Business

‘I’ Newspaper on Labour’s Plans to Liberate University Regulator from Market Forces

Today’s I for Saturday, 16th February 2019 has an article by Florence Snead on page 4 reporting Labour’s plans to overhaul the universities regulator, and remove the free market ideology currently underpinning its approach to higher education in the UK. The piece, entitled ‘Universities ‘should not be left to the mercy of market forces’ runs

Labour has unveiled how it would overhaul the higher education system as it claimed the system’s new regulator was “not fit for purpose”.

The shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will criticize the Office for Students – established by the Government in 2018 – in a speech today at the annual University and Colleges Union conference.

She will say the regulator represents a system “where market logic is imposed on public goods” and where “forces of competition run rampant at the expense of students, staff and communities.”

Labour said it wants the regulator to report on diversity in university staff and student bodies and to take action to make universities “genuinely representative of the communities they serve”.

Staff should also be represented on the regulator’s board to ensure their views are heard, it added.

The party said it would also ban vice chancellors sitting on their own remuneration committees.

Ms Rayner is also expected to address the issue of universities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously revealed by I.

“Students would be left with immense uncertainty about their futures and entire communities would lose one of their major academic, economic and social institutions.”

Universities minister Chris Skidmore responded: “Universities know they can’t trust Corbyn as his plans would crash the economy, mean less investment in our higher education, compromising its world class quality”.

Actually, if anything’s trashed our world class education system, it’s been the Thatcherite programme of privatization and free market ideology. Scientific research at UK universities has been hampered ever since Thatcher decided that university science departments should go into partnership with business. Which has meant that universities can no longer engage in blue sky research, or not so much as they could previously, and are shackled to producing products for private firms, rather than expanding the boundaries of knowledge for its own sake. Plus some of the other problems that occur when scientific discoveries become the property of private, profit driven industries.

Then there’s the whole problem of the introduction of tuition fees. This should not have been done. I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol when Mandelson and Blair decided to do this, and it’s immediate result was the scaling down of certain departments and shedding of teaching staff. Those hardest hit were the departments that required more funding because of the use of special equipment. This included my own department, Archaeology, where students necessarily go on digs, surveys and field expeditions. This means that the department had to have transport to take its staff and students to wherever they were excavating, provide digging equipment, although many students had their own trowels. They also needed and trained students in the use of specialist equipment like the geophysical magnetometers used to detect structures beneath the soil through the measurement of tiny changes in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as labs to clean up and analyse the finds, from the type of soil in which they were found, the material out of which the finds were made, chemical composition of various substances, like food residue in pots, so you can tell what people were eating and drinking, and the forensic examination of human and animal remains.

I’ve no doubt that this situation was made worse when Cameron and Clegg decided to raise tuition fees to their present exorbitant level. Which has meant that students are now saddled with massive debt, which may make it difficult for some ever to afford to buy their own homes. Student debt was already an issue just after I left college, when the Tories decided to end student grants. After the introduction of tuition fees it has become an even more critical issue.

Then there’s the whole issue of proper pay and conditions for university lecturers. This is nowhere near as high as it should be. A friend of mine in the ’90s was one of the Student Union officers at our old college/uni. He told me one day just what some of the highly skilled and educated lecturers were earning. And it was low. Many of them were on part-time work, and I think the pay for some of them was at average wage level or below. And that was then. I’ve no idea what it’s like now. I’ve come across reports of a similar crisis at American universities and colleges, where the pay for the managers has skyrocketed while that of teaching staff has fallen catastrophically. And this is all part of the general pattern throughout industry as a whole, where senior management has enjoyed massively bloated pay rises and bonuses, while staff have been laid off and forced on to short term or zero hours contracts and low pay.

All this has been done in the name of ‘market forces’ and the logic of privatization.

I am not remotely surprised that British higher education is in crisis, and that an increasing number of colleges and universities are facing bankruptcy. This was always on the cards, especially as the population surge that inspired many colleges and polytechnics to seek university status on the belief that there would be enough student numbers to support them, is now over. Market logic would now dictate that, as the universities are failing, they should be allowed to collapse. Which would deprive students and their communities of their services.

The structure of British higher education needs to be reformed. The entire Thatcherite ethic of privatization, free markets, and tuition fees needs to be scrapped. Like everything else Thatcher and her ideological children ever created, it is a bloated, expensive and exploitative failure. My only criticism about Corbyn’s and Rayner’s plans for the unis isn’t that they’re too radical, but that they’re too timid.

