Monday, December 07, 2009 

Shorter Grauniad editorial.

We're all going to die, and it's going to be YOUR fault.

(I voted Green at the last two European elections. I believe in the climate science. I just don't believe for a second that the Copenhagen summit, even if it agrees radical enough limits, will actually ensure that those limits are then actually kept to. It's also not this generation that will be responsible; it will be the last generation, as they are still after all the ones in control. We'll sleepwalk towards the +2C rise and there's little to nothing we can do about it except start adapting now.)

(The Heresiarch also has a similar view.)

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Thursday, January 15, 2009 

The only MP deserving of the label.

Is John McDonnell the only Labour MP left truly deserving of the title? You can't help but admire his furious reaction to the evasions, false promises and downright lies of Geoff Hoon, taking the mace (although not shown) as he explains to the BBC as it has been in the past to demand the right of MPs to vote on a new runway at Heathrow.

It is truly remarkable that Geoff Hoon is still in government, or rather, it's truly indicative of New Labour's political bankruptcy that he is. A man only distinguished by his mediocrity, he's crawled from one job to another, involved in the death of David Kelly along the way, his obsequious behaviour to both Blair and Brown enabling him to shift between the two without so much as the slightest recognition of his previous failures, let alone that of his superiors. The real reason for not having a vote is obvious: the government would either lose or come very close to losing, with both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats opposing the plans, and dozens of Labour MPs also opposed to any further expansion of the airport from hell.

The other reason is that as the Guardian reports, Brown views this as a "dividing line" between Labour and the Tories. As ever, his real interest is in his own political advantage: he doesn't care about how it affects the government's other policies on climate change, how it sticks two fingers up at everyone other than the business lobby and the unions that are similarly only self-interested, it's about how can he position himself come the general election, further evidence of how the Tories are a do-nothing party, unprepared to invest in the nation's economic prosperity. That his own policies have had a major hand in our current fall in prosperity is neither here nor there, nor is how every promise made about Heathrow ever has been broken. The really sad thing is that John, even with his 10,000 majority, might well lose his seat when his constituents punish the party rather than the man, betrayed by his allegiance to a party that lost its way a long time ago.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008 

Nuclear power - no apology.

I might write more on this tomorrow, but Paul Linford couldn't have been more right on the reverse ferret over nuclear power.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007 

The New Party turns out to be the same as the old one.

More interesting than that there turns out to have been a number of errors/mistakes in An Inconvenient Truth (politician makes a polemic in which he exaggerates, labours the point and goes over the top with some of his scaremongering? Who would have thought it?) was that the man who brought the attempt to stop the government from showing the film in schools was a member of the "New Party".

(As an aside, it has to be said I don't much like the idea of AIT being a compulsory showing in schools, especially without it being made clear that it is both a polemic and a one sided view, with differing opinions also offered. Kids are not stupid; they know when they're being taught bullshit, and when it comes between choosing either Al Gore's view or Melanie Philips', I'm pretty sure who'll they'll plump for.)

Probably like most people, I'd never heard of this new grouping that was err, claiming to be new. The BBC's article notes that:

Mr Dimmock is a member of the "New Party", apparently funded by a businessman with a strong dislike of environmentalists and drink-drive laws.

When asked on the BBC's World Tonight programme who had under-written his court costs, he paused long and loud before saying that "someone on the internet" had offered him support.

The New Party's website is similarly disingenuous as to whom's paying the bills. The about page only announces the support of two hardly well-known figures:

The New Party is pleased to acknowledge the support of:

* John Harvey-Jones
* Vivien Saunders

John Harvey-Jones is a former chairman of ICI, and according to a highly sycophantic and probably self-written Wikipedia profile, a Wienerite, one of the heavy influences on Thatcherism and the "New Right". More well-known admirers tend towards the neo-conservative (at least when it comes to foreign policy, in Sullivan's case) school of thought: Andrew Sullivan, Mark Steyn and the ghastly Michael Gove like to be thought of as his disciples. Vivien Saunders, is err, a former golfer and golfing coach.

How about policies then? Considering that the New Party describes itself as "a party of economic liberalism, political reform and internationalism", it's not much of a surprise when clicking on their manifesto to learn that they're in favour of a flat income tax:

On present figures, the personal allowance would be £12,000 and everyone would pay 22 per cent of all earnings above this level.

This is about as grossly unfair as you can possibly get, and is the complete anti-thesis of "progressive" taxation, from a party that claims to be progressive. It doesn't stop there though. The New Party also wants to "cut the cost of the state", which for cut you can read slash and decimate, although they claim that this will mostly target bureaucrats, as no one wants to see nurses and bobbies lose their jobs. Quite how they'll manage not to do that when they propose to make £35 billion of savings as a minimum, not a maximum isn't explained.

