Blain’s Morning Porridge – Aug 13 2020 – Who to Blame?

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Aug 13 2020 – Who to Blame?

“Just doing my job sir…”

I feel a bit of rant coming on… Yesterday’s dismal UK numbers were not a surprise – unless you expected them to be even worse.  A 20% quarter on quarter Q2 decline in GDP, deeper than anywhere else (except possibly Spain), and the deepest and fastest recession on record. Germany was down 12%, while US GDP was down a mere 10.5%. Sweden – which didn’t lockdown, was down 8.6%. Unemployment is going through the roof. Companies are planning redundancies, and no one is going to get Christmas holidays again. Ever.  We have become addicted to government support – the papers say we face a house price collapse next year when stamp-tax holiday ends, and it’s a stark choice of putting everyone on permanent furlough or redundancy.

Why is the UK so shockingly bad?

There are probably good reasons for our miserable performance in terms of the detail of how our retail and services sector works, the density and health of our population, our genetics, even our habit of stopping to chat and greet friends and neighbours.. or it might have been issues like the length of lockdown.  It might also be the way we record data – already the number of Covid Deaths has been revised downwards, and could go lower yet. What the UK did wasn’t so different to what other countries tried – the timing of when we started and finished lockdown was days rather than months, but it has been seized upon as critical evidence of government incompetence.

The result is going to be a witch-hunt. We need someone to blame.

Whatever the UK did right or wrong, somehow we managed to turn a mere economic catastrophe into a full blown apocalypse. If this was the Olympic COVID Pants Performance competition, we just scored a perfect set of 10s for our sheer crapness.

And it’s unlikely to get much better. Half the nation still believes the Virus is going to kill them given any chance – they have been properly scared. The other half has no interest in returning to work while there are still beaches with pubs on them… assuming their jobs are doomed, so they are enjoying their last furlough cheques before Winter comes a knocking…

It’s very easy to blame government – Boris’s shambolic nature means he’s going to be very easy to scapegoat. But consider the alternatives… it would hardly be fair to inflict even worse politicians on out poor benighted county.  Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition are braying for blood – but they would have done equally badly, if not worse.

And blaming government is exactly what the establishment is hoping for. Anything to deflect from the multiple failings of the UK’s bloated, self-serving and unaccountable establishment – the multiple bureaucracies of uncivil service. Poorly advised governments tend to underperform. If there was failure in the UK, then it occurred at the institutional level – not in parliament, but within the apparatus of state that advises and runs the country.  If we want to sort it and avoid repeat.. then it’s time to shake the foundations of the state and introduce the concepts of responsibility and accountability. With prejudice.

Let’s give government some credit for the swift application of furlough and bailouts. It would be easy to blame the BBC for dramatizing crisis, but I stopped watching TV news months ago…. It was just too pointless and depressing.

The Pandemic triggered successive failures across the nation. Heads should be rolling – but not the ones we know.

· I want to know why NHS England was so unprepared despite having gamed the Pandemic a few years ago.

· I want the models investigated.

· I want to know what idiot thought it was fine for care home staff to continue working in multiple homes – thus the example of a care home in Skye taking on agency staff from London as a virus vector.

· I want to know who advised government on schools.

· I want a public enquiry on every aspect of the successive mistakes and escalating cascade of stupidity that characterised the virus in the UK.

Let’s look back at this farrago from start to finish – and let’s have some real accountability. When it is done..  let’s put the guilty up against the proverbial wall.

The real problem might be even worse. Fish rot from the head down – and I wonder just how fundamentally broken the country is. Once we were the envy of the world. Today we are a nation of petty bureaucrats. This is the country that’s never been conquered (well not since 1066 and all that), that’s taken on every European despot from Louis, Phillipe, Napoleon, The German and Barnier – and bowled them all out no matter how sticky the wicket.

Yet, we now face a far greater enemy – ourselves…

We’ve got Menshevik teachers in revolt – they’re happy enough to go an sit and drink Lady Petrol on crowded Cornish beaches with the rest of the Garuniad intellectual woke brigades – but ask them to look at the evidence and go back to actually teach kids and it’s no chance… “far too dangerous” they say..

Yesterday my wife tried to speak to her bank re her business accounts. She waited over an hour listening to a voice telling her how unexpectedly busy the bank was at this time.  It suggested she go online – but that’s not pertinent when you need to speak to someone urgently to trace cash that’s gone adrift. Of course the bank in question was Britain’s most embarrassing institution – the People’s Democratic State Bank of Hong Kong and Shanghai – which isn’t picking up the phone to customers because: 1) it doesn’t give a ****, 2) its busily sacking thousands of staff while lecturing clients on how to be ESG, 3) It still doesn’t give a **** and 4) its new masters in Beijing don’t give a **** either.

Or while trying to cheer yourself up and boost the local economy, you go into your favourite restaurant and you are faced with a limited menu – limited because of the requirement of the chefs to socially distance in the kitchens. But actually, the chain is delighted with the limited menu because they can bring in the cheap junior staff to serve stuff your kids will learn to cook in school – if there was any school to go to…. Cheap nosh at full price with half the staff in the hope you will be “understanding about the problems created by the Coronavirus.” It’s a rip.

Of course, there are moments of light humour… like the anxious pub landlady who threw us out her pub and asked us to shout orders from the other side of the road because she was worried by our “London accents”. (I don’t have a London accent… but wtf..) “I can’t take the risk.. I have to think about the staff..” she said.. Congratulations.. your pub will be bust by September, and your staff will all be redundant.. That’s one way of looking after them…

Sadly, the UK has become complicit in our own downfall…

And the clearest signal of the complete and utter collapse of the UK as going long-term concern is The Decline of Sticky-Toffee Pudding.

The decline of STP is symptomatic of where our once proud nation is headed.  In my spare time I am publisher of the world renowned “Sticky-Toffee Pudding International”, the journal of record for STP fans everywhere. Each quarter the top STP features on the front page.

In recent weeks I’ve noted a terrifying trend. Even top STP restaurants are now producing a shallow false shadow of the STP – they are serving Sticky Toffee Cake. FFS!! It’s not a STP without dates. Last time I checked the supply of dates into this island set upon a silver sea was not blocked by the pandemic.. there is no reason to blame the virus for a lack of dates!!! It’s just an excuse… lazy chefs hiding behind pandemic to cut out dates – the core, the essence, the life and very soul of a proper, scrumptious STP!

I am willing, in extemis, to accept this modern fashion of having vanilla ice-cream instead of custard (frankly its daft, but if it leaves more custard for me, I’m delighted.) But STP without dates is like Christmas without Santa, Arsenal without losing, a wedding without a fight, or Eric without Ernie.. What is being served today is simply Sticky Toffee Cake – a travesty of the traditional STP.

It’s wrong and it needs to be stopped. Any chef with STP on the menu who serves up Sticky Toffee Cake should be boiled in their own caramel. I shall be shaming certain restaurants in the October edition of STPI. I have already written to my MP demanding action – but I’m told he’s on a Cornish beach….

Five Things to Read Today

FT – Inside Joe Biden’s race of a lifetime

WSJ – As Kamala Harris joins Biden’s ticket, Wall Street breathes sigh of relief

BBerg – UK’s Economic Dilemma is Mass Layoffs or Addiction to Aid

CNBC – Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will take longer to recover

ZH – Peak Idiocy: Wisconsin mandates facemasks for virtual Zoom meetings

Out of time.. Porridge unlikely tomorrow – unless the weather is pants and I can’t sneak off sailing instead….

Bill Blain

Shard Capital