Let’s get the identity thing out the way: I’m British. My Mother is Scottish, with Ginger hair and Gaelic-speaking parents, a fear of sunshine and everything. My Father is mostly English, with a Welsh grandparent and an Irish surname. So as far as I can work it out, I’m half Scots, 3/8 English 1/8 Welsh and there’s some Irish in there too somewhere, but I’m buggered if I can find it. As a result I have brown hair, but some ginger in the beard, and I too get sunburn at a fireworks display, and cannot stand direct sunlight. That’s the genetics. Then there’s the Identity. I was Born in Northampton, Schooled in Leicestershire, and went to University in Edinburgh for whom I played Shinty. I have ALWAYS regarded myself as British, Scottish (whom I support at football), English (whom I support at Rugby) and a citizen of the world.

My Late Grandfather was a fearsome Scottish Nationalist, despite having spent almost all his working life outside Scotland, serving Britain – in the Merchant marine, and the Diplomatic Wireless Service. I’ve enjoyed arguing ‘no’ all my life with him, and if Scots vote ‘yes’ I will take a crumb of comfort from the fact it’d make the old rogue happy. I learned to love the rough and tumble of political debate over my Grandparents’ table in Inverness. The Scots are a warm, friendly, resolute and resourceful nation of people, who have achieved, like my Grandfather, great things all over the world, but the political culture is utterly vile. It was in Edinburgh I discovered the swamp of bitterness and hatred that is Scottish politics. I’ve never seen anything quite as unpleasant, and I’ve some experience of Northern Ireland. The principle emotions expressed are resentment, and a particularly toxic brand of zero-sum socialism: what’s bad for the English must be good for me and Vice-versa. And this has been encouraged by the Scottish political establishment which is hard-left Labour, and often Harder left SNP, who have found the English, Tory boogeyman a handy catch-all on whom to blame all failures.

And some of Scotland is an abject failure. East Glasgow contains some of the poorest people in Europe, with some of the lowest life-expectancy in the developed world. This in a vibrant, powerful, wealthy city with arts and culture galore, represents a shocking failure of Glasgow’s labour Political establishment. These people, living in schemes where the men are unlikely to live much beyond their 50th birthday, have been told that it’s all “Thatcher” who closed the shipyards and steelworks, and the “Tories” who don’t care, shifting the blame from a Scottish Parliament and Labour Government in Westminster who’ve had over a decade to do something about it. But it’s easier to make people hate ‘the other’, than it is to rebuild such failed communities.

And the poor bits of Glasgow are the bits most strongly in favour of Scottish independence. Unsurprising, really, they do have the least to lose. Labour is reaping what it sowed.

So we come to the referendum. They’ve given votes to children, hoping they can be enthused by the Braveheart myth; not put what is BY FAR the most popular option – Devolution Max – on the ballot paper, allowed the Secessionists the ‘yes’ answer – the question could have been, “should Scotland stay in the United Kingdom?”; and there is no supermajority needed to destroy the UK, all at the behest of Alex Salmond. If he cannot, under these circumstances persuade people to leap into the Abyss, then the issue should be settled for at least a generation. The SNP got more or less everything it asked for in the negotiations over the referendum. To bleat about BBC bias, and “Westminster stooges” under these circumstances is rather pathetic.

Abyss? Scotland has the potential to be an extraordinarily vibrant place. The land of Smith an Hume, the Edinburgh enlightenment, whose ideas underpinned the USA, industrial engineers, soldiers and statesmen who built then dismantled the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. Many small countries do well. Scotland the second richest bit of the UK after London & the South east, and Aberdeen its second or third richest city after London and Bath, so it’s not clear to me the Status Quo is broken. The Scots population is sparse and so they get more state spending per head and also contribute more tax per head. English Nationalists (whom I despise too) focus on the former, Scottish Nationalists, the latter. The simple fact is any independent Scotland will be running a big primary deficit, but will lack the ability to finance it. Salmond’s plan to not take a share of the debt will make this deficit utterly unsustainable, as no-one will lend. Austerity? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

So I come back to the toxic political culture, and fear that it would rapidly become Venezuela, if the likes of Jim Sillars gets his way. The blood letting that would accompany a recession costing 4% of GDP, which is what happened to Czechoslovakia on its split, whose economies were much less integrated, would be terrible. Scotland’s independence teething troubles could be worse than Czech Republic and Slovakia’s velvet split – 70% of Scots GDP is “exports” to the rest of the UK. The deeply ingrained habit of Scottish politicians is to blame “Westminster” or “the Tories” mean Scotland would be ripe for the kind of “stab in the back, betrayal” narrative that encourages even more extreme nationalism, should it all go wrong. The yes campaign have encouraged their supporters to project all their hopes onto independence, and deserve credit that theirs is a civic, rather than ‘blood and soil’ nationalism, but there will be a lot of disappointment that it’s a lot, lot harder than they thought it was. The nationalist genie is out of the bottle, and it’s going to be hard to put it back, which ever way the vote goes.

