Politicians and Pyrrhic victories

Panacea Comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

12 Jun 2017

Politicians and Pyrrhic victories

As the dust settles on the political mess that surrounds us, I, like you no doubt, have been reflecting on what ‘learnings’ (that wonderful word that those who should be responsible trot out when they have messed up) have been coming out, a little before Thursday and now in the swirling dust cloud of verbal spin, catch phrases, excuses, retributions, pollsters and egos.

My own MP, a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice, visited me last week and expressed his concern that the Tory party had gone ‘off piste’ into danger.

In skiing parlance this was because the small group of skiers had no guide, had not listened to a weather forecast and had no piste map with them or even an avalanche safety device.

I tend not to be too political. This is because I have met a few MPs over the years, some on the TSC, some who were not. I have been amazed at their arrogance, general stupidity and lack of any knowledge of real life.

The nation today should be, in Hector Sants speak, ‘very afraid’.

Why?

Because it now comes to light that the government, since Brexit, has in effect been run by two unelected individuals. They have excluded many senior ministers and MPs from the formulation of policy, a campaign strategy and manifesto.

That is bad enough.

What is worse is what we find out now.

Not only do we have an idiot as PM, we have a bunch of spineless ministers who sat there and said absolutely nothing. Not even a whimper of discontent, in effect offering up a ‘Nurnberg defence (we were only acting on orders) in fear of their jobs in the next government that was expected to have a hundred plus majority.

And even worse, the post election complete lack of contrition. Today from Michael Fallon on the Andrew Marr Show, making possibly the best Uriah Heep impersonation I have ever see by a politician.

Readers of Charles Dickens will know that the character is notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own “‘umbleness”.

And this lot want to form a government to see the nation through the Brexit process?

Once again I am reminded of Bob Monkhouse’s quote about his career aspirations. He said, “everybody laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. They’re not laughing now”.

In this case think of Mrs May. Nobody laughed when she called an election that was not needed. Well, they’re all laughing now.

God save the Queen.

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Longstop matters, dual standards and South Thanet

Longstop matters, dual standards and South Thanet

The campaign to see that longstop protection should be re-instated for financial advisers seems to have been kicked into the long grass once again, this time by way of the actions and resolve of the FAMR and the FCA.

Had longstop protection been restored, IFAs would have seen any claim against them becoming unenforceable after 15 years had elapsed. This protection was enshrined for all within the Limitations Act 1980 and was removed for financial advisers by the government under FSMA 2000 legislation statutory instruments.

The big supporting ‘remove’ argument for consumers was, and still is, that it could take very many years to realise that financial advice received could be inappropriate, for instance mortgage or pension advice.

What follows regarding dual standards will make advisers very cross indeed.

We hear that Tory party officials tried to block Kent police’s enquiry into general election party overspending (election fraud?) by engaging the services of one very expensive QC, James Laddie at Matrix Chambers.

The argument put forward by Mr. Laddie was that the time limit for any overspend prosecutions had expired. That limit, in this electoral case, is just 12 months. He failed to mention to the court the delay in providing information to Kent police by the party contributed to that delay.

Luckily, the judge was wise. Upon being told of Conservative party attempts to block Kent Police from extending their probe, Judge Justin Barron said in granting the extension ‘The combination of circumstances before me is wholly exceptional and goes far beyond the usual circumstances that would exist in a typical case where election expenses are being investigated.’

General election campaigns allow a spend between £10,000 and £16,000 per candidate, depending on the size of their constituency population.

General elections set an elected government on course for a fixed term of 5 years. The balance of power in the 2015 election was determined, in particular, within marginal constituency seats such as South Thanet. Those very marginals delivered a Tory majority of just 12 seats.

In May, seven police forces launched investigations into Tory MPs for possible election fraud, acting on evidence revealed by Channel 4 News that showed almost £200,000 had been spent in supporting Tory candidates that should have been declared at a local level.

The outcome, had it been declared in each constituency, would have blasted those candidates way beyond their local expense limit, in fact it could have doubled that amount.

Police are also investigating:

  • Amanda Milling, for Cannock Chase
  • Michael Ellis for Northampton North
  • Stuart Andrew for Pudsey, Horsforth & Aireborough
  • David Nuttall for Bury North
  • North Cornwall for Scott Mann
  • George Eustace for Cambourne and Redruth
  • Kevin Foster for Torbay
  • Oliver Colville for Plymouth Sutton and Devenport;
  • Graham Evans for Weaver Vale.

Gloucestershire Police have not yet not confirmed whether they will be looking at Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk or Stroud MP Neil Carmichael.

It would be fair to say that there have never been circumstances such as this where an investigation into potential electoral crime was so large or so complex that it created the need to apply for an extension of the one-year time limit.

If the ‘boys in blue’ do decide to look at all these constituencies and the outcome is that the Tory party was found guilty of electoral crime on such an industrial scale, the balance of power could shift by way of a re-run of the elections in those constituencies’.

Indeed, in the event of a series of successful prosecutions, the country could have been governed by an illegal entity.

For Nigel Farage, the massive resource thrown at South Thanet probably destroyed his election prospects, the desired Tory outcome. He came second with 27% swing toward UKIP, only 2,812 votes behind the Tory winner

So, to summarise:

  • the Tories are claiming a longstop defence of 12 months.
  • IFA longstop aspirations were 15 years
  • If the constituency overspends results being investigated went against the Tory party, we may have had a hung parliament or an ‘Ed’ led Labour government.

This ‘Orwellian Animal Farm’ application of legal process shows there truly is something rotten in UK politics.

The financial adviser community may wish to consider again the ‘longstop remain’ argument put forward over many years by successive governments, and the most recent FAMR view on the matter as noted above and then apply it to this shameful political attempt to scupper a police investigation into electoral shenanigans.

We could surmise, from applying FCA and FAMR logic, that it could take very many years for an electorate to realise that government policy and law making could be based upon the outcome of electoral fraud.

And worse, the country could have decided to ‘Brexin’ or ‘Brexout’ all because of a referendum called by an illegitimate parliament.

And who would compensate for the very long-term ‘electoral detriment’ that overspend caused?

Just a thought.