Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Time for FTSE CEOs to justify their enormous salaries

I do not think we need a so called transition period after end March 2019. Its time for our overpaid CEOs to prove they are worth their huge salaries. Any fool can just run on with the current rules for a couple of years and collect their big salary and bonuses. The problem is they will want this extended to 3, 4 or more years. They will take the easy option if  HMG does not make it clear they have to get on with it.

All we will be asking is for them to use WTO rules instead of EU rules. Most trade done by these FTSE multinationals is outside the EU and is already done on WTO rules so where is the problem? As Liam Fox points out frequently as we already conform to EU rules for our EU trade so that should also be an easy trade deal to do except of course for the BBC's economic journos. who see difficulties behind every lamp post.

Like us all these FTSE CEOs will do only the minimum amount of work they can get away with. Activist shareholders are few and far between and FTSE executives all sit on each others boards as non-execs anyway.

Remember Parkinson's law, "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". So it will be with UK companies if they are given a transition period of any length.

You see the same phenomenon with government and military contracts which are particularly prone to this effect. The more Generals are involved the longer things take. I used to advise them to buy off the shelf solutions but there were no Knighthoods down that path only economy and efficiency.

There is also Parkinson's law of triviality which is C. Northcote Parkinson's 1957 argument that members of an organisation give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.[1] He provides the example of a fictional committee whose job was to approve the plans for a nuclear power plant spending the majority of its time on discussions about relatively minor but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike shed, while neglecting the proposed design of the plant itself, which is far more important and a far more difficult and complex task.

This law is about to come into its own with the near 400 amendments that our MPs have tabled to the Brexit Bill. Very few of these amendments will improve the Bill most are simply wrecking amendments designed to stop what we voted for in June 2016 .but we should end up with de luxe bike sheds for MPs.

MPs love trivia. It saves them having to think about the real issues. The only solution is to get rid of MPs and go to a direct democracy. 


Blind stoat said...

Completely agree that it is time to force FTSE CEOs to justify their pay packages. The question is: how do you do you make that happen?

Completely disagree that we should move to some form of 'direct' democracy.

Eric Edmond said...

So how about a stronger recall of MP to force a by-election if 20% say of the constituency electorate sign a petition asking for one. Parliamentary democracy is broke and needs reform.

Blind stoat said...

No, Parliamentary democracy is not broken. Yes, there are ways in which it could be improved. No, I do not think that enabling and encouraging by-elections in the manner you suggest is a good idea.

I accept tbat the system is far from perfect, but in general,it works - meaning that under most circumstances it delivers a government with a mandate to govern. Plus people understand who and what they are voting for on election day.

Eric Edmond said...

You sound a bit like my neighbour P Pantsdown, I accept the EU is in need of reform but then nothing. Sounds good but meaningless without a proposal as to how to improve things.

Blind stoat said...

OK, so for a start, I would focus on the misuse of patronage and preferment. Horace Walpole would not feel out of place in today's parliamentary system. The levers by which parties enforce discipline and conformity need to be curtailed.

The use of advancement to the Lords represents one of the most monstrous abuses and it needs to corrected.

1. I wouldn't abolish the Lords. I would simply impose a 5 year moratorium (i.e. no new peers for 5 years) - and let nature take its course!

2. I would gradually increase the total number of MPs - that being the easiest way to iron out some of the inconsistencies in constituency sizes.

3. I would impose far greater control over the committee system, so that who sits on which committees is not in the gift of the whips to the extent that it is currently.

4. I would do everything possible to make things easier for independently minded individiuals such as Frank Fields and George Galloway. Yes, I accept that this is difficult within the system as is, but ultimately representative democracy stands or falls by the quality of the people that seek to become the representatives.

Niall Warry said...

I totally agree that we need more DD which is what The Harrogate Agenda seeks to achieve but there is still a need for politicians to implement the will of the people.

Eric Edmond said...

OK Mr Stoat except the last thing we need is more MPs. The US lower house has 435 members for a population 5 times the UK. Fewer but better MPs and minimise the maximum difference in constituency size.