Several companies, and plenty of people have said they’d leave Scotland if she votes ‘Yes’. Scotland will find it harder to attract companies without being part of the UK. No companies and few people have said they’d move to Scotland in the event of a yes vote. Not even Vivienne Westwood.

Of course a ‘Yes’ vote could see a resurgence of the Centre right in Scotland. Ooh Look.

But the forlorn hope that Scottish politics becomes sane on independence, is to deny the greatness of what Scotland and the rest of the UK have achieved TOGETHER: one of the richest, freest, most powerful and influential countries on earth. A leader in world trade, and leading member of many international clubs. And we’re forgetting what the rest of the UK provides Scotland. Scotland would have suffered horribly had it been independent in 2008, probably worse than Ireland as Scotland was even more over-banked than was Ireland in 2007. Bigger economies can sustain deficits and have internationally-traded currencies have virtually unlimited chequebooks in a crisis. Sterling is an internationally-traded currency. Small countries don’t have this advantage. And the UK is not a small country by any measure. We (together) have the 6th (or so…) largest economy on earth, the world’s third most powerful military with global reach, aircraft carriers (and planes too in three years’ time…) and nuclear weapons. That is a lot of insurance against unknown future threats. Small countries aren’t richer or poorer than large ones, but they are more volatile and less able to defend themselves against the likes of Putin or assert influence in the great councils of the world. Scots benefit from the UK’s heft.

Do you really think anyone in Brussels will care what Scotland, a nation of 5 million people, thinks? Denmark and Ireland have little influence, and the Experience of Ireland shows just how far from decision making the needs of peripheral economies are to the EU project. Scotland’s economy will not be aligned to the core, as Denmark’s is. It will be aligned to the UK, as Ireland’s is. And Scotland’s concerns will not matter. The EU power-brokers DO, on the other hand care what the UK thinks, even if the UK is a “surly lodger”, to purloin Salmond’s phrase, who has eschewed the Euro, it is a major one at least equal to France.

Scots though they desire to have no influence in the EU, have been told they have no influence in the UK. That’s palpable, hairy bollocks, swinging under a kilt. Blair and Brown owe all but their 1997 majority to Scottish MPs. The last PM was a Scot. And the current one has Scottish Family. And Blair was educated in Scotland too. It’s about “running your own affairs” you say? But you want to participate fully (uncritically, with little influence) in the EU. Is that not hypocrisy? And in any case, you have significant, and soon to be total, devolution of health, education, some taxation and social policy. Scots are over-represented in Westminster. Scots ALREADY run their own affairs. And I hear a lot of Scottish burrs at the top of politics, business, media out of all proportion to the population. It was a Scottish king who took the English crown and Scots have been running Britain rather well ever since.

Who, elsewhere in the world favours Scottish independence? Kim Jong Un, and Vladimir Putin. That’s about it. For the Union, we have Barak Obama, the EU, NATO, the OECD…. (has anyone asked the Pope or the Dalai Lama?) The practical part of me thinks independence and a ‘yes’ vote would throw out all the benefits of being part of the UK, at enormous long-term cost, and for few additional benefits. The last thing the world needs is another Border, or indeed a smaller, weaker United Kingdom.

But that’s not what this referendum is about. It’s about the emotional appeal to the Scottish soul. Are you Scottish? Are you British? How much of each? There are an enormous number of us in the UK who are British and English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish (not to mention Australian, Indian, Pakistani, Jamaican, Nigerian…) too. “British” is an inclusive identity, and as a result Britain greater by far than the sum of its parts. And for many of us, a ‘Yes’ vote would feel like having a limb sliced off. Think about your family and friends down south. Think about your future in a deeply uncertain world. Think about the collective strength of the nations of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Think about how desperately sad many people who love Scotland both in Scotland and elsewhere, would feel if you vote for independence. Vote with your head, AND your heart, to stay Scottish within a great and powerful United Kingdom.

