by taking stakes in them. The EU had to abandon its rules on state aid and Germany had to kick its balanced budget rules into touch.
While in a number of continental countries employees have been protected in the past during economic downturns, this is now also practiced in the Anglo-Saxon world of hard headed capitalism like the US and Britain to avoid the downward spiralling effect of mass unemployment in the present crises.
The forerunner of this kind of state intervention was the German post-war model of the Social Market Economy. This concept had its roots at Freiburg University, where a group of economics professors concluded in the aftermath of the 1929/30 Wall Street crash that liberal capitalism had failed and needed adjustments.
For fear of another populist Führer emerging on the back of mass layoffs, the model of an unemployment insurance was developed that benefited not only the unemployed with healthy benefits, but also prevented unemployment per se in economic downturns by paying the employers to keep their staff.
It will be interesting to see, how much of this common approach will survive and find its way into legislation in the post-crisis years. A chance for change was missed in the years following the 2008/9 recession. This present crises has all the hallmarks of one at least twice as bad.
Will it lead to more solidarity in the EU? There are some encouraging signs, although the individual nation states are leading in the war against the virus. Maybe that’s the way forward for Europe – leave the nation states predominately to look after their interest and coordinate at the macro level. Britain could quite possibly sign up for a concept like that eventually.
Trump’s America will go straight back to their shareholder first/winner takes all model and any change there to a more sustainable form of capitalism as promoted by the likes of Paul Polman will have to wait until Trump is history.
BB/March 2020

Challenge for the Rhineland model

Germany’s longer-term capitalism has served it well

By Robert Bischof in Manchester


Before the coronavirus hit us, there were signs that capitalism was beginning to change from the free-wheeling neoliberal shareholder value model to something more sustainable. Increasing inequality and a resulting rise in populism have raised concern.  Greater focus on environmental issues has helped prompt re-examination of a predominantly Anglo-Saxon free market model.

Shuttered industrial plants and grounded flights will, at least temporarily, reduce global emissions.  But sustainability in business practices may take a back seat for a while as companies struggle to survive. In Europe, we may see a renaissance of interest in   Germany’s long-term stakeholder-focused capitalism –  the Rhineland model. Yet  even that strong framework faces the sternest of tests..

The reappraisal of the ‘shareholders first’ paradigm has come despite and perhaps partly because of an avowedly pro-business Donald Trump in the White House.  His policies – big on corporate tax cuts, poor on countering climate change – helped propel Wall Street to record highs until earlier this month..  Sensing a swing in the popular mood, a large number of companies and business leaders have signed up to longer-term capitalism. Paul Polman, former chief executive  of Unilever, has  set up Imagine, a  sustainability foundation designed to fight climate change, reduce  global poverty and help achieve the United Nations 2030 sustainable development goals. He has assembled luminaries on his  board such as Virgin group founder Richard Branson, environmental campaigner Suzy Amis Cameron, communications expert Arianna Huffington, and philanthropist Sue Rockefeller.

However, when business leaders are suddenly faced with unprecedented challenges, it’s difficult to keep the high moral ground. Virgin Atlantic, part-owned by Branson, has announced eight weeks of unpaid leave for its employees,  with 75-85% of its fleet not flying. Other badly affected airlines have been forced into similar action. Thousands of small and large companies will shed employees one way or the other. The UK and US governments have promised massive amounts of help including the Washington announcement of direct injections of cash to citizens. Governments and central banks are having to scramble for mechanisms to implement  these measures on a grand scale. The effect on the US and UK debt servicing could be catastrophic.

This is where the much-criticised German model of prudence and careful anti-cyclical financial management may come into its own. Peter Altmaier, German economics minister, has  announced that ‘every healthy German firm of any size’ will be supported and ‘will not lose one employee’.

How can he promise that? First, Germany had a fiscal surplus in r the last six years and the government is prepared to loosen self-imposed rules of a balanced budget. Second, Berlin will use the KFW state development bank  as the instrument for channeling loans through Germany’s 3,000 banks to companies in cash difficulties. Third, as a result of low unemployment, Germany’s  hypothecated unemployment insurance fund is full and will be used for the short-time working (Kurzarbeit) benefit, under which companies pay their employees’ wages even when they are sent home. This has been one of  the German  social market economy‘s biggest postwar successes,  greatly reducing  redundancies  in 2008-09 compared with the UK, and better preparing the country for an eventual upswing.

