Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Pausanias (Chin Chin)

26 May 2016


The danger of guidance from beyond the grave

by Chin Chin

As the holiday season approaches, the big decision looms.  No, not whether to stay at the Gritti or the Danieli; nor even whether it should be the Pyramids or Center Parcs.  You can flip a coin for all that. What is far more difficult is to choose which books you are going to take with you when you go.

Selecting the right book is like dressing for dinner.  There the right choice of clothes depends very much on where you’re going. If it is the City, black tie may be required, or even white at the Mansion House or the Livery Companies.  Around clubland jackets and ties are normally needed, even for a quiet dinner at the table in the corner.  Move up to North London and ties are out.  There bare Adam’s Apples rule the day as do bare chests and medallions out in Essex.  Actually, there are places where nakedness goes further than that, but they tend to be very expensive indeed.

Books too have to suit their environment.  To begin with they mustn’t jar with it.  If you are going to Transylvania, it is probably better for your peace of mind to leave “Dracula” on the shelf at home. Don’t take “Airplane” for reading on your long haul flights and, if you take the wrong Agatha Christie for your cruise down the Nile, you will find yourself edging away from your fellow passengers.

Of course there is a positive side to choosing books too.  If you decide to tour the battlegrounds of Spain and Portugal, you could do worse than to take some of the Bernard Cornwall’s “Sharpe” novels. J R Link’s guidebook “Venice for Pleasure” will transform any visit to that glorious city.  In the end, though, the most important thing about your book is not so much what it tells you about its subject matter but what it tells other people about you.

Many years ago I went on holiday to ancient Greece.  That does not mean that I was a time traveller but rather that I went to Greece in order to see the ancient bits. Before 2008 you could tell which bits those were because they were more ruined than the rest of the place.  Anyway I didn’t let that put me off so I set off with my floppy hat and sandals, every inch the amateur British archaeologist abroad.

Now, in terms of vanity, there is nothing to match a young unattached man going on holiday.  It’s Darwin’s fault, of course.  Once upon a time some bachelors took trouble over their holiday clothes but others didn’t. Over the generations the second type failed to breed and become extinct while the first lot have been left as an ornament to the world, something which leaves them under a moral obligation to keep up standards

It was thoughts like these which afflicted me as I walked round the bookshops trying to find the right accompaniment to my getup.  There were light books, of course.  They would be the pleasantest to read but if some charming young lady were to look over my shoulder to see what I was reading, I did not want it to be some piece of chick lit.  Then I could go for something serious and rather European, Clausewitz, perhaps, or even Machiavelli’s “The Prince”.  The trouble is that reading books like that requires the right pose as well and sitting, chin on hand, in some Rodin inspired attitude could get quite tiring after an hour or two.  Simply reading Homer was too obvious unless one did it in the original.  After all, it would be a shame to be thought a poseur.

Sweating, panama-hatted pale tourist consults Pausanias in front of a Greek temple and goat

Keeping up Standards

When you are in this sort of dilemma you need a guide and, after a few minutes, the ideal chap came to mind.  Lawrence of Arabia, of course.  It is true that, even then, he had been dead for some time, but wasn’t he once an archaeologist as well as a military hero, a fellow of All Souls and one of the finest ever writers of English prose?  Yes, the answer was to work out what Lawrence would have taken on holiday to Greece; then I would know what to take myself.

Lawrence, of course, was a brilliant classicist. His translation of the Odyssey is still readily available.  What would he have chosen?  Well, being a practical man, and he could hardly have organised the Arab revolt without being that, probably a guidebook;  no doubt an authoritative and distinguished one.  What about the one written by Pausanius in the second century A.D?

So there I stood at Epidaurus, my Penguin copy of Pausanius in my hand and my floppy hat set to the right “serious yet attractive” angle, surveying the ruins.  I kept my brows slightly furrowed as one who may be a little puzzled in fitting the guide to the remains but who, nonetheless, clearly had a real feeling for the importance of the site.  It was a perfectly pleasant way of standing for a little while but, after a bit, it felt like time to move.  All right then, book clasped behind back and eyes looking out below the brim like Lawrence himself surveying the desert.  Twenty minutes of that was quite enough and I decided to go to the tearoom.

While I was there, in came an attractive girl, clearly English and clearly tired after surveying the remains.  I tried hard to look like Lawrence of Arabia on vacation and it must have worked because she sat down at my table.  “Thank goodness you’ve got a guidebook”, she said, “perhaps you can tell me what I should be looking at here”.

I opened my guidebook and we looked at Pausanias’s map.  There was a particular imposing building in the middle and I pointed at it.  “That is what you should see,” I said knowledgeably.  She thought it sounded interesting so we began to work out where it was must be.  Draw a line across from the edge of the Theatre and then an intersecting line from the entrance to the old medical shrine.

“Yes, I said, it must be about …. Here”.  We looked about but alas the building referred to by Pausanius had been demolished more than 1000 years ago and, nice as it was, the tea room didn’t quite measure up to it.  She looked at me oddly, stood up and walked off.

Nowadays I take more up-to-date guidebooks on holiday but I still like them to have a bit of pizzazz.  That will be quite challenging if I decide to go to Center Parcs.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Juncker’s intervention

26 May 2016

Juncker’s intervention

How the European Commission could swing the vote

by John Watson

Watson,-John_640c480 head shotThe successive initiatives rolled out by Remain, including salvos from the Treasury, from Obama, from US and NATO defence chiefs, from Corbyn and from every Tom, Dick and Harry who is anxious to be seen as part of the victory team if we reject Brexit, contain echoes of the rolling barrages which were once employed on the Western Front. The latest polls indicate that they may be a little more effective but the risks are certainly similar. Judge it wrong and you blow up your own side. Mr Obama’s intervention is an example of that. Be too cautious and your remarks will pass unnoticed. Running “project fear” is not as easy as you might think.

The interesting question, though is what is coming next. Leave seems to be storing its ammunition at the moment but, shortly before the poll, we can expect it to reveal a whole lot of grisly EU scandals. Some of those will focus on the budget. The Commission has put that back until after the referendum but it is inconceivable that, if, as rumoured, it shows large increases, the figures will not be leaked to Brexit campaigners. It only takes one EU insider to believe that the public should be provided with proper information. Then there is said to be a German paper suggesting a pooling of military resources. That is unlikely to play well with a public who feel that the EU cannot be trusted. No doubt there are other things as well. Remain will have a busy time countering the fallout from all this but, at the same time, it would be surprising if they didn’t themselves have some big last minute move up their sleeves and if that big move did not involve an intervention by the EU itself.

Naturally we look at the referendum in UK terms. Do we do better in or out? Does being in threaten our sovereignty? Does being out undermine our prosperity? The campaign here centres on those issues, but viewed from the Offices of the Commission in Brussels the perspective must be rather different. They do not give a fig for our sovereignty, and how we would fare following Brexit must be pretty low on the agenda too. They have other concerns. Would Brexit trigger a run of countries leaving the EU? Would the Netherlands follow? What about France? The French seem to have gone off the European project since Germany took over as the main driver.