‘I’ Newspaper on Rowling and Riley Planning to Launch Blairite Party

Today’s I for 12th February 2019 also carried the news that J.K. Rowling, Rachel Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman were in a meeting with former members of Blair’s staff to launch this new, Centrist party that has periodically been mooted for the past year or so.

The article by Jane Clinton, ‘Rowling and Riley ‘plotting Blairite party’, on page 26 of the paper, runs

Countdown’s Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actress Tracy Ann Oberman have joined forces with advisers from Tony Blair’s government and JK Rowling’s agent to create a centrist breakaway Labour party.

Riley and Oberman, who are both Jewish, have been attacked by Labour supporters for criticizing Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism row that has engulfed the party. Riley revealed last month that Channel 4 bosses ordered extra protection following her comments.

They met Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, and his former speechwriter, Philip Collins, last Tuesday at the London offices of Ms Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair. There were 50 supporters present.

Details of the event, confirmed by I, include the creation of a pro-European centrist party which would appeal to the left of the Conservative party and the right of Labour.

Observers believe its creation would be the death knell for the Liberal Democrats.

At the meeting, during discussions as to who should be leader of the new party, Rowling’s name was shouted out to applause.

The Harry Potter author has been critical of Mr Corbyn, but leadership is not believed to be her ambition. Instead, it is thought shemay offer financial backing or fund a think-tank.

The good peeps over at Zelo Street have already critiqued this piece of Blairite aspiration, and pronounced the new party DOA. They note that such a party has been mooted several times, the names of various right-wing Labour MPs have been suggested in connection with it. And each time take-off has been aborted or not even attempted.

They point out that people have been proclaiming the death of the Lib Dems since the 1950s, but each time such predictions have been greatly exaggerated. The article goes on to mention the serious matter of Riley’s and Oberman’s conduct, which makes them totally unsuitable as leaders for any new party. Oberman threatened to sue blogger Shaun Lawson because he mentioned her in one of his tweets and in an article. Why? Because Riley, Oberman and their followers had viciously attacked and smeared a 16-year old schoolgirl and her father with false claims of anti-Semitism. The girl, who suffers from anxiety anyway, was threatened and harassed. Zelo Street concludes

Well-documented and cringe-inducing harassment, to boot. If that is the depth of the political talent pool available to the new Centrist party, it’s going to look more like a puddle.

Right now, it looks as though this new venture is DOA. No surprise there, then.

See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/new-centrist-party-looks-doa.html

Mike was also on the receiving end of the wrath of Riley and her army of fanboys for a piece he did reporting Lawson’s article and Riley’s and Oberman’s bullying of the teenager. And yes, they tried smearing him as an anti-Semite. Rowling’s also tried attacking Mike over social media, and got her rear end handed to her as a result. If I remember correctly, Rowling, Riley and Oberman are part of a little circle with Z-list actress Frances Barber, Al Murray and David Baddiel, who believe that they are genuinely tackling racism. They’ve been quoted as joking with each other about whether this is 1936 or not. Of course it isn’t. If this really was anything like 1936 there’d be no question of it. Real anti-Semitic mobs wearing Fascist uniforms, like Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts would be goose-stepping into Jewish and working class areas trying to provoke fights and intimidate the people there. You would hear speech from bigots and Nazis telling everyone that Jews were an unassimilable threat, and that further Jewish immigration should be curbed. And the same Nazis would also talk openly about Jews being ‘the money power’ behind capitalism and communism and plotting to destroy the White race. And as for Germany, Jews would be progressively banned from getting jobs or entering the universities, their businesses closed, and themselves publicly beaten and humiliated. while trade unionists, socialists, communists, anarchists, recidivist criminals, neurotics, the long-term jobless, sex workers and other dissidents and individuals the Nazi state decided were undesirable and ‘dysgenic’ would be rounded up to be worked to death in the concentration camps. The Alternative Fuer Deutschland are a bunch of Nazi goons, and there is the spectre of read Fascism and Nazism in eastern Europe – in Poland, Hungary, the Baltic States and Ukraine. But here in Britain is very much not like 1936. Not yet.

