Log in

Friday 24 October 2014

000a BBC-024 AFG.jpg

Suddenly in the news again is Afghanistan, with the BBC trailing its programme, "The Lion's Last Roar", to be shown on BBC 2 on 26 October.

Then, it seems, we are supposed to go through the charade of watching the dismal breed of men that have been taking money under false pretences as Army generals, admitting to their mistakes in Afghanistan. And that is more than five years after they had become obvious to anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together.

It was, for instance, on Monday 17 August 2009 that we wrote on our sister blog, the Defence of the Realm:
… As we have watched the train wreck that masquerades as strategy in this benighted country, we have become more and more convinced that it is wrong – totally, completely, fundamentally wrong.

It cannot succeed. It will not succeed and the inevitable outcome is that, after the expenditure of much more of our treasure – which we can ill-afford – and the death of many more fine men (and, probably, some women), we will be forced into a humiliating retreat, dressed up as victory, leaving the country in no better a condition than when we found it – if not worse.
And now, those five years later, we have the BBC telling us that: "Military leaders failed to calculate the magnitude of the conflict in Afghanistan", with Gen. Wall admitting they "got it wrong". "We had put forward a plan saying that for the limited objectives that we had set ourselves, this was a reasonable force. And I freely admit now, that calculus was wrong", Wall says.

Yet Dannatt, CGS from 2006 to 2009 – and possibly the worst head of the Army we've had in living memory – is still more interested in covering his back.

Having completely misread the tactical position in both Iraq – where he thought the military effort could be scale down at the height of the insurgency – and in Afghanistan, where he thought he could Hoover up the Taliban with fast-moving squads of men in eight-wheeler mine-trap APCs – now has the gall to tell us:
Looking back we probably should have realised, maybe I should realised, that the circumstances in Iraq were such that the assumption that we would get down to just 1,000 or 1,500 soldiers by summer 2006 was flawed - it was running at many thousands.

We called it the perfect storm, because we knew that we were heading for two considerable size operations and we really only had the organisation and manpower for one.

And therefore perhaps we should have revisited the decision that we the UK would lead an enlarged mission in southern Afghanistan in 2006. Perhaps we should have done that. We didn't do that.
Then we have the commander of the British forces in Helmand in 2006, Brig Ed Butler, saying: "We were underprepared, we were under-resourced, and most importantly, we didn't have a clear and achievable strategy to deliver success".

It is all very well having these ex post facto confessionals, but the point is – as we argued again and again on Defence of the Realm - it was obvious at the time that the campaign was failing and was doomed to failure. So obvious was it that, in July 2008, we wrote a 12-part analysis called "Winning the War", setting out why we thought things were going wrong.

Now for these highly-paid fools to be admitting that they got things wrong, when they were paid to get it right – and amply rewarded with rank, baubles and privileges for so doing – is simply not good enough.

But the worst of it is that nothing will change. It has only taken the Army five years as a corporate body to convince itself that it scored a stunning victory in Iraq, despite the evidence I record in Ministry of Defeat, and by the time the whitewash machine has completed its work, the Army will emerge unblemished from Afghanistan as well.

And nor do I buy the Oborne line that this was a case of "Lions led by donkeys". For sure, amongst the very small fraction of troops in theatre that actually saw combat, there were some amazingly brave people, but there were crass, ill-informed decisions made at all levels, and by all arms.

In terms of the bigger picture, in every theatre in recent times, the Army has been badly led, badly generalled and under-performed. One warms to the idea of slashing the Armed Forces to the bare minimum. At least then our politicians will no longer be tempted to deploy them. We simply cannot afford any more of these corporate "victories" that the Army insists on delivering.


Richard North 24/10/2014 link

Thursday 23 October 2014

Peter Troy, the Publicist Ltd, together with Anthony Scholefield and the Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB) have funded the production of a film of the Dawlish Flexcit talk. Collectively, they have managed the impossible, turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. This makes the production surprisingly watchable, and extremely informative.

