Saturday, 31 May 2008

Faulks As Fleming

I've been reviewing Sebastian Faulk's James Bond book 'Devil May Care' for Bloomberg. The advance hype was very favorable, but I notice the later reviews are far harsher. Rightly so. Faulks really was an odd choice - why not one of the SAS ghost-writers, for example - for the job. I like his books, but I stopped reading them after 'On Green Dolphin Street', his attempt at a thriller, becasue he simply can't do excitement. I can't help feeling both Penguin and The Fleming estate missed a trick. They can't get all this publicity again. They could have re-launched the series with Bond set in the modern day, and with a writer who could both re-create the genre, and write a series of books. It's an expensive mistake.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Oil Prices

We keep reading that the world is running out of oil, as if that explains why the price has gone crazy in the last few months. But Russia's Lukoil announced today a new oil find in the Caspian Sea with 3.8 billion barrels of oil and 91.7 billion cubic meters of gas. Don't listen to the peak oil nonsense. It's a bubble.

Commodities Bubble

Over at Bloomberg, I've been writing about the oil and commodities bubble. I was arguing that it was the market at work. An oil price shock is going to force people to increase production, and cut consumption, which is what the world needs. It's the market at doing what it should be doing - brutal, perhaps, but effective. There was a lot of feedback on that one, most of it positive, which shows the financial community is more sophisticated on these issues than the mainstrean media.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

French book prices

As someone who is interested both in the book trade, as an author, and economics, as a journalist, I find it extraordinary that the French as still debating whether to change their version of the net boook agreement - and, according to a report in The Bookseller, look like keeping it.
Nothing could better illustrate why France remains in the dark ages. After price controls were abolished in the UK, we got Waterstone's, Border's etc - big friendly bookshops that made buying book a pleasant experience. I also think Tesco, Asda are doing a lot for the books business - after all at £3.50 a book is a small, tempting luxury when you are out shopping. By contrast, has anyone ever seen a decent bookshop in France? Or read a French author recently? The British bookselling industry might be frustrating but it miles ahead of the French.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


I posted a few weeks ago on how Blairism was looking more and more like Gaullism - a political movement that was all about a single individual and which didn't really exist anymore once that person was gone. As events unfold, I think that is looking more and more true. Gordon Brown is imploding, even though nothing much has gone wrong. The Labour Party is casting around for another leader but it is hard to believe things would really get much better under David Milliband or Alan Johnson. Without Blair, there's nothing there to lead. Somewhere at the bottom of all this there is the old Labour Party. But I suspect things will get a lot worse for them: succession of failed leaders, probably. It is of course good news for those of us who would prefer a centre right government anyway.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Northern Rock

Over at the FT's Alphaville blog there is an interesting story about how the number of borrowers falling behind with their mortgages has jumped sharply at Northern Rock since the bank was nationalised. But of course that was to be expected. After all, Gordon Brown is in such a deep hole already the last thing he is going to do is start evicting people from their homes, particularly when they are mainly Labour voters in the North-East? So why not take a break on the re-payments? This is set to get a lot messier yet. And it shows again how if Brown wasn't such a ditherer he would have sold it to Lloyds TSB or one of the other High Street banks on day one.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Spectator Business

The Spectator has launched its new business magazine, Spectator Business. It looks pretty good - but maybe that's because it has a piece by me (and my wife Angharad as well). But, more seriously, when people have launched business magazines before in Britain they have tried to copy Fortune and Forbes. That doesn't work - the American model doesn't travel. The Spectator version is very English: that uniqeness surely gives it a chance of success.

Friday, 9 May 2008

More on Soros

Controlled Greed, which is one of the best financial blogs, is taking my argument on Soros as bit further.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

George Soros

In the Spectator this week, I'm disucssing George Soros's new book, and his predictions of financial collapse. It's quite a harsh piece, but Soros is given far to soft a ride by most of the media. He has been predicting the demise of the capitalist system for about a decade now, and, although there are quite a few wobbles, there isn't much evidence of it crashing yet. He should be challeneged more.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Reading through the avalanche of comment on Labour's terrible showing in the local elections last week one thing struck me. Lots of people keep sayingt that at least things can't get much worse (in much the same way as they used to keep telling us not to underestimate Gordon Brown). But why not? Blair-ism, to which Brown is really the inheritor, might turn out to be somethinglike Gaullism, a political movement built around a single personality. Without Blair, it might just collapse, much as Gaullism collapsed without the General. After all, it doesn't really represent anyone, nor does it have any genuine values or beliefs. If the Lib Dems were smart, which they aren't, they would realise there is a massive opportunity to make themselves the party of the centre left whilst Brown takes Labour into meltdown.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

British Banks

In my Bloomberg column yesterday I mainly focussed on British banks. People are over-looking the extent to which the banks are going to get blamed for the housing crash that now looks inevitable. They are going to be pressurised to cut their margins to bring mortgage rates down - although its not their fault money has become more expensive. And once the repossessions start, they are going to come under a lot of pressure to give people mortage holidays to keep them in their houses. All that is going to cost a lot of money and that is going to come out of the profits of the banks.