The gradual strengthening of separatist parties throughout Europe is an ominous sign and Mr Juncker, a strong believer in further integration, would not want to go down in history as the man on whose watch the EU broke up. Inevitably, then, the European Commission must been wondering what it can do to assist Remain, hoping that if we vote to stay the separatist movement will be nipped in the bud.

When pushed, the EU gives things away to fix problems. The negotiations with Turkey to secure a deal over refugees are an example of this. The proposals may have run into the sand but it remains the case that the EU was prepared to offer increased access to the Schengen area and the carrot of possible EU membership to a country most of whose land mass lies outside Europe. What might it offer to keep Britain if the polls show the referendum result to be finely balanced?

There are some areas where little can be done. Freedom of movement is too fundamental a part of the EU to play with and, with Britain moving from in work benefits to a minimum wage, not much can be achieved through skewing the social security system. It is hard to see, then, that the EU can offer anything significant on the migration front. On the question of sovereignty, though, it is different. Much of the unpopularity of the EU arises because of the perception that it interferes too much in the domestic affairs of member states. Subsidiarity, the principle of making decisions at the lowest practical level, has never really been applied. Lip service has been paid to it since Maastricht, when the EU accepted it as a principle, but there has been little follow through in practice. Instead the regulators, aided and abetted by centralising decisions of the European Court of Justice, have steadily tightened Brussels’s grip. Mr Juncker has already indicated that interference in member states’ affairs has gone too far and a serious undertaking to clip it back could be very helpful to Remain.

What else has Mr Juncker got under his Christmas tree? Completing the market in financial services, perhaps, or a root and branch reform of the Common agricultural policy. No doubt there are other baubles too, although how convincing they would look in the face of hostile campaigning is perhaps doubtful. After all, we have heard talk about deregulation and better budgeting before and not much has happened. Who knows whether any reforms would really be delivered once the pressure of the referendum had gone away?

There is, however, one thing that Mr Juncker could do to help the Remain camp. In fact he should do it anyway as a simple matter of honesty. It is really not clever for the Commission to postpone publication of its budget until after the poll. The proposals will inevitably leak and will enable the Leave camp to add allegations of fraud to allegations of extravagance. Probably the postponement is just a matter of bureaucratic convenience but, if so, it is an administrative decision which could result in the breakup of the EU. If he has a jot of common sense Mr Juncker should see that it is reversed immediately.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Houses and Integration (John Watson)

26 May 2016

Houses and Integration

As the emphasis moves to the mainstream the need is for houses

by John Watson

Watson,-John_640c480 head shotI believe it was Max Planck and Albert Einstein who first understood the dual nature of light. Although in some ways a stream of particles, it also exhibits features which can only be understood by reference to wave motion. Politics are like that too, giving the observer a choice. Either focus on the discrete events or study the waves. In this article we are going to look at the waves and at one, the patience with the separate development of immigrant communities, which is beginning to run out of steam.

Politics in the West are moving towards the mainstream and there is a good illustration of that in America. The rise of Mr Trump on the back of random and unconventional views is something of a mystery of this side of the Atlantic. In terms of a reaction against the liberal consensus behind an Obama presidency, however, it is all too understandable. Poor whites, an important part of the American mainstream, see their position being chipped away. From one side come the other races, the first black president a potent symbol of their advance. From another, the high tech machines which take away the jobs on which their livelihoods depend. Then they find the order of their lives is being attacked. The traditional role of their menfolk is sneered at as the feminist and gay movements, themselves formed for the best reasons, spawn ugly progeny. The universities are thick with claims that separate sex lavatories should be abolished to help transsexuals, but no one seems too bothered about the fact that young men are failing to make the grade academically. No one challenges the automatic assumption that whenever there is a sexual incident the males are the predators and the young ladies the victims

In Mr Trump, a damaged part of the US mainstream hopes to find someone who will roll back the tides and give proper weight to its concerns. But it isn’t just there that it’s happening. What about the students of Newcastle University who have disaffiliated from the National Union of Students. For years that particular body has associated itself with pet left wing causes and has forgotten its role of representing all students. Now they are beginning to walk away and sooner or later the movement will become a flood.

There are other places too. For years the intellectuals told us that it was racist to talk about immigration. We all knew there were problems brewing but you certainly could not say that in polite society. Any straying from the conventional line of pushing the issue under the carpet would lead to an embarrassed muttering of “What a pity he or she is such a racist” as you left the room. Now that has changed. The issue has been ground into our faces by the refugee problem and whereas a year or two ago no one would have had much patience with those who wished to discuss it, now it has ceased to be fashionable to push it under the carpet.

These are straws in the wind but they all point the same way. In each case the interests of the mainstream have been neglected in favour of a more fashionable approach: in each case there is a turning tide as the centre reasserts itself. That not is an entirely good thing. Some of the pressure groups have important things to say; for example it would be a pity if the change was to undermine the efforts of getting women paid the same for making an equal contribution. But the change in mood is not driven by “good” or “bad”. It is simply that the “pro-minorities” wave has run its course and what we are now seeing is the froth generated before reaction sets in.

In Britain the most important change is in our attitude to immigrants. There is now little tolerance for the development of separate communities and a rising belief in the importance of their integration. In many cases that mirrors the desire of the communities themselves but whether integration is happening quickly enough is becoming an increasing concern. Trevor Phillips, formerly the Equality Commissioner, has warned of Muslims becoming “a nation within a nation” although others would say that communities are being absorbed into the mainstream, just rather slowly. Whatever the truth about this, however, the duty of the Government to promote integration is not in doubt and that is as much the concern of the political mainstream as it is of the minorities themselves.

The struggle here is for the souls of the young. Last week it emerged that there is an increase in home education, particularly within the Muslim community. Different reasons are given for that. Some say it is dissatisfaction with the level of the state education here; others that impatience with the government’s anti-extremist programme is to blame. Both of those are possible causes but it is likely that there is a more fundamental one, the wish for religious communities to strengthen the ties which bind them together and to isolate themselves against the outside world. That is completely unacceptable. There is, of course, no state monopoly on education in the UK but it is important that separate schooling should not lead to the isolation of immigrant children. They, like their fellows from the host population, need the equipment to live in the mainstream of British life. There must be no sacrificing of normal education standards in favour of a religious agenda.

Another factor preventing the integration of communities is a lack of affordable housing for the young. Let them go out and rent or buy a house and they will find themselves living cheek by jowl with neighbours from different backgrounds.  Leave them in the back bedrooms of their parents’ homes and the mixing of the communities is stalled. That, of course, is quite apart from the effect that failure to find suitable accommodation may have on their aspirations.

