The Freddo investment paradigm.

Today Cadbury owners Mondelez announced that the price of a Freddo Bar is to rise by 20%.  The price hike is being blamed on the rise in the pound in the wake of Britain’s farcical Brexit decision.

A spokesperson for Mondelez said in defence of the move; “Increasing prices is always a last resort, but to ensure we can keep people’s favourite brands on shelf and look after the 4,500 people we employ in the UK, we are having to make some selective price increases across our range.”

But this is a fabrication of Trumplike proportions as research by Think Hard has unearthed this startling graph that shows Freddos have been bankrolling Mondelez for years.


(Source: Vouchercloud)

This startling revelation, unearthed in July 2016, revealed that the cost of a Freddo had outstripped inflation by almost 200% making it a massively lucrative investment.  Indeed, in the period Jan 2000 to July 2015 the FTSE100 had risen by a mere 9% making a Freddo 17 times more effective as an investment than stocks like RBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Ratners.

So it’s even more shocking to see that this 150% rise in value is to be ramped up to a return of 200% when Mondelez and Cadbury get their greedy fingers on the chocolate Rana Temporaria.

It’s clear that investment returns on the Freddo will be anything but temporaria.

Think Hard rating: BUY in large quantities immediately.




My personal fears for The UK if we leave the European Union.

The European Union was inspired by the vision of bringing peace, unity and prosperity to Europe in the wake of The first and second world wars.  We have these 11 men to thank for that. Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 17.01.40.pngThe first tangible manifestation of that vision was the European Coal and Steel Community with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands leading the way.  Note that two are former fascist regimes.  This was followed by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 that established the EEC this abolished customs duties between member states and resulted in economic growth: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom saw the benefits of this and joined the Common market in 1973 shortly after decimalisation in the UK.  A curious imperial notion that had 240 pence as the makeup of a pound.  Perhaps the Brexiteers fancy a return to that quaint notion (maybe they’ll lobby to bring back farthings, shillings, threepence and florins while they’re renegotiating every single trade deal in Europe post exit.)

In 1986 the economic vision is further strengthened with the creation of the Single European Act. and Spain and Portugal sign up.   This provides the basis for a vast six-year programme aimed at sorting out the problems with the free flow of trade across EU borders and thus creates the ‘Single Market’.

So far, so positive.

Austria, Finland and Sweden join us in 1995. The Shengen agreement allows us to travel freely across Europe to exploit opportunity and share cultures.

Ten new countries join the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013..

In 56 years Europe has seen war between nations shrivel and die.  Sure terrorism is rife and internal conflicts remain but the Union has become a peace zone.

To my knowledge not one single country has even thought about leaving.

28 countries are joined in free trade, a bid to reduce pollution, economic development, fairness of law.

These are the rules for membership which cannot be met by Turkey. (One of the crazy fear mongering cards being played by Brexiteers)

  • stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU;
  • the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

And here’s where Turkey stands in terms of negotiations to meet the 35 ‘chapters” that will allow member states to consider entry to the Union.  (Not looking promising, is it? )

Note that the Chapter entitled “Freedom of movement of workers” hasn’t even been opened yet and financial control has been on the table since 2007.
Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 17.24.10.png
Please then, can we move on from the Turkey question?

So, we have peace, we have prosperity, albeit in a climate where the richer nations help the poorer ones – and we’re rich, and we have free trade with no real barriers.

Sounds kind of positive doesn’t it?

What’s more, everything the EU does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by its member countries.  Not, and I repeat not, crazy rules imposed on us from Brussels that Brexiteers so love to imply

We help agree/ratify these rules for the common good.

Some help us greatly, some are more challenging, but if the whole represents more than the sum of its parts, which is a fundamental rationale for the EU’s existence, then this is a price we simply have to accept and pay.  We don’t all agree with every Scottish or UK law do we?

So.  Brexit?

Nine out ten economists think Brexit is preposterous.

The Americans think it is preposterous.

Member states think it is preposterous.

The stock market, down over 5% in the last few days, as the realisation that Brexit is no longer a silly extremist Tory fantasy, begin to realise that it’s a distinct possibility starts, frankly, to shit itself.

Here’s a headline from this week.

The Bank of England has allocated almost £2.5bn of cash to City firms to help them handle any Brexit-related panic.

