Friday 30 August 2019

That'll help...

... struggling first time buyers to get on the property ladder. ... keep house prices as high as possible.

Home buyers using Help to Buy can now take out a 35-year mortgage

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Bank of Mum and Dad

From the BBC:

Parents spend so much money to get their children onto the housing ladder that they are now among the biggest lenders in the UK, a survey suggests.

The average parental contribution for homebuyers this year is £24,100, up by more than £6,000 compared to last year, according to Legal & General (L&G).

Collectively parents have given £6.3bn, high enough to rank the bank of mum and dad 10th if it was a mortgage lender. Clydesdale Bank, the UK's 10th largest mortgage lender lent £5bn last year...

L&G's research, based on a poll of 1,600 parents, found more than half were using cash to help their children, but others were withdrawing money from their pensions or said they would consider using equity release from their homes.

Is it just me, or has the world gone completely mad?

Older generations, who own most of the housing, are taking out second mortgages to give their children money to buy housing?

At the level of an individual family, this might make a warped sort of sense, but collectively is is a massive Ponzi/pyramid scheme. Old people borrow money to lend it to young people so that they can sell their assets to young people for inflated prices, there being no net gain to anybody apart from banks and large landowners.

I also wonder how many of those who borrow from BOMAD disclose the fact on their mortgage applications...

Friday 23 August 2019

"Mapping the U.S. by Property Value Instead of Land Area"

Excellent article and graphics at, worth a visit, here's the crux of it:

Metrocosm’s June cartograms include one that compares the property value of NYC neighborhoods with various U.S. states. The total value of all the residential property in Kentucky ($300 billion) falls just short of the value of all the housing property in Queens ($317 billion). The housing value of the Upper East Side all by itself is greater than that of six states.

Where it gets really interesting is at the county level.

This cartogram, which compares property values between counties across the continental United States, looks like bad news from a gastroenterologist. What this in fact shows is that just a handful of counties account for the vast majority of property values in the U.S. The distortion is so severe that it doesn’t look like a map of the U.S. at all.

I am sure this is the same for most developed countries, see for example London houses worth more than Scotland, Wales and north combined.

Half the reason is population, even if house prices were the same across the country, London has approx. the same population and same amount of housing as NI, Wales and Scotland combined. That's easy.

The kicker is that population density amplifies this (agglomeration effects), so even if London's population were only half what it is and the same as Scotland's, London housing, with lots of people and homes in a fairly small area would be worth more than housing in Scotland, scattered across a much wider area.

So if anybody says "Land Value Tax would be a tax on London", that's quite true (I'm never sure whether this is an argument for or against LVT). Within London, land in the very centre (Zone 1) would probably be half the total, and land in the City and a few streets in the West End would be half of the total of Zone 1, and so on.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (468)

From The Sun:

LABOUR are plotting a “punitive” tax raid on Middle England that would add nearly £400 to the average council tax bill.

Tory Ministers leapt on incendiary Venezuelan-style proposals* for a blistering new levy based on the value of everybody’s home...

* Strange. It would be more accurate to point out that the proposed system would be very similar to Domestic Rates in Northern Ireland, only without the £400,000 cap, which makes it closer to residential property taxes in the USA (where the rates are usually much higher than the 0.7% proposed here and which is the base rate in Northern Ireland, plus local precepts, so in some areas in NI, the final rate is 0.8% or 0.9%).

The highlight is the first comment:

BewareRedFlag: Its OK for multi millionaire politicians like corbyn [sic] he can afford it. Progressive taxation robs those on median incomes and below of their disposal [sic] income. Labour lied about brexit, they lie and will hammer the working class for tax, forget the £80k tax threshold they want to double foreign aid how dies [sic] that benefit you?

Commenter clearly doesn't understand what "progressive" means. Corbyn would end up paying about £7,000 a year or something. Bill for median home in the UK would be £1,400.

Ceteris Paribus

From here

Me: "[famers] can put up greenhouses anywhere (as long as it's not too steep). Mushrooms grow underground."

Bayard: "You still have to grow plants in something. If it was more economical to grow fruit and veg in polytunnels, everyone would be doing it already."

