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Alarming blips on the Euro radar screen

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Paul Mason | 14:23 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

My credit crunch radar is bleeping with all kinds of worrying dots and they're mainly concentrated on the edges of Europe. There is Greece, its land borders currently blockaded by protesting farmers; there is Iceland, where protests last week brought down the government (for a valedictory interview with deposed prime minister Geir Haarde, click here); and now France, where a public sector strike has brought 300,000 people onto the streets of Marseille alone, and they're calling today Black Thursday.

If we dig into what's happening there are many layers. First, there is the austerity measures being introduced by governments. The ostensible cause of today's strike in France is pre-planned reforms to the school system and job cuts among teachers; but it's brought students to occupy their colleges, car workers, rail workers - and its fanned by a generalized discontent about the way Sarkozy is handling the credit crunch.

The second layer of problems Europe faces concerns the East European banking system. Though most of the stricken countries are outside the Eurozone, there are some big Eurozone country banks exposed to the near collapse of east European banking - above all in Austria. A coalition of banks led by Austria's Raiffeisen and the Italian giant Unicredit has said they may have to stop lending both to governments and companies in the Balkans. They are pleading with the EU for financial support. In the Baltic States and the Balkans the banking system is dominated by subsidiaries of these Eurozone owned banks. What analysts fear as a worst case scenario (why am I using this phrase a lot right now?) is that a banking collapse in the east pulls the Austrian banking system down with it.

The third tier of crisis concerns the Euro. The EU's commissioner for economic and monetary affairs has said today that the Eurozone "will not break apart" because of the stresses on its weakest currencies. But the question is being asked.

The reason is the growing "spread" between the interest rates governments have to pay to borrow on the international markets. Theoretically, beause they're all part of the Eurozone, they should have the same interest rates. But it's always been slightly divergent and now massive gaps have opened up.

Greece had its credit rating downgraded on 14 January; Spain lost its AAA rating last week. Portugal has also had its rating cut. As a result these countries have to pay significantly more interest on their sovereign debt compared to the baseline country, Germany. Ireland is in the same boat. What this means is that, although there's a single currency, there is a differential risk of a sovereign debt default, a different interest rate for government borrowing and so, in the fullest sense, there is not really a single currency.

It's prompted my colleagues to ask me (why me?) why the Brits are not revolting in concert with their European counterparts. I will give you three reasons:
1) There's no austerity drive yet because the government has decided to borrow its way past the next election. The austerity will come later.
2) The fall of sterling against the Euro allows Britain not only to export more but to let steam out of the system that the pegged Euro countries cannot.
3) They are protesting, but mainly about Gaza (also Heathrow and, sign of the times, migrant labour in East Anglia). This is relevant because the Greek protests, as is widely acknowledged, started over a killing by the police, and have now rolled over into agricultural subsidies and the general handling of the crisis.


  • Comment number 1.

    A little off-topic, but if they will not let you out of the office to go to Davos, what about a trip to the Euro/Sterling Land Border in the North of Ireland ??

    I understand that Subway and Asda are one of the few companies taking ON workers, and they are both getting extra trade from Euro shoppers going to the Sterling zone.

    A coincidence ? Well, yes, maybe = but if you say that, they may not let you out - so play it up a little bit...

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog Paul.

    The stresses that you identify here are amongst the many that will necessarily occur during an economic crisis, because of the differential exposure of different countries (and for that matter between different industries and different individuals). I for one do not expect the euro to fall apart, because the logistics of re-introducing national currencies would be almost impossibly difficult. The ECB will instead need to find a way of moderating the differentials.

    Your analysis of why the UK has so far been largely free from this wave of protest is spot on, in that a falling pound helps mitigate some of the effects and (above all) that the government "has decided to borrow past the next election" (a superbly telling phrase). There is also a British reluctance to protest (compare our reactions to fuel prices with those of the French or the Spanish). Additionally, unions are comparatively weak here, certainly in the private sector.

    But this does not mean that we can count on this comparative immunity continuing. The strategy of borrowing past the next election is OK if the necessary borrowings can be realised - but what if this ceases to be the case? The gilts market has remained solid on the principle that investors feel that governments are safer people to lend to than banks, individuals or businesses.

    The key question, therefore, is one of confidence. If investors remain confident about HMG and the UK, fine, but, if they lose this confidence, the strategy of ever-rising borrowings could blow a fuse. This is where reports showing that Britain is worst (rather than "best") placed to weather a downturn are worrying. The loss of international investor confidence might not haqppen but, if it did, it could be extraordinarily serious, and could happen with very little advance warning.

    The other snag is that we cannot go on borrowing forever - payback time has to arrive sometime, albeit possibly not until after there has been a change of government.

    There must come a point at which we have to raise taxes and/or cut public spending. We cannot bridge the whole gap from higher taxes - businesses could not bear this, the best and brightest companies and individuals might leave, and the tax base is shrinking anyway. Inward investment would be seriously damaged if taxes were raised.

    All of which means that cuts in public spending are virtually inevitable. It is to be hoped that this can be accomplished without inflicting damage to essential services, but this cannot be relied upon. When the cuts come, we can expect vociferous protest, not least from public sector unions, but this should not be allowed to block an adjustment whereby we start living within our means.