Vote No.

Where are the Right-Wing Comics?

They exist. They just don’t shout about it, perhaps due to not wanting to be associated with 70’s throwbacks like Jim Davidson. There are many who’d not describe themselves as “right”, especially at the Libertarian end of the spectrum.

The problem is that comedy should always “punch upwards” taking aim at people in power. Conservatism is Traditionally about the defence of the status quo. The spectre of rich, smug people denigrating the choices of poor people is often cited as a reason for there not being “right-wing comedy”, but this is a staple of left-wing comedy: Think of Labour-supporter, Harry Enfield’s “The Slobs” or much of Little Britain. Indeed the assumption that rich people are the only people to benefit from “right wing” solutions, is part of the problem. People commissioning comedy don’t mind laughing at the chavs, if there’s a Labour supporter doing the laughing.

Listening to the ‘now show’ on BBC radio 4, where the song (series 41, episode 3, about 8 minutes in) lamenting the privatisation of the Royal Mail, was basically a paean to nationalised industry. Surely there are comics out there who can write a gag about how totally useless the Government’s been at running everything, and why do they still run ANYTHING? If only for balance.

“But Labour are the butt of jokes too…” as they are. However attacking Labour from the left, and the Tories from the left isn’t balance. It’s advocacy. When Ed Miliband is the butt of jokes, it’s about him being weak, or giving into right-wing policies. Tory policies and politicians are routinely derided as stupid, ignorant and heartless. This isn’t balanced at all. What is political comedy for if not for challenging the entrenched ideas? Laughing at the Conservatives as they try to shrink the state bit is simply bullying by the new establishment, from a position of power. It’s little better than the jokes about blacks moving in next door, from the 1970s.

Thanks to Labour, the state now spends 50% of GDP, borrows more than any peace-time government in history, and despite the cuts, is still doing so. The idea that all would be ok if only the Government had more to spend, has been tested to destruction yet comedians still set up their gags with the assumption that the cuts are unnecessary and evil.

We’re the 6th largest economy on the planet, giving nearly 25% of GDP in direct fiscal transfer to the poor. Instead of this vast transfer of wealth reducing poverty, it has entrenched it. Surely naiive, but well-meaning social workers not ACTUALLY solving anything lest they lose their jobs could be the butt of the occasional joke? Surely left-wing politicians cynically fixing it so the poor are worse off in work, to ensure their nicely concentrated vote, could be the butt of a joke or two? Instead of comedians swallowing the Labour line about the ‘bedroom tax’ and regurgitating it for laughs, maybe, just maybe, they could point out the hypocrisy of the Labour position (they introduced a near identical policy for private tenants)? Or is that too much to ask?

There are ideas challenging the status quo – attacking corporations, not from a profit-shy left-wing perspective, but an anti-corporate welfare, small government perspective, which are crying out to be turned into comedy. Maybe, just maybe, the butt of the joke could not be a rich, posh guy after profit, but a spiv, abusing regulations to avoid competition? The predictable, but unintended consequences of popular but simplistic policy could surely be turned into comedy?

“Alternative comedy” in the 80s worked because it attacked the new power – Thatcher. The Ben Eltons and Alexi Sayles and the remaining political comics of the UK are too stuck in this narrative. It’s Lazy to blame Thatcher and business for everything when she left power nearly a quarter of a century ago. The time is ripe for a new Alternative, attacking the lazy assumptions of a bloated state and asking where half our money goes, and why it achieves so little of what it sets out to do. Perhaps a comedian could find another punchline than “profit is bad” when talking of business?

Had I any talent at all at stand-up, I’d give it a go myself. In fact, there’s an ‘open mic’ slot at my local… anyone want to help me write a few gags….

A Simple Policy to make the UK Happier…

…Would be for the Government stop funding, and the BBC to ignore, the following organisations and their output:

No, not Young Professionals meeting for a drink after
work, but dangerous addicts damaging their livers.
There are plenty of others you can add to the list fake charities: government funded lobbying organisations who produce endless “studies” supporting the ban of whatever their bee is in their bonnet; all in the name of “public health”, whose policy-based evidence-making goes entirely unchallenged on the BBC.
And people turn on the radio, and hear some ghastly purse-lipped harridan, with a mouth like a dog’s arsehole from Alcohol Concern spewing forth statistics about “middle class binge-drinking” (by which she means sharing a bottle or two of a weeknight evening) like so much vomit. As she sits there, unchallenged, calling for warning labels or more tax, or a minimum price of Alcohol or some such nanny-state fuss-bucketry, the people lisening feel put upon and oppressed, as the vague notion that the Government is going to make their few remaining pleasures more expensive, harder to get forms; even if nothing is happening.
These temperance bags of spite have already destroyed the working classes’ social life by taking away their local boozer thanks to the smoking ban. Now they want to price the “squeezed middle” out of their chilled Chardonnay when they get in from work.
LEAVE PEOPLE BE, for pity’s sake you puritan cock-wombles. Leave us alone.

