Paris and London – a tale of disagreements

 

The French have often briefed against the Anglo Saxon way. They dislike our success at banking and financial services, disagree with policies that allow more freedom and flexibility to set up in business, to take a job or find a new employee, to encourage enterprise. President George Bush was not completely wrong if  he did famously say the French have no word for entrepreneur!

President Hollande set out on an interesting economic experiment. He was cheered on by socialists and bien pensant commentators on both sides of the Channel. Where the UK cut the top rate of tax he would increase it. Where the UK cut the tax rate on business, he would squeeze them harder to get them to pay their fair amount. Where the UK would curb the rate of increase in public spending, he would promote growth through a bigger public sector. Mr Miliband was egging him on, and used to refer favourably to the French experiment. Though he no longer is so keen on the French model as an example to us, he seems keen to copy parts of the policy  nonetheless.

So how has the French leader got on? He is now  very unpopular. The French economy hovers around another recession. Unemployment stays stubbornly above 11% compared to 7% for the UK. Youth unemployment is especially high. France has many areas of high deprivation in the big cities. The gap between Paris and the rest remains very large. 400,000 talented and hardworking French people are now working in London. Those recently interviewed by the BBC have told us they love the greater freedom, flexibility and positive environment London gives them to start up and grow a business.

It would be wrong to write Paris off. It is the only other great city in Europe besides London in terms of scale and prosperity levels. It still has many fine businesses and brands and many talented people who have not left. Similarly, it would be wrong to be complacent about London’s current success. Hidden in the figures is a decline in London as a financial centre relative to New York, thanks to tax and regulatory policies followed by the EU which are having more and more influence on the UK. Paris has lost a lot to London, London has lost high earning business activities to Switzerland, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

However, today France has deeper social and economic problems than the UK. Mr Hollande says he does not want fundamental reform of the EU or any Treaty change. The UK is pressing for it. If Paris wins this battle, as some expect, then that might merely hasten the UK’s exit when the people vote. Outside the EU the UK could pursue an agenda more friendly to business, jobs, success than we currently can achieve inside the EU. Then the gap between London and Paris would grow much greater in London’s favour. Does Paris want that outcome?

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69 Comments

  1. Arschloch
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    “Success at banking and financial services” You have got to be kidding! How much is the loss going to be to the taxpayer IF you manage to get RBS sold off? RBS “insiders” told the Telegraph its only going to be around £10 billion. Whats the next thing the FCA is going to charge the banks with misselling, packaged accounts perhaps? That can join pension transfers, low cost endowments, identity theft insurance, PPI etc. How about what a great aid they are to small business by ripping them of with rate swops, LIBOR fixing and foreclosing on their loans and selling their assets on at a profit. While finally what about one London-based bank being used as a conduit for “drug kingpins and rogue nations”?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18880269

    Reply If a bank has committed the kind of errors you allege then these need to be reported with evidence to the authorities. Unless and until this bad conduct is established with evidence the banks are not guilty.

    • Alan
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Surely the loss that the taxpayers will suffer from the nationalisation of RBS is only a very small part of the harm that the banking industry inflicted on the UK? As I understand it the errors of UK and other countries’ bankers brought about the current financial crisis which has lowered our GDP, making us all poorer, it forced the devaluation of the pound, damaging our savings and wages, it has put people out of work.

      Yes, investment banking can be exceedingly profitable, and our economy has become highly dependent on it, but I think it is also inherently very risky. I don’t think the regulators have done enough to reduce this risk. We could suffer from another collapse in the financial markets, and the consequences could be worse than last time.

      The EU suffered badly from the mistakes of our and US banks in the last crisis and their suspicion of our regulation is, I think, justified.

      None of this is to deny that EU banks, including German and French ones, also made serious mistakes.

      I don’t think it is right to talk about the success of our banking industry unless you heavily qualify this by mentioning the risks they are imposing on the rest of us.

      Reply In the UK it was the mortgage banks and a general clearing bank which got in to trouble, notthe Investment banks.

    • ian wragg
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Come off it John, the banks have been found guilty of massive fraud as you well know. We are told they need bonuses to attract the best and most of them got involved in the sub prime debacle.
      It is said that the bailouts cost more than the tax receipts from the financial sector.
      Privatise profits and nationalise losses sums the banks up nicely

    • MickC
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, Arshcloch, my own reaction entirely!

