Friday, 29 July 2016

Quote of the day - how much do rock stars make?


From Ben Reeve Lewis on the Landlord Law Blog (his Friday Newsround is worth following - always witty and interesting):

Many moons ago, in a previous life as a professional musician my band were managed by Jim Beech, whose other clients were Chris Rea and Queen.

Back then money from records basically came in two forms, mechanicals and royalties. Mechanicals is for records sold and royalties for stuff played on radio and TV.

Royalties by far outstrip mechanicals by a country mile. Both were paid quarterly per territory and there were 84 territories in total.

I once saw a mechanicals cheque on the office desk for just one Queen album, one quarter, in one territory, Argentina, which was for £224,000.

Multiply that by 84 territories 4 times a year, add the quarterly royalty cheques to that and then times it by the number of albums you have out, not including merchandise.

My calculator just blew up.

And remember this is (I'm sure Ben won't mind me mentioning) about 40 years ago when £224,000 really was £224,000!


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hey pleb, are you voting the right way?

There has been a whole pile of stuff written about how the poor deluded and misinformed - even ignorant - voters make the wrong choices. Much of this relates to the rather splendid decision of the British electorate to ignore the views of the great and good in voting to leave the European Union.

I was quite taken by Brendan O'Neill talking about the NME in a Spectator blog:

The rebels have become the squares, the youths have become the authoritarians, and the spirit of rock’n’roll no longer lives in the middle-class music scene or leftish activist circles, but in the hearts and minds of the little people.

The very location of this blog - given its subject - shows a world upside down. A former Marxist writing in the establishment's political journal about how the New Musical Express, the edgiest of music magazines from my youth, has sold out on the spirit of punk. But it's worse than this - we're in a world where the errors of voters need correcting, where the choices of plebs need nudging, directing, managing in order that they concur with the opinions of a self-appointed clique of educated, metropolitan sophisticates.

Here's O'Neill again:

What we have here is ordinary people, including vast swathes of the working class, saying ‘No’ to the status quo, sticking two fingers up at an aloof elite, channelling Rotten and Vicious to say screw you (or something rather tastier) to that illiberal, risk-averse layer of bureaucracy in Brussels.

Today I went to a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority where we received and discussed a report on the implications of Brexit. The report wasn't very good (it described 'long term' in its response to Brexit plan as January 2017-January 2018 - seriously) but it wasn't this that made my eyes widen. Rather it was the idea that, had we only communicated better - EU flags on pens were mentioned - then it would have all been different. Talk was of how we could, in the future, 'communicate' the poor, ignorant voters into voting the right way.

Bear in mind that these were, in all but one case, senior Labour councillors talking - the tribunes of the people spoke and told us that the people, bless 'em, didn't know what they were doing. The poor dears simply weren't aware of all the wonders that the EU had brought them (as they struggled to pay for the mortgage, find a reliable job, get the children off to a decent start, build up a nest egg for retirement).

It seems that everywhere people like this think democracy is rubbish. At least when people make decisions you don't like. I remember one of those same Labour leaders sternly suggesting that a balanced representation on votes cast meant 'they'd have representation, you know" - she meant UKIP but, like Voldemort, couldn't quite name the evil thing.

And this snobbish, 'voters should be shown how to vote properly' view isn't limited to the UK. Here's Tyler Cowan from Marginal Revolution:

It might have been a better situation when the elites, acting with some joint collective force, directed more of their energies to shaming the less elite voters than to shaming each other.

You've got this haven't you, darlings? This undoubtedly elite commenter writing on a blog with tens of thousands of readers thinks we should try to make ordinary working class voters ashamed of not voting the same way as their betters. It's little better than the squire visiting his workers to make sure they understood why they should vote for his son as the MP.

Instead of bribing, shaming or nudging perhaps the answer lies in actually sitting down and listening to these voters. Finding out what bothers them, understanding why they think government is run for the elites and that it is too far away, too complicated and too secretive for them to stand a chance of liking what is does - or, more importantly, what it represents.

If you start with the premise that the plebs have voted the wrong way, then you've already lost the argument. It you think attacking them, embarrassing them or shaming them is the way forward, you've lost that argument. And if you think the answer is for the great and good to decide everything then you're no democrat but a nannying authoritarian.

