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Weekend reading: The Election Section

Weekend reading: The Election Section post image

Politics, then the best of the articles I read this week.

After last year’s ill-advised EU Referendum and its even more malodorous result left me impotently railing, I wondered whether I shouldn’t have done more politics on Monevator beforehand. Readers from both sides of the vote asked me the same thing.

The truth is mostly that as a fully paid-up member of the Liberal Elite, I hadn’t ever really believed the British electorate would dislike their own feet in sufficient numbers to start blasting away at them.

A sizeable cadre of constitutional diehards? Sure, and a smattering of undesirables. But a winning majority?

Well, we know how that turned out. A Coalition of Incompatibles voted Leave for a dozen different reasons, and here we are.

Yet metropolitan arrogance wasn’t the only thing that stopped me. While I write about these things from time to time because I’m a blogger and writing is what I do, politics isn’t something I claim any expertise in and this site is meant to be about investing.

So I also didn’t want to waste your time and attention.

The depreciated pound in your pocket

This is also why I haven’t written much about next week’s General Election. Besides, for many people – including most readers of this blog – there isn’t a great deal in it between the major parties, from a financial perspective anyway.

Consider this analysis from the Institute of Financial Studies (via David Weston on Twitter):

Graphs showing personal finance consequences of party manifestos in UK general election

(Click to enlarge these promises made to be broken)

Okay, so this seems to ignore any secondary impacts from other policies. (Labour going heavy with the old tax-and-spend routine and thwacking the economy, say, or the Tories turning us into Sterling Singapore). But that aside, the relative proximity of the Conservative and Labour impact lines is clear.

The Liberal Democrats are the outlier, and it would be tempting to say that’s because as the perennial third-party they’ve not put forward real policies. Except they actually have pledged to increase income taxes by 1% across the board. That money is said to be earmarked for the NHS.

As for the two main contenders, unless you’re somewhat income poor or very income rich, it doesn’t seem to matter much which party wins.

Of course, that still leaves 30-40% of people for whom it really does matter – and that’s where all the rhetoric and debate is focused.

Labour’s whacking of the wealthiest stands out, and it’s easy to accuse them of old-fashioned class war. But then when you look at who has done well since the financial crisis, it’s pretty clear it’s the richest, mostly through rising house prices and buoyant stock markets.

Indeed, the more I think about Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour manifesto – which instinctively I don’t like at all – the more I’m left thinking if you’re not going to vote in some old-school redistribution now, in our current circumstances, then when?

  • Compare the financial points from the Tory and Labour manifestos at ThisIsMoney.

There’s an awful lot NOT to like about this Labour party, especially its front bench. I’ve spent years bemoaning them to my far more lefty friends. (I’m nearest to a New Labour sort at heart. Or better yet the US Democrats.)

And yet the Tories and Theresa May… give me strength.

May be not

When the election campaign began I was aghast at May’s authoritarian overtones, yet that now represents something of a high point in my feelings about her.

It’s one thing to adopt the mantle of a one-party State tyrant if you’ve actually got the swagger and political vision to pull it off. But May increasingly seems little more than a cipher.

Making the election campaign all about Mrs May has backfired spectacularly. Instead of a clever Machiavellian schemer who, for instance, brought her enemy Boris Johnson into the cabinet to neuter Brexiteer opposition, I’m more inclined these days to see a weak and flip-floppy opportunist.

Her imminent opponents in the Brexit negotiations must be rubbing their hands with glee.

So much for May’s character. But the mendacious immigration target aside, I don’t mind the Conservative manifesto too much, despite claims that when you run it through a computer simulation the UK collapses. Even the so-called Dementia Tax was a fairly progressive piece of legislation in the eyes of someone like me who’d love to whack up inheritance tax.

Squint a bit and – thanks to the lack of detail – you can almost see a Tony Blair-style Labour leader campaigning under this Conservative manifesto.