The HoL is a big problem. 3 out for every 1 new in until it gets down to 400

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to accept your plan to cut the Lords down to 400 - provided that the 1 new in, as per your proposal, is actually worthy of the privilege - i.e. is not simply another 35year old SPAD /No 10 policy wonk threatening to spill the beans to the press unless he gets his ticket to the Lords.

However I don't see any advantage in reducing the number of MPs.
My arguments against such a move are:

A) The fewer MPs there are, the less I (as an individual voter) am 'represented'.

B) Fewer does not equate to 'better'. In fact we will end up with the exact oppposite because fewer MPs will inevitably demand higher pay ('cos we're worth it!) and they will be easier for the whips to manage.

C) You will make it even harder for new / fringe parties to win seats and, much as I am against an unnecessary proliferation of 'me-too' single issue parties, I do accept that new parties such as the SDP and UKIP should have an opportunity to challenge the Con/Lab duopoly.

Blind stoat said...

^^ should be Blind Stoat rather than Annonymous

Blind stoat said...

^^ Niall.

Harrogate Agenda ?? - NON!!!

Eric Edmond said...

MPs are not free they are expensive not just salary and pensions but office space, secretarial support, Spads, travel expenses etc. Fewer MPs equals less cost. The only work 3 days a week at most 30 weeks of the year. Not good value. If you want to make it easier for fringe parties to win seats you end up with perpetual coalitions and endless Cleggs.

Blind stoat said...

Yes Parliament is expensive to run.
But I'm not convinced that fewer MPs will mean reduced cost.
All that will happen is they will demand more salary, more SPADs and bigger offices because they will say they have an increased workload.

Regarding number of seats fringe, yes - to a degree - this is something of a balancing act.

I do not want to encourage multiple special interest / pressure group parties and I do not like coalitions.

But I accept that it should be possible for a 'broad church' to launch itself. That was what the SDP attempted to do in the early 80s and I think it would be a mistake to place additional obstacles in the path of such attempts.

Eric Edmond said...

Look at this and think what could happen with even more MPs with time on their hands


Blind stoat said...

the process of government is expensive.

As voters we expect our elected MPs to exercise oversight and to scrutinize proposed legislation on our behalf. Yes, that is inevitably going to be an expensive process.

Yes, it would be cheaper if we had 2x permanent teams of 20 'professional' MPs on either side of the house with the voting power per team based on total share of vote achieved at the general election. Minority parties wouldn't get a look in. I agree that would be a very simple structure to operate.

But it would not in any sense of the word equate to 'representative' democracy as far as I'm concerned.

Eric Edmond said...

I never suggested permanent teams but we already have professional MPs, PPE then Spad then dodgy charity then, safe seat, there for next 30 years like my old BoE pal Matthew Hancock.

Niall Warry said...

Read a VERY interesting book which I HIGHLY recommend called 'Against elections' by David Van Reybrouch which discusses the advantages of 'Sortition'.

The House of Lords is a classic for this type of chamber.

Niall Warry said...

^^ Blind Stoat

I assume your ideas, for more MPs and letting the HofL reduce by deaths alone,are yours alone? I have to comment that they appear to be back of a fag packet stuff.

THA is the work of many minds over time and to write off all six demands with a 'NON' leaves me to conclude you are one who believes it is 'your way or the highway'!

Blind stoat said...

Yes, Niall - it might surprise you to learn that I'm old enough to take full responsibility for my own ideas! As regards change, my basic outlook is we have a system that works (give or take) and it is a system which people are familiar with.
We change it at our peril.

Yes, there are areas where it might be improved - and I accept that inequality in the size of constituencies is one of those areas.

But I am certainly not convinced that it requires a radical rethink along the lines that you suggest.

Blind stoat said...

As regards the House of Lords, I think there are many people, not just me, who would like to see further reform.
There are too many lords and it has become part of an parcel of an unacceptable system of party "patronage" that at times verges on the corrupt.

How you reduce the overall number of peers and you ensure that those chosen to sit in the house are worthy of the privilege, I don't really care. But there needs to be reform.

