Sunday, 30 September 2012

Guess whose book has just come out in paperback

Peter Hain was at odds with Harriet Harman on Radio Wales this morning by calling for a Labour/LibDem coalition.

As I commented earlier, such calls are either mischievous or wishful thinking, because the electoral arithmetic in 2014 or 2015 is going to be very different from that of today. There are even signs from council by-elections this year that Labour support is already receding from its peak in May.

The pro-coalitionists point to the appointment of Paddy Ashdown as election campaign chief as evidence that the Liberal Democrats are planning for another LibLab pact in 2015. Certainly, Paddy was in favour of merging the two parties when Blair was Labour leader, but then Alex Carlile was another who wanted to join us to Labour in 1997. Lord Carlile now favours merger with the Conservatives. I'm not saying that Paddy is on the same trajectory, but that things change over fifteen years. I sense that, after two years of participating in government, Liberal Democrats in parliament at least have more self-confidence, enabling them to make more objective choices as to who to collaborate with.

What I most objected to this morning was Mr Hain's claim that the coalition was more right-wing than Thatcher. In so far as "far right-wing" means anything, it calls to mind authoritarianism and the suppression of civil liberties. It should be remembered that Labour introduced detention without trial, locking up refugee children, enabling people to be arrested for taking photographs near public buildings and, if the 2010 election had not intervened, would have introduced compulsory ID cards and a central database of personal details of every citizen.

That was all ended in coalition, thanks largely to Liberal Democrats. As well as acknowledging and apologising for its acceptance of Thatcherite economics, Labour should also roll back its illiberal social policies.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Political parties and flight from justice to Cyprus

The coincidence of the sentencing of Asul Nadir and publication of a new book by Ken Follett was a reminder of another incident nearly twenty years ago. It should be stressed that the financial transactions involving the Labour party and Mr Follett with Mr Costas were conducted in all good faith.

Gleision mine deaths: why are we still in the dark?

A year after it was announced (pdf here) that the Health and Safety Executive had set up an inquiry into the fatal incident in Rhos, there is still no indication of when the report will be published.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Conservative parties' legend about LibDems

The autumn federal conference of the Liberal Democrats in Brighton saw the start of a new legend about the party. Conservative-leaning commentators, like the BBC's Nick Robinson and Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail interviewed on Radio Wales yesterday, are putting it about that most "activists in the hall [...] were instinctively attuned to the Labour Party", disapproved of the coalition and sought "a progressive alliance with Labour". It is clearly in Conservatives' electoral interest, as the economy improves, to associate LibDems in the public mind with the party which was irresponsible in government and is talking the country down in opposition.

One cannot accuse journalists of such high standing as lying. However, they do appear to have been highly selective in the activists they spoke to. Certainly, most Welsh LibDems would question whether "progressive" and "Labour" should appear in the same sentence and I guess that the same holds true for Scots and those tussling with Labour in the inner cities in England. Moreover, the platform speakers, who are more representative of party activists than their equivalent in the Conservative rallies, predominantly addressed ways in which government could be improved rather than whinge about being in coalition. There was a clear relish in having Liberal ministers round the cabinet table for the first time since the dark days of the second world war. There was no talk of "triangulation" or "equidistance", rather a reiteration of the party's uniqueness.

This is a party both of sound money, going back to Gladstone, and of concern for the deprived, the discriminated against and the sick, of Lloyd George and Beveridge. It is also the party of civil liberties, of Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams. The constant references to "Liberal values" in speeches at Brighton may have proved wearing after a couple of days' watching, but they were nonetheless heartening. (It's a pity that the inherent social democratic strand was not name-checked, but "Liberal and Social Democratic values" would have been too much of a mouthful.) The side-swipes at Labour and Conservatives were there but far outweighed by the positive, distinctive, tone.

I predict that the scales will tilt the other way when Labour meets in Manchester this weekend, and that sneers and smears directed at the "Conservative-run government" will far outnumber positive proposals.

There is a Labour plan to woo Liberal Democrats, (except of course for the demonised Nick Clegg). Note that the seducers do not have honourable intentions. They are bent on breaking up the coalition marriage, though they have to appear sincere.  (Harriet Harman doesn't get the message, but she is clearly out of the loop.) Labour leaders know that their best chance of regaining power is for the coalition to break up before the economic recovery is felt throughout the country.