But then I look at the distribution in the graph above, and again I think about how we’re now nearly ten years into austerity, and I reconsider…

Today I read that even Blairite Alastair Campbell’s son is going to vote for Corybn.

Of course I’m concerned about this flavour of Labour hiking taxes and going on a spending spree. But I watch videos like this harrowing one about a disabled woman who can’t walk risking her life going down the stairs and I wonder where even the taxes I’m paying are going, if not on helping somebody like her?

The UK’s tax take is about average at around 33% of GDP. I’d see it rise by 1-2% if it meant I’m not confronted by videos like this.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t support higher taxes if they’re just going to slosh into public sector inefficiencies and wage hikes, and closed shop ‘that’s not how we do it around here’ stasis.

Which let’s face it, they at least partly would.

Party pooper

You see, I’m no party political animal. I’ve voted Conservative in my time, and I’ve even voted Green in local elections. I’d vote for the Liberal Democrats in this one if only for their stance on Brexit, but it’d be a wasted vote in my constituency.

  •  For a great explanation (with cool interactive tools) on alternative voting systems, go read this. Especially if you’d prefer not to have to vote tactically, which as things stand you probably should if you don’t want to see a Conservative government.

The Economist has also plumped for the Liberal Democrats, daydreaming about how:

“…the whirlwind unleashed by Brexit is unpredictable. Labour has been on the brink of breaking up since Mr Corbyn took over.

If Mrs May polls badly or messes up Brexit, the Tories may split, too. Many moderate Conservative and Labour MPs could join a new liberal centre party—just as parts of the left and right have recently in France. So consider a vote for the Lib Dems as a down-payment for the future.

Our hope is that they become one element of a party of the radical centre, essential for a thriving, prosperous Britain.”

Um, that isn’t going to happen, The Economist.

What an uninspiring choice. The three main parties are like an unwinnable version of the rock-paper-scissors game. Corbyn’s unpleasant friends in his past versus May’s gruesome friend in the White House versus Tim Farron’s lack of friends among the electorate. Labour’s timely redistribution versus the Tories finally raising the higher rate income tax band versus the Liberal Democrats’ penny on income tax to fund the NHS that most of us cite as a top priority. Corbyn being right about Iraq versus May’s not faffing up in the Home Office versus Farron’s principled approach to the Brexit car crash.

On and on and on. (Oh yeah, THIS is why I don’t do party politics…)

At least a Conservative coronation now looks less likely. That’s perhaps the best reason to vote Labour – and maybe especially if you voted for Brexit. Less than a year after the Referendum and May has already been treating the opposition with contempt, calling elections for her own political ends, refusing to engage with the public, and asserting without evidence that she needed a General Election to give her a mandate to negotiate a Brexit that her own party’s machinations got us into.

It can’t go on this way. If we won’t have a European parliament in the mix anymore – if you want our politicians to be in control of our future – then our own Parliamentary system needs to do better.

From Monevator

Seven reasons why you shouldn’t start your own business – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Environmental collapse is the big threat to long-term wealth – Monevator

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber.1

Triple-lock pension safeguard would cost you £115,000 if you bought it yourself – ThisIsMoney

UK house prices down third month straight for first time since the financial crisis – Guardian

Mortgage lenders say “yes” to more first-time buyers [Search result]FT

How chocolates and drinks have shrunk since Brexit, with no price drop – Guardian

Dwell’s new mortgage tool offers extra insight into how much you can borrow – ThisIsMoney

Millennials can’t rely on the state pension and will have to work longer, says IMF – ThisIsMoney

Cheer up, Millennials, your pensions could be even worse [Search result]FT

Population growth is correlated with stock market returns. [Coincidence?]Econompic Data

Products and services

Why RIT won’t be using Vanguard’s new wrapper platform – Retirement Investing Today

Been given options in a startup? What they could be worth [Calculator]TLDR Stock Options

The HSBC Global Strategy Fund as an alternative to Vanguard – DIY Investor (UK)