We hope that this film will have a long shelf-life, and it's very useful for me, in helping me tighten and refine my own presentation. In due course, I hope we can train a number of people up to give this presentation, so that we have magnify the number of presentations. 

As part of The Harrogate Agenda programme, though, we are happy to offer this presentation to anyone who is prepared to host it - replicating the successful Rotherham workshop, organised last week by John Wilkinson, where a version of this talk was delivered.

Meanwhile, we see from the Telegraph that Iain Martin has written this:
Those of us who are moderate sceptics, who could be persuaded to vote for out in a referendum for an optimistic and outward-looking alternative, want answers, not shouting. Say this to many Ukippers and they will instantly start shouting at you about treason. It as though they are incapable of grasping that to win a referendum they are going to have to calmly persuade their fellow citizens of all races, creeds and convictions.
This is what Flexcit is all about, and if he was not so ignorant, and close-minded, Martin would already be familiar with it. But, like so many journalists, Martin is driven by "prestige", so he will wait for endorsement by one of the great and the good before he deigns to recognise its existence - and then will only report a fraction of what he is told.

For myself, I am quite happy to stay under the media radar. There are few journalists who have the wit and patience to understand what we are saying, and even a 31-minute video is beyond the attention span of most of them. And, at this stage, we can do without the sort of half-baked misrepresentation that the media will offer.  

Hence, the strategy – and it is quite a deliberate strategy – is to stay under the radar, building our own constituency of knowledgeable people, before we break into the popular consciousness. In other words, we want to build on firm foundations and are not interested in the quick hit, only then to be forgotten. 

For those who want more detail, there is then the Flexcit book online. When that is finished, it will be published in hard copy, and then we will produce shortened versions in pamphlet (and even leaflet) form. We also hope to make a video, along the lines of the Norway Option - a video which is still a good primer.

In this, as you will see, we are playing the long game. If a referendum comes in 2017, we will be ready, even though we would prefer longer. Thus, unlike 1975, we will be able to go into a campaign with a fully-researched exit plan, one that is being field tested and can provide most of the answers.

And that is why I am confident that we have a winning strategy in the making.


Richard North 23/10/2014 link

Thursday 23 October 2014

000a Ipsos-023 Poll.png

No doubt motivated by a surge of bitterness, the Mail is headlining that: "Support for staying IN the European Union surges to a 23-year high... all thanks to the rise of Ukip".

This is data from an Ipsos MORI report which show the majority of Britons would vote to stay in the European Union in a referendum.

Some 56 percent would vote to stay in the EU, compared with 36 percent who would vote to get out; eight percent answer that they do not know how they would vote. This translates to 61 percent support for Britain's EU membership and 39 percent opposing after excluding "don't knows".

This is the highest support since December 1991, before the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, when 60 percent said they would vote to stay in the European Community and 29 percent wanted to get out.

What is especially significant about the poll though is that it shows how Ukip's growing popularity has coincided with increasing support for Britain's membership of the EU. In November 2012, Ukip was on just three percent in the polls and 48 percent backed leaving the EU. Only 44 percent favoured staying in.

Now, with Ukip now on 16 percent, the polls indicate that we are further away than ever from leaving the EU. While Ukip has risen 13 points in the polls, the number wishing to leave the EU has fallen by 12 points over the same period.

Worryingly, this is not an isolated poll result. Sentiment has been turning since earlier this year, so much so that it is being called the "Farage Paradox". Numerous voices are now joining in the throng to aver that Farage is damaging the eurosceptic cause.

That, to us, is the issue. Much as UKIP supporters would like to personalise it, the criticism from this blog is directed at a party leader who seems more interested in electoral success than in developing and supporting the anti-EU cause.

Furthermore, we believe that the sequence of "pro-EU" polls is good evidence that the movement is failing. And, with Farage setting himself up as the spokesman for the anti-EU movement, he cannot walk away from responsibility for this.

