April 27, 2012

Fixed term policies

Allister Heath tweets praise for Fraser Nelson's "great piece" in today's Telegraph, but in truth it swerves away from its most interesting observation.

He concentrates on narrative explaining how "tricolour" Britain in becoming divided into four party zones - SNP Scotland, Labour north of England, Conservative southern England, and Lib Dem south west England. This brings the parties problems:
Becoming more popular in northern cities is as useless to Labour as becoming more popular in southern shires is to the Tories: both parties need to win seats, not grow majorities. The opinion polls do not reflect this struggle.
As he remarks, "cutting back public spending and welfare is not a vote-winner in the many parts of the country where those on benefits, or those employed by the state, make up the majority of the electorate". So far so static. But then:
When the Tories last commissioned a study about the North, it concluded that the geographical aspect was a red herring. The greater problem was the lack of a message for the blue-collar workers who make up a greater share of voters in the North. These people are worried about crime, schools and the cost of living in general – not the environment, overseas aid or Lords reform.
Are southerners then exercised mainly by "the environment, overseas aid, or Lords Reform"? This southerner thinks far less should be spent on overseas aid, for instance. It's wholly mystifying why Cameron thinks boasting of boosting it is good politics. Lords Reform is risibly irrelevant - though maybe in the south west they talk of little else but this Lib Dem priority. And consensus policy on the environment is ludicrously expensive and almost wholly wrong.

Are southerners by contrast uninterested in crime, schools and the cost of living? If by the south you mean Primrose Hill or Notting Hill Gate, then perhaps that's true. Outside those political enclaves, these issues will feature large. Yet the Tories turn a blind eye to the rising cost of living, or pursue policies which set out to make energy dearer, and daily life more expensive for everyone. Is this because they are posh toffs who think the cost of living doesn't matter? Or because they are stupidly fixated on their own priorities?

The Tories' recent astonishing burst of ineptitude suggests that it might be both.

Fraser's conclusion is that
The surest route for a party to break out of its heartland is to focus less on the Westminster chess match, and more on finding an agenda that enough people think is worth voting for.
So why don't they?

With that study in front of you, Fraser's conclusion looks obvious. Padding his piece with local examples, Fraser runs out of space to ask the central question: why are the parties not doing this?

Rather than deliver what the electorate want, they seem more concerned to talk up their own fixed policy positions. They crouch in their trenches and lob mortars at their opponents' positions - no way to gain even an inch of new territory.

There is a law now on fixed term parliaments. Did it also require policies to be fixed for five year terms?

April 19, 2012

Greenies getting shriller over fracking

Seems to me the greenies are getting shriller. Thus Vanessa Vine in the Telegraph:
We will not stand for this deeply irresponsible behaviour on the part of those who are empowered to legislate for us. Our water, our fields, our air and our very seismic stability are at stake.
Indeed, we can see the US is starting to ripple and sink, what with all those fracked wells. Fields are poisoned for miles around every fracked well, while US water has become undrinkable everywhere there has been fracking.

By implication their air is "at stake", but I have no idea at all what if anything Vanessa means by this. It sounds scary, though.

Could that be the point?

April 17, 2012

More Black propaganda - shale

The BBC story on fracking is written by Richard Black. On the basis of his record, we expect bias and we get it.

In his whole report there are two sentences about the benefits of shale:
Shale gas is seen as a way of ensuring relatively cheap energy supplies.
And later
The government sees shale gas as a valuable energy resource for the future.
Yes, that's it. The rest of the article focuses on doubts and protests. Even the lead picture is of US protestors holding a sign reading "Farmers against hydrofrack". Nothing about how much of the US's economic recovery can be attributed to the cheaper fuel shale extraction is producing.

Black's next paragraph reads
But critics have warned of possible side effects - including the contamination of ground water.
Pretty rich since Black knows is rare and is caused by faulty construction.

Naturally Black's report concludes with an anti-frack message:
But local groups are concerned about groundwater contamination as well as earthquakes, while environment groups point out that basing the UK's energy strategy on gas will make it much harder to achieve climate change targets.

"We don't need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs - we need a seismic shift in energy policy," said Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth UK.

"We should be developing the huge potential of clean British energy from the Sun, wind and waves, not more dirty and dangerous fossil fuels."
Black of course leaves that long concluding quote unchallenged. Not for Friends of the Earth any report of criticisms that renewables intermittents cost huge amounts of taxpayers' money and aren't effective. The sun as a reliable power source in the UK? Oh please.

