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Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life

‘Eco project’

If a golf club can re-run a ballot on women’s membership why should the government not announce a new EU poll

18th_Hole_at_Muirfield,_The_Open_2013_Muirfield golf club is to hold a second vote because the decision six weeks ago not to admit women members has “damaged” its reputation. If the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers can decide on a second vote, why can the UK government not follow their example on the infinitely more important issued of EU membership?

The Muirfield rules sensibly require a substantial majority to change from the status quo (unlike UK referenda rules) and the resolution to admit women narrowly missed it. Now the members are being asked to vote again.

According to the Scotsman newspaper:

The first Muirfield vote was influenced by a “no” campaign, which cited slow-play worries, lunch concerns and fears about making ladies “feel uncomfortable”.

Similarly, last week’s EU poll was influence by silly scares and downright lies. So I ask Parliament to give us a second vote or, better, do their job of representing the whole population and pass a resolution saying Article 50 should not be triggered.


Why I have signed-up as a Labour Party supporter

I last voted Labour in the election before Tony Blair became leader in 1994. Since then I have voted Green or Lib Dem. But this week I signed up as a Labour supporter to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as he promises a serious debate about progressive policies and offers hope of reform that might just make the party electable.

When Corbyn made it onto the ballot I did not think he was a potential prime minister. I still don’t. But then, none of the other contenders look like potential PMs and seem to be campaigning in a strange, policy-free way with their messages boiling down to “I want to lead the Labour Party.” Where they want to lead the party, I have no idea.

They seem to have learned nothing from annihilation in Scotland or failure in most of England. Under threat their campaigns have turned nastily negative. When Alastair Campbell talked about a car crash my reaction was to register as a Labour supporter. Blair’s outburst in the Guardian today – “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below.” – validated my decision.

If Corbyn wanted to bring back Clause 4 (ownership of the means of production), which I don’t think is what he said, he would not be able to. He would have to work with the parliamentary party to reach a policy consensus.

This goes for much of what he has been saying. What we have is a clear direction of travel with a lot of things that command wide support. Renationalising the railways and not renewing Trident (also SNP policy) would be popular.

When you look at a lot of what he is saying it is more nuanced than the headlines. For example, on coal mining he was talking about the possibility, if prices rose, of getting high quality coal from South Wales again. The Daily Mirror had a fair report on his energy ideas which centred on developing the green energy economy to create jobs.

Some of those who nominated Corbyn said they wanted to widen the debate. He has tried to do that by presenting a raft of policies but the other contenders have refused to join the debate. They could have said they disagreed, why they disagreed and the alternative policies they would espouse. They have not and so show they are  unfit to be leaders.

The Labour Party needs to debate all these issues and that would certainly happen under a Corbyn leadership. I still don’t think he is the man to take the party into the next election but I have a feeling that he would be happy to stand down well before that time.

He would also make his party look more like the opposition to Government, a role which has been largely conceded to the SNP since the election.

I will be voting in the hope that will again feel able to vote Labour as I have done for most of my life.


Tabloid picture of Merkel in Bismarck’s helmet bodes ill for Greek settlement

Bild, the German tabloid’s front page yesterday, reminds us of the sheer nastiness that surrounds the Greek crisis. The headlines read: “No new billions for Greece. Today we need an Iron Chancellor.

Bild front page

Germany needs Angela Merkel to be like Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor according to Bild, the biggest selling German newspaper.

Bismark is the man who in the 19th century built German as a power in Europe. One of the things he did was engineer the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-72.

This morning it looks as if disagreement between German and France is the barrier to finding a sensible way of avoiding Grexit.

While Merkel, with popular press and political colleagues at her back is in no mood to compromise, François Hollande believes a solution must be found. Today the Guardian suggests Hollande should become the mediator between Greece and Germany.

If Germans want to learn lessons from history they should not be looking at Bismarck. Instead they should remember it was the harsh treatment of Germany by the allies after the First World War that led to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.  The lessons of that episode were the background when in 1952 German debt was forgiven.

Wikipedia points out:

An important term of the agreement was that repayments were only due while West Germany ran a trade surplus, and that repayments were limited to 3% of export earnings. This gave Germany’s creditors a powerful incentive to import German goods, assisting reconstruction.

It was only in 2010 that the last payment, 69.9bn Euros, was paid.

