The Selfish Divide and Political Stockholm Syndrome

Closet Tories on their first march

It's been an interesting week in the world of British mainstream politics, with Labour and the Conservatives hosting their annual conferences, the former crowded with all the new supporters who have flocked to the party since the election of social-democrat Jeremy Corbyn as its leader; the latter hounded by unionists and anti-austerity activists in a peaceful demonstration of tens of thousands of people (leaving aside the protester who wasted a perfectly good egg on a Tory delegate who taunted the crowds with a picture of The Iron Lady).

The distinct lack of grassroots supporters for the Tories got me thinking about who the party actually represents outside of its own party members, and why those who voted for them appear to remain largely silent about their political views.

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Is the current government helping the average worker?

With the elections out of the way and the new government firmly in the saddle, it's time to focus on the real issues facing the economy. They need to stabilise growth around the 2% mark, keep inflation in check, and let the tail winds of a 50% fall in oil prices and rising business investments drive economic growth. The government needs to focus on both making it easier to do business and putting more money in the hands of the consumers to spur consumption.

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Are developing economies set to eclipse the west?

The economic balance of the world is shifting and it is important to realise that the western economies – the so-called first world nations – are no longer the only ones to watch. There are a number of emerging economies that have become exceedingly strong, and this is going to change the balance over the next few years.

Which economies are becoming stronger?


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has predicted that China and India, along with a number of other nations in the developing world, will overtake their western counterparts within 50 years. At present, the US is still hanging on to the title of the world’s largest economy, but China is now in second place and some experts have claimed that China’s economy is actually now larger than that of the US. China is closely followed by Japan, while India is snapping at the heels of France, Germany and the UK. China has been stronger than the Eurozone for the last few years.


Massive investment into modern technology has ensured that eastern countries can take their place on the world stage when it comes to a strong economy. It also helps that countries that once were slightly xenophobic, preferring to deal only “in-house”, are now prepared to look beyond their own borders so firms can expand globally.


Predictions made by the US Department of Agriculture for 2030 show that the US will be struggling to hold on to its place as the world’s top economy as its GDP drops. However, China is set to double its economy. The same prediction sees India overtaking Japan and Germany to claim third place. In addition, Brazil is set to grow to take sixth place on the list, ahead of the UK and France. Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria also feature on the list of the predicted top 20 economies in the world.


However, it is also predicted that other developing nations will grow significantly. It is thought that Uganda will break the top 100 economies by 2030 and many of the nations that have the biggest changes coming their way will be located in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.


It should be remembered that these predictions are just that – predictions. There are many variables that cannot be accurately predicted, so the economic landscape may not look exactly like this, but the estimates are based on actions that these countries are taking now, which are making a big difference to the way that they operate.


How is it changing?


It is the willingness of some companies and business people to take risks by starting businesses and expanding into developing economies that is helping to make these changes. Businessmen like Fahad Mazyan Al-Rajaan, who made his name in banking in the Middle East, have launched new business ventures in other parts of the world, including Asia. This confidence on the part of Al-Rajaan and his contemporaries means that developing nations are given a strong chance to compete with western economies.


The global economy is changing all the time and it is something that can be affected by many factors. With this in mind, predictions should be watched carefully, but there is no doubt that a number of developing nations are now surpassing expectations.



Strategies for building new business in Africa

In the West, Africa is often still looked upon as a poor nation, dependent on aid, crippled by war and corrupt governments, and unable to help itself out of what can seem like never-ending struggles.


While some might persist in seeing the continent that way, others see opportunity across the vast region. Rather than sinking under itself, Africa is booming with business.

While Europe and the US were stagnating in deep crises as part of the 2008 recession, many African nations saw GDP growth rates of more than five per cent, making it the resilient party in a world that would so often paint it as the very opposite. Even sub-Saharan Africa sustained strong growth, in a trend that some commentators claim goes back over two decades, making it a top business centre when it comes to weathering global economic storms.


In his article for global company PwC (formerly known as PriceWaterhouseCoopers), Africa authority and market expert Harry G. Broadman called the continent a “vast, untapped market” and highlighted that the African Development bank has forecast growth rates to remain at or higher than five per cent in the next 50 years.


