...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 4677: Ed Davey Throws Himself off Hinkley Point (metaphorically!)


In a deal that’s literally radioactive, Her Majesty’s government in the form of Master Gideon and Bojo the Clown and, of course, Liberal Democrat point man Mr Ed Davey, have announced that there will be a new atomic power station (or two) at Hinkley Point in Somerset, built and run by the French, paid for by the Chinese and presumably using South African or Canadian uranium.

So, nice energy security there.

The price for their electricity has been set at £92.50 per kilowatt hour, which is about double the current wholesale price.

Not quite “too cheap to meter” either.

Okay, to be fair, if you bear in mind that the new nuke won’t start generating for at least ten years, that’s a (compound) rate of “only” about 7.5% increases every year.

On the one fluffy foot that almost seems moderate compared to the 8.2%, 9.2% and 10.4% price hikes announced this last week; on the other fluffy foot, it means the government are guessing that energy costs will continue to rise at two to three times the rate of inflation for the next decade.


It says a lot about the immediacy of the threat of global warming that a lot of very decent people who would previously have looked askance at the toxic legacy of the nuclear industry (where we’re still not quite sure where to put all the waste) have been convinced that the power of the atom is a clean green alternative to burning lots of carbon when it comes to facing up to keeping the lights on. Not that Gideon or Bojo believe in climate change, so what’s their excuse?

Personally, I still believe that this is a distraction from serious investment in our own renewable resources.

Having worried for ages about the ability of President Vlad the Bad Putin of Russia turning off the gas taps and freezing us (like he did to Ukraine), we seem remarkably blasé about letting Great Britain’s off switch fall into the hands of the Central Committee of the People’s Republic. Better hope that those notoriously unforgiving Mandarins have forgotten all about the opium wars, eh.

I think we should be making more of our own power and not buying in heavy elements to burn up. I should prefer to see at least one, and preferably three, tidal bores being tapped and a whole lot more offshore wind. And to counter those blowhards who protest that “the wind doesn't blow all the time”, time to dust off the plans for that Exmore pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, and a few more, so we can store power from when the wind when it’s there and release it when the wind drops.

Because, frankly, I’d rather rely on when the wind blows than risk, er, “When The Wind Blows”.

Having talked about energy prices, though, there was for once a very good point in the weekend’s Grauniad (although heavily disguised as a bizarre attack on Morrisey’s autobiography).

The obsession among media and political types – archbishops and Mr Milipede included – with these 9% hikes in the price of energy is the obsession of people who already own houses and is blotting out the much more serious 9% average rise in the cost of rents for people who do not.
British Gas customers – that is eight million households – face an average increase of £123 a year. Bad, but nothing compared with the £835 increase a year for the 8.3 million households in rented accommodation – £835!
In this context, the second phase of Master Gideon’s Help-to-Buy scheme might as well be called Help-to-Buy-to-Let and is likely to drive up house prices and therefore rents even more, trapping millions of people even further below the first rung of the housing ladder.

The prospect of a meltdown at a nuclear power station might be the stuff of nightmares, but it’s the meltdown in the housing market that is truly terrifying.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Day 4663: Cap’n Clegg Replacing Diplomats with Warriors


It’s reshuffle day, and there’s been much surprise over the departure of widely-admired smooth operator Michael Moore from the Cabinet role of Secretary for Scotland to what we laughingly describe as the “lower guest suite” of Castle Carmichael (hot and cold running water… down the walls of your cell), and the equally unexpected defenestration of ultra-orange* Jeremy Browne, perceived as close to the Cap’n but also blamed for not stopping those pesky Tories’ “Go Home” vans.

But what they have in common is both being conducive to smooth relationships with the Conservatories; while their replacements are a touch more… abrasive.

Norman Baker, the battling biker, taking over at the Home Office will, hopefully, be a shock to the system of anyone planning abolishing the Human Rights Act. The news that Theresa May is “spitting tacks” at his appointment can only be greeted with smiles in Liberal camps. And having Susan Kramer take up the mantle at Transport might well be the Lib Dems setting a marker against any Conservatory about-face on Heathrow runways.

And the laird of Carmichael, as a former Chief Whip, is used to – as the saying goes – putting a bit of stick about. Bless Alistair: he greeted the news of my daddies’ engagement with a rumbled: “I hope ye’ll be every bit as happi as we ave bin.” Which we’re sure wasn’t a threat. As MP for Orkney and Shetland he’s well placed – geographically as well as figuratively – to say to Alex Salmond: “we don’t want ruling by a distant elite… in Edinburgh either!”

Alistair at an informal session in the Whips' office

Caron is right that it’s a loss to see Mr Moore go – but perhaps a role in preparing for any future Coalition negotiations could be placed in his capable hands. Alas, poor Jeremy, the party may well be more cheering the drafting of your replacement.

What does it mean? Well you hardly need to cast the runes: there’s a General Election coming in less than eighteen months, simples.

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*Some might say turned out to be more of a Lemon others that he went native and became a Mandarin.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Day 4658: Is Mr Cameron Laying A Trap for the Liberal Democrats?


