Saturday, 2 April 2022

Why Labour's green policies are fatally undermined by its 'nuclear first' stance

 It is now clear from Labour's stance in the House of Commons, that nuclear power comes before every thing else. Indeed, aside from Keir Starmer's emphasis on 'nuclear first' attacks on the Government in the House of Commons, Labour's allegedly massive green energy spending strategy seems likely to be swallowed up almost entirely by its pledge to rush to embrace the Sizewell C development. 

The Treasury knows full well that to get Sizewell C going reasonably quickly the Government will have to commit to a potential bill of £30 billion or more in public spending. This must come, either or both, from hard-pressed energy consumers by adding to their bills, or directly from Treasury coffers. The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy's (BEIS) spending plans are closely controlled by the Treasury, and the commitment to Sizewell C will swamp the budget and reduce Labour's ability to spend on things like insulation and heat pumps to a trickle.

Keir Starmer thinks he has seen a weak point in the Conservative's energy strategy in that it is finding it difficult to turn the commitment to support Sizewell C into reality. But that's because funding Sizewell out of a public commitment is likely to present the Government with a crippling financial burden. It is especially crippling because Starmer will refuse to acknowledge the fact that to get Sizewell C going will require the Government to fund a black hole of spending as cost overruns inevitably escalate on the project. 

It's a cynical ploy on Labour's part. They know full well that the Government's difficulties with launching Sizewell C are to do with the sheer financial unviability of new nuclear power, not from any lack of faith in nuclear power on the part of the Government. But apparently, Starmer does not care about this, and it also seems that he takes the green energy lobby for granted in that he expects that it will support him regardless. But if other Labour commitments to support really big programmes in areas like heat pumps and insulation are to happen, there's just not enough money going to be made available for them if BEIS's budgets are swallowed up by the commitment to support Sizewell C.

So how should green energy supporters react to this? Well, there's plenty of other parties to vote for. Indeed if this Government does actually go ahead and reverse the English planning ban on onshore wind, there's probably not going to be much difference, in practice, between Labour and Conservatives on energy. Except of course that the Conservative will be more cautious, it seems, on accepting unmanageable commitments to new nuclear power!

Sunday, 6 March 2022

world war three is now becoming more and more likely to happen

 As I said in my last blog post, action by NATO to become directly involved with notions such as 'no fly zones' to oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is madness. I stand by that argument in full. However, the pressure on Western Leaders to become directly involved is increasing and likely to greatly increase. Western publics are becoming more and more outraged by the pictures and news coming from inside Ukraine. 

On the other hand, it seems like while the Ukrainian armed services may not be able to halt the advance of the Russian army, the war may now turn into a series of dreadful sieges of Ukrainian cities. Evidence from the examples of the Russian led destruction of Grozny and Aleppo suggests that this process could, even in the case of single cities, take months, perhaps several months, for each city. The grisly razing of Ukrainian cities, one by one, with attendant seemingly never  ending horrific media coverage will increase now strong currents of public opinion demanding that the west enters the war in defence of Ukraine. And as the sieges occur one after the other, for months and months, this pressure will grow ever stronger and stronger.

So far there have been sanctions applied and arms supplies given to the Ukrainians. Sanctions and sending in arms supplies, of course, do not constitute direct military engagement, and indeed there are clear instances of wars since WW2 when such actions have been taken without leading to WW3. The Russians and Chinese supplied North Vietnam in their war with the USA. The USA supplied the mujahideen in Afghanistan in their war against the Russians. The West has practically no alternative but to engage in such action in this case. Hopefully Russia feels that it has an alternative to that of responding with a military attack on the West.

Up until now, barring one or two instances that both NATO and Russia agreed were tangential mistakes, no situations since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 have looked as likely to tip us over the edge into a wider war compared to the present situation. The danger now is not so much a mistake of a stray plane being shot down, or an artillery shell landing in the wrong place, but the result of an intentional strategy that one side or other (the West or Russia) to attack the other.

But direct NATO engagement in the war in Ukraine does not even have to start with a collective decision by NATO. It can come from a member of NATO, or a NATO member interpreting NATO policy in a particular way. Once the action starts, however, even if constructed as a limited act, retaliation and counter-retaliation is likely to lead to a general war. 