      The success the banks have had is entirely at the expense of their customers and the taxpayer.

      It is unfortunate that our host continues to extoll the dubious virtues of what is effectively a fraudulent industry.

    • sm
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      A review of Rowans Blog may alter your view.

  2. Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I personally would think 75% income tax was too high. Having said that the big problem that France has, really almost the only problem, is the Euro. The Euro is designed for a net exporter like Germany and Holland and its a huge problem for any country which isn’t. It would have been a disaster for the UK.

    Being a net exporter means that a country sells more to other countries than it buys from them So, there is always a net flow of money inwards. This is just as inflationary as any money ever is and so the Government has to either rely on its inhabitants to save it. ie Store it away ‘beyond use’ in bank accounts or it has remove it from the economy in taxation. Even so prices can be quite high in net exporting countries as anyone who’s been to Norway recently will testify. Germany used to be expensive but the Euro has changed that to a large extent.

    A budget surplus is exactly what the Eurocrats like of course. All European countries should have a both budgetary and trade surplus :-)

    France has quite a substantial trade imbalance. Not quite as unbalanced as the UK’s but, bad enough, and there is a net flow of money outwards. It is prohibited by EU rules from running as large a budget deficit as the UK. The result? Double digit unemployment levels.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “400,000 talented and hardworking French people are now working in London.”
    Notice how they are unmentioned. What people really dislike is having (other ? ed) people shoved into their streets and having to pretend that everything is wonderful.

    • yulwaymartyn
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Mike Stallard: Sorry but this is absolute nonsense. I have lived in London 25 years. The French who are here have made a hugely beneficial impact on our capital city and they are both liked and welcomed by Londoners including Boris Johnson who alluded to the presence of the French in his speech at the Conservative party conference.

  4. Richard1
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    In my post above I had missed Mark’s excellent post below on the Environment Agency showing conclusively that Labour stuffed public sector bodies with their own supporters, confirming their hypocrisy at squeeling over the change at Ofstead. Harriet Harman thinks its an outrage a woman might be replaced by a man. By ‘woman’ she means of course a left wing woman. I don’t remember her lamenting Margaret Thatcher’s listing on these grounds!

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Indeed surely we just want the best people for these jobs regardless of gender. But then again clearly anyone with Labour views on education is highly unlikely to do very much that is positive for the dreadful level of so much of the UK’s state education system.

      The born rich, Harriet Harman (St Paul’s Girls’ School, York University) types are the ones who have in general made such a dreadful, dumbed down, all will be equal, all will go to university regardless of merit, right on socialist mess of it all.

      Step one get rid of all the big state socialism and the global warming religion from the syllabus and get some real science and maths back in to it. A levels maths is now more like O level used to be. Worse in many ways.

  5. Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    But once again you assume Cameron will offer an honest referendum this after he has made it clear that he thinks we would be mad to leave and he intends to do everything he can to keep this country in the EU. See his Davos speech
    “I’m confident this is do-able, deliverable and, as I say, winnable for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union.”

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      An honest referendum will never come from ratter Cameron. Anyone who can appoint Lord Patten to chair the BBC trust is very clearly a wrong’un.

      Or absurdly claim a treaty is magically not a treaty once ratified.

      Or thinks insurance should be gender neutral and rats on his IHT £1M threshold promise.

      Or keeps the 50% tax rate for years knowing full well that it destroys jobs and growth. Or makes 299+ tax increases so he can waste money almost everywhere.

      • Arthur Penney
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        ReInsurance – this was imposed by the EU – thousands of young male drivers are chuffed that they can drive and crash relatively high performance vehicles as a result (at least those still alive).

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Was Hollande really so daft as to really think his idiotic policies would actually work? Or did he, as I suspect, cynically think that it would get him elected on the usual politics of envy card. Then, having been elected, he had to inflict the tax damage in order to be seen to keep his idiotic promises. One can rarely too cynical with lefty politicians.

    How many times does the socialism have to be inflicted on people to show it does not work?