Both Sir Menzies Campbell and Sir Alan Beith have reminded the party of Labour's sins in government apart from their handling of the economy. It would be a misjudgement to, as one headline-writer put it, "play footsie" with Labour before the original end date of the coalition agreement, in 2014. Come the election, whether forced by an unholy alliance of Thatcherite Tories and Labour, or as scheduled in 2015, the message should be the same as in 2010: if no party has an overall majority, and assuming that we are not the largest parliamentary party, we should open talks with the one that is. Nick Clegg did not spell this out in his closing speech at Brighton, but he gave a clear indication that this would be the case. As he said in that speech: "In a democracy, politicians take their orders from the people".

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Conservatives were cool on Welsh rail electrification before election

In 2009, the South Wales Evening Post reported a speech from the Conservatives' autumn conference, in which the then shadow transport minister Theresa Villiers said:

We are keen to level with people and be very straight with them that electrification can bring benefits, but it is not possible to give a cast-iron commitment because of the state of the public finances.

This could be another instance of Liberal Democrat influence in government.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Co-ownership and all that jazz

For as long as I have been interested in politics, I have been a supporter of employee participation in corporate bodies, large and small. So I was glad to see "Mutuals, Employee Ownership, and Workplace Democracy" back on a Liberal Democrat conference agenda, and was not disappointed by the breadth and quality of the contributions to the debate.

As several speakers made clear, the party does not seek to dictate any one particular model of industrial democracy, though the successes of the German model and the John Lewis Partnership over here were mentioned more than once. It is worth hearing Martin Horwood's opening speech if nothing else; it is about 1hr 45m in from the start of BBC-Parliament's iPlayer coverage (or about 7.45 p.m. if you can catch the TV repeat tonight).

The preceding Science debate, featuring our Cardiff South and Penarth candidate Dr Bablin Molik, is worth watching, too.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Liberal Democrat DNA

Mark Pack addresses the question: "What should the Liberal Democrats focus on in the next year?" His assertion that "Only rarely does it make sense for a political party to concentrate on something other than what the public says is the most important issue facing them and their families. Now is not one of those exceptions, so it is the economy that should top the list for Liberal Democrats over the next year" would not seriously be disputed by any mainstream politician.

Indeed, the same thinking will surely dominate both Conservatives and Labour in the months to come. There will be variations in the public stance taken by all the major parties, but not many differences in the basic approach.

A more interesting question is: "What distinguishes the Liberal Democrats?" (or its cruder version "what are the LibDems for?"). For me, today's (Sunday's) agenda highlights what makes the party distinctive. To be sure, other parties will have debates on Aviation, International Cooperation and the Environment (though probably not as a single subject), Good Food and on Medically Assisted Dying.

However, no other party would consider "Empowering the IPCC [the police complaints body]", "Equal Citizenship – Supporting Independence for Sick" and Monday morning's "Mutuals, Employee Ownership, and Workplace Democracy", all to do with civil liberties and empowering the individual and communities.

But the supreme example was the presentation by Citizens UK celebrating Liberal Democrat success in ending the policy of separating and locking up the children of refugees. It was a joyous occasion of which I trust a video will be put up on one of the party web-site.

Later: there is a photo here. I'm still looking for the video.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Liberal Democrats did their best on tuition fees

Nick Clegg's video (by the way, am I the only cynic to suspect that the spoof, so good and so commercial, must have been prepared before the official media release :-) ?) addressed belatedly the difference between a manifesto proposal and a personal pledge.

However, some people are still under the impression that the policy of exempting English students from tuition fees was (a) dreamt up by the campaigns department as an election gimmick; and (b) uncosted.

The reverse is true. There has been a consistent objection by Liberal Democrats as a whole to the student loans system from the time this Conservative idea was implemented by the Blair-Brown government (incidentally reneging on a Labour 1997 campaign commitment). I remember a vigorous debate at federal conference in Coventry in the late 1990s when only a tremendous speech by Lembit from the top table persuaded members that we could not afford to reverse government policy then. A few years later, conference had its way, though in members' defence it should be said that a sense of financial well-being had returned to the country.