Two-thirds of Wakefield's voters chose to leave the EU. They didn't do this because they're 'left behind', 'excluded', 'ignorant', 'racist' or any of those other interpretations of "plebs, you voted the wrong way". They voted to leave because the EU was - and still is - an elite project run by and for the elite. A means - somewhat like too much international aid - of channelling cash from the productive in successful places to an unproductive elite in less successful places. A system where posh students get subsidised gap years paid for with the taxes of low paid workers and where grand European-funded offices filled with patronising middle-class development workers fail to make any difference to the communities they're supposed to be helping.

No-one voted the wrong way and the great and good need to get this into their thick skulls. People had a choice - a contested choice - and opted, in sufficient numbers to win, for the one that said Leave. To understand this you don't need to insult those voters or pretend that poor communication was the problem. What you need to do is realise that the EU is the biggest of all the elite projects - patronising, self-serving, suited, shiny-officed, out of touch, nannying, hectoring, bossy.

The problem is that all those people who benefited from the EU - and their friends, fellow travellers and useful idiots - think the answer to the problem is more bossiness, more nudging, more lectures and a mission to make anyone voting ashamed of voting their conscience, their feelings and their thoughts. It seems the elite still think the plebs are voting the wrong way and that this should be stopped.


Monday, 25 July 2016

Social Justice - a new authoritarianism


I got to thinking about social justice. Partly this was because I'm doing a debate on Wednesday with someone who comes billed as a 'Social Justice Campaigner' and partly because it's a term I see used again and again but which seems to avoid clarity or definition. On the one hand we can point to a right wing version as typified by the Centre for Social Justice:

By combining hands-on experience, public involvement, academic rigour and effective political engagement, the CSJ has been able to work from a foundation that has sparked radical public policy change. Since 2004 we have set out over 800 ideas – published across more than 20 research themes – that would make a transformative difference in people’s lives. Many of these recommendations have influenced the political process significantly, revolutionising a tired debate about poverty and social justice. These include: radical welfare reform through Universal Credit; early years intervention programmes; political commitments to prevent family breakdown; pioneering education reforms; efforts to improve the rehabilitation of offenders and drug addicts; action on street gangs; and support for people with unmanageable debts.

I see this as having the same relationship to Conservatism as Methodism appears to have to English protestantism - at least in so far as I understand these things. Indeed, the CSJ does come across as drawing on a Christian conservative tradition that might be associated with 19th century 'muscular Christians', with G K Chesterton or, more recently, with Pope John Paul II. I'm being careful here because the mixing of religion and politics is always tricky. What is clear from the CSJ position on social justice is that it is about poverty and exclusion rather than inequality per se.

The other hand contains the left wing world of our social justice campaigner - the one I'm seeing on Wednesday is from this organisation:

JUST is a groundbreaking initiative set up by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003 to promote racial justice in West Yorkshire. Since its establishment JUST has become a leading voice in the North promoting racial justice, civil liberties and human rights. The fall-out from the 2001 Northern Uprisings and the introduction of draconian legislation following the 7/7 London bombings has resulted in civil liberties and human rights increasingly becoming an integral part of our work in the region.

In an era where the Community Cohesion and Prevent agendas have become the key paradigms of government policy and the Race and Institutional Racism agendas have been rolled back by the State, the adverse impact on Black and minority ethnic people has been unprecedented.

BME people continue to be over-represented in poverty, discrimination, NEETS, criminal justice, stop and search, education, poor health and other poor quality of life outcomes. Instead of investment in resources and funding to address the generational and historic systemic and structural discrimination that BME people experience, the government’s ‘war on terror’ has ‘criminalised’ BME and particularly Muslim people and its community cohesion policy has put the burden of good race relation on visible minorities.

We're in a very different place here from the CSJ. Instead of the focus on poverty we have an emphasis on inequality - the view that government and other institutions are contributors to the lack of justice faced, in this case, by BME communities. And we can encounter the same language from others advocating for LGBT, for women's rights and even for religious minorities (this is hinted at with JUST West Yorkshire saying "...particularly Muslim people....").

The question here is whether we have two entirely different definitions of social justice or whether there is a common theme between the anti-poverty positioning of the CSJ and the minority rights approach of JUST West Yorkshire. I did trawl through the philosophical underpinnings of the idea - from John Rawls backwards (always best to work backwards with philosophy) to Locke and Hobbes via Rousseau. As usual with philosophy it's about a penetrable as six-inch thick steel plate but the themes of poverty and equality (or equity) were common as was this idea of a 'social contract'. Indeed this latter concept seems to me quite the central consideration.