    The real question is why Cameron failed to take the UK far more down the smaller government, lower taxes, less & better regulation, cheaper energy, large competitive advantage route. He idiotically kept the 50% income tax for years, which raised nothing and did huge harm to growth, he brought in an idiotic gender neutral insurance and pension law, he has does nothing substantive on easy hire and fire, the banks are still hugely unhelpful to small business, he has ratted on the EU and IHT, he still has a hugely bloated government (as we see with the Environment Agency), he still has a hugely inefficient NHS, poor schools, endless payment to augment fecklessness and a % expenditure (rather more waste actually) to GDP at about twice the level needed. He still even want to build the absurd HS2 and still believes in expensive energy by government decree and the Carbon Dioxide Catastrophe religion, this even after 17 years of non warming.

    Everyone sensible knows what is needed, why has he failed to do hardly anything in nearly four years? It is rather too late now.

    Hopefully Miliband will not repeat Hollande’s experiment in practice after May 2015. I do not think he will. Miliband is fairly numerate & not quite that daft hopefully Balls will kill HS2 and they will have fewer counterproductive wars. Anyway we are surely going to find out soon all thank to Cameron’s defective compass.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Do we really want someone with a degree in English and a PhD on Wordsworth and Coleridge as chairman of the Environment agency. Could they not find anyone with rather more suitable skills? Anyone with a just good physics A level would have surely have been a better bet.

      Would you want to fly on a plane designed by him are go over a bridge he had overseen the design of?

      • formula57
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        I would like the design of my planes and bridges to be scrutinized by someone able to see what questions should be asked and able to assess the sufficiency of the answers. (As for the “specialist expert” versus “gifted amateur” question, see of course Matthew Arnold’s “Arminius and the JP”.)

        Smith’s PhD is a good indicator of some baseline capability in that regard and his experience as a politician including as a Cabinet minister is also encouraging. What rules him out of course is having been part of Blair’s government which ended up not thinking anything that a focus group had not told it to think, where presentation become spin that became lies as only what people are told to believe was thought to matter, not the underlying reality, and leadership was dispensed with in favour of populism, and strategic challenges are ignored. So goes the Environment Agency!

      • formula57
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        I would like the design of my planes and bridges to be scrutinized by someone able to see what questions should be asked and able to assess the sufficiency of the answers. (As for the “specialist expert” versus “gifted amateur” question, see of course Matthew Arnold’s “Arminius and the JP”.)

        Smith’s PhD is a good indicator of some baseline capability in that regard and his experience as a politician including as a Cabinet minister is also encouraging. What rules him out of course is having been part of Blair’s government which ended up not thinking anything that a focus group had not told it to think, where presentation become spin that became lies as only what people are told to believe was thought to matter, not the underlying reality, and leadership was dispensed with in favour of populism, and strategic challenges are ignored.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Chris Smith in the telegraph today has an absurd piece:

        He refers to the East Coast flood of 53 which killed 300 people (actually 2551 total in Europe) and claims the surge of 2013 saw the sea reaching higher levels than 60 years ago.

        Well not on the East Coast where exactly! – What a stupid statement to make, does he want gratitude?

        Then he go on to says:- some have argued that dredging of the rivers is all than need to be done.

        No one thinks it is “all” that needs to be done, just rather a major part of it.

        Get back to running the agencies premium phone lines with all those endless free ads you get on the BBC weather forecasts! Or better still just close your department down and resign.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Why on earth would you want someone with a Physics A Level in charge of the Environment Agency?

        I’d rather have a civil engineer used to managing large infrastructure projects.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          I would indeed want a civil engineer but A level physics would be a great improvement on what we have.

      • Bazman
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Your poster boy Delingpole being an exception to this rule I presume?

        • lifelogic
          Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

          He is the exception that proves the rule, surprisingly perceptive for an art graduate in English.

          • Bazman
            Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

            Like you ‘perception as soon as you look into it the wheels fall off. It should be comical like Stewart lee on political correctness, but many like yourself have no idea. Really. Just no idea.

          • Edward2
            Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            “…many like yourself have no idea. Really. Just no idea”

            You fail to realise Baz, this is just your opinion.
            You display a misplaced confidence that your views and solutions are the only possible correct ones.

            Which is why I suspect you get so cross on here.

          • lifelogic
            Posted February 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

            Well I studied Maths, then Physics and later engineering at two top Universities and most of the qualified people I know tend to agree broadly with the Prof Lindzen/Freeman Dyson position, as do I.