Tony Greenstein has repeatedly pointed out that while there has been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, Jews in Britain as a group are very comfortably middle class and most definitely do not suffer the real persecution of other ethnic minorities. For example, they are not being forcibly and unjustly deported, like the Windrush migrants. Other groups, such as Blacks, Asians and Muslims suffer far higher levels of violence and abuse. I haven’t heard any mainstream politician attacking the Jews or demanding that Jewish immigration be stopped. But there have been any number of Conservative and Kipper MPs making racist comments about Muslims and suggesting that they are incompatible with the British way of life.

As Riley’s and Rowling’s friends, Frances Barber also weighed in to accuse Mike and Owen Jones of being anti-Semites, while David Baddiel seems to have swallowed the Integrity Initiative black propaganda about Corbyn. I found a video on YouTube commenting on him declaring that Corbyn was an agent of Putin.

They’re spouting dangerous nonsense. The vast majority of the people accused of anti-Semitism in the Labour party were smeared because they were Corbyn’s supporters, members of the party’s left-wing, or critics of Israel. It was part of the campaign by the Blairites to hang on by attacking ordinary Labour party members. The Jewish establishment and the Zionists in the Labour party got involved because they support the Israeli state’s policy of ethnic cleansing and the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was clearly shown in the Al-Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, when Joan Ryan attempted to get an ordinary Labour party member thrown out as an anti-Semite because she had the temerity to ask Ryan a question she couldn’t answer. She wondered what the Jewish Labour Movement was doing to promote the two-state solution, and what would be done about the illegal settlements in Palestine if the solution was successfully put into operation. As for this country’s Jewish establishment, the Board of Deputies declares itself in its constitution to be a Zionist organization, and the other year former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs led a party of British Jews to the March of the Flags. This is an annual event where the Israeli equivalent of skinhead boot-boys march through the Muslim quarter vandalizing homes and property and threatening its people. Liberal Jewish organisations urged Sachs not to go, but he ignored them. They were ‘the wrong kind’ of Jews, you see.

As for the rise of Fascism in eastern Europe, this is being assisted and defended by Israel, whose supporters, like Stephen Pollard, the far right editor of the Jewish Chronicle, declare them to be ‘good friends of Israel’ because they buy Israel arms. And so are the remaining Jews of eastern Europe put in danger through lack of support from Israel. All while Israel proclaims itself to be the protector of Jews worldwide.

As for this supposed Centrist party, I can remember it being touted last year, when it was supposed to have millions of pounds in funding ready for, along with legions of corporate donors. At one point Blair’s son, Euan, was discussed as a founding member and possible leader. Then it all collapsed again. It had no members, no policies, and one of the founders walked out after a disagreement with the others.

All this Centrist party represents is continuity Blairism. Which means more privatization, more NHS privatization, more attacks on the welfare state, meaning more homelessness and starvation, and more corporatism. Which means that in exchange for funding, private industry can have their chairmen and senior management appointed to positions in government and the civil service.

Rowling, Riley, Oberman and Barber are a disgrace. The Centrist party Rowling and her friends Riley and Oberman are expected to lead represents nothing but further corporate exploitation and misery. It has collapsed several times before, and will do so again. No matter how much it is puffed by the papers.

Radio Programmes Next Week on Homelessness, Conspiracy Theories and Aliens

Looking through next week’s Radio Times for 9th-15th February 2019 I found a number of programmes which might be of interest to some people following this blog.

On Monday, 11th February at 8.00 pm on Radio 4 there’s Beyond Tara and George, about rough sleepers. The blurb for this programme reads

Last year there were nearly 600 deaths on the streets of the UK. In this follow-up to last summer’s Radio 4 series on east London rough sleepers Tara and George, presenter Audrey Gilan catches up with the pair to ask what it would take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of homeless people. (p. 137).

Then a half hour later at 8.30 on the same channel, Analysis covers conspiracy theories. The Radio Times says of this

Professor James Tilley explores the current spate of political conspiracy theories, and examines what belief in them tells us about voters and politicians.

The next day, Tuesday 12th February, at 1.30 pm on the Beeb’s World Service there’s Documentary: So Where Are the Aliens?, which the Radio Times describes thus

Space, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, is mindboggling big. So huge, in fact, that the probability of there being civilized life elsewhere in the universe is almost a mathematical certainty. This begs an obvious question, to which Seth Shostak – chief astronomer of the Seti institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has devoted his career. He speaks with fellow scientists Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their pioneering work chasing extraterrestrial radio signals as well as the new listening and light-based techniques designed to open up the sky like never before. Last year’s tantalizing fly-by of the mysterious cigar-shaped Oumuamua has revived interest in this topic, although in 2019 ET could be forgiven for giving Earth a wide berth. (p. 138).