Before the last general election, in view of the credit crunch, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable advised the party to reverse policy (as this report of the 2009 spring conference shows). However, once it was clear that the party would not back down, LibDem MPs and the federal policy committee assiduously went over the costings to make sure that the proposals which were a central part of the manifesto would work. Danny Alexander (now Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and Nick committed themselves wholeheartedly to them.

They (and we party members) cannot be blamed for the UK in 2010 voting ten-to-one (in terms of seats) for parties who supported the continuation of the tuition fees system. Having been forced to accept it as part of the price for entering government, Vince Cable worked hard to mitigate it as far as possible so that it was fairer than under Labour and benefited more people.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Labour having it both ways (continued)

Guido Fawkes quotes Ed Balls to the Confederation of British Industry:
“George Osborne and I have some real differences but we also have some areas where we really agree. There is no doubt that a credible deficit reduction plan is essential… There have to be tough decisions on spending and pay and measures to kick-start the economy. We need action now for growth, jobs and confidence.”
Meanwhile, the public Labour Party line is that deficit cutting should be abandoned, and the debt allowed to grow faster.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bring Clegg and Cameron into the twenty-first century

On second thoughts, make that the "latter half of the twentieth century".

There is an old story about how to make a marriage work. The man says: "It's quite simple. I make all the big decisions in the house, and she makes all the little decisions." When asked for more details he explains: "She decides where the children go to school or whether we can afford a higher mortgage, while I make the really big decisions like whether the West should invade Iran or ban the burka".

This comes to mind whenever there is an announcement of government appointments and there is still no woman senior Treasury minister. Women tend to have more experience in the nuts-and-bolts of daily life and it would surely improve decision-making in government if there were more women in key positions. The recent Cameron reshuffle has actually been a step backwards. The Liberal Democrats have shared in this, and Nick Clegg has to accept some blame.

Jenny Willott makes the best of it in a contribution to Liberal Democrat Voice: "It is of course good news that some of the great women in our party have been promoted: Jo Swinson MP is now Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, Baroness Jenny Randerson is taking up a role in the Wales Office, Lynne Featherstone MP has moved to the Department for International Development and Lorely Burt has become Parliamentary Private Secretary to Danny Alexander MP.".

The case remains that Lynne Featherstone's move was seen as a demotion and that the brief of equalities devolved to her in the Home Office was moved from that department to Culture, Media and Sport whose minister has very traditional Conservative views on such things on women's rights. Belatedly, the brief has moved on again to Jo Swinson, the party's most active campaigner on the subject, though one notes that this happened almost surreptitiously once the reshuffle was no longer the main news story. It could be argued that the promotion of women's place in society will be more effectively achieved within the ambit of Business, Innovation and Skills, but against that is the wider field for legislation which the Home Office enjoys. Moreover, a man (David Laws) has replaced a woman (Sarah Teather) in the Department for Education.

Conservative women have fared worse. Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers have been moved from the high-profile Department for Transport to less newsworthy billets. (Greening has, however, not retired to sulk in her new job and shows signs of shaking up the jobs-for-the-boys culture inherited from Labour. She and Lynne Featherstone may well make a formidable team.) Cheryl Gillan has been returned to the backbenches, presumably for doing too good a job in the Wales Office. Chloe Smith has been dispatched from the Treasury, where her main duty seems to have been taking the flak for George Osborne, to the Cabinet Office. Having been bullied on The World Tonight and Newsnight, she is now expected to withstand the massed ranks of Britain's lobbying industry. Clearly capable, she may well feel that the Conservative leadership has not treated her well. I would advise the deputy prime minister and his staff to court her with a view to her crossing the gangway.

I mistrust the term "role-model" but in this case it is justified. If women see that they are less able to make a difference at the top, they are more reluctant to take that first step on the ladder of national politics, to stand for parliament. This is all the more important for a "bottom-up" party like the Liberal Democrats. Conservatives and Labour have the luxury of safe seats into which they can parachute favoured candidates. All Liberal Democrat seats are effectively marginal seats. Female Liberal Democrats therefore have to campaign with the best of them, taking nothing for granted.