But that unchallenged passage is longer than the total coverage of the benefits of shale fuel, and is the message Black wants to leave us with.

With this report Black propaganda the BBC nails its anti-shale colours to the mast.

What does the biased BBC think of fracking?

The BBC headlines the decision that prospecting for shale should be allowed to continue.
A controversial technique to extract shale gas, known as fracking, should resume in the UK with measures to minimise earthquakes, a government-appointed panel of experts recommends.
"Controversial" ... "earthquakes".

Here are the four reports that article links to.

Concerns over fracking regulations

End of 'greenest government ever'?

Fracking contamination downplayed

New groups protest at shale gas

Four links unanimously negative.

We can all see where the biased, taxpayer funded BBC's views lie.

April 13, 2012

Has Cameron heard of shale?

Yes, according to The Economist's Bagehot:
Mr Cameron recently asked senior officials to investigate the potential for shale gas and oil extraction in Britain. Those aides fret, privately, that environmental hand-wringing from European neighbours risks throwing up EU-level hurdles to shale exploitation.
Much of the work's been done, so this looks like a typical Cameron excuse for inaction. Just order DECC to emulate the Poles, and publicly align the UK with them.

The coalition's bonkers death wishes

Allister Heath has a good column on this today. He makes the right points about the charities debacle firmly, and concludes
Another explanation for the coalition’s folly is doing the rounds. Apparently, it feels that some EU-based charities are dodgy, but that EU rules mean it cannot do anything about this. If so, why doesn’t it say so? It’s like the pasty tax: The government felt that it had to hike taxes on pasties to avoid an EU ruling that could have forced it to cut Vat on other warm food, such as fish and chips, and hand over billions in compensation. But if the EU is the problem why doesn’t it tell anybody? No wonder Ukip is surging in the polls (it is at 11 per cent in one), and Labour is substantially ahead. When it comes to own goals, the charity row is even more staggering than the coalition’s vicious “green” plan to penalise those seeking to build conservatories. What, exactly, is this government up to?
Well, we know why they can't admit to the EU dimension - because they fear the political floodgates would open and they'd be washed away. So decisions become increasingly contorted - but that is trumped by political expediency every time.

The Federation of Master Builders, by the way, has warned the government that plans to force people installing boilers and conservatories to spend their money on insulation will be “impractical, unpopular and counterproductive”.

The price of gas in the US is plummeting. Why couldn't that happen here?

April 11, 2012

Snippets

Caroline Pattinson is about to start her first prison sentence after committing her 207th crime. Her criminal record includes 108 convictions for theft; 42 offences against police officers; 26 offences of fraud and dishonesty; five public order offences; four offences on property; three offences against the person; two drug offences and 17 miscellaneous non-recordable offences.

The public wants real deterrent sentences. Why won't ministers give us what we want?

======

Behind Murdoch's paywall, Tim Montgomerie has evidently been urging the Cameroons not to take right of centre voters for granted.

The question for Montgomerie is: why does he think any right of centre voter would take a blind bit of notice of anything Cameron said? Anything he says is just for effect and show.

Politicians v charities

Osborne certainly knows how to shovel muck over the coalition: Grannies ... pasties .... His ministerial colleagues - who say they want to encourage the construction sector - have taken up the baton and offered us a tax on conservatories and boilers (together with the extra bureaucracy, which won't come free). And now it's Osborne against charities.

The charities have their own snappily titled campaign with a website. Who are people going to support, Cancer research or a Conservative chancellor? As with the granny tax, the public was not softened up for this policy, so the execution has again been cack-handed.

The government alleges that some of the charities are bogus. Some are said to be foreign.

All right, exclude foreign charities from tax relief. What about bogus domestic charities? The Charity Commissioners say they have received no questions or referrals from the government.

Once those loopholes are blocked - and if they are loopholes they should have been blocked anyway - what are the big donors doing wrong? They are still paying their taxes - it's just that they choose to pay the money to charities rather than to government.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to any minister to ask the wealthy why they are doing this. Could it be that they think the chosen charities make better use of their money than the government does?

This ineptly executed policy flies in the face of the Big Society and pits the government against the charity sector, which at a wild guess is rather more highly regarded than the coalition.

Senior ministers' ability to get it wrong is breathtaking. What will they mess up next? Does anyone at The Samaritans offer counselling about political suicide?

Dellers misses a trick

James 'never knowingly understated' Delingpole refers to "the harmless trace gas carbon dioxide".

But it's more than that, isn't it.

It's the life-giving trace gas carbon dioxide.