Regarding the programme on preventing the homeless dying, one way to stop it would be to fix the welfare state so that poor and vulnerable people didn’t become homeless in the first place. Giving more funding and expanding the number of homeless shelters so that they were safe and able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers would also be very good. As would support schemes for those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems. And as Mike’s pointed out in his reports on attacks on the homeless, it would also be very good idea for the right-wing media to stop portraying the homeless, as well as the disabled, the unemployed and those on benefits generally all as scroungers committing welfare fraud and generally demonizing them. But as the Tory party, the Scum, Express and Fail all depend on this for votes and sales, it isn’t going to happen.

The prgramme on conspiracy theories could be interesting, but I doubt it will actually face up to the fact that some conspiracies are real. Not the malign and bogus myths about a Jewish plot to destroy the White race, or that the business and political elite are really evil Reptoid aliens, a la David Icke, or have made a demonic pact with grey aliens from Zeti Reticuli to allow them to abduct us for experimentation while giving them the benefits of alien technology. Or similar myths about the Illuminati, Freemasons or Satanists.

The real conspiracies that exist are about the manipulation of politics by the world’s secret services, and secret big business think tanks and right-wing pressure groups. Such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War, the smears concocted by MI5 during the 1970s presenting Harold Wilson as a KGB agent, and the contemporary smears by the Integrity Initiative, funded by the Tory government, claiming that Corbyn and other left-wing figures across Europe and America were agents of Putin. And, of course, the real conspiracy by Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy to have Tory cabinet ministers, who didn’t support Israel, removed from government. As well as the embassy’s role in making fake accusations of anti-Semitism against entirely decent people in the Labour party.

But I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will shy well away from these real conspiracies, not least because of Britain’s sordid role in the West’s history of regime change in Developing nations that dared to defy the Americans and ourselves. The Beeb has put on similar programmes before, and the person being interviewed or presenting the argument was former Independent journo David Aaronovitch. And his line has always been to ignore these real conspiracies, and concentrate on all the mythical rubbish, which he presents as typical of the conspiracy milieu as a whole. Which you’d expect from an establishment broadcaster, that now seems to see itself very much as the propaganda arm of the Conservative British state.

Moving on to the programme on SETI, Shostak, Tarter and Drake are veterans not only of the search for intelligent alien life, but also of programmes and documentaries on the search. Drake was the creator of the now famous equation which bears his name, which is supposed to tell you how many alien civilisations we can expect to exist in the galaxy. He was one of the brains behind Project Ozma, alias ‘Project Little Green Men’ in the 1960s to listen for alien signals from two nearby, roughly sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Which found zilch, unfortunately. Shostak and Tarter were two of the leaders of the new wave of SETI researchers in the 1990s, and Shostak wrote a book about the possibility of alien life and what they would possibly be like. This concluded that they wouldn’t be anything like us, ruling out aliens like Mr Spock in Star Trek. In size they would probably be the same as Labradors.

It’s been known now that the Galaxy is old enough and big enough, with the right kind of stars and an increasing multitude of known planets, some of them possibly suitable for life, for alien civilisations to have emerged several times. And if they only advanced at the speed of light, they should be here by now. But they’re not. So far we’ve detected no sign of them. Or no absolutely indisputable signs. So where are they? This problem is called the Fermi paradox after the Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi. Suggested answers are that life, or perhaps just intelligent life, is extremely rare in the universe. Space travel may be extremely difficult. Aliens may exist, but they may be completely uninterested in talking to us. In this respect, we may even be a ‘protected species’ considered too fragile at our current level of civilization for contact with the rest of the Galaxy. Or perhaps there really are predatory alien intelligences and civilisations out there, who automatically attack any culture naïve and trusting enough to announce their presence. In which case, all the alien civilisations out there are paranoid and keeping their heads well down. One of SF writer even wrote a collection of short stories, each of which gave one solution to the Paradox.

Millennials Not Graduating With Right Job Skills Says Boomer Who Can’t Use The Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/02/2019 - 3:28pm in

man

Millennials are not graduating with the right job skills, a report commissioned by a group of CEOs who haven’t worked out how to download it yet, has found.

