Rising star of MotoGP snuffed out

October 27, 2011

As  keen motorcycle racing fans and enthusiastic race team sponsors, Bankstone were deeply saddened this week at the death of Marco Simoncelli over the weekend.

MotoGP lost one of its most flamboyant and engaging characters when Simoncelli died from injuries sustained in a freak accident that saw the wild-haired 24-year old thrown under the wheels of two other bikes, losing his helmet in the impact.

The incident took place just four minutes into the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang as Simoncelli, riding with his trademark passion and flare, ran wide and lost his front end. Rather than watching Simoncelli’s Gresini Honda slide away harmlessly beneath him, a horrified crowd saw the tyres dig in as the rider dropped a knee and tried to right his machine, dragging him directly back into the path of oncoming riders.

One of those who hit Simoncelli was fellow Italian and longtime friend Valentino Rossi who described Simoncelli as “like a brother to me.” “He was as tough on the track as he was sweet in life,” Rossi said of the younger man, whose aggressive swashbuckling style he had several times had to defend this season. “I still can’t believe it, I’ll miss him hugely,” Rossi concluded.

Bankstone mourns a sudden and tragic end to a life cut all too short.

October 26, 2011

The post-apocalyptic Mad Max movies of the early 80s depict a society that has given up on more or less everything bar motor transportation and the fuel that makes it possible.

James McCausland, screenwriter for the original Mad Max film, drew inspiration from the 1973 oil crisis and the increasingly violent confrontations witnessed in fuel station queues across Australia at that time. The film’s vision of the future, he said, was “based on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving and that nations would not consider alternative energy until it was too late.”

Fast forward thirty years – add groceries and lottery tickets – and this nightmare vision of the future is rapidly coming to life right here in Britain. Despite rocketing fuel prices and plummeting incomes, our love of private motor transport remains largely undiminished and our dwindling reserves of carbon-based fuel are more avidly prized and fetishized than ever. A whole new generation of post credit crunch petrol-headed would-be-bankrupts are busily maxing out their plastic in a desperate bid to keep themselves at least minimally motorised.

But, however hard we try, we’re not keeping up with the glorious consumption levels of former years. Alcoholics Anonymous recently released statistics showing that UK fuel consumption fell by 5% in the first half of 2011 alone. Seeing that their customers are cutting back, many fuel retailers have pared back their margins to the bare minimum – one or two pence per litre – and are concentrating on selling household basics to the captive audience lured in by the heady siren smell of petrol vapour.

Many of their customers, at least 20%, the Daily Telegraph reports this week don’t even bother buying petrol. They just come in for bread, milk and fags – and the vicarious thrill of being around the source of our precious automotive life juice (like those who hang out at airports without catching planes). Meanwhile, out of town shopping facilities are increasingly deserted as folks stay local to reduce their fuel bills.

Diversification is a lifeline but no guarantee of survival. The Telegraph notes figures released by wholesale forecourt supplier Palmer and Harvey showing that there are less than half as many filling stations in the UK today as there were back in the 90s – and doubtless twice as many hand car wash outlets. Fuel retailers may soon be forced to venture into other areas, like legal services or massage and sauna perhaps.

So we’d better get used to ever greater forecourt congestion and all the social friction that entails, the Telegraph warns. We have more cars than ever on the road (35 million at the last count) but only 9,000 fuel stations (down from 40,000 in 1967), so the cars-to-filling-stations ratio is at an all time high. In west country fuel desert Torridge, the DT reports with alarm there is just one forecourt per 4,000 vehicles. Forget road rage, 2012 is going to be all about forecourt fury.

Bankstone News predicts: there will be blood.

Angry scenes in Torridge yesterday

Angry scenes in Torridge yesterday

October 25, 2011

It has all been a horrible misunderstanding, insurers’ body the ABI revealed to Post Magazine and other more or less reputable news organs this week.

The trigger for ABI’s comments was a survey carried out for young person’s motor insurance provider Young Marmalade which found that nobody under the age of 30 can afford to drive any more (see previous story).

In a rapid and savage response, the ABI has accused the Transport Select Committee of not knowing the difference between referral fees and “high motor insurance costs for young drivers.”