    So we should not assume that we can remain protest-free, not least because there are many non-economic issues which could add to the mix.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Greece had its credit rating downgraded on 14 January; Spain lost its AAA rating last week. Portugal has also had its rating cut. As a result these countries have to pay significantly more interest on their sovereign debt compared to the baseline country, Germany."

    Look at the birth rates and the low skilled immigration rates.

  • Comment number 4.

    (what follows is an exaggeration!!! or is it??)

    Possible reason for the lack of fighting in the streets (the SWP and other leftist groups notwithstanding): cultural timidity and loss of civic engagement. Ponder if you will on this extract from article in the Grauniad:

    "You no longer imagine, it seems to me, that there might actually be such a thing as a "choice of society". Along with New Labour, the very idea of anything resembling an ideology vanished. In France, on the other hand, politics still condition the life of the individual. Rightly or wrongly, my fellow countrymen still want to believe that a choice of society really remains possible. They might resist reform, as you like to point out, but they involve themselves - deeply - in politics...."

    "...Pragmatism, in today's Britain, is all. Cost-efficiency is what counts. Here, you're actively encouraged to denounce your neighbour, for not paying road tax or putting a bin out early or dishonestly claiming a benefit. Closed-circuit TV surveillance is rife. There are councils that spy on their taxpayers as if they were common criminals; others that submit benefit claimants to a lie-detector test. And while it's capable of mislaying the personal data of millions of its constituents, the home office proposes to set up a database holding information on every telephone call made, every email sent, and every website visited by every single British citizen. None of this would be possible in France; there would be rioting in the streets."

    Since the defeat of the miners political protest was an example of classic class warfare which saw a Tory HMG as the enemy. It sought to not only reverse a policy but change a government and change a system of economics. mass action since in the UK has been primarily a pressure group and/or a single issue-based activity in the main (GM food, Fathers 4 Justice, Countryside Alliance, Anti War March) which has attempted to change a particular policy and or it's delivery not a mode of governance or organisation of society.

    The Anti Iraq War march attempted to change HMG (TB?)'s position not change HMG itself let alone capitialism (the SWP and other leftist groups notwithstanding). European protests on the other hand seem to have continued the honourable tradition of Revolutionary protest and mass action of the 1789/1848/1905/1917/1968 which sought to displace not only a political group but also a political orthodoxy and hegenomy. The French "street" merely being the most obvious incarnation of the power of public protest still in play within European cultures.

    Over there, governments fall (Spain after the Madrid bombings), over here we set up a committee or enquiry with a judge. over there, rioting is a valid expression of the people, over here the disgruntled write to The Times or have their 10 mins on Newsnight.

    However such massive structural economic shifts taking place at the moment have allowed questions to be raised once more about the very organisation of our society. The rampant ra

  • Comment number 5.

    4. trikidiki:

    "(what follows is an exaggeration!!! or is it??)"

    Great post. I suspect it is no exaggeration at all, but is spot on.

  • Comment number 6.

    It is always a concern when the main stream media begin to pick up on the more disturbing trends apparent to more specialised reportage.

    I will own up to watching the Euro situation quite closely at the moment as our business looks more to Europe for the growth we won't now get at home.

    Although we are concerned as to our own conditions the UK is in an economic and political union with some very disturbed partners. The prospect of cross contamination in social unrest has not happened for a very long time. The deteriorating economic conditions will be sufficient for international solidarity to once more become prevalent. A lot of people have lost a great deal!

    There will be major cutbacks on the public sector in the UK at some point. I think it will be sooner rather than later as I don't see this government lasting. I suspect this will be the trigger: the political solution this time will be to cut at the bureaucrats and not the service providers.

  • Comment number 7.

    trikidisk (#4) "Since the defeat of the miners political protest was an example of classic class warfare which saw a Tory HMG as the enemy. It sought to not only reverse a policy but change a government and change a system of economics."

    Except it wasn't class warfare - it was just convenient to paint it that way. What it really was amounted to was anarchists in Westminster fighting Statists in Northumberland who wanted to preseve the welfare state and Public Services (including the Means of Production like mining). Thatcher and her Josephian friends were anarcho-capitalists (Hayekians) of the Austrian School. These were and still are Trotskyists. She, Major, Blair and Brown have been puppets to those who want an end to Big Government regulation of business i.e and end to 'Stalinism', Statism, the Civil Service/Public-Sector in favour of PPP/PFI. This is why we're in this mess today. It's been a slow war of attrition on Statism via progressive de-regulation (anarchism) and pernicious privatisation/Internationalism where ordinary people are burdened with the toxic/securitized risks and those controlling capital reap clean profits.

  • Comment number 8.


    Your 3 reasons why we are not all out in the streets chime with me, as do the comments by Friendlycard and trikidiki.

    I have come to the conclusion that new forms of revolt are already appearing in opposition to the police state which Maggie initiated and subsequent governments (especially NuLab) have extended.

    1. To fight information snooping : wear hoodies, partake in the vehicle excise duty/parking fine "temporary" (ie bogus) address scam, provide information overload by phone, mail & especially by email, use ATMs in all different places, don't have loyalty cards or a traceable mobile phone etc.