The report was scheduled to be released yesterday, but had to delayed after the group was unable to open the final report attachment, calling for IT support.

After many hours the group eventually asked one of their grandchildren to download the document, in return for a shiny gold coin. The report was eventually released today, a day late and a dollar shorter.

The group sought a comment from a Millennial spokesperson, but no-one answered their landline.

____________________________________

By Matthew D Bulman

The Real Reason Stock Buybacks Are a Problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/02/2019 - 8:35am in

By Steve Roth Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer’s New York Times op-ed, “Limit Corporate Stock Buybacks,” has thrown internet gasoline on the buyback debate. The left is waving the flag, and the right is trying […]

The post The Real Reason Stock Buybacks Are a Problem appeared first on Evonomics.

Frydenberg To Commence Flogging Banks With The Warmest Of Lettuce

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/02/2019 - 8:26am in

josh-frydenberg

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has called all Banking and Finance bosses to Canberra so that he can flog then with the warmest of lettuce, following the release of the Royal Commission into Banking’s report.

“We’ve read the report and we will take action,” said the Treasurer. “I’ve sent the Leader of the House Christopher Pyne out to Coles to get as many lettuces as his little hands can carry.”

“When it comes to wielding the lettuce the Coalition will always flog harder than Bill Shorten’s Labor party.”

When asked whether he felt that flogging with warm lettuce was an apt punishment the Treasurer replied: “I could think of nothing more appropriate than a flogging with warm lettuce.”

“I mean we can’t be too severe with the banks otherwise we risk not getting any donations from them for our upcoming re-election campaign.”

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

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Profits Tumble As Banks Now Required To Have Living Customers Only

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/02/2019 - 7:19pm in

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Business

Australian banks will be required to limit their customer base to people who are alive, as part of a set of stringent changes recommended by the Banking Royal Commission.

Many
executives within the big four banks say the requirement for customers to not
be dead is unnecessarily draconian, and could undermine profitability.

“In
an open market, I really don’t think regulators should be telling us which customers
we can and can’t have,” one executive said. “We already do basic credit checks.
Do we have to check their pulse now as well?”

He
said dead customers had plenty of options to close their accounts if they
wanted to. “We have an app, a website, hundreds of branches and telephone
banking. I think we should leave this up to the customers themselves”.   

The
Commonwealth Bank, which currently services 65 million Australians, may lose up
to 90% of its customers.

Scandal at Nissan: How Seven Samurai Toppled a Corporate Tyrant

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/02/2019 - 6:59pm in

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articles, Business

Published in the Mekong Review February 2019

“He was beyond all bounds of normality,” says one of the key Nissan conspirators. ”So we had to be even more abnormal than him.”

Not for nothing was their target known as the “Emperor” of Nissan Motors, Japan’s second largest auto producer behind Toyota. A big figure with powerful political connections, he had done great things for the company in the past.

More recently, though, his arrogance and sense of entitlement had swollen to extraordinary proportions. His contemptuous treatment of subordinates and suppliers was ugly to behold, his monthly expenses equivalent to a middle manager’s annual salary.

Opposing the Emperor publicly was not a good idea: promising careers had been destroyed by a single critical phrase. The only way forward was to bypass the usual corporate apparatus of committees and meetings. Instead the conspirators would do their own detective work, amassing the incriminating evidence in painstaking detail.

Needless to say, the whole operation would have to be shrouded in total secrecy. Then, when the timing was right, the story would burst on the world like a bombshell.

And that was exactly what happened. In early 1984, Focus – a Japanese photo-magazine that covered political and show-biz scandals, as well as gruesome accidents and sexual shenanigans – published photographs of a tubby middle-aged man on a 40 foot yacht in the Sajima Marina, not far from Yokohama. With him was a lissom beauty several decades his junior.

The Focus scoop The Focus scoop, as delivered by Nissan’s anti-Shioji faction.

The tubby man was Ichiro Shioji, head of the Nissan company union, which boasted 230,000 members, and also chairman of the Federation of Japanese Auto Workers’ Unions.

A Nissan man since 1953, Shioji had risen to a position of exceptional power, effectively running the company in conjunction with the equally long-serving CEO, Katsuji Kawamata. He hobnobbed  with top US union officials, such as Walter Reuther, and gave interviews to the New York Times.

Shioji owned the yacht, though it was unclear how he had been able to afford it on his relatively modest salary – or his seven bedroom house, pricey golf club memberships and other extravagances.