The problem is that this social contract is every bit as nebulous as the idea of social justice. Not only is the contract not written down but there seems to be some confusion as to whether it applies to all of humanity or merely to parts of humanity. Is the social contract something sitting at the level of the neighbourhood (say Cullingworth), region or nation? And is the General Will that Rousseau talks about essentially a vocalisation of that social contract? Finally, who interprets or enforces the social contract and how do we know that reflects the General Will?

I'm saying all this, not because I want to answer all those questions (I'm not sure we can), but rather because we need to understand that, if social justice is the enforcement of Rousseau's social contract, it can only be done through authoritarian means and through the preference for communal rights over individual rights. To do this someone - or some organisation - has to become the arbiter of what is or isn't a breach of that social contract or, in other words, is contrary to social justice.

Sometimes all this is pretty straightforward because there is no conflict between individual and communal rights - for example in arguing that it's wrong to exclude someone from employment on the basis of skin colour, gender or sexual preference. But where personal views (and our right to express them) are concerned we can only enforce social justice by denying individual rights. Thus the 'social justice right' may wish to prevent (or actively discourage) 'non-traditional' family arrangements and the 'social justice left' may want to stop the expression of support for such a traditionalist position. Both positions deny people a right - either to live in a non-traditional family or to express opposition to that idea.

The problem is that both sides invoke (at least implicitly) the idea of the social contract in defence of their position. Yet the positions are - for essentially the same reason on each side - mutually exclusive. The left says excluding the non-traditional is unfair or unequal while the right says that the non-traditional arrangements promote poverty and therefore inequality. Social justice cannot be delivered unless one or other position is rejected.

For the right this means championing stable communities, families (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) and often the fear of god. Hard work, community involvement and self-sacrifice in the interest of future generations are held as essential virtues - the social contract is an unwritten commitment to the whole community and that community is local, limited and seeks to be resilient. Social justice is served where everyone is part of secure, supportive and strong communities.

The problem is that this leads to social stasis, to paternalism and to the exclusion of people who reject (or have a different idea of) the essential community virtues. Plus, of course, someone has to define and enforce those virtues, to be the authority.

In the case of the left social justice is served by rejecting homogeneity, placing equality as the primary virtue and ensuring that no actions or speech undermines this primacy. The result is - or aims to be - a homogeneity between communities rather than within communities. Anything that questions the primacy of equality as the social contract's purpose cannot be permitted. Moreover the meaning of equality becomes fluid - it is determined by authority rather than by the reality of access to opportunity. As a result individual rights become secondary as communal rights come to dominate society. It is acceptable to 'no platform' a speaker if it is feared their words might contest the enforcement of the social contract - in ensuring social justice.

I had thought to draw the philosophical line forward down a different route to Giovanni Gentile's transition from Actualism to Fascism where the question of who interprets the General Will was answered though the idea of 'the leader'. The problem, however, is that this takes us - implicit authoritarianism aside - away from the modern position where leadership is more complex. Rather than a single identified leader, we have a sort of groupthink - a hive mind perhaps - that provides the basis on which the General Will is decided and the social contract upheld. Because this collective has market power, authorities bow to the pressure it asserts and exclude those who fail to conform with the perceived General Will.

In the end social justice is really something desired and doesn't need to be defined. The politician who proclaims he is fighting for social justice secures approval by seeming to support some sort of community betterment. The reality is that, whether from right or left, social justice is illiberal and excluding - either by enforcing an intra-communal conformity (the right) or by insisting on an inter-communal conformity (the left). The biggest loss here is, for me, individuality and the accompanying rights to speak, act and live freely.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Why it's good to admit to being wrong every now and then...


I used to work with a chap - forget his name, it was along time ago before I came to Bradford - who, when I'd point out a mistake in his stats or similar, would smile and say: "I may occasionally be in error but I'm never wrong." To be fair this was said with a smile while the mistake was corrected - I always liked him for that.

It was quite a while after this that I discovered Rousseau's idea of the General Will and, importantly, that my colleague's quote was more or less a description of how (paradoxically) the General Will is intrinsically right. Now the problem with this collectivist take on will is, as I'm sure folk have already noticed, that we need to have a way of knowing what that General Will is actually saying.

