Friday 14th June: Stephen Hester may be leaving the RBS, but that should not distract the Chancellor from the real challenge, argues Professor David B. Smith.
The announcement on 12th June that Stephen Hester was to step down as chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) at the end of this year has prompted much speculation. Did Mr Hester fall or was he pushed? If pushed, who was responsible? If by the Chancellor, George Osborne, what was the aim and will Mr Osborne be more or less likely to achieve his aim as a result? Finally, what now for the RBS group?
Stephen Hester, who admits to mixed feelings about such a stressful and politically exposed position, was expecting to carry on for some time to come: ergo, he was pushed. The Chancellor appears to have put pressure on the other RBS directors and it seems primarily to have been his decision that Mr Hester should be replaced. The main motive appears to have been a desire to include a positive message in next week’s Mansion House Speech, probably with an eye on the 2015 general election. Mr Hester may also have seemed something of an ‘over-mighty subject’ with a vision for the RBS – superior in business terms but less appealing from a party political viewpoint. In particular, Mr Hester seems to have wanted to maintain a greater presence for the securities arm – which people forget has often cross subsidised the retail banking side in the RBS and other banking groups in the past – and may also have been less keen to lend money imprudently in order to boost the economy before the rapidly looming election date.
Friday 7th June: As Labour revamps its policy agenda, what should the right's approach be? Here two Politeia authors, Professor Tim Congdon, CBE and Dr Robin Harris,CBE, discuss the direction for the future.*
Tim Congdon.... Two conflicting forces have been at work in the British debate over the EU in the last 25 years, opening up a large space between what people wanted and what their government meant to deliver. But politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The rise of the UK Independence Party has started to fill the empty space, creating an extraordinarily uncertain and fascinating backdrop to the 2014 European elections and the 2015 general election. The eventual result may well be that Britain leaves the European Union, but the process of withdrawal could be complex and messy, and its outcome ambiguous and incomplete. UKIP has been in existence for 20 years, but in some respects its work has only just begun. Read the full article.
Friday 31st May: That's the message from Dr Tony Hockley, the author of A Premium on Patients: Funding the Future NHS, as BMJ study suggests death risk from surgery is greater at the weekend.
Variations in care are perhaps the worst aspect of the NHS. Indeed, the irony is that one of the world's most centralised and controlled health systems, should also be so fickle. Despite the fact that funding from general taxation brings some equity to the financing of Britain's health system, it also effectively offsets this.
As evidence mounts on significant and unnecessary variations in care, the power of voice and choice will be used by those who can avoid the worst. Until recently, appalling standards of care tended only to become evident to users when they suffered at its hands. This seems to be changing. A series of inquiries culminating in the scandal of Mid Stafforshire Foundation Trust, have begun to raise awareness of what can happen.
Monday 27th May: Dr Sheila Lawlor, Politeia's Director, reflects on the growth of euroscepticism across Europe
We in the United Kingdom are not the only people to ‘bang on about Europe’ or so it seems. ‘Strong views by consumers’ across Europe and insufficient support forced the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner, Mr Dacian Ciolos to 'withdraw' his plan to ban olive oil jugs from restaurant tables.
That Mr Ciolos is unelected goes without saying and needless to say, he does not say it. Nor does he add that pressure is mounting across the EU against the grand projet, and greater distrust even in the founder countries, Germany, France and Italy. A recent EU ‘barometer’ of trust, showed popular mistrust had risen dramatically in the five years ending in 2012. In Italy it rose to 53 percent – from 28 percent. In Germany, the figures are also up, to 58 per cent (from around 37 percent). And even in France things do not look rosy for the Euro project – with around 56 percent now eurosceptical (from 41 percent) euronews. (Source: EU, Barometer via http://eurone.ws/ZmyGwP )
Friday 17th May: As the National Audit Office gives the thumbs down to High Speed Two, Christian Wolmar explains that directing investment towards improving the existing network would bring greater benefit to more people.
Despite being an avid supporter and advocate for the railways, I have always been sceptical of HS2. The scheme to build a high speed line from London to Birmingham and then in a Y shape to Leeds and Manchester has always seemed to me to be rooted more in the desire to have a grand projet rather than any well-researched transport need.
The benefits in terms of jobs created have always seemed to be too nebulous, the costs (£32bn plus rolling stock) too high and the effect on the environment too damaging (not just in the Chilterns, but further north, too, as well as in London). I have pointed out all of this many times previously (see for example www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2013/01/hs-is-one-big-punt/) and so I was delighted that all my past arguments have been backed by the National Audit Office.