Cardiff and Penarth should strike a blow

All the more reason then to get behind Dr. Bablin Molik in the forthcoming Cardiff South and Penarth by-election. There is another benefit she would bring to the House, besides helping the gender balance. The Commons is woefully deficient in scientists. It sometimes seems that Julian Huppert is the token scientist for the whole coalition - and he speaks from the back-benches. It would improve Westminster decision-making no end if he were joined by someone else from a scientific discipline.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Australian bank executive outspoken on credit crash

Australians have a deserved reputation for delivering basic truths in basic language. This clearly extends to leaders of finance, as this report from the Sydney Morning Herald (including video) shows. The head of securitisation at the capital division of National Australia Bank, in an email to a colleague in 2008, spelled out the dangers facing his organisation.

''Markets are f---ed,'' Mr Arabatzis said in the email, sent to nabCapital's global head of credit, Carmine Veltro. ''Investors are f---ed. Liquidity is gone. Ratings agencies are f---ed and trying to rate to market value rather than through the cycle, cash flow analysis. In short, we may or may not be f----ed!! Key dependency: Blind Luck.''

It's a pity that he hadn't appraised the situation a year earlier, or he could have saved NAB something like $1bn that went down the plughole in the dodgy loans scandal.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Labour continues to invoke Keynes

Tristram Hunt, historian and Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central since 2010, called for a Keynesian approach to the economy on "The Week in Westminster" last Saturday. It should be pointed out that Dr Hunt stood at the general election on a Labour manifesto which was marginally more austere than the course plotted by the coalition and that the Bank of England would no doubt claim that Quantitative Easing is a Keynesian measure.

He should also be aware, as a letter-writer* to the Independent put it: "Keynesianism is about cyclical deficit spending [...] governments should not run structural deficits, i.e. spending more than receipts during times of economic well-being. It is during such times of plenty that surpluses should be used to reduce the total debt and the size of the ongoing interest bill.

"It is precisely because Gordon Brown and Ed Balls ran a structural deficit between 2001 and the start of the recession in 2008, that the interest bill was already so large."

Peter Black draws attention to a CEBR study that predicts that personal recession will turn round in 2013. There are already signs this month in the form of unexpected council by-election Conservative gains from Independents, Liberal Democrats and even Labour, that some parts of the country are beginning to feel comfortable again. One hopes that chancellor George Osborne does not make the same mistake as Gordon Brown and indulge in a pre-election splurge, though there is no excuse for further raids on the social security budget.

*Steve Travis, Nottingham, Independent Letters 11th April 2011

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Robert Croft starts his new career

Some old hacks say that there are no characters in the game today. Nonsense.

The statistics tell only part of the story. They don't convey the enthusiasm which Robert Croft brought to the dressing-rooms of both England and Glamorgan and which promises to inspire the next generation of players as he takes up coaching full-time. If you have the chance, listen to Steve Watkin's contribution to yesterday's "Good Evening, Wales", about half-way in.

Through ill-health, I missed the glorious finish to Croft's playing career in Cardiff, but at least I saw his last day on his "home" ground of Swansea: also a victory for the county.

The debate that started on Radio Wales about Glamorgan's best player always seemed pretty pointless. Even comparisons with Don Shepherd as the county's other great off-spinner are impossible because the latter played in an era when there were many more county matches, so his haul of 2218 wickets is unlikely to be exceeded. Only the subjective evidence of a batsman whose career spanned the end of Shepherd's career and the beginning of Croft's as to who he would rather face on a slow turner at St Helen's would be of any use.

I have been privileged to have seen both and would not like to separate them. I am glad that my life in Wales has included all of Robert Croft's career. As a member of the county for most of that time, I have enjoyed both highs and lows but through all the frustrations of Glamorgan's performances, Robert Croft was a rock. He did not play often enough for England - indeed, he could have played more for the county in a period when the selectors did not realise what a potent weapon spin was.

In addition to his coaching duties, Croft will be contributing more to broadcast coverage of cricket. Over the last few years, Welsh-speakers have been the major beneficiaries of his views on games in which he has been taking part shown on S4C. One hopes that he will have time to take his turn in the rota of expert summarisers on Radio Wales or even Test Match Special.

