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Why Value Investing? Or ‘Why not follow the rest of the herd off the cliff?’

15 Mar

Investors, like cows, sheep, zebra and other herding animals, like to do what they see everybody else doing. If the rest of the herd jumps off a cliff, many other investors will follow the herd even if they suspect a hard landing awaits. Because if everyone else is doing it, it must be the right thing to do.

A prime example of this tendency is the recent Snapchat IPO, which we’re sure you’ve heard about but we’ll revisit for illustrative purposes. Despite having access to detailed information about the company’s fundamentals and history – it has never before made a profit – investors piled in when open trading began, leading the share price to rise 44%, from an initial $17 to $24.48. The opening price of $17 was itself above the range predicted by analysts.

There are no words for what Snapchat the company represents. Literally. It cannot even categorise itself correctly. In its IPO prospectus it described itself as a ‘camera company’, which as it has never to public knowledge made and sold a camera is not strictly accurate.

Go in the Other Direction

Value investing defies this ‘herding behaviour’ by taking a contrarian bet on the stock the market undervalues. Value investors look for assets, particularly shares, whose low market price belies the underlying fundamentals. They take a 3-5 year view on the company based on factors like the general outlook for the sector, the company’s debt to equity ratio, sales and revenue history, and sales and revenue projections.

They might dig deeper, and look at how secure a hold the company has over its primary assets – for example, whether they are overhung by a fixed or floating charge. A fixed charge means the item in question is clearly put up as collateral to a single defined investor, whereas with a floating charge the hierarchy of entitlement is less clearly defined.

All of these contrarian bets will be placed within a portfolio which is risk-optimised for the desired minimum return. When we say ‘risk-optimised’, essentially we are treating risk, or volatility, as a tradable item which though we cannot exactly quantify it, we are counting on its yielding us a premium in the long-term. We like risk, when we think we can control it.

Portfolio investors will almost always diversify this risk across several sectors or regions, analysing groups of stocks or indices to see their level of correlation, and choosing those which have historically not been highly correlated. For example, automobile sales and hotel visits might be correlated, if inversely, with the price of oil, or petrol; cheap fuel encourages more travel.

Two sectors which are less likely to be correlated are consumer durables – ie. fridges, microwaves, toasters – and food and toiletries. People will always need to buy groceries, but deciding whether to buy a new microwave or pair of Jimmy Choos is a discretionary choice and likely to bear little relation to how many ready meals they choose to buy.

 

 

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Stress Eater? Emotional Eater? Whatever kind of ‘eater’ you are, there’s probably a physiological reason

26 Jan

This is a feature I drafted while on work placement at Frank PR last January, to promote a new dietary aid from XLS Medical.

What kind of eater are you?

Copycat Eater

We tend to adopt the eating habits of those around us. If your boyfriend habitually snarfs a bacon sarnie or pays a 2am visit to Chicken Cottage on his way home after a night out, this legitimises your kebab pit-stop after a girls’ night out.

If you feel more comfortable eating pizza with those girlfriends who are more of a comfy size than going bar-hopping with the size-zero girlfriend – maybe just because you look and feel better about yourself in their company, -bear in mind that you become who you eat with.

A 2007 study from Harvard University took 32 years’ of data from an inter-linked social network of 12,000 adults and found a person’s chance of becoming obese rose by 37% if their spouse had become obese; 40% if a sibling had; and 57% if a friend had.

Emotional Eater

Perhaps instead of confronting your difficult or negative emotions, you reach for something to plug the void. You don’t want to have to analyse the reasons for your friendship problems, or admit to yourself that the love of your life hardly acknowledges your existence. So you allow yourself a chocolate biscuit. Or one, or two, or three.

Studies have found high levels of obesity in those who have difficulty forming close relationships, perhaps because of childhood issues or some history of relationship abuse. Interestingly, this link between obesity and abuse has only been found in women. Men have other coping mechanisms. It is time you stopped and fought against this ‘coping’ behaviour that has evolved from a societal perception and objectification of women.