Niall Warry said...

Blind Stoat.

I agree the H oL needs reform but it needs to be radical like the introduction of Sortition.

As to our existing 'parliamentry, system I couldn't disagree more that it is generally working for in my opinion it is well past it's best before dste.

THA's reforms are radical but sctually keep the basic structure but empower 'people' to have a greater say.

I may have asked before but have you read our pamphlet? If you want a copy please get in touch our the website.

Blind stoat said...

Niall, thank-you for your kind offer, but if you and your chum North are still pedalling the same old impracticable, unworkable and, to be frank, absolutely barking tosh, then no, I'll pass if that's OK. But, thank-you anyway.

Eric Edmond said...

I agree with Mr Stoat. North and his pal Booker's proposals are convoluted, unworkable drivel.

Niall Warry said...


Eric - you let youreself down as Stoat was talking about THA not Flexcit.


Stoat - what is immpractical about:-

Demand 1 - Making the people sovereign as in USA?
Demand 2 - A greater level of local democracy?
Demand 3 - Does not a seperation of power exist in the USA?
Demand 4 - Having more Direct Democracy as in Switzerland?
Demand 5 - Allowing a vote to approve the government's annual budget?
Demand 6 - A written constitution?

Your comment if I may say so was rather unintelligent.

Blind stoat said...

OK Niall, how about we start with Demand 5?

Are you seriously suggesting that every year, 40+mn voters will decide, via a referendum, whether or not to approve the government's budget?

If that is what you are seriously suggesting, then I repeat my comment above - you and North are talking absolutely barking tosh!

Blind stoat said...

But seriously Niall, it all comes down to TAX.

WHO has the power to impose tax and decide where and how it is spent?
Ultimately that is what government is all about.

And again, if you are seriously suggesting that the power to impose corporation tax, income tax, VAT, National Insurance and all the assorted other taxes and duties should be devolved to local government, I think you seriously underestimate the massive upheaval that will ensue.

In the context of the UK economy, such a move would be irresponsible in the extreme.

Blind stoat said...

And by the way, as far as I'm concerned your entire agenda is based on a false assumption. By asserting that your aim (as enshrined in your first demand) is to make the people 'sovereign, you necessarily imply that that is not the case at the moment.

But what does 'sovereign' actually mean? Are you suggesting that 'we' / 'the people' / 'voters' do not have the ultimate say in how we are governed? Because we clearly do have the ultimate say. In the final analysis, 'we' decide what happens. Yes, there is an inbuilt delay, because under most circumstances we have to wait for a general election before 'we' can express our collective view. But that doesn't mean that 'we the people' are not already sovereign. We are!!

Niall Warry said...


You are factually and historically wrong as Parliament wrestled sovereignty from the monarch which is where ultimate power still resides today.

As to writing off the work of many minds to produce our demands as 'tosh' i think really is tosh!!

Anyway the Chartists I'm sure faced many doom sayers but they kept going and five of their six demands were enacted allowing people like you to vote for thr first time which many though would be 'tosh'!!

We must I fear agree to disagree but please do let me know when you come up with as comprehensive plan to improve our democracy that is better than THA.

Blind stoat said...

OK Niall, no surprises there. The chances of us ever agreeing on your Harrogate nonsense are slightly less than zero. But you still haven't answered my original criticism re 'demand 5' - are you seriously suggesting that every year you're going to have a nationwide referendum just to approve the budget?

Out of interest what do you think that little exercise will cost per year?

And what do you think the voter turnout will be?
I'd put my money on 20-30% turnout at best.

Niall Warry said...


1. Yes. If you had read our pamphlet you would have learnt that there are councils who have already done just that and had to live with the voters opinion which in all three case was NOT to raise council tax.

2.Cost - by the time this demand is enacted we envisage the lottery terminal technology being available for such votes. Our radical political reforms would require radical ideas to make it work.

3.We again explain in our pamphlet that any referendum would have to met two thresholds - the first on turn out and the second on the % vote to 'win' the referendum.If the people cannot be arsed to turn up or vote then that is their problem but the system is there if they want to use it.