Firstly, congratulations to the Daily Heil for granting Mr Milipede free publicity to totally overshadow the guff our pie-faced Prime Monster came out with at the climax to the Conservatories conference.

But to be honest, David Cameron – Mr Balloon – was probably grateful for anything overshadowing the uninspiring, reheated, frankly tired Thatcherite rhetoric he was coming out with. He looks like he’s decided the next election is a lost cause and he’s gone back to shoring up the base against UKIP

I mean “Land of Hope is Tory”? Are you really going to say that, Prime Minister? Really?

It’s like a line out of “House of Cards” (BBC version): Do you remember the bit where Urquhart (and we the audience) look on and mock at Conservatory conference as an Apprentice-line of Leadership wannabes troop onto the platform to deliver what they think will be the rhetoric to stir the troops to their cause. Like the Britain’s Got Talent without… no, actually, like Britain’s Got Talent. “It’s the right way… the right… way!”. Sad.

The whole conference has been conducted under a banner of “For Hardfaced Badwords”… sorry that should read “For Hardworking Families”.

(I remember the meeting with Cap’n Clegg where we were among Lib Dem members who had words with him about adopting that language – and to be fair, even then his idea of “family” was a broad and inclusive one, not the nasty narrow Conservatory prescription, but he accepted that it could trap him in the same frame and he’s worked hard to avoid it since. Liberal Democrats really can do better than this. Er.)

And there was Master Gideon, pumping up the housing market to the refrain of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, saying it was time to end the “something for nothing” culture. I look forward to his announcement that Inheritance Tax will be going up to 100%.

But it’s all such a long, looooong way from “Hug a Huskie” or “Let the Sunshine In”, isn’t it.

And of course we have to oppose this monstrous idea that people under twenty-five need to be “motivated” into jobs that don’t exist with the threat of homelessness and starvation.

But here’s the “trap” – can we really pledge to block that without reminding every young person in the country of the last pledge that we made?

Is Mr Balloon’s gambit that as soon as Cap’n Clegg raises this horrible policy, he will fling the tuition fees debacle back in his face and say: “well, you can’t trust the Lib Dems can you”?

In fact the policy is so obviously absurd that it almost look like it’s there as a pre-prepared sacrificial lamb for the next round of Coalition negotiations. We are going to have to make it very clear that dropping that policy is a prerequisite for walking in the door, or we’re going to be in the position of trading away something that’s actually important just to kill it.

In fact I’m wondering whether we don’t need one or two policies in the “you’ve got to be kidding” category ourselves – free moon trips for teenagers, perhaps, and fish-fingers and custard on demand for all Eleventh Doctor fans – before we get serious about abolishing ATOS.

Mind you, at this rate it will be Mr Milipede we’ll be negotiating with anyway. And the message for Mr Balloon? Shut Your Trap.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Day 4657: If Theresa May Was A Terrorist – a Thought Experiment


This week Theresa May accused Cap’n Clegg of Hating Britain* for putting the Human Rights of terrorists and criminals above ordinary people.

That’s because Ms May does not understand that Human Rights are not to protect terrorists, they are to protect people who get called “terrorists”.

So, as an experiment, let us imagine that Theresa May is a terrorist.

It’s not that hard to imagine… she’s the head of an organisation that preaches messages of hate to frighten people, snatches people off planes for intimidation, targets certain people in the streets and, of course, occasionally shoots innocent people dead.

Er, okay, this is just a thought experiment, isn’t it?

Anyway, since Ms May doesn’t believe “terrorists” deserve Human Rights, then let’s see how well she does without them, shall we?

Let’s call her a “terrorist”.

Shouldn’t we have to prove that?

Well, a Fair Trial is one of her Human Rights, so I guess not.

So we’ll lock her up.

Oh, no we can’t do that because Liberty is one of her Human Rights… oh hang on.

But shouldn’t she be allowed to hire a lawyer at least?

Well, we’ll just seize all her money. No protection of Property without your Human Rights you see.

But we can’t just do that because of what she thinks… can we?

As it happens Freedom of Thought is another of those pesky Human Rights.

Isn’t she allowed to protest?

Aaaaactually, guess what, Free Speech is one of her Human Rights, so that’s gagged her too.

You can’t actually gag her though, that’s cruel and unusual!

But, since you mention it, Protection from Torture and Degrading Treatment is, guess what, a Human Right.

If you carry on like this you’ll end up killing her!

Funnily enough, I was just coming to that…

So Ms May, if you want to abolish the Human Rights Act, which rights don’t you want? It’s not hard; there’s only ten of them:

1. the Right to Life
2. the Right to Protection from Torture and Degrading Treatment
3. the Right to Protection from Slavery
4. the Right to Liberty and Freedom
5. the Right to a Fair Trial and No punishment without Law
6. the Right to respect for Private Life, including the right to Marry
7. the Right to Freedom of Thought, Religion and Belief
8. the Right to Free Speech and Free Assembly and Protest
9. the Right to Freedom from Discrimination
10. the Right to Protection of your Property

*Or was that was the Daily Heil.

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