I spent the last week travelling down to Lisbon from Bilbao and then back up through France. I did this on my BMW K1300s. I had to speak at a Conference nr Lisbon and I thought why not take the bike rather than fly.
Firstly, can someone explain that why it is that in Spain, Portugal and France, diesel is significantly cheaper than 95 petrol whilst in the UK the differential is the other way. There must be an element of profiteering gong on in this country.
Secondly, the sheer scale of road building that has recently gone on in Spain,Portugal and France and indeed continues to go on is staggering. Coming up from Dax, there was 40 miles of continuous work going on. In Spain, major new highways continue to be built. This shows that there is an understanding of the benefit of public works and that there are politicians who are able to get things done.
Thirdly, in Lisbon where I had to have a new rear tyre fixed at the main BMW dealership – it wa heaving with servicing and new sales in the car side of the dealership. However, interestingly they refused to take payment in any other form but cash. This shows German faith in the short term future of the Euro!
Whilst waiting, I visited the waterfront in glorious sunshine. New developments with many new apartments for sale and half the cafes that had only recently opened, now closed and boarded up
In all the trip I had not the slightest problem getting a hotel room, although half the price in Iberia than they were in France.
Finally, if you want some really spectacular motorcycling, head for the mountains in the middle of Portugal
Another day and more problems on the West Coast. Signalling problems in Staffordshire mean yet more cancellations and delays. This is not a rare occurrence and you are left with the unmistakable conclusion is that this is a rail line operating on the absolute edge.
Despite the billions that were spent the system monotonously falls over.
Sticking plasters cannot do the job.
We simply have to build more capacity, delivered by capable engineers and by operators that are customer focused.
The @BBCNewsnight story on the specific impact on of immigration on British Jobs is a relevant issue but there are other equally pressing concerns. “Whether for every additional 100 immigrants 23 British workers would not be employed” or whether it is less, what we do know is that there are 917,000 young British unemployed. The priority for a cohesive society has to be to get them into work, and fast.
More importantly, we also know for a fact is that there was net migration into this country last year of 212,000 – or put it another way a city the size of Northampton or Norwich was created.
Where are these people to live? We cannot build enough homes to house or already rapidly growing population and added to this the growth of population is focused on London and the South East. The result is a housing price bubble in the south East that shows no sign of cooling. Great for those who already own houses, but what about our children.
So when senior politicians say that putting “any target on migration is totally impractical, cannot be delivered and would do great damage to the economy” are they really thinking through the implications of this?
The wider debate as increasingly being articulated by Nigel Farage, is just what sort sort of country and society do we want?
It has to be more than economic efficiency. It can be of little surprise that the economy continues to grow when migration and population is growing at such a pace. But at what cost?
What we need is a real debate on what sort of future we want for this country. How do WE want to see it in 25 years, rather than just being at the mercy of a globalised market.
Interesting figures from the House of Commons library indicate that over the next decade migrants will be responsible for 629,000 new households. A total of 1.8m people have come to Britain since 2004, with net migration peaking at 250,000 in 2010.
More significantly this growth will be a contributor to a projected 2.2 million additional households in the decade to 2021. The fact that we are incapable of building houses on anything like the scale required to house these households or even to have any decent public debate on the implications of this growth, means that prices will just keep on rising particularly in London and the South East, where people want to live because that is where the jobs are.
We are sleep walking into a monumental problem that will face our children. Meanwhile politicians discuss the really important issues like criminalising the drinking of alcohol during pregnancy.
Surely the issue is not about denial, but whether we can do anything to reverse the extreme weather. This is a global issue and the UK has only a minute percentage of the World’s population. This population, like that of the UK continues to grow. They will all demand access to energy which cannot be provided on the scale needed by carbon neutral sources.
So rather than a sterile debate as to whether we are or are not climate change sceptics, surely the way forward is to try and plan and manage.
We should accept that these extremes will continue and on the basis of this develop our response, not least in terms of land use planning.
Do we really believe that we as a nation, with our own exploding population can do anything remotely meaningful to reverse these weather extremes? The last thing we need at the present time is gesture politics.
Figures this week highlighted the huge imbalances in the UK economy, with 80% of private sector jobs being created since 2010 being in London.
This photo is taken today from an office block in the commercial quarter of Birmingham. What is noticeable as you look at across the second City and beyond, is there is not a single construction crane. A view from the other corner the the same picture. Compare and contrast with London – the dozens in Victoria never mind the City.
What does this say about commercial confidence in the heartlands of England?
We may have growth in the UK but there has to be some serious thought as to how we spread it.
I spent the day in Staffordshire today visiting 3 very different businesses. A specialist automotive electronics business, an online insurance business and a Tableware manufacturer. The positive approach to business shone through. They were all recruiting, all were confident about the future, and were leaders in their own fields.
one of them was exporting 80% of production, another supplying into the global auto industry. Collectively they employ circa 2000 people.
I am left with the clear impression that British business is driving the UK economy forward in a truly remarkable way.
The actions of Fergus Wilson, The Buy to Let king, has generated much controversy. On one point he is absolutely right when he says “the issue is there simply is not enough housing to go round and none of the political parties has an answer”.
The population of this country is growing at a relentless rate – a net increase of 450,000 a year, or a city the size of Bristol. Meanwhile housebuilding is stuck in the doldrums with circa a 100,000 houses being built a year, well below the 240,000 that it is estimated that we require.
Layer on top of that the regional imbalances – with the powering ahead of London as the place that creates jobs. Housing is now a crisis issue but everywhere we turn it appears to run into a dead end.
What we get is a stream of kite flying . There is discussion of building in the South East two new Garden Cities – bang, front page headline in The Telegraph, and immediate opposition. Meanwhile The Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, talking for rural middle Britain talks of the physical damage being caused to the countryside by the National Planning Policy Framework and is immediately slapped down by Tory High Command. There is no coherent answer as to how any Government is going to build the hundred of thousands of homes required.
The result of this shortage is not only escalating house prices in London and parts of the South East, but on the back of this, the growth of the 40 year mortgage that may well take two generations to pay off – inconceivable a generation ago. Parents far from celebrating the growth of house prices, are now are deeply concerned as how their children will get onto the housing ladder.
Surely what we need is a clear explanation of the issues by politicians: The population is growing; we need to build more houses to accommodate these people; London and the South East is where the jobs are being created and the options are we either build house there or we build more transport capacity to move workers into London.
Alternatively, we try and shift jobs out of areas of prosperity . A failed policy in the past, and one that you could argue did much to harm Birmingham.
Is this worth examining again? Certainly the idea of New Towns, however they are dressed up, has to be good. Rather than spreading new housing around in pockets across areas of prosperity, concentrate activity on a two or three huge concentrations, it worked in the past. However these need to be more than dormitory suburbs – the jobs should be there.