Hope that helps - but I doubt it will because you knows best it would seem!!

Blind stoat said...

^ - Niall, with regard to your response (3) above: "If the people cannot be arsed to turn up or vote then that is their problem but the system is there if they want to use it". That's not really an adequate answrer to my question is it? For any democratic system to work, be it 'representative' or 'direct' or anything else, it needs to have legitimacy and there needs to be a high level of voter engagement.

I have attempted to convey to you that my opposition to your Harrogate proposals is largely based on the fact that I consider your ideas to be unworkabale in practice.

I do not think it is remotely realistic to have an annual referendum to approve (or not) the annual budget. Voter turnout will be so low as to render any result meaningless. And what happens if/when voters reject the budget? What next? Do you simply repeat the referendum until you get the "right" answer a la Irish referendum on eu membership?

Unless you can explain to me how your system will actually work in practice, you leave me with no choice but to conclude that 'Harrogate' is complete and utter tosh.

Niall Warry said...


i guess ignorance is bliss! If only you would accept my offer of a 'free' pamphlet most if not all your questions would be answered.

1. I was simply acknowledging the fact voters might not respond to any given referendum but I don't think this likely. In fact the responses were reasonable in the three councils I've refered to and one could argue, as with General Elections that any majority of those that vote is enough to declare a win.

2. You say THA could be workable in practice but that is just plain silly as each demand has examples were they DO work. If you say the demands will never be accepted and thgus enacted then that is a reasonable commnet although the very same could be said of the Chartists demands.

3.If the voters reject the budget we explain in our pamphlet that the government gets the same figure as last year to be going on with.

4. The ingredients of our demands have existing examples of where they do or have worked so you really do let yourself down by calling them 'tosh'.

I'm very unlikley to convert you into a THA fan but it would be nice to feel that while you may disagree with our demands you do so offering an alternative to our current system of governance that many writers are saying is in urgent need of reform. I've read a dozen odd books on this subject the current one being Revolting by Mick Hume.

Niall Warry said...

Nos 2 should read UNworkable.

Blind stoat said...

Niall - I do not need to read some other random author to know that your proposals will NOT work in practice. I do not need to read any books in order to know what I already know.

If you cannot explain to me in a few simple sentences how, under your system, a UK government will function if it cannot even get its budget 'approved' - which WILL be the case if you set the participation threshold any higher than 40% - then A) God help us, and B) I rest my case!!

Niall Warry said...


It is a very confident person who can state very clearly that they have nothing left to learn from books or other's views - as they know what they already know.

But finally let me just show you in a bit more detail just how bigoted your view is that the six demands of THA are unworkable tosh.

Demand 1 - The Amerian constitution declares 'we the people' who are recognised as sovereign. So it is possible that the British people could be recognised as sovereign. However that is not to say all in American is OK and over the years representative democracy has quite intentionally left the people behind and allowed an elected elite to ignore the people except at election time which is a very poor substitute for a real people's sovereignty. So this demand IS possible but needs the other five to ensure it holds it's value.

Demand 2 - Direct Democracy is working in Switzerland with the Cantons holding popular votes in their village squares. I know THA goes well beyond this and that central government will not readily give up power but IF the grass roots demand it then anything is possible and there is no earthly reason why it would not work once introduced.

Demand 3 - The Americans have a workable Seperation of Powers. The President is seperate for the Senate and House of Representatives. The President's cabinet is seperate from both houses but must be approved by the Senate. So any appointee to the cabinet who is either a Senator or Representative has to resign to join the caabinet. In this way both houses of Congress provide checks on the executive which is what a Seperation of Power is all about.

Demand 4 - Referendums already happen and work in this country., We had them to go in and leave the EU, to devolve power to Wales and Scotland and the North East had one and rejected Prescott's EU inspired Regional Assembly. THA does indeed want the facility for more to be held, IF REQUIRED, but with very clear rules of engagement.

