They say you shouldn’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog, but I would beg to differ in the, er, dog days of the £12300 CGT allowance. It’s probably more important in future as this allowance drops to £3k in a couple of years. Why is this?
First, if you are using your ISA, as I am, then no worries in that particular area. If you aren’t, then Monevator would like to know why the bloody hell not? Only hold investements in an ISA on pension? Stand at ease, as you were.
However, I have concluded that as I can live off my pension then it’s a little bit mad to retain the three years equivalent salary in cash-like savings that was there to prevent me becoming a forced seller into a down market when I was living off savings and then SIPP income with some earnings. The emergency didn’t come, and in Covid that savings crept up to about 5 years, what with spending less, earning a little more. Along with some luck and Covid shorting, so I have unwrapped holdings in a GIA as well as wrapped ISA holdings. It is the holdings in the GIA that exercise me here.
I decided to give the gold holdings the order of the boot from the ISA, gradually selling them in the ISA, buying some equities in there with the proceeds, mainly VWRL, but at the same time as I sold gold in the ISA I bought that much and a little more in the GIA with some of the cash savings. Gold has had a decent run of late, sufficient that I sold all my SGLP to crystallise about 6k in CGT, to buy SGLN. Slightly over 30 days later I look at the SGLN and observe there’s another 5k in capital gain up for grabs, so I flog that and buy SGLP back. I also collected a profit of £2.7k in BP, which I have decided to get out of now, and find I have gone somewhat OTT on capital gains for this year. Never mind, I am prepared to eat a £500 loss in SMT and a £1k loss on LGEN. LGEN is softened by the £500 dividend paid, but I did time it wrong, never mind. The trend towards a tax free dividend allowance of £500 shows that having a GIA containing dividend payers is not such a good idea in future, but that’s another story.
I liquidated a few minor gains1 to get as close to the £12300 CGT for this year but just under. Obviously I get to eat the spread in the turn, I am not so sure I can get so excited about the £5 dealing fee in a seven figure total, but the turn is about 10 to 20 pips, and may be wider on actually doing it rather than a soft quote, which is getting on for at least 200 sods, so you don’t want to spin this wheel too often. OTOH the putative CGT saved is 10% of £12300, which is worth getting out of bed for.
Now assuming that the banks really are strong and resilient as they keep telling us, despite SVB, First Republic, Credit Suissethen it’ll all come good. Probably will come good in a couple of years either way. In that scenario I expect that gold to tank, compared to my last purchase price and go down, by about 10k, less some sort of inflation, as equities increase. But in that case, the embodied capital loss is then able to be offset against any gains, so selling it and rebuying now gives me optionality in future. The gold is there as diversification, I don’t want to off it, so the recent gain is purely notional. What the market giveth with one hand, it taketh away with t’other in its own good time. Of course if I knew that ZIRP was going to return again and money would be there for free I would maybe hold off, but you never know. One day the GFC will have to be paid for…
There’s an asymmetry with capital gains, in that losses can be rolled forward for future use, but gains have to be used in the year. This year’s gain was particularly valuable, because it’s more than it will be in future – 6k next year, three after that. A GIA will be much less valuable in future – in a typical scenario of 7% average annual returns (assuming inflation of 2% as it used to be, hahahaha) a £12300 allowance lets you hold £175k before running into CGT on average. In the end scenario of £3k you get to hold about 42k before running into CGT. And, of course, inflation is 10%, though they all say that isn’t going to carry on. We shall see about that.
I will naturally use the £20k ISA allowance coming up, and perhaps the one after that if it’s on offer. After that, well, who knows.
Britain is a poor society with some very rich people in it.
We have actually seen this movie before, well, those of us of advanced years have. When was that? Way back when, in the early 1970s my German grandmother cam to visit us in London. She was gobsmacked by the number of old bangers on the road then, you could almost see the thought bubble “But I though Britain won the war, what’s up with that”.
I think that sentiment was voiced over a bottle of wine that she had brought with her. Seriously, the 1970s were a terrible time Britain for quality in wine as well as cars, the stuff people drank was revolting. Even Blue Nun is probably better now. My grandmother wouldn’t have tolerated that in the house, never mind brought it over with her own fair hand.
Wonder what else happened around that time, when Britain was known as the sick man of Europe. Ah well, correlation is not causation, so that’s all right then. Like with the banks. Move along now. Nothing to see here at all. Britain is rich enough to laugh off a 4% hit in GDP as a mere trifle.
In particular, since ISAs are a key tool to enable the under 50’s to speed up their retirement then I wonder what the direction of travel will be in a few years’ time?
In the meantime use it or lose it – both your ISA allowance and should you be so fortunate as to have the need and the capability, your CGT allowance!
I was hoping to have enough GIA investment income to defray the increase in power bill but the Buzzard has shat on this idea somewhat with the upcoming £500 tax-free limit on dividends. Though if you are going to pay tax on income dividend income beats earning it or indeed pension income, as dividends are taxed at 8.75% for the lower orders. I was more generally so wrong with that post in its anticipated effect on me :( ↩
It seems to be regarded infra dig for the current government to find the BBC asking ‘how did the government fuck this [insert specific aspect of British life] up.’, although asking that specific question used to be the point of the fourth Estate. ↩
Mrs Ermine makes a rare appearance here on Simple Living in Somerset as her normally smooth white fur was ruffled by news of national salad shortages.
The Ermine Household is far from self-sufficient, unlike back in the day when this blog was Simple Living in Suffolk and I ran The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm. Despite this, old habits die hard and we have a large vegetable garden and I forage for wild greens on a regular basis.
So these days supermarket visits are a regular event, and wandering round Tescos last week this caught my eye.
An old friend lives in an area of Spain which is well known for horticulture, including for export to the UK, so I checked in with him. Our man in Murcia reported that there are no shortages there. Of course, they may ensure local supply by slowing exports, but it did make me wonder whether the difficulties of exporting into the UK these days might not be a factor? On the BBC Radio 4 News yesterday evening it was all put down to weather conditions, but this morning’s Guardian asked the same question, “Some suppliers said potential bureaucratic hurdles meant the UK was not the first choice for hard-pressed European producers, although others said leaving the EU was not a factor in the current supply issues.”
Regardless of all that, IMHO we’re putting ourselves in a very vulnerable situation (as a nation) by being so very reliant on imports of fruit and veg which are totally out of season here, and on increasingly expensive heated domestic greenhouse production. I honestly don’t know what the policy answer to all this is. If I was the one making the decisions I’d make it a priority to have a long chat with Professor Tim Lang https://foodresearch.org.uk/publications/horticulture-in-the-uk/ before doing anything.
On a household level growing your own veg is time consuming, many people don’t have access to a garden big enough to make a difference, and it may simply not appeal… if any of these apply to you then please feel free to disregard this post and wait for the next instalment here from Mr Ermine (though he adds a post script below).
But I wonder whether some FIRE folk might not be interested to learn how Ermine Towers is weathering the current salad shortage storm, which Radio 4 reports may continue for some weeks? Over the years I’ve found a decent veg garden to be great way to guarantee a supply of really good quality, utterly fresh seasonal veg, as well as saving thousands of pounds – I once read an estimate that a well-managed allotment garden could save a few thousand a year. My allotment certainly helped me to keep my costs down early on in my career in engineering, before I ran the farm, and my times outdoors helped keep me more or less sane through it.
Right now we eat a mix of bought and home grown veg, and salads are a regular feature on the Ermine Towers menu, so the shortages simply don’t affect us at all. I wouldn’t dream of buying fresh tomatoes in February as we eat more or less seasonally, and I focus on crops we both like that require the least work for maximum yield. My ten years as a market gardener (once I’d escaped working for the man) gave me the opportunity to hone this to a fine art.
Now, in late February, I’m harvesting the last of the winter leeks along with cut-and-come-again cabbage (variety Wintergreen- I sow them in late August, overwinter them in pots outside, then plant them out around now, they last over 12 months and I will still be harvesting the ones sown in 2021 for a few more weeks, harvesting the flower shoots like sprouting broccoli before clearing the bed). A more recent addition is perennial Kale, my variety is Taunton Deane, so far it is very promising and productive. Perennial leeks are to be this year’s experiment. My sprouting broccoli isn’t doing terribly well this year after the very cold winter, there are always winners and losers every year.
