Tag: Energy-Security

The Tories Don’t Deserve To Win – Labour Deserves To Lose

Neither the Tories, with their statist, triangulating Manifesto, nor Labour, with its destructive socialist vision, deserve victory in this General Election

In a few hours, this General Election will be all over bar the results and their consequences.  Yet the usual anticipation of Election Night is muted by an almost palpable sense of relief at the approaching end of a campaign offering such a lacklustre, uninspiring choice.

For Theresa May and the Tories  it was supposed to be the Brexit Election: where, wanting both a bigger Parliamentary majority and her own popular mandate to implement it, she would offer a vision of a Britain mitigating the risks but also exploiting the advantages from recovering political and economic sovereignty.

Both, paradoxically, dictate some loosening of State and regulatory shackles on the economy, a facilitation of innovation and entrepreneurship: especially as the economy inevitably goes through a period of uncertainty and flux as powers are repatriated and trading relationships either reset or forged from new. But that isn’t what we’ve got.

The first intimations were reasonably heartening, But then came the Manifesto.

2017 Manifesto on Core Beliefs

Disparaging talk of “untrammeled free markets”, belief in “the good that government can do”, and abhorrence of “inequality”. The context leaves little room for doubt that the offer to voters is one of an interventionist State, concerned not so much with opportunities, but with outcomes.  

Further on, we are promised an Industrial Policy, a National Productivity Investment Fund, worker representation on boards, and a commitment to continue spending 0.7% of GDP on virtue-signalling foreign aid.

Finally, we get to this Greenery-gullible horror. Yet it accompanies a pledge to give British voters “the lowest energy costs in Europe”, notwithstanding that those two aims are mutually incompatible.

Worse still, it’s to be achieved, not by slashing Green taxes and encouraging more competition among energy providers via supply-side measures, but by capping prices: the same policy that, as recently as 2015, the Tories rightly damned as economically-illiterate when included in Labour’s election manifesto by Green-Left Red Ed Miliband.

So, in aggregate, a largely social-democratic policy programme, advocating a version of active-state Rhenish corporatism that would not look out of place in the manifesto of any milquetoast European Christian-Democratic party.

One can speculate endlessly on the reasons why. Possibly they lie in the fact that May is an instinctive paternalist (should that be “maternalist”, I wonder?) technocrat who’s unconvinced of, as Martin Durkin puts it, the potential of free markets to liberate and enrich.

Perhaps, because Labour has gone so far Left, she was persuaded that a Clinton-Blair style triangulation, with the Tories parking their tanks on “moderate” Labour’s lawn, would work electorally. Maybe she was afraid of frightening off the 2 or 3 million Labour voters who voted for Brexit and want to see it happen, and also the One-Nation tendency in her own party still looking for any excuse to derail Brexit. Who knows?

Then there’s been the campaign itself. May  – and it has been almost exclusively May, from battle-bus, through campaign literature, to media, and all points in between – has come across as by turns either robotically evasive, or uncomfortable and unconvincing when pressed on detail.

The forced U-turn on Social Care brought her campaigning deficiencies into sharp focus, but combine that with her natural somewhat leaden, flat-footed demeanour, plus a requirement to face an inquisitorial public & press far more often than she’s ever had to do before, and the result has been, not failure, but certainly sub-par performance.

Both she and her Party, have emerged from the campaign diminished, and not just in opinion-poll ratings, either. “Strong and Stable” has become something of a stick to beat her with. The whole thing has been rather insipid, disappointing, and very far from enthusing.

Consideration of Corbynite-Labour’s hard-Left manifesto need not take us as long. “Insipid” isn’t a description that could remotely be applied to it: “terrifying” or “economically-catastrophic” hardly begins to cover it, such is the red-in-tooth-and-claw programme that unrepentant socialist Jeremy Corbyn has in mind for the country.

The appalling consequences of a Corbyn-led Labour government have comprehensively dissected, with this by Andrew Lilico being merely one of the latest.   

As Lilico points out, fiscally and economically Labour would impose on Britain the highest level of taxation since World War II: the nationalisation, almost certainly without compensation, of the most important industries: a return to widespread (and excess) unionisation: deliberately punitive taxes on financial services designed specifically to deter private capital: and the effective collectivisation of private business property through imposing public interest duties inimical to both private property rights and commercial interest.