His guest on the yacht was one of at least nine women he was involved with, including another pianist who he brought back from Los Angeles on one of his frequent trips and installed in a Tokyo apartment. The eight-man crew of the yacht were all Nissan employees “volunteering” their time.

Needless to say, it was not a good look for a union official who was supposed to be devoting his energies to securing a fair deal for his hard-pressed members. Bluster as he might, the “union aristocrat”, as he came to be known, could not refute the allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and misuse of company resources.

All this we know thanks to Top Secret Files of Nissan Motor, a blow-by-blow account authored by Noriaki Kawakatsu, one of the seven anti-Shioji rebels, and published expeditiously in December 2018, just as another Nissan scandal, involving Carlos Ghosn, was making worldwide headlines.

 "The Top Secret Files of Nissan"
“Top Secret Files of Nissan Motor”

In 1984, Kawakatsu was a humble section-chief in the company’s PR department, but he and his band of brothers were convinced that there could be “no future for Nissan” with Shioji in power.

Like the low-level samurai who were the engine of the Meiji Restoration one hundred and fifty years ago, they risked everything to smash the dysfunctional status quo. Kawakatsu himself staked out the marina, sometimes accompanied by his wife and baby, and spent months trawling through Ginza nightclubs in an effort to identify the mystery woman on the yacht.

As with the Carlos Ghosn affair today, there were substantive issues at stake as well as dictatorial behaviour and financial excesses. Under the Ghosn regime, Nissan loyalists were reportedly chafing at the prospect of a full merger with Renault, already a dominant force thanks to its 43.5% shareholding. In the early 1980s, Shioji was dead set against the plan for Nissan to build an auto production hub in the UK. He even threatened strike action in domestic plants if the UK project went ahead.

Shioji was on the wrong side of history. By this time, his supporter and friend Kawamata had stepped down from the CEO role and Takashi Ishihara, a tough ex-rugby player who had been at Nissan for 48 years, had taken over the helm. The U.K. plant had been approved at the highest political level in both countries. It was to be the first stage in a vital strategic move, the internationalization of Japanese auto manufacturing.

Ishihara with Kawamata and Shioji Ishihara with Kawamata and Shioji

Today Nissan’s Sunderland plant is the largest auto factory in UK history and has produced 9 million cars since opening in 1986. Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee is even bigger. Both are non-unionized. The idea of a major player in the global auto market manufacturing only in its home country would be absurd.

Like Ghosn, Shioji made an invaluable contribution in the early years of his career, having the guts and drive to solve problems that nobody else could handle. In the early 1950s, communist-led unions were crippling the company with strikes, often featuring mass demonstrations and violent clashes. Shioji, who relished confrontation, organized the moderates and rapidly advanced up the union hierarchy, using every trick in the book to crush the radicals.

Prince Motor, a smaller company which Nissan swallowed up in 1966, also had a militant labour union which had to be tamed by fair means or foul. Again, Shioji delivered.

Prince workers demonstrating against Nissan's "corporate violence" Prince workers demonstrating against Nissan’s “corporate violence”

Even after the era of union militancy was over, harmonious relations between organized labour and management were an overriding priority in Kawamata’s eyes. Shioji was the ever reliable go-to guy when problems arose. Hence the tolerance for his Godzilla-sized ego and interference in personnel and strategic decisions.

The other side of the coin was that Nissan remained far behind dynamic rivals like Toyota and Honda in productivity and lacked their reputation for quality and innovation. Whereas Toyota prospered under the watchful gaze of the founding family and Honda was still influenced by its inspirational founders, Kawamata had been despatched to the board of Nissan by the Industrial Bank of Japan (now part of the Mizuho financial group).

With a banker at the top, inertia reigned. Governance did not extend beyond making sure loans were duly serviced. Profitability was poor, the balance sheet loaded with debt.  With the exception of its 1970s muscle car, the Fairlady Z, Nissan’s product line-up was deadly dull.

Ichiro Shioji in his prime Ichiro Shioji in his prime

Kawakatsu and the other salarymen samurai did succeed in dethroning Emperor Shioj, who gave up his all his corporate posts by 1986 and passed away in 2013. During Japan’s late 1980s boom, all appeared to be going well for Nissan, as it did for corporate Japan as a whole. But as a wise man once said, it is only when the tide goes out that you can tell who is wearing swimming trunks.