Train Fares

The news this morning was once again all about train-fare rises. The 10th year, apparently of above-inflation rises. So I’m reposting, for the benefit of the BBC, what I wrote when they were announced in August.

I’ll declare an interest: I use the rail network, but not to commute. There has been an astonishing amount of bollocks being spoken about train-fare rises. Especially commuters, whose season tickets are rising by hundreds of pounds. “The trains are crowded” they complain. Yes, they are, and cutting rail fares will help that, how exactly? “It’s too expensive” Well move house, or change jobs. Or travel off-peak. This crowding is because more people try to use the network than is optimal at peak hours.
The effects are not just stress and misery on the journey. This underpriced peak-hour rail drives up house-prices along the rail corridors, and sucks life and employment out of the towns. It also makes people unhappy. People make bad decisions about what makes them happy. They overvalue big houses, and undervalue time not spent on an hour-long commute into town. They overvalue money, and undervalue social contact and family time. And they’re aided and abetted in this happiness-destroying cultural artefact by heavily subsidised commuting.

 If the crippling over-dependence of the country on London is to be addressed, the market must be allowed to do its work on rail fairs. Shifting economic activity out of London is to be desired. Britain does not benefit from shifting millions into town and out again every day, when with a bit of thought, much of this economic activity could happen in Reading, or Northampton or Brighton or Hull. Making it easy to live in Cambride and work in London doesn’t help Cambridge or its economy.

 You may FEEL you have no choice but to buy the season-ticket, and in the short-run you’re probably right. But in the longer term, every person deciding the commute isn’t worth it, and seeking a job locally helps the local economy. Every person moving nearer their place of work reduces stress at peak hours on the transport system. In the long run, people respond to economic incentives. It shouldn’t be the government’s role to insulate people from the reality of their choices.

So, you want to get into central London by 9am? Why not do what I did when I lived in London, and live in a grotty part of town instead, within cycling distance? OH! You want a big house out of London? So you want ME to subsidise your big house by keeping your rail-fare down? Is that fair? It’s not like you’re without choices: there are no solutions in economics, only trade-offs. Compromise on your house, or compromise on your job. Or accept the real cost of rail-fares. You want a seat, guaranteed? Buy a first-class ticket. Overcrowding in cattle-class in the carriages is merely evidence that the price is wrong.

If there was a free market, rather than fares being regulated, peak hour journeys would certainly be more expensive, and off-peak would probably be cheaper. Lower house-prices in the commuter-belt would offset this somewhat. So renegotiate your hours. Capacity-smoothing fares make sense. Ultimately the problem is one of mis-priced resources, especially space on the world’s second busiest rail network. Like the Roads, the Rail Network is overused at peak times and underused off peak. Prices reflecting this are a step in the right direction.

Sorry, rail commuters, your fares are not going down any time soon. I don’t mind paying for a rail ticket when I buy a ticket. I do mind paying for rail tickets I’m not using, subsidising people to drive up the price of a house I want where I live, when I fill in my tax-return. The fare rises are necessary, and will have positive economic effects, if you let them. It’s not all bad news. 

How BBC bias works

Let’s take the BBC’s coverage of the minimum pricing legislation debate. The headline went something like this:

Doctors [respected] have welcomed the governments proposal to introduce minimum pricing, but industry bodies [Boo! Profiteers] have reacted angrily [ie not rationally] to the proposals saying they will hit ordinary drinkers.

No one has seriously questioned the Sheffield university “report” which is basically assumptions, untested against evidence in a spreadsheet, reported with grotesque overconfidence and represents nothing more than policy-based evidence-making.

Anyone claiming to be a scientist, presenting this “data” on lives which will be saved by the policy, without pointing out the heroic assumptions (for example that heavy, problem alcoholics are MORE price sensitive, not less than the general population, something which flies in the face of evidence from other addictive drugs), is basically lying to you.