We can point to democracy as a means of determining what the General Will is saying except that, as us Brits have just discovered, democracy doesn't do this - is 52/48 a statement of General Will to Leave the EU or merely the result of a democratic contest? So, if we can't use voting to determine General Will (and the recent referendum reminds us of this fact) how do we decide? Or maybe the General Will - even badged as 'Common Good' or 'Common Purpose' - really doesn't exist?

For Actualists and latterly Fascists, the answer was simple, the General Will was embodied in the leader and his advisors (in themselves the leaders of the state's 'corporations' - army, business, organised labour, academia and so forth). But we're still stuck with the idea that somebody or some thing is the embodiment of that General Will - meaning, of course, that that person or body is intrinsically right. As the wags might say: "I may have my faults but being wrong isn't one of them!"

It seems to me that, in our sophisticated Western liberal democracies, this General Will has been embodied in a technocratic elite - a sort of Platonic administration by expert. Political decisions are sub-contracted to a process overseen by these experts - at the end of the process the politicians (defined here as the people we elect to represent us) do little other than rubber stamp the conclusions of the experts since these are 'scientific' or 'evidence-based'.

If we take the debate about standardised packaging for cigarettes as an example, we can see that the General Will was embodied in a small number of government bodies, academic departments and lobby groups rather than in the mass of response to the Department of Health's consultation on the proposal:

In total, 665,989 campaign responses were received from 24 separate campaigns. Around two-thirds of campaign responses received were from people who are opposed to the introduction of standardised packaging (total of 427,888 responses) and one-third of campaign responses received were from people who are in support (238,101 responses)...

The problem is that the opposition wasn't from those suitably (in the government's view) qualified to comment and they chose to assess only 'detailed' responses which, surprise surprise, split 53/43 in favour of standardised packaging. It doesn't matter whether or not you agree with the proposal for standardised packaging of cigarettes - the process of confirming the proposal post-consultation ignored the majority of responses because they were insufficiently 'detailed'.

The problem we have here is that there's a reluctance to admit that - regardless of how well 'evidenced' a policy might be, sometimes they are simply wrong. Indeed we know there's evidence of this with the standardised packaging policy:

“From a statistical perspective, none of these changes were different from zero. Over the timeframe of the analysis, the data does not demonstrate that there has been a change in smoking prevalence following the introduction of plain packaging.”

They also insert this important warning: “It is not possible to assign a causal relationship between the changes in the noticeabilty of health warnings or smoking prevalence and the introduction of plain packaging, as there have been a number of other confounding factors that have occurred before and during the period of this analysis.”

All this is merely illustrative of the problem with 'evidence' in making public policy. It's not just that we can't prove the counterfactual (what would have happened if we'd not made the policy decision) but also that appraising whether or not something works in social policy is really difficult - because of those confounding factors implicit in the second paragraph of the quotation above. Again this isn't an argument against the organised and systematic appraisal of public policy but rather a call for something different.

Put bluntly, it would be good for those experts to admit they were wrong every now and then rather than perform tortuous contortions aimed at explaining why, despite all the data (confounded or not) they really aren't wrong.

There is nothing weak about admitting a mistake - of fessing up and saying: "folks, I got that wrong!" Yet it seems that too many of us are constitutionally incapable of making that admission. We make predictions - often sweepingly on the basis of 'I'm an expert and I say' rather than actual research or analysis - and when they turn out wrong, the best we can do is sit quietly in the corner hoping no-one calls us out on our error. Some of the 'experts' are more brazen - denying that was what they predicted, shouting about how you've misunderstood what they said, and insisting that someone else is twisting their words to mean something different.

It's because of this - plus the patronising arrogance us clever folk use too much of the time - that polling tells us that much of the population simply doesn't trust what we're saying. Coupled with shouty and aggressive appeals to authority, we shove aside deductive reasoning and intelligent (if naive) questioning in favour of findings from a focus group of experts or determined by our partisan google searches. Treating the mass of the population as semi-sentient may seem right - what, after all, to those sheep know, they have to be led - but that mass of people doesn't forget and, given the chance, will stick two fingers up at you.

Truth is there isn't any General Will - or Common Purpose for that matter - but rather a moving collection of shared interests that never involve every person. Government - however hard you bash the social policy thing - is a pretty poor way of managing these shared interests. And the futher that government is from the things that actually matter to the folk who (in George Bailey's words) do all the living, working and dying round here, the less effective it becomes.