This week the European Union faces an existential threat. If Greece exits the consequences are unfathomable, smaller Eurozone countries will be unsettled, anti-EU sentiments across the continent will become stronger and the chances UK exit increased. The image of Merkel in a Prussian helmet is a powerful one: of a bully.

Someone has to break the impasse.




Greek crisis is fast becoming a domestic UK matter

If Greece is forced out of the Eurozone by the intransigence of the Germany and its allies the chances that the UK will vote to leave the UK will be greatly increased.

Who would have expected Nigel Farage and the liberal Guardian to be roughly aligned in criticising Eurozone leaders, in particular Angela Merkel. But that is what is happening

Guardian leader today:

The biggest share of the responsibility for what happens next unavoidably falls on the German chancellor, both because she is, in theory, the strongest of Europe’s leaders and because part of her electorate is resistant to such a plea [for a human response].

The picture is emerging of a German view that Greece is an expendable part of the Eurozone and probably the EU too.

If debt relief is eventually agreed and Greece stays in the Eurozone the picture of a bullying Germany, supported by European Commission President Jean Claude Junker, will remain. It is a picture that will play strongly when the UK votes in the referendum on EU membership.

Ladbrokes, the bookmakers yesterday said yesterday odds on Britain leaving were cut to 3/1 from 7/2. Odds can and will change but they are a warning to those who want to stay in that they are going to have to campaign much harder.

The complacent view that the majority of UK voters support continued membership is no longer enough. But the argument becomes more difficult.

Tory turmoil over new leader at Suffolk County Council

While the Conservatives at Westminster settle in, united for the present, their County Council colleagues in Suffolk are far from united.

Despite having a majority of only four they have embarked on a vicious internal battle. In March, Mark Bee resigned as leader of the Conservative group because he felt his position had been undermined by internal tensions. His favoured candidate for his replacement, Jenny Antill, was beaten by Bee’s critic Colin Noble.

But it is only now, a week before the Council’s annual meeting, that he has resigned as leader of the council. This ends one of the rumours that has been swirling around that he would hang on to the council leadership and so force a vote.

The East Anglian Daily Times, reports today: “Mr Noble is now expected to be confirmed as new county council leader at next week’s annual meeting of the county council but could find life far from easy in his new role.”

Mr Bee became leader in 2011 in the turmoil over the New Strategic Direction and the resignation of his predecessor and the chief executive. He was seen as a steadying and unifying candidate.

There remains some doubt about whether Colin Noble will be smoothly chosen. Labour leader Sandy Martin has expressed concern that he would mean “a move to the right”.

Lib Dem leader David Wood has said:

Mark has always been fair to all parties. He’s always listened to what we have had to say. He’s always recognised that whatever our political backgrounds we are all keen to do what we see as best for the people of Suffolk. I know he has problems within his own group, and that might be because he’s been prepared to talk to us – but this is sad news for the county as a whole.

What the opposition parties will do at the meeting is uncertain. Mr Wood told the EADT: “Until we see what is happening, how can we know how to vote?”

And a Labour source told the paper: ““Frankly we won’t know what the situation is until we see to what extent the Tories are ripping into each other.”

The paper also suggests some Conservative members could vote against their new leader while others might stay away with diplomatic illnesses.

Finding high tech lighting in the fens is a sign of how barriers to rural business are lifting

Choosing light fittings for the new house has proved more difficult than we expected. In keeping with the eco idea, they have to be LEDs and after six months we still have five bare light bulbs awaiting replacement.

Yesterday the search ended in Chatteris, one of those unexciting fenland towns which is not the sort of place you expect to find modern lighting design.

We had seen some of TP24’s products at the Ecobuld exhibition earlier this year but continued looking at every lighting shop and department that we passed. Yesterday we went to Chatteris and found an obviously expanding business with two offices, a showroom and a warehouse in separate buildings.

The showroom at the top of a former chapel was a surprise. Most of the ceiling devoted to light fittings and a remote control to turn them on and off. At one end, a theatre-style presentation area is set up to tell retailers and wholesalers about the products. Table football signals, high-tech business.

While running costs are an obvious reason for switch to LED lamps, experience in our previous house convinced me of another big advantage – not having to replace bulbs because LEDs last a lot longer.

Screen grab pf TP24 savings calculator

Screen grab pf TP24 savings calculator

While running costs are an obvious reason to switching to LED lamps, experience in our previous house convinced me of another big advantage – not having to replace bulbs because LEDs last a lot longer.