Moving from the general to the particular, just one example can suffice to show hard-Left Corbynism’s economic wrong-headedness. Despite favouring continued uncontrolled mass immigration, Labour proposes to deal with the housing shortage by a price-cap on new houses.  

All that that is likely to achieve is a shortage of new houses. If Labour really wanted to boost the supply of low-cost new houses, it would pledge to ease planning restrictions, not threaten to impose State price and even purchaser – priority to State employees, naturally – controls on builders. 

Non-economically, a Corbyn-led Labour government would see restrictions on the police, the reduction of the Army to a notional force only, and the withdrawal of Britain from its role in international security.

And this before even considering the implications of Corbyn’s 30+-year record of not only sympathy but vocal backing for all manner of anti-British, anti-Western groups, including those engaged in active terrorism, even on British soil.

And thus we come to the end of a singularly uninspiring campaign on what should have been the most important election in Britain for decades. The great issue for which it was ostensibly called to reinforce has been barely discussed beyond trite soundbites and banal generalities.

Hard-Left Labour certainly deserves to lose this election, and lose it heavily: but the Conservatives, on their manifesto and especially on their stuttering and lacklustre campaign, really don’t deserve to win it, either.

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Flat-Earth Hour

The WWF’s fatuous Earth Hour is a marriage of cynical Green eco-propaganda with scientifically-illiterate virtue-signalling

Every year, it happens. Despite “climate change” justifiably figuring ever-lower in their major concerns reported by people in surveys around the world, every year it still happens.

wwf earth hour 2The World Wildlife Fund, today a wealthy mega-corporation with slick marketing, more concerned with promoting undemocratic one-world government to prevent enterprise-capitalism and free trade moving millions from poverty into prosperity than it is with saving pandas or polar bears – the latter of which are doing just fine, thank you, despite its relentless but mendacious climate-alarmism – enjoins the world to plunge itself into darkness for an hour, to “save the planet”.

This isn’t the place to launch into a detailed exposition of the numerous manifest flaws in the theory of catastrophic global warming being attributable solely to the mere 3% of atmospheric carbon-dioxide that results from all human activity. It would make this an article of 8,000 words rather than 800. But for the purposes of this article, just hold two thoughts in your mind. First, that despite the measured atmospheric concentration of CO2 having continued to rise, global average temperatures have been flat for nearly 19 years. And second, that the Earth’s historical record shows no significant CO2-temperature correlation anyway.

earth hour comp

But, even if you refuse to believe what logic should tell you, that you can no more “fight climate-change” that you can “fight” tomorrow morning’s sunrise: if you uncritically accept the Green orthodoxy: the point to realise about Earth Hour is that your gesture – because, make no mistake, that is what it is, not a “contribution” – will actually be futile.

Firstly, a pinprick one-hour interruption to the overwhelming majority of residential light use that occurs at night will have no emissions-reducing effects whatsoever, on anything. At night, most power stations run at the same capacity as during daytime peak demand periods, and produce electricity (and thus the same barely-measurable amount of greenhouse gas anyway), whether it is being used to create light or not. There is no way sufficiently economically- or technically-feasible to store this excess power produced at night  – which is why electricity generators sell off-peak power so cheaply to run our electric hot water systems at night, which function as virtual batteries. Hydro and gas-fired plants are responsive to fluctuating power demand: but others are not.

Secondly, in Britain, domestic household consumption accounts for only ~30% of overall energy use. Heating and hot water represent ~80% of that ~30%, while lighting accounts for a mere ~9% of it. In other words, under 2.7% of Britain’s energy consumption can be blamed on a recklessly eco-uncaring population “destroying the planet”, as the WWF would have you believe, by having lights switched on at night.

Thirdly, just consider the language used to justify a minusculely-effective measure that will achieve staggeringly little, if anything, apart from potentially more traffic accidents and crime. “Climate change is the most serious threat facing people and nature”, pontificates the WWF. You might, however, think that continued sluggish growth in the global economy, mass-migration from a Middle East mired in religious schism-induced turmoil, and the global threat from expansionist, violent-supremacist Islamist-Jihadism, are far more serious than a now 19 years-halted global average temperature rise of just ~0.8°C in 150 years as the Earth recovers from the nadir of the Little Ice Age.