Learn to love yourself, and accept that other people can and will love you too. Then you can make a conscious decision to develop healthier habits.

Careless Eater

Studies have found that people whose lives are marked by a lack of self-control typically show higher levels of obesity. Maintaining a healthy diet takes planning and, extreme caution around high-fat foods. If you get home at night without the energy to cook and make yourself a pile of baked beans and toast loaded with cheese, you have only yourself to blame for lack of foresight. Don’t settle for the easy option.

Moreover, there are hidden calories in everything. Dollop of ketchup is another thirty or forty. And careful with the butter – a large serving, melting and dripping off the bread just the way you like it – that’s another sixty calories. Per slice.

Eating Out of Boredom

Maybe you lack something to do with your hands. Perhaps you’ve just given up biting your nails. Is this the reason you find yourself compelled to keep reaching for the popcorn at the cinema; to keep digging your fist into the tin of Quality Streets someone left on the coffee table.

Chronic boredom is actually a condition known as “anhedonia”, defined as a neurobiologically-reduced sensitivity to pleasurable experiences. By constantly seeking easy gratification in the form of very sweet or salty foods, long-term you impair your ability to feel pleasure. Brain scans have shown similarly reduced density of dopamine receptors (dopamine being the pleasure chemical) in obese people as cocaine users.

So try to minimise the presence of sweet, fatty and salty foods in your diet, and also the way you use them to ‘treat yourself’. This is a dangerous association to build; instead get recreational enjoyment from a wide range of (brain) activities.

Stress Eater

Do you hit the biscuit tin in times of stress? There may be a biological reason, though it depends on the type of stress you are suffering from. If the stress is one your brain interprets as a ‘challenge’ it is capable of dealing with, it takes a neurological shortcut and activates the sympathetic-adrenomedullar (SAM) system directly, bypassing to some extent the first site of response; the SAM is the pathway responsible for the production of adrenaline. Adrenaline diverts blood to the brain and muscles, and away from non-essential activities like digestion. People suffering this type of stress often end up eating less.

HOWEVER if the stressor is perceieved as a ‘threat’, another hormonal pathway, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) gland is activated. The HPA is principally responsible for the release of cortisol or corticosterone. Cortisol stimulates hunger and feeding, so an excess of cortisol can trigger resort to highly palatable – i.e. tasty and high-calorie – foods.

With humans, if “threat stress” includes a threat to one’s social self concept, like having an aspect of public embarrassment or failure, it is an even more potent trigger of cortisol release.[1]

 

[1] Dickerson SS, Gruenewald TL, Kemeny ME. When the social self is

threatened: shame, physiology, and health. J Pers 2004;72:1191–216.

[21] Goeders NE. The impact of stress on addiction. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol

2003;13:435–41.

Bizarre Flavour Combos the US is lauding as Future Food Trends

25 Mar

It’s a universally accepted fact that they do things bigger in the United States. Bigger, more outlandish, and sometimes just plain weird. Capitalism has begot an endless range of choices for consumers, which veer occasionally into the territory of ‘But why?’

It might be instructive – or just fun – for UK food aficionados and catering professionals to take a look at some of the trends emerging from across the pond. A number of the latest food trend predictions from the Winter Fancy Food Show, which took place in San Francisco in January, seem likely to diffuse into British kitchens. Others – see the ‘Tamarind Almond Crunch’ brussel sprout crisps, might not be so translatable …

Chocolate chip kale chips. This has to be seen to be believed.

Chocolate chip kale chips. This has to be seen to be believed.

A panel of food trade experts from the Specialty Food Association picked their top five new trends to watch out for. Let’s try and work out which ones are likely to take:

  1. Everyone’s talking Turmeric.

A number of companies have elected to add this Indian spice to add an exotic zing to everyday staples. Bruce Cost’s range of ginger ales has gained a passion fruit and turmeric flavour; and Navitas Naturals is “Taking snacks to the next level” with its Turmeric Tamari Almonds. Ginger provides a complimentary note too at Rishi Tea, which has added a Turmeric Ginger variety. And finally, HealthVerve has added Turmeric Rice to its microwavable meal range.