For those of us who have spent decades opposing the EU (and the constructs that went before it), this is unacceptable – completely unacceptable. And this is where our critics either unwittingly or deliberately misrepresent us. Farage is entitled to pursue his personal ambitions, but not at the expense of the cause.

Our best judgement is that Farage is damaging the cause and, if we think so, we are entitled to say so. Furthermore, we are entitled to take what action we feel necessary (and able) to take, in order to reduce the damage. What we can do is limited, but if Farage is entitled to do his stuff, so are we. It ain't personal. This is bigger than all of us.


Richard North 23/10/2014 link

Wednesday 22 October 2014

000a Telegraph-022 Hodges.jpg

There I was, quietly working on a technical post about the latest developments in the WTO and up pops Dan Hodges outing UKIP as "the cult of Farage".

Interestingly, the Telegraph hasn't opened up the piece to comments and, for once, I don't blame the paper in the slightest. We're all sick to the hind teeth of the tedious, repetitive UKIP claque which drowns out the sensible voices in the party.

It is good to see the phrasing coming out into the open again, though, even if Compleat Bastard got there earlier, and the Telegraph beat us all by a country mile.

Despite my supposed "bitterness", EURef was relatively late into the fray with this description, coming to it only in June of this year. That piece, however, was especially to the point, as every time this blog writes critically of Farage, we can almost guarantee that some Muppet will crawl out of the woodwork with the "bitter" meme, straight off the UKIP playlist.

Hodge's outing, however, has been a long time coming. In general terms, we were writing about the cult of personality and UKIP in June 2013, cross-referring to this.

Gradually, though, the message has spread, not least after the spectacular u-turn by Suzanne Evans, one of Farage's more recent sock-puppets – although the loathsome New Statesman was banging the drum in April. Yesterday, Compleat Bastard was noting how Left and Right were now combining (at last) to focus on UKIP, but again they are late to the party.

This morning I was writing a private e-mail, telling my correspondent that I saw in UKIP (as fashioned by Farage) something very similar to the 1930s British Union of Fascists (BUF). Both parties had somewhat similar aims - take out "immigrants" from Farage's speeches, and substitute "Jews" and there isn't so much difference.

It is as well to note that Mosley had the full support of the Daily Mail and the much of the rest of the British media, and at its height, the BUF had a larger membership than does UKIP at present.  But, like UKIP will, the BUF disappeared without trace, to leave only a footnote in history.

The essential problem for UKIP is that it is a party without policies – almost a contradiction in terms. The very life-blood of politics is policies, which means that UKIP is fundamentally empty. That leaves it wide open to the demagogue, which Farage has become, turning the organisation into a cult – so rightly diagnosed by Hodges.

This, of course, will have no effect whatsoever on the cultists. So besotted are they with The Dear Leader, that he can do no wrong. Anything he says or does is alright by them, and anyone who has the temerity to criticise Him is beyond the pale.

Sadly – for the cultists – it cannot last. The empty vessel may make the loudest noise, but in the crucible of British politics, its very emptiness will be the undoing of the Farage cult. Whether UKIP will survive the experience is anyone's guess, but if it doesn't, a lot of good people will have been betrayed.


Richard North 22/10/2014 link

Wednesday 22 October 2014

000a NS-022 Climate.jpg

It is interesting seeing the world form the enemy's point of view – i.e., the New Statesman. Compared with that, the EU is a mere pussy.

Thus we are told that David Cameron will later this week meet fellow European leaders to try and conclude fraught negotiations over EU strategy on energy and climate change. In the shadow of the crisis in Ukraine, the focus will be firmly on what the new measures mean for Europe's energy security, but reaching an international emissions agreement at next year's UN summit is firmly on the agenda.

On this question, the New Statesman thinks Ed Davey has been something of the unsung hero of the negotiations. He has assembled a pan-European coalition of ministers to champion more ambition on cutting "carbon pollution" and he "commendably" remains the primary advocate for leaving the door open to upping Europe's effort on emissions.