Right now our salads are a mix of:
Home cooked lentils. I like the British grown green ones from Hodmedod’s – and just to prove I’m not getting a kickback, you’ll need to Google them 😉 I did meet the people who set it up ages ago and they were really inspiring, and it has been incredibly successful since then. Good for them.
A mix of seeds, again from Hodmedod’s.
One vegetable (ed: carrots) I buy organic as I am suspicious of any chemical that can bump off carrot fly. I can’t be bothered to grow them here, not least as we have clay soil which doesn’t suit them. I use a vegetable peeler to make strips of them, it is prettier.
Chopped red onion. Again, bought – they are cheap and colourful.
Home produced lacto fermented veg, currently a mix of last year’s home grown green tomatoes that weren’t going to ripen, last year’s surplus French and runner beans, and sauerkraut made from shop bought red and white cabbage. There is a lot of song and dance about how complicated it is to make home fermented veg – it isn’t. It is cheap and easy, I wouldn’t bother otherwise. It is also incredibly good for you. I store it in sealed jars in big plastic storage boxes buried in the garden to keep them cool.
Mixed home grown, and foraged, salad leaves. The ones from the garden right now include claytonia and red veined sorrel from the greenhouse, broad bean leaves, dandelions, & cleavers: the mix varies through the year. I find most shop bought salad leaves insipid and stale – I’m convinced that home grown and foraged greens contain considerably more nutrients than most shop bought salads.
Our salads are cheap, good for us, and Mr Ermine, while not a huge fan of salad, admits they do “taste of something” unlike those in (most) restaurants.
It does take effort to do all this, a few hours a week, but I enjoy it for the most part and regard it as a way to improve our health and quality of life without spending a fortune. Audiobooks transform the experience, when I first started gardening I used a Sony Walkman (remember those?!) to play books from the library. If you’re interested in these gardening ideas, please do bear in mind that the UK climate is quite specific and odd: our growing season is short and the light levels are quite low despite fairly mild temperatures thanks to the Gulf Stream. So what works here in the South West of England may not work elsewhere, even in the North of the UK… but it is all about experimentation and asking local gardeners what does work, then taking what they say with a pinch of salt, everyone has a strong opinion when it comes to gardening, and there is rarely a consensus. A bit like the situation surrounding Brexit, but that is another story.
Welcome to the Brexit, sir
We were indulging in some decadence on the south coast today, fish and chips with a glass of rose and a view over the English Channel.
Which meant I missed DPD’s attempt to deliver a secondhand camera lens. DPD only attempt one delivery, then deliver it three miles up the road, to a Sainsburys concession outlet. I wanted to get to play with the new toy. And take the chance to substantiate this scurrilous rumour that Blighty is running low on toms and veg.
Seems a fair cop. There’s a Lidl nearby, so it’s time to load up on beer, and have a reccy on the presence of green things
On the upside, they had beer.
As the friendly Dutchman said, welcome to the Brexit, sir. A smaller market will experience more variability in supply. It’s not impossible to imagine better solutions within Brexit, but it takes strategic thinking and money, which seem in short supply with the crew that Got Brexit Done. I’m not even of the view it will take Jake’s 50 years. What is does need, is grit, determination and some attention to detail. Let’s take a look back in time.
As a child in London over fifty years ago, I recall there being some market gardens in the city1, as well as around it. There were many more allotments then, and even in the working-class area of London, New Cross where I grew up, many houses had respectable gardens. My Dad used to grow onions in the garden, I’m sure he grew other things as well but it’s a long time ago. These terraced houses had alternating apple and pear trees, on the assumption neighbours would swap. We had an apple tree.
Observant fellows will note that was before Britain joined the Common Market in 1972, we should note that times were very different. Once a week ISTR I would go along with my mother dragging a shopping trolley the two miles to Lewisham , and she would buy veg at the market stalls that used to line Lewisham High Street. Google tells me there is again a Lewisham open market there. We did not have a car 2, although we would walk there sometimes we would get the No 21 bus back to New Cross if we had bought something like spuds. It took some doing to heft a loaded shopping trolley up onto the open platform of a routemaster double-decker, I think you could stow it in a cubbyhole under the stairs, next to the platform.
Much of this fruit and veg, though not things like oranges and bananas, was grown in Kent though some was grown in the city. People didn’t buy veg from supermarkets then, they were much smaller than now and a much smaller range, mainly focusing of dry goods and non-fresh stuff. Few people had freezers then – our fridge had one star, where at best you could keep ice-cream where the ice cube tray went, and even then it would start to lose the fight after a few hours.
We can’t replicate that world. Housing is very different. Jobs are very different. Families are very different. But we could probably find a better way to grow our food, and perhaps not be such punks as to demand strawberries and tomatoes in February. Working a little bit more with the grain of the seasons might reduce those energy bills farmers are grousing about. But until we apply ourselves to making a better fist of this we will have empty shelves more often.
The vast majority of veg was grown outside of London, and interchanged in the early hours of the morning at Covent Garden market. Kent used to be the Garden of England due to its proximity to the Great Wen and its southerly location with a warmer climate ↩
Although some readers may jump to the conclusion we were living under the railway arches poor not having a car, it wasn’t that unusual in the 1960s – it took until the 1970s for half of British households to own a car ↩
It’s January. The nights are long, and it is cold, and rainy. It’s about this time of year that they always run the articles abut Blue Monday when it’s the most miserable time of the year, because we are done with the Christmas debauchery and it still doesn’t feel light even though the Sun is rising earlier. They are still wittering about the economically inactive. The BBC have at least identified there’s not much chance of getting you FI/RE lot to do your patriotic duty for the economy.
Almost nobody who has retired early says they want to return to work.
A new year, new start
I am old enough to have determined new years resolutions don’t work. I don’t do gyms anyway, but the best way to avoid that sort of resolution is not to pig out to excess extendedly. It’s OK to eat and drink to excess a couple of times in the Christmas period, but debauchery and gluttony are to be avoided in excess.
One thing I am experimenting with is to reduce screens/online. Interesting that Weenie is taking up jigsawing to go in this direction, is it a zeitgeist thing or great minds…
I have already taken step through the end of last year to reduce news consumption. I still remain informed, it’s the time/attention thief I am trying to reduce, rather than to do the full Walden Pond thing. One way is to to act more like it were 1998 on dial-up. As long ago as work I got a win on this with email by not running it all the time, once in the morning and once in the mid-afternoon. I have forgotten what office-worker’s guru put me onto that but it worked. For a wider win I aim to concentrate interwebs in bursts, like it were before the Millennium. GenZ has taken this battle to the enemy with customary panache, at the cost of never clocking off. I wonder if that Zuckerberg isn’t barking up the wrong tree trying to create the metaverse. It’s already here, just unevenly distributed. Poor old Zuck he’s pushing forty, and his younger self called the problem out
Young people are just smarter
I get to listen to a lot more music. Which is more reflective than using t’internet, although when I stream it is from a NAS rather than the likes of Spotify or Apple. I did consider using Tidal but I still can’t bring myself to do subscriptions. It is possible to buy downloads from Qobuz but it’s usually cheaper to get the CD s/h. I listen to music through the electric, instead of on their phones.
In her Happiness Project book Gretchen Rubin said that the days are long but the years are short, and so it has seemed for this year, a lot happened. There has been much noise and hum in 2022. It has been a collection of unforced errors in leadership, not just in the UK though we punched above our weight in mouth-breathing incompetence. I have a suspicion that we are getting the foothills of peak oil and the decline in living standards one would expect from that – the world is getting a larger place again, it is not so much slowbalisation as degobalisation of many things.
Capitalism hates resilience with a vengeance, driving it out across the board in the name of efficiency, but there is an assumed precondition of low geopolitical and natural volatility. 2022 was not the lifestyle that capitalism ordered in the Goldilocks period.
As a general rule resilience is inversely proportional to complexity and decreases with time. In the 1960s British houses had coal bunkers and didn’t depend on Russian gas (and if they did use gas it was coal gas locally produced). Before we get too dewy-eyed people only heated one room, and an open fire drew a hoolie through the single-glazed sash windows so everywhere else was freezing. People had bronchitis all the time – I haven’t had bronchitis since I was a student 😉 But they had the edge on resilience.