On a wall in my drawing room there is an original cartoon from Punch. It was published in January 1945 to celebrate the report of the Conservative Committee on Housing, on which my father, a distinguished surveyor, served. The cartoon shows a builder and he is looking at a hod on which are balanced 750,000 homes. The caption is “the houses that Jack ought to build”.

There is nothing new in the need for more housing. There is always demand and there are occasions when it badly outstrips supply. At the moment, however, there is another side to it. The lack of housing for the young is one of the factors which helps to hold the immigrant communities out of the mainstream. That adds yet another strand to the urgency of the problem. We want them in. Integration is a concern for us all, not just for the immigrant communities themselves. If there is one message which politicians should keep in mind as they recalibrate following the Referendum, it is “Build, Ladies and Gentlemen, Build”.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Once there was a King… (Neil Tidmarsh)

26 May 2016

“Once There Was A King…”

 Scheherazade lives.

by Neil Tidmarsh

Exotic room full of eastern delights, lamps, silk canopies, seated diners in rich colours

Scene for the ballet Scheherazade, by L Bakst

Tidmarsh P1000686a-429x600 Tidmarsh head shot“Once there was a King…” So begins the traditional storyteller, wearing a fez and brandishing an ancient sword, in any café in any town in the Middle East since the beginning of time.  (It’s a custom that survives even in today’s war-torn Damascus, amazingly, as Tom Coghlan reported in The Times this week.)

“Once there was a King…”

The Arabian Nights are eternal, but how would a modern-day Scheherazade continue?

“…who ruled over one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.  His kingdom was huge, but much of it was an uninhabitable desert, a wasteland of yellow sand and brown rock baking beneath a blazingly hot sun and a glaring blue sky. Yet it was still rich. Because, lying underground, in the darkness beneath the brightness of those sun-lit sands, was a vast black sea. A bottomless ocean of thick, smelly, sticky black stuff. And this black stuff was so valuable that other countries in the world were prepared to pay the King huge amounts of gold for it and to fight wars with each other over it.

So the King was rich, his kingdom was rich, and his people were rich. But were they happy?

There were no cinemas in his kingdom. No theatres, no concert halls.  Music and dancing and alcohol were forbidden.  The people had little power.  They were subject to very strict laws. Men and women could not mix together in public.  Women were treated like children.  Their faces were hidden in public.  They could not drive cars.  They could go nowhere and do nothing without the permission of an adult male – preferably their father or their husband.  These rules were enforced by the kingdom’s priests (who were many and powerful) for the moral welfare of the people.

Nevertheless, the people behaved themselves because they were rich. They were satisfied. They didn’t have to work much, and they could behave as they wished inside their own homes where the priests couldn’t see them, and they could always visit other countries to drink and eat and dance and listen to the music and watch the plays and films which were forbidden in their own country.

And then, one day, things began to go wrong for the King.

He had an Enemy to the East, a powerful country ruled not by a King but by priests who had overthrown their King some decades before.  These priests and the King’s priests believed in the same God, but they were enemies because they disagreed on who were the true heirs of that God’s greatest Prophet.  The King and this Enemy competed for influence in the smaller countries that lay between them.  Eventually civil war broke out in a number of these countries.  The King backed one side in these civil wars, and the Enemy backed the other. The wars were very costly.  Soon the King was spending nearly all the gold from his black stuff on these wars.  He and his kingdom and his people were not so rich any more.

And then things began to get worse.

The King had a Friend to the West.  This Friend was also very rich and powerful, possibly the richest and most powerful country in the world.  He had always bought lots of black stuff from the King.  But then he discovered ways of making lots of black stuff in his own country, so stopped buying so much from the King.  The King was not happy.  He lowered the price of his black stuff so the people making it in his Friend’s country couldn’t compete.  But that didn’t really work, and it just meant that he got even less gold for his black stuff.  He and his kingdom and his people were soon in danger of becoming as poor as everyone else in the world.

And then things began to get even worse.

His spies told him that his Enemy was building a dreadful weapon, a terrifying machine which could destroy the King and his country in a single explosion.  He asked his Friend to join him in the wars against this Enemy, to help him destroy the Enemy’s evil weapon.  But the Friend, instead of fighting, spoke to the Enemy and extended the hand of friendship to him. The Friend thought it would be better to talk than to fight, and got the Enemy to promise to stop trying to build the evil weapon, and rewarded the Enemy for his promises. The King was not happy.  He didn’t trust the Enemy.  He believed that the Enemy wouldn’t keep its promise, that the Friend’s rewards would make it stronger, and that it would succeed in making its evil weapon sooner rather than later.

And then things got even worse than that.

There were suddenly many revolutions in the countries neighbouring the King’s realm.  The people in those countries were very unhappy.  They had almost as little freedom as the King’s own people, and as little power, but they were much poorer.  They rose up against their rulers, and there was much bloodshed and violence and disorder, and many of the rulers were overthrown.  The King’s own people saw what was happening.  They were no longer as satisfied as they had been, because they were getting poorer.  And bad people (said to be from the Enemy) were beginning to set off bombs in their towns to kill them as they prayed in their temples or shopped in their markets.  The King’s people began to twitter and murmur angrily amongst themselves, and discontent began to grow.

The King and his family were very worried.

Luckily, the King had a very wise son.  This son was so wise that the King gave him lots of power to try to save the King and the country and the people from all these dangers.

The Prince, being very clever, knew that the country couldn’t rely on the black stuff keeping them rich any more.  So he announced plans to develop businesses and jobs which weren’t dependent on the black stuff.  To pay for these plans, he decided to sell off a fraction of the kingdom’s share in the black stuff business to other people in other countries.  This fraction would still bring in a huge amount of gold which would help his people to set up other businesses.

He knew that his father’s kingdom would have to stand on its own two feet in the world and fight its own wars without so much help from the big Friend in the West.  So he announced plans to strengthen the kingdom’s army and to make alliances with other friendly countries nearer to him against the Enemy in the East.

He knew that his own people weren’t as satisfied as they had been, and he worried that they might become so dissatisfied that they might even rise up in rebellion like their neighbours.  If they couldn’t be richer than everyone else, perhaps they would be happier if they had a bit more of the freedom that other people in the world enjoyed.  So he created a General Authority For Entertainment, which suggested that perhaps cinemas and theatres and concerts and music and dancing weren’t such a bad thing after all.

Saudi municipal elections - women can vote and some did

Saudi municipal elections – women can vote and some did

He knew that fifty percent of his people didn’t like being treated like children, that they wanted to drive cars and appear in public without their faces hidden, and be free to do what they wanted and to go where they wanted without the permission of someone from the other fifty percent of his people.  He also knew that the rest of the world agreed with them, that a lot of other countries would have more respect and goodwill for his father’s country if this unhappy fifty percent were given the same rights and freedoms as the privileged fifty percent.