Demand 5 - Three councils have already held referendums on proposed rate rises which they lost and I have already explained that if the referendum rejects the government's spending plans then they automatically get the same amount as the year before to be getting on with.

Demand 6 - Lots of other countries have workable written constitutions not least Germany which we helped write after WW2.

So contrary to your view thta the THA is tosh and unworkable all the demands are already working in other countries.

Reply by all means but I may not reply as i'm running out of ways of proving it is you who is the purveyor of tosh!!

Blind stoat said...

Niall - you still haven't answered my question. So I will repeat it: "with regard to the budget how do you propose that that will WORK IN PRACTICE if the government is required to hold a referendum in order to have it approved by the electorate?"

I have suggested to you - based on my own knowledge and experience of UK voter apathy (and no, I haven't read about it in a book!!) - that a referendum called every year simply to approve the budget will attract such a low turnout as to render any 'result' effectively meaningless.

How, under those circumstances, do you expect the budget to be properly debated, scrutinised and enacted?

Blind stoat said...

.....and while I'm about it, Niall, it might be helpful if I point out a couple of other salient facts:

A) The UK is not Switzerland. We are a country of 66 million people not 8 million, and the activity of choice of a large part of the population on a weekday evening is watching 'EasterEnders' - as opposed to standing around in village squares debating the forthcoming budget.

B) Generally speaking if you ask a group of people if they would like to vote for an increase in council tax / VAT / income tax / any other tax or duty, the chances are they will say 'No'. Again, just to be clear, I haven't read that in a book, it's largely based on my own experience of human nature.

Niall Warry said...


Is your main sticking point Demand 5 and do you at least accept the others would work even if you are against them?

You have no idea if an annual budget referendum would be popular and if the result was to freeze any increase wouldn't that be a good thing given the trillions we owe.

Blind stoat said...

Niall, you are the one who is proposing a fundamental change to our current system of democracy and government - not me.

I am simply challenging you to provide an explanation as regards how your system will WORK IN PRACTICE specifically in the case of a UK government wishing to win approval of its proposed budget.

So far you have failed to give me an adequate answer.

Niall Warry said...

Let me admit something to you which is that while the demands are set all the issues about implementation are not fully developed. For example demand 6 for a written constitution we would delegate to parliament to sort out and present to the people for ratification.

Anyway I must assume you accept that five of our demands would work even if you don't agree with them.

Demand 5 shoudl not be to difficut to grasp. A referendum is held (clearly possible as three councils have already done this, turnout specification is set as is the pass mark.

The government spends OUR money and all we are asking that they seek our permission before they spend it.

Again you may not think asking thre public;s view on the budget is a good idea but i fail to see why my answer above is not adequate???

Blind stoat said...

Niall - my apologies for the delay in coming back to you, but in response to your points:

1) when you write "Anyway I must assume you accept that five of our demands would work even if you don't agree with them." why on earth would you make that assumption?

2) as regards your comment: "Demand 5 shoudl not be to difficut to grasp. A referendum is held (clearly possible as three councils have already done this, turnout specification is set as is the pass mark."
indeed yes, I am capable of grasping the concept of a referendum. I would simply like you to state what the turnout threshold and 'pass mark' will be in the case of an annual referendum to approve the Govt's budget?

3) and again, yes, I understand what you mean when you declare "The government spends OUR money and all we are asking that they seek our permission before they spend it."
- I simply want to understand what you think will happen next in the event that either voters do NOT approve the budget and/or the turnout is so low as to render the result of any referendum effectively meaningless and lacking any legitimacy.
How will the Government continue to operate? Are you suggesting for instance that HM Govt should follow the example of the eu (in respect of its permanently unapproved accounts) and just carry on regardless?

Niall Warry said...

I think you are seeing problems where they don't exist and asking me to use a crystal ball. However before Demand five was enacted all possible problems would hopefully be sorted out but should others occur then they would be dealt with at the time.

There are plenty of examples from the 'Dangerous dog act' to our 'gun laws' where governments have passed them in haste and encountered problems thereafter which have had to be resolved.