Africa’s continued growth throughout the recent global economic turmoil has marked it out as a reliable business partner, especially for companies looking to develop their offerings throughout other emerging markets, such as China and India. This means the continent is becoming a genuine part of the wider picture when it comes to commerce, helping to effect growth elsewhere as well as benefit itself.


It also helps that African nations are young, both in the age of their people (studies put over half of the billion-strong population under age 34) and in the resources on offer, with KPMG’s website page on Africa stating that the amount of untapped mineral wealth, oil, gas and uncultivated land was “staggering.”


Much of this growth has been fostered by the “trade, not aid” approach, which has seen even charitable organisations seek to invest in African nations across the sectors of housing, health, communications and agriculture, rather than simply giving away money without a strategy.


Other boom industries with potential to grow even further include telecoms, energy, and the vast rail network. Businesses are working with other businesses (known as “B2B”) to create as-yet unparalleled levels of industry development.


There is no question that trade has become a significant driver for growth, with ports and airports across the continent opening up for business on a previously unprecedented scale. The exchange of goods between nations is now moving rapidly further south, thanks in large part to shipping agencies on the African continent, such as Bolloré, who are proving that successful partnerships within the container and freight operations sector are not only possible, but thriving.


Investing in Africa does require a consideration of the issues African nations face, particularly with regard to poor infrastructure and underdeveloped education, but this offers many chances to implement helpful, local solutions that will offer businesses ample chance to grow.


Savvy companies are no longer dismissing Africa’s emerging market, with trade replacing aid in the continent’s ongoing and booming growth.


The Online Gambling Popularity Explosion

Gambling has been a facet of human life ever since the introduction of money – the thrill of the game coupled with the chances of hitting the big time has an allure that many find irresistibly appealing. With millions of dollars at stake it's no surprise that the industry has grown and is now worth over $300 billion.

The arrival of the internet has meant that gambling is now an immediate passtime which people can engage in whenever they like, wherever they are. Online casinos first emerged in the mid-1990s and have flourished in the years since, with major sites such as netbet casino offering enticing introductory packages, including a £250 bonus with no deposit required, while operating on a secure platform and providing 24/7 customer service support.

Games such as Wheel of Fortune, Blackjack and Roulette continue to increase in popularity, while gambling on sporting events remains a business trend which continues to show incredible growth. Enthusiastic gamblers no longer have to fly to Las Vegas to have hours of fun playing slot machines or sit around a poker table – a few clicks online will take you straight to the action.

With increasingly open laws being introduced, the future of online gambling is clear – as a growth industry it continues to go from strength to strength, and those who love a good wager stand a good chance of striking lucky and picking up that life-changing payout.

Coral and Ladbrokes Announce Plans to Merger


The U.K.-based bookmaker Ladbrokes last week announced a potential upcoming merger between itself and its competitor, Gala Coral. Financed by a share offering that will represent 10% of the company – 93 million new shares in total – the merged company would be known as Ladbrokes Coral, headed by Coral's Chief Operating Officer Andy Hornby and Ladbrokes' Chief Executive Jim Mullen. The merger will go ahead subsequent to scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Combining the new companies, second and third overall in the U.K betting market behind William Hill, would create an industry leader commanding 3,945 betting shops nationwide. No shops are being touted close in the deal, which looks set to create savings of £65m a year for the group that will soon enjoy revenues of £2.1bn and underlying profits totalling £392m overall, however according to insiders the CMA may make the group rid itself of 600 shops as to promote market harmony. Private equity businesses currently in control of the Coral brand would be issued with new shares amounting to 48.25% of the company in the new deal whilst Ladbrokes shareholders would have the commanding share of 51.75%.

But why is the deal taking place? After all, in 1998, when a similar deal was floated, it was quickly vetoed by Peter Mandelson, the business secretary at the time, citing that the deal was not in the interests of consumers. Seventeen years later however, the industry is in a very different state. Online betting is booming across the world, forcing companies, Ladbrokes and Coral included, to issue new products and services. Coral had been enjoying sound revenues from its well-received online bingo service, this activity in particular driving a change within the bingo world from halls to laptops and mobile devices, however unfortunately this has not been enough to stave off national, regional and international competitors. The new firm, if allowed to merge, would possess international operations totalling 11% of revenues, however there are plans to increase this share.