            The current position is entirely consistent with there being no problem, hotter is probably better than colder, spending the money on things we know work now is far, far better than wasting it trying to reduce C02 emissions. Anyway the UK’s emissions are clearly largely irrelevant in the scheme of things.

            Doing nothing on C02 emissions is probably the best option available.

          • Bazman
            Posted February 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Deluded views without basis are not facts and Delingpole put forward opinions as if they own the facts. When questioned or confronted on these ‘facts’ just harrumph any real facts with basis and carry on with their delusions. You are defending this?

    • uanime5
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      How many times does the socialism have to be inflicted on people to show it does not work?

      Seems to work pretty well in Sweden and Germany. It also benefits anyone in the UK who earns below the mean wage.

      • Edward2
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I can hear the Swedes and Germans laughing from here Uni at being described as socialist nations.
        Hilarious, Germany one of the most formidable democratic capitalist industrial powerhouses of the last 100 years.
        You will be saying America is socialist next with its successful growth figures and reducing unemployment.
        Its not socialism that creates the money for distribution to the less well off in the form of welfare and pensions in the UK, but a successful democratic capitalist economy creating enormous wealth that can be taxed to provide the money.

        • Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:05 am | Permalink

          “You will be saying America is socialist next…”

          Well to some extent it is. America provides free schools for children. They are socialist. Toll roads which are capitalist are quite few in the USA. Most are free and paid for by the taxpayer. They are socialist. Its has a progressive system of income tax. That’s socialist. Unemployment benefits. Welfare Benefits. Free health care for the elderly and the young. They too are socialist.

          Nearly all modern day societies are a mix of both socialism and capitalism. It’s not a question of choosing one or the other, it’s a question of where to strike the balance.

          “s successful growth figures and reducing unemployment.”. I’m pleased you mentioned them. The USA GDP is 7% up on the pre 2008 peak due to the successful implementation of Keynesian economic stimuli.

          Are they socialist? Not at all. Just sensible management of a capitalist economy which should please both workers and their employers.

          • Edward2
            Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

            Peter
            You suggest that only socialist left wing Governments provide these things for their citizens yet a look back in history shows that Western Governments of the centre and right of the political spectrum have also provided many such benefits.
            Perhaps it is driven by the requirement to be popular enough to be re elected.

          • Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:05 am | Permalink

            Edward2,

            ” You suggest that only socialist left wing Governments provide these things for their citizens ”

            No not at all. Its in the interests of all, that children should be educated. Businesses need an educated workforce so naturally it is in the interests of all governments. There’s lots of issues which bring the political left and right into agreement.

            For instance its not in the interests of business to have racial strife or discrimination in the economies in which they operate. Discrimination against homosexuals or women too makes no financial sense. Businesses don’t want the unemployed to suffer too much when they are out of work. They may need them when times improve.

            And, yes, to underline it all, the power of the ballot box has to recognised by all.

  7. Mark B
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I will take your last paragraph first.

    Neither Cameron, Hollande or any other ‘Leader’ (sic) controls the time table for treaty change – The time scale being set by the the Lisbon Treaty. From the Booker column:

    ” . . . . would require a four-stage process: first, the agreement of a simple majority of EU members; then, “consensus” in a convention (the last took 18 months); after that, unanimity in an intergovernmental conference; and, finally, ratification by all 28 member states.”

    I would not listen to Hollande, or for that matter, Cameron. Neither know that which they speak.

    As for French business, well, lets just say that they do still have an indigenous car industry, and a energy and service providers that own large parts of the UK market.

    We are still a nation of shopkeepers’. What I think Napoleon meant by that remark is, that we think small, while he always thought big. Its funny really, that when it comes to small, generally the UK is at the top, yet, when it comes to thinking big, we are such a failure, we need both their Bureaucrats and their energy providers to make our laws and to provide out energy.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      The alternative procedures for treaty change are laid down in the EU treaties, Article 48 TEU, but not the timescales.