But he also knew that the priests in the kingdom would be very angry with him and his family if he did away with all the rules and regulations which protected the moral welfare of his people.  So he had to be very careful, to move very slowly, or the priests might rise in rebellion as they had in the Enemy’s kingdom several decades ago.  So he began by making sure the priests’ police didn’t break any laws themselves in their efforts to keep the people good and well-behaved, and that the priests and their police dealt with the people more kindly.  Then he allowed each of the unfree half of his people to be given their very own copy of the marriage contract when they got married to one of the free fifty percent.  And he allowed them to vote in some elections. It wasn’t much, but, with the General Authority For Entertainment, it was a start…

So what happened?

Did the prince succeed, and save his country by making sure it carried on as before, happy and safe and rich and stable?

Or did everyone just get poorer and poorer and more and more unhappy?  Did the people rise up in rebellion, demanding not just bread and circuses but more freedom and a share of the King’s power as well, and plunge the kingdom into bloody violence and disorder?

Or did the priests rise in rebellion against the prince’s moves to relax the laws enforcing good behaviour and moral well-being among the people?  Did they overthrow the King and his family, as had happened in the Enemy’s country only forty years before?

Or did the war between the kingdom and the Enemy escalate into an apocalyptic confrontation, exploding into the world war which many people had feared it would become, with all the other powers in the world drawn into a terrible, universal conflict?  Did the Enemy complete its evil weapon and unleash it on the kingdom, utterly destroying the King and his family and his people and country?

Well, let me tell you what happened.  One day, all of a sudden and all at once…”

Scheherazade stops talking.  She ends on a cliff-hanger, of course.  She always does.  That’s how story-tellers have survived all these centuries.  You – me – everybody – we all want to know what happens next.

Well, if you check out Shaw Sheet week by week, we’ll tell you what happens.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Running Wild (Adam McCormack)

26 May 2016

Running Wild

The Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park

reviewed by Adam McCormack

This is a very ambitious production.  In turning Michael Morpurgo’s book into a play, Regent’s Park Theatre have created their largest-scale production to date: a cast of 40, supplemented by a range of puppets created and directed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie, who previously worked on War Horse.  Originally at the Chichester Festival Theatre, this production benefits from the near perfect setting of Regent’s Park, which provides an ideal back-drop for the Indonesian jungle.   Quite logically, the production is being mounted in partnership with nearby London Zoo.

Traumatised by the death of her father in Iraq, Lilly (or Will depending on which of three actors has the lead) is taken by her mother on a dream holiday to Indonesia in 2004, where she is thrilled to be given a ride on her favourite animal, an elephant.  Fortunately for Lilly,  Oona the elephant senses the impending tsunami and runs for the jungle, thereby saving her from the tidal wave that kills her mother.  Oona and Will develop a close relationship as they struggle to survive the threats of dangerous animals, and ultimately very dangerous humans, while negotiating the jungle. The puppetry is a delight with, as in War Horse, the presence of puppeteers being easy to ignore.  The movements and behaviour of the animals are perfectly captured.  Oona is a great feat of design and has real character, while the troupe of Orang-utans  is utterly charming as they get to know Lilly.  The staging is a delight, especially as the tsunami hits and those seated in the stalls have the wave wash over them. The denouement of the story is touching and very well acted, but there are issues with the production.

First, the large cast works very well in some scenes, for example where they convey a tranquil ocean that develops into the tsunami; but at times we feel as if we have walked in on an improv theatre workshop.  Secondly, the play sometimes loses its identity, with the music and acting seeming more appropriate to Africa than to Indonesia.  Finally, there is a lack of subtlety in the way the play delivers its message about man’s abuse of the forests and the animals.  Samuel Adamson’s adaptation is ultimately a play for children, but I see few of them being convinced that they should reject a packet of crisps on the way home because of the implications of man’s obsession with growing increasing quantities of palm oil.  However, these criticisms do not negate the beauty of the setting and the brilliance of the puppetry. The acting performances are strong, particularly Hattie Ladbury as Lilly’s mum and, later, Dr Geraldine.  Ava Potter, who acted Lilly, is a star in the making.

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Issue 55:2016 05 26: All that glisters – may not be an investment (Frank O’Nomics)

26 May 2016

All that glisters – may not be an investment

Should you be hoarding gold?

by Frank O’Nomics

Beware – the gold bugs are back. After a torrid time, and a fall from the heady heights of almost $1900 per oz in 2009 to just $1050 late last year, gold has seen the start of a promising bull run, returning to $1250 per oz in the last 5 months.  Gold tends to perform well when real yields are low (and they are currently so low as to be negative in many markets) and, as a typical investment cycle for gold lasts for around 3-5 years, this would suggest that the gold price has further to go.  Should  we then be adding gold to our portfolios?  While there are always good arguments for adding something that increases portfolio diversification, the nature of the global economy and the greater availability of assets that may be a more rational alternative to gold may well mean that the current rally runs out of steam quite quickly.

“Money is gold, everything else is just credit” said J P Morgan in 1912 and, for the 3,000 years that people have been investing in gold, it has worked well as both a currency and a store of value.  In rough terms, it took the same amount of gold to buy a case of wine in Roman times as it does today (bearing in mind that Chateau Lafite did not exist 2,000 years ago), which is a lot more than could be said for the spending power of £ or $ over just the last few decades.  Appetite for the metal remains on a rising trend, while mining it becomes ever harder – it takes twice as much ore to produce an ounce of gold as it did just a few decades ago.  Asian demand is the significant driver of the market, with 1,400 of the 3,000 tonnes mined last year going to China and a further 600 tonnes to India.  As the disposable income and savings of the population of these emerging economies develops it seems logical that this demand will increase further.  Given this, should we expect a renewed assault on a $2000 gold price?

In the short–term this may be an unreasonable expectation.  The price has already rallied 20% from its low, yet physical demand for gold is down 10% year-on-year with jewellery related demand down 19%.  The overall increase in demand (21% year-on-year) has largely been the result of buying by exchange traded funds (ETFs) which have seen significant inflows due to worries regarding the global economic landscape.  Gold ETFs are a relatively new investment product which has made it easier for investors to gain exposure to gold, but the need for this exposure will have its limits.  Slower growth in emerging economies is the reason for the slip in jewellery demand and the current outlook does not suggest an imminent resurgence.  A further limiting factor comes in the way that investors typically try to profit from a gold price rally.  It makes much more sense to buy gold shares than to buy an ingot or a Krugerrand, given the greater leverage gained by owning the equity.  If a typical gold miner faces an all-in extraction cost of say $1000 per oz, then they will make $200 per oz if the price is at $1200.  If the price increases by $120, then an owner of the metal will have made 10%, while the margin for the gold miner will have increased by 60%.  Therefore, if we are bullish about gold we should buy the miners, but the problem here is that the prices of mining stocks have already seen significant increases.  The largest gold miner in the world, Barrick Gold Corp, has seen its stock price triple since August of last year – a period over which the gold price is up around just 5%.  On this basis, it would seem that we have either missed the boat for gold stocks, or that equity prices are somewhat ahead of that of the underlying metal and are relying on a further rise in its value.