I await with interest if the power cuts happen in the first two weeks of January which seem to be the highest risk. Will our towns fill with zombies when they can’t plug into the social media hive mind with their smartphones. Smartphones are not resilient, and the base stations are good for an hour or so without power. It is of course a logical conclusion that the Internet will always be there despite its overweening complexity, so we don’t need to bother with broadcasting after 2030. Yet another piece resilience from a distant analogue world gets its marching orders, pah, who needs it…
In Britain the crew that delivered Brexit seems to have problems unleashing the heady promises of Britannia Unchained, with an exceptional rush of blood to the head in October that raised the price of people’s mortgages.
Everybody is grousing about energy prices. I am not sure all this can be laid at Putin’s door. Optimists will say that the solution to high energy prices is high energy prices, and perhaps this will capitalise the Energiewende that should have happened a few years ago.
I investigated power drain in August, when all this was being floated. Being a cynical cost-focused running-dog I observe all the green crap is loaded on electricity, so I ignored space heating entirely and targeted electrical power drain, on the grounds I don’t want to subsidise other people’s insulation any more than I have to. I was able to reduce electricity usage by about a third, which is worth having, and the results are now in, and they are sustainable –
It wasn’t cost-free – I had to shut down some test equipment, replace the CCTV DVR and ice several static loads and consolidate many others. I have probably saved about £180 due to that activity so far, so I am still short because the capex was more. But unless power costs dramatically less soon I will probably break even over the next year.
I am on the list for a stake in a windfarm to defray electricity usage. This is progressing at a snails pace – strategy not tactics. To take it up I will need to get a smart meter and probably join Octopus. I have many reservations about smart meters, not only can They remotely cut you off with a clickety-clack at a remote NOC, as opposed to sending hairy-arsed grunts out to gain entry and pull the main service fuse, but there is the general surveillance and control aspect of it all, which is a feature of smart anything. Ida Auken’s Welcome to a 2030, I own nothing post of renting everything is a pointer of where that leads. It’s not hard to deduce when you go out from a 30min sample of your power usage, and experience has generally shown that the best way to keep your data secure is not to transmit it to third parties every half hour.
However, smart metering is probably an inherent requirement for power systems with a high proportion of renewables, along with the implied big stick of load shedding, which is terrifically easy to implement using smart meters, both in the we will cut this area off to save the rest, or perhaps encourager les autres as well as the more subtle we will only allocate you x kWh per day. Quite a gift to hostile state hackers, too.
It was precisely to avoid the smart meter that I implemented this solution myself, and efergy does of course send the data over the network, as well as being more ratty than I would like. But you don’t have to say who you are, or rather cleave to the truth in the same way as Boris Johnson does. Data snoopers can infer your district from the GeoIP range but not much closer than that. And efergy can’t cut me off 😉
A smart electricity network that can constructively use renewables with minimum storage will be a remarkable achievement. It will be much more complex that what we had. It will be far more hackable because of the larger attack surface, It will, probably be more efficient. But in no earthly way will it be be more reliable. I expect to see far more outages and also power restrictions, where your smart meter says you can only use x kWh today else we will cut high loads off.
This was the year the stock market died, but we Brits didn’t notice because our money died faster than the stock market – 10% off on the start of the year relative to the USD, and a similar amount to gold. So while I can compare January’s iWeb statement with today’s and conclude I am 3% down in marked to market that is actually ~13% down when measured in Real Things of Value Not GBP, like gold or US dollars. Personally I go meh to that, I don’t have steam coming from my ears like American index investors who are looking at this.
I have been selling gold in the ISA and buying shares through this year, largely VWRL, and rebuying the gold in a GIA. Vanguard tell me in this year’s ISA I have £20366, a whopping 3.25% rate of return. Less, of course 10%, so no cigar. This is from starting to top this up in May once I had cleared out all last year’s Vanguard ISA into HL. Talking of which
When is VWRL not VWRL? When you transfer it to Hargreaves Lansdown in specie
Nobody gets fired for buying VWRL. It’s a boring index stock from a boring index provider. I hold a lot of it, largely on the back of this article. I am not a good little passive index investor, you can see that in my sick purchasing mode on Vanguard which is not regular in any way.
I managed to make a minor profit on this in GBP over the year, because I also vary the amount purchased as well as the time of purchase, I buy more if it is lower, so while it looks like I am a rotten shot the weighting helped me, I am very slightly up on VWRL for the year. I had to stop in October because I am all out of ammo, I have spaffed my £20k ISA allowance.
I transferred last year’s load of this this to HL. In specie, because that’s the whole point of accumulating in Vanguard (no transaction fees, but percentage platform fees) and dumping to HL (usurous £12 transaction fees, but a capped cost of carry at £45 if you eschew funds). You don’t currently pay either party to transfer in-specie, which means say to HL transfer my holding of x VWRL into HL from Vanguard as shares.
But you’d like x to turn up as VWRL, no? I was first warmed up to a strange smell when I opened the HL ISA, the cash came through first I think and I decided I wanted to buy VWRL. For some reason I couldn’t do that, computer said no. I could only buy VWRD or VHYL. Indeedably has a whole post about why VHYL is a terrible idea. However, since I was doing this after the meltdown of SMT I figured a value tilt wasn’t so bad, so I did it anyway. Although I haven’t drawn from any ISA yet, when I do I would hate to sell units to get cash.
It was a slight niggle, WTF is with this, how can they not sell me this common as muck ETF? Really? Monevator has many posts by Lars saying pretty much just go buy VWRL regularly and then do something else with your time. VWRL is USD 8.9billion AUM. I don’t know if that’s US Bn or British Billion, but it doesn’t really matter. World + Dog owns this, in spades. HL should have seen that ETF before 😉
I observe my transfer shows up as VWRD, and leave it be. Many freebie listings show the dollar variant of an ETF because there are more American investors than Brits. Time passes I then get this missive from the HL corporation
We’re getting in touch about your holding(s) in the investments listed below. The type of investment(s) you hold are non-GBP and as we only settle investments in GBP we’ve made the decision to no longer offer this type of investment. However, as there is a GBP denominated version of this investment, you will still be able to purchase and hold investments in this security.
What this means for non-GBP investments
You can continue to hold the investment and sell at any time but from 28 October you cannot buy any more units. Any further purchases will need to be made into the equivalent GBP version. We’ve listed your investments below and, on the right, you’ll see the equivalent GBP version of the stock.
If you don’t want to hold the non-GBP stock you can sell your holding at any time as normal but if you wish to make further purchases, you’ll need to transfer to another provider. We don’t want to encourage our clients to move investments from our platform, but we understand if this is the right choice for you. If you choose to sell, normal dealing charges apply, and you’ll need to consider any loss or gains you’ve made on the stock since buying it.
And I think to myself WTF is this line you are feeding me? I bought this stock from Vanguard in GBP, quoted in GBP. This is your bad, Mr HL, not mine. Over the years I have bought £75k worth of it in iWeb with nary a hitch. I don’t want to pay £11.95 twice plus the turn to rectify your balls-up. There was a price discrepancy and I considered for a moment whether this would be in my favour enough to be worth the turn but came to the conclusion that Thoreau was right, a man is rich in the number of things he can leave alone.
All I wanted was the same as I bought from Vanguard, what part of in-specie transfer do you not understand, HL? So I send them a secure message along the general lines of sort your shit out, guys, with a screenshot of what Vanguard sell me this as., along with the PDF from Vanguard. In all fairness, HL did rectify it, at no cost to me, though the reason for the balls-up is arcane
Both the VWRL denominated line and the VWRD denominated line have the same ISIN but a different SEDOL. As your transfer came through electronically, it seems the system pulled through the wrong SEDOL.
We have now amended your 107 Vanguard Fund plc shares that was transferred to our management from the VWRD denominated line to the VWRL denominated and you should see the correct line of stock reflected in your HL Stocks & Shares ISA.