Speaking as a so-called “news”letter that gets things hopelessly mixed up week after week after week, Bankstone News can’t help feeling some sympathy for the hapless accused. But the ABI is in no mood for leniency and lays into the TSC with a rip-roaring vengeance:

“Having failed to back the industry’s campaign to ban referral fees in its last report,” an ABI spokesperson sneered contemptuously, the committee “is still suggesting that making them [i.e. referral fees] more transparent rather than banning them will make any difference.”

In what amounts to the merest tweaking of fact, the ABI claimed that “the insurance industry [*] has been highlighting consistently for the last 18 months that only by banning referral fees across the board and tackling high fixed legal costs will motor insurance premiums start to fall.”

Leaving aside the semantically suspect proposition that motor insurance premiums are in a position to ban anything, surely no one could seriously demur at the ABI’s damning assessment of young people today, who clearly have only themselves to blame if they have to pay vast sums for their compulsory motor insurance.

“The reason our younger drivers pay more for their insurance,” an ABI spokesperson (probably the same one) spelled out patiently, “is that sadly they are much more at risk of being involved in a serious accident which can lead to very expensive personal injury payouts. This is why the ABI is calling for an overhaul in how we teach people to drive.”

“Only by improving the road safety of young drivers will the cost of their motor insurance fall,” the spokeperson claimed in a further lapse into suspect semantics, before expressing the aspiration “we hope the Transport Select Committee will support these measures.”

Perhaps they might have – if you hadn’t just insulted their intelligence so emphatically.

* Less charitable observers may suspect that the ABI is here confusing itself with the insurance industry.

October 24, 2011

The latest battle in the eternal struggle between the forces of egg integrity and omelette making seems to be going the way of the latter, with HMG considering abolishing annual MOT testing. Quibblers carp that moving to biennial testing will kill 250 and injure thousands more; but, frankly, just think of the savings!

Now a flippy-floppy phallanx of faint-hearted flipper flappers including Brake, the RAC, Halfords, KwikFik, Uvavu and Alcoholics Anonymous have ganged together to oppose the government’s latest modest proposal and insist MOTs should remain yearly after Year 3.

Mobbing Transport Secretary Justine Greebling like she’s just ignored a blatant penalty, these lily-livered bleeding hearts are needlessly muddying the waters of policy decision-making with shrill and irresponsible talk of clapped-out-car-wrought carnage on our roads. How utterly sad and predictable!

Calling themselves PRO-MOTE (geddit) they’ve pulled together some shabby little tome entitled “Dangerous, Expensive and Unwanted: The case against reducing MOT frequency”, which bleats on incoherently about all the hideous evils that turning a blind eye to lax vehicle maintenance will supposedly unleash.

As Justine Greebling’s warm-up act Phil “Top Gear” Hammond recently announced, before moving on a fill a Fox-shaped hole as Minister of War, all the government is looking to do is “reduce the burden of the MOT test.” And, let’s face it, we’ve all suffered long enough under that miserable yoke!

So what if there’s a tad of collateral damage around the edges? Is it really so important to keep 40,000 mechanics in work when all they do is stick their oily noses in where nobody wants them? Let’s face it, if a two-yearly test really does unleash carmageddon, they’ll have new jobs to go to repairing all that crash damage.

So, come on Justine, don’t let the busybody do-gooders deflect you! Hack away like fury at the hope-occluding red tape jungle that hold this nation back from greatness!

October 23, 2011

Those who smarm and snarl their way to the tippiest top of the tallest corporate ladders get to join an exclusive club with loads of appealing perks.

Perks like getting an average 50-odd-% annual remuneration uplift while the global economy crumbles around them. What unfortunate timing, then, for everybody in a senior position in the insurance industry to suddenly find themselves out of a job this week.

McManus left Willis last Thursday

A press release footnote revealed

Surplus to needs at RFIB

Marshall King was the next one to leave

Groupama’s Azema was shown out to his car

He’d gone far, but so far – and no further

And there’s more – but I’m bored now – the end.

