Trump documentary, share your Covid-19 with loved ones, post-Covid planning, stealth tax, pension fund losses and Uranus

29 November 2020

Ivanka Trump still hasn’t answered my email but she does seem to have responded to my pointing out that her father was looking “childish, petulant and vindictive” because he now seems to be more willing to hand over the details.  (It can’t have been anybody else’s influence can it?)

Since he is handing over, isn’t this a de facto secession so it doesn’t matter what he says from now on and he can tell people he didn’t give up just because a mere 7 million more people wanted Joe Biden?

Other countries are hoping to take advantage of Trump’s weakness and, surely a coincidence, the head of Iran’s nuclear programme was assassinated this week.  Without wishing to belittle the seriousness of this murder, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened retaliation in a curiously worded statement:  “We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr …” (so far, so good – frightening) “… and will make them regret their action” (which rather lets it down – he should have stopped after the first bit shouldn’t he?)

Biden’s been setting up his cabinet anyway and, when Barack Obama was asked by a journalist whether he’d consider a cabinet position if it were offered to him, he said “There are some things I would not be doing because Michelle would leave me. She’d be like, what? You’re doing what?”

There’s a rumour that a documentary about Trump’s disastrous presidency will be directed by Banksy and called ‘Exit through the Grift Shop’.

We’re now – here anyway – in tier 2, whose restrictions we take with us even if we visit tier 1.  What happens if we want to go from, say, London to York?  Both are in tier 2 but you have to go through some tier 3 areas to do it.  Do trains not stop in tier 3?  Are cars not allowed to stop in tier 3?  What if you’re cycling?

All of this because Boris Johnson doesn’t want to be blamed for a second national lockdown.  And his generous heart is letting small groups of people from all tiers meet for Christmas, so the tier 3 people can share the virus they’re incubating, or is symptomless, with their nearest and dearest.  This year, Christmas is for sharing death.

And our own Government Graft Shop is still open, with friends and relations of government MPs being given huge contracts so they too can become rich at the expense of our overseas aid funding.  Well, I mean, would you rather give all that money to some snotty-nosed starving child from sub-Saharan Africa or to an old school chum who’s down to his last million?

It’s hard to believe but when I first started emailing these rambles through the back alleys of my mind back in 2015, before the blog was created, I wasn’t really interested in politics or politicians and generally wrote about ephemera but since David Cameron’s arrogance led us into Brexit and Trump got elected, and we had to suffer Theresa May and then Johnson, the political world has become irresistibly fascinating in the same way it’s fascinating to keep poking your tongue into the hole left by a filling that got mixed up with your breakfast muesli.

Then we had Covid-19, with Boris Johnson successfully delaying unpopular decisions so that the UK could top the European death charts and America ignoring the whole thing and allowing more than 270,000 people (and counting) to die and 13.5m people to get infected.

Having given away so much money recently, our government has to find it somewhere so why not start unobtrusively?  The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, now appears to have been less than entirely open about his own financial interests and forgot to mention that his wife, Akshata Murty, is richer than the Queen (see last week’s comment about the legal duties of charity trustees to reveal personal interests) – perhaps they could spare a billion or two.

I was somewhat cheered to hear that there’s going to be a parliamentary inquiry into the UK’s post-Covid-19 public transport priorities, including HS2.  I’m old enough to remember when Maggie Thatcher didn’t realise this end of HS1 would run through England and made no provision for it so the trains would zip through France and Belgium, then cross the Channel and crawl up old main and branch lines through Kent and south-east London to a new terminal that had to be built specially beside Waterloo station (and is now no longer used by any trains) until new lines and a brand spanking new terminal at St Pancras station had been built many years later.

(Interesting too that a majority stake in HS1 is now owned by France, the other owners being a Canadian pension fund, an investment fund based in Pennsylvania, and Belgium – our share went with so much else of the family silver.)

However, I was even more disappointed that the inquiry will be so tunnel-visioned.  Surely we should be planning strategically for a whole new post-Covid-19 world and looking at everything from the NHS and Education and the police and HMP to how businesses will operate in future, to where new housing will be needed as more people work from home and relocate, rendering the City of London’s tower blocks redundant, and how centres of population will change, affecting property prices over the whole country, all of which will impact on public transport services including roads and trains such as HS2 …

Then factor in the post-Brexit trade barriers and the climate emergency which will convert all new transport to electric by 2030, if they can agree whether VHS charging points are better than Betamax, and how to build enough in time, and societal changes such as nervousness about sitting next to a stranger on a train or a plane.  Perhaps they might even suggest how to pay for it.

While they’re at it, they could also plan for the next pandemic, apart from just changing prime ministers.

Talking of con-artists, National Savings & Investments has always tended to offer fair interest rates on savings and not fiddled around with them too much.  However, in order to save the government money, they’ve just reduced the interest they pay on the money we lend them.  In the case of NS&I Income Bonds, the rate has been reduced from 1.16% to 0.01%.

This means that, if you invested £100 in an Income Bond, you were being paid interest of 9½p a month;  from now on, they’ll give you nothing every month and 1p every year.  Or, if you’ve invested £10,000, you’ll have been receiving £9.67 a month and you will in future get almost 10p a month.  Clever stealth tax eh? 

Take your money out of NS&I and find a better account – some building societies and sharia banks are offering good interest / profit rates and your savings are guaranteed up to a total of £85,000.

Even worse, the retail empire owned by Philip Green is about to go bust, making 13,000 people unemployed, if he can’t raise £30m.  In an earlier incarnation, he underfunded his staff’s pension schemes and he’s now doing it again.

Green hasn’t yet offered to top up the pensions funds from the billions he took from the company when it was profitable and he’ll keep ‘his’ £100m ocean-going yacht.  His yacht is called Lionheart.  I wonder if Skunksarse mightn’t be more accurate.

I’m not going to mention the Austrian village that’s changing its name but I was charmed in the 1960s to stay in a village to the south of Innsbruck called Mutters, whose neighbouring village is called Natters.

(Uranus already has its own problems with rude words, depending whether you wear tartan or plaid:  should it be pronounced ‘your-anus’ or ‘urine-us’?)

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