Well not necessarily.

The point was that dairy farmers claim to be worried about Brexit, for some reason they say milk prices will fall if they can't export it as easily, ignoring the fact that the UK might well be importing less milk and milk products as well, so it would largely cancel out and might even go in their favour.

But let's assume they are right.

The economics is this:

At present, with milk prices as they are, the most profitable use of a certain field is dairy. Putting up polytunnels to grow fruit and veg is less profitable. More income but more expenses. So the rational thing to do is dairy.

If milk prices fall sufficiently, dairy will less profitable or even loss making. At which stage, polytunnels and fruit and veg is the more profitable alternative. Probably not for Welsh hill sides used for insanely unprofitable sheep farming, but the best use for those hill sides is just let trees grow on them (or whatever grows naturally on Welsh hill sides).

Plus I'm not sure Bayard is even right. Take a train across the Netherlands and the entire countryside (the small gaps between towns) appears to be covered in polytunnels. And, despite being such a small country, the Netherlands is the second largest food exporter in the world (the article has a photo of the one single field not covered in polytunnels or surrounded by housing).

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Nobody move or the refineries get hurt!

From the BBC:

The future of the UK's fuel refineries could be threatened by a no-deal Brexit, according to an internal local authority document seen by the BBC.

Under current government plans for no deal, they face a "danger to viability" from cheaper imports, while exports to the EU are set to be hit with tariffs.

Concern is widespread in an industry deemed crucial for both economic and national security...

National security??

From oil well to your car is a long, delicate thread, trailing halfway across the world, through all manner of political, religious, commercial, practical and technological eyes-of-needles (if that's what threads go through).

Our dependence on oil itself is a threat to national security, if we can skip a step and buy the end product cheaper from abroad, let's do it.

Tariff Doublethink

From the BBC:

A no-deal Brexit could cost the farming industry £850m a year in lost profits, new research seen by the BBC suggests...

OK, enlighten us.

Farm business consultants Andersons said that without government support increasing significantly, some farms would inevitably struggle to survive. The government says it will "provide direct support to boost some sectors in the unlikely event this is required".

We own land! Give us money!

Under a no-deal Brexit, farms could have to pay a tariff on goods exported to the EU for the first time. Lamb and live sheep exports could face tariffs of 45-50%, while trade and farming groups say some cuts of beef could see tariffs of more than 90%. If European firms suddenly start having to pay more for UK meat, the fear is they could quickly switch to suppliers in other countries.

Tariffs are bad for the exporter then, OK.

Other so-called "non-tariff barriers", like extra veterinary and customs checks at the border, could also increase costs to farmers.

Non-tariff barriers are also bad, OK.

"It could wipe out the sheep industry in Northern Ireland," farmers Jo and Lindsay Best, from County Antrim, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. "A large percentage of our sheep are exported into France and the Republic of Ireland, and the price of feed could go up as well. It could decimate both the sheep and cattle industry here."

Why would the price of feed go up? Not clear.

Farms already receive more than £3.5bn a year in EU subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

We own land! Give us money!

Under a no-deal Brexit, dairy exports would attract higher tariffs and other restrictions which, it is feared, could lead to an oversupply of milk in the UK and falling prices. At the same time, tariffs on imports from outside the EU could be cut substantially, meaning British farmers would face competition from low-cost butter and cheese made overseas.

So tariffs are bad, but low or zero tariffs are just as bad. Make up your minds.

Colin Ferguson, who runs his own herd of 200 dairy cattle on the Machars peninsula in south-west Scotland, said that would be his "biggest concern". "[Produce from overseas] doesn't need to meet the high welfare or production standards that we conform to, therefore our market gets undermined by cheap produce and the consumer quite rightly will buy the cheapest item on the shelf," he added.

So, non-tariff barriers are good?

The research by Andersons shows the impact of a no-deal Brexit will not be felt equally across the industry. Lamb and beef farming are likely to be hardest hit, especially in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other businesses - like fruit and vegetables, pigs and poultry - could see modest increases in profitability as rivals like Danish bacon attract import tariffs and become more expensive.