If his judgement of his young charges is sound, the future of the county's spinning department is in good hands. The excellent Dean Cosker will, one hopes, be around for a while yet. In a radio interview earlier in the month, Croft was generous towards the lads he has already started coaching. One other remark in that interview stood out for me: the reason for his retirement. Going downstairs in the morning after a day in the field, he said, reminded him that he was forty-two years old. I remember Don Shepherd being quoted as saying something similar: "it gets you in the legs". Well, Robert Croft will have more time for his fishing and rest for his legs in future. He deserves it.

The Goiânia Radiation Incident

This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of a bizarre incident in Brazil. A radioactive source, designed for therapeutic purposes, was left in an abandoned hospital. Scavengers discovered it and sold it. It was broken up (for reasons detailed in this article) and sold on. Hundreds of people were exposed and four died as a result.

Fairtrade Maltesers

I'm rather late catching up with this, and it has little connection with Neath or even Wales, but I couldn't resist a silly picture involving a Liberal Democrat MP (in this case, Eastbourne's Stephen Lloyd, on the right in the picture).

"Maltesers have long been a chocoholic favourite and have recently been spotted with the Fairtrade Mark on the packets. This gives a guarantee that the farmers growing the cocoa beans are getting a fair deal. 

"To celebrate the new status Fairtrade Eastbourne joined Eastbourne mascot Barnaby the Bee and MP Stephen Lloyd on the seafront to enjoy some of the sweets. "'When a company as big as Mars thinks it is worth their while to invest in Fairtrade it is a huge endorsement of the Fairtrade movement in Eastbourne and across the UK. Choosing Fairtrade makes a real difference directly to the lives of many impoverished people. And Barnaby says the chocolate's good too!' said Stephen. 

"Maltesers are the first Fairtrade product from the Mars company. The cocoa will come from cooperatives in West Africa and this move will contribute over $1 million in annual Fairtrade premiums for investment in community, business and environmental projects. 

"'Over 5 billion Maltesers are eaten in the UK each year and I know some chocolate lovers will be worried about any changes to the Maltesers taste, but it's still the same. The only difference is that the producers are now assured sustainable development from a more reliable price.' said Matt Wilkinson from Fairtrade Eastbourne."

I would add only that Fairtrade is not the only route to ethical chocolate production, as Hotel Chocolat points out.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Labour trying to have it both ways

Geoffrey Robinson in conversation with Sue Cameron and Lord Lawson on "The Week in Westminster" this morning said that the rise in borrowing showed that the coalition's plan was failing and the extra borrowing should be spent "on investment instead". He is either unwittingly or deliberately confused.

What Robinson (not to mention the succession of Labour speakers peddling the same basic line) failed to point out is that the continuing rise in public borrowing was built in to the coalition plan from the start. It results from not eliminating the budget deficit at a stroke. Even if the Conservative proposal (see their 2010 manifesto) to remove the bulk of the deficit by 2014 had been put into operation, debt would inevitably have accumulated until that point were reached. (There is a neat explanation of the relationship between debt and deficit here. It is a US site, but the principles are the same for all national treasuries.) All the government hopes to do is to slow the rate of increase.

Robinson should have given credit to Liberal Democrats in the coalition for their refusal to go along with the more draconian Conservative cuts. In fact, the coalition's deficit reduction programme is, give or take a billion pounds, of the same order as that planned by Labour's outgoing chancellor, Alistair Darling, and that in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

The process has been dragged out even longer by the unexpectedly protracted eurozone situation. Labour was very quick to say "it wasn't me, guv", when the 2008 transatlantic credit drought struck. (Some of us, though, apportion part of the blame to Labour's failure to regulate the London end of financial institutions.)  It is therefore inconsistent for Labour to place all the blame for the drop in GDP over the last twelve months, common to most western nations, on the coalition.

But it was that word "instead" that particularly struck me. Most of the increase in the deficit, and therefore in the bulk of the extra borrowing, is caused by social spending. Does he advocate a further shift from benefits to pay for public construction schemes?

It is not as if the coalition had dragged its feet over infrastructure schemes, in the same way as Labour had. We in South Wales especially will benefit from the electrification of the Great Western main line, and there are similar examples in England.