As well as packing a taste punch, the spice has some health benefits – its principal active ingredient, curcumin, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. However, the curcumin content of turmeric is only around 3% by weight, so you would have to consume a lot of turmeric to feel the effect. Fortunately, you now have plenty of turmeric-flavoured options…

  1. You can never have too much… cabbage!

Or, to be specific, vegetables of the cruciferous nature – those of the cabbage family. While kale-based snacks are still going strong, companies like Alive & Radiant are branching out into new variety Argula Cabbage Veggie Krunch. Kale fans be reassured that its extensive range of ‘Cheezy’ kale crisps is a long way from retirement.

Novel varieties of veggie crisps are clearly in vogue. I mean, why limit yourself to potato chips? Creative Snacks has released new Broccoli Chips, while rival Wonderfully Raw Gourmet has added a Tamarind Almond Crunch variation to its Brussel Bytes range (brussel sprout crisps, for those who don’t speak gourmet food critic.)

And finally, Korean food goes mainstream with Genuine Grub’s ‘Spicy Pickled Cabbage’, which it claims is naturally fermented and hence full of friendly bacteria.

  1. If in doubt, add cheese.

Some imaginative culinary designer has come up with a new flavour to add to olive oil: ‘manchego-style cheese’, latest offering from Silva Regal Spanish Food. Yancey’s Fancy has done one better and added cheese to cheese, with its ‘Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger’ flavoured ‘artisan’ cheese. The Sonoma Creamery has jumped aboard the quinoa trend with various combinations of parmesan-flavoured snacks.

Best of all, Boomchickapop has merged caramel and cheddar flavoured popcorn in a single bag. ‘Oh yes we did.’ And boy, are we glad you did. We can’t wait till this one hits UK retailers.

  1. Breakfast with every meal

It is widely acknowledged to be the most important meal of the day, so why not make every meal taste like breakfast? Admittedly, ‘spicy coffee’ beef jerky might be an innovation too far. But Cinnamon Toast HiCaf Tea we can definitely see. And putting strawberry and waffle pieces in chocolate is a stroke of genius. Dang Foods’ ‘Savory Bacon Coconut Chips’, though, are bound to be divisive. Sounds like one of Heston Blumenthal’s ideas. Actually, it could take off…

The Syntax of Finance

28 Mar

Bull straddle, bear straddle, condor spread and strangle… to the unenlightened reader they sound like gymnastic moves, or sex positions. Yet they are just several of a catalogue of options-trading strategies, each with their own anthropomorphic title. The macho, almost militaristic metaphors assigned to mathematical calculations, on the probability of movements in the option’s underlying security, can heighten the drama of playing statistics. It also helps make the process nigh impenetrable to outsiders.

Understanding the various processes behind the calculation of the option’s delta, theta, assumed volatility and so on, are fiendishly complex when applied to unpredictable real-life underlying assets or indices. But I argue that the syntax that has evolved to describe them is partly a product of the male-dominated environment on the trading floor and in the standard corporate boardroom. Women have for some time been statistically thinner on the ground and worse paid. The female FTSE Report in 2010 found that just 12.5% of directors in the FTSE 100 companies were women. When in 2007 Bloomberg analysed US Government Accountability Office data, it found women managers in finance (e.g. bank tellers and executives) earned 58.8 cents for every dollar a man earned in 2007, down from 63.9 cents in 2000.

Post-structural Musings
To avoid shrilly bleating out feminist platitudes, I borrow some words from Foucault: “the exercise of power creates and causes to emerge bodies of information… The exercise of power perpetually creates knowledge and, conversely, knowledge constantly induces effects of power.” In essence, the language that evolves from an elite demographic serves to reinforce its elite status, and exclude those from lower or rival groupings.