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:0013:0046:EN:PDF

      Changes of the magnitude that Cameron supposedly wants should require the ordinary revision procedure which could be said to have five rather than four stages, if you include the initial submission of proposals to the Council; and while the convention stage could be skipped with the agreement of the EU Parliament, which has actually happened once already since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, it would be unlikely to happen in this case. But while it might be difficult to get through the first four stages in good time to have something to put before the UK electorate at referendum in 2017 it wouldn’t be completely impossible, except of course that the kind of changes Cameron claims he wants are very unlikely to be acceptable to all the other EU member state governments anyway.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Has Cameron said what he wants I must have missed it?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          Generally only in vague terms and hints, but I think enough to rule out the use of any of the simplified revision procedures. The most fundamental change which Cameron did moot at one time would be removal of the commitment to “ever closer union”, which is in the preambles to the treaties and therefore could only be changed through the ordinary revision procedure.

          But it isn’t going to happen, he knows that as well as we do.

  8. Bob
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I hear that arch EUphile Nick Clegg is to have a portrait commissioned at the cost of £10,000 to the British taxpayer.

    Since there is no money left, I suppose we will need to borrow the money to pay for this with compound interest for years to come.

    I fail to see why this millionaire politician could not pay for it himself.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      The quality of these portraits reflect the quality of the subjects.

  9. alan jutson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    John

    Has your site undergone a makeover.

    Last 4 postings I have had to prove I am human and not a spambot !!!

    This morning tried to submit one short post, only to be advised to slow down (yes it actually said that approx 09.30) and post I guess deleted, as it no longer appears.

    Reply I will ask the service provider what is happening.

    • Chris
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Alan, I had problems yesterday and kept getting the spambot message. Eventually one posting from me got through, but that was all, and was after much perseverance and time wasted.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      I’m getting the same problem.

  10. Atlas
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Charles Dickens summed it up nicely in “A Tale of Two Cities”.

    I have been told we are funding pro-EU propaganda. So much for Cameron’s Eurosceptic stance!

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Say one thing do the opposite that is surely Cameron’s general stance.

    • yulwaymartyn
      Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Atlas: The same book includes the line “I am just a plodding businessman”. Its interesting that since that book was written ‘business’ has been promoted to the heights whereas so many Victorians regarded business as dull and boring and repetitive. One lives in hope that today’s generation might also realise………..

  11. Bert Young
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Of course France and Hollande will resist the UK’s exit or reformed relationship with the EU simply because the EU would lose a nett contributor to the coffers in Brussels and France would lose much of its CAP benefits . The declining economic state of France is adding a considerable stress to the balances of the ECB and hazarding a recovery throughout Europe . Germany has declared that its Bundesbank will not permit an unrestricted flow of its reserves so , France now has an enormous dilemma – it simply cannot print money or devalue , and it has not the revenue to support the level of its borrowing . Without the UK in the EU Hollande has little chance of surviving ; his unpopularity is , understandably , at rock bottom ; Angela Merkel will not be able to rescue him .

    • uanime5
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      The declining economic state of France is adding a considerable stress to the balances of the ECB and hazarding a recovery throughout Europe .

      What declining state? They’ve already recovered their pre-2008 GDP levels, unlike the UK.

      • Edward2
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        Are you impressed by their unemployment rate compared to the UK too Uni?

  12. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    JR: “Outside the EU the UK could pursue an agenda more friendly to business, jobs, success than we currently can achieve inside the EU.”
    Agreed. Such a pity that your leader and the majority of your parliamentary party disagree.

  13. Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    The French are interested in France and France only. Although Hollande is running a country which is seemingly going downhill, the priorities of this and any French Government are France first, France second and France third . . . . . . . . !
    Sometimes I wish we had a government like the French which has this order of priorities, putting Britain first as their prime objective.
    Both France and Germany, over the centuries, have tried to rule Europe, I think that this desire is still in their political genes, only instead of doing it by force they now are trying to do it through the EU. There is no doubt in my mind that we would be far better out.

  14. lojolondon
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    John, who cares what Paris wants? We want what is good for Britain, and the fastest exit from the regulatory control of Brussels is good for us. The pain in Paris does not concern me, we are focussed on our own.

  15. Douglas Carter
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    It’s fair to mention that there’s an awful lost that the Élysée cannot control no matter the incumbent. Even de Gaulle had to contrive the CAP within the emerging EEC to placate militant French Unions rather than take them on politically.