It is, however, in the longer run that gold as either a store of value or an investment vehicle can be questioned.  Firstly, 52% of the demand for gold is for jewellery, with demand from central banks coming a distant second at 18%.  From a jewellery point of view, India is the big buyer, but, from a savings point of view, as the market develops there it seems likely that there will be a demand for more sophisticated investments that produce a yield; this may be one factor behind last year’s fall in demand.  Central bank demand is largely dictated by China – which keeps all of the gold that it produces.  However, there seems to be no move to return to a gold standard to back currencies and, as the world becomes a safer place, the need to keep a store of gold as a hedge against geopolitical uncertainty seems less compelling for both governments and individuals.  A number of developed nations have spent some time unwinding their gold reserves, notably the UK under the last Labour government, and there is scope for this to continue – a factor that could provide a significant long-term cap to the gold price.  In short, it is dangerous to assume that the increase in demand for gold will continue in the long term.

As for those who cite the correlation between with the performance of gold in an environment of low or negative real yields on the one hand and the constant real buying power of gold over centuries on the other, this argument only works over very long periods and there are now some adequate alternatives that will give protection from inflation.  We have been in a long period of declining long-term interest rates, but it is only the period since the start of the financial crisis that has seen gold benefit significantly.  If one looks at the 25 year period from April 1981, the gold price did nothing more than move sideways, oscillating within $100 either side of a $400 median, which is a very poor level of protection against inflation, however slight (and in the early 1990’s inflation was very high).  Looking at a very long-term chart of the gold price, we would still appear to be correcting the significant price spike that the financial crisis created, a correction that could have much further to go.  Amongst alternative defensive assets, inflation-linked government bonds have a coupon and maturity value linked to inflation, and the US version of these (known as TIPS) currently deliver a positive real yield (at least for those bonds with a maturity longer than 10 years).

There is of course nothing wrong with buying your loved ones some expensive gold jewelry, and there may even be some cheap gold share out there if one can find those with mines that have a low all-in extraction cost.  Either could prove to be reasonable investments in the very short or very long-term.  However, this is a very different proposition to investing your savings for the benefit of your retirement or your children.  The range of investment products has developed significantly over the last twenty years or so, and there seems little reason to be relying on a commodity that has little use beyond decoration, just because our ancestors did.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26:Universities abusing their position (Lynda Goetz)

26 May 2016

Universities abusing their positions

Concern about loss of EU funding behind encouragement to Remain

by Lynda Goetz

Lynda Goetz head shotExeter is my alma mater.  I, like many other alumni, donate the odd sum to keep the old place going; to help it keep up with its national and international rivals; to provide bursaries and so on and so forth.  Exeter, along with several other universities, in contravention of rules advising institutions to remain neutral ahead of the referendum, has recently, it seems, been encouraging students to recognise the ‘benefits’ of EU membership.  The vice-chancellor, Sir Steve Smith, has apparently sent an email to all undergraduates and Professor Melissa Percival, an associate Professor in French, Art History and Visual Culture, has also emailed students to tell them Brexit would ‘threaten the future of British students abroad’.

At Oxford, students allege that a discussion hosted by the principal of Trinity College, Sir Ivor Roberts, was used to encourage them to vote Remain.  Although a spokesman said the university was ‘encouraging open debate on the issue’, they then went on to say that: “The University’s Council wishes to affirm the value that the UK’s membership of the EU provides to the university”.  In Plymouth an event hosted by the politics professor, David Brockington, involving only three pro-EU speakers, was allowed to take place after students campaigning for Vote Leave were told they could not hold events as the university would only host a ‘fair and unbiased event’.

What on earth is going on here?  Surely universities should be places where open debate on this important issue is encouraged?  Students should be questioning the dubious statistics offered by both sides and arguing the merits of leaving versus staying.  Members of the public should be being invited to high level debates with top quality speakers who are masters of their subjects.  We should be able to hear the historical perspective, the economic perspective, the political perspective and the moral and philosophical perspective.  Universities should be, for those of us not in the capital, the places where we can go to listen to and participate in stimulating and interesting debates, discussions and question-and-answer sessions.  Why are the universities peddling the snake oil of Remain and playing a ‘nanny knows best’ (or should I say ‘teacher knows best’) game?

The answer of course is simple and boils down, as do so many things, to self-interest and money.  Exeter University, Oxford University and Plymouth University are all part of the Erasmus Plus Programme, developed from Erasmus, the EU funded initiative set up originally in 1987 as the student exchange programme. Named after the Dutch philosopher it is also an ackronym for EuRopean Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.  Erasmus Plus was started in January 2014 and is the €14.7 billion catch-all initiative which incorporates all the EU’s current schemes for education, training, youth and sport.  Over the past twenty years over two million students have benefited from Erasmus grants with some 4,000 institutions over 33 countries participating (the Erasmus Mundus scheme involves exchanges between Europe and Developing Countries).

However, that is not the whole story.  Universities also receive EU funding worth €70.2bn for research and innovation under the Horizon 2020 programme.  EU funding provides an additional 15% on top of the UK Government’s own research funding, clearly amounts that our higher educational establishments are not keen to lose.  Funds requested by UK higher education institutions from the EU rose from €508.6m in 2008 to €856.3m in 2012 according to a Guardian online blog by Joanna Newman, Director of the UK Higher Educational Unit, in November 2013.

I do not know what Sir Steve Smith’s email to his current students actually said.  What is clear is that these figures should be broadcast to all, not just to current attendees at particular institutes of higher education.  However, the public should also be apprised of the fact that, prior to the Erasmus project, cultural exchanges did exist – they were just perhaps more limited.  Those of us studying foreign languages could and indeed did go abroad, often as lowly ‘assistants’ in high schools for a year rather than being able to study at a foreign university with the tuition fees waived or receiving an additional living allowance.  We did gain the experience of living and working in a different county and culture and increased our ‘intercultural awareness and adaptability’, the soft skills now vaunted as an integral part of Erasmus.  Although Switzerland was suspended from the programme in 2014 following its popular vote to limit access for EU immigrants, and there is every reason to believe the same would happen to the UK were we to leave the EU, this does not rule out re-negotiated arrangements.  The UK does not, or did not, take as much advantage of the programme as other nations, coming in at only sixth in terms of total students participating in 2013. It is also noteworthy that the UK was one of the least enthusiastic of participating nations originally – having its own exchange arrangements in place already.

Of course, Sir Steve Smith, Sir Ivor Roberts and Joanna Newman all consider the EU as crucial to ‘the fortunes of our higher educational sector’.  This is because they are all part of that professional elite, which Steve Hilton*among others has identified as benefiting the most from our participation in the EU experiment.