    2. To fight the state : don't fight it overtly, but covertly. Have as normal life as possible but detach from consumer society where you can. Ride a bike, take the bus or walk, grow as much of your own food as you can, buy second hand goods and barter if possible.

    3. Give money to support people under arrest or fighting FOI or Speech actions.

    4.. Err, that's not all. Use your imagination.

    Pretty mild, I know but it all helps.

  • Comment number 9.

    Let me begin by saying that I enjoy reading your blog and I do like the way you try to lighten things up.

    Given the nature and magnitude of the problems now confronting the global finacial markets it is not unsurprising that all sorts of worrying dots are now starting to appear on your (and everyone else's) credit crunch radar screen.

    The fifteen years of booming world trade, fuelled by a plentyful supply of cheap and easy credit and benign trading conditions did much to cover up the cracks (flaws) in the way many economies around the world conducted their business affairs.

    Now that the world is more or less in recession because the money supply has dried up, thos cracks are now beginning to show and this understandably is causing a certain ammount of unrest amongst the citizens of those countries whose governments are seeking to impose (austerity) type measures to counter the loss of government revenue caused by the downturn.

    The idea of the Euro has never been fully tested until now and it will be interesting to see how ECB and the different EEC member
    states react to the difficulties ahead and how well they come out of it.

    Although the problems of the UK appear to be more fundemental and far reaching I would agree with your sentiment that our government will do what all UK governments tend to do and that is to delay making the really painful decisions until the next incumbent is in power.

    I would venture to suggest the reason why people in this country are not already revolting is because we have become a idly passive nation too dulled by the easy life and seduced by succesive governments into a into a sense of false security.

    I now await your next episode!

  • Comment number 10.


    "I would venture to suggest the reason why people in this country are not already revolting is because we have become a idly passive nation too dulled by the easy life and seduced by succesive governments into a into a sense of false security."

    I think '1984' illustrated, all to accurately, the disempowerment of a nation. Not sure those who would oppose are 'falsely secure' more 'securely false' - living within the lie - because we are now all 'a number' and prisoners of 'democracy'.

  • Comment number 11.

    Lots of good points here. I find it interesting that the growing protests in Europe have not made the main news here at all. The headline yesterday was 7000 new ASDA jobs.

    I am not sure of the editorial validity of running that over Greece's land border being blocked by protesting farmers. Pauls blog was the first i heard of it, it was not covered on any major news network as a story as far as I am aware. At best this just goes to show as stated here

    ''idly passive nation too dulled by the easy life how placid we have become'' #9

    At worst it tastes of editorial inteference, a willed act to keep the people calm / not give them ideas.

    I think there is also a lack of focus to such economic protests here since the unions were divided and conquered by Thatcherism, a state of affairs, strangely, not revoked by new labour, you never hear of the TUC now, when I was a kid I heard about it every week! Does it still exist?

    Personally I think that is not healthy, with no focus for protests, no natural counterbalance in the system to effect change, politically, as I have said before, we are in a state of paralysis.

    The more worrying thing about that is it will come out eventually if things continue to deteriorate, but without a natural, gradual focus as an outlet for change when protest does come it is much more likely to be anarchic and extreme in nature, a fracture rather than a slow release.

  • Comment number 12.

    "I would venture to suggest the reason why people in this country are not already revolting "

    What do you mean?

    People already are revolting.

    e.g. GB, AD, DC, JJ, most of the House of Lords etc etc

  • Comment number 13.

    the bonds markets [the all seeing eye] have begun to price in a recovery [buying the 5 yr and selling the 30 year] and the gold market has begun to price in inflation.


    Sarkozy was elected on the ticket of moving France to the 'anglo saxon' model which now doesn't look like a good plan seeing it was based upon the illusion of success. So france has gone back to what it knows. strikes.


    yes the other countries are really annoyed the pound is so low as it makes it look incredibly cheap to do business [and them really expensive] and so best placed to take off when the upswing happens. Unemployment is a lagging indicator so will continue while the markets see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    the creation of bad banks

    according to Soros there is another model. create good banks and leave the rubbish with the people who made it. in that way the public are not left with the 'privatise the profit and socialise the loss' model of high finance. yes it will trash the investors but better them than the public finances. its the lesser evil. Good banks remain to lend while the bad ones will limp along for 20 years till their policies mature of the economy lifts them out of it. While the public finance remain in a fit state to help those who need it.

  • Comment number 14.

    Austerity measures....

    Well I can (sadly) see such measures being put in place here too after the next election. But the BIG problem is that austerity measures are almost always misconceived.

    What we need to do is cut back on immediate consumption and spend our resources instead on tangible investments that improve our economic situation for the future. ie spend on upgrading factories and infrastructure, training etc.

    What "austerity" measures always seem to do is the exact opposite - just look at the French cutting back on education. Stupid or what? But there's a huge risk that we will do exactly the same thing in 18 months time. It has happened here all too often in the past.

    We need public sector infrastructure investment. Perhaps we should also tax consumption and subsidise long term investment by the private sector? But certainly those voices that call for a blanket cut-back in public sector spending are proposing a policy that will do far more harm than good in these circumstances.