North Korea good on climate change

Mind you, there is one place on Earth where deep-Green ideology’s eco-argument, flawed as it is, clearly resonates. As the satellite photograph shows, North Korea is the most enthusiastic observer of Earth Hour on the planet. So much so, in fact, that it’s observed every hour – every night. This is what the WWF wants us us to emulate.

If you really feel you’ll be making a contribution to saving Gaia by sitting in the dark or in candlelight for an hour this evening, repeating what, for thousands of years, people suffered out of dire necessity and lack of alternative, go ahead. But all you’ll be doing is unthinking, narcissistic virtue-signalling, telling yourself and your neighbours what a good and caring person you are, while simultaneously demonstrating both your scientific illiteracy and your gullibility to cynical Green eco-propaganda.

It’s nearly 140 years now since Thomas Edison patented the first modern light bulb. It allowed us to light our homes and our public spaces like never before. It’s a small but powerful symbol of man’s victory over what for aeons was a terrifying natural phenomenon: darkness, and its companion, the unknown. The WWF’s misguided war on light via its fatuous Flat-Earth Hour is a perfect metaphor for Green-environmentalism: it wants to return us to the Dark Ages.

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The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor

Formerly seen – not least by himself – as a master strategist and astute political operator, George Osborne’s authority is eroding before our eyes

“Events, dear boy, events”, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is reputed to have replied when asked to predict the factor most likely to derail his political plans. He meant “the unexpected”: in modern political parlance, the “unknown unknowns” that can, and almost always do, erupt, unforeseen, seemingly out of nowhere, to blow the most carefully-crafted plans off course.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne could be forgiven for spending more time than usual ruefully recalling Macmillan’s remarks at the moment. Because, since the start of 2016, his plans for his own political advancement have been derailed spectacularly, to an extent which, on 1st January, he can surely scarcely have imagined. Yes, partly by some of those unknown unknowns: but, ironically, also by his own blunders. His stature and authority are crumbling astonishingly, virtually on a daily basis.

Osborne with shadesYet, contemplated from Osborne’s New Year’s Day breakfast table, 2016 must have looked satisfyingly promising. First, Budget Day on 16 March would give him the opportunity to continue the centre-leftwards tack started in his 2015 Autumn Statement, designed to capitalise politically on Corbynite Labour’s charge towards hard-Leftism, by hoovering up disaffected Blairites and Labour moderates into the Cameroon social-democracy-leaning Big Tent.

Second, David Cameron would round off his tour of European capitals pressing for EU reforms at the Brussels EU Heads of Government Summit over the weekend of 19-21 February. True, he’d return with only trifling and essentially cosmetic reforms. But, accompanied by some lurid Brexit-alarmism, a Cabinet united in campaigning for Remain, and a “helpful” media narrative, they should be just enough to persuade a risk-averse British electorate to vote to stay in the EU. Clearing the way for Cameron to resign in triumph as Prime Minister and Party Leader some time in 2017 or 2018, and leaving Osborne in pole position to see off any  challenge and ascend to No 10.

Except it hasn’t quite worked out like that. In fact, it’s rapidly going pear-shaped. “Events, dear boy, events”.

Take the EU “re-negotiation”. Yes, Cameron did indeed return from Brussels with a “reform” deal: but one of such abject and transparent paucity, ineffectiveness and unenforceability, that it had unravelled, and been both rightly exposed and excoriated for it, within 72 hours. And to such an extent that the Government’s official Remain campaign strategy adopted, almost from Day 1, what had been hoped would be the back-up strategy of Project Fear. Any plausible pretence that there is a “reformed” EU at all has been dropped. Brexit-scaremongering Project Fear, to all intents and purposes, is the  Remain campaign.            

Conservatives - Careers before countryThen, from Osborne’s point of view, came the bombshell. He must surely have reckoned that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would be reliably on side, fully signed up to the Government’s official position, as fellow-advocates for Britain staying in even the risibly non-“reformed” EU that was on offer: Boris because of his general pro-EU and internationalist outlook, including a desire to see Turkey in the EU, and Gove because of his personal loyalty to Cameron. Before the Brussels summit of 19-21 February, even this political cartoon was circulating: the Party heavy-hitters, including Boris and Gove, lined up, Dad’s Army style, in Captain Camwaring’s pro-EU Home Guard platoon.