Gas drilling in Balcombe

The comments on this blog continue to delight and instruct.

Objections tend to fall into three groups.

  1. Local, of the how many lorries will be turning right down this narrow lane variety. Fair questions, too soon for answers

  2. Anecdotal - incident X has happened at a frac somewhere, at some time in the past, maybe more than once I'm not telling, and I've found this long article which you'll never finish reading, which allows the media to call fracking "controversial". And it's impartial, even though it's written by someone from an organisation which states that
  3. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we depend.
  4. Technical - demands (they're usually demands) for detailed explanations of drilling and casing procedures which often don't seem to be unique to fracking holes. These are fishing expeditions.
Now add a new category, the mystical. This is about working with other communities whose lives are allegedly affected by fracking so that
our collective will can come together and something new can form in the place of a mindset which thinks destroying the beings and substances who give us life is in any way logical.
What does this mean?
Its the difference between picking an apple from a tree or pulling the whole tree up. Meat eating is ok if it does not degrade and destroy the spirit of the animal while it is alive. No coal mines. Factories can be bad or good. Railways are good if we can find renewable energy sources, but public transport at least reduces fossil fuel consumption. How we got here is no longer the point. What is done is done. Its what we do now that matters. Its not talking about not using the resourses around us, i’m talking about showing some respect and gratitude for the rivers and plants and animals and not seeing their rights as less important than ours.

Conservatories again

Commenters at Bishop Hill have been discussing the merits of this policy. Raedwald has a government table of the payback period for various energy efficiency improvements to homes (presumably assuming energy keeps getting dearer), and points us to Capitalists@Work, who call this policy Opening a New Affront. The Daily Mail returns to the story with the revelation that not every energy efficiency measure saves as much as government figures predict. Who'd have thought it?

On the political front, The Spectator claims Grant Shapps has "deep reservations" about the "conservatory tax". Is there more to this than belated damage limitation?

First, Shapps is unrelentingly ambitious. He would not have said this without a nod.

Secondly, not only is he a minister just below cabinet level, he's a minister in the very department in charge of this consultation.

The DCLG is of course headed by supposedly man of the people Eric Pickles, to whom this policy should be anathema.

Is Pickles really going to stand up in the Commons and announce a 10% levy on the cost of boilers and conservatories? No - and nor will Shapps.

Which leads to the next political question - why is it the DCLG doing this consultation anyway? Huhne's DECC would surely have pronounced the feedback favourable.

And then, why did the Daily Mail start pushing this story a few days ago, when the consultation period was about to end?

So far this operation is too subtle for a political damage limitation exercise. It's starting to look more like deliberate sabotage.

April 10, 2012

The ritual of "consultation"

An addendum to my previous post on the so called consultation on the government insanity regulations. I'm steered by WitteringsfromWitney's comment on my previous post to his own pointing to the consultation documents themselves.

In his post he's having a poke at the Mail for being late to a story which The Guardian ran several months ago. Better late than never, though.

It turns out that the impenetrable documents I'd found were in fact the so called public consultation. Silly me for thinking it couldn't be them, as they were so hard to track down, and so long and dense when you found them - it seems the quote from Hitch-hiker's Guide in my previous post was all too apposite.

Government takes leave of its senses again

The Daily Mail has been running with the story of a consultation on another Green impost.
Millions of householders who want to build a conservatory, replace a broken boiler or install new windows will be forced to spend hundreds of pounds more on ‘green’ projects.

They will not be permitted to carry out the home improvement or repair unless they agree to fork out for measures such as loft or wall insulation.

The work is expected to add ten per cent to the cost of any building project in the home.
Now Booker has weighed in, providing some context.

Defenders may stress that this is a consultation. So it may be in form ... but where is the consultation document? Who publicised it? It's not obvious where to find it - seemingly it's Eric Pickles' DCLG which is doing the consulting. They've acknowledged my query. This is reminiscent of the "consultation" at the start of The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on demolishing the Earth to create an inter-stellar bypass.
“But the plans were on display..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a flashlight."
"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But, look, you found the notice, didn't you?"
"Yes, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.”
If it turns out that this does emanate from Pickles' department, we can return later to his 'man of the people' image.

The policy assumes the cost of energy will keep rising, which it will if the government keeps increasing green taxes and pretending shale oil and gas don't exist.