It does now look like the war in Ukraine will last for months. Rational arguments from NATO leaders are likely to be overwhelmed by the reactive feelings of the public to the sheer horror being explained on the news bulletins. The seductive but toxic charm of  'something must be done' is likely to eventually triumph. Then the progress towards the apocalypse of a new world world war will achieve an irresistible, and dangerously unpredictable, dynamic. The outcome of this process of escalation leading to general war will means that millions rather than (as seems almost 'priced in' at the moment) tens of thousands will die. Potentially, of course this could be tens of millions, or.........

Action to avoid this outcome rests not only in Western Leaders acting with caution, but also, and indeed primarily, on the Russian Leadership bringing this atrocious bombardment and siege of Ukrainian cities  as quickly as possible to an end. The only way they can achieve this is by now not bombarding and besieging the cities in the first place, or at least stopping it as soon as possible.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Why talk of western imposed 'no fly zones' and NATO attacks on Russian forces is total madness

 I have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and am fully supportive of the sanctions on Russia and also ammunition/munitions support given to the Ukrainian Government. But the now common talk of so-called NATO-imposed no-fly zones etc,  effectively means Western war with Russia and is utter and compete madness. Far from saving lives the result will be that many more will die. 

At best attacks by NATO aircraft on Russian planes or other military positions in Ukraine will simply drive many so-far war-sceptical Russians into the arms of Putin's war rhetoric, and support for yet more killing and retaliation. Why embolden Putin and convince Russians more thoroughly that NATO is really at war with them? It risks a far, far larger number of lives than we can ever save in Ukraine (whether or not things go nuclear), no matter how barbaric the artillery attacks on Ukrainian cities may be. Once NATO starts an attack, there is no knowing where things will end. War is very unpredictable, so why open Pandora's box?

It may, of course, be that the act of supplying surface to air missiles and anti-tank weapons etc via Poland or wherever risks conflict with the Russian military. Well, on balance, I think that risk is one that is worth taking,   The risk involves the danger of efforts by Russian forces to intercept that support,  and leaves it open to NATO to decide a response if that is the case. 

However, a premediated attack by NATO on Russian forces is an altogether different act. It is a an act of sheer unadulterated madness. You don't require a war gaming analysis to work that one out. Please leaders of the Western World, do not get carried away by too much liberal rhetoric. The road to hell is paved with liberal intentions. 

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Why we should definitely protect people with dementia against age discrimination

 I certainly welcome the decision in favour of the discrimination case against Asda brought by a dementia sufferer who was encouraged to retire. But the trouble is that this case also condemns ageist attitudes that dominate society which implictly argues that older people can't do their jobs as well as younger people and that they should be encouraged to retire to make way for them.

Now of course if somebody cannot do their job up to the required standards then they should be asked (and given all reasonable support, including disability support) to do better. Ultimately if that does not prove possible,  standard disciplinary procedures should be applied. If absolutely necessary, they should be fired just as much as somebody younger should be fired if they cannot do the job up to expected standards. But such a process should be independent of their age. In the past before the 65-year default retirement was abolished people were literally shown the door at that age (or 'encouraged' to retire earlier), often as a form of cost-reduction. 

Obviously it is cheaper to hire a newbee than to employ somebody at the top of a payscale, and you can still hear people even on the left arguing in favour of the now (ostensibly) abandoned policy with phrases such as 'giver youth a chance'. But the left is keen to oppose employers who have tried to deploy economic arguments against protecting women giving birth, or acted in a racist or homophobic/transphobic way, and the 'youth first' argument is no less discriminatory than sexist and racist tropes of the past. The political right meanwhile, have historically tended to be slow to protect people against discrimination.

The trouble is that there's often a lot of political rhetoric against 'old' people at the top. If some leader is unpopular and they are getting on in years, you can bet your life that somebody will argue that part of what's wrong with them is that they are 'old'. It is done because it resonates with many people's prejudices, prejudices that are so taken for granted that such tropes go unquestioned most of the time. 

Yet of course the people who suffer most from this type of discourse are the ordinary, often quite poor, older people struggling to find a job. They may be in their fifties/sixties or do not have much of an occupational pension, but are often only hired when the employer cannot find anyone young. At this point people start arguing 'but give young people a chance'. Of course they should be given a chance, but on the basis of their fit for the job regardless of their age. Sometimes, indeed young people are actually passed over because they are too young - that is also indefensible.

Ageism needs to be fought with as much vigour as racism and sexism. Period.