  • Comment number 15.

    They can't borrow past the next election. Brown will no doubt try to hang on in the same way that Major did. The government will not be able to increase borrowing for another full year and the situation is going to continue to worsen. So they either call an election or they will have to drastically cut public spending.

    Public sector finance directors are planning now how they are going to deal with reduced budgets. Of course they can't say that as this would be equivalent to admitting the Labour government is going to bring in public spending cuts.

    We are in for a big crunch. The only big unions left now with large workforces are in the public sector and the public sector is going to get hammered whichever government is in power. Outside of the public sector I would expect a lot of atomised and isolated struggles leading to isolated and atomised social discontent.

    It's a nice round number since 1979! Give the SWP something to make headlines with.

  • Comment number 16.

    (as i was saying before i cut myself off with an accidental kick to the power cable of my PC! doh Marge!!!)

    4. continued

    ...However such massive structural economic shifts taking place at the moment have allowed questions to be raised once more about the very organisation of our society. The blogosphere is full of rampant ravings claiming capitaist conspiracy and calling for world revolution. This of course may or may not be taken seriously but there is a significant increase generally in public discourse in not only economic detail but in areas which now questions the organisation our societies.

    The banks excesses, though routinely lambasted in public and private, are a proxy for our own critique of our own recent obsessions with self, wealth and property. as we criticize them we admonish ouselves making a return to the excesses of the noughties harder for us to contemplate as morally acceptable. in criticising the banks we disallow our own greed, or at least make it harder for us to admit to it. Few now want to be seen as a greedy bling obsessed narcissists (Pop, Movie and Sports Stars excepted maybe).

    Certain certainties (hmm?!) are now openly questioned. All kinds of opinions from the cautiously optimistic to the cataclysmic and frankly bonkers opine on the dawning of a new world order. What began as an crisis within securitisation and derivative markets turned to financial, then economic crises. now it is civil unrest. Next on the agenda of gloom i guess would be political crises as despite the "read my lips: no new protectionism" we begin to get er...protectionism, of currencies and employment.

    The quiet consensus of British political discourse of the past 25 years is beginning, albeit slowly, to crack. The managerial arguments are being replaced by ones of purpose and dare i say it, ideology. not revolutionary letist or anarchist as is the wont of Europeans, but a rediscovery that the myth that 21st century information free-market capitalism was the only possible version of society. Now that myth has been destroyed and other possibilities can now be openly discussed without being dismissed as total lunacy. The apathetic British public might well soon be stirred from its slumber...well maybe not until it gets a bit warmer... after all we only tend to riot in the summer it seems to me!!!

    PS, what no-one has made explicit is what would the actual "worst case scenario" be like. If say, last october, the HMG plan cooked up over THAT weekend had not happened, what would total financial meltdown actually look like? No money at all, anywhere? bartering returns? hyperdeflation or hyper inflation? New dark ages? bury your treasure, dig out that Ray Mears book n run to the hills? or just (!) a VERY bad depression but functioning government and trade albeit more akin to pre industrial revolution or even pre-modern levels?

    ie what were/are we collectively deperately trying to avoid?

    im just curious what Apocalyse would be like...just in case!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Whereas I can understand the human and economic interest in knowing about how other Europeans deal with the worst economic crisis in over 60 years, I feel a lot of the discussion around the Euro seems to be solely driven by internal British politics.

    The French protesters did not demonstrate against the Euro, they are unhappy that the government is supporting the banking industry rather than the man in the street. The French government has thus far focused primarily on stabilising the financial sector, but clearly does have other tools at its availability. Anybody knowing their history will be aware that when the French are unhappy about their politicians, they will make this clear to the world. Do not blow this out of proportions in your internal Euro membership debate.

    In terms of devaluation, note that this is a tool not actively used by European governments, for practical and economical reasons. The comment on Newsnight that the British had successfully done this following the credit crunch, is an incorrect representation of facts. The value of a currency, unless it is pegged, is based on simple suppy and demand. In the case of the Pound, the supply is exceeding demand, i.e. foreign investors are shying away from the Pound, mostly driven because of fears of Britain suffering a deeper crisis than other developed countries and because of the knowledge that the British government has severely indebted itself.

    Notwithstanding the importance of social unrest in neighbouring countries as a result of a crisis that is hitting this country even harder, I would have expected the BBC to be more balanced in its reporting and shy away from the obvious Euro political discussion. Why does the BBC not participate in a charity broadcast to raise money for children suffering in GAZA, whereas it does participate in rather cheap insinuations that the Euro is about to explode. If impartiality is important, then adhere to it.

    Furthermore, the most important news of the day were the British strikers in Lincolnshire who protested against the employment of other EU nationals (who fairly won a contract tender exercise). If there is one country that has immensely benefited from the free movement of labour within the EU, it is the United Kingdom. The real signs of crisis in Europe are not protesters on the streets of Paris, as the rather naive Emily Maitlis claimed, but British workers protesting against an Italian company winning a bid for a contract in the UK. Why did the BBC not cover this in more detail, rather than insinuating the collapse of the Euro.