Here’s another…

London’s stock market is plumbing new lows as traders continue to quake in the shadow of the EU vote.

And the copy that went with it?

The Footsie has now shed 378 points since the start of trading on Thursday, when Brexit fears began to mount. 

That means a staggering £98bn has been wiped off the value of Britain’s biggest companies in four trading days.

Now, the Brexit vote is most commonly supported by pensioners.

What does a falling stock market do to pensions?

It’s like turkeys (but not Turkey) voting for Christmas.

It’s actually insane.

And Obama tells us openly and categorically that Brexit would put the UK “at the back of the queue ” for a trade deal with the US.

Mark Carney says “leaving the EU ids the biggest domestic risk to financial stability”.

Forget the numbers.  Leave quotes “facts” that are every bit as misleading as Remain’s are.

The debate has been a shambles.

Just look at the fundamentals here and the direction of traffic since 1951.

Peace, prosperity and proliferation of membership.  No need to be ‘forced’ into the Euro.

Leaving this would be a national disgrace.

The Scottish question

Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I was a solid advocate of a “Scexit” in 2014. None of the arguments above applied.

We would have remained in Europe or would have negotiated our readmittance.

Our economy, based on the evidence at the time, and I accept the fall in the oil price hasn’t helped that p[articular argument, would, I believe, have benefitted.

And peace would have been guaranteed.

Should a Brexit vote manifest itself you bet Independence would rear its head again and the appeal of renegotiating re-entry to the EU would be the biggest single factor influencing the Scots.

But let’s not go there.

Come on Britain.  It’s time to smell the coffee.


Why the Big Short disappointed me so much.


Let’s start positive.

Christian Bale pulls another great performance out of the bag.

(Possibly his second Oscar.)

And so does Steve Carell.  (Should have been nominated.)

And the music is amazing.

As you leave to Led Zeppelin’s crushing ‘When The Levee Breaks’ you could be striding, like a Wall Street Trader, all big balled and bouffant into the night, wind rushing through your long shiny hair all attitoodinal.

You could be walking into a high maintenance Strip Club to be drooled over.

You could.

You really could.

Except you’re not.

Because the last two hours of your life were a mess.

You’ve seen an edit room meltdown.  Let’s face it, in places the editing in this movie is just sub frickin’ prime man.  But I can see why Hank Corwin is nominated. It’s original. (But it’s style over story telling).

This movie is an economics lesson that wants to be so, so, so cool that you might even start to like economics in such a way that it blows it.

But it forgets one very important thing.

Great movies tell stories.

This movie is not a story. It’s SO NOT a story.  It’s just a mess.  And any amount of Led Zeppelin and Steve Carell at his best and Bradd Pitt at his most subdued, modest, handsome, pouty self  doesn’t save it.

It’s a mess.

And that’s why it fails.

(And as for Margot Robbie.  Oh come on.)


I kinda liked it all the same.


Do No Harm by Henry Marsh


Henry Marsh is an unusual soul.

A consultant neurosurgeon with both a heart and a soul.

A storyteller.

A rebel.

An accomplished scientist.

Ok, in places he’s a slightly lumbering writer.  His poetic moments usually have a bit of a cringe built in somewhere but put that to one side and what you have is a unique memoire that, at times, leaves you close to tears (although I suspect many readers will be way past ‘close’).

I found it of particular interest because I have known more than my fair share of brain condition sufferers with a wide variety of outcomes.  Some truly devastating.

His book deals with death, cancer, brain tumours, aneurysms, alcoholism, detached retinas, spinal prolapses and other such matters.  So to read something as frank and uncompromising as this was at times too visceral to bear.

The book tells the story of Marsh’s career, non-chronoligacally, as a London neurosurgeon and what motivates, enrages and disappoints him. He tells it with with a curious mix of (occasional) pomposity and humility (by far the prevalent personality type).

In it he bemoans the changes that have gradually been imposed on the NHS in the pursuit of efficiency and efficacy.  Very rarely are either achieved in his opinion.  Technical progress in his field may have been massive but working practices (too few hours in theatre in particular) have regressed.

But what’s remarkable about this book is his seemingly wanton exposition of his own weakness and failures.  Maybe it’s a personal catharsis but despite his protestation that a lot of brain surgery is down to ‘luck’ you are left feeling that he is a consummate professional with a conscience that would make you want to be under this scalpel/saw/bone cutter/microscope rather than anyone else.