Desiderius Erasmus, was known as an opponent of dogmatism.  He lived and worked in many parts of Europe to expand his knowledge and gain new insights.  Perhaps it is time that both our educationalists and our politicians stopped Dishing Out Gobbledygook and Started Debating the Issues which are Neglected and Need Evidence and Reasoning so that we could all be in a position to make a rational decision on June 23rd free of this mess of self-interest and dogma which is being foisted on us by those in power.

*former director of strategy for David Cameron who this week added his voice to the Brexit camp

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Week in Brief UK

26 May 2016

Week in Brief: UK NEWS

Union Jack flapping in wind from the right

EU  Referendum

INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS:  Pat Glass, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Europe, was overheard referring to a voter as a “horrible racist”.  UKIP claimed that these remarks showed disdain for voters and Ms Glass has said that she regrets them.

TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP:  The Government has been forced to accept an unprecedented amendment to the Queens’s speech expressing regret at the absence of a bill excluding the NHS from the effect of TTIP.  Although both the European Commission and UK government say that public services will be exempt from the scope of the provisions giving access to markets, there is concern that, if the exemption is ineffectual, American companies might be able to insist on UK public services being put out to tender.

RYANAIR:  The Ryanair offer of cheap flights on Referendum Day so that Brits living abroad can come back and vote for Remain, has been reported to the police on the basis that it may constitute “treating”.  The flights will be available to everyone, however they propose to vote.

MIGRATION:  Official Figures show that 2,210,000 UK workers were born outside Britain but in the EU.  That compares with 3,030,000 workers born outside the EU.  Last year’s figure for EU born workers was 1,958,000.  The increase is mainly down to arrivals from old EU countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.

JUNCKER:  The President of the European Commission has told the French newspaper Le Monde that Britain will not be “handled gently” if it leaves the EU.

NHS:  Former heads of the NHS Lord Crisp and Sir David Nicholson described in the Sunday Times how Brexit would mean it would be harder to recruit staff from Europe, be more difficult for UK citizens to work in healthcare in Europe and that there would be a major loss of EU grants for medical research.  The current head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, told Andrew Marr that he was in favour of staying in the EU.

TURKEY:  David Cameron stepped in to correct the Armed Forces Minister, Penny Mordaunt, who had said that the UK was not able to veto Turkey joining the EU, which he said was “absolutely wrong”.

TREASURY:  An 82-page report was published by the Treasury suggesting that a messy Brexit would reduce 2018 GDP by 6%, increase unemployment by 820,000 and reduce house prices by 18% vs forecasts.  The report was widely criticised by Brexit supporters.  Iain Duncan Smith suggested that Sajid Javid, who supported the Treasury report, secretly backs leaving the EU.  Whitehall sources responded by saying: “This is simply not true”.

OPINION POLL:  An ORB poll showed Remain on 55% and Leave on 42%, among people who definitely intend to vote.  Among all voters Remain had a 20 point lead.

VETERANS FOR BRITAIN:  10 senior military figures have voiced their support for Brexit, with former SAS commander Sir Michael Rose arguing that NATO is being undermined and weakened by the EU.


ZIKA-VIRUS:  The World Health Organisation has warned that eighteen EU countries are at risk of the virus this summer.  France, Italy, Malta, Croatia and Spain are the highest risks.  There is no likelihood of people In Britain being infected by zika carrying mosquitoes.

HOSPITAL DEFICITS:  Last year 65% of NHS trusts were in deficit, creating a total shortfall of £2.5 billion.  NHS Providers, the trade association of the trusts, puts this down to a combination of large increases in admissions, shortfalls of funding and the fact that available savings have largely been made already.  Although some further savings can be made by an amalgamation of A&E  departments, they say that the real issue is low funding.  France, Germany and Holland spend about 11% of GDP on healthcare.  We spend 8.5%

LOCUMS:  Locums are overpaid for three-quarters of hospital shifts, with some doctors getting twice as much as they should despite the introduction of pay caps according to data gathered by Liaison.

SEVEN DAY NHS:  Progress towards a 7-day NHS was made following an agreement to scrap the right for hospital consultants to opt out of weekend working.

ISIS:  A registered doctor, who spent seven years working for the NHS, has been revealed as an Islamic State recruit.  His current whereabouts are unknown.

General Politics

IMMIGRATION:  The French Navy is to patrol the Channel in an attempt to prevent the smuggling of migrants in small boats following the tightening of security at Calais.  The National Crime Agency has reported the arrest of Rekawt Kayani, an asylum seeker granted British citizenship in 2003, on suspicion of facilitating the illegal immigration of thousands of people.

EFFICIENCY DRIVE:  According to the National Audit Office, a programme to save money by merging back office services within the Civil Service has been undermined by a failure of government departments to participate.  So far the scheme has cost £94 million but has only saved £90 million.

LABOUR MODERATES:  Erstwhile leadership campaigner Andy Burnham is to seek the Labour nomination for the mayoralty of Greater Manchester.  Another contender is Ivan Lewis who previously served as shadow Northern Ireland secretary.  It is thought that they may be the vanguard of a movement by moderate Labour politicians seeking to build power bases outside Parliament.

CHILCOTT REPORT:  Sources close to the report have said that Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Sir Richard Dearlove will face severe damage to their reputations when the report is released on 7th July.

EDUCATION:  A report by the all-party parliamentary group on financial education for young people wants primary pupils to learn about tax and banking.

CHILDREN’S SERVICES: Birmingham City Council’s children’s services will be run by a trust after years of failings, with the department called a “national disgrace” by inspectors.  Separately, a report by the University of Central Lancashire showed that up to 150,000 pre-school children had been reported to social services over fears of abuse or neglect.

SUEING THE MOD:  Hundreds of soldiers are likely to sue the MOD over being administered controversial anti-malarial medication without receiving psychiatric screening.

SNP RESIGNATION:  Stewart Hosie has stepped down as deputy leader of the Scottish National Party after revelations about his private life.  He will not stand for re-election as an MP.


TERROR RULING:  The European Court of Justice has held that individuals banned from entering the UK must be given the reasons for the decision.

FRACKING:  Councillors in Yorkshire have approved the first fracking scheme in the last five years.  Production could start within months.  Fracking tests have begun in Lancashire, North Yorkshire and Cheshire.

GM CROPS:  are safe to eat and cause no more damage to the environment than conventional strains according to a report by the Royal Society.

KISS AND TELL:  The Supreme Court has, by a majority of 4 to 1 overturned the previous decision of the Court of Appeal by upholding the injunction in the “three in a bed” case on the basis that there was no public interest to justify the intrusion of privacy.  It was not enough that the victims were well known.  Had the story had a bearing on performance for public office or had it corrected a misleading impression cultivated by the person involved, the answer could have been different.