  • Comment number 18. one country that has immensely benefited from the free movement of labour within the EU...

    what rot. it has led to economic colonialism. Should british people sit in poverty like tribesmen in africa used to do while foreign workers exploit their resources?

    we have seen what happens when people believe the 'market' should be the judge and determiner of events within the uk. It is to reject responsibility for managing the uk for the benefit of british people. The guardian class are not there as guardians of the market but the british people.

    it is part of jedi mind trick of the Chicago school of economists to say let the market determine structure and all will be well. The market is a good servant but a bad master. For the market is nothing other than the operation of the financial oligarchy. A device for extracting wealth.

    it is part of the great financial illiteracy in the uk that makes people have false beliefs about the 'benefits' of the unrestricted market which is why were are where we are.

    if there were 'no rules' on the roads there would be continual pile ups. so the same in markets be they employment or financial.

  • Comment number 19.

    The European situation is indeed starting to look ugly.

    Paul's point about Britain being temporarily exempted from top-down austerity measures is an insightful one.......emphasis on temporary

    I for one am starting to get alarmed however at the potentially explosive anti-foreigner sentinments behind a growing spate of industrial actions taking part in the UK as we speak (blog).

    I work with a number of blue collar guys and I can confirm that many of them feel extremely alienated and anti-establishment at the moment. These feelings have been building and building over a long period.

    When we get deeper into this slump, as we surely will, I would not be surprised if the inevitable attempts from on-high to invoke the Battle of Britain spirit, go unheeded and unheard in many quarters.

    What started as an economic problem is quickly evolving into a British political crisis.

    Simmering under the surface is a groundswell of anger at the way our country's industrial infrastructure has been run into the ground by two generations of ivory tower politicians and industrialists.

    The pressures at the grass-roots level are enormous and I think David Cameron (as a shoo-in for PM in 2010) should be very measured in the way that he handles the growing angst in the British psyche.

    I for one am finding it difficult to fully understand the calamitous economic events that have been unfolding since last year through a conventional political/economic lens alone.

    My interpretation of the story is strongly coloured at the moment by a book I read by Jared Diamond (a sort of uber-intellectual). Diamond's thesis is constructed through layer upon layer of hard scientific evidence that points to an unavoidable truth.

    That truth, the elephant in the room, is that our economies will in short order collapse,come what may, under the weight of that oldest of economic laws......the Law of Diminishing Returns.

    In this case the returns that are diminishing are the returns from our farms, fisheries, mines, oil wells, aquifiers, forestries and carbon sinks.

    Serious ideas needed SOON!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Alarming blips on the European eurozone screen? I find it amazing how BBC keeps bashing the euro, when it s the British economy that s about to fall over the cliff. Last nights wishfull thinking about protests in Paris and linking them to euro worries is typical. Also the discussions in Newsnight where critical remarks from Leon Britton about the viewpoints of the interviewer were cut short, because they were not in line with the preferred outcome, were amazing. You seem to agree with Brown that Britain is still best positioned to weather the economic storm. Or with Conservatives ideas that Britain can devaluate itself out of recession. We have seen it all before. It s not gonna work. The euro is the best way forward, like it or not.

  • Comment number 21.


    If Cameron were an ex career-criminal who after a deprived childhood and years in in prison, with a history of multiple abuses, finally helped to 'get a life' by Camilla Batmanghelidj, he would be part-qualified to meet the needs of this country as PM.

    On this planet, today, even impending multiple crises are a 'game' to those who play in the great gaming palaces of governance. The depth of seriousness of man's error, is only ever measured in retrospect.
    That is one thing our ill-equipped leaders get right: history will judge them. (Not the history they write - real history.)

    In odd corners, a few odd individuals, unafflicted by 'Affluenza', know what we are facing. But politicians feel threatened in the presence of such people; you only have to look at the calibre of political acolytes and advisers to see the truth of that.

    The serious ideas are out there, and that is where they will stay.

  • Comment number 22.

    I know the discussion is about why Brits aren't out protesting like French, Greek and Spanish people, but actually, today, workers at Lindsey, Grangemouth, six other Scottish sites, Wilton, Aberthaw and many other locations are either demonstrating and/or striking over employment issues.

    So perhaps things are starting to change?

  • Comment number 23.


    When you stress 'bloke' or feed him alcohol, he is inclined to get nasty. Present him with another bloke who is overtly 'different' and his nastyness will find a focal point. Give the first bloke the notion that the second has taken his job (or girl, or spilled his pint) and
    you have violence.

    Of course we all know from our worthy politicians: "There is no excuse for violence".
    Tell that to Tony Blair.

    As the stress rises, the multicultural milk of human kindness (and animal forbearance) will curdle. Things are going to get lumpy.

    Will Brown be leasing a bit of Southern Irish coast to build his own ‘Gordanamo’ to hold rioters under the Terror Laws? There will surely be no room in the prisons; crime rises in a depression..

  • Comment number 24.

    It is interesting at what is happening at the Lindsey oil refinerary. As usual the many in the media are trying portray this as a racist issue whenever foreign workers are involved, but this is different. Here British workers have been deliberately excluded from jobs. The people involved are very wisely hammering this point home that it is NOT a racist issue.