So tariffs are good?

Here's a thought, everything will adjust. UK farmers will probably export less, but UK consumers will import less, so it balances out. The UK is only about two-thirds self-sufficient in food, so we can easily consume the entire UK farming industry's output. So lower "food miles" as well, which is surely A Good Thing? And maybe those sheep or dairy farmers can move into fruit and vegetables, pigs and poultry?

Monday 19 August 2019

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (467)

The Daily Express rehashed the garden tax nonsense three days ago, we've done that.

The facts, as reported, are as follows:

"In June, the Labour Party leader unveiled recommendations to introduce a “progressive property tax” - which could see council tax replaced by one based on current house prices."

Which seems pretty uncontroversial to me, it's not far off a modest Land Value Tax.

The Conservative Party calculated the average home would pay £374 a year more than they currently pay in council tax each year.

They are shit at maths. If it replaces Council Tax, by definition, the average bill won't change. The median bill will drop significantly; bills on more expensive homes will go up.

They include this lengthy quote:

Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute think tank, told

“Labour has completely misunderstood the nature of the housing crisis. Their proposals are nothing more than an attack on private ownership and development of land, of families having a stake in society and an asset that they can call their own.

“It would result in fewer people having the opportunity to own their own home, not so-called ‘Land for the Many’. Labour’s plans would wreak havoc on the housing market. 
Time and again we’ve seen when the state tries to control a market it leads to shortage and lower quality — but Corbyn has never learned.

“Young people want to own their own home, not rent from the state the rest of their lives. Rent controls too would cripple the market, which has failed everywhere in the world it has been tried.

So far, so blah, what's his suggestion..?

“There is merit in reforming the council tax system, that is based on outdated 1991 valuations, but this means creating a single, regularly updated land value tax that replaces council tax, business rates and stamp duty in a revenue neutral manner. This is sensible tax reform that sadly Labour is undermining by putting it in the terms of class warfare.

Splendid suggestion, much better than Labour's of course. Chuck in Inheritance Tax as well to show that it's not a jealousy surcharge, it's just a service charge. The more taxes you roll into LVT, the better IMHO.

But why did the Daily Express include this part of the quote? If Labour proposed exactly that, they'd promptly dismiss it as a "garden tax" and we're back to Square One. Quite clearly, average annual bills would be higher than Council Tax bills alone, because it would include an element of SDLT and IHT, although the tax on the median home would be about the same as Council Tax.

The rest of the article is the usual garbage of no interest to the intelligent reader. Attack on wealth, negative equity, Poor Widows, landlords passing on the tax etc.

Probably true

From The Daily Mail:

Parenthood makes people happier - but only after their offspring have moved out.

That's according to research from Germany's Heidelberg University which examined data from a recent European survey.

It asked 55,000 people about their emotional well-being and found happiness is more common among those aged 50 or above who have independent children.

Specifically, they were less likely to be depressed and have more financial stability than their childless peers.

In two years, I will be able to confirm to confirm the veracity of this or otherwise.

Last time I posted something along these lines, A K Haart commented that the joy is short lived - after a few years, your children dump their children on you.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Common sense tells us that effect of gravity moves at the speed of light

This appears to be an open question; it wasn't until 2002 that they were fairly sure and very recently (2017) that they established that, "assuming a delay of zero to ten seconds, the difference between the speeds of gravitational and electromagnetic waves, vGW − vEM, is constrained to between −3×10−15 and +7×10−16 times the speed of light."

I would have thought it was easier to apply common sense.

The light we see from the sun arrives from where the sun was 8 minutes 20 seconds ago (assuming for simplicity the earth is stationary and the sun moves round it).

If you measure the direction in which the earth is being pulled by the sun, you'd establish that it is being pulled towards where the sun was 8 minutes 20 seconds ago.

The light meter and gravity meter will be pointing in exactly the same direction; if not, there'd be all sorts of apparent weird wobbles (which would make measuring distances and so on a lot easier, as it happens).