FOOTBALL LEAGUE:  The Football League is proposing the addition of a fifth division which would increase the number of clubs to 100.  Each division would have twenty clubs.  The idea is to reduce the number of games in an overcrowded fixture list.  Any change would take effect from the 2019/20 season.

FA CUP:  Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 to win the English FA Cup.  However, they then sacked their manager, Louis van Gaal and appointed Jose Mourinho.  Hibernian’s first Scottish FA Cup win for 112 years was marred by pitch invasion.

WOMEN GOLFERS:  Muirfield, the Edinburgh golf club, has rejected women membership.  Although the majority of members were in favour of changing the rules, they fell just short of the requisite two thirds majority.  Muirfield has been removed from the list of clubs eligible to host the Open.

PALACE INTRUDER:  It has emerged that an intruder who broke into the grounds of Buckingham Palace before being arrested seven minutes later had previously been convicted of murder.  It is not suggested, however, that he had any malicious intent in climbing into the gardens.

GARDENS:  Britain is suffering from a lost generation of gardeners, according to the RHS, because baby-boomers have not bothered to teach their children.  They also bemoaned the loss of front gardens which has been the result of the buy-to-let boom.

PALME D’OR: Ken Loach won in Cannes for his film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ – a film that focuses on the cruelty of bureaucracy in the welfare system.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26:Dig your garden (J.R. Thomas)

26 May 2016

Dig Your Garden

by J.R.Thomas

Rogue MaleThis week is the traditional opening of the English summer season, which revs up via Ascot , Wimbledon and Henley to a peak of outdoor sociability in late June, runs down into more informal and private gatherings in July, and ends in mid-July as the exhausted participants depart for their summer holidays.  Of course, originally the holidays meant going off to country houses (for those who hadn’t got one, somebody else’s country house – which is what Leo was up to in The Go-Between, a beautiful depiction of summer boredom after the season and before autumn country sports kicked off in September).  Finally for the rich and connected, just before the Glorious Twelfth of August there was a decamping to the grouse moors; enormous parties of shootists, their families and staff all crammed into some damp and rarely used highland lodge.  Not that this particular culmination of the season is quite dead even now, though probably not even Her Majesty at Balmoral welcomes guests for a month of shooting and fishing nowadays.  It is all a long way from the gentle event that ushers all this in, the Chelsea Flower Show.

Rhododendrons and Magnolias

Rhododendrons and Magnolias

Chelsea runs for a week, a private opening on Monday for the Royal family, one of those events to which they all seem to turn up, though now having to share not with just with the upper echelons of the Royal Horticultural Society, but also with corporate sponsors and their guests, many of whom may well be more interested in summer houses and ride-on lawn mowers (and champagne)  than penstemons and meconopsis.  On Tuesday and Wednesday the members of the RHS get exclusive possession (with a few more corporate types of course), though as there are close to 500,000 members, “exclusive possession” is perhaps not quite the right expression.  And then on Thursday and Friday the general public is finally admitted.

Not so long ago, membership of the Royal Horticultural Society was a badge of exclusivity and  pride.  Nothing common as “members,” indeed; persons applying to join this august and learned society, with its research centre and demonstration gardens at Wisley in Surrey, the magnificent Lindley Library in Pimlico and its nearby exhibition halls on Vincent Square, became “Fellows” if their application was accepted.  To succeed they needed a recommendation from an existing Fellow.  Founded from an idea of Josiah Wedgwood in 1804, the RHS saw itself as a centre of excellence, dedicated to keeping up standards in gardening, not a social organisation – or at least, not an open one.  The Fellows probably constituted the most splendid social register in the UK, encompassing not only many Dukes and great landed proprietors, but also most of their head gardeners.  Its President was always a strong leader and, just as importand, the active owner of a great garden. For many years it was Lord Aberconway, the genius of Bodnant, a magnificent garden in North Wales, who presided almost as a benign dictator, and then Robin Herbert, merchant banker, landowner, and great gardener and forester at Llanover in Monmouthshire.

Spring bluebells

Spring bluebells

Times have changed.  The RHS had something of a financial crisis in the late 1970’s, mainly because of inflation and some big repair bills at Vincent Square and for the Library, and decided that it needed to let the public in.  Fellows became Members (much grumbling there) unless they paid a tidy capital donation (more grumbling).  Membership was expanded, one of the exhibition halls sold, the magazine commercialised.  From being slightly snooty and academic in a horticultural way, the RHS began to embrace the lead of the National Trust and went for mass membership and a mission statement.

In recent years it has become more and more populist, seeking to reach out to the great British public.  Wisley remains its heart, but it has taken on several more exhibition gardens which exemplify gardening techniques and also attract large numbers of the paying public.  The first was Rosemoor in Devon, given by Lady Anne Palmer, daughter of a last Earl, a very romantic and personalised garden (you might not say that about it now, but it is a huge tourist attraction and magnificent in its own way, a centre of horticultural excellence for the West Country).  The latest garden to be taken on, the fifth, is Worsley New Hall, just outside Salford, Lancashire, in an association with Peel Group, a major property developer who will build an hotel at its heart.  It is a long ruined garden and park which will be reconstructed to teach more about urban gardening and provide a horticultural centre for the north-west.  The style and source of those two gardens demonstrates how the RHS has evolved.

Some things have not changed.  The RHS has retained the tradition of having a great landowner/garden owner as President – currently Sir Nicolas Bacon, 14th Bart, owner of a great garden in Norfolk and Premier baronet of England.   It also has retained another tradition.  It awards medals and honours for great plants and to great plantsmen and women.  Standards there have not diminished and for a gardener to be awarded the VMH, the Victoria Medal  of Honour, is a mark of true distinction, and one which its recipients feel more worthy than almost any other.  (We are reminded of the pride with which foxhunters bear the designation of Master of Fox Hounds; any person, and there are several, who are both MFH and VMH must really struggle as to which is to be given precedence.)

As with the National Trust there is an uneasy tension between the traditionalists and the modernisers.  In the National Trust the modernisers have pretty much won, and the Trust with its four million plus members is now as hip and cool and corporately modelled and politically correct as can be.  But the horticultural old guard have not buckled so quickly.  The RHS is still the guardian of gardening standards, the giver of awards, the sponsor and assessor of research, the publisher of serious and learned works and the prime mover of standards in horticultural education; fundamentally an organisation for serious and dedicated gardeners, not just for those who like gardening by way of a stroll around other people’s property.

Which is not to say that popularism is not creeping in.  The RHS has long had a thing about householders concreting over their front gardens to park their cars.  This is seen as a problem in suburbia rather than in deepest rural gardening England, let alone a problem of too much gravel in front of Jacobean mansions.  Its latest bit of research, issued to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, is a piece of popularism, promoted by Sue Briggs the RHS Director-General and supported by the ubiquitous Alan Titchmarsh, TV gardener extraordinaire.  It expresses concern that not enough young people are interested in gardening and blames the disappearance of front gardens for this decline.  It is rather sweet and rather RHS that it believes that front gardens full of cottage plants or standard roses would inspire young people to start growing daffodils in tubs and cultivating allotments.  The truth is probably what it always has been;  gardening begins when the householder has settled comfortably in a place of their own and the garden offers a refuge from screaming children and household routines.