It was indeed, as Lynn Rouse from whose ‘multiple maelstroms’ thesis in this week’s Post magazine Bankstone News drew inspiration for this story (i.e. lazily plagiarized it), as if the entire top tier of the insurance industry had been suddenly dragged into a giant seething whirlpool and sucked beneath the turbid waters to emerge who knows where and when again.

But, as the saying goes, it’s an ill maelstrom that slucks no good, and for every executive subjected to a precipitate and involuntary immersion in the inky dark waters of corporate ejection there’s another tossed up on the sunlit shores of career goal advancement.

For instance, someone called Wilkinson is now Head Wookie at Willis “or sutin.” Best consult a proper news publication if you really need to know.

October 21, 2011

Somebody asks you to pretend you were driving when they were caught on camera speeding. Do you: a) agree to take the points, b) politely decline, c) march straight down to the local police station and report this person to HM Constabulary as an attempted perverter of the course of justice.

How did you do? If you answered a) you are either very naughty or married to the attempted-perverter in question, or both – Bankstone News has no desire to plumb the murky waters of your marital affairs.

If you answered b), congratulations, you are on the path to virtue – lacking only the unforgivingly vindictive streak to mark you out as a truly right-minded citizen.

The correct answer is of course c). Dob ‘em in right away and fingers crossed they haven’t got anything on you (although: how could they, given that you lead an entirely blameless life, and can just deny it all anyway?)

According to a survey carried out by Alcoholics Anonymous and popular retro god-simulation game Populus, just 1% of Brits would (or, perhaps more accurately, were prepared to admit they would) take the points-hit for someone else. That’s impressively scrupulous, isn’t it?

To turn the story into something more salacious, however, all you need do is convert that feeble looking 1% into a “shocking” 300,000 people – imagine Anfield filled six times over with point-swapping law perverters. Terrifying isn’t it?

The good news is that 12% of the 17,000 AA members surveyed said they would report any suggestion of point swapping to the forces of law enforcement. Scale that up and you have 3.6 million eager informers out there, which is roughly what the Stasi had back in the day.

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October 21, 2011

Newly commissioned Met Police Commissioner Bernie “Hulk” Horgan-Howe, has announced his arrival in no uncertain terms by scooping several hundred uninsured motors up off the streets of the capital, crushing them and then making an exciting-and-provocative-work-of-art style pile of them in the middle of London’s famous Horse Guards beach-volley arena with his mate Boris “Bo-Jo” Johnson.

A thousand officers took time off filling in forms to pounce on any unsuspecting villains unfortunate enough to stray within the sights of their state-of-the-art number plate recognition devices. Among the vehicles stopped and impounded was one white van stolen only minutes before.

“We know from experience that approximately 80% of uninsured drivers are criminals,” Ho-Ho noted, which clearly explains why rounding up 300 uninsured vehicles resulted in 54 arrests (for crimes including possession of an offensive weapon, drugs, driving whilst disqualified, and taking and driving away a motor vehicle).

Presumably the other 186 uninsured criminals were either not in their vehicles at the time when they were stopped, or leapt out, pulled the driver from another car, and sped off Grand Theft Auto style.

“Operation Reclaim is designed, quite literally,” Bo-Jo added, “to deliver a crushing blow against crime. Criminals are being given the opportunity to come and collect theirs cars and face arrest or simply watch their vehicles get crushed.”

Hmmm… tough choice that!

October 20, 2011

Belie the fact as its youthful good looks may, Bankstone is full seven years old this week. Can it really be? Why would you even ask that? Everything in Bankstone News is entirely true. Except the bits that aren’t. Of which, of course, this is quite emphatically not one.

To mark the auspicious occasion of Bankstone’s 7th, the entire team descended en masse on celebrated Brighouse culinary hotspot Thaal (you’ll most likely know it – it’s on the Bradford Road) whereat to scoff and quaff until well after 8pm. An excellent time was had by all. Some guests even consumed alcohol. Only one, mind, seeing as they were driving.

Bankstone Director Dickon Tysoe reports having nothing to report in terms of Bullingdon-style hi-jinks, but did have the opportunity to discover some previously unsuspected facets to the extracurricular lives of certain staff members, learning, inter alia, the full shocking truth about Strictly Come Dancing, where to find Gay Rabbit on Freeview, and the correct parts of the human anatomy on which to have inked In Memoriam tattoos commemorating the lives of late lamented grandparents.