And well done to these chaps, while we're on the topic. Instead of chasing non-existent Dark Matter, they are actually measuring and observing exciting stuff that actually happens.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Remainer MPs - couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery

First write down what you know:

a) My general impression is that a majority of MPs, however slim, are Remainers.

b) We know that the Tories are by far and away the largest party, and with the support of the DUP they have a majority of 1.

c) Jeremy Corbyn thinks that if he can trigger a vote of no confidence, that he will somehow end up as PM. Most Remainer MPs have told him to get stuffed.

Therefore the only workable plan (from a Remainer MP point of view) is to trigger a vote of no confidence. Johnson would clearly lose it, as it would only require a few Tory MPs (i.e. Remainers) to vote against him (let's assume all non-Tory/DUP MPs vote against him) and then MPs have the opportunity to choose a new PM. Those are the rules.

The chosen new PM has to tick two boxes:

a) A Remainer.

b) A Tory (they are the largest party etc).

Remainer MPs - even non-Tory Remainers - would be daft not to vote for him/her, as the alternative is leaving Johnson in place; let's rule out Corbyn as PM, that's not happening. Half of his own MPs wouldn't vote for him. The Lib Dems, SNP et al are all saying "Ooh, avoiding a cliff edge Brexit is the most important issue facing this country today". Well, either it is or it isn't, but if it is, then hold your noses and vote for a Tory.

Tory MPs - even Leavers - would be daft not to vote for him/her, as the alternative would probably be a General Election, which most of them don't want to risk.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

"Twenty fags a day no worse than city living"

From The Metro:

SMOKING a packet of cigarettes a day is no worse for the health than air pollution that city dwellers are exposed to, a shock report warns.

Breathing in fumes from traffic, planes, power plants and industry on a long-term, regular basis is causing growing numbers of urban non-smokers to develop chronic lung disease, experts say.

29 years of puffing on 20 cigarettes daily was found to do no more damage than just a decade of city living...

A government spokesperson said last night: ‘We might have been exaggerating the dangers of smoking a bit recently, which is why we will be easing off on the smokers and meddling elsewhere instead.’

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Please sir, may we have some more?

From City AM:

Taxi drivers have slammed plans to close off key locations in the City of London to traffic during the summer, saying they amount to a “PR gimmick”.

Key City hotspots, including St Mary Axe and Chancery Lane, will be closed for days in August and September to allow workers to enjoy traffic-free lunch breaks, the City of London Corporation announced today.

Yes, it is a bit of a gimmick, but let them try it.

People might prefer it or they might hate it. Some businesses will benefit, others will lose out. There's only one way to find out.

Here's the fun bit:

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said:

“While the taxi trade agrees strongly with the need to tackle London’s toxic air, one off stunts like car-free days won’t do much to cut pollution in the long-term.

“Instead of PR gimmicks, the City of London Corporation should make a real contribution to improving air quality by installing more rapid charge points for the 2000 London cabbies who are out picking up passengers in zero emissions capable taxis.

"There are currently only two rapid charge points available to cabbies within the richest Square Mile in the world. This is totally absurd and we need to see many more installed to encourage more cabbies to make the switch to electric.”

The cabbies much prefer the carrot to the stick, especially if somebody else is paying for the carrot.

Monday 12 August 2019

"Ecological grief"

From The Guardian:

The climate crisis is causing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety to people in Greenland who are struggling to reconcile the traumatic impact of global heating with their traditional way of life...

According to its lead author, Kelton Minor... “The Arctic is a bellwether for the unequal impact of global warming on social and economic systems. As countries struggle to limit future risks and overall warming to 1.5C [an increase of 2.7F], many Arctic and Greenlandic residents are already living in regional climates that have changed by more than this, in less than a lifetime."


First it was the polar bears, but it turned out that their numbers were stable or rising, so then the new poster boys of climate change were people on low lying Pacific islands, but it turned out that some islands were just sinking (returning whence they came), rather than the sea level actually  rising.

So now they've gone on the opposite tack again.

Funny how climate change only affects remote and small populations, where the man in the street has no way of verifying this one way or another.

Saturday 10 August 2019

The Holy Trinity

I have finally snapped...