    In this country we are a very tolerant people. Maybe this has been reflected in the general mood of the country and no kind of mass action, as is currently being seen on the continent, has taken place here - yet. I hasten to add toletance is also coupled with other social factors which are too numerous to mention here.

    What is interesting at Lindsey though is that these striking workers in the face of severe recession are willing to break the draconian Tory anti union laws. It has been said that the British only come out fighting when their backs are too the wall. For some that time may be coming near.

  • Comment number 25.

    # 24 fromtheshopfloor

    I agree with your view that we Brits are a tolerant lot, up to a point. I'm quite surprised at how little outward demonstration there has been about the dire situation that is either with us already or on its way (depending on which reports you read).

    I'm of the view that we're still at the thin, leading edge of this problem. We've a very long way to go to unwind from the enormous levels of private debt still locked up in our society and deluding us that we're still solvent and OK.

    Add to this the almost-too-hard-to-comprehend levels of public sector debt that the Government is now loading on to our economy, giving every indication that they've abandoned all sense of caution and control (ie they're panicking), and you have a recipe for not only economic problems, but significant social problems sooner or later.

    There'll come a time when huge numbers of people are going to be dealing with unemployment and/or indebtedness and/or high taxes etc etc. We're going to be whipped and walloped back to 'living within our means' one way or another: we have to go through this purgatory because, by definition, living on debt indefinitely is unsustainable.

    It's this notion of populations going through purgatory that the politicians cannot grasp.

  • Comment number 26.


    The politicians are afraid of it, what they dont realise is the people just want the courage of honesty and genuine leadership from them.

    Suffering for a purpose, with a vision in mind is bearable, suffering for sufferings sake is not. The only vision the politicians are selling is to return to the false prosperity of before.

    Prosperity built on virtual slave labour sweat shops in the far east and extraordinary greed in the west.

    We have the technology and knowledge such that nobody has to live that way anymore.


  • Comment number 27.


    Thanks for the piece tonight on newsnight regarding the unrest in europe and Iceland.

    I do find it remarkable how little this has been talked of in the media generallly. Are we so self centred that there is no public interest in these mass mobilisations accross Europe.

    I had no idea until tonight that protests forced the resignation of the Icelandic cabinet.

    To me that is big news. Why is it not more broadly reported, is there an element of self censorship going on?

    We dont want the people getting ideas now do we!

  • Comment number 28.

    Almost a great post, you almost had me agreeing with you until you came up with the following crazy logic...3) "They are protesting, but mainly about Gaza", what a load of cobbles, we are protesting about this Governments inability to ease the strain on us all of the recession.

    Many more power station workers staged an unofficial strike to protest about 300 Italian workers coming to the UK to work on a perfectly legal project, than protesters who were supporting Palestinians in Gaza.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tigerjay / somali pirate / alexander Curzon / Rahere / many others (you know who you are)

    Re starting a political party.

    A part of me would love to do that Cromwellian style and shake up the establishment, hence my enthusiasm.

    Somali pirate has a point though which does bring me back to earth.

    The pragmatist engineer in me away from the idealist suggests a more measured course, an extension of what we are doing anyway by way of our and many others (you know who you are) regular contributions.

    My suggestion is not a political party but a formalised lobby group.

    There are many intelligent and more importantly experienced people here who are ahead of the curve and the media in terms of analysis of what is happening and what would be sensible to do next.

    Time and time again I see posts here that are realised a few weeks or a month or two later, analysis that I do not see in the news.

    I also get a sense sometimes that ideas expressed here seem to emerge from the mouths of politicians a few days later..probably just co-incidence / people thinking in similar ways but it would be nice to think otherwise.

    Both politicians and media are hamstrung to see what we can see by their very nature, they are professional politicians and journalists. No undeserved disrespect to them but you have to be on the ground up to your armpits in grease to 'feel' what is going on.

    The politicians ambitions within fortress Westminster and the journalists 'impartiality' detract from that required level of ' grease up to your armpits' understanding.

    A formal lobby group, a collection of 'wise men and women if you will' should enable us collectively to do much more than we are currently trying to individually here, noble though that it, it is not very effective.

    Although I would like to think we are making some kind of difference in a small way as we are, I am sure with a bit of organisation we could do more.

    I have a full time job and I have my young family also, I don't have much spare time beyond those commitments to do the 'nuts and bolts' of creating a formal lobby group, otherwise I would.

    I would hope somebody out there has different circumstances and is better placed to take that on.

    It could be the cyber equivalent of the bohemian 'cafe' culture of the early 1900's.

    We could meet up for real also, agree press releases of some description by consensus between us etc rather than spraying our views 'machine gun' like all over the net. No doubt some of the bullets hit but one large precision guided weapon is usually much more effective in achieving its goals.

    On a lighter note in order to get some publicity, modern society being what it is one of us would need to marry a premier league footballer or dress up as superman and hang from the hands of big ben or look good in a bikini / trunks or pretend we were deranged in some way and go onto big brother or hook up with Paris Hilton or Jordan in order to get general attention.

    Anybody like to volunteer to be Paris Hiltons new best friend fot ITV? AC maybe.