They also claim to have a moral purpose:

Many of our problems today can be traced back to the loosening of family ties and the breakdown of shared values. The tax and welfare systems, far from supporting families, have contributed to these problems by undermining personal and civic responsibility.

Ah yes, it's all the fault of the welfare state, a familiar refrain of the Telegraph whenever something goes wrong! While their position on criminal justice and prisons is relatively liberal, their attitude towards drugs is of a similar moral bent:

Downgrading cannabis has not been a success. The police have had their job made even more difficult and there is evidence that a growing number of people are experiencing mental problems as a result.

This is errant nonsense, especially from a political party claiming to be standing for social liberalism. They're also completely clueless over the Human Rights Act:

The Human Rights Act is a misnomer, it serves no useful purpose and has been hijacked for political ends. Not only has it fuelled the compensation culture but it has also diminished the role of parliament by requiring the courts to make judgements on political matters. We shall therefore repeal the Human Rights Act. We would, nevertheless, remain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, and it would be a matter for parliament to determine its response to the judgements by the European Court of Human Rights.

Considering the Human Rights Act implements the ECHR into UK law, all repealing the HRA will do is make the route to justice even more distant, expensive and difficult.

Perhaps most enlightening though is their policies on the environment and climate change, or rather, the almost complete lack of them. They touch slightly on it in "facing the energy crisis", to which their solution is nuclear power, also mentioning "environmentally friendly towns". The rest is in their "Internationalism" section, which rapidly goes from concluding, despite the IPCC's findings, that "we must ensure that we do not rush into new taxes and controls without considering their real effects," to bringing up the old misnomer that the fact that India and China are developing at such rate that anything we do is a waste of time. Their solution is:

We should concentrate on developing and diffusing new technologies, revisit nuclear generation (which is now much safer and produces little waste) and provide positive incentives for developing countries to support cleaner technologies. The recently announced Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development which includes countries which did not support Kyoto is a welcome step in the right direction.

And that's it.

Why could their apparent aversion to anything more concrete be? After all, according to their PR bumpf on their challenge to the sending out of AIT, "climate change is clearly taking place". Delving a little deeper into their national policy committees, you soon find that their nominal supporters include:

Alex Black, who's a self employed Road Transport Contractor. His reasons for supporting the New Party are:

I was disillusioned with all other parties after visiting MPs & MSPs with no positive responses despite putting practical propositions forward. I organised & took part in the fuel protest, and was surprised at the level of support from the public. This encouraged me to think that there was maybe a chance for people getting more democracy from the system that the New Party was proposing.

Robert Dunward, New Party chairman, who has been involved in... the haulage industry and Sandy Bruce, the owner of the modestly named Sandy Bruce Trucking.

The rest are a rag-tag bunch of businessmen and small c conservatives, all apparently united by the mouth-watering prospect of paying the same rate of tax as those earning slightly more than the minimum wage and smashing the state, while sitting in the camp of believing that climate change is happening while also refusing to do anything about it. The only reason for why these natural far-right Tories are setting up their own party is that the actual Conservative party has turned into a centre-right cult with more in common with the right of the Labour party than their "progressive" vision of the future. The so-called New Party then in actuality wants to turn the clock back: right to the 19th century.

Update: Poor Pothecary has also turned his sights on the New Party, and discovers via the Scotsman that it was set up by Robert Wilson Menzies Durward, a businessman who cut his political teeth opposing the aggregate tax and drink-driving "witch-hunts". He's also behind the Scientific Alliance, (SourceWatch) which just popped up on the BBC News to criticise Al Gore's dual-taking of the Nobel Peace Prize. Spinwatch also has more.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007 

Nice report, we'll take it!

Be honest - did you really believe that David Cameron was in the slightest bit sincere about his quickly found love for green issues? Admittedly, in a world where you can be lectured on the environment by Joss Stone, who so profoundly informed us during Live Earth that all you have to do is replace your light bulbs, plant a tree and "it's done", it doesn't take much more knowledge than that to be taken seriously, and rightly mocking articles about Cameron's bike riding exploits with his documents following behind him in a car aside, his repositioning of the Tories over the issue has forced both of the other parties into taking the pressing danger of climate change far more seriously than they would have otherwise.

Even so, it's still a shock that the Conservative party, of all parties, has put together such a well-thought out, reasonably radical highly credible action plan that isn't afraid to slay a few of the parties' sacred cows. True, it most likely doesn't go far enough: the Lib Dems have set the incredibly ambitious target of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050, but as yet their policies on achieving that are rudimentary to non-existent. The Tories' "Blueprint for a green economy" (PDF), chaired by John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith, is mostly made of proposals that can either be implemented almost immediately or within a matter of years. It's by far the most serious attempt by any political party other than the Greens themselves to address what is the most urgent issue we face.