Which broadly looks like a mea culpa on their part. I didn’t expect to have grief with a big world tracker ETF. Not only that, but they can’t guarantee it won’t happen again when I rinse, repeat in April, so I have to send them another secure message ‘Oi, VWRL coming your way again, that’s VWRL not VWRD, geddit?’
a year when it was time to pay the dues
All in all a messy year, and very seriously shit for many, sadly. One where a lot of chickens seem to be coming home to roost, and a lot of untruths seems to be revealed. Some charlatans were defenestrated, while channeling the Terminator. We discovered that supply-side economics works terribly well if you don’t need to convince other people to lend you money to do the easy tax-cutting part before the hard cost-cutting part. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for Liz Truss and everybody’s mortgage went up by the moron premium. She probably still believes she was right. Maniacs always do.
All you FIRE lot are causing fear and loathing due to the increasing exit of over 50s from the workplace. It seems to be confuzzling TPTB. I really don’t understand why the Big Cheeses don’t get it. Hell, the ONS managed to identify this pull-quote
I no longer had any job satisfaction, and felt physically and mentally exhausted, with many stress-related physical manifestations
Well, yes. For the last thirty years, companies have been making the world of work for stressful, more shit and more penny-pinching. Is it really such a surprise that people give this the middle finger at the earliest opportunity? I was that guy, and nothing I have heard about the world of corporate work has told me this has gotten better. Unless you are in the C-suite, in which case you are doing absolutely fine.
Normally we would have regarded this loss of our old gits as a great opportunity for our young pups to move up a rung or two, but that has no meaning in a gig economy. You’re going to have to pay people more or actually invest in your businesses, UK firms, arguably this is a wider issue. Perhaps returning to the time-honoured tradition of actually training people, rather than endlessly whining that you can’t buy your skills requirements off the shelf might be an idea?
There seems to be a hellacious level of long-term sickness in the UK if it is really 2.5M of working age. Perhaps that’s what you get from a laissez-faire approach to the food industry – I walk along whole aisles of supermarkets not recognizing the products as the category ‘food’, particularly along the snacks and family packs of crisps. Its also somewhat to be expected as a large rump of the population gets older. Talking of health
2022 is also probably the year the NHS died. Unsurprisingly it’s the Tories wot dunnit, though an ageing population, Brexit and Covid are accessories to the crime. In their current headless chicken mode there is not enough leadership to plot a route forward. Let us hope it is the European insurance model rather than the pathological American model that is chosen. In the meantime basically don’t get ill. Which is not an entirely peaceable thought – both of my parents had health issues at my age.
Here’s to a better 2023. Here’s hoping for less stupid crap and fewer unforced errors. No more Bozza, though my crystal ball says that is probably in our future, a man of the people despite being a lying bastard incapable of complying with his own laws FFS. One last roll of the dice. On the plus side, the American market is a lot better value now. It can, of course, continue to get better value, but at some time the worm will turn. I survived OK on the markets, and have firepower to go. The accumulated value throws off a useful enough amount, though my plans of using the 2k tax-free dividend allowance will need to reduce in ambition next year, I am £1350 of the way there, which will be OTT after April.
In other areas I want to know more about the part of the world I live in. I want to walk more in it. I joined iNaturalist so I can make more sense of what I see here, and not just the birds. I am getting old – I was tickled by this woman’s ambition to walk all the footpaths near her home. Sure, it’s fundamentally pointless in a way, but it’s curiously in the moment.
Jezza tells us we will all pay more tax. Fixing the value of the personal allowance in a 10% inflation environment naturally means you get to pay more income tax year by year, if your income is above 12.5k which mine is. However, the hazard and arguably the opportunity for Ermine action lies in a different area. I regard the current dire straits of the UK economy partly Putin, but the particularly worse performance relative to our peers is a Brexit phenomenon, now Covid is no longer covering it. And I didn’t vote for Brexit, so if this screws the economy, well, Brexitards, you voted for it, you own it. I don’t feel a moral obligation to help dig you out of the shit, and if you voted for Brexit and feel skint, well, don’t say people didn’t tell you it’d cost you.
Bailey clearly uncomfortable talking about Brexit but Swati Dhingra pulls no punches.
“It’s undeniable now that we’re seeing a bigger slowdown in trade in the UK than in the rest of the world. That’s showing up despite the statistics being much worse than they used to be.” pic.twitter.com/2eJYv7HToh
According Jacob Rees-Mogg it’ll take 50 years to see the economic benefits of Brexit, and I don’t think that many 20-year-olds voted for it, so hopefully most Brexitards were big on sovereignty, because they’ll be long gone before they see the economic sunlit uplands. I don’t have an issue with people who thought it was a price worth paying for sovereignty – freedom always comes at a cost, and presumably you are rich enough to carry the Brexit malus on GDP, which is part of the fiscal hole Jezza wantes to fill.
Income tax changes
I am probably never going to be a higher rate taxpayer. Well, until Jeremy Corbyn comes into power. While over the 12500 level I am far enough off the 50k income mark to feel safe from higher rate tax for a while. I never earned enough to be endangerered by the additional rate, so if that’s you then while I hear your pain, it’s not my problem. I would suggest you research salary sacrifice if you can, and if you are already over the pension LTA then your are rich enough to afford professional advice, as well as caviar and champagne.
I’m not even that exercised about fiscal drag on the thresholds, because I am old enough to remember that Mrs Thatcher took a much higher tax take out of a much higher proportion, about 2/3 ISTR of the younger Ermine’s pay packets at the start of my working life. The current personal allowance is still quite high, historically. You lot don’t know you were born. OTOH there’s some argument to say that government services worked better back then, you don’t get ‘owt for n’owt.
I struggled to find any useful information on the tax changes as they apply to me, because most of these are in the dividend and CGT arena. Most media don’t talk about that, because the vast majority of their audience presumably don’t have that sort of income/assets. Let’s face it, if you are investing up to 20k a year your shouldn’t have that sort of assets either, as Monevator keeps on telling you. Use your ISA allowances, as you were. I have not picked up any signal about changing the ISA threshold, so aim to fill your boots in the next couple of years, I could see that regime getting tougher with a change in government.
Due to the dearth of information about my oddball bias I am going on this Which summary. I didn’t listen to the budget since while it’s within my circle of concern it’s not within my circle of influence, a walk in the countryside snatched between the showers seemed to be a more constructive use of my time. I saw this bad boy perched on some rugby poles. Indeed I spent so much time watching him I pissed him off so much that he turned his back on me.
before he dive-bombed something in the pitch.
Or I could have spent an hour watching this old buzzard instead
I was taking the line that a walk round a buzzard-filled countryside was doing a teeny bit for keeping my sorry ass out of the way of the NHS, because it seems to be needed for keeping the young’uns noses at the grindstone, and the buzzard on the telly was going to do what he was going to do anyway.
Dividend tax changes and capital gains tax changes.
They’re coming for your rentier earnings, capitalists. The amount of dividend you can earn tax-free drops from £2000 this TYE2023 to £1000 TYE2024 and £500TYE2025. The latter is likely to be irrelevant since I don’t think the Tories will be in power. You won’t have ANY tax-free dividend allowance in two years, at a guess. Note that at this stage you pay a lower rate of tax on dividends over the tax threshold than you do on earned income, 10 8.75% for shares as opposed to 20/32% on earned income. I would not bet on that persisting after two years.
This pretty much wipes out my plan to pay for the increase in power bills through dividends held in my GIA (so outside the ISA). I may pause my Vanguard ISA next year and reactivate my iWeb ISA, I hold the GIA with iWeb (which is terrible from a FCA compensation angle) so I will see what they can do about Bed and ISA transfers, from memory they only charge you one side of buy/sell transactions. I have time to boot these dividend payers into the ISA, or sell them out.
Capital Gains tax
The allowance here falls in future, first to 6k TYE2024 then 3k TYE2025 Curiously that makes the carry over of some CGT losses I have more valuable; while you can’t carry allowances forward you can carry the losses. CGT is generally a fight you can choose the time of battle. Not always, some corporate actions trigger CGT gains or losses. Obviously you don’t aim to make a CGT loss, in the event say that I observe a gain is my holdings of Invesco SGLP gold I will sell them and buy Ishares SGLN (first checking Invesco isn’t owned by Blackrock or the other way round. I would need to qualify the cost of the turn and spread, natch. This would circumvent the 30-day rule – same underlying asset, different ETF share instrument. Like dividend tax, a basic rate taxpeyer pays a lower 10% rate of tax on shares CGT over the threshold. Again, I would not assume that applies after two years.