He explores his failures far more deeply than the successes, passing them off largely as ‘doing his job’  but he argues it is the failures that in the long term have made him pre-eminent in his field.

At times the clinical detail is gut wrenching both emotionally and physically, at others it’s simply breathtaking.  In particular the chapter on aneurysm is like the best thriller you could ever read.  How will this detailed case study conclude you wonder.

He never shies away from the big questions and ultimately you are left wondering at the greatness of the human condition and his professional ability to get to its very essence.

Highly recommended. (if you can stomach it.)


Why I will be voting Yes on Thursday September 18th


The recent past has been the most enlightening time of my life. It’s been like a second adolescence; enlightening because it has taught me an entire new language and has forced me to decide what is most important to me in a democracy; a second adolescence because it’s as if I have escaped childhood and been forced to understand what the impact of big grown up things might mean for the rest of my, and my family’s, life.

I don’t consider myself politically knowledgeable; sure I can spout left wing or right wing bluster same as most of us, but until now it has been no more than that.

I’m a political minestrone: I like a bit of left wing this, some centrist that and quite a lot of right wing garnish too. Maybe that’s why I’ve considered myself a Liberal for most of my voting life.

But the Scottish Independence Referendum has no room for minestrone.

It’s in. Or it’s out.

I’ve said for a long time now that the Independence vote is not a political decision, many passionate Scottish writers say this too. It’s a decision about self determination; not a political commitment.

But that’s not true. Is it.?

How can it be in the current UK political paradigm that is so sick, so indulgent, so misguided; in so many ways?

Yes, the outcome will be self-determination for Scots and the main benefit will be self-determination and the ability to make our own decisions for ever more; good or bad as they may be. But the decision-making crux, for me, has nevertheless been very, very political.

I was never a Nationalist, and certainly not a Separatist, when I was younger. I was proud to call myself British (indeed my mother called it crass to write ‘Scottish’ in the box on a form that asked your nationality).

I was too young to vote in the 1979 referendum – I was still an adolescent – but had I been able, peer pressure would no doubt have pushed me into voting a resounding No!

But 1979 was a very different time.

In 1979 Labour was left wing and Conservative was on the cusp of Thatcherism. The UK was about to change forever and that, fundamentally, is why I am voting Yes on Thursday – because the resultant and consequent change has become intolerable.

In some ways we can look back on Thatcherism as a unique period in our times. David Peace captures it magnificently in his miner’s strike novel, 1984, with stunning venom. But it’s not. Today we are mired in Thatcherite legacy like nobody could ever have imagined. We now live in a neo-liberal state that appals me.

In the great chess game that is British politics every move has to be anticipated and countered. Pre-Thatcher the game wasn’t chess it was draughts.

Black versus white, right versus wrong.

Only one direction of travel and an opposing one at almost every move.

Now, however, the battle lines have become so confused it’s as if there is no overall goal. No black and white. 50 shades of grey. Politics is no longer about winning, it’s about taking part. Staying in the game.

And that blurring of distinction, in which Liberal and Labour alike have had to secede principle in search of staying in the game has resulted, firstly, in New Labour in 1994 and secondly a Con/Lib coalition in 2010.

Where next? I shudder to think.

The two main opposition parties have become pale imitations of the enemy they despise. And the result is a neo-liberal blancmange that Westminster simply cannot escape.

Give me minestrone over blancmange any day.

As part of my decision making process I read Stephen Maxwell’s excellent Arguing for Independence: Evidence, Risks and Wicked Issues, the absurdly unwise Scottish Government manifesto White Paper, Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence (superb), Wings Over Scotland, many, many blog posts including two in particular that stood out; Bella Caledonia and Business For Scotland. Whilst these undoubtedly had a nationalist bias most were backed by credible sources and most acknowledged the inherent risks of separatism.

I also had the great privilege of attending hustings and debates with all sides of the debate represented. I went out of my way to take in the Orange Order’s Grand March through Edinburgh and enjoyed a soupcon of Trotskyism in the form of Tommy Sheridan’s brilliant Hope over Fear tour.

So I consider my decision reasonably well informed.