Gardening is undoubtedly one of Britain’s great gifts to the world and we have for centuries led the world in all manifestations of horticulture.  The role of the Royal Horticultural Society in that has been vital, and so far it has managed the delicate balance between adherence to serious and worthy objectives and widespread popular appeal and mass financing, a sight more successfully than many of the other large conservation charities.  Long may it continue to flower.

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Issue 55: 2016 05 26: Your enemies are behind you (J.R. Thomas)

26 May 2016

Your Enemies are Behind You

by J.R.Thomas

Watch your Back

Watch your Back

Rogue MaleIt is said in the House of Commons that your opponents are in front of you, but the danger is always from your enemies – and they are behind you, in your own party.  David Cameron must know that only too well at the moment; But, across the Atlantic, the contenders for the Presidential struggle in November must be feeling the pain and aware of that danger as well. It is hard to think of any occasion over the last hundred years when both major parties were so riven internally by dislike and dissent, and at the moment there is no sign that on either side there will be a coming together and a reuniting of the parties behind their chosen candidates.

Mr Trump has shot his fox and it will soon be in the bag, but he has much to do now if he is to achieve victory in the fall.  A more conventional candidate would be making noises of reconciliation and unification, trying to bring the warring edges of his party together, forming a balanced slate of backers, sounding out complementary running mates for vice-President and cabinet members.  Following the withdrawal of Messrs Cruz and Kasich,  Mr Trump seemed to enter that reconciliatory mode, though how he would combine courting the Republican establishment with maintaining his rumbustious outsider rebel approach was not very clear.  There is still a lot of Republican establishment opposition to Mr Trump, and a lot of the party grandees are still pondering as to whether President Hillary might be considerably more palatable than President Trump.  Indeed President Hillary, if not pushed too far left by Bernie Sanders and his “socialism” (this is USA left remember, not Corbynism) could well turn out to be more politically acceptable to elements of the GOP than an interventionist corporatist Mr Trump.  And even better, she might well turn out to be a one term President anyway, as indeed might Donald, given their ages.  So in four years time, a reformed united GOP can run a winner…

But for now,  Mr Trump does not seem to be inclined to be very polite about his own party and anyway he cares little about all these machinations in Washington’s smoke free rooms.  The opinion polls are showing him neck and neck with Mrs Clinton, (Donald must be ever more gleeful about the discomfort of all those who said none of this was possible) though what may temper his approach to his party is the knowledge that he will need the Republican funding machine to pay for his presidential run.

It is estimated that around US$1bn is needed to run a proper presidential bid and The Donald, rich though he is, does not regard that amount as spare cash to be ventured on a whim.  Quite apart from anything else, even if he wins, he is not going to get it back, and Donald is too much a businessman, one suspects, to just blow one billion dollars.

There is open dissent amongst his team as to how much he does need.  His victory for the nomination cost him less than most of the other serious candidates, because Trump is so adept at winning free publicity.  His constant outrageous remarks and saying of the unsayable got him endless free airtime, and his unpolished folksy outsider style got him the votes.  But his increasingly professionalised team, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago, are united on one thing – that Hillary will be a formidable opponent.  It has to be said that his team is so far not united on much, though Donald seems to have now turned his attentions to getting his guys to work together.  But even if they fear Hillary, they are still not sure how to deal with her.  The essence is this: could a continuing noisy cheap campaign, relying on free media attention, outgun Hillary’s huge and practised machine, with its media management and briefing capabilities, its huge spending capabilities on paid-for advertising, and most of all, its ability to get the votes out on the day?  There is something Donald would do well to remember about the campaign fought by Ted Cruz.  Maybe it failed, but there was a time when it looked as though Ted might become front runner, and the reason for that was that the Cruz machine was working brilliantly well at identifying Cruz voters and getting them into the polling booth.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, Mrs Clinton has not yet won.  Mr Sanders is still very tight behind her; he convincingly won Oregon; he came within a percentage point of her in Kentucky, a state in which she should have romped home.  The truth is that she is doing worse against Bernie in each contest and in terms of pledged delegates he is catching up all the time.  What is saving her, and will almost certainly get her the nomination before the convention, is that she has the benefit of early victories and the even greater benefit of the vast majority of the super delegates – the delegates who derive their position from their roles in the Democratic Party machine.  She does have a problem though, which prevents her making the breakthrough that Mr Trump has had.  State contests mostly award votes  on a proportionate basis -so, for example, she and Bernie got the same number of delegates out of Kentucky.  Equally, Bernie cannot really catch up because he does not get the winner takes all victories that became so important to Donald and catapulted him on.  So the two of them struggle on towards the convention, with California the only possibility for the fatal blow which will put Hillary over the delegate count, or put Bernie in a position where she depends on the super delegates, unknown territory procedurally and a moral quicksand.  We say California, but it is another mini Super-Tuesday, June 7th, with Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and North and South Dakota all joining in; 707 delegates at stake.  Hillary is 274 elected delegates ahead, so Bernie needs to win 491 delegates, against Hillary winning 216, to have a majority of elected delegates and thus stand supreme on the moral podium.  Is it impossible?  Probably. (And finally there is Washington DC a week later; it is a fair bet Hillary will win that strongly, so Bernie’s balancing on the moral-supremacy mountain would be pretty short lived.)

But, votes won are almost ceasing to be the point.  Mrs C is not winning big enough.  At this stage, with the Democrat machine working for her, the contest should be over.  To  Sanders supporters, many of them new to politics, the fact that she is winning is just further proof of how rotten the whole machine is.  In their eyes she is winning because she has the machine stitched up, because she is spending big big big, because she will say anything to anybody to get a vote. That feeling resulted in actual pushing and shoving, and threats of worse, in the Nevada caucus, where some fancy footwork gave Hillary more delegates than she might have been entitled to under more…er…straightforward interpretations of the caucus rules.  The feeling between the two camps is getting worse and the problems of uniting the party when Hillary does eventually triumph (squeeze through, if you prefer) are becoming much greater.

There is a danger that the Sanders camp will not accept a Clinton victory.  Bernie almost certainly will; his mission is to push the left side of American politics towards a more socialistic, less business orientated, more European, model of social democratic politics.  Whether he thinks he has done this, whether he has, what it might mean, are issues for the future.  But what can a disgruntled Sanders delegate do?  Hillary has the money, the delegates, and the machine.  America, for all its unhappiness and disillusion with politicians, does  not want a revolution.  But there is one form of protest that can hurt Mrs Clinton.  Voting for Donald.  Mrs C may yet find her enemies are not where she expects to see them.

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