Archive for October, 2008

The last days of a losing campaign…

No words, just pathetic…


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Sir Alex Ferguson is still at it on the Cristiano Ronaldo- Real Madrid case. Today he gave an interview to The Times in which he was simply out of order and if he had some decency left in him he should be apologising for his remarks.

Here is the quote I am talking about:

“What made it really obscene was that Madrid, as General Franco’s club, had a history of being able to get whoever and whatever they wanted, before democracy came to Spain”

Now, I did already made my case against Sir Alex’s comment before here. But I would like to add a couple of more points to that earlier post.

If Ferguson would have linked a German team with Nazism the comment would have probably been quite a controversial one and Sir Alex would have been asked to apologise. Why does he think it is ok to do so with Real Madrid and Franco?

I am a left-wing Real Madrid supporter. Members of my family fought and died defending the Republic during the Civil War and later opposed Francoism by participating in underground political movements where they risk their lives and those of their family. Sir Alex’s comment is offensive to thousands of Real Madrid supporters who did not support a regime that caused, and in some cases still does, pain and suffering to thousand of Spaniards.

He should be more careful when he goes on rants of this kind, as football is just a game, the Francoist regime was not. And it hurts when ignorant people like Sir Alex use it to simply please their own ego.

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The tabloid press has been waging a campaign against asylum seekers in Britain for quite a while now. They might say that it isn’t against “genuine” asylum seekers it is aimed at, but nevertheless they have helped inhibit British society from what it is for most of these people a painful and certainly life-threatening experience.

News coming today from Australia are just a clear example of the realities of asylum-seeking and how solidarity should not be subdued to populist sentiments fuelled by fear and prejudice. Freedom is a highly appreciated British value, let’s not let our fears stop it protecting other people around the world.

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Iceland: from boom to bust

The blog La moqueta verde has a very interesting post on the boom and bust of the Icelandic financial market.
The graph shows the sharp rise and sudden fall of the Icelandic OMX15 index, it’s just brutal.

From happiest nation in the world according to the UN just a year ago to a country shattered accepting a 2 billion dollar loan from the IMF to save whatever is left of its economy and contemplating the very serious threat of a brain drain that would leave little hope for a country with population 320,000 (that’s smaller than my hometown of Murcia).

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Osborne’s big big mistake

For many inside the Westminster bubble the fact that there has been no resignation or institutional investigation in the Osborne/Deripaska affair meant the end of the story. Many think Osborne has been shaken and the Tories will actually be better off now that he has learnt a valuable lesson, never to get too cocky.

But those same people are very wrong indeed, Osborne is responsible for damaging the most valuable asset of Cameron’s Tory party, its branding. Actually it wasn’t Osborne who has done it, it’s Peter Mandelson, but Osborne brought it upon himself anyways. As John Hoynes tell Josh Lyman in the first season of the West Wing: ‘welcome to the NFL kid’. Osborne thought he could play dirty politics with probably one of the most skilled politicians in that field seen in the UK in a long time and he’s shot himself on the foot instead. But back to our main story…

The Tories have had a number of negative stories on dodgy financial dealings since David Cameron became party leader, MEPs’ expenses, the Conway and Spellman affairs… the problem was that none of them stuck at the time because they were dealt by Cameron as bad habits from the past that his new team was committed to eradicate. But then the Osborne story came up.

Cameron’s most trusted advisor, his Shadow Chancellor, the man who would run the British economy if the Tories were to win the next election has gone dirty as well. It is not anymore an old habit, it’s the very core of the new Cameron leadership who’s in trouble. Many will say he hasn’t done anything wrong, but that doesn’t matter in politics, because Osborne is now responsible for allowing future attacks on the Tories financial dealings to stick. There are new stories coming out in the Guardian and the Mail on the Tories and dodgy donations, are they true? doesn’t matter, everyone is at it now and it’s going to hurt Cameron badly because financial honesty and transparency is key right now to win the trust of voters at a time of an economic recession.

Osborne has contaminated the Tory brand badly. You can see the Tories running around trying to switch the blame over to Mandelson (here and here), but it’s too late, the damage to the “whiter than white” Cameronites is done. And the funny thing about this is that Osborne brought it upon himself by disclosing a private conversation between him and Mandelson, which is not just bad social manners but very very amateurish politically speaking.

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The White House today announced the celebration of the economic summit in New York in mid-November. The G-20 countries are meeting up to design a new structure for capitalism. It definitely sounds glamorous, it sounds like a 21st century Bretton Woods.

But there are two key reasons  why this economic summit is complete rubbish.

The first reason is because by the time the summit kicks off on 13th of November the US electorate will have elected a new President. By that time the host of the summit, the man speaking on behalf the most powerful economy in the world, will officially be a lame duck, even if in practice he already is. Who is going to be seriously negotiating with a man who his own fellow countrymen believe to be an utter disgrace in economic affairs? specially knowing he is gone and a new, definitely more protectionist President whether Obama or McCain, could easily roll back any agreement they might have hammered down in this summit.

The second reason is the exclusion of Spain from the negotiating table. Now, I know most of you are going to roll your eyes and think this is just a bitter comment with a bit of a nationalist flair to it. And partly it is, that sentiment was what initially made me think about writing this post. But please bear with me, because I think I do have a point.

Brown, Sarkozy and Barroso have said they wanted Spain to attend the summit. The Bush administration has declined inviting Zapatero on the grounds that only the G-20 countries should attend. Now, I have no problem with the developing countries attending. But I do have it with the developed ones. Out of the G-7 countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan), five have had to save several of their national banks (US, UK, France and Germany), one is in a deep economic stagnation coupled with a serious leadership crisis (Italy), Japan which is ok and Canada which is pretty irrelevant in this case. Now, on the other hand you have Spain, which despite finding itself in a deep housing crisis and having been exposed to the credit crunch as much as the G-7 countries, has a banking sector that has not just weathered the storm but gone on the offensive buying banks abroad. Santander has bought three UK banks in as many years, Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley and across the Atlantic it has bought Sovereign. BBVA has entered China through Citic Group and has become one of the most important banking entities in America through its BBVA USA network.

The reason for this is the regulatory system set up in Spain by both the government and the central bank. Weekly risk assessment committees asses Spanish banks investment decisions to guarantee their soundness. The level of savings guaranteeing liabilities are the highest (without being excessive or burdensome to business) in the Western financial system. Good regulation not excessive regulation, exactly what is expected of this summit. You don’t believe me? Read this and this.

Now, if the Spanish banking sector is done much better than its counterparts and this is certainly due to a better regulatory system. Why shouldn’t the country responsible for this system be invited to provide that experience to a summit on world financial regulation?

These are my two reasons why next month’s summit in New York will either be not more than a photo-op for world leaders (Gleneagles style) or a total shambles of inefficient regulation which will not stand for long and certainly not help reassure markets in the tough year to come.

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The far left criticised New Labour for being too liberal, Cameron cannot stop repeating his ‘broken society’ soundbite…but today the OECD has published a report that shows that since 2000 the UK has reduced income inequality and poverty more than any other member of the organisation.

Needless to say there is still a long way to go, but certainly Labour is the way forward to build on those foundations.

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