Tuesday, 28 September 2021

the online banking scandal that the banks don't want to talk about

The banks are very keen to encourage online banking, but amongst all the talk about how their bank's security systems are very safe, what gets much less emphasis is that online banking is only as safe as your own computer or smartphone security. Yet the numbers of people losing money through their own computers is staggeringly large. Compromised passwords and 'trojan' malware that spies on your security information are two top methods by which the fraudsters raid your online bank account. And sometimes this is damn near impossible to stop. Now we all want to improve our passwords and check that we've got the right protection software (after all it's available free of charge), but even if you have done all this there is still a significant risk. Why take it?

Banks don't publish numbers of their customers who suffer losses through online banking. Perhaps if they were published people would think twice about online banking. I've certainly heard lots of reports of people losing money from their accounts, and some reports indicate that the numbers are increasing rapidly. Yet online banking saves the banks a lot of many in employing bank staff to process transactions, either through telephone banking (where call queues are often long) or conventional physical banks (which are rapidly declining in number). Banks end up having to settle a high proportion of fraud cases by recompensing the customers, but I imagine the cost of doing this is worth the hassle. But is it worth the hassle for the customers who have been seduced into online banking?

We're given this steer now that only old fuddy-duddy people don't do online banking. Well, I think smart people will deliberately avoid it, and save themselves a lot of worry for the cost of a bit of extra inconvenience. Sure, I used to do online banking and of course it's simple, easy. But it's also simple and easy for the well-trained crook. So I stopped using online banking.

Now most of us do online purchasing a lot - especially since the corvid period. And yes, the thieves can get into your shopping accounts as they can to your online banking. But whilst this is bad - who wants to find that you've been buying pizzas for some stranger in Montreal? - it's not as potentially ruinous as thousands of pounds being stolen from your bank account. So I draw a line at that one. The pity is that so many people fall victim to the banks' pressure to go online and suffer as a result. I say, let's stop doing this. Let's see the banks employ more bank employees to work from real banks, and we won't' be giving so much more money to the fraudsters instead!

Monday, 10 May 2021

Why the Tory plan to switch to FPTP for Mayoral elections won't do them much good

 Priti Patel's plan to use First past the post (FPTP) rather than supplementary vote probably won't give them much, if any advantage, and actually may hurt their cause of getting more Tories in office.

See the report at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/09/government-to-change-english-voting-system-after-labour-mayoral-victories

It's seductive for the Conservatives to look at the London Mayor election and see how an FPTP lead by Khan over Bailey was doubled when it came to counting the second preferences, and a light switches on in their heads and they think, let's make it FPTP!

But things don't work quite that way. Of course us greens would like to think that a vote for the Green Party will always be a vote for the Green Party come rain or shine, but in reality it isn't. If people sense that their Green vote could end up letting in a Conservative by default then a lot, if not most, of the London green voters are likely to peel off and vote Labour in a FPTP contest. Result - Bailey loses by much the same margin as he has done. Moreover if the seat allocation for the London Assembly itself is decided by FPTP then there will be a straight Labour majority rather than the current 'hung' position - not much help for a Tory Mayor there either!

In general the sometimes-talked-about disintegration of the non-Tory vote (which weakens Labour) could actually be staunched if the Government purges the current electoral arrangements in the cities and sets up straight FPTP elections. It's called unintended consequences. There's a lot of it about!

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Book launch event for ‘Nuclear Power in Stagnation - A cultural approach to failed expansion’ published by Routledge, March 2021

The event is by zoom, noon – 12.55, Wednesday March 31st - if you register to attend this FREE event you will later be sent the zoom code for the meeting. Register for the event through Eventbrite by clicking here 

The book focuses on the role of nuclear safety issues in curbing nuclear power development. See book details by clicking here

The authors will talk about the book and there will be a keynote talk by Professor Benjamin Sovacool on the subject of the cultural dynamics of decarbonisation 

Itinerary:

11.45 Webinar opens for networking

12.05 pm David Toke, the lead author of the book,  introduces the book and the event (3 minutes)

12.08 Professor Benjamin Sovacool (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex ‘Cultural Dynamics of Decarbonisation’

12.18 Antony Frogatt (co-author and Senior Research Fellow in the Energy, Environment, and Development Programme at Chatham House, London, UK) will talk about  Nuclear Power: The Missing ‘Renaissance’

 12.24 David Toke (Reader in Energy Politics, University of Aberdeen) Outline of scope and main conclusions of the book

12.39 Geoffrey Chun-Fung Chen ( Associate Professor of Political Economy at the Department of China Studies at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University) Nuclear Power and Safety in China

12.49 Richard Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Political Economy and Director of the Centre for Russian, European,  and Eurasian Studies at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. Nuclear power and Safety Policy in Russia

12.55 close