    Several fairly senior and credible commentators occasionally elicit the sentiment that France is essentially ungovernable, and its more peaceful periods are only those where a temporary truce exists between its Unions and its Government. If we’re proceeding to a period where the Unions and Government in that country are likely to be initiating hostilities, the more important question to ask is of our own UK Government.

    When British lorry drivers either self-employed or in businesses, in either case which went bankrupt when French Ports were illegally blockaded by aggressive militancy in the 1990′s, the compensation came years later – and far too late – and the Government which presided over the negotiations could hardly have been referred to as ‘assertive’.

    Outside the EU we would be dealing less with the French Government, and more with French Union militancy. We already know the French Government are essentially powerless to deal with that – even if they wanted to intervene, which usually they don’t.
    The question therefore is what will a British Government do? I hope the answer for the future isn’t the historic norm (with very rare exceptions). To roll belly-up, acquiesce and surrender to blackmail?

  16. lojolondon
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    John, on a totally unrelated point, the postal vote system has been demonstrated to aid widespread voting fraud, to the point that Gordon Brown agreed to discontinue the system (noteably, only after the election that he lost). Conservatives have long been aware of the situation and there were many commitments to stop postal voting if it could not be cleaned up entirely. Now is a great time to revive the subject, as we have an election in just over a year’s time. Unfortunately I have a feeling that the three main parties in Parliament are all complicit in their lack of condemnation for postal votes, as they believe it benefits them. What are your views?

  17. Neil Craig
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    We should not just be smug about how we are better. We should learn from where they are. After all French & UK gdp hover around each other and currently their’s is ahead.

    France has invested in nuclear power, giving them cheap energy, the most important single cause of growth. France allows people to build houses with little comparatively regulatory parasitism whereas 3/4 of house prices here are regulatory, hence the trail of people moving from France to Britain to work is matched by those going the other way for houses. They have a legally mandated 35 hour week which, while hardly entrepreneurial, seems more desirable than our state regulatory parasitism – the general rule of thumb being that such regulators cost industry 20 times more than they cost to employ the regulator which probably considerable exceeds the work done here in the time the French take off.

  18. ian wragg
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Why can’t I comment

  19. alan jutson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    We had advance warning some 40 years ago of the French way of thinking.

    The Common agricultural policy.

    Common fishing grounds.

    Says all you need to know really.

    We gave up too much then, and they have been taking more and more ever since.

  20. Roy Grainger
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Ultimately I think we all know that Mr Cameron would love to be friends with Hollande, and to stay in the EU, and to govern permanently in a coalition with the Liberals (rather than with a Tory majority) and to continue to appoint Labour grandees to important quango posts like the hapless Environment Agency and Ofsted, and to pursue leftist green energy policies, and to maintain foreign aid spending and so on and so forth. Whatever the outcome of his “renegotiation” with the EU if he gets relected he will campaign strongly for a referendum vote to stay in the EU in 2017. As such I wonder if he is really fit for purpose ?

  21. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I also had to prove that I was not a spambot by entering 4 characters in a small box. The only problem is that it would only let me enter 2 characters in the space.
    Hollandes unpopularity is also due to the fact that he doesn’t treat the women in his life well.
    There are other factors why small businesses don’t get off the ground, for example competition from the giants who now have diversified to cover many aspects of the markets.

  22. Max Dunbar
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    You seem to have a gremlin on your site.

  23. Sean Ickle
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Matthew 5.3:1. The straw in thy neighbour’s eyes, the beam in yours

  24. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic:

    http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84683

    “EU policy: deliberately flooding the Somerset Levels”

    Which reminds me of something that Lord Denning said, which is perhaps more apposite than he ever envisaged.

    It appears to come in two slightly different versions:

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alfred_Denning,_Baron_Denning

    Firstly in 1975:

    “The Treaty [of Rome] does not touch any of the matters which concern solely England and the people in it. These are still governed by English law. They are not affected by the Treaty. But when we come to matters with a European element, the Treaty is like an incoming tide. It flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back, Parliament has decreed that the Treaty is henceforward to be part of our law. It is equal in force to any statute.”

    But in 1990:

    “Our sovereignty has been taken away by the European Court of Justice … Our courts must no longer enforce our national laws. They must enforce Community law … No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses – to the dismay of all.”