One large question mark hangs over Europe’s south, already  burdened by immigration and debt, with less  resilient economic systems  than Germany. These nations will now struggle even more. Germany has no alternative but to show more solidarity. If the richer states abandon the poorer, the problems will just be pushed further north. But if Germany extends its largesse too extensively to the south, even the  sturdy Rhineland model could start to buckle.


Bob Bischof is Chairman of the German-British Forum and Vice President of the German-British Chamber of Industry & Commerce


BASF statement on possible post-Brexit regulatory scenarios

Richard Carter, BASF Head UK/Ireland

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells Brussels there is no need for the UK government to follow EU rules on trade, while the EU called for a level playing field, industries face different outcomes for the regulatory framework they operate within.

The UK chemicals industry, which has an integrated European supply chain, until January 31st operated within REACH, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, a European Union regulation dating from 18 December 2006. REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment.

BASF UK & Ireland has analysed the scenarios and has explained to government the potential impacts along with proposing some practical mitigation mechanisms – see below.
A form of “UK-REACH” , where the UK creates its independent regulations that manage to comply with most of REACH while being self-determined, follows here and is estimated to cost BASF about £70 million, without enhancing professional, consumer or environmental safety, the primary objective of chemical legislation.

Richard Carter, managing director of BASF UK & Ireland, is a board member of the German British Forum.

 BREXIT & Chemicals (REACH) Legislation

The UK officially left the EU on January 31st, 2020. At this point, an 11-month transition period began during which the “future relationship” negotiations will take place. If these are not agreed or extended, a “no-deal” Brexit scenario for the UK is possible as early as 31st December 2020.

In Autumn 2018, the UK government shared how chemical legislation would be administered in case of a no-deal Brexit. The statutory instrument (UK-REACH) was passed by Parliament in March 2019.

Future Relationship Negotiations

 _BASF believes it would be best for them and the UK chemicals sector if the UK remains part of the EU-REACH framework, still accessing the services of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). A concept referred to as “Associate Membership” in UK government white paper, Jul 18 (paragraphs 30/31).

Consequences of a no-deal and UK-REACH for EU/UK chemical industry

 The UK will have its own UK-REACH regulation. A copy/paste from EU-REACH, adjusted for operability. There is no UK authority acceptance of existing EU-REACH compliance in this legislation.

 To continue manufacturing and/or importing substances (>1te/yr), UK-held REACH registrations will require re-registration through means of data in a dossier.

 Chemicals supplied to the UK from EU27 states will no longer be regarded as downstream-use. EU27 sourced chemicals will be regarded as import and require registration (>1te/yr).

 Registration timeframes are very challenging, 2 years from point of exit.

 Access to registration data requires negotiation with owner, this will be time-consuming and expensive.

 EU data-owners have no obligation to share data with UK registrants. Repetition of studies, including animal studies, is perceived.

 UK fees copied directly from EU-REACH. This is disproportionate considering size of UK market.

For UK affected chemical supply-chains, this is the worst-case scenario.

Consequences of UK REACH for BASF

BASF’s plant in Littlehampton, West Sussex

The chemical sector is the “Industry of Industries” and BASF supplies chemicals into the UK market for applications including medical/pharmaceutical, automotive, food and nutrition amongst others.

 Approximately 90% of BASF’s UK sales are products sourced from EU27 countries. BASF supplies ~1,200 different substances to the UK market at volumes >1te/yr.

 Using industry association estimations, expected costs for dossier compilation in region of £60mn. Dossier submission fees will be ~£10mn.

~£70mn expense for BASF, without enhancing professional, consumer or environmental safety, the primary objective of chemical legislation.

BASF expects costs combined with restrictive timelines will lead to supply chain disruption.

BASF expects product/substance rationalisation due to commercial factors and assumes that other companies with broad portfolios will face similar challenges and decision making.


Ten Brexit “Fs” to watch out for in 2020

By Denis MacShane

This article was originally published in The Article here

2020 will see Britain enter its fifth year of Brexit. The period since June 2016 has been the phoney war Brexit, but now, with the election of a determined life-long opponent of the EU as prime minister, Brexit will get real. Boris Johnson won a handsome majority and now has the democratic authority to alter Britain’s relationship with Europe.

The pro-Brexit enthusiasts like John Redwood or the economist Gerard Lyons, as well as self-anointed trade “experts”, assure us that negotiating Brexit will be a stroll in the park. This time next year we will know. Meanwhile, here are ten “Fs” to look out for.