Of course we’ve had the official campaigns to ponder over too. The Yes campaign has been positive and enjoyable (if light on facts) and the No campaign a horseradish bitter tirade of disingenuity and hopeless rhetoric.

I come back then, on the eve of voting, to what has swayed my decision.

Certainly it was not the official campaigns; either of them. Nor my reading, although that helped inform me. No, what did it for me was under the bluster, the ridiculous rhetoric and the lampooning of Westminster that made up Tommy Sheridan’s sometimes pantomime posturing lay a truth that I cannot avoid. A truth that will probably cost me money as I look left, not right.

But then, a principle’s not a principle until it costs you money I was told.

What Tommy Sheridan laid bare for me was the hopelessness that neo-Liberal governance is creating. No-one benefits from this. Least of all the under-privileged.

I’m not going all Socialist Worker on you here. All I’m saying is that Tommy articulated a truth that I truly believe in. That Westminster politics is no longer fit for the purpose of governing Scotland

In an independent Scotland I look forward to a political landscape (left wing dominated but with a vocal and electable right) that rids us of neo-liberal posturing; that opens the door of the debating chamber to well argued and intensely held beliefs, that socialism and conservatism both have good things to offer, that liberalism steers a course through the middle and that the decisions that come out of that chamber are argued with focus and relevance to the people that live within its range. The people of an independent Scotland.

I’m sorry I have bombarded you with months of social media postings. But that’s what the un-friend button is for my friends.

And straight in at number two. China Sewage pipe baby.


I’m sure this image caught your eye as much as it caught mine, as it did my friend, David Reid, who wrote on Twitter that the headline “China sewage pipe baby” would make for a great band name. I agree.

It compelled me to write the following post on my new business’s blog. (Planet Blog).

Back in the day I was a massive indie music fan.  Still am, as a matter of fact.

I loved the fact that it was possible for outlandishly named bands to have big “indie” hits and stay in the charts for months at a time.

Some of the names they came up were majestic.   Echo and the Bunnymen broke through, despite a fairly ridiculous moniker. So too did pop radicals, Chumbawumba, with their memorable performance at The Brits during which John ‘Two Jabs’ Prescott got a bucketful of water thrown over him.

Polyphonic Spree had a few moments of limelight.  And Lynyrd Skynyrd proved that vowels were no essential constituent of success.  The Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy  also had a season in the sun.  (A very good one actually with their rather excellent “Television.  The drug of the nation.”)

But it’s amid the failed that the real gems emerge.

Would Simple Minds really have made it if they’d held onto their initial name; Johnny and the Self Abusers?

Is it any surprise that little known Atletico Spizz Energy were so little known.

Impotent Sea Snakes?  They hardly flourished.  Lacking perhaps in the vital fecundity that fertilises the imagination of music journalists.  Or maybe they were just rubbish.

I do like Cindy Brady’s Lisp, even if poor old Cindy was the butt of all her school’s jokes.  (Was she?)

Another bunch of losers (apart from in the nomenclature stakes) was Congratulations on Your Decision to Become a Pilot.  That’s ace that is.

How about Nectarine number 9?  Or Crispy Ambulance?  Or Osric Tentacles? (I own albums by all three.)

But the kings of it all were The Fall, not in itself such an outre name, but check out these album and song titles:

  • Hex Enduction Hour
  • I am Kurious Oranj (note spelling)
  • To Nkroachment: Yarbles
  • Hexen Definitive/ Strife Knot
  • Mexico Wax Solvent
  • Gross Chape l – British Grenadiers
  • Van Plague?
  • Senior Twilight Stock Replacer
  • Open the Boxoctosis #2
  • Last commands of Xylalothep Via M.E.S.  (How Mark E Smith ever got that out I know not.  Ever heard him interviewed?)


My point of mentioning all this is that ill-considered verbiage and smart arsed writing (which is essentially what a lot of the above represents) are no recipe for success.

To prove my point The Fall’s biggest hit was “There’s a Ghost in my House” a Holland/Dozier/Holland penned R Dean Taylor cover that peaked at number 30 in the UK singles chart.

Even on the indy charts, their biggest success was a number 2 with “Totally Wired.”

So, remember this.  If you find it hard to turn your complex business or technical messaging into compelling, easy to read blog writing, why not give Planet Blog a try?

We can be your Fall guys. (Without the tortuous language.)