The policy also assumes that CO2, which is essential for life, is causing temperatures to rise dangerously, which is odd, because even the greenies admit that - unexpectedly - there's been no statistically significant warming for the past fifteen years. If CO2 is such a temperature driver, something else must be going on too, but no one knows what. If the CO2 theory didn't exist, no one would invent it now. And if, implausibly, increased CO2 emissions were driving dangerously higher global temperatures, UK policies would have precisely no effect. Green policies - the subject of political consensus, by the way - insanely aim to make Britons poorer for no benefit.

Having recently eased planning regulations to make the process simpler for people who want to instal conservatories, the government now wants to make the rules more intrusive. You wouldn't even be able to instal a new boiler without doing council-mandated insulation work on your home.

At a time when most people are getting poorer, the government wants to increase costs and increase regulation - and we know who will pay.

Lastly for the moment, even if the policy wasn't expensive, intrusive and intellectually bankrupt, would compulsory increases in insulation be a sensible response?

In answer to a reader in this week's Sunday Telegraph, their building expert wrote that
I'm afraid your elderly mother is another victim of the government's "climate change" policy to stuff as much insulation as possible into everyone's lofts and walls, without any real understanding of the problems this can cause. And of course the public subsidy to schemes such as Warm Front has meant that much of the installation work is carried out by fly-by-night firms using unskilled labour.

The damage caused to people's homes by this misguided policy looks set to become a national scandal.
Government policy is evidently to make it worse.

Greek discontent keeps simmering

People are mad, says Richard North, discussing the latest bombing in Athens.

And a two-day dock strike starts there today.

It's the politicians who are mad if they think voters will tolerate continuing sharp drops in their security and standard of living.

But there's no easy solution for the Greek nation, which has been featherbedded for years.

People can be as mad as they like, but that doesn't mean they have right on their side.

April 06, 2012

Government already on borrowed time?

As I flicked through the paper this morning, I found advertisements drawing my eye.

It wasn't that they were offering anything I wanted, or even anything I aspired to. But something about them was attracting my attention.

Advertisements often feature pictures of people grinning for no good reason, so why was my eye drawn to those stock photos?

Then I realised how carefree the models looked. They weren't wondering if they'd be able to refill the car; not for them concerns about water shortages. And you certainly didn't feel they were watching the gas or energy consumption.

This government is bringing us plenty of feel bad factors, but where's the feelgood? Even if the BBC whips you up into an Olympics frenzy, the games will only last for two weeks, and even for that time it seems London will be gridlocked, while the expense of the games will be huge.

The coalition has to hope that those models will still be wearing those happy grins by the time of the next election. Out in the real world, I wouldn't count on it.

If people start to ask, What good is this government doing? then they're doomed. How could they answer?

They may be on borrowed time already.

April 02, 2012

An April Fool at the British Library

Good fun and stuffed with hints

More dismal politicians

Sometimes observers like to weigh the mentions of a topic, and sheer numbers of posts can come to matter as much as originality or style.

In that spirit, let me add to the mentions of shale.

Yes, government, we know that "shale" is on the banned words list, like "EU powers". (Are MPs given a list, or do you have to absorb this part of the political culture even to make the candidates list? Is it like taxi drivers' "knowledge"?)

We know how shale is helping to turn round the US economy. We know that estimates of England's shale reserves are going up even as Poland's are going down.

We know that the UK government is continuing to wimp.
The UK government expects to make an announcement on whether Cuadrilla can resume fracking in due course, a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.
Is that really the best you can do? Are you all fixated on pasties?

You'd think shale was a curse not a boon. The government seems to wish it had never heard of shale. It won't go away. It will be prospected in countries like India, China, Argentina and Australia. So their people will get richer, they will be able to produce goods more cheaply, and competitors who don't have shale resources or don't exploit them will suffer economically.

The world will exploit its centuries’ worth of shale gas and shale oil until the time in the future when we have reliable and cost-effective renewables which don’t cost a fortune and disfigure the landscape. Meanwhile, there is no need to tip taxpayers' money into this distant dream. Government's spending way too much already and renewables just ain't urgent.

As Michael Baker comments:
There are no 'renewables', only intermittents & they will never be 'high intrinsic energy' & hence never viable. It is fossil fuel providing warmth, chill, high production agriculture, medical advances etc that has lifted the earth's population from 2.5 bn to 7 bn & rising - turn off wells & nuclear & you kill 4.5 bn people.
Meanwhile, cheap, domestically produced energy? Yes, please.

Reasons to be cheerful

There has been no global warming over the last fifteen years. It's a travesty that any taxpayers' money is being spent on an anti-global-warming policies. They're just making us poorer.

Be of good cheer. This is very clever indeed.