1) Free trade agreements (FTA). These are normally concluded between two parties who want to open up their mutual economies. The EU offered a no tariff, no quotas FTA to Theresa May in the early days of Brexit. She refused it, as her priority was ending Europeans working freely in the UK. Now the same offer has been made to Boris Johnson, but again on condition that the UK obeys the same rules as other EU members. An FTA based on leaving existing arrangements is unusual. No-one knows how long it might take.

2) Financial services. These don’t feature in FTAs nor are they covered by the increasingly weakened World Trade Organisation. Nations protect, via their own laws, how money is handled and who can provide a professional service. 80 per cent of the UK is now services, not manufacturing. Margaret Thatcher destroyed national protectionist rules in Europe with her single market policy. There are 350,000 specific permits known as “passports” given by the EU to the City to trade anywhere in a market of 450 million consumers. These are granted entirely at the EU’s discretion. Keeping that access will require equal concessions from London.

3) Fishing. If Britain insists, as Mr Johnson has pledged, that British territorial waters will extend to 200 km around UK shores, and all fishing boats from European nations with an Atlantic, Channel or North Sea coast should keep out, there will be an explosion of political anger from Denmark to Spain. Any EU-UK agreement has to clear ratification hurdles that run all the way from the European Parliament to, in some cases, national parliaments. A refusal to share the waters of the UK will torpedo ratification.

4) Freedom of movement. This dates back to the first European Coal and Steel Community of 1950, when hiring on the basis of religion or nationality was outlawed. The UK could have always adopted, and can still today adopt, various measures that are common on the continent to control, register, or send home EU citizens, as well as policies to support national workers. We have refused to do this. The moment the UK ordains that EU citizens needs a visa to visit Britain, or have to go through a clunky immigration bureaucracy to work in a care home or picking fruit, there will be reciprocal measures against the 1.5 million Brits who live in Spain, France and other EU nations.

5) Foreign direct investment (FDI). Much of Britain’s most productive manufacturing firms, like Nissan or Airbus, are FDI outfits in Britain because a) they can export freely without paperwork anywhere in Europe and b) have just-in-time assembly with hundreds of thousands of components, as well as skilled problem-solving technicians, arriving freely in the UK without paperwork or customs clearance. If this changes, the Japanese government has made clear it will be difficult to justify continuing FDI in Britain.

6) Foreign policy. For 50 years, British foreign policy has been articulated around partnership and cooperation with fellow European counties. Mrs Thatcher first called for a European Common Foreign and Security Policy in a far-sighted speech in France in 1984. Now all British officials are retreating from Brussels, and the myriad of committees and working parties they serve with full rights to speak, propose or object and in the case of ministers to vote. Every morning at UN bodies, and every week in most capitals around the world, there are coordination meetings of ambassadors from 28 European nations to agree a common line. The UK will now not take part in coordinating common European foreign policy.

7) Farage. On 1 February, Nigel Farage’s 20-year-career as an elected British politician ends, as all UK MEPs pack their bags and come home. What will be his future influence? Will the BBC continue to treat him as a major statesman? Once the UK leaves the EU Treaty structure will the anti-European temperature go down and sensible compromises be possible?

8) Free flow of data. The European GDPR rules, to which Britain currently subscribes, will become more, not less, important as computer algorithm capitalism drives forward. If Britain opts out, perhaps to align with America in this area, that will make data exchange, especially for human resource managers in multinational firms operating in the UK and other EU economies, difficult, even possibly illegal. Johnson’s insistence that low level courts in Britain can repudiate any ECJ ruling or EU-wide law, opens the door to an agony of uncertainty for thousands of firms currently doing business in Britain.

9) Financial contribution. So far, Britain has indicated it would like to keep participating in Europe-wide university research projects, the Erasmus programme, the European Space Agency and other work which single nations even the size of the UK cannot undertake by themselves. This will require a significant UK contribution to the EU budget. This can be disguised and rebadged, but both Norway and Switzerland are big contributors to EU finances.

10) France. Britain’s early 19th century Foreign Secretary, George Canning, insisted that the French “have but two rules of action; to thwart us whenever they know our object, and when they know it not, to imagine one for us, and set about thwarting that.” Cynical, but not wholly untrue. Today the most powerful EU political leader is Emmanuel Macron. His sworn opponent is the hard right anti-EU Marine Le Pen. She was the first political leader after Donald Trump to congratulate Boris Johnson on his election victory, just as she put the union flag on her social media pages when Brexit was voted in 2016.

