Friday, July 01, 2011


You can feel there is something wrong ... it is in the air. This is not the calm before the storm, not the calm before anything. Just flat, like the world stopped and everyone is frozen in a tableau of immobility. Crazy? Dunno. Just something odd is going on, and I can't put a finger on it.

Certainly, if the world (or our bit of it) hasn't stopped, it has slowed down. The grown-up bit of the Failygraph is telling us that the manufacturing sector expanded at its slowest pace in almost two years last month. Factories have reduced hiring and new orders fell, "reinforcing concerns about the health of the broader economic recovery".

And it isn't just us. China's factory sector grew at its slowest pace in 28 months in June as new orders expanded less quickly. Weaker global demand and tight monetary policy at home is - we are told - pinching production.

But we are not just talking about material things. Sanity is taking a break as well. Via Calling England, we have George Eustice MP telling us in the Guardian content partner that "We now have a genuinely eurosceptic Prime Minister who is better placed to deliver than any of his predecessors, including Thatcher".

Eustice, one might recall, stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for UKIP in the South West of England during the 1999 Euro Elections, going on to work as campaign director for the anti-euro "No Campaign".

He became head of press under Howard during the 2005 General and was then press secretary for "Call me Dave" from June 2005 until the end of 2008. Taking part in Dave's successful anointment to the leadership of the former Conservative Party, he has been rewarded with a nice safe seat at the Tory pig trough.

Having qualified for an early lobotomy, his conversion to a full-time moron is now complete, yet his words, instead of being greeted with snorts of derision, actually get house room in what has become the fantasy world of British politics, where normal life has been suspended.

But it's not even – or only – that which makes you wonder whether you are on the right planet. For sure, the latest dose of corporate greed doesn't help, when you see five directors of the publicly owned Scottish Water sharing in a one-off bonus pay-out of more than £450,000 for "meeting performance targets".

Chief executive Richard Ackroyd was handed £78,900 as part of the deal, meaning he took home £420,000 in total last year. Finance chief Douglas Millican and "asset management director" Geoff Aitkenhead both got bonuses of £103,000 to top up their total pay of £230,000.

Yet a spokeswoman for Scottish Water insists that the business is "unique" and that the salaries were below those of directors at water firms south of the Border. So that's alright then?

This is almost as mad and bad as the news that Northumbrian Water is subject to a takeover offer, worth up to £2.6 billion, from the Chinese group Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, owned by Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest man.

To an already surreal situation, we add the EU. With even the Irish Times recording that the proposed multiannual framework rise is "a step too far", and the Daily Mail complaining of a "deluded Brussels", the BBC chips in with a happy little piece, telling us all how Brussels is going to cut its costs.

Needless to say, the "colleagues" think the rise is wonderful. Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, described the commission's proposals as "ambitious, coherent and radical", adding, "I am pleased the commission has shown the courage to do this".

Courage? Is this a new name for suicide? And if it is, what does one make of Barroso, who says: "This is an extremely serious, credible proposal", yesterday dismissing the immediate barrage of condemnation, by airily declaring: "to say 'no' to something which was only adopted two or three hours ago is not serious or credible". Could we get Li Ka-shing to buy the EU?

Such is the mood, though, that when we see the headline "Greece aid 'likely released after EU talks Saturday'", one immediately thinks that its 96-hour bail period must have expired - which is why, presumably, Theresa May wants emergency legislation.

We are even losing our grip on the weather is not climate front, with the Met Office deciding that weather is climate, after all, when it suits its book. "It has been impossible to say these events were part of a bigger picture – until now", says Steve Connor in The Independent. No mention of the record snow pack though.

Thus are the warmists completely unaffected by the news that some of Britain's most beautiful landscapes are blighted by wind farms that will not generate enough electricity for the future.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released figures which show a six percent drop in the amount of electricity produced by Britain's onshore wind farms. The department blames a drop in wind, revealing that 2010 was the calmest year this century, with onshore wind producing only 1.9 percent of all electricity in 2010, compared with two percent the year before - despite an expenditure of £5 billion.

Perhaps it is this feeling of going backwards which has Dutch junior foreign affairs minister Ben Knapen worrying that the "visible mess" surrounding voting in the European song festival has "reduced support for the European alliance". So there you are, it wasn't Greece and the euro, after all.

But none of this, and much, much more, actually explains the feeling. Something is up. Everything might look normal but, like Ed Miliband, but it isn't. A great cloud of invisible unreality has descended ... and who knows now what will happen. But, just maybe, Subrosa has stumbled on the cause of the problem.