This is despite the fact that a 2001 study by respected behavioural economists Terrence Odean and Brab Barber, ‘Boys will be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence and Commons Stock Investment,’ found that overactive trading reduced net returns for men by 2.65% a year, compared with 1.72% for women. By analysing data on commons stock investments, for more than 35 000 households at a major discount brokerage between 1991-1997, they found men also traded 45% more than women. So the bullish rhetoric of ‘straddling’ a choice option may at times reflect, and propagate, a misplaced level of confidence.

Too Many Words
The post-structuralist perspective on communication in the financial sector would take a similar view on the proliferation of acronyms. Most well-informed members of the public know that CDO stands for collateralised debt obligation, because the unprincipled selling of these toxic assets got such bad publicity. But how many of the uninitiated can define what a UCIT is? Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) maybe, if they have been privy to annual reports. What about REITs, Real Estate Investment Trusts? The FTSE’s SEAQ, or non-electronically executable quotation service, is not even spelt out in logical order.

Only the secretive corridors of the Ministry of Defence flow with such an abundance of need-to-know-only acronyms. The FTSE glossary would almost fill a suitcase as comprehensively as a set of alphabetised Encyclopedias. And it wouldn’t matter if all financial reporters had a unified protocol towards use of acronyms, listing the object in full with its abbreviation in brackets afterwards, if they intended to use the abbreviation alone subsequently. Often, however, they put acronyms and abbreviations in the headlines, heightening the sensation of an industry that talks to itself in code.

GoCompare.com, a Marxist reading
Marx once wrote, “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class,” a slightly more black-and-white view than the post-structuralist vision of an organic interaction between the ideas of different strata, relative to their weight and power. Does the ‘working-class’ not then have a distinct voice? Perhaps. Marx also wrote that “Men’s ideas are the most direct emanations of their material state,” but without the leisure afforded to the bourgoisie, who reaped the greatest portion of value added through the production process, the workers could do little more than mirror and absorb the cultural values imposed on them by the upper classes.

Gramsci was stronger on culture; Marx tended to overlook it as a side issue, a distraction from the socio-economic forces that were the central motors of the capitalist system. One wonders what they would have made of today’s money marketing campaigns. Wonga.com is patently a barely-concealed attempt by grasping capitalists to blanket their eye-watering loan interest rates with tableaus of cute felt puppets. The ‘Saving the Nation’ slogan of the GoCompare ads tries to appeal to patriotic sentiment, unifying it against a blubbering, moustachioed and intensely irritating foreigner.

Money Supermarket, which depicts Scotch-drinking aristocrats in a mahogany-panelled lair replete with moose’s head and open fire, is a self-referential portrayal of inbred upper-class gentlemen toasting their financial success. It is just too much of a stereotype to be true, right? Finally, Comparethemarket.com is a calculated post-Freudian attack on consumer’s emotional sensibilities. ‘Oh look, it’s a talking meerkat. Awwww.’ By linking the audience’s empathetic connection to fictional site Comparethemeerkat.com, where these furry Eastern European immigrants chase each other’s tails and… drink scotch, to the real site, advertisers are playing on viewers’ emotions in the most obvious way. And now they are giving away free meerkat toys. Classic behavioural reward psychology

‘I am a Tree’ – submission for new piece of performance art to the Tate Modern

13 Jun

UmbrellaTree

Chelsea Art School student, Sugarponce, rehearses for his creative debut on the modern art scene

I am a tree. Symbol of life and constant, steady expansion.  Like a growing child, a fat man who got fond of Krispy Kreme donuts, or a transvestite on a course of steroids. I haven’t decided yet which type of tree…

Cedars evoke musky and pungent cheap cologne. Oak trees are too much a symbol of the old English establishment; ash trees remind me of greying skin and hair and frail bodies.

Shame I missed the Jubilee celebrations, a bit of well-timed performance art could really have raised the tone of the event.

They could have billed my oak-hybrid-ash piece just before Sir Paul McCartney. At least they could have given me a slot on the podium at Islington Village’s ‘street party.’ The only entertainment on offer there was a 60-year-old ‘swing band’ and a dog in a Union Jack hat. Britain’s Got Talent has a lot to answer for.