In the big picture, my GIA will end up full of SGLP and SGLN and I will move income assets into the ISA over the next couple of years. I will move all gold holdings out of my ISA, probably swapping this for more VWRL and index funds. I will probably clear down most of my Vanguard ISA into the Hargreaves Lansdown ISA, to kill off percentage fees (I am at the HL cap on shares, I hold no funds).
So yeah, at the edges I will be one of those paying more tax. But not too much more. Because unlike people who get most of their income by selling their time or skills for money I am on the side of capital, and capital always has more choices than Income. Since I didn’t vote for Brexit, I feel no particular moral obligation to compensate for the 4% loss in GDP. I also think it would be only A Very Good Thing if the OBR’s 10% house price fall forecast comes true. Houses are far too dear in the UK as it is. Rather than pissing around trying to facilitate people to be able to afford to pay more, the best way to make anything more affordable is to reduce the price of it. Flushing out BTL landlords are all the other good folk that try to invest in houses rather than to live in the buggers could also work wonders, though we could do well to remember that many people are just too poor to be able to buy houses.
Note that this is relatively short and ill thought out because its’ only been two hours since the buzzard on the telly has stopped talking. E&OE particularly on that single-sourced piece on the changes in CGT and dividend tax, and the ISA allowance being the same.
The Ermine household ventured to Weston-Super-Mare, where the Mendip Hills surrender to the sea in the Bristol Channel. There was a free public spectacle, part of the Festival UK scratch that, Festival of Brexit no, it’s definitely not called that, Unboxed 2022. Sounds like the sort of thing that people do on YouTube when they get a new gadget, but it’s all about mind-blowing creativity happening now across the UK
Round these parts the mind-blowing creativity is a whacking great big oil rig on the beach. It’s one of the more accessible of the exhibits. The Ermine is on the philistine end of the spectrum when it comes to the arts. Not as far as reaching for a Browning when I hear culture, but not a luvvie. I was middle-aged before Mrs Ermine educated me that you don’t qualify art by whether you like it but whether it makes you see the world in a different way. It’s always easy to carp on arts funding, but I will leave that to others
I’m not sure that it made me see the world in a different arty way, but I certainly saw WSM in a different way physically – some of the faded grandeur of the beachfront hotels from a height.
I’ve never had the opportunity to be on an oil rig before – it was surprisingly small. They didn’t have the workers’ accommodation or much of the functional plant. I was trying to place the guys from Tabitha Lasley’s book Sea State on it. Even getting a helicopter onto the helipad must be a serious challenge in high winds. I got a useful amount of exercise climbing 30m of steps, but I missed the entire renewables theme, I had to look at Wikipedia to get that. Even the seemonster website left me confuzzled.
Weston-Super-Mare has seen better days, like so many British seaside town. If you are in the area, go north to Clevedon for a classier experience, or south to Burnham-on-Sea for a less tacky experience on a smaller scale. WSM hosted Banksy’s Dismaland in 2015, so it has form on public arts projects. As far as bringing money into the town, that’s a maybe. It certainly gives employment – they have people everywhere on all levels because I would imagine the temptation for kids to climb over the guards rails could be a bit much, the water this thing stands in is only three feet deep, not enough to break a fall from 30m. And we did have a full English of industrial sausages, white fried bread and instant coffee at a local caff, because sometimes you have to rough it. You can get a better breakfast in Clevedon and Burnham-on-sea, though whatever you do don’t carry on to Bridgwater, because the guys building Hinkley Point power station need good honest grub at low prices, rather than poncey ‘elf food and the town is set up for that.
An echo out of time, before Covid and the Brexit dividend showed its face
Once upon a time, four years and three prime ministers ago, a Remainer who didn’t really believe in Brexit proposed an arty celebration of all things British, to be funded with the lolly on the side of the bus we were going to save leaving the EU. There was going to be so much the NHS wouldn’t need it all.
To be fair, that was Theresa May in Oct 2018 so nobody had heard of Covid-19 She called it Festival UK, but the temptation was always there to rename it as a Festival of Brexit, and Jakey boy took the opportunity to change the label, despite asserting we have to wait half a century to see the economic benefits. Put the champers and the festival on the National Debt, then, JR-M, or on the tax rises? The varmint is from Somerset though thankfully not my local MP.
There was something dismal about a Remainer trying to implement Brexit, in the end if you are going to implement a car crash you really need someone who is going to put the pedal to the metal and go out with a bang rather than try to survive the experience. Think Vanishing Point rather than The Italian Job, so well done Bozza for Getting Brexit Done. Covid gave you enough time to pretend the fail wasn’t too much Brexit but that’s starting to wear a little bit thin now. Well done you on making it not your problem now, mate.
Brexit seems to have a voracious appetite for Tory PMs, chowing down four and countin’. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people. You can get Brexit Done but you’ll never make Brexit Work Well until you learn to talk civilly with our nearest neighbours, even if you don’t want to be in their club, I curse you and the horse you rode in on always offends.
As for our talents at striking dynamic alternative trade deals, there seems a lack of bovine reciprocity in the Aussie-UK trade deal brokers by Liz Truss – as in importing Aussie beef is dandy but importing British beef is still verboten Down Under. They must’ve cracked a few tinnies on getting that past La Truss. The Aussies keep the Ashes then, and it’s about time Britain learned that negotiating against self-inflicted deadlines gives the other side the upper hand. Them 2 Us Nil if you add in the Article 50 fracas. There’s a whole field of Game Theory, and even Harvard geeks yattering on about BATNA but, well, experts, schmexperts, we don’t need no steeking expertise round here, eh, Mikey? Cynics might say it shows, Gove my boy, sure shows…
Curious how selecting True Believers seems to have selected against Basic Competence. Still, we have a couple of years of tax rises and spending cuts to look forward to as a lovely Brexit dividend. Paris is now the largest European stock market by capitalisation as London fades. Just as well that the major age group that voted for it don’t need to earn a living any more, eh? Curious how Truss and Crazy Kwazy missed the most obvious way to get a bit more growth, selling more shit to rich neighbours. Even the rabidly Brexity Daily Express is flying a kite for better dialogue under the guise of monstering Nicola Sturgeon
Instead of Boris Johnson’s “oven-ready deal”, Rishi Sunak’s Government could “consider a much more softer version of Brexit – for example joining the Single Market.
“If they did that, a lot of the powerful messages for an independence referendum would go out of the way, or would be reduced.”
I do wonder if the subeditor who allowed this heresy through has actually thought what that implies for the desires of their more rabidly xenophobic readership cohort. They could do well to remind themselves of what the single market is. Maybe they feel more strongly about the Union than not hearing Polish spoken on the High Street? The power of analytical thought is not strong in Brexity cakeists.
Still, we did our bit for this echo from a distant world, before the uneaten cake/eaten cake wavefunction had collapsed into the cake is a lie, and the Festival of Brexit the Great Unboxing was celebrating the success of the idea of the cake still existing after it had been eaten. Original attendance numbers for the whole shebang were projected at 66 million. The outcome is somewhat lower at about a quarter mill. Some bugger’s quaffing all the champagne as per Jake R-M’s edict, but it wasn’t us, guv.
See Monster is only open for five more days until the 20 November 2022, but you can see a VR tour on the website. FWIW I did appreciate not being charged, and even the bogs were free.
One thing you must not do, BTW, is swim in the sea in Weston. I don’t indulge, personally, but Mrs Ermine did on a previous occasion. And got to wonder why there was a smell of shit after getting out. Well, before Liz Truss ruined the UK economy even more by starving it of money, she ruined the Environment Agency by starving it of money. Fortunately everyone was OK apart from having to run boil wash afterwards. But the shit in the sea can apparently get up your arse and put you in hospital. You wouldn’t want to do that, because a different part of the Tory party has been starving the NHS of money in the hope of selling bits off.
Shit in the water seems to be a widespread problem. I tried paddleboarding in the summer, in the Avon. I am a weak swimmer, but drowning wasn’t the problem. It had been raining a couple of days before, which apparently is when the shit gets into the river when the rainwater overtops the capacity of the sewers. I fell in, as you do as a tyro. After a couple of days I felt sick, achey and weak to the exent of only being able to crawl to the head. After about three days of that it went away, so I got off a lot more lightly than the 22 year old swimmer. But I am going to avoid open water in the UK in future, because I didn’t realize that sort of thing could put you in hospital, I thought it would just give you bellyache and the shits if you were unlucky. I never liked swimming that much anyway…
I have the privilege of having my interests represented by a a Tory MP. Dirty job, but someone has to do it, eh? So despite not being a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party I have microscopically more control over the future directions that if you have a non-Tory MP. I thought I’d have a word, via theyworkforyou. It’s largely futile, but hey 😉
Dear Tory MP,
I’m going to keep this short and sweet.