No-one questions the self-appointed experts who are basically a temperance movement dressed up in academic drag, on their evidence, which is taken at face value. The poor sap hauled up on the today program faced scrutiny of his opinions which was sorely lacking for the temperance witch on the other side of the desk. Once again, the BBC has come down in favour of MORE regulation by the state, more intrusion into the lives of ordinary people, not less. Once more supposedly skeptical journalists have have failed to question experts’ assumptions with any rigour.

What are they for again?

BBC complaint

Thinking Streets” was broadcast 3/1/12 21:00 and re-broadcast 15:30 4/1/12. I submitted the following comment.

In the opening vox-pop, two people openly said they would like to kill cyclists. I understand in the context of the program that this was to set up an idea that some think the roads are a “war zone”, but I can think of no other class of people against whom such a threat would be broadcast on the BBC.

I was deliberately knocked off my bike by a road-rage driver, who fled the scene. Despite a positive ID, he was never prosecuted. These attitudes are common. Your broadcast gives the impression they are acceptable. This is irresponsible.

Otherwise the program was interesting and engaging, though I disagree with your charicterisation of shared space as being common in the Netherlands. It isn’t. The Dutch seperate their traffic, with high quality, seperate cycle paths with ‘shared space’ in only a few small urban areas.

Let’s see what happens.

Be Prepared…

Independent trader, Alesio Ratsani caused quite a stir last night with this interview. In his view, there’s going to be a crash, and everyone should get prepared. Well, I hope he was short when he said it, because the market’s up 2% off the open the day after this interview.

His rather juvenile “Goldman Sachs rule the world” comment is typical of traders who are in awe of that company. Goldmans doesn’t even rule the markets, they’ve just made a couple of decent calls recently (and more than a few bad ones). In saying this, and the deliberately provocative “I dream of a recession”, Mr Ratsani has pandered to the fear of every lefty on the planet. I am sure he had fun. I certainly enjoyed the look of disgusted incredulity on the BBC Bird’s face.

So disturbing did Prodicus find this, he e-mailed me. My good friend, NorthBriton45 also fell into the trap, concluding.

“…it confirmed like nothing else why the notion of a free market is in reality anything but and would strip power away from so many completely innocent people.”

The depths of confusion that comment reveals! Mr Ratsani and people like him don’t control the markets. Nor do they strip power away from innocent people. Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s no moral component to the market going up, or the market going down, and everyone has the opportunity to profit both ways

If you’re convinced mr Ratsani is right, ring me and ask to buy the Deutshe bank Short FTSE100 ETF or ‘XUKS’ for short. I can have you short the market in 5 minutes. If you’re extra sure mr. Ratsani is right, try a geared short ETF*. That’s before you start writing options, spread-betting, or trading CFDs all of which you can do just by picking up the phone. Condemning the trader for making money on the short side, is like blaming the surfer for the wave. Markets don’t cause recessions, whatever traders dream of at night. They respond to the likelihood of one.

I used to work on a trading desk. I’ve seen people like Mr Ratsani, extremely pleased with themselves as they ride the trend. As their overconfidence in their own genius becomes pathological as their winning streak lengthens, they take bigger positions. I once saw an independent trader lose a years’ income in 20 minutes. He then went on to lose his trading capital. And his house. It took an hour, before he started destroying things around him and was escorted off the floor. We never saw him again.

The markets have been stuck in a bear market since the peak in 2000 at which time the share-price divided by the earnings per share (the PE ratio, a key measure of whether the market is cheap or expensive) was 42. That is each share was worth 42 times the profit to which it was entitled. That figure is now 9 times. The last time the market was that cheap was in 1979/80, at the foot of a 20-year bull market. In the short-term, I don’t know what is going to happen. But if your view is years, the market is cheap, and paying a decent yield NOW. When the bond bubble and gold bubbles burst (they will, some time) there will be a wall of money flooding into shares.

Mr Ratsani may well be right. There may well be one final capitulatory crash but each and every time austerity has been attempted as a response to recession, it’s worked. To my mind the Plan to allow a 50% haircut on Greek bonds while gearing up the stability fund and buying Italian and Spanish debt with it, looks credible. And in any case; bankrupt governments? Meh. They’re not necessarily bad for business, indeed their retreat from activity will encourage growth.