No, perhaps I’d be better off staging it in a bona fide art gallery. I wouldn’t want my audience to confuse me with a mime artist, those freeloaders on the South Bank who perform for money. My art is undistilled, unimpeached, untainted by the desire for financial gain. I’ll just take a commission straight from the curators of the Tate – linked to visitor numbers, with a bonus if they exceed expectations.

Perhaps I’ll take a leap out of Damien Hirst’s book and auction myself off. After all, a work of art is dependent entirely on the context in which you find it. (And the effectiveness of its PR and marketing strategy). Remember those people who were hired to run through the hall of Tate Britain at four-minute intervals? Context. Besides, mine is a far more nuanced and demanding performance.

I am a mighty Redwood tree, ascending endlessly into the sky. .. I am a Weeping Willow tree. Swoosh, swoosh. Swoosh. I am born of a tiny seed, and spring slowly into a gentle giant of the forest, spraying my children into the air via process of pollination and asexual intercourse. Looking back, I reflect on the solitary nature of a reproductive process largely self-induced. Man and tree in that respect have something in common. (Stanislavski technique. Think yourself into mindset of the role.)

There have been occasions in my life where I have engaged in self-induced sexual intercourse. Largely during the wintry wilderness when Arabella left me for that chain-smoking neo-grunge frontman. Like the mighty tree, I have survived cold and barren conditions. And my trunk has grown thick and hard… OK one simile too far. This performance is family-friendly. Swoosh. Whoosh.

Thud. That’s the sound of the falling apples. Apple trees have the advantage of providing take-away freebies for visitors, which is always a draw even if authorities disapprove. Witness the take-away sunflower seeds at Ai Weiwei’s show in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The floor of the exhibition room would be littered with ripe fruit…actually, that sounds like a health-and-safety violation. Could I freeze-pack them? Don’t want it to turn into the process of watching food mould over. That’d be plagiarism; that idea is so passé.

I think, actually, I am a monkey puzzle tree. Bewildering, impenetrable to outsiders, but fascinating to watch. I am exotic and enigmatic. So… next box to fill in. ‘Who would you say were your major artistic influences?’ Can I count… myself?

 

The Republican Coalition – the future of American politics?

3 Jan

In a theoretical parallel universe, two Republican politicians from opposing backgrounds make an unlikely partnership. Mick Romney, devoted Mormon and senior business consultant, and Ron Paul, manic libertarian who believes that government is essentially unnecessary, managed to supplant current President Obama. Having reached an electoral standoff in the race for the presidential position, they were forced to form a coalition Republican government. Romney is Commander-in-Chief with responsibility for the economy; Paul is in charge of attempting to demolish, or ‘downsize’ the rest of the government. They have just emerged from a three-day two-man meeting on their policy plans. Their blueprint, or manifesto for the future of the USA, is entitled ‘Less is more, except when it comes to defence spending. Our future lies in the military-industrial complexity.’

Advisor: ‘Don’t you mean military-industrial complex?’

Romney: ‘No, the word ‘complexity’ implies a new concept, without the negative connotations associated with what is commonly perceived to be a sinister conspiracy between the government and the Pentagon. We believe in working together to build a better tomorrow for all Americans except non-nationals, communists and queers. Amen.’

Ron Paul: ‘Anyway, back to the manifesto. We envisage a five-year planning scheme, whereby we de-nationalise all unnecessary government-run services and industries. The forestry commission, for example, are an unnecessary hindrance on the timber industry. People should be free to explore and make the most of all our natural resources. Similarly with endangered species – if they can’t survive off their own backs then clearly God did not mean them much longer for this earth. (Aside: right, that’s the cuddly animals out the way. Now for the easy bit.)

Healthcare in this country is a burden on the state. Why should the wealthy subsidise the sick?  Folks should learn to take responsibility for their wellbeing. You don’t want asbestos poisoning? Well, find a job in a factory that actually adhere to industry safety guidelines. You don’t want lung cancer? Quite hanging around people who smoke. You don’t want a heart condition that necessitates a coronary bypass? Well if you spent that long chowing down on steak sandwiches and blueberry pancakes, you can fork out for your own gosh-darn anti-platelet medication.’

