The wooden horse left outside the besieged city of Troy by the ancient Greeks was a trick to gain entry. It resulted in the proverb Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
But modern day Greece has little left to offer to either its Eurozone creditors or its own population. Despite years of bailouts and national upheaval the country is heading ever closer to economic meltdown.
The Greek population wants to keep the euro – because it is a stable international currency. Unlike the previous drachma that kept falling in value as the government spent too much and printed more money. Powerful politicians in Europe want to keep Greece in the eurozone to become part of a federal Euroreich. But both groups could be disappointed unless things turnaround soon.
Greece’s economic survival is in question again through its short-term financial commitments. These include euro debt repayments of 6,740 million in June; 5,950 million in July and 4,380 million in August (source: BBC). Considering that the Greek government is already struggling – unsuccessfully – to pay its suppliers, civil servants and pensioners the chance of meeting these massive debts is close to zero.
One Greek expert (Prof Kousenidis) is quoted as saying If there is no deal by the end of May Grexit (Greece’s exit from the eurozone) is inevitable. There has to be a deal.
But there are very few days left before this latest crunch deadline. And if no solution is found then the Greek government may decide to go out with a bang – tearing up contracts, nationalising banks and grabbing any remain assets. That would leave Germany with a gift of 56,000 million euros of bad debt and the rest of the world wondering which part of Euroland would be next.
And if things go really badly then the UK’s proposed referendum on EU membership could become academic and overtaken by events well before 2017.
OK, anyone that is interested should now be recovered enough remember the results from last night. So here are some less-reported facts about Eurovision 2015.
Out of the 39 countries that could have voted for the UK entry only 3 ranked the BBC’s choice highly enough for it to get any votes. San Marino ranked it 8th while Ireland and Malta ranked it 10th. Australia and Israel ranked it 11th but that was not enough to gain us any points.
For 25 of the countries Electro Velvet was ranked 20th or worse out of the 27 finalists; with the Czech Republic and Moldova giving them last place. In contrast 30 of the 39 countries put Sweden in their top three; with 12 of them giving Mans Zelmerlow the top spot. The votes from Montenegro and Macedonia were suspect – and both broadcasters were reported as being disqualified – but without them the results are little changed.
Our only consolations being that the UK finished ahead of Germany and that Conchita’s self-promotion platform has finally come to an end.
But now for the opinions. Most went with – the UK entry being rubbish; the Europeans wanting to humiliate us; the BBC wasting our money; Australia did much better on less money and a worldwide audience seeing live evidence that British music was in terminal decline. Certainly Grandad’s positive approach this year was at best a mistake … as is any expectation of executive resignations at the Beeb.
For the future we still have the option of letting Scotland choose the UK song for 2016 – if only to see if Europe just hates the English. Another approach would be to allocate points based upon broadcaster size – since this is how the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) allocates subscription fees. The UK still would not win – and may even do worse – but at least the voting would reflect the scale of viewer support. And finally ITV / Channel 4 are also EBU members so the whole problem could be handed over to them – if they are crazy enough to accept. But really the UK should simply withdraw from the contest until better song writers and singers take a serious interest and want to take part. It would not reduce our EBU fees – but it might improve the health of stressed British viewers.
The first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest starts today in Vienna with a live broadcast on BBC TV tonight – but weirdly not on Radio 2 until Thursday. Of course the UK singers, Electro Velvet, do not appear until the final on Saturday night. However they have been busy rehearsing at the venue since last week. On the night they will appear in costumes fitted with glowing LED lights – if the batteries hold out – and are reported as saying the whole Eurovision experience has been illuminating for us and we can’t wait to literally light up on stage in front of the entire world – it’s going to be electric!
Meanwhile the BBC website reports that their Scott Mills is already busy meeting contestants as the party starts in Austria… These early celebrations clearly mean that the BBC are still confident that their selection will meet all our expectations. Sadly not a view endorsed by the latest music charts or the online betting – where the UK has slipped from 11th to 17th. But perhaps if we all concentrate really hard with positive thoughts it will be alright on the night …
Now that the UK general election results are confirmed the politicians can look forward to doing some real work for the country rather than their own careers. Today all the new faces will be trying to find their way around the Westminster maze. But some of the key posts are unchanged and hopefully the occupants will have had enough experience to be effective quickly – if any political post can be truly effective.
Today’s media is again full of gossip from the Westminster village. Largely ignoring what should be at the top of any government’s peace-time priorities – our national finances. And despite all the manifesto promises, by every party, the country is still in a tough position. Why? Because in the big picture our national credit card is getting near its limit.
Politicians talk of giving billions to the NHS or for HS2 as if they had a mountain of cash to hand. But in reality they will be charging it all to our national credit card. Just like real credit cards, interest has to be paid on the outstanding balance. And paid first – before anything comes off the balance.