In other words, if things weren't bad enough, we have a minister who wants even more of it. Jim Skea, British representative on the IPCC tells us the target currently under consideration by the EU is a 40 percent cut in "carbon pollution" on 1990 levels by 2030.

This, we are led to believe is "too little, too late", so Ed Davey "is right to press" for the cuts to be increased to 50 percent. This Davey believes, would be better for the European economy as a whole.

Back in 2007, the last time leaders met to agree a comprehensive European climate and energy plan, Tony Blair and Angela Merkel signed off on a deal to cute CO2 output of by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent, meet 20 percent of energy demand from renewables – the so-called 20-20-20 target.

While package was seen as "mightily ambitious" at the time, a combination of economic downturn, deindustrialisation of many of the central and eastern European economies and elsewhere, and increased use of gas, the emissions target was met seven years ahead of schedule.

The mad thing, though, is that the UK is set to miss the renewables target, alongside 13 other member states, while the progress in energy efficiency has been "extremely modest" to say the least. Between 1990 and 2010, final energy consumption in the EU27 grew by seven percent. In the household sector the increase was 12 percent.

However, none of this seems to deter the New Statesman, or indeed Mr Davey. Despite not reaching the crucial targets – and only meeting the emissions target by accident – they want to see us racking up future targets even more.

With that, we are also to see some heavy breathing on the emissions trading scheme, from which the French expect "solid results".

The one thing we are not going to get from Mr Cameron, therefore, is any row-back from the climate change lunacy which has been infecting the coalition administration ever since he took office.

But, despite the UK enthusiasm, the outcome of the European Council is very far from assured. The question being asked is whether "Europe" is any longer capable of making the big decisions any more. For all our sakes, we hope not.


Richard North 22/10/2014 link

Wednesday 22 October 2014

000a EurActiv-021 EFDD.jpg

That Mr Farage has sought the support of an MEP from a party that Marine Le Pen has rejected as being "too extreme" has to tell you something about the crazy world of European Parliament politics.

More telling is the almost total inability of the media to report accurately what is going on, with Iain Martin huffing and puffing about Farage's "despicable new EU alliance", as if it actually meant anything, other than a quite open attempt by UKIP to get their hands on EU money and parliamentary privileges.

The point about the political groups in the European Parliament is that they are marriages of convenience, for the express purpose of getting the dosh.  Officially, they are intended to be proto-pan-European political parties and, so keen are the "colleagues" that they should happen that the rules on them are extraordinarily relaxed.

According to the rules of procedure (Rule 32), MEPs "may form themselves into groups according to their political affinities", but the rules then say that, "Parliament need not normally evaluate the political affinity of members of a group".

Bizarrely, they then go on, "In forming a group together under this Rule, the Members concerned accept by definition that they have political affinity. Only when this is denied by the Members concerned is it necessary for Parliament to evaluate whether the group has been constituted in accordance with the Rules".

This is rather like the former US military "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays. Putative group members apply to form a group, on which basis it is assumed that there is a "political affinity". But the Parliament does not ask and, unless the group members actually come out in the open and say there is none, the assumption stands.

However, there is plenty of wriggle-room. The rules say that Parliament need not "normally" evaluate the political affinity of the members of the group – but that does not prohibit president Schultz from carrying out an evaluation. He could then, in theory at any rate, decide that there is no "affinity" between the national groups and thus refuse to allow a group to be formed.

And it is here that the media are getting it wrong – aided and abetted by Farage – in their talk of the EFDD being "reformed" or saved, by the last-minute intervention of their Polish friend. The thing is that there is no EFDD. Within hours of the group losing its Latvian member, the offices were being stripped, locked up and keys withdrawn. There is no group. Le groupe est mort.

Thus, Farage is in the throes of setting up an entirely new group – and it cannot necessarily be assumed that the members of his previous group will all join him. There will be a frantic bidding war, to try and prevent that from happening.

But then, even if Farage does manage to surmount that hurdle, as Euractiv accurately points out, it must then have the approval of the parliament's president, Mr Schultz, who positively loathes Mr Farage.

