4 May 2012

Posted by DMC on 5 May 2012 in Diary |

Yesterday, saw the first local elections since the Conservatives were voted into government. It only covered about a third of the country as elections are held every year but for different parts of the country. It is the first true test of the current standing the government. The incumbent party always expects to do badly as it is mid-term and too short a time to see the true effects of its mandate. True to form, the Conservatives lost around 400 seats.

The main beneficiaries were the Labour Party who made sweeping gains in a grim night for the coalition government. They gained around 800 seats and gained control of 21 councils. It was a disappointing night for the Lib Dems, who retain their share of the vote at 16%, but lost a large number of seats. If this is repeated in the general election I suspect the Lib Dems would be all but annihilated. This being so I’m sure we will see some drastic changes in the coalition government between now and the next election. The other small parties such as Ukip and Respect racked up significant gains. Frankly these elections are normally fought on local issues and the number of people supporting one party or the other is not normally reflected in a General Election. The Tories were given a boost to this effect, that the governor of the Bank of England made some very positive remarks about the progress of the Tories plan getting the country out of our present financial mess.

The overall number of people voting for the three parties came out at 31% Conservative, 39% Labour and 16% Liberals. I know that these local elections are usually fought on local issues and for this reason do not reflect what would happen if there was a general election just around the corner. Nevertheless, it never ceases to amaze me how the public memory is so short. As much as anything else our fragile economic state is the result of George Brown’s (the last Labour Prime Minister actions. I will not list again, as I have done on a number of previous occasions, but anyone with any intelligence could see quite clearly what disastrous losses this Prime Minister calls us and squandered capital assets over the period of his governance. I will not deny that the world recession as not had any effect on our economy and it would have been far less if George Brown and run our economy in a more sensible fashion. Having said that we are still hanging on by the skin of our teeth to our triple AAA rating under the Standards and Poor credit agency this compared with the reducing credit rating in Greece and Spain which makes it much more expensive for them to borrow money in order to service their debts. As long as we can retain our triple-A rating we can borrow cheaply on the world market and have a chance of working our way through the heavy burden of debt left to us by the socialist government.

On the home front I had a visit from an old friend and arbitration colleague, John Power, representing, on this occasion the Law Court Branch of the Arbitration Club. They have accumulated a handsome fund over the past 20 years and John was charged with the task of sounding me out as what they should do with it. There was a hint that they would like to establish something in my memory, and kind though it is, I would rather they had not asked me. However, they did, so I then the approached the problem from the point of view of wishing to commemorate someone in the club who was perhaps a founding member and who has played an important part in its growth. I suggested that first of all they could quietly sound out the other clubs, including The Mother Club, as to whether there was a general feeling that they should join their surplus funds together, or go it alone. Most, if not all of the branches have spare funds so that a larger joint fund would put the club in a position to spend a larger amount annually on whatever cause it was decided to support. Alternatively, even asking the other clubs they would still have the option of going it alone. I suggested that they could consider something on the lines of an annual bursary, say, limited to a specific figure to help students who would be promoting knowledge of arbitration and mediation

In addition, they could consider something, I started myself at the China University of Political Law and Science (CUPL) where I have taught for 10 years and my tenure as a Professor runs until the end of 2013. The students at this largest law school in the world come from every corner of China and some of them are incredibly poor. In order to get to the University they have sat and past a national competition finishing near the top .

What I did was to to pay the modest fee for my course for some 10 students, leaving it to the University to offer this bursary to 10 of the poorest students. We could continue this as a formal offer annually. These students are are only required to pay a very modest fee. I believe last time I went it was the equivalent of around ¬£35 per student so no big deal from our end. But even doing that we would still need a larger project to support annually stop Beyond that I really didn’t want to have anything to do with it, particularly, as it was implicit that any fund they set up might be in my name, as founder President.

The news on the manufacturing front was the announcement yesterday that a Chinese conglomerate had bought a controlling interest in Lotus UK. This iconic car has been successfully manufactured in the UK,. I think since the 20’s, but somehow has lost its market share and for one reason or another needed a large injection in cash which the current proprietors simply do not have. I suppose if the jobs remain in the UK we cannot complain if the profits go elsewhere, although I would have liked to have seen the government stepping in and offering some sort of bridging loan to keep the whole business British.

It is clear to me that the Chinese are going to infiltrate many of our iconic companies over the next decade or so but, as I say, provided the jobs stay here and they invest in this country then we cannot, or should not, complain. I suggested to my daughter, some time ago, that she considers getting special lessons for the three grandchildren to learn Mandarin. This would give them a flying start against the competition for jobs in the future. If you start early enough children seem to learn far more quickly than they would if they were older.

Click here to see an amusing sign in a  shop somewhere, but certainly not in China purporting to making the learning of Chinese a little easier!

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