TODAY’S FAYRE – Wednesday, 4th January 2017
“Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.
AE Housman – poet – 1859-1922
|The night has a thousand eyes,|
|And the day but one;|
|Yet the light of the bright world dies|
|With the dying sun.|
|The mind has a thousand eyes,||5|
|And the heart but one;|
|Yet the light of a whole life dies|
|When love is done.|
Francis William Bourdillon – poet – 1852-1921
In recent decades there have been some quite brilliant Mandarins within the Civil Service – from Lord Armstrong, to Lord Butler to Lord O’Donnell to Sir Nick Macpherson, to Sir Jeremy Heywood to name but a few – all outstanding intellects, clearly on top of their political game. The have made great contributions to the governments of the day. However I have always felt in the case of the Civil Service it has always appeared from the outside looking in that the ‘tail is wagging the dog!’
I was under the total misapprehension that the Civil Service was there to advise the government of the day and administer its policies. This is clearly not the case. The Civil Service appears to tell the Government what to do and if senior appointees don’t like what they see or are told to do, they sulk and leave. Such appeared to be the case with Lord Jonathan Hill, who was doing a splendid job for the Cameron government as European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, until 25th June, when he threw the towel in because he did not care for the democratic decision taken by the British people to leave the EU. I suppose I should respect that decision in isolation, but I don’t. The UK government needed his expertise, but oh no! He threw his toys out of the pram and headed back to London, with a standing ovation from the EU Parliament ringing in his ears.
Understandably no government has had the courage to have the drains up within the Civil Service. Radical reform is impossible to implement in less than a decade and no Government is guaranteed that tenure.
Then yesterday’s little masquerade manifested itself, when EU Ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, whom we knew was not a happy bunny, served notice to quit his Brussels post eight months ahead of schedule. In his capacity as the most knowledgeable and supposedly able UK EU diplomat on the planet had clearly told the government that it would take a decade to negotiate a trade deal and it later transpired that he was concerned about the government’s muddled thinking. Again not much in the way of courage shown here. To his team and successor he wrote – “I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power. I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them.” In fairness to Sir Ivan Rogers’s job was to provide intelligence to the UK government on what the EU27 are thinking. However we already knew Juncker, Barnier et al were going to be uncompromising and intransigent – so, nothing new there!
I might be a bit more sympathetic if he had not been perceived to have done a thoroughly inept and pretty useless job in negotiating ‘NOTHING’ for David Cameron. Perhaps Sir Ivan should have left in June. Now the waters are muddied and the job looks like a poisoned chalice. Of course Sir Ivan has a duty of care to send out a warning, but to leave the ship high and dry because you don’t like what you see and therefore are not prepared to give it your best shot is pathetic! Do I think only BREXIT supporting diplomats should only be involved in negotiations? ABSOLUTELY NOT! A diplomat is a diplomat and must do his job regardless of political persuasion. This resignation just looks like a case of a lack of moral fibre or no stomach for the fight! – Very disappointing. As time rolls by I am less than convinced that Top civil servants like taking instructions.
Yesterday the FTSE 100 hit another record level of 7177 – up 35 points with the banking sector blazing the trail in the hope that Trump may ease up on bank regulation post inauguration. On Street of Dreams US investors continued to purr like a Cheshire cat as the DOW rallied by 0.60% and the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ by 0.85%. Mobile phones and the healthcare sector were very popular, though oil stocks did go into reverse. In Asia this morning the NIKKEI jumped like the proverbial grilse – +2.5% against a weak Yen triggering interest in export stocks. The ASX was looking to close up 0.03% and heading towards lunch the Shanghai Composite was up 0.62% and the Hang Seng was down 0.25%. NEXT posted a trading statement, which did not make good reading. In the 54 days from 1st November to 24th December – NEXT sales fell on a like for like basis by 0.4% (NEXT -4.3%, Directory +5.1%). However end of seasons sales were down 7%. Though NEXT retail sales fell 4.3% over all in this period, they were marginally better than the previous quarter. Consumers are beginning to feel the effect of inflation and falling spending power according to Lord Wolfson.
UK companies posting interim results this week – Wednesday – NEXT, Friday – Topps Tiles
US companies posting interim results – Wednesday – FORD (Sales) – Thursday – Costco, Fred’s (Sales), Walgreen Boots Alliance. Monsanto, Constellation Brands, L-Brands, GAP (sales)
Economic data posted this week – Wednesday – UK PMI Construction, Friday – Non-Farm Payrolls and employment data
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