Romney: ‘We believe in folks getting self-reliance. Besides which, government funding of pharmaceutical solutions detracts from the ability of the companies who manufacture them to sell them at a competitive price. State-sponsored health insurance plans undermine the thriving private insurance sector. We are simply restoring the element of free choice to the market. Competition can only enhance the quality of a commodity.’

Ron Paul: ‘You can’t put a price on health, but you can create an even playing field when supply and demand conspire to, you know, set the right price for you.’

Romney: ‘We believe in the force of the free market! God bless multiculturalism.’

Ron Paul: ‘And libertarianism. Amen.’

Romney: ‘The freedom to choose.’

Ron Paul: ‘And the freedom to choose not to care! Every man for himself – that’s the principle upon which this great nation was founded.’

Romney: ‘And so to education. We propose that state-funded schools and primaries simply encourage children to question and disrespect their elders. The Bible provides enough moral lessons; and, furthermore, much of modern science undermines the narrative of the Old Testament. Perhaps the world wasn’t created in seven days, but I do not believe we are descended from monkeys.’

Ron Paul: ‘Though a scientologist would tell you otherwise…Overall, we hold that too much freedom of thought undermines the foundation of society. It could lead to anarchy or, worse, socialism!’

Romney: ‘What about European ‘welfare capitalism?’ Look at what a state they’re in today. Why learn a foreign language? Everyone in America speaks English.’

Ron Paul: ‘To that end, we propose all non-religious schools be cut off from federal support, and put into the hands of local citizens’ councils. All the money saved through this measure would be channelled into sports scholarships and young cadets’ clubs, with small specialist schools provided for the gifted and talented – especially those with a gift for electronics or engineering.’

Romney: ‘Annual competitions would be held to locate the best inventors and entrepreneurs, as part of the scheme ‘They work for us (and in doing so work for themselves.)’ The prize would be a coveted government placement or contract.’

Ron Paul: ‘As regards defence policy, well, it would do what it said on the shiny reinforced steel box: the USA should not intervene in foreign affairs that are none of our business. Why should we feel an obligation to act as world policeman (and, come to mention it, financier and banker?) Let them sort out their own problems for a change.’

Romney: ‘So what if the Eurozone disintegrates? What backup currency would quadruple in value as a consequence? Where would they turn to for quality exports when their commercial policy is in ruins due to dearth of funding and investment? That’s right, the good old US greenback. As regards domestic economic policy…’

Ron Paul: ‘That’s still under discussion.’

Romney: ‘I actually have a rather detailed proposal.’

Ron Paul: ‘Less is more.’

Romney: ‘Yes, but I really believe it would be in our interests to provide a generous package of incentives and subsidies to key industries, not to mention the considerable adjustments needed in employment law.’

Ron Paul: ‘Quick, look over there, it’s Jesus… no, a sign, from God.’ (turns off Romney’s microphone) ‘We’re going to have to leave it there folks, the good Lord has indicated we have overrun our time. Besides, it’s time for lunch. Who’s up for pizza?’

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What the Europeans say about David Cameron behind his back

27 Dec

A dialogue, between French President Sarkozy and the head of the French Central Bank.

It’s the day after David Cameron’s now infamous veto and Monsieur Sarkozy goes for a drink with his old friend at the French Central Bank to commiserate the way the negotiations have gone. The evening stretches out as they work their way through a bottle or two of Beaujolais (vintage 2003). They would be smoking, but both are keen joggers and have a run planned the next morning through the Jardin de Tuileries.

 

 

S: Ah, les Anglais!

 

F: Ces monstres de l’humanite, cette nation egoiste et obstinee! Pourquoi est-ce que les avaient refuse notre proposition genereux ?

S : Oui, tout que nous avons demande, c’était le control absolut de tous les regles concernant les impots et les taxes dans les pays d’Europe.