Not any more. Because in fact, the opposite happened. Boris, after much public and private agonising, declared for Leave, and Gove, with what must be one of the finest personal statements to grace British politics for a very long time, did the same.

Those two “defections”, I suspect, rocked Osborne back on his heels: not just on account of their unexpectedness, but also because of their implications, both for the EU Referendum itself, and consequentially, for Osborne’s own political future. On the Leave campaign, to Boris’ public appeal is added Gove’s principled integrity and intellectual heft. They make the outcome of the Referendum far closer and far less predictable: that the Government and Remain could actually lose it, and that Leave could triumph in a vote for Brexit, really isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility.

If that happens, despite his bluster, Cameron would, politically, be Dead Man Walking: and given that their political ideologies and fortunes have been so inextricably linked for 25 years, that means Osborne would too. Even with a wafer-thin Remain win, Cameron’s credibility, and thus Osborne’s, will be seriously damaged: the latter’s, possibly fatally, with intra-Party talk already being that the next leader will almost certainly have to come from the Party’s pro-Brexit wing.

osborne looking grimNo wonder Osborne has suddenly seemed such diminished figure, thrown off balance, ever since. His prospects of following his planned and mapped-out route of a smooth ascent to No 10 in the wake of a benignly-departing David Cameron have suffered a severe blow: they may even be receding, a victim of Boris’ burgeoning popularity with Party members and activists since his ostentatious and publicity-maximising conversion to the Brexit cause.

And it gets worse. Because, intriguingly, in only the barely three weeks that have elapsed since the denouement of these events, a gaffe-prone Osborne has been either been caught out and had to retract hubristic claims, or forced to execute a sharp policy U-turn in an humiliating climb-down, or experienced an open challenge to his authority and rebellion from his own backbenchers, on no fewer than seven separate issues.

First, the Google tax deal. A clearly pleased-with-himself Osborne made extravagant claims for the £130 million agreement he had reached with Google, presumably on the calculation of reaping political capital from the vocal lobby opposed to any (entirely legal) tax-avoidance by multinationals. That soon unravelled, however, with the revelation that it covered a full 10 years of back taxes and amounted to an effective tax rate of only 3%, against the UK standard corporation tax rate of 20%. It concluded with scathing criticism of Osborne from his own backbenchers, both the Commons Public Accounts and Treasury Committees launching separate inquiries, and both Google and HMRC being asked to re-appear before themGoogle, meanwhile, are reportedly furious with Osborne for making self-aggrandising claims which have given them additional poor publicity.

Second, the claims of extra tax revenue from the lower top rate. Osborne boasted  that an additional £8 billion in tax revenue had been generated from the reduction in the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, attributing the entire amount to the rate change. Unfortunately for him, that was quickly challenged as “precarious” by none other than the Institute for Fiscal Studies, on the grounds that it ignored any deferment factor and was more a one-off gain than a systemically-permanent windfall. We have heard no more about it.

Third, the planned tax-raid on pensions. Osborne had been planning a very Gordon-Brownian stealth-tax: to abolish higher-rate tax relief on pensions, and lower the threshold at which money invested in a pension pot starts to attract high, almost penal, rates of tax. The entirely predictable backbench uproar duly ensued, with Osborne’s plans being rightly denounced as simultaneously both economically-incompetent – disincentivizing prudent retirement saving – and politically-inept – targeting a natural Tory electoral constituency. They have been dropped.

hinkley Point comp 2Fourth, Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station. This was announced with much fanfare by Osborne on his September 2015 trade visit to China. The deal, was, though, subject to a £2 billion taxpayer guarantee to EDF, without which they would have struggled to secure project finance, and immediately attracted informed criticism because of its capital intensiveness and cost per MWh of output. It’s now emerged that the building cost has roughly trebled, the strike-price per MWh for its output has doubled, and the start date has been put back 8 years: all within 6 months. The calls for it to be scrapped as an expensive and uneconomic white elephant are growing.

G20 vs EU How Do They Cope via Julia H-BFifth, the G20 warning against Brexit. At Osborne’s initiative, the plan was for the G20 group of advanced economies to warn Britain against exit from the EU. That quickly collapsed, to widespread derision, when commentators pointed out the inconvenient fact that 16 of the 20 G20 countries are actually outside the EU, yet self-evidently still manage to be in the top 20 economies globally. Prompting the question: how could they then credibly warn Britain, the 5th largest, that it must be inside the EU to ensure its very survival? Silence.