One can assume that, even now, Mr Schultz is poring over the rules, and consulting lawyers, to see if there is any way he can keep Farage separate from his millions, and the chauffeur-driven car.

Eventually, there is even an outside chance that this could go to the ECJ. That would be a real irony: Farage appealing to the EU's court, to give him access to the EU's millions. But then, this is the crazy world of European Parliament politics. Anything, or even nothing, can happen.


Richard North 22/10/2014 link

Tuesday 21 October 2014

000a Spiegel-021 MH17.jpg

We were quick off the mark on the MH17 tragedy and now, three months after the event, German Intelligence, via der Spiegel is taking the view that the downing was caused by pro-Russian separatists, using a BUK missile.

While the Mail was telling its readers that a BUK was something you could pack in a golf bag and the Sun was blaming it on Putin, I think we called it right, from the very first. And that was despite the "paper of record" getting it totally wrong.

What we are looking at here is that Gerhard Schindler, president of the BND, told a secret [German] parliamentary committee on security affairs earlier this month that it had intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists had captured a BUK air defence missile system from a Ukrainian military base and had fired a missile on 17 July that had exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft.

Schindler says his agency has come up with unambiguous findings. One is that Ukrainian photos have been manipulated and that there are details indicating this. He also told the parliamentary committee that Russian claims the missile had been fired by Ukrainian soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to the passenger jet were false. "It was pro-Russian separatists", Schindler said.

I think the point must be made here. If you accept the careful, sober analysis of the German Intelligence Service (BND), we got it right while the legacy media was floundering around and getting it wrong. Furthermore, we did with far more technical detail and analysis, and far quicker than most of the media sources.

Even now, when actually reporting on the BND report, the Mail is still revisiting its own errors, with the video of a BUK radar system which it calls a missile launcher. That's the other thing about the legacy media – they rarely correct their own errors.

At least though the Mail did report the BND findings, which is more than can be said of the rest of the British media. Noticeably absent are the Times and the Sun which were quick to blame Putin – and are now equally slow to issue a corrective.

And, of course, we have Booker who not only got it right, but also asked questions that have yet to be answered. An alert media would have picked them up – and the failure to do so tells its own story.

The fact that we are so ill-served by our media should not pass without comment. Time and time again, we are told that a free media is an essential part of a functioning democracy, on which basis the media claims its rights and privileges.

But, of course, the effect depends of the media doing its job diligently. And, as the MH17 saga indicates – there is very little evidence of that happening.


Richard North 21/10/2014 link

Tuesday 21 October 2014

000a Didcot-020 Fire.jpg

There is already a lot of excited chatter about the effect the fire at Didcot B power station will have on our electricity supply over the winter. But since this has only affected four out of 31 cooling cells, and has left the generating plant untouched, it is unlikely that there will be any long-term affect.

However, the very fact that the power station had to be shut down at very short notice adds stress to an already stressed system. However, even had we lost the 1.3GW supply, there would have been no immediate risk of the lights going out. Although it would have put posted capacity very close to peak winter demand, there is still a "hidden reserve" of 10GW in the system, the same as three Hinkley C nuclear power plants.

Nevertheless, the fire does show how fragile the system has become, and how vulnerable it is to disruption. Didcot is the third major fire in a non-nuclear power plant this year (Ferrybridge and Ironbridge) and with two major nuclear plants out of order (Heysham and Hartlepool), there is no flexibility left in the system.

Furthermore, we should not just be looking at the UK. If the Ukraine situation bubbles over, and Mr Putin reacts even more than he had already doen, the whole of Europe could be short of gas over the winter, and competing with us for supplies.

Also France is due to close a major nuclear plant shortly, and disruptions to Belgium nuclear plants - connected in with the French system - means that there is 3GW offline there. France may, as a result, find it difficult to supply the 2GW it sends us through the interconnector.