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Von Thünen's Law of Rent - it's all about lack of supply... NOT!

In an idle moment, I googled "average disposable income UK regions wages rent", the first relevant result was in This is Money:

The survey compared average city salaries against local rent and other standard monthly outgoings for 30 UK cities, calculating the disposable income of city residents after deducting tax, bills and other necessary general outgoings such as travel and food.

It discovered that the average British person gets to keep £1,083 per month after expenses and tax with the average monthly wage coming in at £2,073, while the average essential outgoings, such as rent, travel and food, total £990...

Despite Londoners' earning the highest wage, they also, unsurprisingly, have the most bills and so feature much lower on the overall list. Their disposable income is £1,095, only £12 above the UK average in the study. Their monthly outgoings of £1,629 are also over £350 more than any other city.

Hull is the city with the lowest outgoings of any city in the UK at just £767 per month. However, residents have a lower monthly wage of £1,816 which means their disposable income is £1,049, below the study’s UK average.

Which is exactly what you'd expect from Von Thünen's law (or even just a basic understanding of human nature). The lowest wage area sets the baseline. In areas with higher wages, the extra wages go into higher rent (other fixed costs are pretty much the same everywhere).

The equilibrium is reached when few people are willing to move because the rent saved is matched by lower wages; or the higher wages are matched by higher rent, which is what we observe in real life.

For sure, there are outliers - the survey mentions Derby with the highest disposable income after rent (£1,456) and Brighton with the lowest (£751). This can't be explained by the basic analysis, but boils down to the fact that Derby is considered boring (no idea if it is, but perceptions matter) and Brighton is considered fun, hip and fashionable, plus has nicer weather and a beach.

To paraphrase W C Fields, "people would rather be dead in Brighton that live in Derby" and they are prepared to pay £700 a month for the pleasure.

Here is their chart which is quite striking (blue dots = wages, red does = rent plus other fixed costs):

So the next time somebody says that rents are high in London because of "lack of supply", refer them to this.

You do not need to adjust for "lack of supply", all you need to know is average monthly wages in any area. You subtract £1,800 (average wages in lowest wage areas), which gives you location rent. Add on about £400 for cost/value of bricks and mortar and that tells you local average monthly rents.

To estimate house prices in an area, you then divide annual rents by mortgage repayment rates (interest + principal, currently about 3% - 4%).

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Well, what a surprise!

From The BBC:

Cabinet minister Michael Gove says the EU "seem to be refusing to negotiate with the UK" over a new Brexit deal.

Mr Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, said he was "deeply saddened" that Brussels was, in his words, saying "no, we don't want to talk".

It comes after the EU said UK demands to remove the Irish backstop from Theresa May's deal were unacceptable.

I'm surprised that Gove seems to be surprised by this.

The EU have at least been consistent all along - either take our crappy and humiliating deal or we will do our best to ruin you. Either way, this will be a lesson to anybody country which ever considers leaving.

England v Australia

It seems that Australia's selectors enjoy the same inside joke as England's, to wit, choosing as many players as possible whose names are ordinary words (nouns, professions, verbs, adjectives etc). They've scored six each with their current squads (if you squint at it from a certain angle)

Jason Roy
Rory Burns
Joe Root
Joe Denly
Jos Buttler
Ben Stokes
Jonny Bairstow
Moeen Ali (Alley)
Chris Woakes
Stuart Broad
James Anderson

David Warner
Cameron Bancroft
Usman Khawaja
Steven Smith
Travis Head
Matthew Wade
Tim Paine (Pain)
Pat Cummins (Comings and goings)
James Pattinson
Nathan Lyon (Lion)
Peter Siddle

This is not normal!

I checked our telephone list at work for comparison, out of eighty people we score a mere dozen, which I think is a typical ratio.

England's women's football team has a lower ratio than the men's cricket team, with a respectable but unspectacular nine out of twenty-two. Let's see if they can improve that.