Please do NOT aid and abet the serial liar and moral vacuum otherwise known as Boris Johnson to return to trashing the future of the UK to appease his childhood dream to be King.
He was bad enough the first time round, bringing the government and politics into disrepute because of a congenital inability to tell the truth.
A Britain weakened by Tory incompetence and psychodrama does not need to drink of that poisoned well again.
Rishi Sunak, despite being rich as Croesus, does at least seem to have a working calculator and some track record of competence. Please support him as the next Tory PM.
A snarling stoat
I don’t have anything against Penny Mordaunt, well, apart from abetting the existing regime. But the time for more untried whack-jobs has passed. What this country really doesn’t need is TWO kings. We’ve already got one King. He at least seems to have some idea of when to STFU. That’s not a high bar, but let’s remember the Hippocratic Oath
“primum non nocere,”
First, Do No Harm. It’s not a bad place to start. Tories aren’t going to give up power any time soon. This is a Sully Sullenberger moment. It’s not about where you want to land. That option’s gone. It’s about where you don’t want to end up.
No more Bozza. You’ve done enough damage for one life, mate.
Well, the last post didn’t age well, did it? Slightly better than fresh fish, worse than a piece of cheese, the lettuce is out for the count. No idea if this one will be relevant tomorrow, either. Events, dear boy, events1
It wasn’t really meant to turn out this way. Good old Krazi Kwarteng was out there, implementing the Trusster’s Britannia Unchained Manifesto with vim and Etonian self-confidence.
Overlooking the first rule of right-wing thinktanks the world over, which is fulminating generally that governments don’t have their own money Krazy Kwasi decided to slow the inflow at the top of the tank by cutting tax, without saying how he was going to reduce the outflow at the bottom in the form of cuts. Apparently all those less taxed higher earners were going to do a jolly hockey-sticks investing and spending splurge which increases growth and make up the difference automagically. Exactly how, Kwasi left as an exercise for the reader.
That included all the people who normally lend money to the UK, who asked themselves
How many times in the last few outings of the trickle-down theory has it actually worked, because we’re on the hook for the extra lending to fill up the tank if it doesn’t?
When you ask a wingnut what it believes, it will say one thing. But when you ask wingnuts with money to pony up, you realise that when it comes to their own money, they don’t believe everything they say. That’s for little people. In particular, it seems that supply-side economics was considered so off the wall at this time that they demanded a moron risk premium to invest in a submerging market.
Not only did Krazy Kwasi not want to show his own working, but he was damn well not going to let anybody in the know comment for several weeks. Instead, he produced word salad
“We are confident in our long-term strategy to drive economic growth through tax cuts and supply-side reform.
“Supply-side reforms are critical — increasing capacity brings down prices.
“Cabinet ministers will set out more supply-side measures over coming weeks to make meaningful change. Right across Government, departments have to be focussed on this.
“We are committed to fiscal discipline, and won’t re-open the spending review. We have a medium term fiscal plan coming on 23 November, alongside an OBR forecast. That will be a credible plan to get debt to GDP falling.”
Which is all very well, but can be summarised as Trust Me, I’m Kwasi, and for some reason that didn’t wash. It got him sacked for culpable incompetence and his boss into rather hot water. The wrong sort of clever, apparently, Cambridge failed to introduce Crazy Kwasi to Socrates. Or Icarus…
His replacement canned the entire Britannia Unchained budget, save some minor bits and the cap on bankers’ salaries. Oddly enough I am all for that. It will no doubt lead us into deep trouble at some future point, because it rewards risk taking but limits the downside to losing your job, now that debtor’s prisons are no longer a thing. However, making money out of money is one of the few things modern Britain is/was good at, so the moral hazard is probably worth it in the round.
Nobody was able to find a way to make the great Britannia Unchained project fly. So now we have Austerity 2.0, and somehow the guy who came last in the Tory leadership election is in charge, because he has a better bedside manner than Krazy Kwasi or the current incumbent of No 10. He’s also got a basic grasp of arithmetic. I always like that in a chancellor.
Let’s look on the bright side. At least the British Army isn’t in charge and on the BBC telling us all to stay indoors. The Tories seem to be doing their best not to let our Dear Leader open her trap, however, on the grounds that the economy cannae take another hit of Britannia Unchained gobshite.
Something that puzzled me about the Britannia Unchained agenda was that Dear Liz monstered those cynical of the whole trickle-down agenda as the anti-growth coalition which has spawned some great memes. Let’s ask ourselves what is the biggest anti-growth coalition of recent times? There’s a clue in that Trussonomics is about the supply side. So what did the BoE say about supply-side then
Brexit is a supply shock — that’s not a value judgment on Brexit, it’s an economic fact.
Hmm, obviously we’ve had enough of experts on that subject round here, but what effect did that have, now the results are in?
Put it this way, in 2016 the British economy was 90 per cent the size of Germany’s. Now it is less than 70 per cent.
Whoops. So who is the biggest agent of the Anti-Growth Coalition? Brexiters, bless ’em, and the current muppets in charge have been specifically selected for saying Brexit is A Good Thing. As Carney said, it’s not a value judgement on Brexit, if you are rich enough, you may well conclude that a > 20% fall in the size of the economy against a comparable European country is a price well worth paying to get control of your own destiny. If you are a low earner subject to the winds of competition from EU immigration you may be making a perfectly rational call that your end of the boat is fine. But it does seem a bit rich to be moaning about the anti-growth coalition faced with such full-throated support of a growth epic fail of that magnitude. You wouldn’t start from here if you want to get there.
Anyway, the Anti Growth coalition rode into town as the cavalry to save La Truss from herself, in the gnomic form of Jeremy Austerity 2.0 Hunt, busting the ass of the tax cuts, promising rises in other areas, Taking Back Control of stuff already promised to people like the energy price cap and the triple lock.
Apparently La Truss and stablemate Kwasi made some mistakes. No shit Sherlock. They got it all pretty much 100% wrong. Your mortgage will be dearer, if you want anything done by the government it will be greatly impaired because The Axeman Cometh, and the much-vaunted energy price cap will be filleted, so better start putting pound coins in the jamjar right away. Wingnuts are already rewriting history to say it was the bailouts energy price guarantee wot did it, presumably soon to be followed by ‘Britannia Unchained was right all along‘. Inquiring minds would like to know how other European countries managed the trick in similar ventures, for the moment at least.
Apologists for this crew will no doubt say that interest rates and energy prices are going up across the developed world, so suck it up, proles. Nevertheless, the question has to be asked, given that you are now getting tax rises and spending cuts how could they have got it so wrong that such a full-spectrum reverse ferret is required? Surely there must be some suspicion that Liz Truss’s grasp on the reality of what she could do is a few bricks short of a full load?
There’s something disturbing that this was referenced by the head honcho of the Environment Agency, following up with “Get the tone right: calm, authoritative, empathetic, commitment to do what’s needed.” So how comes there’s shit in our waterways again and again? The common element? Liz Truss. The force of competence is not strong in this one, it would seem. ↩
Reader, I sucked it up so you don’t have to. After diligently searching the library for a copy of Britannia Unchained, the 2012 tract authored by Kwasi, our Dear Leader, Chris Skidmore and a couple of also-rans, I failed to find it. So I sucked up the Amazon price of £16. I don’t suggest you do the same 😉 I am tempted to list it as an investment expense. After all, you need to know what Liz Truss is thinking, and since she didn’t have to put any of it in a manifesto, this is as good as it gets.
I expected to hate it, but though I found it somewhat studenty and one-dimensional in places, I found much to agree with. My main philosophical charge against the tract was the strong tendency to infer the general from the particular, heavy on anecdote and light on tested principle. You could, however, level that charge against most of the dismal science of economics. What theoretical principles I have seen in economics often doesn’t come out well in the testing, or there is a replication issue where it works in some circumstances but not others. This is not terribly surprising for something attempting to make sense of a multivariate system rammed full of independent and resourceful actors with varying degrees of knowledge and emotion.