    I will post this on Paul Masons blog also, as shamefully, considering his insight comments are less cluttered there.

    A volunteer who's circumstances permit him / her to look into setting up a formal lobby group would be a good starting point a core of 2 or 3 people could then communicate 'off blog' to get the ball rolling
    (there goes the engineer in me again).

    Hope to correspond and maybe even see you all soon.

    If we want to get a message out there (as we clearly do or we would not spend the time we do here) may as well do it more effectively dont you think?

    Just a suggestion.


  • Comment number 30.

    Thanks for another great blog Paul. Very thought provoking. When I saw theGreek tractor blockade on news at 10 this week, I did wonder about the possibility of the disintegration of the Euro.

    You also include info about the finance problems re the Balkan states. This is the first I've heard about that simmering pot about to boil over.

    The strikes abroad and now here are totally indicative of populations rightful concerns about bank bailouts and mass unemployment. I son't know enough about political and fiscal systems abroad. Perhaps we need more info on this as surely this will have a knock on effect here?

    While Prudence, and others, preach against Protectionism, their countries protest that home must come first. Surely we have to fix our own economy before a global one?

    Perhaps GB's comment about being best placed to weather the storm related to Sterling v the Euro? Who knows.

    I'm afraid the real price of this credit crunch will not hit the top of the ivory towers, but us ordinary folk on the ground.

    And still, even now, we are not sensing awareness of this from GB and friends.

    The people of this country are very angry, and the strikes over Total's decision, could just prove to be the spark that starts the forest fire.

    The government need to be very careful what they say about it or the whole social structure f this country will begin to disintegrate.

    I have a very bad feeling about it all.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why dont you stop trying to be smarty arsy and just give the real information, as you are paid to do?

  • Comment number 32.

    #16 triki....

    What does apocalypse look like? ...

    Definition: Apocalypse (Greek: ?p???????? Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil") is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind.

    So, what has been hidden from us?

    Well, politicians will not tell you that our whole societal system collapsed on October 10, 2006

    Apocalypse looks like this:

    1) Scarce energy

    2) Food shortages, empty shelves at the supermarket

    3) No fuel at the petrol pumps

    4) Limited imports

    What to do?

    I have seen this coming for 2 years and have been putting some things in place to deal with such a crisis:

    1) I've built a chicken house, I now have a daily supply of fresh eggs

    2) I have a water collection system should the public water supply fail

    3) I am growing my own veg

    4) I have paid down a substantial amount of debt

    5) I consume only what I need for today and shop daily to avoid waste

    6) I have created a food store in case of scarcity

    7) Am currently researching renewable energy (being frustrated by regulation)

    Initially my friends and relatives thought I was going crazy, now my Dad having had his retirement nest egg destroyed is asking me what happens next.

    What happens next is a realisation that we are at the end of the Industrial Age. Here are the phases:

    Anger - seeing that in some countries

    Denial - UK and US

    Realisation - Iceland?

    Grief - coming in March

    Looking forward - 2010

    Change - 2012 maybe

    This all may sound very dark indeed but it needn't be. I look forward to getting back to sound values and caring for each other and our planet.

    See post #29, join with us?

  • Comment number 33.

    #32, wakeupbritain

    Nice to see someone else is actually doing something serious about the situation - rather than just pontificating.

  • Comment number 34.

    WOW! Mr Mason's scrawl is as sophisticated as I. However, I will focus on one 'trivial', non-global, but important everyday UK thing?

    SUPERMARKET 'CELEBRITY' ADVERTISING!. With a few exceptions, supermarkets pay celebs' huge amounts to advertise bargains.... close to an oxymoron?
    Advertising is crucial in all business and is more crucial in a downturn. Imagine, what a fabulous P.R for any supermarket to say "we give great deals and employment without spending your money on celebrities who probably don't need our bargains"???

    Perhaps I am just an over-educated, cynical yet simple woman, who observes the lack of empathy within such a massive and rarefied world of celebrity advertising?? thanks for reading this.

  • Comment number 35.

    All these problems are I am afraid the result of the bad behaviour of bankers.

    What a laugh when they say their fat bonuses should still be paid on the grounds that it's necessary to keep and attract the most talented staff.

    Yes they are brilliantly intelligent, skilled and qualified. And what have they done? Ruined their own Institutions, screwed the rest of us, and used their fine in-demand intelligence for one purpose, to cream off into their own pockets.

    Who wants people like that? Better to have some dull, competent people who are honest and less greedy, maybe even civil servants. Banking is not difficult.

  • Comment number 36.

    #29 Update

    We now have 5 expressions of interest to form the lobby group, the opening conference will be in parallel to G20 in April.

    Places are limited to 30 for now for practical purposes. More may become available later

    We have

    somali pirate
    vegetable grower

    Sign up by simply expressing an interest to me and i will add you onto the list. All welcome. We want a good mix of finance, business and persons with a general interest or experience of economics and politics in some form in order for it to be balanced.

    Sign up.

    Your country needs you.


  • Comment number 37.

    36, Jericoa: #29 Update
    As an initial point of contact that might be quicker that via this blog is here

  • Comment number 38.