Monday 5 August 2019

"Export ban to stop £10m JMW Turner painting leaving UK"

From the BBC:

A temporary export bar has been placed on a £10m painting by one of the UK's most celebrated artists, JMW Turner. The masterpiece, The Dark Rigi, the Lake of Lucerne, depicts a scene in the Swiss mountains - but there are fears it could be exported for sale abroad.

Arts minister Rebecca Pow said it would be a "terrible loss to the whole country" if the painting went overseas. The export ban runs until 1 December, in the hope the money can be raised to buy it and keep it in the UK.

Why? Why is this any of the government's business? Why is this considered A Good Thing?

While Turner is indisputably one of the greats, I'd never heard of this particular painting, and I guess most people hadn't, ergo it would be no loss to most of us whatsoever. As long as somebody, somewhere is enjoying it, so be it.

The logical conclusion of this would be that British galleries would send back all paintings by French artists to France, by German artists to Germany etc and only display paintings by British artists. Which I think would make visiting galleries anywhere a lot less interesting. Ergo, this would be A Bad Thing. Is it not vastly preferable for each of the main galleries in every country to show paintings by artists from around the world?

Fun in The Sun

From The Sun:

Tenants suffer as rent prices soar following ban on fees

MORE tenants than ever before have been hit with rent rises following a ban on fees, claims new research. The number of letting agents who saw renters suffering increases rose to the highest figure on record last month at 55 per cent, up from 45 per cent in May.

So far, so rehash of ARLA press release. To my relief, the article pounces on the obvious weakness with the figures:

ARLA Propertymark didn't share how much it's seen rents increase by when contacted by The Sun. The figures should also be taken with a pinch of salt as they're based on a survey of 272 members out of a total of 9,500.

The article then continues to take apart the ARLA propaganda...

Independent property expert Henry Pryor told The Sun: "I simply don’t believe that rents are rising and where they are that it is down to the tenant fees ban.

"Landlord groups have cried wolf over tax changes, stamp duty changes, the banning of the high dubious practice of stuffing tenants for costs that the landlord should be paying and yet rents have risen at most by inflation.

"Whilst of course there will have been some increase in rents, this will have been offset for tenants by the reduction in the fees being forced upon them."

Georgie Laming, campaigns manager at Generation Rent, also said it hasn't had tenants saying that rents have gone up.

She said: "Some landlords might try to increase rent to cover loss of earnings from the tenant fees ban but this is much preferable to large upfront costs that put lots of families into debt at the start of a tenancy.

"Whilst landlords may now claim that rents are rising because it's now cheaper to move, tenants have more clout to negotiate with their landlord over things like repairs that need doing or rent increases. It's important to remember that rents can only rise to an amount that tenants can afford - so landlords raising their rents will find it harder to let in the long run."

The article then concludes with this:

Rents could rocket by 15 per cent over next five years as the number of properties "dries up", an industry expert warned a year ago. Yet the cost of renting fell for the first time in over a decade earlier this year.

Friday 2 August 2019

Bloody snowflake!

From The Telegraph:

The first Supreme Court judge to not be given a life peerage has revealed his disappointment in Theresa May for denying him the honour. 

Lord Dyson, who adopted the courtesy title when he joined the highest court in the land, had been expecting a role in the House of Lords when he retired in October 2016.

In his memoirs, to be published next month, he reveals a peerage had been within his grasp when David Cameron, then Prime Minister, “cleared the way” for his appointment... 

“His successor, Theresa May had other ideas,” Lord Dyson says of the peerage proposals in A Judge’s Journey. “She did not like the idea of peerages being granted automatically to any group of people.”

Holders of high office in public life, such as judges, were traditionally ensured an automatic role in scrutinising legislation, until Mrs May sought to cut the size of Parliament’s upper house.

It is understood that, although the former Prime Minister was a stickler for propriety, she had taken umbrage with such honours being automatic. She [also] suggested last year older peers should “embrace retirement”...

Talk about first world problems and good for Ms May! Who promptly went back down in my estimation when I read on:

... but this week faced accusations of cronyism for appointing her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, to the Lords in her resignation honours list.

Ah well.

The snub was said to have left the judge “disappointed”, as “to sit in the House of Lords would have been a fitting end to my journey from the Jewish community of Leeds”.

