“I agree with Nick”

Where, as The Pixies so memorably sang, is my mind?

You know how this blog works. I take a major global story everyone’s talking about, add a unique slant no one else has thought of, and a million people say “wow, that’s cool”. Or I take a tiny local story, add an interpretation that relates it to the daily experience of everyone in the world, and again a million people – well, you get the picture. And maybe I’m exaggerating – or simply lying – but that’s the general intention, a new angle, something slightly different. Or else why bother, right?

Trouble is, I’ve hit a block. And it’s not like there’s nothing happening in the world. There’s politics and terrorism and scandal and corporate shenanigans and utility what-nots, there’s banking controversies piling up like students at last orders, there’s war and sport and there’s enough material from Putin alone to write something interesting every single day of the week. So why can’t I think of anything original to say?

I’ll tell you what it is. And it’s a revelation – possibly my last revelation, so treasure it and use it wisely. What’s happened is this:

Everyone else has started to see both sides of the coin.

Six months ago if Ed Miliband had come up with his scheme of capping energy prices for a set period to foster competition, I might have written something about how the threat of black-outs was so much BS, about how increased competition could only be a good thing – but at the same time about how Government could still be relied upon to screw the whole thing up and anyway the main problem is the apathy of the UK energy consumer who can’t be bothered to switch.

But everyone else has already made these points, often in the same sentence, sometimes – by clever use of intonation and that curious head movement that’s half-nod, half-shake – even in the same word.

I could have said that a cap on bankers’ bonuses will indeed increase fixed costs, deplete the capital base, and hit lending if things turn bad, but at the same time it’s not surprising that society gives a collective yeeuurgh when it hears about people taking home five or ten times their salaries in bonuses.

But again, the vast majority of commentators on this topic have done the reasonable thing and looked at all the angles. There’s nothing original left to say.

When Michael Gove opens his mouth there isn’t a lot of room for considered opinion, but he’s too easy a target now, and lately even his less insane utterances have been spun into something worse than they really are. I doubt there’s much scope for “both signs of the coin” in Nairobi, and if there is I’m not going to be the one that finds it. UK coverage of US domestic politics is right down at the moment, so I haven’t even got much of a target over there. Can anyone honestly be surprised that there are stories of slavery and forced labour around Qatar’s World Cup preparations? Meanwhile, Christian Aid are being ever so diplomatic about what’s really behind their low-key presence in the wake of the Baluchistan earthquake, and I can see the wisdom in that so I’m not about to stick my oar in. When striking firefighters don’t elicit much more than “I can see their point, but…” from hardline Conservatives, then one of two things has happened – either everyone’s decided to inhabit the middle ground at the same time (which makes sense, politically, in the UK, at a time when the slightest step away from the centre is being condemned as either reckless or ruthless before it’s even taken), or people are suddenly able to see the merits of both extremes at the same time.

Or (and this is a hard one to accept) I’ve spent so much time staring at national planning frameworks and local licensing statements that I’m no longer capable of finding anything interesting at all.

I hope it’s not that one.


If you liked this, there’s poems and sketches here, extracts from my novel here, and a selection of the best posts here. Oh, and please comment, like, share, whatever takes your fancy.



  1. I’d say you need a holiday, but I’m not sure you’ve recovered from the last one yet. People might be able to see both sides of the coin now, but that’s only because it’s standing on its edge. It will surely fall one way or the other under the slightest pressure, unless that pressure is applied so judiciously as to make the coin start spinning again. I say Help to Buy is QE4, but there’s one for you to thrash out next time, if you wish…

    1. I think H2B is even worse than that, because it’s so randomly targetted and reliant on so many additional moving pieces to ensure it doesn’t turn into yet another bubble. And as I wrote here: https://joelghames.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/houses-and-do-we-need-more-of-them/ , I don’t really think any one of those pieces is competent enough to stop that from happening.

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