    Tigerjay / somali pirate / alexander Curzon / Rahere / many others (you know who you are)

    go to and register, you don't need to post or anything.

    I will set up some space for you

  • Comment number 39.

    OK, let's try it a bit more cryptically:

    1:If you were setting up a "lobbygroup" and it was an organisation, what would you choose as a domain name?

    2:John Bray in Spain.

    Hints: the first will clue will work in a web browser the second in a search engine beginning with Goo.

  • Comment number 40.

    what's the money like to do good things

  • Comment number 41.


    Absolutely terrible.

    You in ?

    Vegetable grower may donate some of his produce to the cause which may be a more currency than money in a few months time anyway...That is meant to be a joke by the way, strange thing is it is also an actual possibility!!!!!


  • Comment number 42.

    #38 and #39

    ok sounds good, I will continue to round some people up here in the meantime.

    Coralbloom has signed up also

    we now have.

    somali pirate
    vegetable grower


  • Comment number 43.

    "Coralbloom has signed up also"

    Maybe even more people

  • Comment number 44.

    Murderated again! 37 or 39 will get you there.

  • Comment number 45.

    Good post from ThorntonHeathen.

    It's often a waste of time protesting, engaging (our council, Tower Hamlets has loads of 'engagement officers' how Orwellian) or voting (Emma Goldman's remark) or indeed posting on any BBC website (the most interesting posts are usually censored, after all, the BBC is an expression of the government ).

    So, what's left is to create our own future without these idiots, without government grants and engagement officers and a false democratic participation. There's no law yet that obliges us to consume or sets our level of earnings either.

    A good new mantra would be 'government, ignore it and perhaps it will go away.

  • Comment number 46.


    Bob rocket has a good point and so does John Bray-kind of follow the yellow brick road!

    Generally, remember the comment made about most bankers not being aware of the real lives they have an effect on? I would venture to suggest that our government suffers from the same affliction-ivorytoweritis!

    It isn't protectionism to care about your own country first!

    You can do that AND think global.

  • Comment number 47.

    #46 tigerjay


    A story for you.

    I was informed of a posibility last week to go and solve some engineering problems on a huge development on the remote Cape Verde islands. 100M pounds was quoted as the approx value of the development construction.

    I thought, 'who on earth in their right minds would be investing in such a venture now'. Who is going to buy this stuff / go on holiday there?

    I am involved at the early stages of construction usually, early enough to shelve them. I was suprised this huge privately financed project had not been shelved.

    Then I figured if I was one of the Uber rich Cape Verde might actually be an atrractive 'plan b' if things turned ugly. Not on most peoples radar yet warm and beautiful and isolated.

    Then I figured, let them go to some remote tropical island with all their money in cash and see how long they lasted using it for energy or to eat, build shelters and a safe drinking water system using their wits and suitcases full of money.

    These guys would not last a month without the doctors scientists, engineers of all kinds, farmers, police and the like.

    Yet who does society reward most?

    What use is a suitcase full of money if when you turn the tap on brown putrid water comes out?

    People in finance have a huge responsibility to society to oil the machine that maintains stability and encourages progress. That should be rewarded for sure providing they understand the responsibility to society they have and provide that service.

    The purpose of finance has been forgotten. They thought they were the machine itself, the self styled ' masters of the universe'. Actually finance is supposed to support the machine that is stability and progress.

    This has been forgotten and a painful correction is now required for which we will all need to pitch in (bankers and engineers and doctors and scientists alike). The trouble is I dont see the bankers 'pitching in' as yet.

    It requires some humility on their part to get the ball rolling. They are human and they can be forgiven but they need to sign up to being part of the solution.


  • Comment number 48.

    It's a Principle Thing

    is it a good idea 'in principle' to ripoff your neighbor
    is it a good idea 'in principle' to enslave your neighbor
    is it a good idea 'in principle' to sell your children into slavery

    no, then why are you allowing it to happen ?

    HMG acts in YOUR name, not anybody else's, but YOURS which makes YOU responsible.
    If you are happy for them to continue what they have been doing then fine, if you aren't then do something about it.
    The time is now.

  • Comment number 49.

    Cape Verde islands

    sounds lovely, isn't that where a T1 backbone comes ashore, closest point between Africa and South America, don't underestimate the intelligence of the superrich
    (if I have enough cash I can launder money from a terrorist state to the US)
    The only thing they don't have is morals (everything else they can buy)

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    'why the Brits are not revolting in concert with their European counterparts'

    We, the Brits do not revolt in concert with anybody else.
    We the Brits do not as a whole revolt.
    However I feel an undercurrent, an undercurrent that could very well push this tolerant nation to the brink of revolution.
    When we the Brits do decide to have a revolution you can be sure that it will be a revolution that tears the whole of europe apart, not one of riots in the street but of a wholescale destruction of everything the state and states have come to mean.
    You play with fire..

  • Comment number 52.








  • Comment number 53.

    The final solution or are we in the final countdown?

    Looks like we're on our way to self destruct!

  • Comment number 54.

    work within the law to change the law
    become a stakeholder for the dca white papers
    which mp's use to implement laws

  • Comment number 55.


    Very useful suggestion-thanks for that-I'll look into it today.


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