Much of the current market is replacing the bulbs in traditional fittings, but it is the design possibilities which are most exciting. Lamps can come in different shapes, flat light panels are possible, thin strips of light can be fitted under shelves and cupboards, pendant lamps can be fitted closer to ceilings.

Driving back from Chatteris along the A14 I reflected on how LED technology together with the Internet has brought employment to a rural area. It takes imagination and business acumen to build this sort of business but it can be done and there are advantages in doing this in a rural area where the overhead costs of premises are likely to be lower.

In Chatteris I noticed high-speed broadband cabinets in the streets. This service has now arrived in Debenham, Suffolk where I live and I look forward to it opening up the opportunities for imaginative people to create jobs here.

A website like TP24’s could be based in the centre of a major city just as easily as it is the flat fenlands of Cambridge. One of the barriers to business in rural areas is coming down.

UK will be ruled by Tories from southern English shires

On Tuesday I painted a picture (UK threatened by rule from the English shires) of the United Kingdom ruled by a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition dependent on MPs for the English shires. I was wrong, failing to anticipate the blue tsunami which swept the Lib Dems from the south-west peninsular.

equal popmapHere in the East the regional BBC political correspondent, Andrew Sinclair, has pointed out his patch is even more Conservative than it was with Labour failing to take target marginal seats. The BBC’s brilliant idea of a map with each constituency the same size shows graphically what has happened.

Imagine a line on the map from the Severn Estuary to the Wash and we see virtually nothing but blue surrounding London where Labour has reinforced its dominant hold.

For the next five years, the UK is to be ruled by shire Conservatives from the south of England. That is worse than I feared in my previous post.

It is going to be very difficult for David Cameron to convince people in Scotland, Wales and the north of England that he is ruling for the entire United Kingdom.

He will, I am sure, try. Significantly, in his acceptance speech on retaining his seat, he singled out implementing the promises of increased devolution for Scotland and Wales as priorities.

It is going to be very difficult for him the meet the conflicting demands. The DUP in Northern Ireland will generally bolster his small majority but have made it clear that their price is more money for the six counties.

His stronger Conservative contingent from East Anglia will be holding him to promises of much needed infrastructure investment to satisfy their electors.

It is going to be a hard balancing act ruling a United Kingdom which, the map shows, looks even less united this morning.


A call for the next government: reduce carbon emissions and boost the economy

The only organisation to send me a copy of its manifesto is my electricity supplier. It arrived in my email inbox yesterday.

Ecotricity, the green power company, has produced its vision of Britain as a low-carbon state in 2030 and outlining policies for the next government to make this happen.

It is also in the commercial interests of Ecotricity and its founder Dale Vince, said to be worth £100m, that this should happen. I also think it is a valuable vision as we are already seeing the benefits, both for our finances and comfort, of converting our 1960s bungalow into an eco house.

The policies called for are:

  • Creating a Minister for Carbon – to set carbon limits across all sectors of the economy
  • Ensuring Britain’s power generation is 80% renewable by 2030 – saving £11.7bn in fossil fuel costs
  • Implementing ‘Quantitative Greening’ – deploying quantitative easing by the Bank of England directly into the renewables sector
  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies – all government support for fossil fuels cut off by 2025
  • Increasing support for electric cars – including scrapping VAT, helping to ensure all new cars are electric by 2030

Unlike many political manifestos it is accompanied by a detailed analysis — by Cambridge Econometrics — which, in part, concludes:

It is evident that a commitment to a low-carbon future could lead to substantial growth opportunities in the renewables and motor vehicles sectors and their supply chains. Around 150,000 jobs could be created in the power sector and associated supply chains, with a further 50,000 jobs relating to the motor vehicles industry.

I do hope that our next government recognises that a drive for a low-carbon economy would create more jobs, help re-build the country’s manufacturing industries and be good for our health.

Monster raving loony press (with exceptions)

The British press has always had an exaggerated idea of its influence on elections but this year it has become even more strident in its blue blooded support for the Tories. My former newspaper colleague Ivor Gaber, now professor of journalism at Sussex University, has a good article on this at the Guardian:
Tory press roars back into action as Labour threatens David Cameron.

Gaber praises the Financial Times. Writing in the Guardian be probably could not say it but the paper has been more red blooded this time.