Double snowflake.

Why does he think it would be "fitting"?

WTF does his religion have to do with anything? Most of the Jewish people I knew in Leeds were relatively well off (not that I knew so many as to representative of all Jewish people in Leeds, to be fair).

I'm not aware that Jewish people particularly struggle to make it in the legal business, so it's not necessarily a triumph-in-the-face-of -adversity tale.

By-election fun

From the BBC:

The Liberal Democrats have won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, leaving new PM Boris Johnson with a working majority in Parliament of one...

Now, with the thinnest majority, he will have to rely heavily on the support of his own MPs and his confidence-and-supply partners the DUP to get any legislation passed in key votes.

His majority is thinner than that!

The website has been updated and shows a majority of precisely zero.

650 MPs. minus Speaker (who doesn't vote) and minus seven Sinn Fein MPs, who refuse to attend = 642, divided by 2 = 321.

There are now 311 Conservative MPs plus 10 DUP MPs, who are in a sort-of-coalition with the Conservatives, total 321.
UPDATE: Bayard reminds us that there are also two opposition deputy speakers and a Conservative deputy speaker, who don't cast a vote, which would bring the Conservative + DUP majority back up to one.
Also, apart from the Lib Dems slavish Remainism and Climate Alarmism, I still have a bit of a soft spot for them and would like to say, well done for finally electing a woman as party leader!

Of the main political parties, this leaves only Labour which does not and/or never had a woman as leader. Yup, even UKIP briefly had a woman as leader and Brexit Party is relatively new (and might disappear again soon).

"Record capital gains means £8.8bn tax bill"

From Your Money:

Figures from HMRC show that in 2017-18 chargeable gains for CGT were £57.9bn, an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year, while CGT liabilities were £8.8bn, up 14 per cent on the year before.

The number of CGT taxpayers increased by 3 per cent to 281,000 but most CGT revenues came from a relatively small number of taxpayers. Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of CGT came from those who made gains of £1m or more – this group generally represents around 3 per cent of CGT taxpayers each year.

The HMRC figures suggested that people paying CGT are most likely to be aged 55 to 64, followed by those aged 65 to 74.


1. Your first thought would be, why is the annual exempt amount only £12,000? They could hike it to £100,000 at least with barely a dent in overall receipts.

The reason why not is because CGT isn't actually intended to raise much revenue and certainly not to tax capital (or capital gains). That £8.8 billion is barely one percent of HMRC total tax receipts.

CGT was introduced to discourage people from dressing up income as capital gains (which were not taxable until 1965 in the UK). There's still some incentive to do so, as CGT rates are half as high as income tax rates, but this way, people are forced to report their capital gains on their tax returns, enabling HMRC to have a closer look.

2. The fact that about 8,000 individuals paid two-thirds of CGT suggests that a tiny number of people own two-thirds of the wealth (excl. the largest asset class of all, people's main residences, which is probably not quite so unequally distributed).

Thursday 1 August 2019

Schrodinger's Brexit

From the BBC:-

Currently, British farmers do not face tariffs when selling into Europe, but in the event of a no-deal Brexit the same products would have tariffs of between 40% and 50% applied.

That would make them much more expensive and less attractive to European buyers, leading to fears the market for British lamb on the European mainland would collapse, forcing some British farmers out of business.

From the Telegraph:-

Turkey twizzlers could be back on school dinner menu because of food shortages after a no deal exit from the European Union, following a new Government warning.

We're simultaneously going to have food shortages in this country AND farmers who don't have anyone wanting to buy their food. Right.

Personally, I find the idea of moving lamb, beef or cheese around Europe to be rather odd. Most exports are either about climate (like we can't grow pineapples in England) or specialisation (it's more expensive to build another Ferrari factory than just transport them). It's not really specialised to produce beef or even most cheese. We make brie in Somerset, there's cows grazing all over Normandy.

Which leads me to think that where there's a profit advantage to exporting lamb to Europe, it's probably very small compared to selling it here. The idea that the farmers will be throwing out lambs rather than selling to a supermarket for a smaller profit is ridiculous.