In the 1990s, Japan’s economic tide went out much faster and further than anyone could have imagined. What was revealed at Nissan was not pretty. The company was hovering on the brink of bankruptcy and its banker backers were too weighed down with dud real estate loans to help.

That was when the French auto company Renault rode to the rescue. Putting Nissan back on its feet after decades of poor governance and weak management would be a tall order, but luckily Renault had just the man for the job, a brilliant young executive known for his ruthless cost-cutting. His name was Carlos Ghosn.

If institutions learn from their mistakes, then Nissan and other Japanese companies will soon develop much stronger governance systems that will include more outsiders and prioritize transparency and accountability. Whistle-blowers and scandal-mongering media have an important role to play too, in monitoring politics as well as business.

For there is no other answer to Lord Acton’s time-tested adage that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

shioji10

 

 

More means less when it comes to a great cafe | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/01/2019 - 9:00pm in

Patisserie Valerie lost its atmosphere when it became just another chain restaurant with a vague ‘Belgian patisserie’ theme

The first time I went to Patisserie Valerie, in December 1993, it felt really special. I was having a day out in London during the Christmas vacation after my first term at university and a college friend, who lived in London, took me to what I for many years wrongly thought of as the original Knightsbridge branch. It seemed extremely refined and continental – the cakes were like the ones that, in those days, you only really got in France. Lots of millefeuilles, no iced buns. To an undergraduate rube, it was a glimpse into the hidden London where only very posh people go.

I don’t know how many branches of Patisserie Valerie there were in 1993. But it was obviously more than the one Old Compton Street outlet that Enzo, Robert and Victor Scalzo bought in 1987 from descendants of the original Madame Valerie, and fewer than the nine that existed when they sold the firm to venture capitalists in 2006. When it went into administration last week, there were about 200.

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250 + Companies to Leave UK for Holland Due to Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/01/2019 - 6:13am in

According to yesterday’s I for Thursday, 24th January 2019, the Dutch are claiming that more than 250 firms currently based in the UK are planning to move across the North Sea to them due to Brexit. The article on page 10, entitled ‘More than 250 firms plan to relocate from UK to the Netherlands’ by Nigel Morris and Benjamin Butterworth began

More than 250 companies are looking to follow Sony by moving from the UK to the Netherlands because of Brexit, it emerged yesterday.

The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) said that scores of companies with UK headquarters had expressed interest in relocating, and the number was expected to rise.

Many business chiefs have been dismayed by Theresa May’s refusal to rule out leaving the European Union without an agreement, leaving Britain immediately operating on World Trade Organisation rules.

The article then goes on to list some of the companies moving. They were Sony, Panasonic, which moved last year, P&O, while the car maker Bentley was stockpiling parts.

It quote Michiel Bakhuizen of the NFIA as saying

“The number of businesses we are in contact with for a possible arrival is growing. At the start of 2017 it was 80. At the start of 2018 it was 150, and now it’s more than 250.

“This increase will continue and it is not strange, because there is great uncertainty at the moment in Britain. And if there’s one thing that’s bad for business, it’s uncertainty.”

One of Tweezer’s little minions said in reply that it was clear that companies around the world would continue to invest in Britain and its people. Against this was the Labour MP Rupa Huq, who backs a second referendum. She said

“This shows the shrinking appeal of Britain as a decision-making base for top companies as a result of Brexit.

“The Japanese were supposed to be a top ally for Brexit, but time and again they have been shocked at the scale of self-destruction.” The below the article was another which also listed other firms leaving the UK. These included the Japanese financial houses Nomura Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group; HSBC, which is moving its HQ from London to Paris; Barclays and Bank of America, which are moving to Dublin, MoneyGram, which is going to Brussels; the European Medicines Agency, which is going to Amsterdam; the European Banking Authority is going to move to Paris, while the German engineering company Schaefler is going to close two of its plants, in Plymouth and Llanelli.

Brexit is going to be a disaster for Britain. but it’s going to be great for rich financiers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, because they can move their investments around the world without worrying about losing profits. It’s the rest of us, who depend on manufacturing and trade in goods for our jobs and businesses, who will take the real hit.

We were lied to by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ Campaign, who were chiefly members of the Tory right. Well, it’s high time to kick the Tories out of office and put in someone who really can clear up this mess: Jeremy Corbyn.

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