President Macron will not be able to offer many concessions to a Le Pen UK which is setting out to show that the EU is not needed for a successful European nation to flourish. This is not punishment but pure politics. One advantage, perhaps, of Brexit will be that, finally, political and business leaders in Britain will have to learn about how Europe, not Brussels, but the 27 separate sovereign nation states, think and act.


UK election – options by Denis MacShane

Election Note 25 November 2019
By Denis MacShane

    1. It remains hard to predict with certainty the election outcome.  The opinion polls give Johnson a clear lead but they gave Theresa May a similar clear lead at the same stage in the 2017 election. When Boris Johnson became prime minister in July opinion polls gave the Brexit Party on 20 per cent of the vote. But there are no Brexit Party candidates in any Tory seat so that vote now supports Johnson which gives him a flattering (to decive)  lead in polls today. But all he is doing is increasing vote share in seats that are already Tory. Tonight’s 25 November poll shows Labour up 2 points.
    2.  I was canvassing Saturday in Watford, a Tory seat north of London with a 2000 majority, and on Sunday Canterbury, a Labour seat won in 2017 with a tiny majority of just 187.
    3.  In neither seat – one a morning street stall on the High Street talking to voters and in Kent intensive door-to-door knocking did I sense any enthusiasm for the Conservatives. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are disliked and neither is seen as a worthy prime minister.
    4. The Johnson mantra, “Get Brexit Done”, reflects the clear Brexit fatigue but it is not clear that Brexit fatigue extends to voting for the Johnson version of Brexit which as one of our best commentators wrote this morning “means the end of British manufacturing as we know it.”
    5. I was surprised in Kent which voted 59-41 to Leave in 2016 at how little enthusiasm there was for Brexit. More than one voter said it would be damaging for the next generation of younger people.
    6. Nigel Farage has all but disappeared as an important figure in the campaign. The Liberal Democratic leader, Jo Swinson, did not impress in the Friday evening BBC TV interviews with Johnson, Corbyn, the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson. Ms Swinson was repeatedly attacked by members of the audience for her statement she would simply ignore the 2016 referendum result and  revoke Article 50 to stay in EU. Several said this was simply undemocratic with much support in the audience. Others attacked her record as an MP and minister in the David Cameron government where she voted for harsh cuts to social welfare for disabled people and women pensioners. She stuttered and never got back any composure. I would judge the hopes of a major LibDem breakthrough based on their success in the European Parliament election are now dead.
    7. In fact, it is hard to see where lots of seats will change hands. I don’t see many Labour seats falling to Johnson. I don’t see Corbyn’s leftwing manifesto winning Tory seats. But in terms of numbers out canvassing and reach-out to young people, Corbyn and Labour are making the running. The Tories and LibDems try and depict him only as an anti-semite. Labour has got major problems with anti-semitism and few of the UK’s 260,000 Jews will vote Tory. (I wrote about this here:  But Johnson has problems with the regular surfacing of disgusting anti-Muslim prejudice by Tory Party members, some holding local office. Not many of the 3.3 million British Muslims will vote for Johnson.
    8. Other factors should be remembered. 26 per cent of voters say they have not yet decided how to vote. Nearly 1.5 million young voters (18-34 years) have put themselves on the electoral register since October. They do not share the anti-Europeanism of older Tories. Of 30-49 year olds now with families, worried about schools, housing, the Johnson-Tory monomaniacal obsession with Brexit seems silly. It is not they are ardent Europhiles. They regard the way Theresa May (up to July) , Boris Johnson and other Tories who can or could only talk about leaving Europe as single issue militants who ignore Britain’s real time problems. Only three out of ten of this group say they will vote Conservative. How many Tory seats will the SNP win in Scotland? Will the DUP lose 3 seats to modern pro-EU Ulster unionists and the SDLP? Johnson only knows southern England. This election may turn on the votes of the other nations in the UK.
    9. I talk to Labour MPs most days and all report an electorate that is not moving, that dislikes  Corbyn but holds Johnson in contempt, that just wants Brexit to go away and knows Johnson’s proposals mean Brexit dominating Britain for years to come. The fact Nigel Farage is standing Brexit Party candidates in Labour seats is helpful to Labour as it divides the anti-EU vote between Johnson and Farage.
    10. Perhaps it will become clear. It was assumed a week ago that the television debates between potential party leaders followed by the publication of party manifestos would bring some clarity. This has not happened. No-one really knows. My best guess is that as elsewhere in Europe voters will not give a single party a clear majority of seats and full authority to govern. The House of Commons may become a Parliament of No Majority.