I have not seen everyone so universally bearish, which means we’re near the point of maximum fear. Which means we’re near the bottom. Like mr. Ratsani, I’m prepared for the crash: I’m waiting to buy.

*N.B. Do your own research, this does not constitute investment advice, yada yada…

Here’s the Daily Mash on the subject.
Update 1: It appears mr Ratsani may indeed be a spoof: is he one of the Yes men?
Update 2: It appears Mr Ratsani is NOT one of the Yes Men. Forbes have spoken to him.

MoneyBox Live

Here’s me, talking to the BBC’s Moneybox live program, talking about Petrol Prices (5 minutes in) and the chances of a “Lost Decade” for the UK economy (20:30 & 22:45). They let

…”We shouldn’t get sucked into a ‘Stimulus Trap’: Government cannot create demand out of thin air. Economies grow essentially by Government getting out of the way, allowing the Private sector to innovate”…

through, unchallenged. Economic sanity is gaining ground.

A headline you will not see on the BBC

More than half of Labour Donors “from The Unions”
Almost all donations to the Labour Party last year came from the Trades Unions, it was revealed last night. Trades Unions, shadowy organisation responsible for decades of industrial unrest in the 80’s and 90’s, were accused of not only buying policy, but also of influencing the choice of Labour leader. Union donations to Labour, which is bankrupt, buys them a say in elections to decide who leads the party. Union Barons strongly urged their members, who have a vote in the election of the Labour leader to back the younger Milliband against his Brother, a choice which was against the wishes of the Party’s MPs. Mr. Milliband, known as ‘Red Ed’ because of his strong links to the Unions and left-wing views, has moved Labour sharply to the left since taking over from Gordon Brown last year, leading to suggestions that the unions have undue influence in Labour’s adgenda. But Mr Milliband denied suggestions that the Unions were buying policy.

“it is ludicrous to suggest that Labour’s almost pathalogical aversion to public sector cuts, even in the face of catastrophic fiscal circumstances, (which we caused) is anything other than insane adherence to outdated marxist economic dogma. It’s ridiculous to suggest that the fact most of our funding coming from the public sector unions has any influence on our policy of spending ever more on unionised public-sector workers”

he lisped unconvincingly, before being firmly ushered away from our correspondent by two large men in UNITE-branded high-viz vests.

Media & the Egyptian Revolution

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera, who, since they’ve (officially) been kicked out of the country are probably telling the truth. What’s interesting is the priorities of the other news organisations in reporting the story.

The BBC interview Polly Toynbee, who asks “where are the women’s voices?”. Meanwhile sky is reporting from the airport where the main story is: not as you might imagine, the imminent freedom of 80m Egyptians from a dictatorial police state, but the ordeal of some white people with horrible accents, whose holidays have been ruined and are now (Oh. My. God. It’s AWFUL) sleeping in the airport as they try to get home. Disgusted by the warped priorities on display, I turned back to Al Jazeera, where I saw hundreds of men & women, on the street chanting slogans. True, the women are not chucking rocks at the police in any great numbers, but they’re there. That answers La Toynbee’s stunningly ignorant and self-reverential question. The media organisations are projecting their warped idea of their viewers own obsessions onto the back-drop of an inspiring moment in history. Or maybe Sky is reporting from the Airport because it’s CHEAP? Who knows.

The channel to which I’ve been glued is Al Jazeera English, whose live feed on Friday night was particularly telling – state TV showing a calm Cairo on the right hand side of a split screen. Fires from burning police wagons and protesters cheering the deployment of the Army on the left, as the police, responsible for most of the deaths, are chased from the streets. I might not agree with the editorial line taken by Al Jazeera all the time, and in fact I would worry if I did. But the network is a force for good in a region with few media organisations the people can trust.

At 11pm on Sunday, the BBC rang me: “What’s going to happen to the oil price?”. “It’s going up”, I answer, “how far depends on the other dominoes to fall”. Egypt is responsible for 1% of world Oil production, 2% of refining capacity and the Suez canal & pipeline carries another 4% or so to the west. Operations of both are, so far at least, unaffected. One other country in the region is responsible for 14% of world production. And the question I’m asking myself is whether you or I would be willing to pay $200 per barrel or more (taking a tank of petrol well over £100) in return for the fall of the house of Saud? As predicted, let’s hope the dominoes keep falling. And one-day if these revolutions usher in democracy, politics with the middle east might not be all about oil & terrorists. At moments like this, optimism is not necessarily naivety.