Pot-Pourri

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I CHOSE ‘Pot-Pourri’ as the title of this piece because in the original French it means ‘rotten pot’ – much like politics and finance.

Politics first: There was a time when the ordinary voter looked up to his leaders, perhaps because they exuded confidence and gave evidence of being capable.

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Unfortunately this appears no longer to be the case, and pandering to the lowest denominator, playing to the media, and employing sound-bites instead of sound policy, seem now to be the order of the day.

In Britain, ‘working class’ once defined manual labourers, later called ‘blue-collar’ to distinguish them from those with ‘white-collar’ jobs, and most often,  they voted Labour. However, the political allegiance of many is no longer set in stone, and changes with the circumstances of the moment. Gone are the days when ‘working class’ and Labour were synonymous.

The ‘workers’ had experienced the governments of Tories and Liberals for too long, and they saw socialism as a ‘white knight’, come to rescue them. Unfortunately, Labour, finding itself in power for the first time, albeit in a shaky alliance with the Liberals back in the 1920s, began to split into factions, which led eventually to the return of the Tories, not as the Party of the rich, but as the Party that promised stability.

The Liberals were in terminal decline, which left Britain’s working class in rather a quandary. They didn’t care for the ‘fat-cat Tories’, but neither did they trust the socialist politicians to put their core voters’ aspirations before the party’s internal differences; and that’s more or less how things remained until Labour’s landslide victory in 1945.

Times change. People no longer vote for ideological reasons, and for many it’s the exercise of the cynical adage that goes: ‘Voters walk to the polls to put the Conservatives in, and then drive to the polls to vote them out’.

Now, finance: I’m not wealthy, but I do take an interest in national and international economic matters, and coming across the term ‘Leverage’ in a newspaper business section, and wondering what it meant in that context, I made some enquiries.

‘Leverage’, it seems, refers to borrowing money to carry through a transaction. If you had £100 and you wanted to buy something costing £400, and which you thought might increase in value, you could put down your £100, borrow the rest, and just sit back to wait for the value of your transaction to increase. Then, with the loan maturing, you’d sell whatever you’d bought, pay back your loan, plus interest, and pocket the profit. Sounds good, eh? But suppose you’d misjudged? The value of your purchase might have gone down quite drastically, whereupon, with the loan maturing, you would have to pay it off, plus interest, and possibly lose your original stake as well.

This has ever been the case in banking circles, but now, with billions, or even trillions, on the table, it can be dangerous.

Bankers have always used our deposits as gambling money, pocketing huge bonuses when things go well; but when, as now, they stand in danger of losing their shirts – and ours – they demand that we, via our taxes, should dig them out of the hole.

No wonder the ‘indignados’, in Athens and elsewhere, are so indignant!

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