Saturday, 25 October 2014
The Lavender Hill Mob
I call it "An Old Man's Folly" Warren Buffett I am not.
My timing is impeccable. I bought Northern Rock shares just as the queues were forming out side the bank's branches. I bought shares in a series of small UK hi tech/biological companies, convinced that I was getting in at the basement level of a boom in all things hi tech. In the basement they have stayed.
I thought my acquisition of Genus shares was inspired. A company whose sole purpose was to impregnate livestock - especially bovines - was sure to be a sure fire winner: what with China switching to rump steaks and Sunday joints. For a while my stocks soared like that cow in the nursery rhyme as chop sticks in their billions gave way to steak knives. But then China stalled and my stock headed for the knacker's yard.
Tesco's was a bad, bad buy. But even the "Sage of Omaha" bought into Tesco's. The thing is I don't shop at Tesco's, I think the stores are boring, tacky and not Waitrose: I've thought this for years so why did I buy into a company I dislike. Serves me right.
In a stroke of genius I sold my holdings in a successful (in terms of share price rise) UK pharmaceutical company and invested the proceeds in.......Foxtons, the up your arse London high end estate agents. They have bombed, rather like London's high end housing market.
I blame it all on Mrs Thatcher - the milk snatcher - yes that's how old I am. It was she (and Sir Keith Joseph) who came up with the share owning democracy. A wonderfully egalitarian policy. Encourage us plebs to own a share in the great companies of this fair nation of ours. Share in their success and at the same time hold them to account with the general public buying up swathes of company's equity.
Of course, like most of Snatcher Thatcher's ideas it didn't turn out as she had hoped. Selling off the family silver - the utilities etc and offering shares to Joe Public at knock down prices had Sid buying loads of shares and rapidly selling them to the professional investors once he realised that with the profit he could buy that new colour TV or an extra week in Ibiza. In the same way those cosy, customer owned Building Societies were gobbled up by the owners of capital.
Anyway, the market was fixed. As a small shareholder you're definitely at the mercy of the big professionals - the disgraced banks and their investment arms, insurance companies and their ilk.
Looking back on Thatcher's share-owning revolution: it was nothing of the sort. It certainly was a re-distribution of wealth but from the not so wealthy Joe Public to the entrenched owners of capital. It's gone from bad to worse since then. Fewer own more now than in the days of the Roman Empire. Capital and labour are almost as far apart as in Victorian England. UK productivity remains low, salaries and wages for the many are decreasing in real terms, yet the owners and managers of the country's capital have seen growth in double figures.
Many suspect that for the Tories the financial crisis in 2008-9 was a god send. Under the pretext of "balancing the books", digging the UK out of an economic black hole, they have been able to implement policies which would have been laughed out of court is more affluent times.
The "undeserving poor", have been identified and targeted. Benefits which had made life bearable for many have been cut or abolished, housing restricted and services curtailed or priced out of the reach of many.
We've learnt we cannot look to the likes of Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Johnson for our salvation. It's in our own hands. And all we can do is keep keeping on. In spite of their attempts to "rescue" us!