Our fund managers’ most useful tool No. 9: A shared cup of tea
Over the past year, we personally interviewed the management of over 1,500 companies throughout Asia.
Aberdeen’s Asian Investment Trusts Stocks and Shares ISA and Share Plan
There’s nothing like being able to judge for yourself. For us, we won’t add a company to our portfolios without first holding a personal interview with its management and even when we do invest, we visit our investments thereafter at least once a year. We manage seven investment companies investing in Asia that are available through an ISA or Share Plan: • Aberdeen All Asia Investment Trust • Aberdeen Asian Income Fund • Aberdeen Asian Smaller Companies Investment Trust • Aberdeen New Dawn Investment Trust • Aberdeen New Thai Investment Trust • Edinburgh Dragon Trust • New India Investment Trust You can invest in these trusts from £100 per month or £1,000 lump sum. We offer daily dealings for lump sum investments.
Do remember that the value of shares and the income from them can go down as well as up. You may not get back the amount invested. No recommendation is made, positive or otherwise, regarding the ISA and Share Plan. The value of tax benefits depends on individual circumstances and the favourable tax treatment for ISAs may not be maintained. If you have any doubts about the suitability of any investment for your needs, please consult an independent financial adviser.
To find out more: Request a brochure: 0500 00 40 00 www.invtrusts.co.uk
Issued and approved by Aberdeen Asset Managers Limited, 10 Queen’s Terrace, Aberdeen AB10 1YG. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the UK. Telephone calls may be recorded.
Please quote A S 05 established 1828
Prisoners of Strasbourg
Does it matter if prisoners are allowed to vote or not? Save for in the odd council ward in Brixton or on Dartmoor, some 84,000 prisoners — among an electorate of 46 million — are unlikely to have a material effect on the outcome of British elections. But there is a good reason why David Cameron this week did not even attempt to whip his MPs into supporting prisoners’ votes: such a move would have prompted a fierce rebellion among Tory backbenchers. The issue of prisoners’ votes has become a proxy for a much more significant question: are European countries governed by their own elected representatives, or by foreign judges?
When Mr Cameron said that the idea of letting prisoners vote made him ‘physically sick’, he implied that even the Prime Minister was powerless, because the decision was ultimately made in Strasbourg. This is a dangerous precedent and wholly incorrect. Parliament remains sovereign in Britain, and if our MPs vote that prisoners should remain disenfranchised — in a bill with the Queen’s signature — then this is the final word. The idea that parliament can be overruled by a panel of judges in the Alsace is a new and entirely unacceptable development. It must be loudly and emphatically rejected. The only reason we have a bill going through parliament to grant prisoners limited voting rights is that the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a blanket ban contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. But it now seems, in the opinion of British lawyers advising parliament, including the former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that a compromise proposed by the government — prisoners serving sentences of less than four years would be allowed to vote in Westminster and European elections only — does not go far enough. They say that prisoners denied the vote in next year’s Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections could challenge the result of those polls in the European Court. We face, in other words, the prospect of one of the world’s oldest democracies having its election results overturned by a handful of judges who themselves have been appointed by regimes in Russia, Bosnia and Ukraine — countries which were dictatorships until recently and are still hardly pillars of democracy.
It was not with this in mind that Britain signed up to the European Court of Human Rights in 1950. The purpose of the court was to challenge foul regimes in the making,
not to suborn functioning democracies. It is trying to edge itself into the position of an American-style supreme court.
This issue goes far beyond whether to send ballot boxes to Belmarsh. It is about who governs Britain, and whether a prime minister and his foreign secretary have a duty to defend Britain’s democracy. One option is to obey Strasbourg, and decide — as so many politicians have decided before — that picking a fight would be more trouble than it is worth. Another is to declare that the steady erosion of sovereignty has gone far enough, and it is time to decide where power should lie.
Europe is a troublesome issue for the coalition, given that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives hold directly opposing views. A paralysis on European policy might therefore suit the government. But it does not suit the country. The collision of European law with English law has led to a host of undesired consequences, and the ‘grin and bear it’ strategy has taken us to this unacceptable point. The time has come when parliament must stand to defend its own sovereignty — withdrawing us from the jurisdiction of the European Court if necessary — or watch itself be reduced to irrelevance.
One for the Gipper
‘Government is like a baby,’ said Ronald Reagan, who if he were still alive would be this Sunday celebrating his 100th birthday,
‘endless appetite at one end, and no responsibility at the other.’ British politicians tend not to make such jokes — and we are poorer for it. Reagan’s humour stemmed from his sense of clarity: he knew what he was doing, and he wanted Americans to know, too. His centenary presents us with a good moment to consider his lessons.
Politics should be simple. Yet the current
British government has developed an unfortunate habit of making everything sound complicated. Andrew Lansley’s health reforms, for instance, are so obtuse that most Cabinet members privately admit they don’t understand them. This means that the reform is doomed. If ministers cannot comprehend what is to be done, how can middle managers be expected to have a clue?
David Cameron’s mission is no less radical or transformative than Reagan’s 30 years ago: to transfer power from the state to the the spectator | 5 February 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk people, to stop a government machine that was programmed to take ever more money and control. Reagan would tell his officials: ‘Don’t just do something. Stand there.’ He prided himself in avoiding hyperactivity. ‘It’s true hard work never killed anyone,’ he said. ‘But I figured: why take the chance?’
The Gipper spoke to Americans directly, in the same way that Thatcher spoke to Britain. Cameron has perched a portrait of the Iron Lady on his desk: a heartening sign. What he now needs is a Reagan phrasebook.