Now national finances involve some big numbers and quite a few MPs seem unable to grasp the difference between millions and billions. But getting to grips with the numbers is vital for all the new recruits if they are to help make the right decisions. And by using some basic official statistics and a simple spreadsheet anyone can see that the current interest bill on our national credit card is around £4,000 million every month. A huge amount to be paid before seeing what is left to cover public service wages, pensions, benefits, etc.
Looking back to earlier years the monthly interest bill was around £2,600 million in 2008/9/10 and a more manageable £1,700 million in 2003 (come back Gordon?). Looking forward the independent planners are predicting interest charges will grow to £4,700 million per month by 2019. With a population of around 64 million that means everyone, young and old, is going to have pay the Government some £72 per month every month – for nothing but interest – to cover previous national spending. Not too bad I guess – but that means £288 per month for a family of four. And when we see that interest rates are at an all-time low that could spell trouble ahead.
Higher rates in the future will mean increased interest charges. And our national credit card is now being charged a much lower interest rate than our personal credit cards. So if the present national interest rate of 2.5% moved upon to a more normal 5% then our sample family of four would be paying £576 per month. Could that really happen? Well from 1984 to 1992 the average rate was 10% – four times what it is now. If that happened again then our family would be paying additional taxes of £1,152 per month just to cover interest.
Now politicians of all parties often commit to big ticket spending based upon vague promises of raising more taxes in the future. The trouble is that is how we got to where we are now. And no party, even with an austerity budget, can face truly limiting their spending to what actually comes into the national bank account. There are even some mis-guided souls who want our interest bill to keep growing until it is unaffordable. Since that would cause the national economic collapse that they want!
Plenty of risks in our grandchildren’s future …
Today is the day for voting in the UK General Election. And the national media is full of reports and analysis of the big picture. So instead Grandad has looked at just one constituency – Doncaster North. Here there are eight candidates standing. They represent the English Democrats, Liberal Democrats, Official Monster Raving Loony Party, Conservative Party, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Green Party, Labour Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Checking out Doncaster North on Your Next MP gives a disappointing picture. As electioneering finished none of the candidates had provided a CV, no party leaflets had been uploaded and just one local event had been held. In fact three of the eight candidates did not provide a photo, two offered no means of contacting them and one had no information at all. Perhaps that was due to there being too many political web sites?
Doncaster North has been a UK constituency since 1983 and in all previous elections has returned a large Labour majority. Up to 2005 the seat was held by MPs who were ex-miners with strong local connections. Then there was a complete reversal as Ed Miliband was dropped in. His background of living in London, being educated at Corpus Christi Oxford and the London School of Economics and being a special adviser at the Treasury, with a sabbatical year at Harvard, were hardly the best credentials for providing an understanding voice in Westminster for the local community. But still he won the seat easily despite a 4.2% swing to Conservative. It was the same again in 2010 even though the Conservatives did gain another 2.8%. And despite this slide in votes our future Prime Minster (to quote the recent hustings intros) could continue to occupy this safe Northern seat for decades.
And this illustrates one of the problem with UK politics. In far too many cases voting has become tribal, habitual and highly predictable. Yet to make progress – or just keep up with other countries – UK politics needs to become more practical and directly relevant to the voting majority. A difficult task when many of a nation’s treats and opportunities are beyond our normal experience. But there are, sometimes, issues that are both important and understandable. In Scotland the independence issue has been the one that has upset the status quo. However nothing seems to be that important for the English voters – despite attempts to make the NHS into the modern day equivalent of the battle for Stalingrad. So by tomorrow the votes will be cast and the English politicians will be back at their usual posts for another five years … probably.
Very Low Key – For those that did not recognise the quote Take me back to Vienna then this link to The Ying Tong Song by The Goons on YouTube might help. And back in the present day we have, like last year, promo CDs of the latest UK entry for sale on eBay unused. An entry that remains at around 11th place in the betting. This compares badly to 2014 when punters put Molly in 5th place even though the actual votes only gave a placing of 17th. This year the favourites have consistently been Sweden, Italy and Australia. And so BBC execs are facing the worst possible outcome – not only selecting another dud but also being outclassed by a much smaller public service broadcaster. But still trying to be positive …
Greener Homes – It is not just zero carbon homes that are missing from the manifestos. Feedback from Grandads has pointed out that a range of expensive projects have been glossed over. For example London’s Crossrail project gets just a part of one sentence in the Conservative publication but nothing at all in the Labour or the Lib Dem works. No obvious mention is made of the multi-billion pound smart metering project. And just a few words appear about HS2 / HS3 from all the parties currently in power. But there is also the view that the published manifestos bear little resemblance to what will actually be attempted by the politicians over the next five years – especially if we have a mash-up of policies as a result of a fragmented parliament.