    But of course he was not right that our sovereignty “has been taken away”, for we are not a conquered people; nor indeed have our politicians yet managed to actually give away our sovereignty, much as some of them want to; our national sovereignty is still there, intact and unimpaired, but we do need to elect MPs who are committed to it and who wish to exercise it on our behalf rather than allowing it to atrophy.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a quote from the article you posted.

      Of six policy options, the Agency thus adopted the sixth, to: “Take action to increase the frequency of flooding to deliver benefits locally or elsewhere, which may constitute an overall flood risk reduction”. This policy option, they said, “involves a strategic increase in flooding in allocated areas” (p.141). The Levels were to be allowed to flood, as a matter of deliberate policy.

      How exactly is it the EU’s fault that the EA chose the policy option that involved flooding less vital area to protect the more vital ones, rather than any of the other 5 options.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Why not quote this earlier paragraph as well?

        “We have, they added, “international obligations to maintain and enhance the habitats and species in the Somerset Levels and Moors, and it is within this context that all decisions have to be made”.”

        And the following paragraph?

        “Thus, when the BBC reported that the government had been “slow to act”, it could not have been more wrong. Our true government, the EU, had been there years before, planning to make the disaster that has overtaken the people of that part of Somerset a routine occurrence. The flooding was not so much man-made as made by government.”

        You like this new system of anti-democratic transnational government and will always seek to defend it, doing what you can to shift the blame onto individuals or bodies within this country, or anywhere other than the EU; on the other hand I oppose it not just as a matter of principle because it is an anti-democratic system of government but because in practice it proves to be a rotten system of government.

  25. matthu
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Tim Yeo: “I voted in favour of gay marriage, that wasn’t a universally held view among my members; I have a very great commitment to addressing climate change, that’s not a universally held view; I’m in favour of Britain’s membership of the EU, that’s not a universally held view either.”

    The deselection is a blow to the authority of Mr Cameron who said in a letter to Mr Yeo last month, that it would be a “great loss” if he was not re-selected.

    Mr Cameron wrote: “You have served your constituency of South Suffolk for over three decades – a record of which you can be enormously proud.

    “I very much hope that you will be selected to stand as the Conservative representative in this seat again.”

    Let me guess: Tim Yeo would not have been widely championed by readers of this blog … so why did Cameron support him?

    Meanwhile, The Telegraph tells us:

    Corruption across the Europe costs £99 billion (€120bn) a year, the European Commission has estimated in a report that urged Britain to do more to fight foreign bribery.

    In its first annual report, the commission declined to set out any ranking of corruption levels country by country and decided to suppress findings on fraud within European Union institutions.

    (What possible reason might the commission have had for suppressing findings on fraud within their own institutions but yet still feel righteous enough to criticise Britain?)

  26. Credible
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m very concerned. My children are going through school, they only get one chance, and we have a complete idiot in charge of education.

  27. uanime5
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    The French have often briefed against the Anglo Saxon way. They dislike our success at banking and financial services

    Given that the banks needed a bailout worth hundred of billions of pounds I wouldn’t call them a success.

    disagree with policies that allow more freedom and flexibility to set up in business, to take a job or find a new employee

    Well workers in France do enjoy having rights which prevent their employers abusing them. I suspect many people in the UK would also enjoy having more job security.

    Where the UK cut the top rate of tax he would increase it. Where the UK cut the tax rate on business, he would squeeze them harder to get them to pay their fair amount. Where the UK would curb the rate of increase in public spending, he would promote growth through a bigger public sector.

    Where the UK has failed to recover their pre-2008 GDP levels France has succeeded. So it seems that France has been following the better economic policy.

    The French economy hovers around another recession.

    It’s still recovered more than the UK economy which was also hovering around another recession between 2011 and 2013.

    Unemployment stays stubbornly above 11% compared to 7% for the UK.

    In the UK someone is considered in employment if they work 1 hour per week. So unless France uses a similar criteria any comparison is meaningless.

    Youth unemployment is especially high.

    How high is it compared to the UK? At present of the UK’s 2.4 million unemployed people 1 million of them are aged 18-24.

    France has many areas of high deprivation in the big cities.

    Just like the UK.

    It is the only other great city in Europe besides London in terms of scale and prosperity levels.