As to the other five demands. I assumed you accepted they would at least work, even if you don't believe in them and would appear to accept the status quo, because they all have examples of where they work in other countries. QED how can say they don't work?

Blind stoat said...

..no Niall, I'm not seeing any problems.

The only thing I'm not seeing is a simple EXPLANATION.That's all I'm asking for.

...so at the risk of repeating myself: HOW exactly is your idea of a "budget referendum" supposed to work IN PRACTICE - and what happens if either (or perhaps both):
a) voters say "NO" and / or
b) voter participation is below 30%?

Niall Warry said...

As I've already explained this detail is not worked out but that in NO way invalidates the principle that we should be allowed to approve how the government wants to spend our money every year.

However having said that let me give you two reasonable answers to your questions:-

a) I have already answered this one already but here it is again. If the people reject the budget then written into the new rules is the provision for the government to get the same budget as the year before. From this two things can happen the government accepts this and cuts its budget accordingly or they rework the budget, assuming they want more, and try again. If it is this time accepted then all well and good but if rejected then they would presumably make good with the the last years figure.

b)The rules have not been set as I keep saying but they could well say that at a below 50% turnout of the total electorate then the government's budget cannot be rejected. If the people don't turnout then that is their problem. However it just might be the case that the rules lay down any majority of any turn out is enough to reject the budget as for example any government can currently be elected by the majority of the turnout how ever low that is.

This is NOT rocket science and you can keep asking for an explanation and I will keep giving you the same basic answer.

I hope you have FINALLY got it!

Blind stoat said...

Niall, thank-you for your helpful clarification above.

In point "b" you appear to have introduced the presumption that the budget will be automatically approved UNLESS the opposition can muster sufficient support via a referendum to reject it.
That presumption is clearly key to the working of the entire system and that is the critical piece of information that, either I had not understood from reading your 'demands', or you had not previously explained to me.

In any event, is that the principle upon which you and your fellow Harrogate conspirators envisage the system will operate in general?

That's to say, is the idea that the government of the day will be able to push through ALL legislation, subject to a "double-gate" referendum process whereby the opposition has to secure A) a turnout of not less than, say, 50% - and B) at least 50% of voters must vote to reject the government's proposal?

Niall Warry said...

That's because you haven't read our pamphlet ;-)

In demand four 'People's consent' we do suggest, on page 15, that a referendum on any government's proposal would have to achieve:-

".....the signatures of at least one tenth of the electorate before a referendum could be held, within one month of Royal Assent in the case of national laws. Then, an Act might be overturned only if the majority of all 'electors', and not just of those who turn out, voted down a measure."

As to demand five we haven't expressed the turnout and pass mark requirements as above but we do say this on page 22:-

"What concerns doubters (like you!) is that, should the people fully exert their power, government might be deprived of funds altogether. but there is nothing to stop safeguards being adopted to avoid this - in the short term at least. There should be no problem in having a fixed date for the referendum, with the vote held well before the financial year for which each budget applied, If a budget was then rejected, there should be enough time for governments to resubmit, and again seek approval.

If a budget was again rejected, and it was too late to resubmit before the start of a financial year, there could, for example, be a system where permitted income stood at a proportion of the previous year's figure, with adjustments made once a budget was approved. In the USA, however,if Congress does not eventually approve the budget, the administration can no longer pay its bills. That tends to concentrate minds."

Personally I think I would push for any majority of any turnout was enough, like geneal Elections,but that is not yet decided.

Are we getting there at last?!

Niall Warry said...

BTW Mr stoat if you want to contact me directly you can off the THA website/blog.

Eric Edmond said...

Eric, I no longer appear to be able to communicate with Mr stoat on the post on FTSE CEO’s – is 46 the limit? Niall.

I want to add this:-

PS for Mr stoat

I've been thinking I didn't answer your main question clearly enough so let me add:-

Demand 4 - People's consent - legislation can be challenged as and when the people wish to do it.

Demand 5 - Budget consent - It is currently envisaged this would be an annual event. However as a personal view I could envisage circumstances down the line where some years the referendum on the budget could be waived.