Hargreaves Lansdown now offers a Bitcoin ETN from Swedish firm XBT – Hargreaves Lansdown

Comment and opinion

The hidden dangers of passive investing [Search result. Consume cautiously.]FT

Even Jack Bogle has been musing about the downsides to indexing’s popularity – MarketWatch

Bogle also has 7 tips for investors – ETF.com

Paul Lewis: Time to scrap the ISA tax haven [Search result]FT

This Amazon engineer invests via a weird crowdsourced ’80s videogame mashup – MarketWatch

Why investing beginners should consider the stock market – Fire V London

Re-framing the concept of risk – A Wealth of Common Sense

Daily returns are a coin flip. Stop looking at your portfolio! – Retirement Researcher

ETF of cat-named companies delivers 849,741% – but it’s rejected by BlackRock – Bloomberg

Is Diageo still an attractive dividend growth stock? – UK Value Investor

Interview with a small cap value investing alpha-generator [Podcast]The Felder Report

The combustion engine is a bigger threat to oil prices than electric cars – The Value Perspective

What is a house, and can it make you rich? – The Escape Artist

How to cope with sequences of returns risk in retirement – Of Dollars and Data

Taking portfolio spending into the real world for retirees – Wade Pfau

Retirement is more Sun Tzu than Rubik’s Cube – The Retirement Cafe

Happier – and spendier – at work than retired – SexHealthMoneyDeath

A downside to the stampede into socially responsible investing – Enterprising Investor

Off our beat

A timeline of the Earth’s average temperature [Illustration]xkcd

Amazon Books is basically Borders – 500ish Words

Sitting next to a high-performer can make you better at your job – Kellogg Insight

The Internet is broken. Evan Williams is trying to save it – New York Times

Medieval city map generator [Tool. Slash toy!]Oleg Dolya

And finally…

“One company planned to build floating offshore mansions for London’s elite, and yet another had a formula to harness energy by reclaiming sunshine through vegetables. These newly floated stock issuances were called “bubbles” at the time. Eventually the South Sea Company convinced members of Parliament (many of whom had already lined their own pockets with South Sea Company shares) to pass the Bubble Act on June 9, 1720, which prohibited the existence of any joint-stock company not authorized by a Royal Charter.”
– Meb Faber, Global Value

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{ 52 comments… add one }
  • 51 Richard June 5, 2017, 6:04 pm

    It just seems very unfair that previous uni goers are not Going to get their loans forgiven and refunded all their previous payments. I know, life ain’t fair

  • 52 The Austrian June 6, 2017, 11:27 am

    Interesting IFS chart that. Seems to me Theresa May has ‘done a Hilary’ by trying to stay in the political centre and totally underestimating the oppo. I believe Thatcher commented that the problem with being in the middle of the road is that you can be run over from both sides. The single biggest constituency in the UK is the people who can’t or won’t be bothered to vote as they think it makes no difference.

    And what on earth is the Tory offer? Continuation Brown-ism it seems to me – micromanagement, ever greater regulatory and tax complexity, and borrow-to-spend for all time. The country is simply not as wealthy as we think we are – it’s called the decline of the West, and the sooner someone gets to grips with it the better. Increasing regulation, taxes and State spending are not going to attract capital or make us wealthier. It is interesting that if you consider reducing govt spending, people’s minds turn to benefit cuts for disabled people. But that is a miniscule drop in the entitlements ocean – government, central and local, spend about £157 bn a year on pensions, including the state pension and civil service pensions. Think about that: £157,000,000,000! Each. Year. http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/government_expenditure.html

    Getting people to save more towards their own (ever longer) retirement is the critical spending issue of our generation, but where is the party proposing to let you keep more of your money (i.e. lower taxes), get the price of borrowing back to a level that rewards saving (i.e. interest rates somewhere near where they would be determined by a market, rather than a committee of bureaucrats), and rolling back what you can expect from the State – there just isn’t one any longer.

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