Given these additional stresses, a prolonged cold winter could bring us to the edge, where another major incident such as Didcot could be the tipping point, with a serious risk of blackouts and even grid collapse. In the latter event, some major areas of England could be without power for 2-3 weeks.

But what is not realised is that, had the last government stuck to its original plans for electricity supply, we would be at no risk of collapse, and the national system would be much more resilient, because we should have been furnished with another 10GW from combined heat and power (CHP). But, because of successive failures in government energy policy, that safety margin does not exist. 

To trace the failures to their roots we can go as far back as 1982 when the House of Commons select committee on energy visited Denmark to examine schemes there, coming back with the view that the successful application indicated that CHP in the UK, "would be an insurance policy with a low premium against a future of possibly insecure and expensive energy supplies".

Despite this prescience, it was not until the 1990 White Paper on the Environment that we saw a formal government target for CHP. This was set at a mere 4MWe of installed capacity for the year 2000 – doubling the then existing capacity. As early progress was encouraging (from a very low base) in 1993, the government announced an increase in the target to 5GWe as part of the UK Climate Change Programme.

In March 1996, a report for the Department of the Environment followed in the footsteps of the MPs in 1982 and reported that Denmark had implemented a national plan to utilise the heat energy more effectively.

Local authorities had cooperated with utility companies to install commercial and domestic heating systems based on the use of the hot water or low pressure steam from the power plants. In 1987, for example, 46 percent of their heating had already been based on CHP or district heating schemes and had been forecast to reach 56 percent by the turn of the century.

This move has already led to the conversion of an average 37 percent electrical efficiency across the country to about 55 percent thermal efficiency. One of the utility companies made the point that if the current Danish efficiency could be applied at a stroke in China, it would save more coal than the whole of Europe currently burns. Consequently, in terms of CO2 and air pollutants, the report concluded, the key is to improve efficiency.

Only three months later, the first Government CHP Strategy was published, dated June 1996. It identified barriers to further progress in expanding the uptake of CHP and opportunities for the future. At last, the Government was taking CHP seriously, but it was not to last.

In June 2000 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP)'s report: Energy – The Changing Climate, was published. It was this that set us on the path to a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which was all too soon to become an 80 percent emission reduction target – a move which was to spell the demise of CHP.

Two years later, though, in 2002, we saw the launch of the a draft strategy on CHP, updating previous work. Environment Minister Michael Meacher declared that the government was still committed to the future of CHP and was making changes to the Climate Change Levy worth £15m per year, increasing to £25m, to make the technology more viable.

In December of the same year, Mr Meacher was telling MPs that his department was developing the draft CHP Strategy, which would set out the measures needed to achieve a target of at least 10GW of "good quality" CHP by 2010.

This was followed in short order by the 2003 Energy White Paper entitled: "Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy". Published in the February, it had a foreword by Tony Blair in which he reinforced the linkage between energy and climate change - "largely caused by burning fossil fuels".

The white paper, Blair said, gave "a new direction for energy policy", showing leadership by putting the UK on a path to a 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

It should be noted that the target had remained at 60 percent reduction – not 80 percent as it was later to be. And to achieve this, combined heat and power (CHP) fitted into the "wider picture". The white paper also noted that the UK had reached around 5GW of CHP installed capacity.

A year later, in 2004, came the Government's full CHP strategy for 2010, which had Margaret Beckett continuing to aim at our target of 10GWe of "good quality" CHP capacity in the UK by 2010.

By then, the Government was at last beginning to understand the huge potential offered by CHP. It was citing a 1997 report which had given a range for 2010 of between 10 and 17GWe, the latter being close to the capacity of the nuclear sector. Additional work suggested a further potential of 2GWe in community heating, bringing the total to 19GWe.

It only took three years more for another energy white paper, this one in May 2007, Notable was the way CHP was still very much on the agenda, with eighty references to the technology in the text.

From there we finally saw an official government evaluation of technology, carried out on the behest of the European Commission and its CHP Directive. Entitled, "Analysis of the UK potential for Combined Heat and Power", it modelled capacity reaching 16GW by 2015 – nearly a quarter of Britain's peak demand – with a further potential for 21.5GW of district heating.