Sixth, this week’s Sunday Trading liberalisation débacle. Despite being warned of the likelihood of both the SNP yet again ignoring their pledge not to vote in Westminster on what are devolved matters in Scotland, and an incipient Tory backbench rebellion, Osborne nevertheless determined to push the Bill through the Commons. When it became apparent that the SNP and Osborne’s own backbenchers would indeed carry out their threats, there was a ham-fisted attempt to water down the Bill’s provisions, culminating in an humiliating rebuff from the Speaker who refused to accept a related Motion.  SNP MPs duly supported Labour, the Tory rebels duly rebelled, and an embarrassing defeat for the Government, plus the loss of the liberalisation measures, was the outcome.

Seventh, another Tory backbench revolt, against another Osborne tax rise, this time on motor fuel duty. Despite 74% of the pump cost of a litre of diesel or petrol now comprising tax, Osborne, it appears, had planned to use next Wednesday’s Budget to increase the duty even further. Cue the now normal resistance movement, by up to 150 MPs, and the plans for a hike in the duty are reportedly being shelved.

These kinds of setbacks aren’t unprecedented: Osborne has had wobbles before. Think of the Pasty Tax in the 2012 Omnishambles Budget: a previous attempt to raise fuel duty with effect from January 2013 which similarly had to be abandoned on backbench pressure: and the tax-credits imbroglio of 2015, when an Osborne converted, we were told, to “listening mode” was equally forced into an embarrassing retreat.

osborne looking grim 2But Osborne’s present troubles look and feel different, quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively, because they’ve been coming thick and fast – no fewer than seven, and in just three weeks, which, I’d venture to suggest, is unprecedented. Qualitatively, because they contain an element which hasn’t been present in earlier iterations – a ready willingness, particularly among Tory backbenchers, not merely to voice misgivings, but vocally and robustly to resist, rebel, criticise and take to the media to denounce the Chancellor’s proposals in no uncertain terms, both as economically-disadvantageous and politically-inept.

The latter charge being especially ironic, and wounding. Because Osborne is, above all else, a Political Chancellor, far too prone to seeing virtually every aspect of economic and fiscal stewardship through the prism of partisan political triangulation. The shameless stealing of Blairite clothing in the form of a National Living Wage (aka, arbitrarily raising the floor price of labour to employers by State diktat) is but the latest example.

Osborne has long been lauded – not least by himself – as a political master-strategist. But, in truth, his excessive concentration on it, to the detriment of his economic and fiscal stewardship, has had decidedly mixed results. He’s been allowed to get away with increasing the National Debt by more in five years than even that preposterous antithesis of fiscal rectitude, Gordon Brown, managed in thirteen, largely because, when only 6% of the population know the difference between deficit and debt, few votes were risked by it.

Yet being master-strategist for two elections, 2010’s not won, even against Brown, and 2015’s, not expected to be won, but won mainly out of voters’ fear of a Labour-SNP government, tell a different story. As does the prevalence of the “austerity” narrative, despite the lamentable pace of deficit reduction. During the 2010-2015 Coalition, the overall rate of public spending reduction was a miserable 0.4% pa in real terms: supposed political master-strategist Osborne, however, succeeded in being portrayed as the heartless architect of Victorian-workhouse austerity, for the macro-fiscal equivalent of reducing a weekly £200 shopping bill by 80p.

So the last month’s acceleration in the decline of Osborne’s standing is partly an overdue reckoning: but its litany of serial hubris, politico-economic miscalculation, U-turn and climb-down, in just 20-odd days since the shock of Boris’ & Gove’s defection to the Brexit cause, have notably exacerbated its visibility. The wider appreciation of his Brown-like inveterate political-meddling and fiscal neo-Keynesianism, stealth-taxes and all, mean that the “Osbrowneomics” and “Osbrowne” memes are gaining wider currency.

osborne looking hauntedAs each successive Tory backbench anti-Osborne rebellion yields results, his critics are becoming more emboldened. They’re getting a taste for it, scenting blood. Osborne suddenly looks at bay, haunted, error-prone, wan, vulnerable, yesterday’s future, a fast-diminishing figure, in a way few can have predicted on 1st January.

He really is The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor, his stature and authority crumbling daily before our eyes.

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