With online gaming booming, and with many popular sites operating in a purely net-based fashion, traditional, shop-located businesses – the two merging companies included – have suffered despite trying to keep up with the times. Hoping for more market and industry leverage, the proposed merger is a response to changing times and consumer tastes, so much so that if the deal goes ahead the merged company will very soon be contracting gambling tech provider Playtech under a marketing services and provisions agreement worth £75m. All hopes within the company will be focused on this new deal, one that is being touted as a panacea to both Ladbrokes and Coral's online operations.

What do you think of the new deal? Will the merger turn around the fortunes of the two companies? Join the debate in the comments section below.

Chuka Umunna announces bid for Labour leadership

In the aftermath of one of the most controversial General Elections of all time, social media is in uproar as we have said goodbye to not one, not two, but three political leaders.

After losing an incredible 49 seats, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made the painful decision to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats party. Later, after losing his constituency seat, leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage announced he would be “taking some time off for the summer” and would perhaps reconsider running again as leader of the party in the autumn.

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Alright The Captain – Contact Fix Review

If you want to take a peek inside the imaginative minds of Alright the Captain you could do worse than to check out the wonderfully surreal album art from bassist/synth man Todd. Joined by Marty on guitar and Jamie on drums (marking his debut with the band), their latest album Contact Fix is as rich, detailed and often as bonkers and beguiling as the image which adorns the cover.

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PM Announces Tory Pledge to Ban Untraceable Messaging Apps

Just days after shooting himself in the foot over the ongoing televised 2015 election leaders' debates disagreement, David Cameron seems to be on a roll, this time announcing that, in the event his party wins the election in May, highly popular mobile apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp will be blocked by the security services. The announcement comes in the wake of the chilling Paris attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, among other terrorist targets; Cameron seemingly capitalising on the violence in an effort to pass through his governments faltering new surveillance plans- the so-called "snooper's charter".


Cameron was quoted saying that there was a clear need for security services to be able to access encrypted forms of communication such as the apps. Currently security services cannot snoop on people's messages even if they have a warrant, thanks mainly to the encryption software that technology companies worldwide have been investing in subsequent to the Edward Snowdon allegations concerning the conduct of US security services including the NSA.

Critics have been quick to criticise Cameron's kneejerk approach to national security. Speaking in The Guardian, security expert Graham Cluley noted that the plans "wouldn't be possible to implement properly" and that the Prime Minister's plans were "ill-thought out and scary". According to other experts, if the plans went ahead, tech companies would have to build "backdoors" into their products that the security services could then use to snoop. Plainly, these entry points would be a boon for hackers, data leaks abound likely to put consumers in the digital firing line and proving a complete headache for businesses.

The issue for businesses doesn't just concern hackers, however. Companies such as Eris Industries stated in the wake of Cameron's announcement that they had already drawn up plans to leave Britain if the Conservative party wins May's election, leaving behind Britain's fledgling tech sector. For a government that has continually stressed its economic credentials, these announcements from the business sphere will likely confuse voters and likely spell upset for the beleaguered party. Bookmakers have been sitting on the fence up till now concerning who will win in 2015, however recent developments may swing the odds in the Labour Party's favour.

Even if the plans were to go through, companies, hackers and terrorists would likely just move on to a new form of communication, perhaps through the now-infamous Tor network. If Cameron were to win, the landscape of 2016 could be reminiscent of the authorities' "crackdown" on file sharing and torrent websites, that particular legal battle now having transformed into a trifling game of "whack-a-mole".

Feng Shui Your Home

For thousands of years Chinese minds and spaces have been ordered and harmonised by the practice of feng shui. Practitioners of the ancient belief discuss layout and architecture, but take into account metaphysical forces, invisible yet potent, that tie together the world around us, human beings and the universe as a whole. These forces, when aligned incorrectly, can have very negative effects upon individuals' lives and feelings. If you believe in eastern philosophies and beliefs, feng shui might be something that you want to bear in mind. Here are some tips to help you maximise your positive qi!

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