Turning the oil-tanker round

At the end of his segment of the Radio 4 programme, Lord Lawson counselled patience. (It is not something I recall Nigel Lawson, chancellor, as being well-known for, but he has clearly matured.) It is going to take time for government plans to show results. Even so-called "shovel-ready" construction schemes take time to get going.

Impatience renders politicians susceptible to the blandishments of political Snake-oil salesmen. The Beecroft report raised its ugly head in Business Questions in the House last Thursday. It is disappointing, but understandable, that Jo Swinson in her first session as junior minister did not give a more robust answer to Sir Tony Baldry's question. Beecroft's most contentious proposal, to scrap the concept of unfair dismissal, would make little impact on the speed of the current recovery. What it would do, though, is aggravate the next recession as firms - large as well as small - would find it easier to sack workers.

A concern is that the up-turn coincides with one of these wild ideas (like the Welsh government tearing up environmental guidelines), thus giving unwarranted legitimacy to something which would otherwise be summarily thrown out.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Shop occupancy

Wrexham Plaid (complete with greengrocer's apostrophe) reports that shop occupancy in the town is up on 2009. Skewen's shopping street is noticeably more active than in the 2008 slump - I reckon that there are only one or two blank shop fronts. The MP representing Holmfirth claimed in the House of Commons this week that all the shops were fully occupied for the first time in years.

Steve Morgan, founder of Redrow, aims to take the house-builder private again because he believes the share price undervalues the company.

This confidence at the grass roots contradicts the pessimistic forecasts from on high.

Later: industrial output rose at its fastest rate for twenty-five years in July, making up for the fall in June and a touch more.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Rail fare increases

The Welsh Government has not yet announced the basis for future railway fare increases. I beg them not to use the Retail Prices Index (RPI) as England and Scotland have done, but instead the Consumer Prices Index. This would align the cost of travel with pensions and other benefits.

There is moreover a built-in escalator effect on the RPI. It is based in part on the Carli Index - see wikipedia for explanations of the various price indices. (The other component is Dutot, also explained in that wikipedia entry.) As the writer says, "the BBC Radio 4 programme 'More or Less' noted that the Carli index, used in part in the British Retail Price Index measure, has a built-in bias towards recording inflation even when, over successive periods there is no increase in prices overall."

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

First thoughts on reshuffle

A minister with South Wales roots and an English constituency has been replaced by a member with a North Wales constituency. The bad news is that a man has replaced one of the few women in the cabinet. Cameron has balanced this by promoting Theresa Villiers from a junior post in Transport to Northern Ireland.

Daran Hill of the Positif consultancy confirms my impression: "History will treat Cheryl Gillan kindly, both for her time as Secretary & Shadow Secretary of State. A decent, kind and effective politician. She has done much for Wales and for her party".

However, the side-lining of women betrays a bias on the part of both David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who, it should be remembered, had to be consulted over the changes in the coalition government.

Ms Villiers did seem to have been a supporter of rail transport. Justine Greening was also an opponent of  concreting over more of southern England. Owen Paterson, who moves to DEFRA from Northern Ireland, is reported to be keen on the Heathrow expansion.

Is Ken Clarke's move to Minister Without Portfolio a sop or will he have real power and thus act as a more business-friendly counter-balance to Osborne? If the latter, then there could be tension as when Harold Wilson set up the Department of Economic Affairs under George Brown.

The news from BBC News Channel has slowed to a trickle, so time to make a coffee and throw something in the oven for lunch.

[Later] It gets worse on the equalities front: see Caron's Musings.

Monday, 3 September 2012

County cricket fixtures

Glenn Moore in the Independent puts it very comprehensively. The seemingly random distribution in time of fixtures for the counties must put off the average cricket follower. Nor can it help cricketers keep themselves match-fit when there are gaps of a week or more between periods of hectic activity in matches of different formats.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is clearly taking seriously the fall-off in county match attendance. Earlier in the year they emailed known enthusiasts with a questionnaire on the subject. I have had my say and I hope there were many more respondents on the same lines.

The ECB may also care to look at the months during which cricket is played. Britain seems to be in a phase of hot dry springs and warm settled autumns with cooler, wetter summers. It would seem to be sensible to start the season a week or so earlier and allow time in September and October for replaying championship matches which have been rained off.