This was not expressed as a target, but a potential. And it was one which was never to be realised. A year later we were see the Climate Change Act which between the second and third reading upped the ante from 60 percent emission cut to 80 and made it a statutory requirement.

And there lay the death sentence for CHP. In future plans, it effectively disappears off the map at 2030. While low-carbon CHP could have contributed to the 60 percent target, the 80 percent target rendered it obsolete. Only low-carbon renewables, nuclear and CCS-abated coal and gas were allowed. CPH didn't fit the profile.

Organisations such as Greenpeace which were extolling the virtues of CHP in 2007 were voluble in mid-2008, telling us in a commissioned report that there could be up to 16GW more industrial CHP, the equivalent of 8 nuclear power stations.

There was the occasional flutter as government support was reduced but, by and large, support has been muted since the 80 percent emissions target became law. With small-scale, gas-fired CHP, the target cannot be reached.

As a result, what could easily have become 16GWe of installed CHP capacity by the end of next year is set to be missed by a clear 10GW. Installed capacity of "good quality" CHP is stuck at 6GW, only one GW more than it had been 12 years previously in 2003. Thus we have a missing 10GW, an extra capacity which, if it was available, would have added a comfortable margin to what is going to be a tense situation.

However, readers can be assured that our masters will not be troubled by blackouts arising from their neglect. Despite depriving the nation of the undoubted benefits of CHP, No.10 Downing Street and 22 other buildings in Whitehall, including the DECC offices, the Treasury and the Civil Service Club, are supplied with heat and power from a private power station in the bowels of the main MoD building, the heat distributed via 12km of insulated piping to the departments.

Contracts were awarded in December 1995, in the dog days of the Major government, and at a cost of £7.82 million, a 4.9MWe Altstrom gas turbine was installed, capable of delivering 8MW of heat. It was fully commissioned in October 2005, just as Mr Blair was working up to his energy policy that was going to turn the lights out all over the UK.

This ensures that, when the blackouts come, Mr Cameron will be as warm as toast, and basking in taxpayer-funded light. And, as is their due, his mandarins can continue to sip their G&Ts in the comfort of the Civil Service Club, without having to resort to anything so vulgar as torches and candles.


Richard North 21/10/2014 link

Monday 20 October 2014

This is a guest post from Autonomous Mind

In discussions on a number of posts on this blog, some commenters have repeatedly pushed their position that we should not be trying to secure David Cameron’s promised in-out referendum on EU membership in 2017 (subject to election results). The basis for their position is that, i) Cameron can't be trusted, and ii) Cameron would (gasp) try to win his argument that the UK remain in the EU.

When asked what they consider an appropriate time would be for an in-out referendum, a popular retort is that we should wait for a new Treaty negotiation to trigger the so called referendum lock.

The argument I have made against this time and again is brought into sharp relief by a contribution on today's Telegraph letters page. For it is there that we see the editors give prominence to the submission of one GH Jones from Bangor in Wales, whose letter expresses his concern that they would not want to make a decision on "in-out" on the basis of just one issue such as immigration, when they write:
Mr Cameron's approach will be popular and might well lead, if his demand is unsuccessful, to Britain's withdrawal from the EU. But is it really good government to have such a momentous decision depend on a single issue such as immigration? I don’t know how I would cast my vote in any referendum, but I would not want the debate to focus on just one factor.
Substitute "immigration" for "treaty change" or "treaty amendment", or even something as specific as "new financial regulatory regime" - which is just one possible issue that could trigger the referendum lock and an in-out vote - and the premise remains the same. It would be far more difficult to convince people to vote to leave the EU in such circumstances.

A vote triggered by a single issue would lead to a campaign narrative among the Europhiles that it would be a grossly excessive response to vote to leave the EU just because the regulatory model for the financial sector was being changed. Wouldn't it be, they would argue, wholly disproportionate to vote to leave the union just because of such an innocuous technical change?