Thaal emerged with flying colours. Veteran curry hound Allan ‘Pappadums’ Poppleton described the two onion bhajis he put away as the finest he has ever tasted. High praise indeed from the high priest of spiciness.

So if you ever find yourself in Brighouse of an afternoon-type time of day, why not make an evening of it and sample the delights of Thaal.

Just don’t hang around too long after dark.

October 20, 2011

In the week when the Daily Mail exclusively revealed that would-be referral-fee criminaliser Jack Straw’s own party nets £350,000 a year from referral fees, when Justice Minister Jonathan Djanolgy had but one day in which to revel publicly in the delicious irony of this revelation, before noticing – or having others politely notice on his behalf – that his extensive (undisclosed) family interests in insurance and claims management ill fitted him to regulate claims management firms (enter able substitute Ken Clarke), when The West tragically lost a valued commercial partner and loyal ally in the struggle against Islamist extremism when the good Colonel was cruelly assassinated by some yet to be unravelled combination of the Armée de l’Air and kalashnikov wielding Islamic fighters, and when Paris Hilton visited Disneyland Paris, it’s been hard to think of much to write about.

But then we spotted a blog penned by Bankstone News’ old friend Barbara Bradshaw which included the surprise revelations a) that BB has idle moments, and b) that she recently spent one of these watching a “not quite classic sports car” being restored and somewhat suped-up on popular children’s television programme Top Gear.

This provoked alarm. In the same way that the show’s presenters have previously neglected to mention that pretending to be your parent when requesting a motor insurance quote is not strictly legal, they now failed to stress the obligation borne by owners of vehicles whose ECU has been tuned-up to advise their insurers of said modifications.

As a noted connoisseur of the more recherché and convoluted examples of abundantly self-evidenced assertion, Bradshaw is well placed to observe, as she most eloquently does, that “It is a truism that with face-to-face conversations – over a broker’s counter or even knowing a locale as is the insurance broker’s modus operandi – there is a better chance of establishing fact from fiction than the ubiquitous website purchase where a dozen or so questions secure the cheap rate in a matter of (if we believe the adverts) seconds.”

Yes, indeed! How emphatically and quintessentially truistic that particular truism is – and what a telling vindication of the value brokers add by helping their clients remember to keep insurers posted on all the many reasons why no one would want to insure them.

“I am not trying to stop people having fun,” Bradshaw insists, or to stop them “being individuals” (God forbid anyone should be cut in pieces). She only wants to ensure that fun-having individuals “pay their fair whack so that another young person (particularly the young) can get a reasonable premium for his or her plain vanilla vehicle.”

All of which neatly illustrates exactly why nobody should ever use a comparison site and why brokers remain as essential as ever to the insurance purchase process. Doesn’t it?

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October 20, 2011

First it was cats, now apparently veteran Tory bloke Clarke Ken is spatting away like billy-o with glamour model Teresa May in a squabble involving knives. As you would expect, Bankstone News has not the faintest idea what any of this means – except perhaps that it is somehow connected with the government’s last-minute decision to postpone the third reading of its controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

“It is hard not to conclude that there is utter chaos at the heart of the Government’s justice policies,” chuckled Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Kahn. “Ken Clarke is once again proving his incompetence as Justice Secretary in a Tory-led Government which is hopelessly out of touch on crime and justice,” he Kahntinued.

The Law Society, meanwhile, opined that “Whatever the reason for this week’s hiatus, it offers an opportunity to reconsider the impact of the legislation on access to justice, which our research suggests will be sorely damaged.” Readers will doubtless recall that the Law Soc has previously expressed surprise at the governments eagerness to prompt celebrations in insurance boardrooms by reining in rights to justice access.

Earlier this month the LS called on government “to suspend its plans and work more closely with the legal profession in order to achieve fairer, less costly and more effective civil litigation procedures which preserve access to justice for consumers, reduce the cost to businesses and protect the more vulnerable members of society.”

Perhaps they are are expecting that will happen now!

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