F : Et il n’est les Français qui creent ces regles ; c’est tous les nations ensemble. Malhereusement, les Grecques et l’imbecile qui reste toujours le premier ministre de l’Italie font au moment une partie egale de ce processus. En mon avis il faut que nous mettre les trois parvenus a la porte de la Commission et le Parliament Europeen.

S : Quelle idee fantastique ! Et au meme temps nous pourrions expulser les pays moins importants, les avides peuples de l’ouest d’Europe, qui penetrent notre frontieres et s’installer dans tous les terrains de campaing pittoresque a la Cote de l’Atlantique.

F : Ils sont comme une parasite, une sangsue enorme qui boit le sang de notre monnaie et de notre marche du travail.

S : Si ils sont une grupe de sangsue degutantes, les Anglais sont comme rats qui avaient se concele abord du projet Europeen, et qui sont les premiers a sauter du bateau quand il commence a couler.

F : Non non non, ils sont comme de perroquets irritants, qui imitent tous que les Americains, leurs maitres, dire et faire. ‘Pretty polly have a dollar, I have a dream that all races are born equal, though our socio-economic system cannot provide for equality of opportunity, still less of outcome.’

S: David Cameron est un hamster qui a gorge lui-meme avec les subsidies agriculturelles et les monnaies europeens (pour lesquelles l’Angleterre est formidable en faire les transactions et investissements financiers), et qui demande de plus en plus pour rembourrer ses joues.

F : Eh bien, qu’est-ce que nous pourrions faire ?

S : Le seul solution est de prendre le control total de l’Union Europeen. Faire un coup d’Etat.

F : Mais… nous sommes une democratie historique ! Nous ne creeons pas en la dictature.

S : Alors, une revolution du peuple… le peuple de la France, et peut-etre les allemands et les Belgiques. Madame Merkel etaient toujours tres obligeante, et en plus elle est une dame avec le gout impeccable.

F : En regard des vetements ou les pastels ?

S : Les deux. En plus, nous avons besoin des allemands. Les Français, qui sont les gens les plus intelligents et doues du monde, ne fabriquent beaucoup.

F : En fait, tous que nous fabriquent, c’est le vin et le fromage – et l’occasional robe couture. Lesquels nous vendent a la reste du continent. Les allemands fabriquent les autos, toutes sortes des machines, et meme les relojs que nous utilisons a diviner le temps du jour.

S : Alors, une coalition ? Peut-etre nous somme pas si different du gouvernement anglais…

 

Overheard at the Conservative Future Party this Saturday

4 Dec

Me, ‘So, what is your involvement with Conservative Future?’

Him, ‘Well I was a councillor for four years and now I’m employed in helping companies pay less tax.’

Me, ‘Really? That’s a very worthy occupation.’

Him, ‘Yes, it’s entirely in keeping with my political views. In fact, that pretty much is my political view.’ His business card revealed he was indeed the manager of an ‘Indirect Taxes’ group, though I think he may have been slightly taking the michael and exploiting what was evidently my preconceived opinion of a Tory councillor.

To a man with no less than three red poppy – British Legion? – badges on his lapel, gazing into space with disembodied expression:

Me, ‘What lovely badges. You must be very patrtiotic.’

Him, ‘Yes, I’m intensely patriotic. And very right-wing, you know. I couldn’t care less about politics.’

Me, ‘Ah, the best kind of Conservative…’

Him, ‘Yes, yes, I’m the last person to talk to if you want to discuss politics, really.’ then went on to describe how ideally, politicians once elected would just mind their own business. He seemed to think intervention, or political action, was the main thing wrong with the House of Parliament today…. As I walked away I thought I saw him laughing to himself at his own private joke. Silly girl. Clearly he was secretly the head of MI5.

Having said that, someone high up in internal security did make an appearance and briefly talked about security preparations in the leadup to the Olympics, before moving on to more well-informed party guests without stolen glowsticks in their pockets. I had a lively debate with someone involved in constitutional law who had objections to the European Rights Act and their possibly infringements on parliamentary sovereignty. How far had we successfully created a unified European identity in opposition to individual nation’s culture and traditions? Then the free wine ran out, so I left not long after.