The Sunday Times and Croissants : Cabinet Split over bullying by Beijing.

The Sunday Times and Croissants 17th February

There is something special about Sunday morning, the Sunday Times, hot croissants with honey and butter, excellent.

Headlines –  Cabinet split over bullying by Beijing – makes the headlines. Ministers are divided over whether to appease China or stand firm on issues relating to cyber spying and human rights. William Hague, foreign office, insists Britain must not bow to coercive behaviour. Quite right too! As a rule, Grammar School boys don’t like bullying. The Bullingdon boys on the other hand, have no such qualms.

Some ministers would like to introduce Sino fagging, whereby a Chinese ministers shouts “fag” and cabinet rushes to clean shoes and toast muffins in exchange for land rights for the Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing unit in Changshu, Shanghai, for example.

Nick Clegg on the other hand, believes Britain should take a principled stand on trade with China. Human rights, access to Google, that sort of thing. That’s fine but first we have to explain the rationale behind the first opium war with China. The East India Company went to war with the Qing dynasty to protect sales of the principal cash crop of empire. Britain faced dwindling coffers, failing export trade, fears of trade barriers, an expensive war in Afghanistan, as if that could happen again! The Chinese for reasons of health and dwindling silver reserves were anxious to introduce a trade ban and seize stocks. Hardly the high moral ground for a principled stand on trade but at least we got the opium contracts and Hong Kong as part settlement. Real politik and real trade, our lessons from history this week.

Yeah, the things they talk about in Cabinet. In other headlines, ministers were warned about horse meat in 2011 apparently. Frequent warnings of all farm by-products should feature regularly.

David Smith, is worried about the performance of the British Economy. “Boost productivity or we’ll be even poorer” the headline.  Rising employment and low growth, means lower output per worker. I can’t get excited about this. The output figures may be revised sharply some day soon and in any case low productivity in a service sector economy is not an impediment to future growth. National transport fleets with 30% capacity utilisation can absorb an awful lot of upside without constraint to growth. The same applies to many other facets of the service sector economy including, leisure, retail, communications, transport, storage and financial services.

Economics news, this week, news on inflation, retail sales and the Inflation Report. Martin Weale from the MPC has made a speech in Warwick. Would you let an academic run your business? If you have a company with sales of £3 million, losing £1million each year, would you think cutting prices and paying more to suppliers would get you out of the red? So it is with the trade figures, exports of £300 billion, a deficit of £100 billion,  cutting prices via a depreciation of sterling is not the way to trade out. We have learned this in 1931, 1948, 1967. Don’t let the academics run or ruin your economy! Check out The Saturday Economist for more information.

Back to the day Job – Monday team meeting in the morning, a meeting with Weber Shandwick and in the afternoon a chance to catch up with Michael Hartig from Barclays.

Tuesday, Baron Frankal and John Holden from New Economy are in the office to talk about the Budget for Greater Manchester project. Later Ian Brodie, straight talking sales and marketing advice (with a strange accent) is in the office. Always a pleasure!

Wednesday – Bill Greenalgh and the team from MMU Centre for Enterprise are in the office to talk about cluster groups and SME club co-operation. Later a meeting with Jonathan Hurst and Nicola Quayle from KPMG.

Thursday – pre Board meeting with Chairman Paul Johnson to discuss the board agenda and meeting notes for next week.

Friday, Sara Jones and Simon Swan, from the Hiring Hub are in to talk about developments of their business and co-operation with SME club. Hiring Hub is a great example of a creative thinking, online model, disruptive player, innovative initiative, funding rounds – the Bank of 3fs, business angels, expansion and private equity rounds to come? Who could ask for more, they are amongst the first of the SME catchers as we develop plans for SME club plus!

Saturday, working in the morning, the day starts as usual with tea, the FT, and the Economist app. The Economist leads with “The missing trillions”, how to stop companies and people dodging tax.

In the afternoon, tennis, it’s a win 7 – 5. Mary had three set points earlier in the match but failed to close or took pity, read it as you will.

Hope all is well, more news next week.
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