Little surprise then that it's been welcomed by most of the Conservative party in the same way as they would a wind farm in their back garden. Mr Eugendies at least kept things succinct. Tory MEP Roger Helmer suggested that they had to pick between being "supply-side tax cutters" i.e. morons only interested in preserving the current status quo and only worrying when London is underwater, and "socio-environmental tinkerers and interventionists", i.e. crazies who want us all to exclusively eat a diet of lentils and fine beans. Brian Wilson, chairman of "Flying Matters", brought up the same spurious argument that putting VAT on an airline seat would penalise the families who only fly once a year while letting frequent fliers off free, as it's been shown that the huge expansion of low cost airlines has come not thanks to working families queuing up to fly but rather through those have always flown flying more often. Anything that is denounced by the "TaxPayers' Alliance", an organisation worthy of constant derision for the fact that it's run not in favour of "TaxPayers" but rather of the narrow interest of those who set it up in the first place masquerading as being represenatative of the huge cross-section of taxpayers ought to be worth supporting, and this certainly is.

For once, a Labour response to the document is actually worth repeating. Andy Burnham is quite right that this report and John Redwood's recent policy review are almost wholly incompatible; they're either going to have to do one or the other, or cherry pick from each. Cameron has supposedly pledged that "much" of that in today's report will be in the next Conservative manifesto, but we should believe that when we see it. To judge by the initial reaction, if anything's likely to further the revolt against Cameron, this document is likely to be it.

It's quite obvious therefore what the opposition parties ought to do if Cameron doesn't keep his word: steal it for themselves. The fact that Gordon Brown has spent the afternoon in a meeting with the milk snatcher herself, just by chance on the same day as Dave's released the report most likely to cause misgivings amongst the not so faithful, isn't exactly a positive sign, and it also shows how Brown's promise of an end to spin is worth about as much as those dossiers were. This week's patriotic, transparent garbage at the TUC from Brown was hardly the high point of his tenure so far either. Co-opting the Tories' best policy ideas in years if they fail to do so themselves might finally put some flesh on the otherwise bare bones of "change".

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007 

Have we found a use for Trident so soon?

Tony Blair compared the fight against climate change to the battle against fascism and the cold war today, as the government pledged to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 with the publication of the UK's first ever climate change bill.

Right, so when do we start bombing? Where do we bomb? Where do we point our independent nuclear deterrent? Do we start with Heathrow before moving on to Chelsea, or do we first commit acts of sabotage against Didcot power station? How about having the police storm houses where the negligent selfish bastards leave the TV on standby, with orders to shoot to kill in case there's Islamic fascists with bomb belts seeking refuge inside?

The Dear Leader's comparison isn't just lazy, it's utterly meaningless. Climate change cannot be an enemy unless we ourselves are the enemy; we've created it. It's not a battle that can be won either through military means or through the threat of military action. It can be argued that climate change does potentially pose a threat through forcing mass migration or creating natural disasters, but the worst ravages of climate change are only likely to be felt once the vast majority of us now alive are long dead, and that's if not enough is done now to tackle the problem at the source through reducing carbon emissions.

Blair does have something of a point in suggesting that different generations of politicians face different challenges, but he certainly isn't going to be around to deal with this supposed new challenge, unless there's something he hasn't told us. The other main problem is that Blair and others have already tried to build up an new bogeyman to take the place of the cold war in the threat posed by al-Qaida et al. At least this somewhat resembles what could be an existential threat, but it's one which has been heavily exaggerated for political purposes, and powerful ideology though it is, is not one which directly threatens the life of the nation, as it were. Add into this Blair's recent rhetoric about failed states and the continuing impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions and this is the main realistic threat posed. Unfortunately for Blair and co, this doesn't in any way resemble or exude the same menace as the Soviet Union did, let alone Nazism, and it's doubtful that any amount of attempts to convince the wider public as a whole into believing this will wash, however much help friendly propagandists and others give.

I can only surmise that the real reasons every new "threat" is bigged up to being the end of life as we know it is that politicians believe that unless you're suitably dramatic and over-the-top no one will listen to you, which has some merit in the age when Al Gore claims that Current TV is going to change the world as we know it through user-generated content, the most successful pieces of which so far are Loose Change, the propaganda videos produced by jihadists, and whichever video is currently top of the YouTube charts. The second is that it seems to be every politician's deepest desire to be Churchill: leading the nation out of its darkest hour, bringing everyone together and coming out victorious. The by-product of the Churchill act is that it frightens people, which is always a good way of achieving acquiescence. Who cares if it just makes you look like an imbecile who can't think up a new way to address a new problem without conjuring up images of instantaneous doom? It'll at least go down well with someone. Probably.

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