ENTRUSTED: Stewardship for Responsible Wealth Creation

By Ong Boon Hwee and Mark Goyder

This review is reproduced from an original review published by The Financial Times, compiled by  and . Here is the original article

According to Goyder and Ong, stewardship is the middle way between shareholder primacy and stakeholder theory. An overstrict shareholder focus can lead to manipulation of profit and share price; stakeholder capitalism, where companies must balance the interests of multiple parties, from customers to community, is fraught with lack of accountability and potential confusion. Stewardship, by contrast, “offers the best of both worlds” insisting that directors have a duty to encourage the long-term success of the company.

They “act today, with tomorrow in mind”, in the words of Entrusted. Goyder, a founder of Tomorrow’s Company, a think-tank, has spent a career explaining and promoting the idea; while Ong is chief executive of Singapore’s Stewardship Asia Centre.

Entrusted offers plenty of examples of companies that follow a successful long-term stewardship model. For instance, it compares the fate of Cadbury, whose dispersed shareholders delivered the UK confectioner into the arms of a bid from Kraft in 2010, with that of Olam, the Nigerian agribusiness, which staved off the threat of hostile takeover with the support of its long-term anchor investor, Temasek. (The endowments of the Singapore state investment fund are overseen by the Temasek Trust, which also supports the Sac.)

The authors walk readers through the stewardship “value chain” and lay out the stewardship responsibilities of board, investors and the state. They may overstate their case a little — suggesting “stewardship spirit” can save us from extreme populism or socialism — but this is a timely call to rediscover the path to more sustainable capitalism.



The Five Extension Options for Johnson and Corbyn

By Denis MacShane


There is a faux debate about whether an extension after 1 November can, should or will be offered. The EU27 is as bored and irritated with Brexit as we are but will not seek the blame for finally kicking the UK over the Brexit cliff. If we want to jump and crash that will be our decision made here in our country.


So here are five ways the extension can happen.


  • One Mr Johnson has agreed a deal that meets EU conditions which so far he has rejected;
  • Two The House of Commons agrees to at least the core Withdrawal Agreement with its 3 pillars of money owed,  fair treatment of EU citizens in UK, and the  Ireland backstop. It may be that the Irish backstop can be dressed up in a different manner such as the entire island of Ireland staying in the EU Customs Union and the Single Market. Most  voters in mainland Britain would not care one way or another and nor would Northern Irish nationalist voters and moderate Unionists. But this is a clear economic separation of the province of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The paradox is that there has always been political and legal separation of Northern Ireland from Britain as key British laws and values on women and gay rights are rejected by both protestant and catholic politicians in Northern Ireland. It seems odd therefore to reject slightly different economic rules and legal obligations. Most MPs are fed up with the DUP chokehold over the Brexit process. The DUP and even the pro-DUP English Tory MPs would would be in a minority if Mr Johnson called their bluff.

But this does not guarantee a Commons majority for even an amended Withdrawal Agreement. There is so much distrust by all opposition MPs for the Prime Minister the chance of Labour, LibDem, SNP and other opposition MPs voting for anything that Mr  Johnson can present as a triumph is zero.

  • Three Something happens in UK either via the Supreme Court or when the Commons returns 14th October that means a crash out No Deal should be put off;
  • Four The Prime Minister decides as many senior Tory ex ministers are now saying that the only way to cut the Gordian knot of Brexit is a new referendum. It may well confirm  the June 2016 vote but at least there would be finality;
  • Five Opposition parties agree to a dissolution so a general election is held in November. The EU27 would not seek to expel UK if there was a clear decision to hold a general election


But having twice shown they can prevent Mr Johnson calling an election, opposition parties will have to weigh carefully who benefits from a general election?  Polling is all over the place but clearly the Conservatives believe that an election that happens before a referendum will be a Brexit election and a re-run of June 2016. Mr Johnson will be the champion of the people against the old stuck-in-the-mud Westminster gang who have refused to implement the decision taken by the people in June 2016.