But I’ll run with it, because for better or worse, this philosophy is guiding the country for the next up to two years. So far, what’s appeared has been consistent with the book, but I can promise you, dear readers, you ain’t seen nuffink yet. About 90% of the idea hasn’t been voiced yet. So let’s set the scene from Britannia Unchained itself, in the intro.
All five authors grew up in a period where Britain was improving its performance relative to the rest of the world. The 1980s, contrary to the beliefs of many on the left, were a successful decade for Britain. They were a time when, after the industrial chaos of the 1970s, business and enterprise began to flourish once more.
I’m not really going to dispute that. I saw the 1970s and started work in the 1980s. I saw a gradually improving economy, such that it blinded me to the single worst financial mistake of my entire life to date, buying a house in 1988. Because I inferred the general from the particular. The only defence was I was in my twenties and a greenhorn, but it’s not like wiser heads, both my parents and colleagues in the office, hadn’t suggested prices were high and there might be value in not acting right now. It is the nature of the world that young folk and believe themselves all-wise and invincible. It is the job of the world to disabuse them of that belief.
These authors ascribe this successful decade to Margaret Thatcher. She had something to do with it, for sure, but I would say that North Sea oil might also have had something to do with it. Outcomes are not always due to a single cause. But Thatcher did seize the opportunity, and did fix some deep problems that did need fixing. Seeing Arthur Scargill, or any union baron in general, still makes me want to throw things at the telly, because Art and his flying pickets and secondary action was running the country in the 1970s. Where Thatcher failed was not in taking the miners down IMO, but in leaving the twisted wreckage of those communities to rot – you can still feel it passing through some of the Welsh valleys. However, in the round, I’ll give the point.
They observe that in 1950 the UK was still richer than France of Germany, but lost its mojo and did not benefit from les trente gloriouses in the same way. We know the litany of 1970s decline. The surprising difference in belief comes with
a comparison of social mobility puts Britain near the bottom in the Western world. Yet the suggested cures to this disease — abolishing grammar schools or redistributing wealth — have been, if anything, counterproductive. This is not just a problem of the left, however. Right-wing commentators are apt to argue about natural ability and talent, as if success is solely a result of destiny rather than persistence.
Much of the following discussion is about the decline in educational attainment of Brits relative to our developed world peers according to the OECD PISA scores. And I’m surprised by Kwasi, Liz et al.
All the experience I have had in my decades on Earth is that intellect is innate, slightly inherited, and broadly immutable. Some people are brighter than others. Intelligence isn’t necessarily an indicator of success, particularly in the past, because there are many other skills – intelligence is broadly reflected in academic prowess, but doesn’t make you a better human being. It wasn’t even particularly advantageous in times past.
I formed this viewpoint in primary school, . In 1960s London, they were short of teachers, and some of the kids who had mastered spelling and some aspects of arithmetic were set to try and teach the slower ones. I was one of the child tutors, not electively, and found the experience frustrating, because I could not see why others could not see what I had learned/derived. Although I am probably to the right of the bell curve I am not MENSA bright, but the range of pupils at this school was wide. In a later repeat performance I saw a quarter of the class lose the plot when they introduced fractions in arithmetic. Many never really mastered spelling. I was not the brightest in the school, however, and even at that age could see that, though I was in the upper reaches. At secondary school O level maths, calculus1 in the form of differentiation did the same again.
But I could see that some people were slower, and no effort seemed to redeem the problem. My valedictory primary school report had the phrase doesn’t tolerate fools gladly, and the succeeding decades has still not shown me why this was such a bad thing, fools should be kept well away from things they are foolish in 😉 I am foolish at all sorts of things, that house purchase was something I should have been kept away from! I have never, ever, considered teaching as a profession – not as a child, not as a young adult and I wouldn’t entertain the idea now.
In my grammar school, about half the class cleared off at 16, to go to work. These were the less academic, but the employment world of the 1970s was not the same as the employment world today. They could start earning – some of them worked in garages fixing cars or apprenticed to trades. The world of work presented opportunities for a much wider range of aptitudes than it does now, where analytic skills are much more to the fore, particularly if you want to earn well, and that roughly correlates to academic ability, and often to STEM areas, due to some of the analysis being mathematical, or at least arithmetical. Th 1960s and 70s had good earning positions for people without academic qualifications who could learn a skilled trade.
A lot of Britannia Unchained laments the poor academic and specifically STEM aptitudes of the output of Britain’s schools, and the tendency to favour arts and humanities because it is easier to get decent grades in these.
Instead of hard choices, students apply for a degree in media or business, which will often allow for the study of easier A Levels. As with US college courses, science A Levels are more harshly marked than those in media and sociology, the difference being up to a grade. In a culture of equivalence, where all subjects are deemed equal, students make the seemingly rational choice of going for the easier option.
Kwasi and Liz are of the belief that perseverance, hard work and application can compensation of a lack of innate ability. That may be true in many areas, but academic ability I am not so sure, although I have not darkened the threshold of a school for 40 years. Perhaps it’s all different now. This matters, because if an increasing number of jobs require academic ability, then the flipside of that is that the proportion of the workforce who are employable for anything other than national minimum wage will fall – the polarisation into some lovely jobs and lots of lousy jobs2, which seems to be what we are seeing. I am one of those commentators that are apt to argue about natural ability and talent, as if success is solely a result of destiny rather than persistence.
Success in some areas of life may well involve persistence, but academic ability is more innate IMO than persistence. Sure, it needs teaching to focus it, I am not saying teaching is irrelevant, but it won’t improve the material. It’s the same as indeedably’s tale of the second-rate athlete.
For whatever reason, often through no fault of their own, they just don’t have what it takes
The difference is important, because of the implication that the academically challenged can raise their game by putting in a lot of hard work. In which case, Kwasi and Liz are of the view that the problem is a lack of grit and determination of Britons to raise their game.
In Britain, there has been a massive rise in welfare dependency. The generosity of income support has risen sharply since the war. In today’s money, the taxpayer now spends ten times more on social security than in 1950 — with a fivefold rise in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits. The number of people claiming sickness and disability benefits has increased thirteenfold.
[…] The British state has made it too easy for too many people to take the easy option.
We know what’s coming. Massive cuts in benefits. So far very little has been said about this, but the authors of Britannia Unchained do not stint in their admiration for the American model of unemployment benefits, which have a time limit of about half a year. I believe that there is also a 99 week lifetime restriction. We will see Hoovervilles in the UK 3 in the coming recession and destitution if Lasi Trussteng have their way, because trailer parks and people sleeping in cars is how the US solves this conundrum, although to be fair that US is large enough that is some areas the climate makes this more possible, and it has a much lower population density, so the strife with the settled population is probably lower.
Our baby boomer can look forward to a long retirement, based on estimates of life expectancy nearly a century out of date. Most of his universal benefits remain ringfenced by the government, while his defined benefit pension is unlikely to ever be experienced by his children.
One has the feeling that your State Pension is going to be means tested at some stage 😉 The clue is in universal benefits, although it is possible that their position has changed on this – the recent rolling back of the child benefit withdrawal for higher-rate taxpayers goes against the grain.
The move towards an insurance based NHS is also lauded, thankfully more admiration for the European (French and German) way of doing that than the obnoxious US model. Supporting evidence is the pulling of the health inequality white paper by Therese Coffey. Although once you’ve done the work I’d be in favour of publishing it, it is going to be a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.
The rich are bound to live longer in general because they have more control of their lives. As a child I used to get bronchitis, because it was cold and damp in 1960s London before central heating. I never had it after my mid 20s – because I didn’t live in exceptionally damp and cold houses.
If you are poor you will fill yourself and your kids up with cheap carbs. That won’t be that varied, it will be ultra processed foods with all the problems that go with that, and that will not do you any good in the long run. There are whole supermarket aisles that I don’t recognize as food – nobody needs family packs of crisps or tins of noodles in alphabet shapes. Michael Pollan was right – eat foods your grandmother would recognize. But it’s all more time and aggravation. There is very little that can be done about this unless we decide that poverty is not allowed to happen.