    That’s because most other European countries realised that locating everything in one city is a bad idea.

    However, today France has deeper social and economic problems than the UK.

    Given that France hasn’t had a massive increase in food banks, recent riots throughout the country, and has recovered more of its pre-2008 GDP it’s clear that the UK has the deeper social and economic problems.

    Outside the EU the UK could pursue an agenda more friendly to business, jobs, success than we currently can achieve inside the EU.

    I take it by “more friendly to business” you plan to remove all EU employee rights so that companies can make greater profits by abusing their staff. Expect a brain drain as all the most talented employees go where they’ll have more rights.

    In other news Gove plans to improve education by cutting the amount of money sixth-form colleges are given. He also wants them to focus on dead languages rather than STEM subjects. So expect the problems caused by an unskilled workforce to get even worse as fewer people will receive a decent education.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/exclusive-alevel-courses-closed-as-michael-gove-cuts-100m-from-sixthform-colleges-9102755.html

  28. Posted February 4, 2014 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    I think we do at least agree on the Euro. In a comment above above I tried to explain why it is a good currency for Germany, a net exporter, but a bad one for a net importer like France. It would have been be a disastrous currency for an even bigger importer like the UK.

    Are we still in agreement so far?

    I then would say that this shows that a government budget surplus (or a small deficit) has to be related to a the a current account surplus (or small deficit) too.

    A quick look up on Wiki shows countries with budget surpluses all have trade surpluses too

    Is this something that George Osborne would be aware of in his plans for a budget surplus? If so how does he propose to firstly narrow the UK’s trade gap and secondly turn a deficit into a surplus? Is this possible at the current exchange rate?

    Reply You can have a trade deficit and a government budget surplus – there are other sectors to create that balance. I expect the governemnt would like a trade surplus and is seekign to raise exports.

    • Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Yes there is the private sector. No-one else. But they aren’t like Government – they really do only have a a finite amount of resources. They can possibly go into deficit for a short period. But, if the private sector are squeezed too hard it will also very likely trigger a recession.

      Its been a long time since monthly trade figures have featured in the news with any prominence. The consensus for at least the last several decades is that trade deficits ( when was the last surplus?) aren’t anything to worry about. They will be if the Govt tries to run a budget surplus at the same time!

      In any case, I doubt that you’d find more than a handful of people in your constituency who were aware of the potential problem. Shouldn’t it be introduced into the debate so that the implications are fully understood by all?

  29. Andyvan
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Just shows how bad France must be if Britain appears to be a free market economy.

  30. Matt
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    John, French GDP per person is the same as the UK, a position achieved without North Sea Oil, The City of London, the benefit of the English Langauge, with French workers enjoying longer holidays, shorter working hours, less ability to be sacked by their bosses on a whim, and no ability to devalue their currency. Their annual deficit is about half ours. It’s no good claiming the UK is doing better right now whilst ignoring the fact that we are merely borrowing our way to growth.

    According to Thatcherite/Friedman/Chicago School/Redwood wisdom the policy of making British workers more easily sackable than French workers, having lower taxes on business, combined with all the other advantages I’ve detailed above, Britain should be a much richer country than France.

    It isn’t.

    Why not? I’ll tell you why – higher productivity. French workers produce 30-40% more per hour than British workers. I suggest that it is precisely because it is NOT easy to sack French workers that force French businesses to maximise their use of technology to get the most out of each worker so they can minimise their headcount. The effective use of technology is what makes a country rich and stay rich, and the French do it far better than us.

    Perhaps you could focus the Cabinet on making higher productivity a priority for the UK economy. If we had French and US levels of productivity the average British worker would be 30% richer. A step change in productivity could make this country genuinely rich. We have a lot to learn from the French.

    Reply The French have an unacceptably high level of unemployment

  31. REPay
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    The reason there will never be any serious public sector reform is because our media never look at facts and figures…

    The real story, if this were a private sector business, would be how did it justify pay and perks for management when doing such a bad job for its customers. It would be kicked from pillar to post by the BBC…Not if you are a government department – must be something to do with the mythical cuts!

    Reading at this particular story is like watching a preventable road crash with most of the bystanders just urging the driver to go faster. Mr Balls/Ms Flint can’t wait to get his foot on the accelerator.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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