So my friends, make an effort - admit it when you get something wrong, a prediction doesn't turn out quite as you thought or a policy you backed is a failure. It will be a catharsis for you and will get you a damn sight more respect than trying to pretend you weren't wrong. And, of course, feel free to call me out on this too.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Why Africa will leave us behind later this century


We're still building railways - nineteenth century technology albeit jazzed up with improved kit. Africa - on top of sophisticated mobile telephony (and banking) - will have this:

Norman Foster is often hailed as the inventor of the modern-day terminal-style airport with his design of London’s Stansted. And now, his new plan is to build the world’s smallest airport. For drones. The dynamic, futuristic technology of drones is still mostly associated with the military. But the endless opportunities of the speedy and compact air vehicles are quickly being discovered as their use is expanding in commercial, scientific, recreational and other applications. It is estimated that over a million civilian units were sold in 2015.

Who needs expensive multi-lane highways when, for a fraction of the cost, you can zip in the goods, medicines, and people needed to make the place tick on a drone? And then watch the produce of formerly remote - now connected - places fly off to serve the world. Brilliant.

In the (currently) rich world we're stuck with a creaking and high maintenance transport network because, in a world of drones, autonomous cars and driver less buses, we've convinced ourselves that the answer is spending all the spare cash on high speed trains.


Friday, 22 July 2016

Why Remain lost (redux)


Can I start firstly by saying this is a marketing view not a political one (although inevitably there'll be some politics). And secondly that Remain lost the referendum, Leave didn't win it. The campaign to stay in the European Union went from a secure opinion poll lead at the start of 2016 to losing the referendum six months later. At the outset of the campaign - which really started back in January not at the official campaign launch - Remain (or Stronger In) held all the cards. The campaign could count on the support of the three mainstream party leaders, most of the established names in politics, business, academia and science. Plus a reliable stream of celebrities happy to smile at the camera and proclaim "Stronger In".

The 'Stronger In' message - immigration aside - should also have been a winner. Thousands of foot soldiers to be recruited from the direct beneficiaries of EU members, from organisations receiving grants, from the ranks of universities. Big business, local government and the 'third sector' could be relied on to do the right thing in getting that message across.

So what went wrong? Well before some analysis from cleverer marketers than me, I'd like to share a couple of anecdotes (or qualitative analysis if you prefer).

Here in Cullingworth, the Village Hall decided to hold a referendum debate - they'd sounded out some folk in the village who all seemed keen and got a time and date (the venue, of course, would be the hall). A call to the local MP provided a Leave speaker pretty quickly and the Hall then contacted Stronger In - firing an email off to the address on that organisation's website. Nothing. No response at all. The good folk from the Hall chased - still nothing. I messaged the chief executive of the campaign, the Stronger In press office and another In twitter account. No response. Eventually, on the eve of the event, we got a limp phone message: "have you got a speaker?"

As it happened, other avenues had got us a speaker (thank you to Richard Corbett MEP for stepping up). But had we not used those avenues the event wouldn't have happened. The Stronger In campaign had failed at the very first hurdle of any campaign - not responding to enquiries. And, while Will Straw and the Stronger In press office were having a fun spat on Twitter with the much better organised (if smaller and poorer) Leave campaign, they also failed to respond to a request - from a non-partisan organisation - for campaign help.

The second anecdote is about public perception of what the vote was about. I'm sat in the sitting room of some local members - we were actually there to talk about the May local elections - and the referendum, perhaps inevitably, came up. Now these members are both elderly - 70s maybe even 80s - and they spoke about their doubts. Not selfishly but from the perspective of their children and grandchildren - "this is about twenty, thirty, forty years in the future - what sort of Britain we want for them" was the driver of their doubt. Now I don't know how this couple voted but I do know that the Stronger In campaign completely missed their perspective - the public campaign (where it was coherent) was entirely about the next few years.

I picked up this time perception time and time again but the Remain campaign stayed trapped in its short-termism - there was no message that answered my members' question: "what would a Stronger In Britain be like in twenty, thirty or forty years". Other than a sort of grandfatherly (at best) "it won't be good, you know - I wouldn't do it". And this short-termism continues after the Brexit vote - West Yorkshire Combined Authority in a report on 'Brexit implications' described 'long term' as 2017-2018.