Redistribution is very much a no-no in the Truss-Kwasi-verse. It is at the root of what has gone wrong with Britain, arguably redistribution and the everyone’s a winner approach are the Chains that bind Britannia, and This. Will. Not. Do. Any. More.
You know what to do to get out of the firing line.
If you are young enough to have the option, study maths and science at school.
If you are shit for brains then simply Work Harder, you’ll get there in the end.
Best not have bought a house in the last couple of years, if you have a mortgage, that is. You may be in for some interesting times
Although it’s easy to satirise because of its simplistic approach, there is a lot of truth in Britannia Unchained. Some of their examples haven’t aged well – the admiration for Brazil would hopefully be muted, because while Jair Bolsonaro may well appeal as a strong leader, but de Gaulle’s epithet that Brazil is the country of the future and always will be is ringing more true in the second clause than the first.
I agree with Lasi Trussteng that thirty or forty years the work ethic was stronger in Britain – working class people disliked going on the dole, and there was some sense of pride in not doing so. But there were more jobs right across the ability range 30 or 40 years ago, and the culture was more homogeneous, there was more commonality of media consumption (no talking heads TV and social media thriving on fomenting outrage, for example). People’s expectations were much lower, and they tended to raise their children themselves, rather than going to work and paying others for large amounts of childcare. Everyone was poorer, and there was less wealth disparity. Britannia Unchained will struggle to recreate those times nowadays.
You could make a much better case in the past that work was the path out of poverty. I just don’t think that’s true any more, because a larger and larger proportion of the working-age workforce can’t really add enough value to raise themselves out of poverty.
There is some argument that if people didn’t have children they couldn’t feed 4 they might be better off, and it staggers me that so many people bring up children in poverty, but every technocratic solution to that vector of poverty has ended up creating serious evil if it is coercive, so either everyone else gets bailed in to pay for the fecundity or the progeny have to suffer as a lesser evil.
Even without the problem of children they can’t afford, a life on the minimum wage is probably not going to rich in experiences. The privately educated journalist Polly Toynbee wrote a book about that called Hard Work, and it really doesn’t sound like the greatest amount of fun you can have, and ISTR she got to take some time off, possibly weekends, in her leafy middle-class home.
Liz and Kwasi haven’t gotten off to a good start with their attempt to implement the principles of Britannia Unchained, largely because the markets asked to fund the interim shortfall have taken one look at the project and thought to themselves ‘Nah, not gonna work, not a prayer, guys’ and raised the premium they want to lend against the collateral. The markets would have been a lot more convinced if Lasi Trussteng had first outlined the cost-cutting part of their project:
Massive cuts to benefits >10%
immiserate the poor in Hoovervilles. Much admiration for US tough love.
Public spending cuts – Think 10%. There is admiration for the Canadian cuts a few years before the 2012 publication of Britannia Unchained
Privatise the NHS (along the European model, in fairness to them)
Raise interest rates closer to the 5-7% long run average for the UK, crushing house prices, which would genuinely improve affordability for the young and transfer capital from the economically inactive oldies. How that will go down with the core Tory constituency remains to be seen
Make planning and zoning more like the US, pretty much build anything anywhere
Do something about the State Pension to reduce its cost – reduce eligibility, make it payable later, whatever.
Unfortunately they chose to major on the expensive revenue-losing aims first. It’s like going to the bank and talking all about the des res you want to buy on their dime or the flash car, without telling them about the promotion you are going for to be able to afford it. I’m not necessarily of the view that tax cuts are bad in and of themselves, but it would have been a lot better for the market’s ability to digest the great scheme if Lasi Trussteng had got off on the front foot with their savings first.
The problem is that the solutions outlined in Britannia Unchained are going to be unpopular with the voters or the funders. The unique talents of the Liz and Kwasi double act is that they’ve managed to make them unpopular with both. Well done them. Not only that, but they look decidedly shifty in telling the Office of Budget Responsibility to deliver their report six weeks after the October budget. That just looks shifty.
It is theoretically possible to improve the balance of payments by increasing growth, and undoubtedly some of the proposals in Britannia Unchained might increase growth. The trouble with increasing growth in developed economies is twofold. One is that economic growth means working harder, which is a decline in lifestyle for those of us who want to do something other than working with our allotted three-score years and ten. That includes you lot, dear readers, with your reckless FIRE fantasies, just as much as potential candidates for Benefits Street. Britannia Unchained shows a secular decline in working hours in nearly all economies, good luck with turning that round.
The second is represented by all those keen emerging economies and hard-working Asian students that are lauded in the book. There’s a hell of a lot more competition these days. It will be harder to shift the needle on the dial.
As the Torygraph fulminated, most of the self-inflicted wound Liz Truss and her sidekick made was because they didn’t have confidence in their working. There’s something studenty about the whole project, and particularly ill-suited to a crew who spend a fair part of their book spitting bricks about the lack of analytical skills and STEM smarts in the feckless British workers, students and school-leavers.
To get ahead in the new type of jobs you need to be able to reason and think logically.
While improving these skills helps growth, they can’t be restricted to the few. The biggest effect happens when on top of a large number of people with high-level skills almost everyone has the basic and mid-level skills. On the latter measure Britain needs radical measures.
Yup. I would say start with Dear Leader and Crazy Kwasi. Sticking “and then a miracle occurs” in the middle of your working has been disapproved of in the sciences for a very long time.
Show your working Kwasi, and having independent workers replicating it and getting roughly the same answer is even better. Independent workers like the OBR.
There’s a price to pay for unchaining Britain, which is deconstructing many of the things voters have been used to having. The NHS, benefits and pensions cost a hell of a lot of money, and that offer plenty of savings enough to make it all work. It’ll be a tough sell at election time, but if you have to borrow the money to make all the tax cuts eye candy work, you’re going to have to show your working to the bank manager, and show your plan to the voters.
I’ll leave you with what Liz and Kwasi of you, the voting public, as they open Chapter 4, Work Ethic
Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.
Just as well they didn’t have to sell this project at an election 😉
For you metropolitan city mice that say you haven’t seen anything like that, I have seen unauthorised camping by the poor in some parts of Somerset. This isn’t wild camping or elective #vanlife ↩
I’m perfectly aware of the social justice warrior argument that having a child is a 16-20 year project and a lot of ruin and misadventure can happen over two decades in a life, particularly with the increasing precarity of work. I have some sympathy for these unfortunates, but they aren’t the majority IMO. Contraception is free on the NHS. This one grates because I recall paying an awful lot of tax and NI towards New Labour’s largesse snowing parents with public money, to such an extent that there’s a hypothesis that Tony Blair was the daddy of the baby boom. At least Truss and Kwarteng approve of this baby boom for giving the bulge of young people now. They don’t give the daddy due credit for his redistributing ways, but they lambast New Labour for driving up public spending in the last couple of years of their tenure. You can’t have it both ways, guys ↩
While unemployment is at is at its lowest rate for nearly 50 years, the high number of vacancies that still exist and inactivity in the labour market is limiting economic growth
So wotcha gonna do about it, Kwa? Well, apparently
Anyone who works fewer than 15 hours per week on the National Living Wage will have to attend coaching sessions at job centres and prove they are trying to increase their earnings.
That’s highly interesting, Kwa. I am one of these feckless gits, so exactly whaddya gonna do about it if a mustelid remains sleeping in a curl and decides to pass on your coaching sessions?
“will require benefit claimants working up to 15 hours a week to take new steps to increase their earnings or face having their benefits reduced. “
What benefits, Kwa? When I left work I didn’t take up the 6 months Jobseeker’s Allowance I would in theory have been entitled to, because I did not want to subject myself to your despicable goons at the Jobcentre mouthing off that finding a job is a job and all sorts of mealy-mouthed metrics making a misery of life. So I walked away from £72*26= £1872, basically for the sake of retaining my mental health. I’ve still always held that against the System, particularly when I had a check of my NI record to establish how many years I needed for a State Pension. At least I saved a lot of money on NI by picking about seven years up at the absolute steal of £150-ish a year of Class II. So excuse me, Kwasi, me old mucker, if I twitch my mustelid snout, exhale a weary “whatevs, Kwa” and keep the muzzle in contact with the black tip of my tail and return to sleep. Continue reading “Right you lazy FIRE 50-something layabouts – Britain needs YOU”