The likes of GH Jones would likely buy that argument and see the anti EU campaign as an unreasonable overreaction. There lies the path to losing a referendum.

Waiting for a referendum lock-triggered in-out referendum is a dangerous approach because such a campaign would strengthen the likelihood of voters choosing to stick with the status quo.

David Cameron, returning from the continent with a jumble of vague commitments and undefined pledges and trying to convince voters he has secured meaningful change to the way the UK is governed and the laws to which we are bound, with all negative aspects of membership being on the table, would result in a far more powerful anti EU sentiment and make voters feel far more comfortable about rejecting the status quo and continued membership.

The promise of a 2017 referendum is not perfect, but it remains the best opportunity for anti-EU Britons to achieve their wish of regaining British independence. It would be a fight, but so would any campaign. However, it would be more even and winnable than if we fought a Brexit campaign against a backdrop of what would be painted as a largely irrelevant, technical, single issue.


Richard North 20/10/2014 link

Monday 20 October 2014

000a BBC-020 Barroso.jpg

Normally, presidents of the European commission are cautious about interfering directly in the internal politics of member states. But not Mr Barroso. 

No sooner do we have Mr Cameron emblazoned on the front page of the Sunday Times , apparently threatening to impose a cap on EU migrants, then up pops Barroso on the Marr programme telling him that he can't do that.

Interestingly, that's what both the Mail and the Guardian chose to feature, but not the BBC, which elected to feature on the "loss of influence" meme, for when we leave the EU.

The thing about that tired line or argument is that Barroso grossly overstates the case, saying that the UK would have "zero" influence if it voted to leave the EU, which could never be true. He then goes on to tell us that Britain could not negotiate with the US and China "on an equal footing" on its own, despite the fact that both Switzerland and Iceland have clinched trade deals with China, when the EU has not.

But the real hard edge is Barroso's comment that free movement of people within the EU was an "essential" principle that could not be changed.

Asked about Mr Cameron's renegotiation plans, Mr Barroso said there was willingness in the EU to discuss benefit fraud and sham marriages, but an "arbitrary cap" on migration would "not be in conformity with European rules".

Barroso said 1.4 million Britons lived elsewhere in the EU and it was a "matter of fairness" that other EU citizens had the same rights. He then criticised comments Hammond last week that Britain was "lighting a fire under the European Union" with the proposed referendum.

In a clear snub, Barroso said of Hammond, "I'm told the foreign secretary was the former minister of defence. I think this reference to fire and weapons is more appropriate for defence than foreign secretary", adding, "It is very important to have a positive tone regarding these issues between Britain and the EU".

Even though Mr Cameron is trying hard to keep the prospects of renegotiation alive, gradually his options are being closed down, leaving his nowhere to go. If he actually believes what he is saying, he must be the only man left alive in Britain who thinks he can successfully negotiate a deal with Brussels.

Even the might Matthew Parris is getting sick of it, arguing that Cameron should take on the Ukipites full frontal.

"Why can't we, and why can't the Conservative party, understand that this goes a long way to explaining opinion polls and headlines about 'popular fury' over 'immigration and Europe'? Why haven't our mainstream politicians the brains or moral courage to push back against the lies and the nonsense? ", he writes.

With the Independent also calling for a more robust approach to immigration, there is something of a backlash building up.

This we discussed at Rotherham. Cameron is playing it all wrong. There is a great deal that could be done to curb immigration, from inside and outside the EU. If the prime minister was better advised, and in a mood to listen, he would be focusing on the measures available to him, and thus avoid being accused of being "Ukip-lite", just as Ukip is being accused of being "BNP-lite".

What Cameron should not be doing is trying to pretend he can do a deal with the EU. Too many people know he can't, and now we have Mr Barroso out in the open calling his bluff.

The good thing here is that, with his renegotiation strategy in tatters, if Cameron went with what he's got to the public, even Farage would be hard put to lose the referendum for us.

Richard North 20/10/2014 link