I commented before on how the advertising folk - and Remain had access to all the top agencies, a deep well of marketing knowledge - saw the campaign as a shambles, without any positive message and focused more on personalities than on that message. Well here's another comment - focused more on tactical communications issues - from Mike Hind:

It was almost as if Remain actively wanted to exclude you if you read the Daily Express. Tepid offerings of business information and hesitant requests to support them if you’d “like to” hardly spoke of a passion to mobilise people who are generally more turned on by a direct call to arms. It didn’t work for me — and I was a financial contributor to the campaign. A despairing one.

Hind looks at web messaging, brand development and the lack of any apparent strategy. But this paragraph gets to the core of it - there was no message for the elderly couple sat in a Yorkshire sitting room worrying about their grandchildren. Instead Stronger In figures spent time painting these likely (but not certain) Leave voters as if they were pariahs - racist xenophobes, Little Englanders, selfish, ill-educated, lacking in understanding. A communications strategy designed to reassure the core thirty- and forty-something professional audience of Stronger In not a strategy to have a conversation with people in places like Cullingworth who hadn't made their minds up.

As I started out saying - Stronger In, or Remain, began the campaign with all the advantages, all the expertise and the basis of an effective organisation. And blew it. On the evening of polling day - a few minutes after the polls had shut, the BBC interviewed Ed Miliband. It doesn't matter what the MP for Doncaster North said in the interview, it matters where it was conducted - from London. Miliband wasn't where he would have been most effective - in his constituency where he's known, influential and probably liked.

The problem now is that those who campaigned to remain a member of the EU are compounding their error. They're still preferring to paint Leave voters as thick, ill-educated, oafish bigots rather than begin the job of listening to those people. Analyses of voting that confirm this view are shared. Bad news of any sort is leapt on and spread around - whether its reports of xenophobic attacks (do note that West Yorkshire police say there's no post-referendum increase in such attacks) or some snippet of economic news, mostly opinion or anecdote, that confirms the Remain campaign's predictions of short-term doom and gloom.

Right now there's a peace to win. And it won't be won by portraying half the nation as stupid, bigoted, ignorant and selfish. It will be won by presenting the case most of us support - Britain as an outward-looking, co-operative, creative nation that's up for trade, intellectual exchange and, yes, sensibly managed immigration.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

So the Chinese are buying up Sheffield. Tell me economic nationalists where's the outcry?


You'll all recall the outcry - much of it pig-ignorant - over the sale of ARM Holdings to a Japanese company. Between people blaming Brexit and a veritiable torrent of slightly leftish economic nationalism we were told that this was a terrible foreign take over. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't (I lean towards the latter - after all I'd be cheering on a British business buying a Japanese company why not the reverse).

What I don't understand it the selective nature of this economic nationalism. I've not picked up anything like the same sort of negative response to this:

In the biggest Chinese investment outside London, Sheffield city council announced that an initial £220m would pay for four or five city centre projects over the next three years and create “hundreds if not thousands” of jobs in south Yorkshire.

The partnership is between Sheffield city council and Sichuan Guodong Construction Group, one of the biggest firms in China’s south-western Sichuan province.

What, dear reader, is the difference between a massive Chinese conglomerate buying up big chunks of Sheffield city centre and the (admittedly larger) inward investment deal that was the ARM takeover? Or for that matter the perennial whining and whimpering about foreign investment in London property? I mean, if you're going to be an economic nationalist - adopt the daft Will Hutton view of industry - then, for heaven's sake, be a consistent economic nationalist.

What we have here is a massive Chinese investment in UK property - celebrated by The Guardian. Just the sort of thing the same paper was railing against a short while ago:

Foreign buyers now own close to 10% of the UK’s housing stock, he claims, and, unchecked, will gobble up much more, increasingly in Manchester, Edinburgh and other regional cities. With the global financial elite numbering at least 15 million, “increasing housing supply can never bring down prices, no matter how much public land and green belt is turned into flats, because the demand for investment returns is almost infinite.”

Thes epeople really do need to make their minds up. Just because this is a snuggly deal between a Labour Council and a big Chinese corporation (with all the lack of accountability that goes with this sort of deal) doesn't make it special or better - it's just as much foreigners buying up British assets as the ARM deal or a thousand other mergers, property investments and stock purchases. All in all a reminder that economic nationalism is stupid.