Yet it is far from clear that a General Election will produce a majority for any single party especially with Scotland likely to elect many SNP MPs. Even if there was a majority for Mr Johnson, for Mr Corbyn or maybe a majority for a Labour-LibDem post-election alliance created just to organize a referendum that does not alter the terms of trade for the EU27.  Government  leaders across the Channel will be unfazed by a re-elected Mr Johnson since they do not trust him nor can they change the legal and treaty obligations that they have to defend as part of the Brexit process.

Therefore as one eliminates all the possibilities as Sherlock Holmes might say, there is one option left. That is to hold a referendum before not after a general election. The country would take a final decision. If it maintains the Brexit vote of more than three years ago, well and good. Britain would know where it stood and have to make arrangements to be a very different country. An election after that existential decision was made could be fought on opposing visions of Britain from the main parties or even from  new formations that might emerge.

But to hold an election first is to put the cart before the horse and solves nothing. If Johnson was smart he would dust down the old Tory slogan “Trust the People” and make a Conservative virtue of the political and constitutional necessity of solving Brexit once and for all.


Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister of Europe.

His new book Brexiternity. The Uncertain Future of Britain will be published by IB Tauris next month


Dr Denis Macshane

Former Europe Minister

Senior Advisor Avisa Partners Brussels

10 Westmoreland Terrace, London SW1V4AF

+44 7958308213


Please buy Brexeternity. The Uncertain Future of Britain


All that matters in this un-British coup is: has Boris got the numbers?

Dr Denis MacShane writes in The Article on 28 August 2019

Forget the predictable hyperbole, the coup vocabulary, the comparisons with 1642, the lists of previous prorogations, the calls by David Lammy to descend into the street and march on Parliament. In the end the only aspect of Boris Johnsons remarkable announcement that matters are the numbers.

Does he have a majority? How many members of the Cabinet were consulted and, indeed, did the Cabinet meet between Johnsons return from the G7 summit and todays extraordinary brushing to one side of the Britains parliamentary democracy?

One can assume Priti Patel and Dominic Raab are gung ho, but are Matt Hancock, George Freeman, Amber Rudd and indeed, the Prime Minister’s Remain-voting brother, Jo Johnson? (since this post, Jo has left the Conservative party)

Already Justine Greening, the level-headed Rotherham-born and -schooled former Education Secretary has said that what the Prime Minister is proposing is unacceptable. She represents Putney, a swing Waitrose seat, middle class to the point of parody. How many of the Tory MPs with majorities of under 2,000 can be at ease as their leader throws centuries of parliamentary constitutionalism under the bus?

The neatly nicknamed Gaukeward squad, the Rory Stewarts, the Philip Hammonds, and other ex-ministers from the Theresa May governments now have a cause and a case to make.

They, not Jeremy Corbyn, will be in the driving seat. Perhaps Kate Hoey will back this Faragiste Prime Minister, but will Frank Field, who is no fan of Europe but is a serious parliamentarian?

How many others of Labours pro-Brexit MPs will want to go all the way to back a Prime Minister who has no mandate, will not submit his policy to the people in an election, and seems to be treating Parliament asTrotskyists, Stalinists and Islamists treat the annual conference of the National Union of Students? The House of Commons is not Boris Johnson’s private ideological playground.

Keep counting and the numbers for Johnson do not add up — rather like the famous £350 million a week for the NHS or the imminent arrival of 79 million Turks. A quick look at the figures and one wonders if the Prime Minister, never a man for detail, has been gulled into this adventure by men, or a man, who have never faced the voters and never run an election campaign, which is not the same as a single issue plebiscite. Step forward, Dominic Cummings.

Wisely, Jeremy Corbyn was not on the platform yesterday of opposition leaders calling for Parliament to have a say. Like Johnson, Corbyn is not much loved, indeed loathed by many. Like Johnson he does not represent all his party, but now all he has to do is be statesmanlike, mouth mournful reproaches about democracy, and leave politics and number counting to Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson.

Both the SNP and the Lib Dems have had an early Christmas with Johnsons announcement. Forget about Lib Dem behaviour in coalition or the incompetent governance of Scotland — now these two parties will speak for democracy in Scotland and England and Wales and scoop up votes.

The final count has to be of the deep state — the senior civil service, the ambassadors who will be stunned at todays news and shake their head as their country looks like a third world golpista state, the army officers, the big businesses and bank, and the custodians of the monarchy.

Has Johnson done his sums and are enough of Britains deciders going to be on his side in this very unBritish Coup? Nothing else matters.